KATIE WILKINSON sat in warm bathwater in the weird but wonderful old-fashioned porcelain tub in her New York apartment. The apartment exuded "old" and "worn" in ways that practitioners of shabby chic couldn't begin to imagine. Katie's Persian cat, Guinevere, looking like a favorite gray wool sweater, was perched on the sink. Her black Labrador, Merlin, sat in the doorway leading to the bedroom. They watched Katie as if they were afraid for her.
She lowered her head when she finished reading the diary and set the leatherbound book on the wooden stool beside the tub. Her body shivered. Then she started to sob, and Katie saw that her hands were shaking. She was losing it, and she didn't lose it often. She was a strong person, and always had been. Katie whispered words she'd once heard in her father's church in Asheboro, North Carolina. "Oh, Lord, oh, Lord, are you anywhere, my Lord?"
She could never have imagined that this small volume would have such a disturbing effect on her. Of course, it wasn't just the diary that had forced her into this state of confusion and duress.
No, it wasn't just Suzanne's diary for Nicholas.
She visualized Suzanne in her mind. Katie saw her at her quaint cottage on Beach Road on Martha's Vineyard.
Then little Nicholas. Twelve months old, with the most brilliant blue eyes.
And finally, Matt.
And Katie's former lover.
What did she think of Matt now? Could she ever forgive him? She wasn't sure. But at least she finally understood some of what had happened. The diary had told her bits and pieces of what she needed to know, as well as deep, painful secrets that maybe she didn't need to know.
Katie slipped down farther into the water, and found herself thinking back to the day she had received the diary--July 19.
Remembering the day started her crying again.
ON THE morning of the nineteenth, Katie had felt drawn to the Hudson River, and then to the Circle Line, the boat ride around Manhattan Island that she and Matt had first taken as a total goof but had enjoyed so much that they kept coming back.
She boarded the first boat of the day. She was feeling sad, but also angry. Oh, God, she didn't know what she was feeling.
The early boat wasn't too crowded with tourists. She took a seat near the rail of the upper deck and watched New York from the unique vantage point of the brooding waterways surrounding it.
A few people noticed her sitting there alone-- especially the men.
Katie usually stood out in a crowd. She was tall-- almost six feet, with warm, friendly blue eyes. She had always thought of herself as gawky and felt that people were staring at her for all the wrong reasons. Her friends begged to differ; they said she was close to breathtaking, stunning in her strength. Katie always responded, "Uh-huh, sure, don't I wish." She didn't see herself that way and knew she never would. She was an ordinary, regular person. A North Carolina farm girl at heart.
She often wore her brunette hair in a long braid, and had since she was eight years old. It used to look tomboyish, but now it was supposed to be big-city cool. She guessed she'd finally caught up with the times. The only makeup she ever wore was a little mascara and sometimes lipstick. Today she wore neither. She definitely didn't look breathtaking.
Sitting there on the top deck, she remembered a favorite line from the movie The African Queen: "Head up, chin out, hair blowing in the wind, the living picture of the hero-eyne," Bogart had teased Hepburn. It cheered her a bit--a titch, as her mother liked to say back home in Asheboro.
She had been crying for hours, and her eyes were puffy. The night before, the man she loved had suddenly and inexplicably ended their relationship. She'd been completely sucker punched. She hadn't seen it coming. It almost didn't seem possible that Matt had left her.
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