With a flute of champagne in one hand and a cracker smeared with tapenade in the other, Cybill navigated her way through the throng of Armani suits and Chanel evening gowns. Some of these people she knew, some she didn’t, but all were dressed to the nines in their most extravagant formal attire. A whiff of someone’s perfume - crisp and floral - caught her nose and suddenly she knew what breathing in two hundred dollars was like. Somewhere, a piano was being played beautifully, adding to the ambiance and mixing with the sound of many different conversations happening around the room.
Living in Los Angeles and having Maryann Thorpe as her best friend for so long meant that she’d grown accustomed to being surrounded by wealth, but just because she was used to it didn’t mean she’d ever stopped loving it. She never would. Even if - when - she was finally a famous actress who had the world eating caviar out of the palm of her hand, there would always be that part of her, that little girl from Memphis who would be drinking it all in with wide-eyed wonder and glee. It was for that reason that no matter how many ritzy LA parties she attended, she was still enchanted by them. She looked forward to Maryann’s New Year’s Eve parties in particular, and it just so happened that this is where she found herself tonight.
“Beautiful dress!” A woman complimented her as she walked by. Flattered, Cybill thanked her. Maryann’s parties were always like this, elegant and refined but relaxed enough to where she felt like she was surrounded by good friends who just happened to be filthy rich. Perhaps that was one of the reasons she enjoyed them so much: they were a reflection of who Maryann was. Although, she hoped the reflection stopped at a mechanical explosive hidden in the disco ball.
The thought struck her that it might not have been her the woman was complementing, but she decided to claim it as hers anyway. Besides, it was a beautiful dress, she had to admit. It was a velvet number, sapphire blue with a sweetheart neckline and it showed off the dips and curves of her body quite nicely. A little lipstick, a pair of matching blue heels, and some jewelry Maryann had picked out for her at Neiman’s and she had her look for the night.
Speaking of Maryann, where the heck did she mingle off to?
Cybill had only left her for a few minutes to go and sample the horderves and now she was having trouble finding her again.
Suddenly, a man clutching his stomach ran past her, shoving her out of the way and causing her champagne to slosh over the edge.
“Hey, watch it, buddy!” She yelled after him, but regretted it when she remembered where she was. The room was full of people with clout and for all she knew, his was in the world of show business. Fortunately he didn’t seem to be in the blackballing mood. Holding her champagne a little closer to herself, she scanned the crowd.
Finally, she caught a glimpse of Maryann through a group of men laughing uproariously. She was leaning against the back wall, having a moment of solitude before she cast herself back into the sea of elites. Her light brown hair was piled on top of her head and she wore a gorgeous red gown, no doubt the most expensive one there. There was a contented half-smile on her face as she watched her partygoers and traced the rim of her martini glass with her finger absentmindedly. She looked stunning. She always did.
“You should try the mini quiches, they’re delicious!” Cybill chirped as Maryann sashayed over to her. “Just the perfect amount of spinach. The next time you see your caterer, give ‘em a big ol’ smooch and say it’s from Cybill Sheridan!”
Maryann grinned. “I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself, darling. I must admit, I think I outdid myself even more than last year.” She took a self-congratulatory sip of her martini, delighting in the sensation of warmth it left in her throat. “I swear these parties just keep getting better and better.”
“She said as she drank twice as many martinis as last year.” Cybill quipped with a smirk.
“Oh, pish. You were the one who got so drunk you asked me if it was too late to put twinkies in the pinata,” She said “twinkies” and “pinata” like she wanted the words tied to horses and quartered, “and you told Bob Larson you wanted him to be the one to blindfold you.”
Cybill shot her a look. “I wasn’t drunk!”
“Oh.” Maryann blinked, her eyebrows knit together in a puzzled frown. “Maybe I just told myself that so my mind wouldn’t retreat into a fugue state due to the overwhelming embarrassment I felt for both you and myself.”
Cybill popped her tapenade cracker in her mouth and chewed vehemently. She responded to Maryann’s little comment with her mouth full, something she knew secretly annoyed her, “Bob’s a great guy and besides, he flirted with me first, I was just returning the favor.” Though she wondered if maybe she had been drunk considering she couldn’t remember there actually being a pinata.
