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Authors: Jennifer Weiner

Tags: #Female Friendship, #Contemporary Women, #Humorous, #General, #Fiction, #Literary, #Illinois, #Humorous Fiction

Best Friends Forever

BOOK: Best Friends Forever
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Best Friends Forever

Best Friends Forever

Best Friends Forever

ALSO BY JENNIFER WEINER

Good in Bed

In Her Shoes

Little Earthquakes

Goodnight Nobody

The Guy Not Taken

Certain Girls

A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Weiner, Inc. Al rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Atria Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

ATRIA BOOKS and colophon are

trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

“Nebraska” by Bruce Springsteen. Copyright

© 1982 Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP).

Reprinted by permission. International copyright secured. Al rights reserved. The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1–866-248–3049 or visit our website at www.simonspeakers.com.

Library of Congress Cataloging-inPublication Data Weiner, Jennifer.

Best friends forever: a novel / by Jennifer Weiner.—1st Atria Books hardcover ed. p. cm.

1. Female friendship—Fiction. I. Title. PS3573.E3935B47 2009

813’.54—dc22

2009013503

ISBN-13: 978-1-4391-6549-2

ISBN-10: 1-4391-6549-1

Visit us on the Web:

http://www.SimonandSchuster.com

For Susan Abrams Krevsky—my BFF

“I can’t say that I’m sorry for the things that we done At least for a little while sir me and her we had us some fun”

—FROM “NEBRASKA” BY BRUCE

Best Friends Forever

SPRINGSTEEN

CONTENTS

PART ONE Reunion

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

PART TWO Into the Woods

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

THIRTY

THIRTY-ONE

THIRTY-TWO

THIRTY-THREE

THIRTY-FOUR

THIRTY-FIVE

THIRTY-SIX

THIRTY-SEVEN

THIRTY-EIGHT

PART THREE Best Friends Forever

THIRTY-NINE

FORTY

FORTY-ONE

FORTY-TWO

FORTY-THREE

FORTY-FOUR

FORTY-FIVE

FORTY-SIX

FORTY-SEVEN

FORTY-EIGHT

FORTY-NINE

FIFTY

FIFTY-ONE

FIFTY-TWO

FIFTY-THREE

FIFTY-FOUR

Best Friends Forever

PART ONE

Reunion

ONE

Dan Swansea came awake in the darkness,

not knowing for a minute who he was or

where. He lifted one hand to his head and

groaned when it came away sticky with

blood. Slowly (or at least it felt that way),

things returned to him. His name. That he

was outside in a parking lot, on his back in

the gravel, and he was freezing. Also, except

for his shoes and socks, he was naked.

He sat up, his stomach roiling as a wave

of pain swept through him, and wiped his

head again, flicking drops of blood onto the

gravel. He’d fol owed a girl out here. A girl

—her name was on the tip of his tongue, but

he couldn’t quite get it. A high school girl, an

old classmate, with flashing white teeth and

red soles on her shoes. Come to my car, she’d whispered. It’s warm. They’d kissed for a while, with the girl backed against the

driver’s-side

door,

her

mouth

fiery

underneath his, their breath steaming in the

blackness, until she pushed him away. Take off your clothes, she’d said. I want to see you.

It’s freezing! he’d protested, but his

hands were already working at the buttons

of his shirt and the clasp of his belt,

because it was cold but she was hot, and he

wasn’t passing this up. No way. He’d

squirmed out of his clothes, kicking his

pants off over his shoes, dropping each

garment in a pile on the gravel, and when he

looked up, naked and shivering in the cold,

one hand cupping his cock, she was

pointing something at him. His heart

stopped—a gun?— but almost before he’d

thought the word, he saw that it wasn’t a gun

but a cel phone.

The flash was bril iant, blinding him as she

snapped a picture. Hey! he shouted. What the fuck?

See how you like it, she’d snarled. See how you like it when they’re laughing at you. He’d lunged for her, trying to snatch the

phone. What is your problem? What’s my problem? she’d answered, dancing backward on her red-soled shoes. You’re my problem. You ruined my life!

