Authors: Lauren Weisberger
“Okay, and then what?”
“And then nothing! The boys wolfed down an entire Carvel ice cream cake in, like, thirty seconds, and they all piled into the Suburban around nine-thirty. Before I got to Billy Post's house less than a mile away, two cop cars appeared out of nowhere. Full lights and sirens, like a real emergency. I pulled over to let them pass, but then they came up to my window.”
Trip nodded as though Karolina were confirming a script he already knew. “What did they say?”
“They asked if I'd been drinking. When I said of course not, they said I was driving very erratically. Which is ridiculous, because I was actually driving very slowly in our residential neighborhood.”
“They said they saw empty bottles of champagne rolling around in the back of the Suburban.” Trip said this quietly, looking down at his hands.
“Oh, did they? Well, that's
. Because I don't even like champagne. Neither does Graham. It gives us both headachesâ” She paused. Unless the kids had gotten into it? Karolina scrunched her nose in consideration. Was it possible? Twelve was hardly too young to try sneaking alcohol for the first time. Was she being delusional in thinking Harry would never try a drink? No, she knew her kid. She knew he'd be exactly like every other teenager and experiment with all kinds of things, but she was also positive that he wasn't there yet. And even if she was completely off-base and the boys had gotten into Graham's prized wine cellar, there was no way five twelve-year-old boys could even open a bottle of champagne undetected, much less polish off two bottles. She remembered back to the night before. Both Harry and his friends had all seemed completely normal: rowdy, yes, but certainly
. “No. That wasn't it. I have no idea how the bottles got there.”
Trip placed his palm over the top of her hand, and it felt warm, comforting. “I'm so sorry, Lina. This can't be easy.”
All it took was that small expression of sympathy for the tears to start freely flowing again. Karolina was certain she had dragonlike streams of mascara running down her cheeks, but considering she'd just spent the night in jail, she figured it wasn't the worst of her appearance problems.
“But here's the part that makes absolutely no sense. They brought me back here. Then without giving me a Breathalyzer or anything, they throw me in that room for the night. On what grounds? Empty bottles in my car? How is that even allowed?”
Trip's phone rang again, and the force with which he pressed “decline” startled her. He cleared his throat. “The police said you refused both the Breathalyzer and a follow-up offer of a blood test. Maryland is an implied-consent state, which means that by even having a driver's license, you consent to be tested. Refusal to participate in all chemical testing immediately results in a DUI.”
“You can't be serious.”
“I do mostly corporate work, Lina, you know that. Barely any litigation and certainly no criminal. But I did consult with a colleague before coming here, and he took me through the laws.”
“No, I mean you can't be serious that they're saying I refused a Breathalyzer. It was the exact opposite, actuallyâI asked for one.
for one. I knew it would put this entire misunderstanding to rest if I could justÂ .Â .Â .”
“Lina? You know Graham and I will have the very best people on this. So long as we all stay calm, I know we will work throughâ”
The rest of his words garbled together as the repercussions of what had happened began to play slowly, full color, in her mind. She could practically see the headlinesâ
SUPERMODELâTURNEDâSENATOR'S WIFE DRINKS WHILE DRIVING KIDDIES
âand predict the intense media scrutiny and the humiliation of people believing she would do something like this. And Harry. Mostly Harry. Twelve-year-olds should be embarrassed by their stepmothers because of the jeans they wore, not because they were arrested for driving a car full of kids around drunk.
Then another feeling, one that surprised her with its brute strength: a yearning for her husband that was so visceral, it nearly took her breath away. How had they gotten here? To a place where she'd spent the night in jail and her husbandâher lifelong partnerâhad left her there and then sent his friend to retrieve her in the morning. No, this couldn't be right. Something was going on, something out of their control. Yes, there had been some distance lately. She'd felt more disconnected from Graham than usual. There was less intimacy. She even suspected he might be cheating on her again. But this was
. The man who had made meticulous arrangements to ensure her entire extended family's financial security. The person who told her at least ten times a day how gorgeous she was. She could remember their wedding like it was yesterday. The vibrant green vineyards had provided a gorgeous backdrop to the unexpected rain, which might have ruined the day for another couple, but not for them. They'd barely noticed, they were so wrapped up in dancing and laughing and each other. She'd sat at their shared table and looked up at her strong, handsome husband as he thanked everyone for celebrating with them. When he'd turned to her and extended his hand, she could see the tears in his eyes, and the toast he gave was so clearly heartfelt and true. And now this.