She was just about to tell Maryann that there needed to be a pinata this year when Maryann said, “By the way, while you were gone I got a call from the guy I hired to sing tonight. Apparently he was in some sort of accident, something about a mid life crisis and taking up chainsaw juggling as a hobby.”
Cybill winced. No matter how depressed and empty he felt, there was no excuse to not take the necessary safety precautions if he was going to juggle chainsaws. Still, she’d been looking forward to seeing him perform. “Oh no, that’s too bad. I was gonna have him sign my napkin and everything.” She had no idea who he was, but who didn’t love being asked for an autograph?
“I was really hoping to have some live entertainment tonight.” Maryann took another sip of her martini, this time in the hopes that it would provide her with a little insight as to how she was going to find someone else to perform in less than fifteen minutes. It didn’t help. She sighed. “You’d think for five thousand dollars he’d slap a bandaid on it, have a shot of whiskey, and do a few numbers before he bled out.”
An idea struck Cybill, her blue eyes lighting up so brilliantly they made her dress look muted for a moment. “What about us?”
Maryann smiled at the suggestion. “I’d love to, Cybill, but I don’t exactly think this is the kind of crowd that would appreciate an R&B rendition of Margaritaville.”
“Come on, these people are your friends. Some are mine too. They won’t mind.” She quickly added, “And I promise we won’t do Jimmy Buffet!”
Maryann considered it. It didn’t take long to make up her mind. She downed her martini, threw her hands up and exclaimed, “Oh, why the hell not! It’s my party, I’ll sing if I want to!”
Halfway through “A Time For Us” later, Maryann was lying on her side across the top of the piano while Cybill sat with her arm around the pianist, the two of them swaying to the music.
A time for us
At last to see
A life worthwhile
For you and me
On their own, they each had fabulous, unique voices. Cybill’s was dulcet and clear with a knack for opera and Maryann’s was sultry and rich with an incredible range. But when the two came together, they came together in a harmony that had long since captured the attention of everyone in the room. They stood watching, completely captivated by the two beautiful women with the voices to match.
And with our love
Through tears and thorns
We will endure
As we pass surely
Through every storm
Cybill looked up at Maryann, her eyes gleaming the way they always did when she was performing, like she’d never known a happiness greater than putting on a show for an audience. Maryann looked down at her, thinking how much she loved seeing that look. She slid gracefully off the piano and took Cybill’s hand. There was a question in Cybill’s eyes but Maryann only smiled and began to lead her in a dance. Never one to pass up an opportunity to show off another one of their mutual talents, Cybill eagerly followed suit and they swayed and twirled their cares away, singing their hearts out all the while. Cybill gave a surprised “woo!” and a laugh as Maryann pulled her in and dipped her.
A time for us
Someday there’ll be
A new world
A world of shining hope
For you and me
Holding on to her tightly, Maryann wondered if she’d ever told Cybill that they’d once shared similar dreams of becoming performers. She’d done musical theater in high school and at one point had even considered pursuing it in college, but while she was deciding just what she wanted out of life, she’d met Dr. Dick and suddenly her hopes and dreams meant nothing in place of fulfilling his. But now she was getting a taste of it again, and oh was it exhilarating! The sound of their voices, the blur of the room as they danced, the audience cheering them on. No worries or cares, no past or future, just here and now.
It was almost better than vodka.
She lost herself in it all. So much so that it took her a good few seconds to realize she was suddenly singing and dancing by herself.
She opened her eyes, apparently she'd closed them, and looked at Cybill.
She was standing next to her rigidly, brow furrowed and eyes wide in alarm as she clutched her stomach. Her skin had turned worryingly pale. Before Maryann could ask if she was alright, Cybill thrust her microphone into her hand, squeaked out “I gotta go!” and took off running.
Shocked and more than a little concerned, Maryann watched her run until she’d dissapeared down the hallway. The audience had gone silent, but she could feel their eyes on her.
“Um”, She started, turning back to face the crowd. Her cheeks burned slightly with embarrassment. She cleared her throat, trying to fill the awkward silence as she thought of what to say. "We’ll be having an impromptu intermission! Grab a drink, have some paté! The performance will resume....” She wasn’t sure if or when Cybill was going to join her again, so as a safe bet, she went with “...whenever.”
She put the microphones back in their stands and gave the pianist a pat on the shoulder. “Take a break, darling. You’re still getting paid, don’t worry.”