She dived into the car, slamming the door

before he could grab the handle. The

engine roared to life. He’d jumped in front of

her, thinking she’d stop, but judging from the

cuts on his side and the terrible sick

throbbing in his head, maybe she hadn’t.

He groaned again, pushed himself

upright, and peered at the country club,

which was empty and locked. Through the

darkness, he could see the tennis courts off

to one side, the golf course behind the

building, the sheds and outbuildings

underneath a stand of pine trees a discreet

distance from the club proper. Clothes first, he decided, and stumbled painful y toward the nearest building. Clothes first…and then revenge.

TWO

Looking back, the knock on the door should have scared me. It should at least have come as a surprise. My house—the same one I grew up in—is set at the farthest curve of a cul-de-sac in Pleasant Ridge, Il inois, a Chicago suburb of fourteen thousand souls with quiet streets, neatly kept lawns, and wel -regarded public schools. There are rarely pedestrians or passersby on Crescent Drive. Most weeks, the only signs of life after ten p.m. are the flash of headlights on my bedroom wal on the nights that my next-door neighbor Mrs. Bass has her Shakespeare Society meeting. I live alone, and I’m general y asleep by ten-thirty. But even so. When I heard the knock, my heartbeat didn’t quicken; my palms did not sweat. At some level underneath conscious thought, a place down in my cel s where, the scientists tel us, memories reside, I’d been waiting years for that knock, waiting for the feel of my feet moving across the floor and my hand on the cool brass knob.

I pul ed open the door and felt my eyes get big and my breath catch in my chest. There was my old best friend, Valerie Adler, whom I hadn’t spoken to since I was seventeen and hadn’t seen in person since high school ended, standing underneath the porch light; Valerie with her heart-shaped face and Cupid’s-bow lips and lashes heavy and dark as moth’s wings.

She stood with her hands clasped at her waist, as if in prayer. There was something dark staining the sleeve of her belted trench coat. For a minute, we stood in the cold, in the cone of light, staring at each other, and the thought that rose to my mind had the warmth of sunshine and the sweet density of honey. My friend, I thought as I looked at Val. My friend has come back to me. I opened my mouth—to say what, I wasn’t sure—but it was Val who spoke first.

“Addie,”

she said. Her teeth were gleaming, perfect and even; her voice was the same as I remembered from al those years ago, husky, confiding, an I’ve-got-a-secret kind of voice that she currently deployed to great effect, delivering the weather on the nightly newscasts on Chicago’s third-rated TV

station. She’d been hired six months ago, to great fanfare and a number of bil boards along the interstate announcing her new gig. (“Look who just blew into town!” the bil boards read, underneath a picture of Val, al windswept hair and crimson, smiling lips.)

“Listen. Something…something real y bad happened,” she said. “Can you help me?

Please?”

I kept my mouth shut. Val rocked back on high heels that seemed no thicker than pins, gulping as she raked both hands through her hair, then brought them to waist level and began twisting her belt. Had I known she had that haircut, that buttercup-yel ow color, that shoulder-length style, with layers that curled into ringlets in the rain, when I’d given my hairdresser the go-ahead? I made a point of not watching her station, but maybe I’d caught a glimpse of her as I changed channels or the bil boards had made an impression, because somehow here I was, in flannel pajamas and thick wool socks, with my ex-best-friend’s hair on my head.

“Look at you,” she said, her voice low and ful of wonder. “Look at you,” said Valerie.

“You got thin.”

“Come in, Val,” I said. If time was a dimension, and not a straight line, if you could look down through it like you were looking through water and it could ripple and shift, I was already opening the door. This had al already happened, the way it always did; the way it always would.

THREE

I led Valerie into the kitchen, listening to the drumbeat of her heels on the hardwood floor behind me. She wriggled out of her coat and used her fingertips to hang it over the back of a chair, then looked me up and down. “You weren’t at the reunion,” she said.

“I had a date,” I answered.

She raised her eyebrows. I turned away, fil ing the kettle at the sink, then setting it on the burner and flicking on the gas, unwil ing to say more.

