Phoebe Wyoming | Illustration by Guy Junker
I’ve been a dervish over the last months: purchasing and moving to a new home, entertaining an army of friends and family eager to escape winter, and maintaining a burgeoning career. The pulse and rush of upheaval and expectation was exhausting, but I was on, darlings, and ready with a quip and a cocktail. Little did I know, ensconced as I was in the frenetic pace of life, that I had misplaced one crucial item: myself.
Recently, after a particularly stressful day appeasing all in my sphere—and rather resenting it—I collapsed on my lanai with a lovely martini that I suspected we could have used to take the paint off in one of the bedrooms. I had not been sitting for two minutes when I heard the unwelcome jangle of the phone.
“Tell them I’m out,” I bellowed to Giles, who I knew was scrambling to silence the infernal device. “Tell them I’m pharmaceutically unavailable! Tell them anything, just don’t tell them I’m home!” I could hear Giles’s muted mumblings, hopefully protecting me against a needy and demanding public.
There was a hush, and Giles appeared in the doorway like a fey poltergeist, but with better hair. My heart sank, and I think some other organs fell as well.
“Daniel for you,” Giles said as gently as possible, wincing a bit as I rose defeated. I said nothing, preferring to keep him in suspense over my ultimate reaction, and moved to the phone.
“Daniel, aloha,” I chirped a bit too brightly. I hadn’t spoken with my dearest local chum Daniel since Thanksgiving, and I owed him an explanation for my absence.
“Aloha,” Daniel drew out in a deep, lazy basso, and intoned, “Do you know who you are?”
“Do I . . . ?” His query confused me, so I parried. “Darling, I barely know where I am these days!” I lit a loathsome Lucky Strike someone had left on a side table and inhaled brusquely. Daniel’s unflappability never ceases to amaze me, and he seemed not to notice my restlessness.
“We stay fine,” he shared calmly, referring to his gorgeous girlfriend Elaina and my two beautiful godchildren. I could hear them whooping happily in the background, actually, and I pined for them. But at the moment, all that was holding me together was superhuman resolve and a glass of 80 proof, and I rushed on.
“Well, we’re in and the move is over although we’re still living out of boxes and will be for a while the place is okay . . . ” I raced in a just-the-facts sort of style. “Giles and I just said goodbye to family from back East as well as three darling friends from the UK but it’s so good to have them go you know what they say about houseguests and fish you know we did just move in though they had booked ages ago. . . . ”
As I paused to sip, Daniel slipped into the conversation again. “We still have Christmas presents for you. We should get together.” My poor chum meant well, but my addled brain perceived his offer as yet another commitment.
“Of course but my schedule and I have to decide this and accomplish that and sign here and how much and traffic I’ll be late for . . . ” I stopped, unpleasantly aware of my own terrible momentum. I felt as though I was someone else entirely, perhaps several someone elses, and envisioned a TV movie with Sally Field playing my devoted therapist.
Daniel was very still, as one should be when dealing with the insane. Then he said, “Jus’ wait now,” and abandoned the receiver, which I thought was a little inappropriate, considering. But, moments later, a small voice replaced the silence.
“Who is this?” my three-year-old godson, Kainalu, asked unsurely, his little voice a balm to my soul. And I knew the answer.
“It’s Auntie Phoebe,” I admitted with a happy sob, and Kainalu erupted with an excited squeal. “It’s Auntie Phoebe, and I love you, darling!”
“It’s Auntie and I love you!” Kainalu repeated gleefully, assuring me, and I heard him drop the phone and start to run, trumpeting, “it’s Auntie and I love you!” to anyone who could hear it.