He smiled and gave a curt nod. “Much obliged, Mrs. Thorpe.”
With that, Maryann hurriedly made her way past the dispersing crowd and down the hallway to one of her many bathrooms. The door was cracked slightly and after a moment's hesitation, she pushed it open to find Cybill vomiting into the toilet. Instinctively, Maryann wrinkled her nose, but whatever disgust she might’ve felt was immediately replaced with worry and sympathy at seeing her best friend in such a state.
As she stepped into the bathroom, a voice in her head screamed at her not to be within the same hemisphere as someone vomiting whilst wearing a one-of-a-kind satin Mizrahi gown.
She closed the door behind her and knelt down next to Cybill.
The voice grew louder, for the love of God, turn and run!
She silenced it and swept Cybill’s blonde hair out of her face, gathering it up into a ponytail behind her back. Where Maryann had gone with an intricate updo that took her stylist so long she’d had time to flip through an entire Cosmopolitan, Cybill had gone a bit simpler with beachy waves as the hairstyle of the night. Simpler, but no less flattering. She looked stunning. She always did, even in this moment when she wasn’t exactly at her most becoming.
She should make this her everyday look, it really suits her, Maryann thought, trying to distract herself. But a small whimper from Cybill pulled Maryann’s focus back to her, reminding her that Cybill was enjoying this even less than she was.
“Shhh. I’ve gotcha, pal.” Maryann said softly as she used her free hand to rub soothing circles across Cybill’s back. “There, there.”
It was odd to see these roles reversed, she could recall Cybill doing this for her many years ago. A barrage of memories sprang to the forefront of her mind. Finding underwear that wasn’t hers in Dr. Dick’s nightstand. Cybill groggily trying to calm her down over the phone. The two of them at a bar in the middle of the night. Her throat and sinuses burning as the five vodka gimlets she’d had were expelled through them.
She thought she’d never have a night worse than that.
What a naive child she was.
She shook her head, stopping her train of thought before it could fully derail. Now wasn’t the time for that ember of rage that was constantly glowing inside her to become an inferno. Now was the time to be as comforting of a presence as Cybill had been to her.
She began to hum the song she always heard Cybill humming to herself before an audition to put herself at ease, hoping it would have the same effect.
After a few minutes, Cybill lifted her head from the toilet and leaned back against the wall, panting. “That’s one way to get six minute abs.”
Maryann stood up and ran a washcloth under cold water. “I prefer laughing so hard I can’t breathe whenever I drive by Dr. Dick’s at 2am and blast the volume on his stereo with that universal remote.” She chuckled, just the thought of it made her giddy. “Nothing’s ever been so worth getting out of bed for.”
She rejoined Cybill on the floor and placed her hand under her chin as she gently wiped her face. Cybill closed her eyes and sighed blissfully at the coolness.
“Thank you for not barfing on me.” Maryann said as she neatly folded the cloth and pressed it to Cybill’s forehead. “Mizrahi would have a heart attack if he knew his signature piece was being accented with partially digested mini quiche instead of a Chanel clutch.” Imagining it made her heart skip a beat too and she shuddered, suddenly feeling very cold. “Not before I did, of course.”
Cybill offered a tired smile. “You’re always telling me mini quiche isn’t my color. I doubt it’s yours either.” She frowned. “I wonder what that was, it just hit me all of sudden. Maybe something I ate didn’t agree with me? Whatever it was, the timing couldn’t have been worse, I was just about to go crowd surfing!”
“Then it was a Godsend, mystery solved.” Maryann teased. Then her expression softened into one of sympathy and she rubbed Cybill’s arm. “Darling, as much as I want you here, I think you should go home and get some rest. I’m sure our adoring public has already found something else to entertain them.”
“As much as I want to be here, I think you’re right. I might not be done and if I went back out there I’d just be putting the people in front at risk of unknowingly sitting in the splash zone.”
“Come on,” Maryann took Cybill’s hands and slowly helped her to her feet. She put her arm around her to steady her as her legs were still a bit shaky. “I’ll drive you home.”
Cybill leaned against her, grateful for the support. She murmured into Maryann's bony shoulder, “I couldn’t ask you to leave your party just for me.”
“Alright, I’ll have the chauffeur drive you home.”
