JANUARY--THREE MONTHS EARLIER
"Katie-Kate, we did it! We locked up Central Park!" Cliff Gillette tossed down the phone and whooped toward the tall, tinted window that overlooked the wide expanse of lawn where he'd been trying to book his daughter for-fucking-ever--his favorite made-up word, not hers. "July Fourth! Finally, we did it!"
Katie gulped. No. Not July Fourth. Not this July Fourth. Her heart began to race. "Oh, Daddy!" she cried as her thoughts scrambled for an excuse. Her father, of course, did not know the concert was impossible. He did not know because Katie had not, would not, could not have told him why.
"Oh, Daddy," she repeated, because she didn't know how to just say "no."
He turned to her and held out his arms. "Surprise," he said.
Surprise. An understatement.
She gulped again and smiled her best fake smile. Then she moved across the penthouse floor and wrapped herself around the gray-haired, gray-eyed man. Beneath her hands she felt the bony angles of the once-muscled, sturdy body that now was thin and gaunt. Too many nights spent on the road, too much stress of being both Katie's father and her manager, the man solely responsible for their fortune and her fame.
She'd need a good excuse, one that would sound plausible. She pulled back from her father and moved her eyes from him. "But what about Katie, Live!?" she asked. Katie, Live! was her next CD, scheduled for a fall release. The sound tracks would be cut from her six-week, fifteen-city tour, the tour that would begin next week, despite the tiny, nubby knots now forming in her stomach. She hated lying to her father who had sacrificed so much. "Let's put off Central Park until Labor Day. It will make CD sales stronger. Besides," she added as a hurried afterthought, "it's almost February. July's too soon to plan such an important concert."
He paused as if considering her suggestion. She turned and looked back at him. She hardly dared to breathe.
"Central Park, Daddy," she said, her words smothered with her guilt. "This is our dream!" She did not say that it was more his dream than hers. She pretended to remove a piece of lint from the shoulder of his black T-shirt. Black had been Cliff's uniform for as long as Katie could remember. Always black, from hat to boot, in summer and winter, day and night. At the Grammys' last year, his black suede sports coat made him look Hollywood as he crossed the stage with Katie to help accept her five awards.
Because of him.
Katie sighed. "You've waited a long time for this, Daddy."
There was no need to mention the other concert in the park, when Katie's mother, the great Joleen, the undisputed rock-'n'-roll queen of the seventies and eighties, the first star Cliff had created, packaged, and sold to the public, had bailed out on her fans and simply not showed up.
He moved to the window and looked out at the Great Lawn where Joleen's concert should have been: the great, rolling stretch of land now reserved only for the philharmonic and the opera. Recent restoration to the grounds had cost a New York fortune, and park officials no longer allowed destructive rock-star fans. Katie would perform, instead, in the East Meadow at Ninety-seventh and Fifth. It was a few blocks farther north, but still in Central Park.
For several moments, Cliff said nothing. Katie stood silent, hating her deceit, yet unable to confess. She could not, would not, hurt him. It was a pledge she'd made on that late spring day when her mother had gone away, when Katie witnessed Cliff Gillette crumble from a tower of confidence to a heap of nothing that cried for weeks, then days, then not at all, which somehow had seemed worse.
She could not, would not hurt him. Yet now . . .
"Labor Day?" he asked.
"It's perfect for the park," she whispered. "So many people are back in the city; kids are getting ready for school . . ."
"It can get cold," he said.
"Or warm. Summer's last hurrah." She flinched. It was what they used to say about September, the weeks they'd loved to spend out on Martha's Vineyard, the welcome gap between Joleen's summer concerts and the holiday shows, the time they'd be together, just the three of them.
If Cliff made the connection, he didn't say. Instead, he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and turned back to Katie. "It's taken years to get the park again. If I start asking favors . . . well, it's not a good idea. We can mix the CD off the first few roadshows. Then I'll push the studio for a July Fourth release. You're a star, Katie-Kate. But even stars have to know when to push and when to compromise for the sake of the big picture."
