An excerpt from a novel of the same name

By the time she was twenty-two, Katy had gone through thirty minders, forty stylists, twenty-three therapists, six boyfriends, forty-six lovers, various other vaguely forgotten trysts, and three trips to rehab. She had avoided jail, narrowly, four times, cried in fifty-three different limos, and had eight-two panic attacks. She didn’t dream anymore, probably because she was too tired, at an average of four hours sleep a night (though she would often nap or pass out in the afternoon). She had put out three albums, and sixteen singles. She liked two of the songs. Her hair had been sixty different shades, at different times, during this eight-year career. She was tired. She was dizzy. It seemed like time for a break. A break turned into a marriage.

The love of her life, on paper, was Tom MacKinnon. He was a music producer, and that was the main reason they settled in Nashville. Katy had grown up not very far away, in North Louisiana, and though she swore she’d never go back, as a rebellious teenager, now she found the neighboring Southern state, her new marital home, very comforting.

And comfort was what she hadn’t had before. No amount of Valium could compare to the soft, lingering Tennessee drawls she couldn’t help but love, or the scent of honeysuckle and roses in the garden. Champagne was better, she decided, in the heady dusk of a Nashville May, with smoky blue skies stretching over her—than in the pale pink smog and tired paranoia of Los Angeles.

It was the high school reunion that did it, though. Even though Katy had never received her High School Diploma (she was filming in LA at the time, had more or less left school at sixteen), she was of course invited back to see her childhood friends and playground loves. She hadn’t donated a performing arts wing in ages.


Katy and Louisa had known each other since they were little girls. Their mothers went to high school together as well, and there were hundreds of birthday parties, cocktail parties, graduation events, luncheons, fundraisers—all the usual rituals—connecting their families through the years.

They had been very close in Junior High, but perhaps inevitably drifted apart when Katy left home at sixteen, and disappeared to New York and then LA. They lost touch entirely for about five years. It was only at Christmas, two years before Katy moved to Nashville with her new fiancé, that they talked again. And now they were adults, of sorts. They were both trying to be. They could talk frankly rather than shyly; they could be nostalgic about things they used to loathe, and mention names of people they used to love, who were impossibly distant now, and sometimes, who had died.


Louisa didn’t bring up Jamie’s death at first, even though the last time she had seen Katy was at his funeral, four years earlier. It had been a typically sweltering day in mid June, and everyone from high school had come back for it, if they weren’t still living at home. Nevertheless, Louisa was surprised to see Katy. Her break-up with Jamie had been acrimonious and sad and probably, Louisa had thought, why Katy had not been back home since. But here she was: blonder, thinner, and smoking many cigarettes. She had changed from Camels to Marlboro Lights. Her highlights were no longer natural.

She gave Louisa a hug as soon as she saw her, which also took Louisa by surprise, even if once it had been normal. People were looking. Though it wasn’t about her, Louisa felt uncomfortable by association. Katy kept her sunglasses on, took Louisa’s arm and said, “Will you walk with me?”

“Of course.—When did you get here?”

“Last night, near midnight. The flight was delayed.”

“It’s good you came back.”

Katy didn’t know what to say, and they walked on nervously. As they sat down together, in the fourth pew on the right, she went on: “I couldn’t think what else to do when I found out. I only found out yesterday, you know.” Then Louisa did not know what to say.

The service began. Both girls, and most of the congregation, cried behind their Ray-Bans. People said sad things and mourned the early, pointless waste of life. They talked about what he might have done, and what he did. They talked about some of what he did. They edited out the worst things, because nobody wanted to remember them.


As they walked back up the aisle together, though, when the service was over and the coffin on the road, Katy abandoned the communal edit, paused the wishful nostalgia. It had been gradually welling up for the past hour, because Katy had never really healed from that phase in their lives, and she knew Louisa hadn’t either.

“I really hated him, you know.” She said, only slightly worried about Louisa’s reply.

“I know. Me too.” She said. Their hands tightened, and neither had to say that made it a much sadder state of affairs. They had never been able to make up. A coffin disappearing was no reconciliation. The haunting had begun.

But nobody could tell that yet. As everyone left the church, distraught or just sad, and looking for some distraction (before the drinks, at the wake), they turned their attention to Katy. She was wearing the same color as everybody else, and only slightly more expensive highlights, but still they stared. There was some jealousy, some surprise, some air of scandal, but mostly there was just curiosity. Was that what people in LA wore? Had those shoes been in a magazine yet?

“You picked the right shade of despair, then.” Louise smiled, bemused.

“I’m in mourning and they think it’s a fashion statement.”

“Aren’t you used to that, by now?”

“No, not really. It always worries me when people are more superficial than me.”

“They lost a friend too. Let them forget it.”

“There are better ways to forget than watching other people.”

“The Wake will start soon, I wouldn’t worry.”

“I can’t decide whether I should start drinking again. I can’t have him turning me to drink even from the grave.”

“Well, he isn’t buried yet.”