Mimi and ky the beginnin.., p.1
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       Mimi and Ky: The Beginning, p.1

           Yves Corbiere
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Mimi and Ky: The Beginning

  Mimi and Ky

  The Beginning

  Yves Corbiere

  Copyright 2016 Yves Corbiere. All rights reserved.

  Smultron Books

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Thank You

  Chapter 1

  “Another, Miss Parks?”

  Mimi had another. Henry had gone home around midnight, saying something about an early meeting, but she wasn’t quite ready to leave. Plus, she liked being seen in a club alone; it added to her mystique. Only a confident woman goes out alone. Further down the bar two young women were looking at her with starstruck admiration. She imagined their conversation in her head: “That’s Mimi Parks!” “No, is it?” “I love her show!” “Wow, I love LA!” Even though it was a common occurrence for her, Mimi loved being a tourist attraction.

  The door opened. Mimi could see the barest hint of daylight sneaking its way onto the dark floor where glittering bodies still moved to the steady beat. It was the time of night when even the thump of the dance music was starting to feel dull and forced. She sighed and pulled out her phone to text Dennis to pick her up out front. During the season life was fast paced, hard work, and hard play. Now that the season was over, she felt a little lost. Tonight would end with no stories to tell.

  She drained her glass, walked to the door and then out onto the street, strutting a little bit and maybe staggering a little too, but in a way she thought was probably charming. She felt all the eyes in the room on her back until the door closed behind her. The early morning was cool; dark enough that it still carried a hint of the immorality of the night, but light enough that she was looking forward to putting her famous self behind tinted windows. The sidewalk crunched uncomfortably under the soles of her pretty heels.

  From the corner of a neighboring building, a pair of not-quite-human eyes watched her intently in the morning half-light. Mimi suddenly felt strange, off-balance. The sidewalk rose up toward her sideways; she would have screamed, but she couldn’t find her voice. The world turned gray, static-y, electric.

  For such a light figure, she hit the ground with a surprising thud.

  The not-quite-human eyes opened wide and then turned surprisingly quickly into the eyes of a crow that flew to a nearby rooftop. From there he could get a good view of the street, the driver running to help Mimi, the ambulance, the lights, the end of the warm LA night.

  Mimi awoke fully in the hospital. She thought she remembered an ambulance, and nausea; she felt woozy, confused. Things were clicking all around her, clicking, beeping, scraping. She heard wheels rolling loudly down the hall. A large monitor next to her head flashed green blips. Why was she in the hospital? She smelled hand sanitizer. It stung her nose. She looked around her bed. Her eyes came to focus on a nurse, giving her a dour look of judgment.

  “What happened?” Mimi asked, and for a fleeting moment felt terrible guilt. She had been in trouble before: DUIs, a hospital visit after going overboard with drinking and painkillers. This was the same feeling, but different somehow. She was sore from head to toe. She could feel a bruise beginning on her leg. She tried to squeeze her hands tight, but her fingers hurt. The tape from her IV itched her arm. She scratched at it without thinking.

  “You had a seizure.” The nurse spoke but managed to maintain her purposeful frown.

  Mimi recalled the club, the music, the women at the bar. “I wasn’t doing anything. I just had a drink.” Her head felt soft, achey. She closed her eyes but it hardly helped.

  “We’ll find out when your test results come back,” said the nurse. Her voice was clipped, loud, backed up by a chorus of clicks and beeps.

  Find out what? She didn’t have the energy to think about it.

  “We’ve called your father.” The nurse attempted a comforting smile, but the effect was threatening.

  Mimi felt teenage embarrassment fill her face. She loved her father and dreaded his disappointment. What had she been doing?

  “I’m going to vomit,” she said. It was a familiar phrase for her but the wrong context. Now that the preceding night was coming into focus, she couldn’t remember drinking enough to be sick, although it wouldn’t have been unusual for her.

