Home > She Regrets Nothing(3)

She Regrets Nothing(3)
Author: Andrea Dunlop


“My good man!” Leo said, strolling up to the concierge desk where a thin twentysomething who swam in his dark suit lifted his gaze from his computer.

“How can I help you, sir?”

“Tell me,” Leo said, leaning over the counter, his convivial charm working on the young man, “where should we go for dinner? We’re only in town for a night.”

“Well,” the concierge said, straightening his spine, “were we thinking fine dining or . . .”

“Oh, God, no,” Leo said.

“Can you imagine what passes for fine dining in this hellhole?” Nora said under her breath to Liberty, who gave her a sharp look.

“Something authentic,” Leo said, “what’s your favorite spot?”

“Pizza okay?”

“We have pizza in New York,” Nora said, “amazing pizza.”

“Not like this,” the concierge said, “I promise you. No one has pizza like Papalis.”

“I’m intrigued,” Leo said. “Girls?”

They both nodded, Liberty smiling, Nora sulking as the concierge showed Leo the restaurant’s location on a map.

 

They were seated in a booth toward the front of Papalis as Leo watched other patrons as if they were performing a cabaret for his amusement. “It’s like being on safari! I should write about this in my column,” he said, meaning his weekly missive for New York magazine’s Man About Town where he mostly chronicled the parties he went to—he’d even sold a book to a publisher off the concept.

When their pizza arrived, it was a monstrous thing, like five pizzas crammed together and covered with extra cheese and sauce.

“Ugh,” Nora said, “no wonder everyone here is so fat.”

“This actually smells pretty delicious,” Liberty said.

“I’m ordering a salad,” Nora said, “if they even have such a thing here.”

“So,” Leo said, taking a generous bite of his slice and rolling his eyes in ecstasy, “God, this is good. What’s the plan now with Laila? Just the funeral drive-by or what?”

“Maybe she can come visit us in New York! The poor thing,” Nora said.

Liberty knew it was best if she kept her meeting with their cousin a secret for now. Like all siblings—particularly those with nearly a decade’s difference in age—she and the twins had grown up both in the same and completely different households. Their parents had been much stricter with Liberty, imparted different lessons about money and work and privilege. She loved the twins, but they were so woefully naive. She didn’t want to lose her cousin’s trust if they said or did the wrong thing at such a delicate time, which she somehow knew they would.

“That’s a great idea, Nora, why don’t we invite her once we’ve given her a few days to recover from the funeral?”

Nora, a bit unaccustomed to having good ideas, beamed.

“I’m not surprised Dad never told me anything about this family imbroglio,” Leo said to Liberty. It was true Ben wasn’t one for cozy father-son chats. “But you really don’t know what happened with them?”

“I really don’t, but it must have been big. Mom knows something, I’m just not sure how much.”

“A mystery,” Nora said.

 

Their flight to New York wasn’t until the next afternoon. That morning, Liberty told her siblings she was going to check out a rare bookstore nearby that she’d read about, thereby ensuring they wouldn’t want to come. At any rate, they were settled into their favorite activity, hotel movies and room service. They were already in robes and unlikely to move for hours, giving Liberty ample time to meet Laila for coffee.

Liberty felt stares trailing her as she made her way to a small two-top table in the corner of a nearby café to wait for Laila. It was always worse outside New York. In Manhattan, she wasn’t so out of place, but here she was like another species, so tall and slender, with her miles of legs, high cheekbones, and dramatic brows. She stared at her phone while she waited, avoiding fervent glances and hoping no one would see the open chair opposite her as an invitation. A few moments later, she felt the energy of the room shift and raised her eyes to see her cousin come through the door. She was wearing a royal-blue peacoat that she shook off upon entering. Underneath she had on a tight sweater and jeans, her lovely red hair splashed out across her shoulders; she looked revived since the previous afternoon.

Liberty leaned forward and waved to her. She had the impulse to stand and embrace her, but then remembered Laila’s bewildered grimace at Nora’s hug. Laila spotted her and strode toward the table.

“Thanks for meeting me.” Laila gave her a weak smile as she settled into her chair, draping her coat over the back. Laila scrutinized her. Liberty realized that her presence was being met with something besides curiosity. Suspicion.

“Of course. I’m glad you texted. I’m sorry we just showed up like that. Maybe that wasn’t the right way to . . . ,” she fell off, embarrassed.

“Trust me, there’s no right way for anyone to do anything for me right now.” Laila took off her hat and shook out her hair. “Jesus,” she said, looking back at Liberty, “you’re so pretty.” Liberty thanked her, though it sounded more like an accusation than a compliment.

“It makes sense. I gather my uncle married a supermodel; I read up on you guys this morning. I can’t believe I’d never done it before. But I guess I had no real reason to—I didn’t even know you existed—let alone that you’d be this interesting. You guys are, like, famous.”

Just then the waiter came by and took their coffee orders. Liberty asked for black; Laila ordered a latte, skim, just a dusting of nutmeg. Thank you so much.

Liberty laughed off the previous comment, “Hardly. I mean, you’d never heard of us.”

“Yeah, but there’s all this stuff in the tabloids,” she smiled. “Lots of people seem to care who you date and what you wear.”

“Well, New York is like that.” Liberty shrugged. She didn’t think they were in the press that much, but she supposed if you Googled it, if it all came up together, it might seem they were. “Have you ever visited?” The idea that her cousin might have come, worn the touristy path from Times Square to the Empire State Building to South Street Seaport, without ever knowing she had family there, struck Liberty as inexpressibly sad.

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