Chapter Two


In the morning, Terry woke up and stretched. She opened her eyes and rubbed them, trying to remember where she was. It started to come back to her as she fumbled on the bedside table for her glasses. She put them on, wondering if coming to New York with Sam had been a good idea. She really didn't know.

Sam was still sound asleep. It was only seven-thirty, and she decided not to wake him. No way to tell when he'd finally come to bed, and she knew the weekend in Boston had been tiring for him, too.

Making as little noise as possible, she slipped out of bed and got dressed. She closed the bedroom door behind her and headed through the darkened apartment to the kitchen. There was no noise, the girls were obviously still asleep.

In the kitchen, she turned on the lights and started to make coffee. She made a full pot, since the others might get up at any moment. Then, as the coffee dripped, she went out to the hall to get the morning Times.

Coming back towards the kitchen, glancing over the headlines, she nearly bumped into a very sleepy-looking Nicky, who was drifting towards the bathroom.

"Is that coffee I smell?" Nicky asked dreamily. Terry nodded. "Enough for me, too?" Terry nodded again. "Oh, bless you," she said and vanished into the bathroom.

Terry got three mugs from the shelf in the kitchen, her own huge black one and the girls', since if Nicky was up Sarah wouldn't be far behind. For some reason, Nicky and Sarah's mugs bore the names Fidget and Widget. Sarah periodically threatened to get a Gidget mug for Terry, and one that said Midget for Sam, but she hadn't got around to it yet. Terry was just as glad.

Sarah came in, followed a minute later by Nicky. Sarah was dressed for work and looked reasonably awake. Nicky, who didn't have a job, wore only a huge gray T-shirt that reached her knees, and still looked mostly asleep. She climbed onto her stool and lay her head down on her folded arms, closing her eyes. Terry poured the coffee and Sarah went to the refrigerator and got a container of chocolate milk. She poured a liberal shot into Nicky's mug, then a slightly more moderate amount into her own. She offered it to Terry, who made a face. There was an uneasy minute of silence as they all sipped their coffee.

"We saw your brother on TV last night," Sarah said. "It was pretty interesting."

Terry grimaced. "I'm sure." She picked up her coffee and left the room.

Nicky patted Sarah's shoulder. "You always know just the right thing to say."

"That fucking nut. I was trying to be nice. I don't understand what he sees in her."

"I wonder if she's good in bed."

Sarah laughed. "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm not exactly going to die if I never get a chance to find out."

Nicky chuckled, starting to look more awake. "Me, too. You're enough trouble for me, Fidge."

Sarah kissed her on the cheek. "Thanks, Widge, I think. So, what're you up to today?"

"Not much. There's some cleaning to do. And somebody has to keep the peace."

"You really think it'll come to that?"

"I don't know, but you have to admit she does look about ready to explode."

Sarah finished her coffee and looked at her watch. "I'd better get going. I'll call you in the afternoon. You try to get that cheapskate to take us out tonight."

Nicky laughed. "I'll try. It'll probably depend on Perfect out there." She whirled her lover around and gave her a kiss.

Sarah smiled. "Why don't you get some more sleep, Portland? One of us might as well get our eight hours. Maybe you can sleep some for me."

"I'll try, but that's an awful big bed for one person. Maybe I'll try to make some peace first."

Sarah wished her luck. Nicky sipped her coffee as Sarah left. She was dreading talking with Terry, though she knew how foolish it was to let it get to her. She refilled her mug and went into the living room.

Terry was sitting looking out the window, her empty mug dangling from one finger.

"Sam taped the program, if you want to see it," Nicky said quietly, not wanting to startle her.

Terry turned slowly and nodded. "Maybe later. Sarah gone?"

Nicky nodded.

"What's she doing these days?"

It was obviously small talk, but Nicky appreciated the effort. She sat down.

"She's a receptionist, for an ad agency."

Terry, to Nicky's shock, giggled. "A receptionist?"

Nicky found herself giggling, too. "Hey, she's been at it for nearly two weeks now, and they haven't fired her yet." She stood up. "You want a doughnut?"

Terry smiled. "Yes, my stomach will cause me to regret it if I don't consume something besides coffee."

Nicky brought back a plate of doughnuts and placed it on the coffee table between them.

"You working these days?" Terry asked as she looked over the selection.

Nicky shook her head, taking the biggest, messiest jelly doughnut. "No, I quit that boutique job. I just can't stand dressing up every day. I really need a job where I get issued a uniform. Or a job where I can just dress like me."

"You're ruling yourself out of almost all good jobs," Terry commented.

Nicky looked down into her mug and smiled. "Maybe that's the point?"

Terry chuckled. "I expect you and I will never see eye to eye."

Sam opened the bedroom door and crossed to the living room. Nicky and Terry were sitting drinking coffee and eating doughnuts. He thought this was unusually cozy, but then he looked more closely at their expressions and realized that things weren't that far from normal after all.

"Morning, all," he said. "Is there more coffee?"

Terry stood up. "I'll get it for you," she said, and went to the kitchen.

"Yep," Nicky drawled as he sat down, "you've got that little woman well-trained. That's what I like to see, bud."

"Oh, that's nothing compared to the thrill I get from seeing our little family getting along so well."

Nicky laughed. "Hey, we're trying. I think we deserve a medal or two for that alone."

Terry came back with the coffee. She handed one mug to Sam, then she stood looking at the phone as if expecting it to ring. "I should check my messages," she said finally. "Just in case Mr. Pritchard didn't get the message that I'm going to be out today."

She dialed, the pressed a few more buttons. Sam sipped his coffee. Terry's eyes widened, then she said "Shit" under her breath. Sam and Nicky exchanged glances. After another minute, Terry shook her head and hung up the phone.