  The nurse gave her a deep tray to vomit into. She had been in a club, an ordinary nightclub. She even remembered being bored. She gave the tray back and looked at the nurse, who might have been saying something. The nurse clucked as Mimi’s drug test results appeared in her chart on the computer screen. She was clean. Mimi’s eyes went cloudy. She semiconsciously wiped a hand across her face. Then Mimi had the second seizure of her life.

  Mr. Parks flew from Amsterdam to New York to Los Angeles. Dennis was waiting with a car at the airport to take him straight to the hospital. His timing was terrible; it was the middle of afternoon rush hour. Mr. Parks tried not to look out the window at the bumper-to-bumper cars, the hot, steaming, and sputtering LA traffic. He went over the phone call again in his mind. Fortunately, the call had come between meetings. Hearing that Mimi was in the hospital again, he had at first felt angry, but then the information he got was confusing. It wasn’t another DUI; it might be drug related; it wasn’t clear. He called the hospital from the car and was put on hold. The bright late afternoon sun glinted off the hood of the car. The hold music stopped abruptly. “Hello?” Mr. Parks said hopefully, but just as suddenly as it had stopped, the hold music circled back around to the beginning. He put his phone on speaker and set it on the seat next to him. Minutes on hold in traffic felt like hours. When a formal-sounding woman did answer, her voice was so robotic that he almost didn’t respond. “St. Simon’s Hospital. Hello. Hello. Hello….”

  He dived for the phone, which had slid across the seat. “Yes! Yes, I’m here.” She told him he couldn’t talk to Mimi. Mimi was sleeping. She’d had another seizure. It wasn’t drugs. If it wasn’t drugs, then what was it? We’re doing more tests, she assured him. Just as he hung up, Dennis pulled up to St. Simon’s great glass façade.

  “We’re here, sir.”

  Mr. Parks launched out of the car, and nearly ran to the reception desk. St. Simon’s prided itself on a non-hospital feel; the place seemed almost like a museum. Everything in the lobby was big and oak, nothing white. A cheerful young woman greeted him from behind a semicircular desk in the middle of the room. There were no sign-in sheets with contaminated pens and no name badges at St. Simon’s. Mr. Parks was impressed. The receptionist took his name and said “welcome” as though he were at the Ritz and she had been expecting him. She sent him up to the second floor, where the place began to feel very much like a hospital. Maybe they only had the money to make the lobby friendly, he thought. He turned the wrong way out of the elevator, retraced his steps, and passed through some intimidating double doors with a radiation symbol on them. When he finally made it to Mimi’s room, he peered through the long, narrow window in the wooden door. He saw Mimi lying there, her face gray, frightened. He had a sudden memory of her as a little girl, the first fever she’d had after her mother left, the way she looked at him with equal amounts of trust and doubt. Then, as now, he wanted to scoop her up and hold her. He opened the door and rushed to her side, but then stopped awkwardly by her bed. Could he hug her? She looked so fragile.

  She looked up and tried to smile. “Dad.”

  “Hi honey, how are you feeling?”

  “How do I look?”

  He pau
sed. “Like you had a tough night,” he confessed. He sat down in a chair next to her bed.

  “I feel terrible. They’re sending me in for another MRI. They don’t know what’s wrong.” She showed him the bruised inside of her elbow. “I must have had my blood drawn twenty times today.”

  “I’m sorry, honey. I’m sorry, I couldn’t get here sooner.”

  “That’s okay.” She fidgeted with the IV tape. “You were in Amsterdam, right?”

  “I got on the first possible flight.”

  “I would rather be in Amsterdam,” she said wistfully.

  “I don’t think that’s a good idea right now.” He smiled. “But soon,” he said hopefully. “When you’re feeling better, we could go together.” The words sounded strange to him. They both traveled constantly for work and pleasure, but never together.

  Mimi laughed weakly. “I’m not sure you do any of the fun stuff in Amsterdam.”

  “Well,” Mr. Parks equivocated, “I’m old. But I go to nice restaurants.”