My night had not started out wel . On the dating website’s advice, I’d met the guy, my sixth blind date in as many weeks, at the restaurant (“Do NOT invite a stranger to your house!” the website had scolded.

“Always meet in public, always carry a cel phone, car keys, and/or enough money for transportation, and always let a friend know where you are!”) I’d gotten the first parts of it right, driving my own car, with my cel phone charged and enough money to cover the bil in my wal et, but I hadn’t been able to fulfil the last part, on account of being, at the moment, friendless (friend-free?), so instead, I’d printed out a note in eighteenpoint bold type and taped it to my fridge: I

Best Friends Forever

WENT TO MEET MATTHEW SHARP ON

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER

23. IF ANYTHING

HAPPENED TO ME, IT’S PROBABLY HIS

FAULT. I’d added my date’s telephone number, the name and address of the restaurant, and a photocopy of my insurance card. I’d thought for a minute, then added, P.S.: I WOULD

LIKE A MILITARY

FUNERAL…because, real y, who wouldn’t? Buglers playing taps equals guaranteed tears.

“Addie?” the man by the hostess stand said. “I’m Matthew Sharp.” He was on time, and tal , as promised. This was a refreshing change: the five guys I’d previously met were not, in general, as promised. Matthew Sharp was neatly dressed in a tweed sports coat, a dark-blue button-down shirt, pressed pants, and loafers. His breath, as he leaned close to shake my hand, smel ed like cinnamon, and a mustache bristled over his lip. Okay, I thought. I can work with this. True, the mustache was an unpleasant surprise, and his hairline had receded since he’d posed for his online picture, but who was I to complain?

“Nice to meet you,” I said, and slipped my black wool coat off my shoulders.

“Thanks for coming.” He looked me up and down, his eyes lingering briefly on my body before flicking back to my face. He didn’t look appal ed, nor did he appear to be edging toward the door. That was good. I’d dressed in what had become my date uniform: a black skirt that came to precisely the center of my knees (not short enough to be slutty, not long enough to be dowdy), a blouse of dark-red silk, black hose, black boots with low heels, in case he’d been lying about his height or, less likely but stil possible, in case I needed to run. “Our table’s ready. Would you like a drink at the bar first?”

“No thanks.” The website recommended only a single glass of wine. I’d keep my wits about me and not give him any reason to think I had a drinking problem.

The hostess took our coats and handed Matthew a ticket. “After you,” he said as I tucked my scarf and hat into my purse and shook out my hair. My calves had final y gotten skinny enough for me to zip my kneehigh boots to the very top. I’d gone to my hairdresser that morning, planning on nothing more than a trim, but, buoyed by Paul’s repeated use of the word

“amazing!”

and the way he’d actual y gotten teary when he’d seen me, I’d al owed myself to be talked into six hours’ and five hundred dol ars’

worth of cut, color, and chemicals, and left with a layered bob that Paul swore made me look sixteen from certain angles, honeyblond highlights, and conditioner with a French-sounding name, guaranteed to leave my hair frizz-free and shiny for the next four months.

I asked for a glass of Chardonnay, Caesar salad, and broiled sole, sauce on the side.

Matthew ordered Cabernet, calamari to start with, then a steak.

“How was your holiday?” he asked.

“It was nice,” I told him. “Very quiet. I spent the day with family.” This was true. I’d taken the ful Thanksgiving dinner—butternut squash soup, roast turkey, chestnut stuffing, sweet potatoes under a blanket of caramelized marshmal ow, the obligatory pumpkin pie—to my brother, Jon, at his assisted-living facility on the South Side. We’d eaten sitting on the floor of his smal , overheated room, our backs against his single bed, watching Starship Troopers, which was his favorite. I’d left by three and been back home by four. There, I’d made myself a cup of tea, added a slug of whiskey, and left a dish of chopped turkey and gravy out for the little black cat that frequents my back door. I’d spent the evening sitting in the living room, one hand on my bel y, looking at the shifting grays and lavenders of the sky, until the moon came up.

BOOK: Best Friends Forever
8.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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