Which was exactly how things went down. The party had been set up as a slumber party for June’s birthday, which was the next day. However, as soon as Sharon brought up Carla’s struggles with anorexia, June figured out what was really happening.
“I really don’t think this is necessary,” June protested. “I can get myself out of my funk. I’ve done it before.”
“I’m sure you have,” said Carla. “But you don’t have to do it alone this time.”
“I’m not in that bad a shape,” June said.
Sharon gently laid her arms across June’s shoulders. “You are, June. We can all see it. And we don’t want that for you.”
“June, we love you,” Karen said. “All we want is the best for you.”
“And you’ve got some pretty powerful women walking with you,” Carla said. “Sharon and Niecy walked with me through my recovery and they are scary good.”
“But it’s not that big a deal,” said June.
The conversation continued in that vein for almost an hour as the four women slowly helped June face the reality that she was in trouble.
“I can get out of this,” June finally said, weakly.
“Of course you can,” Sharon said. “We know you’ve done it before. But this time, you won’t be doing it alone.”
“Really?” June asked with tears starting to slip down her cheeks. “Nobody’s ever been there for me. I mean, except Mark, and he can’t know about this yet.”
“Is that why you don’t talk to him about what’s bothering you?” Karen asked, glancing over at Sharon as if to ask whether they should tell June that Mark was fully aware of her relapse.
June sniffed and nodded. “He’s protected me all my life. I’ve got to protect him.”
“That’s an awful lot to carry by yourself,” Sharon said.
“But it’s what I’ve had to do,” June said.
“Not anymore,” Karen said. “You know, June, you were there for me at one of the worst times in my life. How can I not step up for you?”
Sharon suddenly remembered something June had said months before about her brother and sister-in-law: “They may hate Mark on that side of the family, but they don’t even notice me.” Perhaps, Sharon thought, that was the key.
“June, look at us,” Sharon said softly. “We’re here. I know there are a lot of people who’ve chosen to ignore you, who don’t care that you even exist. But we do.”
“My mother couldn’t be bothered to pick me up from school,” June all but whispered. “She never paid attention to me. Mark pretty much raised me – and he was just a little kid. He’s the one who got me from school, who made sure I took a bath, fed me. My dad would when we were with him. But Mother made sure that didn’t happen too often.” June looked up. “And that’s not even the worst of it. But we can’t let it get out because folks would use it against Mark.”
“They were bad enough about your mother during the election,” Karen said.
“Can you believe it?” June sniffed. “It doesn’t look good to be a survivor of child abuse, never mind that it’s made Mark one of the strongest people I know, and one of the most compassionate.”
“And so are you,” Sharon said. “You are incredibly generous. You’re smart and one hell of a businesswoman. And we are here because we love and care about you and we are not going to forget to pick you up.”
The floodgates opened and June burst into sobs, a deep cry that racked her entire body. The four other women gathered even closer and held June as she cried. Eventually, the sobs slowed, and June gasped, then smiled through the tears still streaming down her cheeks.
“I think we’re past the worst of it,” Niecy said. “Do you feel better?”
“Yes,” June said.
“There’s still plenty of work to do,” Carla said, grabbing and holding onto June’s hands. “We need to get you into therapy.”
“We’ve got a really good therapist, too,” Karen said. “I’ve worked with her on some academic projects, but she’s got an amazing reputation and she’s really, really discreet.”
“Sharon, what time is it in Los Angeles?” Niecy asked.
“It’s what? Eleven fifteen here?” Sharon calculated quickly. “It’s about 10:45 in the morning there.”
“Dr. Williams said she’d be available all day,” Karen said.
“Shanetta Williams?” June asked and laughed. “I’m already seeing her.” June gulped, then giggled. “She said I’d probably relapse while we were working. I even remember her-” June gasped. “Where’s my phone? I’ve gotta talk to her. I remember what triggered it. I remember!”
Sharon handed June her phone, while Carla smiled and Niecy called down to room service for a smoothie shake. June grabbed her phone and frantically dialed, wandering off to the bathroom. By the time the shake arrived, June wandered back into the room, saying “Uh-huh,” repeatedly into the phone. She took the shake, sucked on the straw, then wandered right back to the bathroom.
It wasn’t a long conversation and the five women, while jubilant, were also pretty tired by the time June had hung up. And even though Carla had her own room in the hotel, she decided to spend the night in June’s suite, along with the others.