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I'm So Happy for You
A novel about best friends
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- ebook $7.99 $9.99 CAD
- Trade Paperback $21.99 $28.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 29, 2009. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Wendy’s best friend, Daphne, has always been dependably prone to catastrophe. And Wendy has always been there to help. If Daphne veers from suicidal to madly in love, Wendy offers encouragement. But when Daphne is suddenly engaged, pregnant, and decorating a fabulous town house in no time at all, Wendy is . . . not so happy for her. Caught between wanting to be the best friend she prides herself on being and crippling jealousy of flighty Daphne, Wendy takes things to the extreme, waging a full-scale attack on her best friend — all the while wearing her best, I’m-so-happy-for-you smile — and ends up in way over her head.
Rosenfeld has a knack for exposing the not-always-pretty side of being best friends — in writing that is glittering and diamond-sharp. I’m So Happy For You is a smart, darkly humorous, and uncannily dead-on novel about female friendship.
Also by Lucinda Rosenfeld
WHAT SHE SAW…
WHY SHE WENT HOME
Copyright © 2009 by Lucinda Rosenfeld
Reading group guide copyright © 2009 by Lucinda Rosenfeld and Little, Brown and Company
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
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Visit our website at www.HachetteBookGroup.com
First eBook Edition: July 2009
Back Bay Books is an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. The Back Bay Books name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
SINCE WENDY MURMAN had begun trying to conceive, eight months earlier, having sex with her husband, Adam Schwartz, had turned into something resembling a military operation: spontaneity and passion were discouraged; timing and execution were everything. Late one Sunday night, however, Adam, ignoring the calendar—it was day twenty-four of Wendy's cycle—pressed up close against her in bed and ran his right index finger along the elastic waistband of her underwear. Wendy's first instinct was to tell him to let her sleep and save his genetic material for the following week, but she didn't want to offend him. She was also flattered to think he was still so attracted to her.
Wendy was weighing her options when the phone rang in the living room. Pushing Adam away from her, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up.
"Can't you just let the machine pick up?" Adam grumbled into his pillow.
"I'll just be a minute," Wendy said hurriedly on her way out the door.
The living room was pitch-black, and Wendy rammed her shin into the side of the coffee table. With one hand, and in agony, she clutched her leg; with the other, she felt around for the receiver, which was still ringing. She finally located it on the floor, sandwiched between the previous week's issues of The New Yorker and In Touch Weekly. Earlier in the evening, she'd been reading a ten-thousand-word article about melting ice caps by Elizabeth Kolbert, only to be distracted by a cover headline asserting that Jennifer Aniston was back on the dating market. Poor thing had apparently been dumped again. Or at least according to In Touch she had been. "Hello?" she said.
"We-e-endy," came the tremulous response.
Just as Wendy had suspected when she heard the phone ring, it was Daphne Uberoff, her best friend since college. Although it was after midnight, Wendy wasn't surprised to hear her voice. With every passing year, Daphne seemed to grow needier. Wendy felt increasingly responsible for her mental and emotional well-being. She cared for Daphne; she also hated the idea of missing some fresh drama in Daphne's life. "Daf," she said in the most compassionate tone of voice she could muster, "what's going on?"
"I'm sorry I'm calling so late." Daphne followed her apology with a hiccuping sob reminiscent of bathwater being sucked down the drain of an old tub. "But I'm not okay."
"Is it Mitch?" asked Wendy. It was mostly a rhetorical question, since it was always Mitch, as in "Mitchell Kroker Reporting Live from the Capital." He was fifty, with the wrinkled and vaguely sulfurous complexion of a golden raisin. From what Wendy could gather, Daphne saw more of him on TV than in real life. This was possibly due to the fact that, in addition to being married to someone else (a weather-woman named Cheryl with immovable hair), he lived in D.C., while Daphne lived in New York.
"He called me when he got into town tonight." Daphne was practically hyperventilating. "We were supposed to see each other, but I was already feeling really frustrated because he was only going to be here for like a few hours"—audible inhale—"so I said I felt like this hotel he checked in and out of, and he said he was sorry I felt that way, but he was giving me all the time he had to give"—audible inhale—"so I said that wasn't enough anymore and that I needed to know if this was leading anywhere and he said"—choking sob—"he said that if I needed the promise of a commitment in the future, we shouldn't see each other anymore because he could never live with himself if he left the kids at least not until they're out of the house which will be in like two hundred years at which point I'll be like TWO THOUSAND!" Daphne began to weep.