  “Okay, nice restaurants. I’ll give you that.” There was an awkward pause between them.

  “Oh, Mimi,” he sighed. His voice wavered with emotion.

  She bit her lip and then said firmly, “I want you to leave the room if I have another seizure. I don’t remember them, but I’ve been looking up seizures on YouTube.” She gestured to her phone. Its case was cracked. He imagined it hitting the ground as she fell, and the thought churned his stomach. “Seizures look crazy. I don’t want you to see me like that.”

  “I can’t believe they let you have YouTube in here.”

  “Oh, believe. This place is great.”

  “That’s probably not good for your state of mind, being able to look things like that up on the internet.”

  “Better than not being able to.”

  “Mimi, you don’t need to protect me. I’ve seen you through everything, remember? I’m your dad; I’m your best dad.” That got a smile out of her. He continued, “I even saw you being born.”

  “That’s not the same, everybody does that. Being born is super normal.”

  “I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor.”

  She smiled. There were dark circles under her eyes. Her head was pressed against the pillow as though it were a heavy weight. She looked older, and too thin. He tried not to think about that.

  “How are you feeling now?” he asked.


  “What can I do for you, sweetheart?” He couldn’t think of anything to offer. “Where’s Martine?” Mr. Parks suddenly realized that Martine was at home and she probably didn’t even know what had happened. “Do you want me to call her?”

  “Yes,” she said. “Please.”

  He left her room to make the phone call. Walking out into the brightly lit hall, he wished there were somewhere private he could go. He didn’t want to talk about Mimi’s condition in front of her, or anyone else, for that matter. He understood why she didn’t want him to see her having a seizure. He paced as he waited for Martine to answer the phone. His shoes clicked on the polished floor, the shoes that he had put on yesterday morning in Amsterdam, where it was already tomorrow. He realized his feet hurt. He stood awkwardly in the hallway as nurses walked by with various items he didn’t recognize on little wheeled carts. Then he heard Martine pick up the phone. She was in the kitchen; the water was running in the background. He felt as if he could hear the rooms in his house behind her, comfortable, secure, like a lifeline. It was the house in which he had raised Mimi. He spent most of his time now in an apartment in New York. The apartment was an easy jumping-off point for his business, but also he knew that now that Mimi was an adult, she would move out if he was there all the time. And he liked having her safe, at home, with Martine.

  “Mr. Parks?” Martine said with her soft accent. “I thought you were in Amsterdam.”

  “I was.” He paused for a moment. “But I just flew back. Mimi is in the hospital. She collapsed on the sidewalk. She had a seizure. Now she has had two.” He couldn’t think of a gentler way to say it.

  “Oh, Dios mio!” Martine’s voice was so loving, so concerned. It warmed him.

  “They called me in Amsterdam. Thank goodness. I got on the next flight here. They should have called you. We’ll have to get you onto her paperwork somehow.”

  “Of course,” said Martine. “She’s awake now? Is she talking?”

  “Yes, she seems okay, just shaken.” He whispered into the phone, “It’s not drugs this time. It’s…well, they don’t know what it is.” His voice returned to normal volume. “Can you come to St. Simon’s? Room 204b.”

  “I’m on my way.” She hung up.

  Mr. Parks turned to go back into Mimi’s room, but he saw through the window that she had fallen asleep. He stood awkwardly in the hallway, and then located a chair. He pulled it around to the wall across from her door so that he could see her face through the narrow window, sat down, and knit his fingers together. Communications of every kind were rolling in to his phone from the conference he was missing; it buzzed insistently from his belt, but he couldn’t bring himself to respond. He wanted to give his daughter all of his attention, even if giving her his attention was just not answering the phone while she slept.

  A woman wearing a suit and heels, rather than the ordinary hospital scrubs, came up to him. “Mr. Parks?” she asked.


