When Luce gets home, the girl is standing in her living room. She looks about thirty, raw and full of want.
"You must be Luce," the girl says, wheeling around. Jangling energy flies off her in every direction. She's been sent up from a magazine in the city. Luce has agreed the girl can stay here for the night, observe her, and interview her. The invitation is a favor from Luce to a man she is seeing. The man is much younger than Luce, a fling really, and the girl is some friend of his.
The girl wears jeans, sandals, and a black silk button-down with no sleeves. Her hair is wild with travel. She's not pretty or stylish, just young.
"Jon let me in," the girl says, blushing. "I hope that's OK. He said I could look around."
The girl stands on a Turkish rug whose edge is fraying. Behind her is the shelf of photos, art books, and souvenirs she was perusing before Luce came in. Oaxacan wood animals, Chardin and Basquiat, and an unframed snapshot taken in Greece, of Bennett, tan beneath a foolish sunhat, with Josephine, aged six, hanging from his arm like a monkey in the Mediterranean sun. Her swimsuit pulled down to reveal one flat, childish nipple.
Luce scans the room to see what else the girl has seen. Disorder. Dust on the sill. Stuffing showing through a split in the tufted French sofa she has meant to take to Valley Upholstery for repairs. A refrigerator with so much stuck-on paper it looks as if attacked by butterflies. Shopping lists, messages from Josephine's school. A pile of shoes by the door.
"You have great stuff," the girl says, shyly. "My place is basically all IKEA."
Luce waits a beat. In person, Luce Holloway manipulates silence as skillfully as she does a bass guitar. A different reporter wrote that, years ago. Dignifying Luce's lifelong grope for words. They were not the element her thoughts formed in; she was always translating. Still, the ridiculous statement held a grain. Luce had made delay work for her. It was part of her persona. [End Page 111]
"Would you like a shower?" Luce asks. "I thought we'd go to dinner pretty soon."
"Oh, yes," the girl says. "Thank you."
Luce leads the girl through the house, up the steep servants' staircase of its elegant past, down the upper hall, past the suite she rents to Jon and his boyfriend, Neil. Reddish light spills out from beneath the closed door of the bedroom they sleep in, tinted by the mauve gauze curtains. From behind the door of Neil's painting studio comes a faint sound of radio.
Luce shows the girl where she will sleep, a small bedroom vacated recently by Josephine, who, upon turning fourteen, began to want a different, more commanding room at the front of the house. That one has windows overlooking the street, and though few people travel down this block, Luce feels the new room is both evidence and, somehow, a vehicle, of Josephine's increasing commerce with the outside world.
"This was Josephine's room," says Luce. "I'm sorry about the girl stuff everywhere." But it isn't really an apology, and Luce can see the girl greedily cataloging the details anyway, mentally adding them to her written piece.
Luce Holloway, an icon of the avant-garde rock scene of the 1980s and '90s, newly divorced from her husband of thirty-two years, Bennett Lowe, lives in a rambling house in the Berkshires that she shares with two housemates, a Maine coon cat, and the detritus of her fast-growing daughter with Lowe, Josephine, who at fourteen has already graced the pages of Vogue…
Luce leaves the girl with a towel, sloppily folded but clean, and points out the bathroom. She goes downstairs. Standing at the sink, looking out the window, she fills the steel electric kettle with water. She taps chamomile tea out of a special tin. The tea was a gift from a road manager on her latest tour, in Germany. It is an Austrian blend: delicate little herbs...