Wait for Me

By: Sarah Mayberry

Prologue





Beth Walker stood at the hotel window and stared down at the city street several stories below. It had rained earlier, and the road was still shiny with water. Cars swished past one another, and pedestrians dodged their way along the sidewalk, the colors of their coats and jackets muted in the weak sunlight.

Beth rested her cheek against the cool glass, trying to muster the energy to set up her computer for the Skype call she had scheduled with her two best friends, Jen and Ellie. She’d spoken briefly with both of them in the immediate aftermath of the scandal breaking, and they’d exchanged emails and texts in the intervening weeks, but this would be the first proper conversation she’d had with either of them.

I don’t want to look into their eyes and see their pity and have it confirmed that I’m the victim the whole world thinks I am.

But the three of them made a point of talking once a month, no matter what, and Jen and Ellie would worry if Beth didn’t log in, given the circumstances.

Beth snorted, the exhalation momentarily misting the glass. “The circumstances” was such a genteel, discreet way to summarize the spectacularly tacky implosion of her marriage to country music star Troy Banks four weeks ago. It didn’t even begin to cover the three-ring circus her life had become since her husband’s apparently never-ending string of infidelities had come to light.

The current tally was thirty-four. Thirty-four women whom her husband had slept with during the four years of his marriage to Beth. Cocktail waitresses, strippers, flight attendants, models, nannies… There was barely a profession he’d left unexplored.

Behind her on the couch was a foot-high stack of tabloid magazines filled with the salacious details, each story more nausea-inducing than the last. Once the first woman had sold Troy out, the rest of them had lined up like dominoes for their chance to cash in. And why wouldn’t they? For years Troy had written songs about love and commitment and family, about struggling through the tough times and celebrating the good. He’d sold the story of his and Beth’s whirlwind marriage as a modern-day fairy tale, and the country music world had eaten it up with a spoon.

And the whole time, he’d been fucking his way across America, betraying Beth every chance he got. She’d given up her home in Australia when she married him, put her career as a music therapist on hold, done everything in her power to mold her life to his, and he’d rewarded her with infidelity on such an epic scale that it had already become an internet meme.

The humiliation was so vast, the betrayal so all encompassing, it had taken Beth several days to get her head around it. She’d left their Belle Meade mansion in Nashville the moment the first tabloid hit the newsstands, but the revelations had kept coming, each one dropping like a hand grenade into her life. It had quickly become impossible for her to leave the central Nashville hotel she’d retreated to, thanks to the tabloid photographers stalking her every move. When she’d gotten wind of an interview one of the papers had secured with her chambermaid, discussing how many boxes of tissues Beth had run through and what she’d been ordering from room service, something inside Beth had finally snapped.

She’d walked into the bathroom, grabbed the scissors from her manicure set, and hacked off her shoulder-length blonde hair. Then she’d grabbed a baseball cap and dark glasses from her luggage, shoved some clothes, her phone, and laptop into a non-descript overnight bag, and walked out the door.

She’d taken the service exit and made her way to the nearest bus stop. From there she’d hailed a taxi and gone straight to the airport. She’d bought a ticket on the first flight out, and once she’d landed at her destination she’d taken a room in a mid-priced, nondescript hotel where no one would expect to find the estranged wife of a disgraced, multi-millionaire, country music star.

She’d been holed up here ever since, collecting grubby tabloid magazines so she could gorge on the Technicolor details of her husband’s infidelity and contemplate her own folly.

Yesterday, she’d roused herself out of licking-her-wounds mode long enough to find a hairdresser to tidy her hacked hair, fully aware that Jen and Ellie would freak if they saw what she’d done to herself.

Now, she pulled away from the window far enough to use it as an impromptu mirror to assess her new cut.

She looked like a cancer patient. Or maybe a shorn lamb was more accurate. According to the hair stylist, Beth had cut into her hair so haphazardly, he’d had no option but to go for a pixie cut.

Beth was pretty sure there had never been a pixie in the history of the world who looked as naked and shorn as she did right now. But at least it made it unlikely that people would recognize her.

A silver lining, at last. Huzzah.

It was nearly eleven. Time for her Skype hookup. Turning her back on the window, she grabbed her laptop and walked to the bed. Sitting cross-legged on the mattress, she set up her computer. Then she leaned across to grab the tiny bottle of tequila she’d procured from the minibar. It was part of the tradition of their Skype catch-ups that they all had a cocktail of some kind, the next best thing to a real girls’ night out. But she couldn’t be bothered making one today. Straight tequila would do just fine. And where did it say she needed a glass?

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