  “I’m the floor manager. I hope you and your daughter are both comfortable. We see a lot of celebrity patients. So, I just want to let you know that information about Mimi’s condition and whereabouts will not be disclosed by any hospital staff unless it is for medical purposes. That’s true for all of our patients; in fact, it’s a legal requirement, as you probably know. But I know that you and Miss Parks are in particular need of privacy. You will find us to be nothing but professional here. Here at St. Simon’s the security staff clears the parking lot of reporters, daily if necessary. No one is allowed to linger in their cars or watch the door.”

  “Thank you,” he said. Mimi’s fame was always a liability. Before she was famous, he thought he had it bad with just his successful company. But as soon as the first season of Mimi’s travel show aired on TV, he had been on a steep learning curve about levels of fame. At any moment there was a price on her whereabouts. No wonder she drank so much! He was relieved that even in a hospital, she got some of the same special attention that she got everywhere else. It was comforting.

  The floor manager stood there for a moment as though expecting more. Then she turned and walked away down the hall. He should have shaken her hand.

  The last time he had been in a hospital, he was a young child with pneumonia. Hospitals back then had been big, greenish, tenement-like places. Nonetheless, his childhood stay there was a pleasant memory for him. He didn’t remember the doctors or a floor manager. But he remembered the nurses. They were nice, clean; they spoke to him sweetly, spoiled him. The hospital had plenty of food, even ice cream. He had wanted to stay there. He cried when they sent him home.

  He thought back to his young life, the narrative of poverty that played over and over again in his head. He remembered growing up with no refrigerator, no heat. He remembered trying to lure the cat into his bed at night to keep him warm, the time he ate ten hot dogs on a school field trip. The other kids laughed at him, but he didn’t care. He was hungry. He remembered the first place he ever lived that had hot water. He was an adult by that time, living in a tiny apartment, but all he cared about was the hot shower. He was single then; no one wanted him. He had no money, no beautiful daughter, no LA mansion, no hundreds of employees. He thought about his first plane trip, Pittsburgh to Atlanta. That was right before he started SkyCut, his big idea. His life now was a dream; it never felt real. Sitting outside of Mimi’s room, he tried to rustle up the feeling of that hot shower, how he had thought then that he didn’t need anything else to be happy.

  He kept his eyes trained on Mimi through the glass in the door, a
s though he was afraid she would disappear if he looked away. He studied her sleeping face. Her hands were clenched tight at her chest. He had not seen her that way for years, never as an adult. She looked so tired, small. She was small. She had gotten control of her eating disorder, but she stayed thin. She had to, for her work. He understood it, but he didn’t like it. He wondered if her weight had something to do with the seizures. He cast around in his mind for a cause. There were so many possibilities, her eating disorder, her drinking, drugs, the stress of her fame, a bicycle accident she had had as a child.

  It was hard to imagine the woman lying there was the same one he fought with just six months ago about her DUI. That was the fight that had ended in his hiring a driver. And thank goodness for the driver. Dennis had called 911. Dennis followed the ambulance, checked her in to the hospital. It was probably Dennis who picked up her phone, her purse. He wondered if Dennis had slept at all last night, if he was sleeping now. He didn’t even know where Dennis was: in the parking garage, he supposed, if the hospital security hadn’t kicked him out. He would give Dennis a bonus.

  When he hired Dennis, his girlfriend at the time was angry about it. “Mimi is so spoiled that her punishment for a DUI is that she gets an employee!” Mr. Parks had no rebuttal. That girlfriend was on her way out anyway.

  Martine, on the other hand, thought the driver was a great idea. When he asked her if she thought it was spoiling Mimi, Martine just said with her soft voice, “Everyone loves their children, Mr. Parks.” Martine knew how to cut to the heart of the issue. He loved Mimi so much. The power of that love still stunned him after twenty-three years.