Cybill nodded, eyes downcast. Maryann gave her arm an encouraging shake, trying to cheer her up a litte. “I’ll have another party soon, maybe for Valentines Day. Singles only and we can drink martinis and strawberry daiquiris until no one’s single anymore.”
To Maryann’s relief, Cybill laughed despite herself.
An hour of rest and a cup of herbal tea later, Cybill’s nausea still lingered, but it was much better than it had been. As much as she never wanted to take off her evening gown, she thought it was best to change into something more comfortable. She put on a blouse and a pair of leggings and told her dress goodbye, they would see each other again soon. She’d been lying on the couch ever since, Blazing Saddles was on and she’d managed to catch it at the beginning. Her mind had just started to drift to Maryann and how her party was going when she heard a knock at the door. Zoe had gone to Palm Springs with Nina for the weekend and Ira and Jeff still thought she was at Maryann’s party, so she assumed it must’ve been either a package being delivered or a Jahova’s Witness. The thought that it might be the latter made her reconsider answering it, but the thought that the former might be her Meat of The Month delivery was enough to get her up off the couch and pulling open the door. Instead, she was surprised to find Maryann.
“Hey, what are you doin’ here?”
“I wanted to see how you were doing. Here,” Maryann handed her a glass filled with a cloudy liquid, “Have a bicarbonate of soda, it’s on the house.”
“Thanks.” Cybill took a sip and immediately regretted it. Clearly this was one of those rare times when Maryann had ventured into her kitchen and prepared something herself that wasn’t a martini or a bowl of fruity pebbles. Whatever she’d used, she’d used an excessive amount and it most definitely wasn’t baking soda. Cybill did her best to suppress both a gag and a laugh. She found Maryann’s helplessness in the kitchen endearing and normally she might’ve teased her about it, but she knew the only reason she’d put herself through the trouble was because she was worried about her.
Touched by the gesture, Cybill was quick to reassure her. “I’m doing much better, don’t worry.” She still felt a little queasy but she didn’t want to say anything, she already felt guilty that Maryann had left her party just to come see her. “Thanks for checking up on me, you didn't have to do that. You should get on back to your...” She trailed off, noticing that Maryann’s hair was back down in it’s usual cobra cut and she was no longer wearing her dress. Instead, she had on a black turtleneck, black leather pants, and she’d switched out her red stilettos for ones with a slightly shorter heel - also black.
This was her night stalking attire.
Cybill felt her stomach sink, this time not from nausea. “Uh, oh.”
Maryann nodded. “Uh, huh.”
“Let me guess...”
“Dick.” They spat in unison with the customary lip curl of contempt.
Of course. Tonight meant too much to Maryann for him not to destroy it. Cybill knew better than to push for details, Maryann would tell her as soon as she’d fixed herself a martini. Cybill followed her into the kitchen where, anticipating her next move, handed her the vermouth and Stoli. Sure enough, as soon as they were both flowing, Maryann began with a slight edge to her voice, “You weren’t the only one, Cybill. The bastard went and tampered with the catering. Except not everyone showed me the same mercy you did and made it to the bathroom. It was everywhere,” Her eyes had taken on a vacant, haunted look, like she was no longer in Cybill’s living room but her own, experiencing the horrors all over again, “on my couch, on my floors, on my walls, in the punch bowl. I had a nightmare once about being in a mass binge and purge but I woke up, Cybill. I woke up in my perfect, unsoiled, immaculately clean house.” Maryann walked over to the couch and slumped down, careful not to spill her martini. “I had to make an emergency call to my maids. Thankfully they were able to drop everything and come out on New Year’s Eve. They do such selfless work.”
Cybill came to join her. “You didn’t eat anything did you?”
Maryann shook her head. “I’m always too busy entertaining.”
Wishing there was more she could do, Cybill placed her hand on Maryann’s knee and, wishing there was more she could say, offered her a conciliatory, “I’m sorry, pal. I know how much tonight meant to you.”
Maryann sighed, giving Cybill’s hand a gentle pat and then taking it in hers. “No, Cybill, I’m sorry. I should’ve known he’d try and pull something. I just got so swept up in everything that I got careless. Unfortunately this time it was at everyone else’s expense rather than my own.”
