with no strength of mind or independence of spirit."
She had nothing to wake up for any longer. She found herself without reason for another day, ce rtainly none for another night. The reality of striking out for herself was that she was left alone with herself, Freddy discovered. This had not been the goal. She had wanted to make him hurt, grieve for her, and work himself back into her good graces. The idea was to make Mikhael mad enough to fin d himself rather than to just reflect the miserable man who was his father.
How, she wondered afterward, could she have so misjudged Mikhael? How could she not have seen, have known after so long a time, who the man she was to marry actually was in real life? That she had deluded herself, or been so completely confused by him, served to beat her down almost as much as her mother had been beaten down by her father. Freddyís father had been an abusive beast of a man, constantly berating his wife for even the smallest mishaps. He had brought this into his relationship with his child as well, constantly impugning her every desire. To have grown up with this, to have understood it as she had done throughout her life and to not have seen the pattern in the man she loved was all Freddy needed to acknowledge to feel wretched, stupid, ill-used.
She had no one to blame. She knew she was smart, had always been smart. At least where books were concerned she was smart. Her intelligence focused into studies and not into the human heart. Her mind controlled everything except her emotions and when they were in play, her mind clicked off to protect what it could control leaving her vulnerable and foolish.
Mikhael, who had fond names for her and sweet affection when it suited him, had often accused her of myopia where Max was concerned. What she hadnít realized, when she heard those words, was that the same visual enhancement applied to her view of Mikhael. She saw only what she wanted to see, heard and understood the little things, but never the bigger pictures. She had erred in judgement. She had misunderstood the world she built around her to protect her from the memory of a father whom she hated. And she had destroyed her special place through a small series of mistaken acts and reactions.
And now she had no reason to greet a day. She had no control over her future and she found she couldnít care less. At least, she told herself, she knew that this was a bad thing. Even so, it was the thing she had and she would do what she could, if she ever cared to do anything.
Abuse at the hands of Mikhael was bad enough, but to be denounced and refused by Max had hurt her more. If that proved anything it proved that after all she had endured she could still be stunned by change and surprised by the brutality of friendship. Both of those elements were present when she finally answered a phone call.
For weeks the phone had rung and her answering machine had dutifully told its bitter story: "You have reached the number you have called. Leave a message and it will be noted. Returned is another matter. Beep. Beep, you idiot. Beep." She had recorded it within minutes of returning home from her surprise visit to Max. The bitterness she heard in her own voice each time it played out left her even colder than she had felt the day she laid it down. What changed in her, she wasnít sure, but when she heard the outgoing message playing on this particular day it felt awful, it pained her, and she cried a bit.
The incoming message was something else again.
"Freddy, itís John Wilner at the agency. I know youíve been a bit, well, Ďunder the weatherí shall we say, but I have a prospect for you, and honey youíre the only one I know who can reel this big fish in for us. Please, please, please pretty please, call me when you get this message. No more "Goody- Goody," dear. Life beckons, sweetie, and you have so much life to live."
"So much life to live," he said. She breathed a sigh as she replayed the message and heard that tag line again. John Wilner. Such a slime bag. She truly hated his guts. His theory of work was a simple one: you do everything you can to take everything someone else has away from them. Hard work wasnít enough for Wilner. For him there was the energy cone to deal with. Wilnerís energy cone, his work theory, was simply this. You stuffed your energy into a small opening and let it play out in a wider and wider circle until it blared its way through the difficulties and the various walls that people lived behind. You were Joshua at the walls of Jericho and you made a sound that nothing could resist. The walls would crumble under the force of your voice uttering the agency notes. That was how Wilner worked and how he had trained Freddy. It was, she realized, the force that had blown apart her relationship with Mikhael. She had trusted it and misused it. She had abandoned good judgement for the big noise.
For whatever reason, and she couldnít quite come to grips with what that might be, Wilnerís message didnít sit like a chilled wine in a tankard. It bubbled and she wanted to meet it for some reason.