Trip was still talking. Something about legal precedent. The fatigue was beginning to hit her, and the sadness and the humiliation and the loneliness all at once.
“I'm exhausted,” she said, again wiping her eyes. “Can you take me to get Harry?”
“Of course. Let's get you out of here.”
Â Â â¢Â Â â¢Â Â â¢Â Â
hey drove in silence to her mother-in-law's house in Arlington. Trip pulled away the moment Karolina reached the front porch.
“Karolina,” Elaine said when she opened the door, as though she'd just tasted something bitter.
“Elaine. Thank you for picking up Harry,” Karolina forced herself to say as she placed her coat on the hallway bench and followed her mother-in-law, without invitation, to the kitchen.
“Someone had to. And contact the parents of those other boys.”
“Yes, well, thank you again. Where's Harry?”
“He's still sleeping,” her mother-in-law said. “It was a traumatic night for him.”
Karolina pointedly ignored the woman, and when no offer was forthcoming, she rose to fix herself a cup of coffee. “Would you like one?” she asked Elaine, who merely waved her off.
“You've got a realÂ .Â .Â . situation on your hands, Karolina. It's none of my business, but if you're having trouble, you should have sought help. But a DUI? The wife of a senator? Of the future president of the United States? It's one thing not to think about yourself, but how could you not have considered Graham's career?”
“You mean Harry's safety? I must have heard you wrong.”
Elaine waved her off again while making a clucking sound. “You know I don't like to get involved in things between you and Graham, but this time the circumstancesâ”
Graham's voice caused Karolina to jump just enough to spill coffee down the front of her sweater. “Graham?” she asked, although he was standing right there in front of her, looking handsome. Karolina waited for him to run and embrace her, and she extended her arms to receive him. He didn't move. He stood in that doorway, glancing between his wife and his mother, looking like there was nowhere else on earth he'd less rather be. Everything about him was immaculate, from his custom shirt and pressed chinos to the thick dark hair he had cut every third Friday. Cashmere socks. Professionally clean-shaven. HermÃ¨s overnight bag. And the subtlest crinkle of crow's-feet around his green eyes, just enough to lend him gravitas. He was six feet and two inches of expensively groomed masculine perfection.
“I didn't know you were here,” Karolina heard herself squeak out, self-consciously
pulling her arms back in. “Trip said you were on an Acela.”
“I was actually just leaving,” he said, walking past her into the kitchen. His voice was as cold and impersonal as the stainless fridge doors.
“Where are you going?” Karolina asked, shocked by his distance. He was mad at
? Of course he didn't think she'd driven the children while drinkingâhe of all people knew she was practically a teetotaler these days. Shouldn't
be the aggrieved party right about now, what with him leaving her in jail
for a crime she didn't commit?
“Here, darling, let me get you a cup of coffee,” Elaine said to Graham, leaping out of her chair with newfound vigor.
“Elaine, would you mind giving us a minute?” Karolina asked.
The woman, appearing greatly offended, looked at Graham, who nodded his approval. “Thank you, Mother.”
Elaine made a big show of gathering up her coffee and banana; the moment she walked out, Karolina practically ran to Graham. “Hey, what's going on with you?” she asked. And then, trying very hard to keep her voice light, “Not sure if you heard or not, but I spent New Year's Eve in the slammer.”
He turned sharply to her and shrugged her hands off his arm. “Is this some kind of a joke to you? Is that what this isâfunny?”
