"No-I mean, yes, it is time for me to get going," said Kate, wiping her eyes as she reached out to turn on the shower. "You're right. I don't want to be late." I don't want to go, she thought as the tears forced their way back to the surface. But what she wanted had ceased to matter so long ago.
Twenty minutes later, driving her BMW M5 along the traffic-free Sunset Boulevard (one of the few benefits of a six a.m. call time), Kate strained to see the road through the frozen eye mask that Hamilton had forced on her so that her eyes "wouldn't be as swollen as her stomach." When her cell phone rang, filling the car with the theme song from Jaws, Kate answered with a forcedly cheerful "Hi, Mom."
"How did you know it was me?" asked her forever-caller-ID-mystified mother.
"Just psychic, I guess." And who else is going to call me at five-thirty a.m.?
"Well, anyhoo," said her mother, charging ahead in her coffee-induced morning list-making mode, "today is your great uncle Bert's birthday and I know it would mean a lot to him to hear from you."
"Uncle Bert? Do I have an Uncle Bert?"
"Of course you do, honey. He is Aunt Mary's new husband. You met him at their wedding."
"I didn't go to Aunt Mary's last wedding, Mom. I was working. Remember?"
"Well, be that as it may, it would be nice of you to call him and wish him a happy birthday."
"But, Mom," said Kate, wishing she had heeded her ring tone's warning, "I don't know him. Won't it be weird for him to get a call from a stranger?"
"You're not a stranger, you're family," said her mother. "And he's a big fan of your show."
Ah, the show. So it's not a call from his loving-although-unknown-niece Katie he is waiting for, but a special birthday greeting from Kate Keyes-Morgan, television star and pawn in her mother's bid for most loved and admired member of the large and Generations-obsessed McMannus/Keyes clan.
"Well, Mom, I'm driving right now, so I can't really write down a phone number. And I've got a pretty big day at work today, so why don't you just pass on my birthday wishes for me?"
"I'm sure you have three minutes for a phone call, Katie. I'll leave the number on your home phone and you can call in for it when you get a break." Damn. "So tell me, what 'big' thing is going on at work today?"
Going against years of experience and her inner voice that was screaming, "Danger, Will Robinson!" at great volume in her aching head, Kate decided to try for a little bit of unconditional motherly love and support. "Well, Mom, I have a lingerie scene today and I just don't feel great about my body. I know it's silly-I mean, I hope it's silly-but you know a few pounds of bloat can make you feel huge, even though you know no one else will even notice and you are just making yourself crazy for absolutely no reason," Kate said, talking faster and faster to cover the silence on the other end of the line. Interrupt me, Mom. Tell me I am beautiful the way I am, at any weight, at any size . . .
"What does Hamilton think?"
"What?" asked Kate, aghast but not totally surprised.
"What does Hamilton think? Does he think you are too heavy for your scene?" Oh, that's right, thought Kate. I forgot that the unconditional love and devotion are reserved for men.
"Well," she stammered, "he isn't thrilled, but you know what a perfectionist he is. I mean, he won't be happy until-"
"Until you achieve your true potential," interrupted her mother.
"I was going to say 'until I am a size zero.' "