The Restoration of Celia Fairchild - Marie Bostwick Page 0,1

with hyperbole here and that love is maybe the most overused word in the English language, the second most overused being hate. Sparkly Vest Man doesn’t love me. He likes me or, more accurately, he likes what I write. It’s a compliment. I get it. Sparkly Vest Man doesn’t love me and I don’t hate him. But I do find him irritating, more now than I would have even a few months ago.

It only took five thousand dollars and four months of counseling with a slightly cruel therapist for me to understand that the reason I keep getting my heart broken is that I am desperate, too desperate, to regain what was taken from me so many years ago. Desperation will make you do dumb things, like ignoring red flags and the warnings of too-frank friends.

But none of that was Sparkly Vest Man’s fault, so I smiled and said the only thing I could say, “Well, I love you too, sugar,” then took the next question, and the next, and the next.

They asked me about finances and fiancés, former wives, wished-for careers, and thwarted dreams. But really, they were all looking for the same thing, hope and a way forward. As they came up to the microphone to tell their stories, irritation gave way to tenderness, and then to admiration. Their vulnerability was touching and, as I thought about it, really kind of brave.

If I were as brave as they were, maybe I would have lifted up my hand, stopped them mid-question, and told them what a mess my life is, what a mess I am. But I’m not that brave. Even if I were, how does knowing that help them?

I did my best. I listened to what they were saying—and what they weren’t saying—and tried to be the Calpurnia they were counting on, pointing them in the right direction. It’s crazy that talking should be so exhausting but it is. I was grateful when the emcee said that we’d run out of time. The audience started to applaud once more. I smiled, and waved, and walked into the wings in my bare feet with the hem of my glittery red evening dress dragging behind me, carving a dusty trail on the black stage floor.

Backstage, the executive director of the program found me a pair of flip-flops, the thin, flimsy kind you wear for pedicures, then put me into a cab for the ride back to my apartment. The driver was kind of chatty but I deflected his questions and closed my eyes, making it clear I wasn’t up for conversation. The only thing I wanted to do was get home, take off the glittery gown with the dirty hem, extricate myself from the boa constrictor death-grip of the Spanx, and go to bed.

I was tired, so tired that I thought about letting the call go to voicemail. But no matter how hard I try, even when the screen says “Number Unknown” or even “Possible Spam,” I cannot ignore a ringing phone. There’s this part of me that always thinks, or maybe just hopes, it’ll be good news. Or bad?

Either way, I can’t stop myself from wanting to know.

Months would pass before the verdict was in on Good vs. Bad. But from the moment I answered that call and a voice said, “Ms. Fairchild? This is Anne Dowling. I’m an adoption attorney,” my life would never be the same.

Chapter Two

The almond croissants looked tempting. So did the chocolate. But I’d made up my mind. Today I would order a plain croissant. Why? Because Anne Dowling had called and it was a new day, with heretofore unimagined possibilities. And because, as my slightly cruel therapist kept pointing out, enough was enough.

When it comes to food and grief, there are generally two types of people: those who are so emotionally ragged that they can hardly force a morsel between their lips, and those who go in the entirely opposite direction.

I am the second type.

In the three months since my divorce, I’d gained nine pounds. Well, eight and a half after I stepped on the scale a second time, minus my socks and underwear, on the morning after the fundraiser. But half a pound didn’t alter the fact that I had to change into yoga tights before leaving the house because I couldn’t button my regular pants.

It’s not that I’d been grieving the end of my marriage per se. In my long history of spectacularly bad relationships, Steve represented a new low—five affairs