Cybill almost reminded her that it was at her expense, she had nothing but a house full of vomit, tainted food, and an ice sculpture in the kitchen that was probably melting into a puddle on the floor as they spoke. But that wasn’t going to make her feel any better, so she kept it to herself.
“But it’s alright. I can still salvage what’s left of the evening.” Maryann flashed her a knowing smile as she stood from the couch. Cybill mirrored it, noting the familiar glint in her pale blue eyes that told her if she could see through them, she’d be looking in at the plan Maryann was scheming up in her mind. That is, if it hadn’t been for all the barely contained emotions being reflected in them getting in the way. Cybill could see each one and boy was it a bizarre mix: rage and pain and vengefulness but also excitement and zeal and desire all vying for dominance. This was a look she knew very well and as always, it both thrilled and frightened her. Tonight she found it particularly thrilling, as she wanted in on the action this time.
“Can I come?” Cybill asked excitedly.
“Darling, you know your insatiable hunger for revenge is always appreciated, but vandalism can take a lot out of you, are you sure you’re feeling up to it?
“Maryann,” Cybill slowly rose from the couch, her eyes narrowed and her jaw set in firm resolution. “It's because of Dr. Dick that I’ll never be able to enjoy another mini quiche again. They’ll only taste the way they did coming back up and for that, I need to see justice served tonight.”
Amused by Cybill’s melodrama, Maryann shrugged. “If you insist.” But she was just as thrilled to have her partner in crime at her side as Cybill was to be that partner. “I’ll brief you on the way over. And we’ll be outside for a minute while I pick the lock so bring a jacket, it’s nippy.”
“Cybill, I just love this new lock pick you got me for Christmas.”
Cybill was looking up at the stars, trying to see if she could spot the Big Dipper while Maryann was kneeling on the porch beside her, aiming a flashlight in the keyhole of Dr. Dick’s front door with one hand and maneuvering her lock pick around with the other.
Her voice brought Cbyill’s attention back to Earth. “I’m glad you like it. Especially since I lost the the receipt and the guy I bought it from had a tattoo of himself polishing a guillotine.”
“Oh, I know him!” Maryann broke her concentration to glance up at her. “He did my seaweed wrap at Spagoes last week.” She repositioned her lock pick and pumped the handle a few more times before putting down the flashlight and trying the door. It swung open. “Ah! Look at that, a new record!” She stood up, a little straighter than before with a feeling of accomplishment. Cybill moved to step inside but Maryann put her hand out. “Wait.”
“I thought you said he wasn’t home.”
“He’s not but the last time I was here he’d installed a tranquilizer dart cannon that was motion activated. When I came to I disabled it and took it home with me but he might’ve gotten a new one, they have an extended warranty.” She pulled off her glove and threw it into the foyer. When nothing happened, she turned back to Cybill. “Okay, we’re clear.”
Cautiously, Cybill stepped inside, suddenly having second thoughts about coming along. It was hard to enjoy the thrill of retaliation when she half expected a dart to hit her in the neck at any moment. But Maryann didn’t seem the least bit nervous, so she tried to draw from her confidence. They visited every bathroom on the bottom floor, leaving a bomb Maryann had made on the lid of each toilet. The plan was pretty straight forward - blow up all of Dick’s toilets. Maryann had told her on the way over that all of hers had gotten clogged from everyone’s...partially digested mini quiche, so it was only fair that she’d ruin his too. It wasn’t her most original but it was certainly entertaining, especially since she’d made it so the explosions would be different colors and all of Dicks’s bathrooms had windows so they’d get a little New Year’s Eve light show.
As they made their way upstairs, Maryann asked, “So how was work?”
“Misogynistic.” Cybill grumbled, remembering the days events and feeling a fresh surge of anger.
“Again? That’s 27 years in a row. You’d think one of these days they’d shake things up a little.”
“You’re preaching to the choir, sister.” They rounded the hallway and Cybill followed Maryann in and out of the upstairs bathrooms as she relayed the day's events. “I was shooting a commercial for a place that sells sub sandwiches and we wrapped around noon so the producer, Mark, invited everybody over to his house for lunch. I thought the guy was kind of a jerk, he was always trying to hit on every woman he met with big boobs. But he was thoughtful enough to assume that looking at sub sandwiches for three hours would make us hungry so I figured I’d go just long enough to get something to eat.” Cybill crossed her arms, already feeling a shudder coming on at the memory she was about to share, “The food was good and everything was going fine until he smacked my butt and asked if I wanted to see his footlong.”
