She watched the news with a thin glass of white wine clutched in her hand. She wasn’t used to drinking at four in the afternoon, but it didn’t really seem to matter right now. Didn’t seem to matter anymore, if she was honest. It was the end of the middle of the day and there was important news on, and she needed an important drink while she watched it, so there was the white wine. There was the song of the news station, the graphic whoosh of some new thing coming in, the creased faces of the town criers who had, not too long ago, been talking about her, or at least some patronus part of her life.
The news people were saying “Paula Broadwell” and they were saying “Jill Kelley” and they were showing pictures, strange pictures. Of the two women in their homes, one looking forlorn behind bars, the other staring out the window as if posed. And she thought about lives, about women’s lives. About a woman denied. About a woman scorned. A woman deferred. Did she disappear? Did she wear pink? Did she take another sip of white wine and close her eyes and listen to the rope of the flag on the flagpole outside, that cold slap in the wind, and did she want to scream? Bury her face in the rug, in the sofa, in some special pillow, and scream and scream and scream?
Maybe she was lucky. Here were these duped women, trapped. And she newly free. Newly “not.” Not “his wife.” Not “the second lady.” Newly not anything, after those months of wondering what if. Here was all it was. Hah. Was all it was. This big and humming Not. And look at these girls, on the TV, on Fox News now, on CNN, behind windows, all furtive and suddenly damaged and exposed like bleached bones. Maybe it was good, huh? Maybe there’s some secret rescue in a disappointment.
She walked to the the counter in the open-floorplan kitchen and poured herself more Kendall Jackson. She turned back to the TV. Walked back to where the floor was carpeted, where it wasn’t cold tile but soothing carpet. “Aha!” she barked out loud, surprising herself. Aha. Aha. Aha. This was it. She’d been someone once. And she was not ruined. She’d get her back, that lady. She wouldn’t be caught in windows, stuck in the steam of Tampa. She remembered Tampa. That vague threat of a hurricane whispering over the room. The lights and clammy hands. The dark distance between then and what mattered. She guessed they’d never quite gotten there, had they.
Janna Ryan took a sip of wine, watched another fuzzy image of Jill Kelley flicker on the TV, and felt, just then, like the luckiest wife in the world.