Breaking the News

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Brie zooms up the little knoll to her parents' house in Pasadena, hungry, tired, and she has to pee. It's a perfect situation, being so geographically close when she wants a little comfort slice, and yet able to cite the trauma of Los Angeles traffic when she can't be bothered to see them. But she and the Mush were supposed to go to some fundraiser dinner with her parents this Saturday, so tonight's the night to break the news. And a home-cooked meal sounds pretty awesome right about now.

"Shit!" Brie shouts when she pulls into the driveway and sees the Town Car. She slaps the dash. Grammy Birdie is here. "Screw that," she says, throwing the car into reverse and charging backward, but headlights flash up from behind, forcing her to stop. She watches in her side mirror as her father's silhouette emerges from the car now parked behind her. She can see him smiling in the dark. "Hey Kiddo," he says, leaning down and tapping on the window. He looks surprised that she's alone. "Come on. Grammy's here! Mom's making Veal Marsala."

Brie takes a breath, licking her fingers to smooth her wisps. She'll just call her mom tomorrow morning and tell her. No fucking way is she breaking the news in front of Grammy Birdie.

Her parents' house these days is at once comforting and disconcerting. It's always nice to come home, but lately their spacious, well-appointed 1920's Mediterranean with sparkling bathrooms, gourmet cook's kitchen, and grown-up furniture reminds Brie that she's not where she's supposed to be in life. Here she is, almost forty, still single, still living in an apartment, drinking too much wine with people who probably feel the exact same way when they go home to their parents' house, but no one would ever admit this to each other, not even over the third bottle of wine and the cigarettes they still seem to smoke. It's a fickle state of being—sometimes her freedom feels like a cool tropical breeze tossing her hair, and sometimes it's cold winter desolation. It changes day-by-day, hour-by-hour. Maybe she needs to go on Zoloft.

All eyes on Brie as she steps through the door. There are more flowers than usual, tea lights twinkling all around, and the dining room table is set for dinner. Her mother floats in deliriously happy pinching two flutes of Champagne. She stops cold. "Where is he?"

Brie eyes her dad. "Where is who?"

Behind her father on the wall is a picture of Brie and the Mush in a silver frame. She narrows her eyes. "What's going on?"

From the living room, a deep resonant voice. "Where is she?" The echoing clack of her heels on the terracotta floor tiles announces her approach. Almost ninety years old and still wearing pumps, stockings, tailored cream-colored trousers, and a matching cashmere cowl neck sweater with the highly prized family heirloom emerald brooch gleaming at her breast. Grammy Birdie's lips are always tacky with Chanel Pirate Red. "There she is, the blushing bride."

Brie turns to her mother, whose eyes are bulging at Grammy Birdie. "Mother, we were going to let Brie, remember?"

Grammy Birdie groans. "Patricia, this kid is so slow at everything. Let's just get it out. Come here, Brie. Let me see the ring. Did he get it at Tiffany?"

Brie summons all her worldly strength to stifle her own tears. He asked her father for her hand. Of course he did. How could she not have anticipated this? Brie goes to her mother and takes both champagne flutes, drinks the first like a tequila shot, and raises the second as if for a toast. "Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not getting married."

Gasps and moans.

"Me neither," shouts Alaska from the top of the stairs. This is Brie's younger sister by nearly twenty years. You can hardly consider them sisters in the social sense, since Brie was in college when Alaska was born. "Marriage is an antiquated social agreement that benefits the husband more than the wife," Alaska is saying as she skips down the stairs with her lacrosse stick banging behind her. "But I doubt that's Brie's excuse. What did he, see you without makeup?"

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