“PJ WALLIS! Is that really you? And what the hell are you wearing?” screamed Suzette as she came barreling into the loft, followed by a posse of Pandy’s twelve closest girlfriends.
“I’m back!” Pandy shrieked, removing the silver-sequined cardboard top hat from her head and giving a little bow. Suzette grabbed her around the shoulders, and they jumped up and down like ten-year-olds.
“I need a drink,” Meghan announced. “These divorce parties make me nervous. What if it happens to me?”
“It will inevitably happen to you, and then you will get one of these.” Suzette thrust her left hand under Meghan’s nose so she could get a closer look at the large yellow stone. “Ten karats. Unfortunately the guy who comes with it is eighty and has liver spots, but if he wants to pretend he’s younger than he is, who am I to object?”
“But you’re not young, either,” Meghan pointed out. “You’re nearly –”
“Shhhh.” Suzette glared at Meghan as Pandy – right on cue – cooed at the ring in wonder.
“Not all of us have been under a rock for the past two years,” Suzette quipped as the elevator doors opened and six more women spilled out.
“Champagne in the bathtub, cupcakes in the kitchen, cigarettes in the living room,” Pandy said by way of greeting.
“What about cock? Do we get cock in the bedroom?” one of the women screamed, sending the others into peals of nervous laughter.
“Do you think Jonny thought you spent too much time working?” asked Angie. Pandy laughed and put her arm around Angie’s slight shoulders. “Of course I spent too much time working,” she said loudly, as much for herself as for the benefit of the crowd. “What woman isn’t forced to spend ‘too much time working’ these days? I come with a career. Just like Jonny came with his career.
“And all those restaurants,” Nancy interjected, breezing by.
Pandy smiled stiffly. “He doesn’t actually own those restaurants.”
“Do you just totally hate him right now?” Amanda was on the verge of a gossip orgasm.
“Let’s just say I will never do that again.”
The elevator door opened and another gaggle of women rushed out.
“Pandy!” Portia screamed. “Look at you! You’re so brave. Standing there in that skintight silver dress and looking like a goddess!”
“Is it true?” shrieked Brittney. “I heard he tried to get money out of you from Monica. How could he do that? He didn’t even know you when you started writing Monica.”
“Ladies, please.” Pandy addressed her rapt audience. “When it comes to divorce, what’s fair and logical is the first thing that goes right out the window. Jonny was threatening to go after the rights to Monica. He thought I’d be so terrified he might get them, I’d give him the loft instead.”
“So what did you give him?” Portia chirped. “Not the loft. And certainly not Monica.”
“You gave him money, didn’t you?” Suzette scolded. “Oh, I knew this would happen. Didn’t I tell you this would happen?” She looked around at the women closest to her, who nodded. “I predicted this,” she continued. “I said, ‘Pandy is such a softie, you just watch. She’ll end up giving him all her money.”
For a moment, Pandy grimaced – if only her friends knew how true that was. But hopefully, with the success of her new book, no one would need to know the truth about anything, including her marriage.
“But he’s got tons of his own money!” Meghan cried.
“Not as much as you’d think,” Nancy chimed in. “Those chefs have all their income tied up in real estate for their restaurants.”
“Do you think he was having an affair?” Angie asked breathlessly.
Pandy smiled queasily. Angie was the most naïve of her friends – surely she’d heard the rumors of Jonny’s infidelities. But Pandy had already had quite a bit of champagne, and feeling puckish, she said, “Let me put in this way. If he wasn’t having an affair, it wasn’t from lack of trying.” She guffawed loudly.
The party had officially begun.
By seven p.m., the loft was packed. The air was filled with steam from various inhalers, along with actual cigarette and marijuana smoke. Strewn around the loft were cracked plastic cocktail glasses, sticky napkins, and empty bottles of champagne. In the midst of their celebration, Henry arrived.
“Look, Cary Grant is here!” Pandy heard Portia shout. Followed by Suzette’s curt reply:
“Cary Grant is dead. That’s Pandy’s agent.”
“Any word?” Pandy screamed, rushing toward him with so much enthusiasm, she knocked over several drinks in the process.
“On what?” Henry asked, coolly raising his eyebrows as he surveyed the room. Almost imperceptibly, he shook his head.
“On The Book. Hello? Remember The Book? That thing I’ve been writing for the last two years?” Pandy waved her hands in front of his face.
Henry didn’t blink. “If I had word, you’d be the first to know. He squeezed Pandy’s shoulder reassuringly. He stayed another five whole minutes before he was forced to flee, claiming he didn’t want to end up in a meat sandwich between Suzette and Nancy.
“A new Monica book?” cried Angie. Despite the booty-shaking beat now blaring from the speakers, she’d somehow managed to overhear Pandy’s conversation.
“I knew it!” Brittney shrieked. “Now that Pandy’s divorced, Monica will have to get divorced, too.”
“Then she can try online dating.”
“And a matchmaker. That would be hilarious.”
