At fifteen she opted to live with Gretchen Dundy, nee Fabricant, who began to search, while her daughter was in the house, for a profession: she was first a carver of wooden bowls on a lathe kept in the newly vacant garage (gone was Otto’s Alfa Romeo); then, upon the failure of that, a tailor and seamstress, altering gowns she found at Savers to sell on eBay; then, upon the failure of that, a social worker for suicidal teens (an irony that was not lost on her own daughter, to whom she was afraid to speak); and finally, an assistant arranger to a florist in Los Feliz, who hired the frizzy-haired mother because she was the only applicant who had come with a car, which was necessary for deliveries, especially to weddings, when no one could expect the one write-off van to really hold everything. This manager, a Mrs. Margaret Li, came to trust her new employee to the extent that they split the business, 70/30, and on the other end of all of Gretchen’s phone calls to her futzy daughter were mentions of Margaret this and Margaret that…Such that the girl – just eighteen then, and off in college where such “experimentation” was commonplace – began to suspect the two women of a relationship.
Really, it was less a suspicion than a secret wish. She wanted, above all, for her parents to be happy in the same ways, at the same times, so that she was not expected to play come-uppance or nurse with either once. Yet while her mother seemed to fester, sexless, her father romped through the playland of his midlife crisis – a crisis so cliché that to speak of it plainly would have embarrassed him, who had every other explanation for his behavior — such that even when she glared down at the dug-out pool in the ranch house he had bought with Zelda (that was really her name, the heiress), she could not help smirking. He had, in addition to the house and the pool and the new girlfriend (not yet wife) bought an airstream trailer (he said he felt that he would like to go on a long journey, like he had in youth) which he kept permanently hitched to the dog-house where Zelda kept her two Great Danes, which were always getting into the stuffing of the nice furniture, the furniture that she and Ott-y (ugh) had picked out together. And so for him Zelda (really Zelda) had relegated her two great loves.
Stacy had only spent the evening at their home twice, in her life. The first: A visit to an ex-boyfriend then living in Boston… a visit whose obvious failure required her to flee – and not knowing where else to go… to flee to her father’s. There, after a dinner (“healthy!”) prepared by Zelda, flushed with excitement at this connection with the man’s child, and after a film they watched together, silently, on the large and buzzy TV, Stacy found she could not sleep in the little space carved out for her. It was a cot, in the center of her father’s “study.” There were books, all around. Books he had read and spoken of so often that she felt as though she were entering the mind of her father, as though he were only just a library that walled her in and she, a girl forced to sleep on a small hard bed, on pillows cool as stones, with the sounds of dogs grunting in the yard just beyond, and the smell of the pool water, thick and salty, breezing in.
The second time was for their wedding. A hotel would have been “ridiculous,” everyone said. She shared a room with Henry and Lawrence, who had flown in from Austin for the ceremony and whose mother, sleeping on the couch in the living room, heard the three cousins raiding the liquor cabinet, in the nook by the phone, but said nothing — not that night, not the next, for while she would have happily reprimanded her sons, then just 19 and 24, she could not reprimand the poor girl, who was Henry’s age, and who she had seen crying at the edge of the pool, while the other guests were dressing: she knew what came of a divorce.