Today's Reading

More to the point, Tannith wasn't Daniel's type. He'd told me as much.

"She's so obvious," he'd said after the first time the three of us had met for lunch. "She can't stand it if men don't think she's the hottest thing in the room."

Honesty had forced me to point out the depressing truth: "She usually is the hottest thing in the room."

"If you like that type."

"What type?"

"Artificial."

"What type do you think I am?"

He made the universal helpless gesture of a guy worried he'd strayed out of his depth. "You know, natural."

I shook my head at the memory. Poor, oblivious dope. Did he really think perfect highlighted streaks appeared in nature? Did he not have an inkling of the amount of moisturizing, plucking, and concealing that went on in their bathroom every morning? Did he think I kept cosmetics around just because I liked to collect little bottles and tubes?

Maybe he did, and I never corrected his misperception that I was some kind of au naturel, cosmetic-shunning purist. Why disillusion him? I'd thought at the time.

Now I worried I'd been living a lie. Daniel might accuse Tannith of being fake, but she never hid her artifice. She was a genuine fake person.

"Gwen?"

His voice startled me. "Here!" It sounded like I was answering roll call.

"For a second I thought we were cut off. Seriously, are you okay?"

"Mm."

"You sound odd."

"How?"

"Listless? Monosyllabic? Maybe you should see a doctor. No telling what you inhaled in that garage. You know, bubonic plague is—"

Not plague warnings again. "Have you heard from Tannith?"

There. I'd spoken the dreaded name. Now I awaited his reaction. It was too long in coming for my liking.

"Uh, no, not since...... " After a pause, he reversed course. "Why?"

"I just got a weird letter from her."

"What other type of letter would you get from Tan?"

Tan? He was calling her Tan now? "She's moving. To New York."

Silence ensued. "Daniel?"

He cleared his throat. "I knew that, actually."

"Since when?" Maybe since he started calling her Tan.

"I think she mentioned it at one of those endless evenings at your cousin Trudy's."

Daniel rarely even went to parties with the cousins. Although, now that I thought about it, he'd been there one evening not too long ago when we all played Clue'.' Of course Tannith had cheated—she'd been cheating since our Candy Land days—and then Milo had attempted to cheat in retaliation, to the effect that the cards for both Colonel Mustard and Mrs. Peacock ended up in the solution envelope, which caused Trudy's husband, Laird, to have a snit fit, chuck the tiny lead pipe at us all, and stomp off. We'd all laughed and ended up in two chat klatches—Milo, Brett, Trudy, and me and Tannith and Daniel.

Tan and Dan.

That had been back in September.

"She told you about New York?" Over a month ago?

"Yeah. We talked about it."

"You mean you were over there having a heart-to-heart with Tannith?" And I didn't notice?

"Must have been the appletinis."

Trudy had perfected drink mixing from two decades of faculty dos. Cocktail coven provided her a chance to experiment or revisit favorites. Appletinis were always a hit. Apparently they'd been a good tongue loosener that evening, too. At least for Daniel and Tan.


This excerpt ends on page 13 of the paperback edition.

Monday, January 24th, we begin the book Clean Air by Sarah Blake.
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