Maryann snorted, not wanting to laugh but they way Cybill had said it made it almost impossible to resist. She really lost it when Cybill, through barely contained laughter herself, said “So I said yes but only if I could put hot mustard on it.”
Maryann tossed her head back. “Ha! Hot mustard and you want it cut in half!”
Now it was Cybill’s turn to lose it, and she joined in Maryann’s laughter.
Maryann could just imagine Cybill saying it to him, and the mental image brought with it a wave of admiration. She gave Cybill a pat on the back. “Bravo, darling.”
With Cybill’s story putting them in even higher spirits, they reached the en suite bathroom off the master bedroom. After placing the final bomb on the lid of the toilet, Maryann opened Dick’s medicine cabinet and started sifting through the contents.
“What are you looking for?” Cybill asked.
Maryann didn’t reply, but after a minute she hissed, “I knew it!” She pulled out a small bottle and showed it to Cybill. The label read ‘Ipecac’. “It induces vomiting.”
Cybill tsked, shaking her head in disapproval. “Dick, Dick, Dick. You twisted son of a bitch.” Then an idea hit her and she looked at Maryann, grinning the same slightly unhinged grin she’d seen her wear when she got a brilliant, terrible idea. “You should pour it into his ice maker, I bet it’s refreshing chilled.”
Overwhelmed with pride, Maryann put a hand to her heart and the other touched Cybill’s cheek. She sniffed, feigning getting choked up. “Finally, a protegee worthy of carrying on my legacy.”
Cybill laughed, grabbing her hand. “But don’t use all of it. It might come in handy when you drink that bottle of wine he poisoned.”
Maryann nodded and stuck it in her purse. Then, she pulled out a bag of mouse traps and handed them to Cybill. “I thought as a little extra gift we could put one of these in the pockets of all his jackets.”
Cybill took the bag and examined them, then gave Maryann a wink and said, “You should’ve gone with rat traps, they work better for catching rat bastards.”
Maryann led her into Dick’s closet and they set to work. He had about a million jackets; Cybill was fairly sure they were going to run out of mouse traps before they could get to them all. She was enjoying it though, it felt safer being in the closet. There were no dart cannons or trip wires or anything else Maryann had warned her about. At least, she hoped. She’d become so engrossed in her task that it took her a few seconds to realize that Maryann was no longer doing it with her.
She glanced over to see Maryann reaching up to grab a cardboard box that was sitting on a shelf above the clothes rack. Cybill was about to ask what it was, but the words died on her lips when she noticed the big black letters on the side that read JUSTIN. Maryann set the box on the floor and sat down in front of it. Delicately, as if whatever was inside was incredibly fragile, she opened up the flaps. From where Cybill was standing, she could see that the box was filled with mementos from Justin’s childhood. An old baseball glove. Loose pieces of paper with crayon scribbles of zoo animals. A basketball trophy. A homemade card that read “Happy Father’s Day Daddy!” in nearly illegible handwriting. Dozens of pictures of Justin at all different ages, some by himself, some with Maryann, some with Dick, some with all three of them. Maryann looked down at the box, then at up Cybill. That wild glint in her eyes wasn’t there anymore, nor was the intense desire for revenge that burned like icy blue fire behind them. Instead, there was only tenderness, affection, nostalgia, all of which seemed strangely out of place on a retaliation mission. Cybill knew how she felt, she went through the same thing whenever she looked at Zoe and Rachel’s childhood things. It was always bittersweet.
“He kept all this.” Maryann’s voice was hushed with awe. A pange of worry tugged at Cybill’s heart at the realization that the love in Maryann’s eyes might’ve been directed at Dr. Dick as well as her son. Cybill sat down next to her, ready to be there when Maryann lapsed into one of her moments when she was remembering how it felt when they’d loved each other, when their family was whole and things were bright and beautiful. Before heartache and pain and betrayal had buried those precious memories so deep under the bitterness and rage that held Maryann up just enough to keep her from crumbling under the weight. That anger was what fueled her, what gave her a purpose. The moments when she lost that anger always worried Cybill greatly, as they were when she was at her most vulnerable, and when it came to Dr. Dick, that was far more dangerous than planting a booster charge under his satellite dish. Hating him was what kept her from being susceptible to his manipulation.