Karolina could feel her mouth open in shock. “Funny?” she sputtered. “Of course not. It was horrible, every minute of it. And where have you been? You send Trip? You know Iâ”
“All I know is what I heard from the Bethesda Police Department, Karolina. According to Chief Cunningham, you were detained during a routine sobriety checkpoint after failing a roadside test.”
His use of her full name, Karolina, instead of Lina, hit home.
“Graham, I know what they
, but I also know thatâ”
He slammed his palm against the countertop. “How could you do that? How could you possibly be that stupid?” His face and neck were a mottled red. “And with my son in the car, no less!”
Karolina asked. “You meant to say
son. He may be my stepson, but you know I've never called him or thought of him as anything less than my own.”
Graham tossed his full mug in the sink and held a finger inches from her face. His eyes were slits. “You need to wake Harry up right now and get him home safely. Can you manage that? Obviously, by Uber, since you're not driving anywhere. Those leeches”âhe motioned toward the manicured Bethesda street out frontâ“will find you. I hope it goes without saying that you are not to speak to a single one of them. Not a word. Don't even make eye contact. Do you understand me?”
Karolina moved closer to him, hoping to see him soften. “Why are you acting like this? You know I didn't drive drunk. You know how private I am. You know I would never, ever do anything to put Harryâor anyone else's childrenâat risk.” Karolina sounded desperate, pleading, but she couldn't help it. It was one thing for her husband not to pick her up from jail, but it was another for him to be so livid over a crime she obviously didn't commit.
He had a brand-new hardness in his eyes. “I'll be home tonight. Rememberâtalk to no one.” And with that, he left the kitchen.
hen the elevator doors opened directly into an apartment with floor-to-ceiling views of the Freedom Tower and both the East and Hudson rivers, Emily tried to arrange her expression into one of nonchalance. She'd been in some impressive homes in her time. The Kardashian spread in Hollywood wasn't too slouchy. George and Amal's Lake Como spread didn't suck. And no one could say that Miranda Priestly's Fifth Avenue townhouse wasn't spectacular. But there was something about this $12 million fifty-eighth-floor-penthouse glass magnificence that took her breath away. Since there weren't many skyscrapers in Tribeca, it felt like they were floating alone in the clouds. There was so much natural light she had to squint, and the starkly modern furnishings and complete openness of the enormous space gave it an otherworldly feel.
“Thank you so much for coming,” Helene said, pushing her hair back. For as long as Emily could remember, Helene had worn her hair in the most spectacular Afroâwild, massive, and fabulousâbut today it was tamed into a trillion tight, shiny ringlets that framed her entire face.
“Of course,” Emily said, setting her overstuffed Goyard tote down on the entryway bench. She'd received six panicked texts from her assistant, Kyle, on the way from the airport. Apparently Helene was having a meltdown. “Is he here?”
Helene nodded, ringlets shaking. “His trainer is with him. They should be done in a couple minutes. Can I get you anything? Some coffee? A stiff drink? I could sure use one.”
“How about both together? I won't say no to that.”
Emily followed her into the blindingly white lacquered kitchen where a uniformed Hispanic woman stood in front of a Starbucks-level espresso machine. “Clara, could we each get a flat white with a shot of Baileys, please?” If Clara thought it even a tiny bit strange that these two professional women were requesting a spiked coffee at three in the afternoon, she gave no indication. The woman expertly prepared their drinks and led them to a white leather couch that looked directly out at the spectacular view.
“So, I guess we should start with the obvious,” Emily said, taking a sip. “Why did he pick a Nazi outfit to wear to a costume party?”
Helene looked at her hands as if searching for strength. “It wasn't a costume party.”
“What can I say, Emily? He's a kid. A dumb kid with too much money and too much time and too many people exactly like you and me to cover his ass. It's not a new story.”
“No. But it makes everything that much harder.” Emily glanced at her watch. Not that she had anywhere else to be, but she had flown cross-country with zero notice to help this boy, and it was high time to meet him.