Unbidden, my local sisterhood had assembled itself at my house, and my sister Gier was on the plane here from Chicago. So, too, was my dad, who would be arriving within an hour or two. I thought of Blake and Landon, ages ten and fifteen, four miles off the coast deep- sea fishing with Lalla Lee's sons and a friend, and Marshall, our oldest, in the Caribbean, for a two- week summer job. I paused next to the bed that Mark and I shared, to appreciate how truly I loved and was loved and how nothing that happened that day could take any of that from me.
Out in the kitchen, Kathy and Lalla Lee urged me to eat, but I had no appetite. We picked at the salads that Kathy thought to bring. The phone continued to ring, but we were screening the calls. It seemed we were hunkered down in a safe zone, in our cinder- block fortress by the sea, waiting for the next shoe to drop.
"So, Jenny, while you were in the shower Mark called again," Lalla Lee told me reluctantly.
"Are you kidding?" Kathy said, grinning at me. "I gave him a piece of my mind when I answered Jenny's cell. Of course, he thought I was her for a while."
I shook my head, imagining what Kathy had let loose on Mark. Kathy and I have had our sisterly spats, but we are fiercely protective of each other. I felt safer with her around. After lunch, Chris Allen patched through Mark, who was polling those he trusted on how much he should reveal. "Should I tell everything?" he asked, businesslike still.
"Whatever you think is right," I said. "What does Lerner say?" I asked, referring to our longtime media adviser and friend in DC.
"He says not to get into too much detail," Mark sighed.
I agree with that. But you have to be honest about where you were and why." This was Mark at the mansion and in work mode. I had long ago come to understand that private talk would have to wait.
The day before, when I knew for certain that Mark was in Argentina, I reached out to my family in Chicago, and my dad volunteered to fly to Charleston to be at my side, as had Gier. In the coming weeks, there would be a time when I would need my mom's lively spirit and take- charge attitude, but that day I needed Dad and his calm. I was folding laundry mindlessly, trying to keep busy, when he pulled into the driveway. Just the sight of him, tidy in his pressed khakis and golf shirt, made me feel more firmly anchored to the ground. Yet all I could manage was a weak smile when he walked through the door. Since Mark confessed his affair to him a few weeks earlier, Dad and I had spoken many times. Now we hugged, not saying much. Up close, I saw the pain he carried in his eyes. I was not sure what there was to say.
Mark called again, first announcing that the press conference would be later in the afternoon.
"The State has some of our emails," he admitted. I understood that the "our" of that statement did not refer to me, but to his correspondence with his lover. If they were anything like the racy letter I'd discovered in Mark's desk that January, I needed to brace myself for another public humiliation.
"How many do they have? How long have they had them?"
"I don't know."
So, my best political, if not spousal, advice: "Well, be honest and get it over with. Whatever you do, don't talk about your heart."