Maryann picked up one of the photos. It was of Justin when he was about four on five, riding on top of Dick’s shoulders. Dick was holding his little legs and smiling and waving at the camera and Justin was copying him, waving and flashing a toothless grin, looking like he was having the time of his life being on top of the world. A melancholy smile formed on Maryann’s lips, her eyes full of longing. “They were so close when he was little. Everywhere Dick went, Justin followed along like a little shadow. He was his super hero.” She put the photo back and picked up another. Justin was just a baby in this one, he was being held up by Maryann and Dick and they were each kissing one side of his head. “I wonder if Justin ever visits him. I’m sure he doesn’t.” She put the photo back in the box and took a shaky breath. When she spoke, it was barely above a whisper, “Dick must miss him as much as I do.”
Her voice hitched at the end, and Cybill could feel a lump forming in her throat. “No one misses him as much as you do.” She gave Maryann a pat on the back, knowing how much she was hurting. She missed her daughters terribly and neither one missed her even a fraction as much.
“You know, you and Jeff get together and to talk about Rachel, maybe Dick and I could-”
“No, Maryann.” It had come out a bit more stern than she’d intended and she quickly softened her tone, trying not to let her worry seep into her voice. “If you start talking to him again you know he’s going to pull you back in just so he can hurt you again.”
“I just...maybe he knows what it’s like, wishing and hoping that Justin might visit or even just call. Just once, just to say hi. Not a day goes by when I don’t wonder where he is, what he’s doing. I mean, he could be hurt or upset or lonely or mixing plaid with stripes and I wouldn’t even know it, Cybill.” There was so much pain in Maryann’s voice that it seemed to fill the tiny closet, barely leaving room to breath.
“I know, it’s the worst feeling in the world.” Cybill began, searching desperately for anything to make her feel better, anything that might steer her thoughts away from running back to Dick. “But Dick isn’t the only one who understands. When Zoey moved out it was hard on Ira too but he didn’t live with her. He didn’t know what it was like to have to play piano music from a CD and pretend it was coming from her. Remember when we were in Zoey’s empty room after she moved out and I was trying so hard not to burst into tears? And I said I was all alone?”
“Remember what you said?”
Cybill watched Maryann as the memory played out in her mind. “I said, ‘Come on, pal, you’re not alone. I’m here for ya.” Remembering Mr. Fuzzyboots, she added, “Me and this scuzzy bear on the floor.’”
“Exactly. And I’m here for you too, me and this box of wonderful memories on the floor.”
Maryann offered a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “You’re right, Cybill.” She folded the flaps over the box and set it back up on the shelf.
Cybill stood and asked, “Are you gonna be okay?”
Cybill raised her eyebrows, skeptical. “Maryann.”
“I am!” Maryann assured, but not as convincingly as she’d wanted. She could tell that Cybill knew there was something more she wanted to say. She sighed, hoping Cybill wasn’t going to misconstrue this as her still having feelings for Dick. “It’s just.....I don’t know if I can do this tonight.”
Cybill’s shoulders slumped. “Come on, Maryann,” She encouraged, “you gotta get him back. It’ll make you feel better.” Then her expression turned serious and she lowered her voice conspiratorially. “Think about what he did to you. What if the maids can’t get all the stains out? What if your house gets a perma-smell?”
“I’ll get him back, don’t worry. I just can’t do it now, not after…” She didn’t quite know how to put it into words. After opening and closing her mouth a few times, she gave up and simply said, ”not now.”
“I understand.” Cybill said. And she did. Hoping to lighten the mood a little, she said, “I was looking forward to seeing your New Year’s Eve light show though.”
“Who says you won’t still see it?”
Intrigued, Cybill raised her eyebrows again.
“You should really think about botox, darling. They’ll gain sentience before long and start dancing a jig.” Cybill shot her a look, feigning annoyance when she was secretly relieved. It was a good sign that Maryann was teasing her. “So, tell me,” Maryann said with an impish grin, “where does that producer of yours live?”