  He loved her, but he didn’t understand her. The world was different for Mimi than it was for him, not just because she was young. She was a native to wealth. She had made herself into a world-famous brand by pretending to be flirtatious and superficial on TV. At least, he liked to think she was pretending. He liked to think he knew her better than that; she had been a smart child. He had imagined a career for her as an astronaut, or maybe as a stage actress or taking over SkyCut. That, of course, was his real dream. But Mimi had wanted nothing to do with the business. It was a common complaint among his peers: wealth has ruined my children. But so far he didn’t know anyone who was giving up their wealth to do anything about it. At least his kid was having success, albeit not the kind he had dreamed of for her. He alternated between being angry with her and proud of her, sometimes second to second. Lately, he had to admit, he had taken to ignoring her. It was easy to do, and now he felt guilty about it. He should have encouraged her more. He should have challenged her more. He wondered if anyone ever just had two seizures and that was the end of it. Could they walk out of the hospital tomorrow, no problem? Was that possible? What caused them? He could try to find a doctor. Would they know? Would they tell him if they did?

  Martine swept through the double swinging doors with urgency but also gracefully, comfortably, as though she were stepping into her own house. Mr. Parks caught her eye and she smiled sympathetically as she walked toward him. She had made record time and was somehow also carrying a bag full of food. Her black hair was tied up loosely. Her clothes hung modestly on her middle-aged and slightly rounded figure. She was not a tall woman, but her presence filled the hallway so that the corridor seemed smaller with her standing in it. She was so much more real than other women. Martine had been his live-in housekeeper since Mimi was three years old. Mimi’s mother had insisted on live-in help, and when she hired Martine she had said, “The best thing about this woman is that she will never leave.” It was true. Martine had a daughter of her own, and it was clear that she was looking for a safe place to raise Paloma as much as she was looking for a job. But never wanting to leave was only one of the best things about Martine. He couldn’t possibly count up all the things he loved about her; she taught the children to be kind and gentle, she was an adventurous cook, she was honest, and, unlike everyone else in LA, she was never on a diet.

  He wished he could get a hug, but there was never any question that Martine would hug him. As far as he could remember, she never had. Now all of her attention was directed toward looking for Mimi.

  “She’s there,” he said. “She’s sleeping.”

  “Oh, Mr. Parks! There’s our beautiful girl!” said Martine, and then she charged into Mimi’s room without hesitation.

  Mimi woke up. At the sight of Martine she started crying. Martine reached for her to give her a hug and seated herself on the hospital bed, pushing the tray table out of the way. She held Mimi’s head and rocked her gently from side to side. Mimi was saying something Mr. Parks couldn’t understand.

  “I know, querida, se como te sientes,” said Martine.

  Mr. Parks waited, then fumbled with his words, “What else-what can I do for you, sweetheart?” he finally asked.

  “Can you get somebody to talk to you? They’re treating me like glass. I do want to know what’s wrong with me.”

  “Of course, I will.”

  “If I’m going to die, I want to know it,” she joked through her tears.

  Martine made a cooing noise, “Do not say that, querida,” she said, “nunca, never.”

  “We’ll figure it out. And once we figure it out, we’ll fix it,” Mr. Parks said confidently.

  He heard the words come out of his mouth, but he wasn’t sure they were true. Mimi was a person, not a business proposition. Could he fix it for her? He walked quickly to the door, opened it, took a left out of Mimi’s room and went to the nurses’ station. A very young nurse was there. He asked if he could get some information about Mimi’s condition.

  “I just got here,” said the nurse.

  “Is there a doctor I could speak with?”

  “Oh, no, not right now. I mean, unless you’re having an emergency.”

  Was information an emergency? Mr. Parks wondered.

  “Dr. Betts is in charge of her case,” said the nurse. “You can speak with him tomorrow. He’ll be here in the morning. He usually gets here around ten.”

  Mr. Parks was at a loss. Clearly there was nothing to do but wait; he suddenly felt as tired as he should have felt after an emergency flight back from Europe.

  “Is there any way to get some coffee?” he asked.

  The young nurse brightened up. “First-floor cafeteria. No one is in there, but the machine takes dollars.”

  “Thank you,” he said.

