Page 64 of The Perfect Couple

“Were they in a prescription bottle?” the Chief asks. “Were they marked?”

“No,” Greer says. “I have a pillbox. It’s an enamel box with a painting of Queen Elizabeth on the top.”

“So who would have known that the pills inside were sleeping pills?” the Chief asks.

“The sleeping pills and the pillbox were something of a family joke,” Greer says. “My husband obviously knew. And the children.”

“Would Ms. Monaco have known they were sleeping pills?” the Chief says.

Greer knows she can’t hesitate here, even for a second. “Oh, yes,” Greer says. “I offered Merritt a sleeping pill from the box the last time she stayed with us, in May.” This answer wouldn’t pass a polygraph, she knows. The truth is that Greer had offered Merritt aspirin for the headache she had after the wine dinner but never a sleeping pill. “So I think we can conclude what happened.”

“And what’s that?” the Chief says.

“Merritt took a sleeping pill,” Greer says.

The Chief says nothing. It’s infuriating; the man is impossible to read, even for Greer, who can normally see people’s agendas and prevailing emotions as though she were looking into a clear stream.

“She helped herself to my pills,” Greer says. “Then she went for a swim, maybe thinking she would cool down before slipping into bed. And the pill knocked her out. It was an accident.”

The Chief pulls out his pad and pencil. “Describe the pillbox again, please, Ms. Garrison.”

He’s bought it, she thinks, and relief blows through her like a cool breeze. “It’s round, about four centimeters in diameter, cherry red with a portrait of the queen on the top,” she says. “The top is hinged. It flips open.”

“And how many pills inside?” the Chief asks.

“I couldn’t say exactly,” Greer says. “Somewhere between fifteen and twenty-five.”

“The last time you remember seeing the pillbox, it was in the kitchen,” the Chief says. “There’s no chance you brought it back to your bedroom?”

“No chance,” Greer says. Her nerves return, multiplied, quivering.

“So you know there’s no chance you brought the pills back to your bedroom,” the Chief says, “and yet you didn’t remember bringing the pills into the kitchen when you talked to the detective. I guess I’m questioning how you can be so certain.”

“I keep the pills in only one place,” Greer says. “And they weren’t there. If I had brought the pills back to my room, they would have been where I always keep them.”

“No guarantees of that,” the Chief says. He clears his throat. “There are a couple of reasons why I don’t think Merritt took a pill of her own volition.”

Of her own volition, Greer thinks. Oh, dear God. They’ll suspect Tag of drugging the girl, of course. Or they’ll suspect Greer herself.

“But wait…” Greer says.

The Chief turns away. “Thank you for the information,” he says. “Now I’m going to find your son Thomas.”

Tuesday, July 3–Friday, July 6, 2018

CELESTE

Tuesday at work, she makes a list of things that might take the place of love.

Security, financial

Security, emotional

Apartment

After the honeymoon, Celeste is moving into Benji’s apartment in Tribeca. Together they surveyed Celeste’s studio to see what would make the trip downtown. Not her futon, not her yard-sale furniture, none of her dishes or pots and pans, not her shower curtain or bathroom rug, not the pair of mason-jar lamps filled with beans. When Celeste said that she wanted to bring the rainbow candles her mother made, Benji said, “Just bring the candle Abby gave you if you want a candle.” The candle he was referring to was a Jo Malone pine-and-eucalyptus luxury candle that Abby gave Celeste as an engagement present. Celeste does love the way it smells but once she found out how much it cost, she knew she could never, ever light it.

Celeste immediately decided she would bring her mother’s candles despite Benji’s obvious opinion that they weren’t as good as a department-store candle. Celeste would set them on the mantel!

Benji told Celeste that he contacted a real estate agent at Sotheby’s who is searching for a brownstone on East Seventy-Eighth Street, specifically on the block between Park and Lexington. Celeste tries to imagine herself living on that block, owning a home on that block. Would that be as good as love?

Shooter has the condo in Hell’s Kitchen. The condo has nothing in it but a mattress and a TV, Benji has told her. Shooter is never there.

Family

Tag, Greer, Thomas, Abby, Abby’s future baby, assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins in England.

Shooter has even less family than Celeste. Shooter has no one.

Nantucket

This is, perhaps, the strongest competition for love. Because Celeste has never felt about a place the way she feels about Nantucket. She tries to ignore that her most romantic storybook times there have been with Shooter. She could easily go to the Chicken Box with Benji; she could take Benji out to Smith’s Point and show him the natural water slide. On Nantucket, she will always have a beach to walk on, a path to run, a farm to provide heirloom tomatoes and corn on the cob, a boat to putter around the harbor in, cobblestoned streets to stroll in the evenings. Celeste yearns to experience Nantucket at every time of year. She wants to go to the Daffodil Festival in the spring, wear a yellow sweater, make a picnic of cold roast chicken and deviled eggs and asparagus salad, and cheer as the antique-car parade passes by. She wants to go in the fall when the leaves change and the cranberries are harvested and the high-school football team is playing at home. She wants to go at Thanksgiving, swim in the Turkey Plunge, watch the tree-lighting on Friday night, eat scallops just harvested from the sound. She wants to go in the dead of winter during a blizzard when Main Street is blanketed with snow and not a soul is stirring.

Shooter won’t be able to give her Nantucket the way that Benji can.

Celeste can’t come up with anything else, so she rolls back up to Security, financial. Celeste will have health insurance. Celeste will be able to shop for groceries at Zabar’s, Fairway, Dean and DeLuca. She will be able to buy expensive salads, bouquets of fresh flowers—every day if she wants! Orchids if she wants!—boxes of macarons, bottles of Veuve Clicquot, cases of Veuve Clicquot! She will be able to buy hardcover books the day they come out and get orchestra seats for the theater. They’ll be able to take trips—to London, certainly, but also to Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Sydney. They’ll be able to go on safari in Africa, maybe even hike to see the silverback gorillas in Uganda, a dream so far-fetched that Celeste has put it in the same category as space travel. She will shop with Merritt at Opening Ceremony, at Topshop, at Intermix. She’ll try things on without checking the price tag. It’s inconceivable. It doesn’t seem real.

How will it work? Celeste asked Benji. M-M-Money, I m-m-mean. Once we’re m-m-married?

I’ll put your name on my accounts, Benji said. We’ll get you an ATM card, a checkbook. Once I turn thirty-five, I’ll have access to the trust from my Garrison grandparents, so there will be that money as well.

Celeste has wondered since then how much money is in the Garrison trust. A million dollars? Five million? Twenty million? What is the amount that takes the place of love?

What about m-my salary? Celeste had asked.

Keep it for yourself, Benji said.

Celeste earns sixty-two thousand dollars a year, but Benji makes that sound like a quarter she found on the sidewalk. She supposes that, to him, it is.

Celeste’s assistant, Bethany, walks into her office without knocking and Celeste scrambles to hide the list. What would Bethany think if she saw it? What kind of woman has to make a list of reasons she’s happy to be marrying Benjamin Winbury?

“Celeste?” Bethany says. Her expression is uneasy, as though she suspects she interrupted something.

“Mmm?” Celeste says.

“Zed wants to see you in the conference room,” Bethany says.

“Conference room?” Celeste says. She was supposed to meet with Zed in his office because tomorrow starts a two-and-a-half-week vacation that includes her wedding and honeymoon and she needs to delegate the work on her desk.

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