"Oh, Daf, I'm so sorry," said Wendy, resisting the urge to point out the errors in Daphne's arithmetic. "He's such a fucking disappointment!" She tried to sound impassioned both in her sympathy and her outrage. It wasn't easy. Wendy had heard endless variations of the same woeful tale before. Daphne had also asked her to interpret countless emails and voice messages from Mitchell, none of which said anything of note. Wendy prided herself on being a good friend and knew that Daphne was going through a rough time, but she'd grown impatient with her old friend's steadfastness in the face of so much privation.
On rare occasions when Mitch was feeling romantic (i.e., immediately before sex), he'd tell Daphne that he fantasized about the two of them running away to some beachfront bungalow on the Turks and Caicos Islands. Never once, however, had he offered to leave his wife. Never once—as far as Wendy knew—had he even used the "L word" to describe his feelings for Daphne. From what Wendy could tell, the only thing Mitchell Kroker had to offer was the prospect of sharing his suite at the Essex House hotel, on Central Park South, every now and then when he happened to be in town.
It was also true that Wendy had grown weary of the story line and longed for a new character, a new development—anything to advance the plot.
Her wish was granted shortly thereafter. But it wasn't the plot point for which she'd hoped. "I feel like dousing myself with gasoline and lighting a match," Daphne announced through her tears.
"Daphne—take that back right now!" cried Wendy, even as she thought: right. She'd heard it all before. And before that, too. Daphne threatened to kill herself so often that her threats barely registered with Wendy anymore—even as Daphne's methods kept getting more grandiose. Once, she'd promised the mellow fade-out of pills. Now she was pledging pyrotechnics.
"Why should I?" said Daphne, still weeping. "What good am I to anybody?"
"You're good to a lot of people," said Wendy, although she couldn't think of anyone in particular.
"I'm going to be alone my whole life," declared Daphne.
"That's not true," demurred Wendy. "Mitch is the one who's going to be miserable and stuck in his awful marriage. And you're going to be madly in love with someone else. And then, I swear, you're going to look back and wonder what you were ever doing with the guy."
"Wasting two years of my life," Daphne said with a sniffle and a quick laugh.
To Wendy's relief, the tears seemed to have dried up, at least for the moment. "Listen," she said, "I want you to call Carol tomorrow, as soon as you wake up." Carol—as all of Daphne's friends knew, since Daphne began so many of her sentences with "Carol thinks"—was Daphne's therapist. "And then, what about going to get a massage or something? I think you need to do something nice for yourself right now."
"The only thing I need right now is a new prescription for Klonopin," said Daphne.
"Take a Klonopin if you have to," said Wendy. "Just promise me you won't take more than one."
"I feel like swallowing the whole bottle —"
"You're scaring me again."
"I'm not going to swallow the whole bottle. Okay?"
"Do you promise?"
"Because you don't need drugs. You just need to get rid of Mitch."
"So I can sit here by myself feeling even worse?"
"Daphne, I swear, you're going to be alone for, like, five seconds," said Wendy, glancing at the clock on the cable box. It was twenty to one. Her eye fell to the DVD player. She still missed her old VCR. Just when she'd finally learned to program it—five years after purchasing—the technology had changed again. Plus, there had been something weirdly satisfying about the buzzing noise it made when sucking videotapes into its gullet. Also, the new remote had four separate "play" buttons; who had the energy to read another manual and find out why?
"Yeah, sure," said Daphne.
"You don't believe me, but I'm right," said Wendy.
For several more minutes, the conversation continued in a similar vein, with Wendy offering sanguine prognoses regarding Daphne's future, and Daphne rebuffing them, even as her protests grew audibly weaker, possibly on account of the tranquilizer she'd just swallowed.
By the time Wendy hung up, she felt assured that Daphne would do nothing more dangerous than fall fast asleep for the next thirteen hours. Which was fine for her, Wendy thought. Daphne hadn't had a real job since her midtwenties, when she'd been an editorial assistant at a city listings magazine. Not that it had been a "real" real job. It had been Daphne's responsibility to "write up" the sample sales each week. (X's micro-weight cashmere separates will be 70 percent off retail.… ) These days, she filed "reader's reports" for a small film production company—three or four times a year.