  On the first floor of the hospital, the night cleaning crew mopped in great, silent figure eights and a skeleton office crew typed quietly at computer terminals. The hall lights were dimmed, but the way to the cafeteria was well signed, which he appreciated. The giant room was silent this time of the evening except for the hum of refrigerators, a slightly malfunctioning fluorescent light, and the coffee machine. He got two cups. If Martine didn’t want one, he thought, he could probably drink them both. He barely noticed, as he got into the elevator to go up to the second floor, that a tall, active-looking man wearing a faded baseball cap got in with him. The man kept his face turned away from Mr. Parks, but got off on the same floor and followed him out of the elevator and through the double doors. Mr. Parks’ eyes were on Martine, who had left Mimi’s room and was sitting in the chair he had pulled across the hallway. He didn’t notice the man in the ball cap pause, glance into Mimi’s room, and then keep walking.

  Martine looked up as he approached and gasped.

  “What?” Mr. Parks asked, concerned.

  “Nada, I must have fallen asleep. It’s just that, the man behind you looked, well, I shouldn’t say that in here.”

  “Say what?” Mr. Parks asked.

  “Like a ghost,” she whispered. “Not a ghost,” she corrected herself, frustrated. “There’s no translation for it in English. Nagual, like a spirit, more than a man.”

  “Oh, I didn’t think about him,” said Mr. Parks. “But he wasn’t a spirit, Martine. He was in the elevator.” He handed her a coffee, which she took gladly. He added this to the list of th
ings he loved about Martine; she drank black coffee at night.

  “I guess spirits don’t need the elevator.” She laughed, but she sounded unconvinced.

  “I think it’s time to go home. You’re exhausted,” he said kindly.

  “I don’t want to go home.”

  “We’ll come back tomorrow.” He reached out tentatively and put his hand on Martine’s warm hand. She squeezed back, strong, soft. He was flooded with gratitude for her. She loved his daughter. They were a team.

  “I’ll drive your car,” he offered.

  He texted Dennis that he would drive Martine back to the house. He didn’t ask where Dennis was; he was too tired. Dennis sent him back a simple “ok.”

  Mr. Parks arrived at the hospital the next morning having slept a few hours, and was relieved to see a somewhat brighter-looking Mimi. He tracked down a doctor who explained to them that in many, even most cases, the cause of epilepsy was unexplained. So what does it mean, then? How can there be a well-known name for something without a why? Mimi realized that subconsciously she had thought that epilepsy was something you could have fixed if you had enough money and resources.

  “Unexplained?” Mimi repeated. “But you know what happens, right? You know what a seizure is?”

  “It’s an electrical storm in the brain,” said the doctor confidently. She was older than Mimi, but barely, probably a resident.

  “From what?”

  “That’s the unexplained part. There are things that trigger seizures, some narcotics-” Mr. Parks looked uncomfortable, but the doctor continued without pausing, “-some infections. But there are seizures that, as far as we know, are untriggered.”

  “That doesn’t seem possible,” Mr. Parks said.

  The doctor sighed and seemed to let down some of her professional guard. She gave them a friendly smile. “I know,” she said. “I feel that way too. They must be caused by something, right? But we don’t know what. The best we have right now are medications that control them, or sometimes surgery, but we’ll try medication first. The brain, it’s so amazing, so complicated. There’s so much we still don’t know about it. I wish we knew more. And we will, in the future, but I know that’s not what you want to hear right now.”

  “Actually, it makes me feel better just that you sound like you’re being honest,” Mimi mused. “You know, when you’re in the hospital it’s hard not to be suspicious that everyone knows what’s going on but you.”

  The doctor laughed. “We’re trying to change that. St. Simon’s wants to be on the cutting edge of this new friendly, helpful hospital movement. You know, we have plants everywhere and we pipe in natural light to the nurses’ station through prisms in the ceiling. We don’t want to be that creepy institution that everyone thinks about when they think ‘hospital,’ but it’s hard. Some things change and some things don’t. But we won’t hide information from you guys if we can help it. Or, okay, I won’t hide information from you if I have it.”