He walked away from the window and toward the closet in the foyer, where he took out his heavy black wool jacket. Then he left the apartment for a place unknown to her. He often did that without explanation, and Katie did not ask because she was his daughter not his keeper.
She touched her stomach and gently rubbed the knots, dreading what he'd say when he learned about the baby that would ruin all his plans.
Even in baggy sweats, a parka, and a blonde ponytail wig that stuck out from the back of a New York Mets baseball cap, Katie felt exposed to the public and the media when she left the apartment. But she needed to see Miguel, and outdoors seemed oddly more private.
Brady, naturally, followed closely behind, because Brady was well-paid to keep his six-foot-six-inch, bodyguard-body behind her at all times. His sharp eyesight and quick instincts compensated for the fact that he'd lost most of his hearing from too many venues where the decibels exceeded those allowed under the law. Loyal, quiet, and kind, he tailed her like a bad but dependable detective whom time had proved would not run back to her father and report the where-she-went's and what-was-said's when she was with Miguel.
"I have to tell my father," Katie said now to Miguel. Her words danced on little clouds of crisp, cold, winter breath. "I must tell him today." They strolled along museum mile, past the Met and into the park, a seemingly ordinary couple on an ordinary day.
"You can't," Miguel replied. They rounded the curve and headed toward the reservoir. "Not yet."
They had talked about it countless times: about their baby that was due at the end of June, about how Katie would be nearly six months pregnant once the tour was over, and, by that time, the world would see the situation for itself. The world, including Cliff.
Then it would be too late to make "other arrangements."
"He booked Central Park for July Fourth," she said. "How can I do Central Park if the baby's just been born?"
Miguel stopped. Brady almost slammed into his back. "O Dios m'o," Miguel said, then his voice dropped. "I didn't think he'd get the Fourth."
Katie blinked. "You knew that he was trying?"
"And you didn't stop him?"
"What could I have said? Should I have told the truth?"
Brady stepped away, as if wanting no involvement in a quarrel.
"Maybe the baby will come early," Miguel said, then added, "can't they make that happen?"
"Miguel, this is a baby. Our baby."
"And this," he said, with a flourish of his hand, "is Central Park. A million singers would give anything for this."
Heat rose in her cheeks. "I'm not a million singers!" she shrieked, then turned from him and ran up the incline toward the fence.
"Kate!" he shouted after her.
She reached the fence and clung to the wrought iron. Brady silently appeared on her right side. A bowl of tears threatened to spill out of her eyes. She stared across the water at the pristine lake that always seemed so out of place, as if it should be on the Vineyard and not here, not uptown.
From her left side, Miguel reached out. "I'm sorry," he said.
This time Brady did not move, and Katie did not care. For two years Miguel had been her video producer and her road manager. All that time, she'd slept with him. She thought he would have understood her needs by now.
"Forget about the concert. Let's get married, Katie." It was not the first time he'd suggested it.
She moved away from Brady. Miguel was at her heels.
How could she tell him she was not convinced he loved her the way that she loved him? Were her doubts because his dark eyes sometimes flicked away when she was talking to him, as if something or someone more interesting had captured his attention? As if she were not the center of his life?
Her father hadn't said Miguel was only using her for her money and her connections, that secretly Miguel wanted to be a singer, too. He'd said that about the others, the few men who had come and gone, in and out of Katie's life. He'd said that about them, but not about Miguel.
Perhaps Miguel was fooling both of them.
Or perhaps Katie didn't want another man putting more restrictions on her.
The dry, winter air chilled her nose, her ears, her eyes. She held her breath, tried to be strong. "I'll tell my father now," she said. "We'll do the six-week tour. He'll change the date for Central Park."
Miguel did not reply.
"No matter what," she added, "this baby will be born. My father will not force me to have an abortion. Not this time, he won't."
Miguel nodded slowly, then he jogged away. And Katie was left alone to wonder why life had to be so complicated, and why it was always up to her to make up for the wrong done to her father by Joleen.
Sequins: pink for the first set, to rev the audience; purple for the second set, to build their passion; black for the last set, to lure them into thinking of nothing but pure sex, because that was what live performance was totally about.