She turned and sat down. "Perry," she said. "He's in Boston. He wants to see me." She made a face and finished her coffee. She caught Sam's expression. "Oh, don't worry. I'm not going back. I do have to call him, though." She picked up the phone and dialed, then she hung up. "I'll call from the bedroom. I'll charge it to my phone."

They heard the bedroom door close and Nicky let out the breath she'd been holding for some time. "Worse than I thought," she said quietly.

Sam muttered, "Ditto."

Terry returned a few minutes later. She went right to Sam, sat down beside him and took his hand. Nicky, knowing this could only mean total disaster, stood up and said, "I'm gonna get dressed," and left the room.

Terry shook herself all over and forced a smile. "I'm sorry, Sam. Melodramatic of me, I realize. I was just looking forward to a few days of peace and quiet."

"You don't have to go back to Boston."

"That's just it. I don't have to go back. He's overjoyed and amazed that I'm here already. He was only in Boston to collect me and bring me down here. He's doing the Today Show tomorrow and wants to spend a couple of days in the big city with you and me and the monsters." She drew in a full breath and let it out slowly. "He'll call us up when he gets to his hotel. He wants to take us all out to dinner tonight, though I shudder to think how they'll act if he takes us somewhere nice, which I'm sure he will." She smiled. Being snide about the girls always cheered her up. "He even remembered it's your birthday, the creep." She chuckled and kissed him on the cheek. "Happy Birthday, by the way."

"I'll tell Nicky about tonight."

The bedroom door was open, and she was sitting on the bed. She was only half-dressed, wearing jeans and a bra. She was leaning forward, sorting through a pile of socks on the floor, trying to find a pair that contrasted pleasingly. She looked up as Sam came in.

"Perry's in Boston," he began, "but he's coming here. He was only there to collect Herself anyway. He wants to take us all out to dinner tonight."

Nicky was silent for a moment, giving him a very strange look as she straightened up. Then she leaned over again and picked up a flannel shirt from the floor. As she put it on, she shook her head quickly. "Sorry, Sam," she said, buttoning the shirt. "I spaced out. I'm looking forward to meeting him."

The middle of the day was pretty uneventful. Terry watched her step-brother on videotape several times, then went out to have lunch with a friend of hers. Sam went shopping, in order to have a variety of drinks and snack foods on hand in case Perry should decide to stop by before they went out to dinner. Nicky bought all the daily newspapers and spent about an hour going through the help-wanted ads, circling about fifteen that sounded pretty interesting. Then she neatly piled up all the papers and threw them down the incinerator chute. She came back in smiling, her work done.

Then, at about five-thirty, right after Sarah got home from work, the phone rang. Nicky was the closest, so she picked it up and said, "Yes?"

"No, this is Nicky," she went on after a moment. "Everybody makes that mistake. Yes, she's here." She held out the receiver to Terry, who took it and said, "Hello."

She caught Sam's eye and nodded. It was Perry.

After a few moments she said, "We'll be here," and hung up. "He'll be here in a few minutes," she said quietly.

"A few minutes!" Sarah squealed. "What'll I wear? What'll you wear?" she demanded of Nicky, who looked equally panic-stricken. They ran off to their room and slammed the door.

Sam laughed as he sat down. "Lord knows what they'll come up with."

Terry sighed and went to the cabinet to mix herself a drink. "Well, they did want to go out tonight. This will be way beyond their wildest dreams."

Sam went into the kitchen to fill the ice bucket. When he returned Terry was rewinding the tape of Perry's TV interview. She took it out of the machine and put it away. "Come on, sit down," Sam said, putting out his arm to indicate where her shoulders would be if she sat beside him. She shook her head.

"Too nervous. I'll go get some cheese." She headed for the kitchen as gales of laughter exploded from the girls' room.

As Terry came back with the cheese the girls, totally naked, burst from their room and made a mad dash for the bathroom. The door slammed as Terry sat down, smiling. "I'm glad they're coming along tonight," she said.

"Really?" Sam asked.

"Really, yes. It'll keep things from getting too heavy."

"Well, don't tell them they're fulfilling a useful function. They'll ask to get paid."

The downstairs bell rang and, with cries of "Stall him!" the girls scurried back into their lair.

Sam pressed the intercom button and said, "Yes?"

Perry identified himself. Sam buzzed him in, but not before telling him to take it slow. There was a confused noise from the speaker, and Sam said, "I'll explain when you get up here."

Terry was mixing herself another drink. She took off her glasses, closing her eyes, and squeezed the bridge of her nose. Sam had an urge to go over to her, to put his arms around her and offer some moral support, but that would only have made her angry.

The doorbell rang and Sam went over. He hadn't seen Perry Nelson in almost a year, and the young novelist looked almost too healthy and successful. They shook hands and Perry said, "Where is everybody?"

Sam gestured behind him as Perry came in. "Terry's in the living room. The girls are still dressing. I don't think you've met Sarah's friend ("lover!" the girls yelled from the bedroom) yet. Come on in."

He did, but before they could make it to the living room Nicky and Sarah popped out of their room and posed.

It was pretty impressive. Sarah had greased back her short red hair until it was tight to her scalp, and she wore a leather jacket, black T- shirt, jeans and boots. Nicky, meanwhile, had gone to the other extreme, wearing a beautiful yellow sweater and white slacks. Her blonde hair was brushed so that it glowed.

The posing done, they swarmed all over Perry, looking for all the world like kids welcoming home a Daddy they have good reason to think is bearing gifts.

Still in a boisterous mood, they all turned the corner into the living room.

chapter three