"Iím getting better," she thought. "Iím changing again, finally."
She got up from her deep chair and went into the kitchen to scrounge up something to eat. She was ravenous suddenly, hungry for substance of some sort. The refrigerator yielded nothing consumable. It had been too long and there had been too little to begin with in there. It was the same story with the cabinets until she found a Ramen cup, a soup with Japanese noodles. All it required was boiling water.
She filled a small saucepan and turned on the gas. The pilot light took the hint and flared the escaping fumes in the jet into a circle of blue flames. Freddy heated up the water and while it was slowly coming to a boil, she went into the bathroom and threw cold water on her face, her hair, her arms. It felt good. It was refreshing. She paused for a moment to ponder on how long it had been since she last engaged her body with the chill of cool, reviewing substances. It had been too long.
When she returned to the kitchen, her water was ready. She poured it into the plastic bowl containing the noodles and the herbs and spices. She watched it percolate in the dish, which she hurriedly recovered with its paper lid, then she laid a spoon on top of it to hold it in place while the hot water simultaneously boiled and steamed the contents of the soup mix. It would take three minutes, she knew, to finish. She thought she should call John Wilner back while waiting.
"John? Itís Freddy. Whatís up?" she said the instant she heard his voice on the other end of the line.
"Freddy? Doll! Youíre still with the living."
"Yeah. Still among them, John." She over-emphasized the Ďthem.í
"Listen, Babe, I want to talk to you, but this is not the best time, okay?"
"I donít care what else youíre doing, John. You asked for me and here I am. Now whatís the game?"
"Oh, well, itís...hold on a second." She could hear his voice, but not his words for a short time. He had obviously put his hand over the mouthpiece making it impossible for her to listen in on his other conversation. Then he was back with her. "Freddy, you remember the fish people in London, donít you?"
She had spent almost a week with them about a year previous. Nice people but without much ambition. Good food but without a large marketplace. Interesting digs but not rentable to an international clientele. She said as much to John Wilner.
"Well, thatís changing, Doll. They came back to us a week ago with a proposition and youíre the best man for the job."
"Am I?" she asked him rhetorically. "I brought them to you, remember?"
"Natch," Wilner replied. "So thatís why Iím calling on you."
"What do you need?"
"I need you to be in London, pronto. I need you to scout the new location and make it happen. I need you to be on them every step of the way. I need you to clinch the deal and to make whatever happens a Wilner production deal."
"Oh, so, just the usual."
He laughed at that. It was an easy, almost dirty, laugh and it somehow strengthened her.
"I can do it, John, but what do I get out of it?"
"Well, letís see....salary, benefits, travel expenses, a bonus for a job well done and the satisfaction of knowing that I cannot do this without you."
"Itís not enough."
"Oh, Sweetie, please. Not enough? What else is there?"
"I want out."
"Out? Doll, I donít get it. What exactly does that mean?"
"It means out, John. I want out of New York. I want out of this roller coaster ride in the press. I want out of the reach of the government cretins who hound me now for more information than I was ever likely to have."
"Oh, out of that," he said. "Well, we can do that, Iím sure."
"No more goody goody."
"Iím not sure you ever were a goody-goody, Doll."
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, exhaling directly into the phone without realizing it.
"Oooh, sexy, Sweetie," he said in a softer voice than she was used to hearing.
"Donít be gross, John. Iím just breathing."
"Freddy, when you breathe, itís...well...never mind..."
"When do we go, then?"
"How soon can you be ready?"
"Give me a few days, say Friday or Saturday. Will that work?"
"Iíll set it up."
They chatted about the details for a few minutes and when they were done, Freddy hung up the phone with a deliberate sense of finality and turned around, a full 360, and took in every aspect of her apartment.
"I wonít miss you," she said allowed to the walls, the furniture, the furnishings. "I wonít miss you a bit."