“What would be even more hilarious would be watching Monica try to arrange a date by texting.”
“And then she can date some hot young studs. With their own hair and actual muscles.”
“I don’t know about you,” Amanda added, “but now that I’m dating younger guys, I personally can’t stand men my age anymore. It’s fine if you’re already with one, but otherwise–”
“I agree. If I want to look at an old guy, I can look at my husband!”
“I suppose you could, if you ever saw him!”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
Texting? Divorce? A matchmaker? No. that isn’t my Monica, Pandy thought.
She had to stop this.
“Hold on!” she shouted. “Monica isn’t getting divorced.”
“But everything that happens to you happens to Monica, right?” Brittney squawked.
“Not anymore,” Pandy declared, suddenly remembering her new, very un-Monica book and how it would force the critics to finally take her seriously. This was something that would never happen to Monica. No one took Monica seriously at all.
And could you blame them? Look at her right now. Look at her friends: Portia was sitting on the kitchen counter, her too-short dress riding up her thighs, while Nancy was inadvertently sloshing champagne on the front of Angie’s shirt and extolling the virtues of vaginal steaming.
Pandy held up her hand for order. “As a matter of fact, I do have a new book coming out.”
“I don’t really know. I just finished it. Last week, as a matter of fact.”
“Pandemonia James Wallis,” Suzette crowed. “You naughty girl. Why didn’t you tell us before? Now we can stop celebrating your divorce, and start celebrating your new book.” She held up a bottle of champagne. “To PJ!”
“To PJ and Monica!”
Pandy groaned. She pushed through the crowd to the couch. “I have an announcement –”
“You have a new boyfriend!” Amanda gasped.
For a moment, Pandy put her face in her hands. Then she climbed onto the couch, standing precariously with one foot on the cushion and one foot on the arm for balance. As she was climbing, she noticed that the sun was about to set.
“Hello! Over here!” she said, waving her arms. Most of the women were no longer paying attention.
“Hello! Me here. Wanting to say something!”
Suzette heard her voice, turned around, and shushed the crowd. “Our hostess wants to say something.”
“Hey, Pandy’s talking.”
As the noise level dropped, Pandy was quite sure she heard the words “needs Botox” and “still totally naïve about Jonny,” although not necessarily in that order. Then Angie handed her an open bottle of champagne, and Pandy took a swig and gave it back. She touched her mouth with her fingertips.
“I have an announcement,” she repeated, scanning the room. Everyone was listening now. “I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you’re all here. You all know how much I love you!”
“We love you, too, Goobers.”
Pandy bowed her head in thanks, waiting for them to settle down.
“I want to thank all of you for coming. Because this is a celebration. A celebration of not only moving forward, but also of letting go of the past.” Pandy glanced back at the billboard. The sun had set, and for the moment, Monica had disappeared.
“One of the things I learned during this divorce,” Pandy continued, “is that I probably never should have gotten married in the first place. But then my insecurities got the better of me. No matter how stupid it is, if you’ve never been married, it’s all you can think about. It’s always there, in the back of your mind: ‘What’s wrong with me? How come no one’s ever wanted me?’ And it’s important not to get caught up in society’s expectations –”
“Cock in the bedroom!” someone shouted.
Pandy laughed. “In any case, what I’ve realized is that I have to grow up. Which means I can’t keep on being Monica.”
“Oh, go on,” Nancy hooted. “You are Monica.”
Pandy shook her head. “Not anymore. I don’t want to be. Partly because if I stay like Monica, I’m going to end up with another Jonny.”
“Forget about Jonny. You were too good for him.”
“Men will be lining up to meet you. You’ll see,” Suzette cackled.
“No.” Pandy playfully pointed her finger at Suzette. “They line to meet you. But that’s sort of the problem. If you have a man, great. But it shouldn’t have to be about men. And we already know this. But sometimes it takes getting divorced to learn that lesson all over again.”
Pandy’s mouth was suddenly dry. She motioned to Angie for the bottle. While she drank, she heard Brittney ask, “Did Jonny really have fourteen suitcases full of knives?”
“Shhh,” Nancy said.
“And so,” Pandy said quickly, “I will keep this short. I do have a new book coming out, and it is not about Monica. It’s what I’m calling a ‘me’ book. Meaning it’s the book I’ve always wanted to write, and I’ve finally taken the chance to write it. I hope you’re not disappointed. About Monica.” She paused. “And the fact that I definitely don’t have a new man –”
“We’re almost out of champagne!” Portia screamed as if a nuclear bomb were about to go off.
“Music!” Meghan shouted. “What happened to the music?”
Pandy picked up her sequined top hat and placed it on her head. As she turned to step off the couch, the lights that bathed Monica’s image every evening at eight p.m. sharp suddenly flooded her face. Pandy took a step backward. The heel of her shoe caught in one of the tears in the cracked leather.
She went down.
Excerpted from the book Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell. Copyright © 2015 by Candace Bushnell. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.