  “You’re a resident, right?” asked Mr. Parks.


  “Is it too personal, or can I ask you if they’re working you to death?”

  Mimi cut in to explain. “My sister is a fourth-year medical student. He’s worried about her.” She always referred to Paloma as her sister. It was simpler that way.

  The young doctor laughed. “St. Simon’s is working on that too,” she said. “But all change is slow in medicine.”

  “Change is slow in most businesses,” said Mr. Parks sympathetically. “Well, try to take care of yourself. We need people like you to last.”

  A thought occurred to Mimi. “Are you going to stay in LA? When you have your own practice, can I be your patient?” she asked.

  “Oh, wow, I would be honored! Oh, but that makes me feel sad.” The young doctor frowned.


  “It’s my last day on this floor and I know they’ll try to keep you for at least a little longer, and I do want to be your doctor.”

  Mimi felt a wave of crushing disappointment that she realized was foolish. She had known this woman for about ten minutes and yet she was sorry to hear her say she wouldn’t be coming back. It was her second day in the hospital and she was losing the only ally she had found.

  “What’s your name?” Mimi asked.

  “Cora Hutch-, Cora Mancuso. Wow, sorry, brain slip. I just…I just got married.” She blushed bright red.

  “Congratulations!” said Mr. Parks.

  “Thanks. It’s just odd because I have practiced saying ‘Dr. Hutchins’ in the mirror since I was eight years old. And now I’m Dr. Mancuso. They haven’t changed my badge yet.” She frowned at it. “They’ll probably never change my email.”

  That afternoon, Mimi had another seizure, a long one. A different doctor came to see her, and she was disappointed. She was hoping to see Dr. Mancuso one more time. The new doctor looked concerned, but provided nothing that Mimi considered information. Numbness ran down Mimi’s legs. It was terrifying at first. She thought she would lose feeling entirely. It was like pins and needles, but infinitely worse. She rubbed them and they hurt, they shook. She limped to the bathroom. And she was sore, so sore, although that was supposedly normal. She couldn’t believe that two days before she’d been lifting weights with her personal trainer trying to improve her deltoids for a photo shoot for a perfume ad.

  Days passed. Time felt nebulous to Mimi at the hospital. Her father and Martine came and went, brought her bags of comforting foods, putting particular treasures on Mimi’s nightstand so that it filled up with favorite cinnamon rolls, olives stuffed with blue cheese, cayenne popcorn balls. Mimi made a show of being happy to see these things when Martine put them down, although she had little appetite. She offered them to the nurses and found out that Martine had been cooking for them too.

  Mimi’s phone buzzed and rang and buzzed but she couldn’t bring herself to answer it.

  They ran test after test for a week but every test came back negative, inconclusive, or just confusing. They tried different combinations of medications, but it was the same for her day after day: one or two seizures, soreness, exhaustion. She became despondent. They made an appointment for her to see the hospital counselor.

  The next day a spare woman with impeccably styled blonde hair came in and sat at the foot of her bed.

  “You like to be called Mimi?” the woman asked.

  Mimi gave her a quizzical look, and thought—but didn’t say—that since she was on the cover of last month’s Celebrity magazine as “Mimi,” that was probably a safe assumption.

  The woman continued as if she didn’t notice Mimi’s stare. “Sudden illness can be very disorienting.”

  “That makes sense,” said Mimi. What could she say to this woman who had never had a seizure?

  “I’m here if you want to talk,” said the spare woman. She had thin lips and her glittery lipstick had separated from her lip liner.

  The silence between them was awkward. Mimi was accustomed to forestalling such moments and, even though she thought she shouldn’t have to, she tried to make the woman more comfortable. “I just feel really lucky that my dad is so supportive. I know I can count on him no matter what.” It was what she would have said in a television-style interview. The words came easily to her, no thinking.