As Wendy contemplated Daphne's schedule—or, really, lack thereof—she felt an old kernel of resentment rising to the surface of her consciousness. Wendy was a senior editor at Barricade, a left-wing news biweekly that had been founded on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley in 1968 and relocated to New York during the Reagan era. There was a movement afoot to transfer the whole operation onto the Web. But for the moment, at least, the magazine was printed on the equivalent of developing-world airport toilet paper. It claimed a subscription base of 90,000, every two weeks, though Wendy suspected that at least 40,000 of those were free subscriptions to public libraries and extinct hippie communes. She also assumed that the only people who read Barricade already agreed with the editorials it ran (and she edited). But at least she was contributing to the dialogue.
Unlike Daphne, Wendy also woke up for work.
But then, other people's good fortune didn't necessarily exist at her expense. At least this is what Wendy had been encouraged to believe by her own therapist—or, rather, former therapist—Marcia Meltzer, PhD, MSW, CSW. (Wendy had fired her after she raised her rates, then refused to continue submitting bills to Wendy's health maintenance organization, which reimbursed a modest but still significant 35 percent of Marcia's fee. There had also been tension between the two of them after friends invited Wendy and Adam away for a long weekend. Hoping not to be charged for the missed session, Wendy had left a fraudulently rheumy message on Marcia's answering machine, claiming to have the flu. Marcia had charged her anyway.) Besides, Daphne's good fortune didn't currently extend very far, Wendy reminded herself on her way back to the bedroom—despite the fact that Daphne's HMO continued to cover 80 percent of the cost of seeing Carol, which also seemed a little unfair.
"Sorry," said Wendy.
Adam was sitting up in bed now, his reading light on and a free humor newspaper in his lap. ("Man Eats Sandwich," read the front-page headline.) No doubt he'd picked it up at the local coffee shop where he spent a substantial portion of his own "workweek," Wendy thought. A couple of months earlier, he'd quit his job as the copy chief of a respected financial news Web site to write a screenplay. At the time, she'd been tempted to tell him that screenwriting was a skill like any other that took years of practice, whereas he was just a novice. But she didn't want to be the one to spoil his fantasies. He was her husband, after all. She wanted to believe in him. And she was conflict avoidant. And he'd been bored with his job. And she couldn't exactly blame him for being so. How many more S's could he be expected to add to the oft-misspelled "Dow Jones Industrials Average"? So she'd agreed to support him for a year, during which time, in theory at least, he'd write a first draft.
From what Wendy suspected, in two months, Adam had failed to complete a first sentence. The evidence: the triple-digit iTunes charges on their joint credit card bill, the fact that he changed the subject every time she asked to read something, the pervasive smell of marijuana on his jackets and sweaters, the random afternoon sightings of him and Polly, his beloved geriatric Doberman pinscher, meandering through Prospect Park. In that moment, however, Wendy's frustration with Adam's lack of a career was tempered by the recollection that she'd rejected his advances in order to take Daphne's call. No doubt he'd be feeling hurt. He was apparently curious, too. "So, what's the latest in Daphne-ville?" he asked as she climbed back under the comforter next to him. "Any thwarted carjackings? Accidental crack binges?"
"Oh, just the usual," said Wendy. "Mitch still isn't leaving the weatherwoman. Plus now Daphne's threatening to light herself on fire. Which is why I was on the phone so long."
"Now she's threatening to burn herself alive?!" Adam looked up, his brow knit to convey horror and fascination in one. "You've gotta be kidding."
It had occurred to Wendy on more than one occasion that it was their mutual love of stories that connected her and Adam above all else: gossip, literature, comedy, tragedy, political plots, plots of old TV shows; it was all the same to them; it was all titillating. "I don't think she was being any more serious than usual," she said, feeling guilty but maybe not that guilty for using Daphne's misery as a marital healer. "But I guess you never know for sure."
Adam slowly shook his head and laughed. "Can you explain to me why it's always the most beautiful women who end up so completely fucked up?"
"Do you really think she's still that beautiful?" asked Wendy. Because it was one thing for her to admit that Daphne was gorgeous, and another for her husband to confirm it. "I mean, she obviously was ten years ago."
Adam shrugged. "Well, maybe she's not as beautiful as she used to be. But she's still about two hundred times more attractive than that nightly-news weenie she's screwing."
"Tell me about it," said Wendy, relieved by her husband's retreat but still feeling insecure. "Will you kiss me again?" she said, sidling back up to him with a scrunched face.
