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‘You can do this.’
Bette had been telling herself this for the past twenty-four hours. Last thing before she finally fell asleep, first thing on waking. Standing under the shower, driving to her campaign HQ, listening to Dani running down her schedule, all the time telling herself: You can do this. Put one foot in front of the other, one breath in, one breath out. Even though she felt empty and scared and bewildered, as if a thread that had been somehow holding her together was about to snap, as always she felt she had no choice but to keep going.
The full-length mirror in her bedroom confirmed that she at least looked okay. She’d chosen a simple black tee shirt and low-rise jeans – what she thought of as her ‘Mom’ gear – for this occasion. Put her hair up in a messy bun. She wondered about wearing the Converse that Angie had cajoled her into buying a few months back. Went to the wardrobe and found them – black with a rainbow decal on the heel. She smiled, remembering how Angie had said the woman in the store was hitting on her.
‘Well,’ Bette said now, ‘bring it on, I guess.’
She bent down, put the shoes on and then immediately took them off again. ‘You’re not Shane,’ she told herself, and pulled on her Chloë studded ankle boots.
Downstairs, Angie was sitting supposedly doing schoolwork at the dining table when the doorbell rang. She carried on scrolling her phone until it became obvious that she would have to answer.
Tina stood there, beaming. Behind her was a petite strawberry-blonde with strikingly blue eyes – Carrie. Angie smiled and accepted her mother’s hug. Carrie had her hands in the pockets of her jacket. She and Angie had met maybe half a dozen times, spent a weekend in Palm Springs once, and got along fine, but they both knew they weren’t on hugging terms.
‘Hey, Carrie,’ Angie said to her. Then, to Tina: ‘Mom’s upstairs. D’you wanna drink or anything?’
‘We brought some,’ Tina smiled, holding up a bottle bag. She was nervous. It showed.
Upstairs, Bette could hear their voices and it sent her pulse into orbit. She sat down on the edge of the bed and put her hands over her mouth like she was praying. The last time she’d felt this completely dismantled was when Kit died. ‘But you got through that,’ she whispered to herself, closing her eyes and trying to just breathe.