All of which Katie eagerly had complied with before she had been pregnant, before those unfamiliar hormones invaded her body and silently removed her lust. It had not been this way the other times. Then again, she reasoned, as she stood in the dressing room of the apartment awaiting Ina's arrival with the pincushion and scissors, Katie's prior pregnancies had lasted only a few weeks.
She ran her hand lightly over the slight round of her stomach. She wondered if she should change her image, if Ina should alter the costumes to a Stevie Nicks' mien, draped and flowing and sensuously ethereal, loose enough to hide a myriad of sins, even pregnancy, perhaps.
She wondered if changing her attire might also elevate her songs to the notch where Stevie reigned, and transform Katie from a silly, sequined, teen idol into a legendary diva as Stevie was and Joleen once had been. Or perhaps Katie simply should be grateful that she could do the one thing that she loved: perform onstage before a crowd and fill their hearts with joy.
"Oy," Ina groaned, interrupting Katie's thoughts as the woman's mouselike figure hastened into the room with the swift agility of someone half her age. "Oy" was Ina's favorite word, as if she were of Jewish, not Hispanic, origin. "You'd think it was nine o'clock in the morning for all the traffic outside. I thought the bus would never get here." Despite the fact that Katie often offered to have a driver pick Ina up, the woman did things her way. Apparently it was okay for Ina to be Katie's costume designer, schedule-keeper, and all-around assistant, but there was a line between cultures that she simply would not cross. Ina would not leave the declining Washington Heights neighborhood where she still lived. Nor would she pretend to be the elitist she was not.
Ina dumped her bulging bag onto the floor and parked her bony, hardworking hands on her tiny hips. "I did my best," she said, "but the pink sequins were tough to match."
Though Katie's weight hadn't yet budged, her waist had grown almost two inches. And two inches in her costumes was expansion toward disaster.
"You're telling him today?" Ina asked, opening the bag and extracting a brown cardboard box that was crisscrossed with string the way bakeries tied bundles of cakes and pastries and all sorts of yummy things. The box was part of Ina's shield from others on the bus, so they would not suspect that she worked for Ms. Mega-Star, the girl who once again was pregnant, thanks to Ina's son, Miguel.
"He booked us for Central Park," she told the seamstress now, then ignored the look Ina shot at her whenever Katie referred to Cliff as booking us, as if he would be in the spotlight next to her, performing his heart and sweat and guts out, as if he wouldn't be stage right, waiting, watching in the wings while she did all the work.
Katie reached for the box and untied the string. She lifted the lid and pulled out a small, pink-sequin minidress, a dress originally designed to cling to a nonpregnant form.
"July Fourth," Ina said, "Miguel told me." She waited until Katie pulled off her bodysuit, then helped her put on the dress. "If the baby's late, will you give birth onstage?"
Without replying, Katie shook her long hair free and pulled the strapless dress on. She studied her image in the mirror. There was no way this dress would make it past the first two weeks of the tour.
"He'll have to cancel Central Park," she said, her voice less convincing now, even to her. The knots in her stomach knitted together again. It's the baby, she realized without knowing how she knew. It's not because I'm nervous or upset. It's the baby moving! She stood in place a moment, then sank onto the pink overstuffed sofa. Without warning, she burst into the tears she'd held back for too long. "Ina," she cried, "what should I do?"
On any other day, for any other reason, Ina would have sat beside her. She would have put her arm around Katie and tried to comfort her. Instead, Ina stood in the middle of the room. "You are asking about my grandbaby," she replied. "The question is not fair."
If not Ina, who could Katie ask? If she had a mother who'd acted like a mother, she supposed she'd have asked her. But Joleen was . . . well, Joleen had become a stranger, a distant woman whom Katie thought of mostly as "Joleen," not "Mom" or "Mother," a sad, reclusive woman to whom Katie once was close but now was not. "He can't make me, can he?" Katie said quietly. "He can't make me have another abortion?"
Excerpted from Beach Roses by Jean Stone. Copyright © 2003 by Jean Stone. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.