"I tried to kiss you before," he said, his eyes back on his newspaper. "But apparently you had more important business to attend to." It was as if Adam had suddenly remembered that he was miffed. At the pained expression on Wendy's face, however, a sly smile took hold of his own. He placed his paper on his bedside table. Then he said, "All right, you have one final chance to experience the great gift of my body." Then he reached for Wendy, and she melted into his mouth and into his embrace. Even after seven years together, she still relished the plumlike taste of Adam's lips, as well as the ropy feel of his surprisingly muscular arms—surprising because he was so slight.
"I love you," she mumbled into his chest.
"I love you, too," he said. "Even though you're obsessed with another woman."
"You're so funny," she said, nestling even closer.
But as Adam took her hand and placed it on his crotch, once again Wendy had to fight the urge to recoil. Only there was no way out this time, no needy friend to save her from her own arousal. So she relented. And in the end, she was glad that she had, glad to think she'd made Adam glad; glad in the way that, at a certain age and a certain number of years into marriage, unplanned sexual activity rewards its participants with a real sense of accomplishment.
Or maybe just the conviction that their marriage is likely to last another year.
The next morning, as Wendy made her way up Broadway to her office, she was aware of her stride being longer than usual. For the first time in weeks, she wasn't about to be late for work. It wasn't the thought of editing angry diatribes on the Guantánamo Bay prison camp or the lack of federally guaranteed health insurance that spurred her forward, however; it was the prospect of sending two emails, both of which she'd carefully composed in her head on the subway ride from Brooklyn.
Arriving at her cubicle—only senior staff had offices—Wendy switched on her ancient PC, which took six minutes to load (Barricade was perpetually short on funds). After establishing a weak Internet connection, she opened her email program, whereupon the usual hodgepodge of absurdist pornography ("XXX Girl Scouts $3.99"), unsolicited pitches ("Like Gandhi before him, Hugo Chavez…"), and left-leaning political missives ("Sign This Urgent Petition to Stop Bush's Illegal…") trickled in. Generally speaking, Wendy believed that adding her name to a document, even if it was never read by anyone with any power, was the least she could do to better the world. But at that moment, the least she could do seemed like too much. She was more concerned with solidifying her position as Daphne Uberoff's best friend, even though she knew it was juvenile and possibly even pathetic of her to care about such designations. She opened a new message and began to type:
Hi sweets. I just wanted to see if you were feeling any better?? Call any time and/or if you need ANYTHING. At the office all day. I know you're going to get through this. Thinking of u, W.
Wendy addressed her second message to her and Daphne's mutual friend—or, really, Daphne's friend and Wendy's longtime nemesis—Paige Ryan, a six-feet-tall senior analyst for a Manhattan-based hedge fund, where she researched overvalued stocks that the fund then sold short with the aim of making a killing when the price subsequently fell. (At the moment, she was concentrating on the retail sector.) But Paige made a great show of giving a large percentage of her salary to worthy causes, thereby making herself beyond reproach. She was also always mailing Wendy and Adam invitations to benefit parties they couldn't afford to attend, then calling attention to their absence.
Paige had been a college classmate of Wendy's, as well. Back then, she'd been best known for launching SAD, a nationwide advocacy group for college students suffering from depression and anxiety. Despite her lifelong commitment to battling mental illness, however—and while there was every reason to believe that Paige herself was perpetually despondent—she'd never admitted to feeling anything less than peachy. What's more, those who made the mistake of suggesting otherwise risked being subjected to a fusillade of vituperation—those, for instance, who expressed sympathy over Paige's recent divorce, as Wendy had. ("What do you mean you're sorry?" Paige had snapped at her. "Sorry for what? Antoine and I came to a mutual decision we were both happy with. Case closed. Maybe you're sorry about your own marriage. But I'm not about mine.")
Wendy essentially loathed the woman. But she was Daphne's "other best friend." In some bizarre way, Wendy felt sorry for her. It was also common knowledge that Paige was an excellent point person to have during a crisis, if only because grappling with other people's distress and dysfunction was as close as she came to having a hobby. Not that Daphne's phone call from the night before necessarily constituted a crisis. Even so, Wendy felt compelled to keep Paige abreast of the situation:
P. Not to be alarmist—I think/hope she was just being dramatic—but Daphne called late last night and threatened to kill herself again. (Mitch, of course.) She promised me she'd call Carol in the morning, but it probably wouldn't hurt if her friends checked up on her, too—hence, my email to you. Anyway, hope things are well on your end. (I'm sure they are.) Yrs, W.