Cybill and Maryann stood atop a large hill overlooking Mark’s palatial house. It looked a lot like Dr. Dick’s, a colonial with massive marble pillars running across the entire front, a porsche parked in the driveway, and a cobblestone mailbox with his last name etched into it in gold cursive. It couldn’t have been more ostentations if it tried. Apart from the flagrant display of small penis compensation, the view was beautiful. And it was about to get even better.
Maryann checked her watch. “Three minutes.”
When they’d arrived, they could see Mark watching TV through the window, so Cybill punched his number into Maryann’s phone and she called and pretended like she was someone that he’d met at work and had given his number to. Cybill had told her that he was constantly giving out his number to women, there was no way he’d be able to keep them straight. She had to cover her mouth to stifle a laugh as Maryann told him in a sexy voice that she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him since they’d met and how she wanted him to come to her house for some fun. She gave him the address to an abandoned building on the other side of town that she often used as a meeting point with her chemical weapons connection, giving them at least an hour. But there was only fifteen minutes until midnight, so Cybill took the upstairs and Maryann took the downstairs, adorning every toilet with the bombs they’d taken with them from Dr. Dick’s. Luckily most of them had windows too, ones that faced out front to boot. They’d finished with five minutes to spare.
Despite a slight chill in the air, it was a clear night with little wind and Cybill was enjoying the fresh air. She sat down on a rock jutting from the hill and when Maryann sat beside her, she put her arm around her and said, “Thanks for doing this for me, Maryann.”
Maryann smiled, although Cybill knew all she was thinking about was how much dust and dirt from the rock were getting on her pants. “Don’t mention it, pal. No best friend of mine is going to see the deeds of some creep who uses bad sandwich-themed pickup lines to try and get in her pants go unpunished.” She slung her arm around Cybill, giving her shoulder a squeeze. “Besides, I owe it to you. Once again, you were there to talk me out of making a huge mistake.”
Cybill squeezed her back, trying to convey in that one gesture that she would always be there for her, watching out for her, just as she knew Maryann would for her. “Don’t mention it, pal.” Softly, she added, “You know, if Justin were here, he’d be proud of you. Fewer toilets means less water being wasted.”
“Good, it’ll cancel out all the smoke and fumes that are about to be released into the atmosphere.” Maryann checked her watch again. “Fifteen seconds.” She handed Cybill the remote. “Here, darling, you do the honors. It’s that button.” She pointed to a small black one.
Cybill placed her thumb over it, giving a little squeal of excitement. “Count us down, Maryann!”
Cybill pressed the button. A succession of booms sounded, each with a subsequent flash of color. There was green in the upstairs window, then blue on the bottom floor, then a flash of red again from upstairs. The colors were so vibrant, especially against the white of the house and the darkness surrounding it. Leave it to Maryann to make an explosion beautiful. It only lasted for a few gloriously satisfying seconds and when it was over, Cybill cheered and gave Maryann a round of applause. Maryann stood and curtseyed, milking it for a good minute until Cybill told her to sit back down.
Laughing, Maryann did as she was told and opened up her purse. “I brought us a little something.” She pulled out a bottle of champagne, removed the cage, and yanked out the cork with one swift motion. It fizzed up and ran over her hand, clearly having been shaken up quite a bit.
Cybill breathed out a laugh, astonished at what seemed to be a pocket dimension inside Maryann’s purse. “You wouldn’t happen to have a hotdog in there would you?”
Maryann pretended to sift through the contents. “Mm, I have a hotdog cart but no hotdogs, I’ve been meaning to restock.”
Cybill snapped her fingers in mock disappointment.
As they watched the last flickers of light in the windows, Cybill rested her head on Maryann’s shoulder. “You know what, Maryann? Earlier it seemed like this might be our worst New Year’s Eve but now I think it’s actually the best we’ve ever had.”
Maryann rested her head on top of hers. “I think you’re absolutely right, darling.”
Maryann passed Cybill the bottle of champagne and she took several swigs, delighting in the way the bubbles tickled her tongue. “It’s like they just keep getting better and better.”
That sounded familiar and Maryann seized the opportunity to parrot Cybill’s words from earlier that evening, “She said as she drank twice as much champagne as last year.” She chuckled and Cybill gave her a playful nudge with her elbow, unable to stop her own giggles from bubbling up. Their laughter rang out into the night, joining with the whistles and booms of fireworks that had begun to explode in celebration all across the sky.