  “Yes, what a great father. I notice that you haven’t called your mother.”

  She wanted to slap the woman. “No,” she said politely. “We’re not close.”

  There was an awkward silence again, but Mimi didn’t feel that she wanted to repair this one. Thoughts of her mother always gave her a headache, and this moment was no exception, but she didn’t want the woman to see her flinch. Mimi had a great relationship with her father, and here her father was supporting her. Why wasn’t that enough? Because when you’re rich and famous, everyone wants your pain. Your pain is like cake to them, she thought. They want to see you cry about your mother. Fat chance, skinny counselor lady.

  The spare woman was s
peaking again.

  “Is it hard for you that you don’t have a firm diagnosis? I have heard from other patients that each new test can feel like you’re facing down that new possible future, like being diagnosed with many frightening illnesses one after another.”

  That, at least, was true. Every time Mimi got another blood test or MRI or EEG it seemed like they were actively looking for a worse possible life for her. With some of the more debilitating degenerative diseases that she had been tested for, she had wondered if she even wanted to know the results. But so far nothing came back really positive. Was that worse or better? Mimi felt like asking the counselor if she’d ever been sick. Have you ever been sore for no reason that you remember? Have you ever had to be escorted limping to the bathroom? Woken up on the floor with a mouth full of blood, covered in bruises that your own stupid body managed to create? Have you ever peed yourself? Regained consciousness surrounded by strangers and covered in vomit? They should hire someone with experience, she thought, not a degree, real experience. But then, she supposed that every disease would need its own counselor.

  “That’s probably the most frustrating thing,” said Mimi coolly. She noticed out of the corner of her eye that something was moving on the windowsill. She turned to see the flapping of wings as a large crow made its way slowly to land and look in her window.

  The counselor looked out the window startled. “My my, that’s a big crow! Or is it a raven when it’s that big?”

  “It’s a crow,” said Mimi. “Look at the square tail. Ravens have wedge-shaped tails.” She wouldn’t have known that except that it had come up in the London episode of her show. She was flirting with a guide at the tower of London, and he taught her how to tell a raven from a crow. It’s not just size. There are some very large crows in the world. London had made a good show. Their connections there had British humor, but not too much, and the Tower of London is fascinating to Americans. It’s fun for them to imagine their treasonous ancestors locked up there, mocked by ravens, living off rats.

  Mimi supposed she was lucky she hadn’t collapsed mid-season, fallen off a parapet while being filmed for an episode on Welsh cheeses and castles. She didn’t know if she’d be able to do another season, and it made her grimace to think about it, all the commitments she wouldn’t be able to make unless she was somehow better by next week, which was looking less and less likely. Mimi met the crow’s eyes. It stared back at her steadily, confidently.

  “I know that illness can be very depressing,” the counselor was saying. “I’m not a doctor, but if you feel as though you need help with that aspect of your illness, let me know and I’ll recommend that the psychiatrist come see you.”

  Mimi was transfixed by the crow. Gazing eye to eye, it was as though he was peering at her thoughts.


  “What?” She tore her gaze away from the window and looked at the counselor.

  “Do you want to see a psychiatrist?” the counselor said pointedly.

  “Thanks,” said Mimi. “I probably don’t need that right now.” She felt like the last thing she needed was more medication. She looked back at the crow. It was still staring at her, its eyes both glassy and depthless. Mimi wished she could turn into a crow and fly away too. She was so lost in the bird’s eyes that she barely noticed the counselor leaving. The door slammed, shaking Mimi out of her gaze. She looked at the door, but when she looked back to the windowsill, the crow was gone. Mimi got a sudden chill and pulled the sheet up around her shoulders. She had a fleeting feeling that she had been tested, that she had given too much away, even though she had hardly said anything at all.

  When a nurse came in later, Mimi said, “I don’t want to see the counselor again unless it’s like, you know, required.”

  The nurse laughed. “It’s not required.”

  Chapter 2

  It was all over the internet.
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