Both emails sent, Wendy turned her attention to her editorial assignment for the day: an opinion piece arguing that the Medicare prescription drug benefit had been a cynical giveaway to "Big Pharm," with the secret purpose of bankrupting the federal government, thus leading to a permanent down-sizing of the social safety net. Barricade had published a nearly identical piece just the month before. But it was rhetoric, not repetition, that concerned the magazine's top brass. Wendy's initial editorial move was to cross out the first sentence, which referred to the Republicans as "avaricious profiteers." (The phrase seemed redundant, not to mention a little heavy-handed.) "Let's start here," she wrote in the margin next to sentence two. She'd only just begun to get her head around sentence three—"While the military-industrial-pharmaceutical complex siphons billions off the slumped backs of the elderly and the incapacitated…"—when Paige's name came blinking into her in-box.
To Wendy's secret shame, the sight of it filled her chest cavity with what felt like a fresh burst of oxygen. Though she mostly believed she'd reached out to Paige on Daphne's behalf, Wendy was also aware of being a horrible gossip. Moreover, gossip didn't fully exist for her in all of its nuance-laden splendor until she'd shared and parsed it with someone else, preferably someone who knew all the parties implicated. Abandoning her editorial assignment, Wendy opened Paige's message and began to read:
Please understand that I am AT WORK RIGHT NOW—and therefore NOT AT LIBERTY TO DISCUSS THESE SORTS OF PRIVATE MATTERS IN DETAIL. That said, the news is indeed distressing, and I will of course call Daphne at the first opportunity that presents itself. In the meantime, I think it would be prudent for one of us to contact Richard and Claire (Daphne's parents) and let them know what has transpired. In the bigger picture, I think it may also be time to confront Mitchell himself—not my first choice, obviously. But, then, Carol seems to be of limited help, and, quite frankly, I've run out of other ideas.
As for Daphne just being "melodramatic"—until the veracity of that statement is proven, Wendy, I don't think this is the time for us to be closing our eyes and hoping for the best.
As for me, I'm quite well, thank you—just sorry to have missed you at my multiple sclerosis benefit last night! We raised 325K, a record for the organization. I guess you've been busy. Perhaps there's reproductive news of which I'm unaware?
"Wendy," someone was saying behind her head in a gravelly voice. "Do you have Leslie's copy yet?" (Leslie, whose full name was Leslie Fletcher—and who, for the record, was a man—was the writer of the Medicare piece.) Quickly down-sizing Paige's email, Wendy swiveled around in her desk chair, only to find herself staring into the pockmarked face of Barricade's executive editor, Lincoln Goldstein.
Ordinarily, Wendy would have felt compassion for someone who had such a glaring cosmetic defect as Lincoln's. But "Missing Linc"—as Adam had nicknamed him—had a way of squinting as he spoke, one side of his mouth raised in a half smile, as if he were "in" on the fact that she spent a good portion of her workday emailing friends, playing solitaire, shopping online for furniture and clothes, perusing soul-deadening celebrity gossip Web sites, and generally pursuing cheap thrills that had nothing to do with fighting the forces of fascism in Washington and elsewhere.
But then, considering the paltry salary she was paid, Wendy didn't see how she wasn't entitled to a certain amount of personal time. Not to mention the occasional white lie. "I just got the piece this morning," she told Lincoln. (In fact, it had come in on Friday.) "I should have something for you to look at by this afternoon." With that, she straightened her spine against the back of her chair, the better to block her computer screen, which was currently blank.
She watched Lincoln's eyes case her cubicle and linger on the Duane Reade pharmacy shopping bag that sat on her desktop, as if it surely contained goatskin condoms for her lunchtime pleasure, when, in fact, it contained an ovulation predictor kit, an antiperspirant, and a three-pack of Hanes Her Way cotton briefs, because wearing nice underwear had come to seem as superfluous as having sex during the "wrong" time of the month. (It was rare for Wendy to buy new underwear at all; she tended to wear hers until their crotch panels were discolored and their waistbands had begun to sprout threads in the manner of carrots and potatoes left too long in the bin. It wasn't clear if Adam noticed, or minded.)
- On Sale
- Jul 29, 2009
- Page Count
- 288 pages
- Back Bay Books