But Susan wasn’t picking up her phone. Sharon left a brief message, sniffed, then dried her tears.
“That’s that, then,” she said. “I’d better get going.”
“Stay for dinner,” June said. “We’ll eat up here and you won’t have to be alone and depressed.”
“I’ll get to make you depressed.”
June laughed softly. “Not really.” There was a knock on the door. “And there’s dinner.”
June got up and admitted the junior usher who rolled in a cart draped with a white cloth. Two filled plates, napkins, silverware, two glasses filled part way with a red wine and the wine bottle were laid out on the top. Within seconds, the usher, a young woman with a serious face and brown hair pulled into a bun, arranged the food and service on a small table next to the couch. June thanked her and the usher left, taking the cart with her.
“What’s this?” Sharon asked.
“Spaghetti Bolognese,” June said, handing her a plate. “Solly makes a really good one. You know, the kind that’s simmered for three days.”
Sharon looked at the plate, then picked up her fork. “You know, that does sound good.”
“It is,” said June, who had already twirled up her first bite. “It’s my comfort food.”
“You have a comfort food?” Sharon asked.
“Mm-hm.” June slurped a short strand of spaghetti. “I fell in love with it in Milan. There was a little trattoria not far from the design house where I was apprenticing. Our boss did not want us going there, and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a model. It was basta on the pasta, per Signor. Which is exactly why I and all the other girls went there every chance we got. And I’ve loved it ever since. At least, when it’s done right. I’ll even eat it when I’m relapsing.”
Sharon chuckled. “How is that going, anyway?”
“Pretty well.” June winced. “I was going to talk to Carla about the incest angle before things went south back in Nigeria.”
“About the what?” Sharon gasped. “June, I had no idea.”
“Huh? Did I just say that?” June shook her head in awe. “Wow. I really must be coming around a corner.” She looked at Sharon. “I’ve never told anybody. Well, I recently told Dr. Williams. She’s the one helping me to talk about it. I was going to talk to Carla first, just as a sounding board.”
“Do you want to talk now?”
“I don’t know.” June set her plate down, then gasped as she thought of something. “It wasn’t Mark.”
“I kind of figured,” Sharon said. “Was it Harold?”
“Oh, yeah. It started when I was five and he was thirteen.” June shuddered. “Good lord, I can’t believe I’m talking about this. I haven’t even told Mark, let alone my dad. I generally try to pretend that it didn’t happen. But then things seemed to be going really well with Doug.”
“As in Douglas Lee, the hair stylist you keep siccing on me?” Sharon asked. “I thought you were just friends.”
“We are and we aren’t. Doug has serious OCD issues. It’s totally weird. He works all day with people’s hair, but he can’t stand to be touched.” June took a deep breath. “But now he wants to move past his disorder and have a real relationship with me. And I want the same. I don’t even know how I’m going to tell him. And Mark. Good lord, he is going to be so upset that I didn’t tell him sooner.”
“Probably.” said Sharon. “But, June, you’re doing the best you can. He’ll understand that, even if he doesn’t like it.”
“I suppose,” June said. “He’s been protecting me my whole life. The one time I let something slip, he lost the election.”
June sighed. “It was really awful. I was gang-raped in high school. I didn’t tell Mark because, well, I was trying not to face it. Only one of the guys came out and busted Mark for it when he was running for state senate. And it looked really bad. It’s the only election Mark has lost.”
“Oh, June!” Sharon gasped, then got a hold of herself. “That’s horrible. What? You haven’t been through enough?”
“That’s why it’s so hard to tell Mark. It could really hurt him if it got out.”
“But, June….” Sharon swallowed, debating which issue to deal with first. “My god, you’ve been dealing with some terrible shit. But, but…. Look, hiding it hasn’t helped your brother. It hasn’t helped you deal with it.”
“I know.” Tears began to fall down June’s cheeks.
Sharon put her hand on June’s arm. “I’m guessing you haven’t been wanting to deal with it all, yourself.”
“You can say that again.” June paused and took a very deep breath. “I don’t want people feeling sorry for me. And I’ve mostly gotten past it.”
“Except for your relapses.”
June sighed. “Except for those.” She looked down at her spaghetti. “I was supposed to be cheering you up.”
“You did.” Sharon shrugged. “I suppose we both needed each other today. It happens. You made me feel better. I hope I helped you feel better.”
“Yes.” June aimlessly twirled some spaghetti, then straightened and held up her glass. “We are strong women.”
Sharon tapped her glass against June’s. “We are, indeed. That’s why we can hold each other up.”
“Yeah. We can do that.”
The two turned back to their meal, with the conversation bouncing back and forth between Sharon’s grief, June trying to tell her brother about her past and all manner of topics in between. By the time Sharon left the White House, the only problem the two hadn’t entirely solved was what to do about Rebecca Cooper and the arrival of Jodi and Tiffany.