The Downfall of Catie Bloom

(Excerpt)

One of the PAs adjusts my mic pack on the back of my dress and escorts me onto the living room set of Wake Up, America! I sit on the cream sofa across from the chipper host, Holly Jenkins. She scans her notes and talks softly to Karen, the EP. The countdown out of the commercial break starts, and Karen steps back and holds her iPad close to her chest, watching us.

Holly turns on her ten-thousand-watt smile as the red light on camera A clicks on.

“Welcome back. Today we have a special guest, Catelyn Bloom. Many of you love her for her fun and tasty recipes, some love her organizing tips, others love her expert design tips, and some of us just love watching the perfect wife and homemaker pull it all together, showing us how to do it all with effortless grace and charm.”

Wow. She’s laying it on thick today.

“How do you do it?” She turns my way, her face serious, as if she’s asked my opinion on the war in Syria.

“Design has always come naturally. A blank room isn’t empty space to me; it’s a canvas full of potential. Cooking was not as natural, but my mother is a chef and ran her own catering company since I was a little girl.” This is true, but I never took any interest in it. Natalie loved helping Mom. I loved putting together the centerpieces.

“A gourmet chef, an interior designer, an adoring wife. Your husband must feel like he’s won the lottery.” Holly smiles, but her eyes widen in a way that makes me nervous, like I’ve been thrown into an alligator pit and she’s waiting for the attack.

“I guess,” I say, unsure where she’s going with this since I usually come on and race through my segment, and then they’re on to the next exciting new gadget or cleaning product that may kill you or parent debate.

“What’s his name?”

“Uh, well, he’s very private.”

“I’ll get back to that.” Holly creases her eyebrows and looks at me like she’s trying to solve a puzzle. “You have a column called Husband Emergency, correct?” She doesn’t wait for me to answer. “We’ve even featured it on here. And you’ve been advising women all over the world for years on how to lead a perfect life as a wife and happy homemaker. When was the last time you saw your husband?”

And this is it.

This is the moment everything I’ve been hiding is going to explode in my face. My eyes skip past Holly, but the bright lights blind me. Natalie isn’t here today to help since this wasn’t a cooking segment. One glance at her and I may have been able to pull this together, but I freeze.

Maybe Holly is bluffing. It can’t be that bad. I do have a husband after all. Whatever she throws at me, I can talk my way out.

“I…I don’t know.”

“A few weeks?”

I blink.

“Months?” She stares at me, and it’s obvious she’s bating me. “How about years?”

“I…it’s not really anyone’s business.” As soon as I say the words, I regret them.

“I think your fans would disagree. They depend on you to help them with their lives. To make their lives better. They trust you.”

“I do make their lives better.”

“I have some audio I think your fans would love to hear.” Holly looks off to someone in the dark and nods her head.

There’s an urgent female voice blaring from speakers in the studio. “Are you married to our son?” There’s a pause. “Sam?”

Then my voice bellows out, high and hectic. “No! No. Of course not. We just had to tell Gillian we are. It was a lie.”

“What about your husband? From your columns?” comes the other woman’s voice again. I recognize it. It’s Lily Harding, Sam’s mother. I only met her once when she showed up at the hotel while we were filming the party segment for the homecoming special. Mrs. Harding was shocked to discover that her son was married, and I had to reassure her we weren’t married.

I was mic’d the whole time I was at the hotel, filming the party. In fact, I was mic’d almost the entire weekend. I’m careful when I’m mic’d, but the night of the party we had several unexpected turns, and Sam’s parents being there meant we had to cover for the masquerade we were trying to pull off during filming.

“I’m the perfect domestic goddess and hostess, but it’s all a charade. If it weren’t for Sam, I’d be ruined.” My voice blares around me again, except the words are stunted. They’re familiar, but there’s something not right about them, like they’ve been cut and pasted from different conversations. But it doesn’t matter if they fiddled with the audio and edited it together. Everything that’s being said is true.

“Is that your voice?” Holly turns, her eyes wide; she’s practically salivating at the mouth.

“Yes, but…it’s out of context. I am—”

Holly turns back to the camera, cutting me off. “The other woman on the tape is Sam Harding’s mother, Lily. Sam Harding is the man Catie made pose as her husband for the special but is, in fact, only a colleague.” Holly snaps her head back toward me, her eyes narrowing. “When we spoke to Lily, she was shocked to discover her son was a pawn in your game of lies.”

Holly looks to the edge of the set and a woman pops out from the darkness. It’s Lily Harding. She looks around unsure of where to go, and Holly stands and guides her to the sofa next to her. Holly turns to Lily. “What was that like? Discovering that your poor son is mixed up in this scandal?”

“Well, it all sounded so innocent at first until…” Lily casts her eyes at me for a moment but then skitters them back to Holly.

“It’s okay,” Holly coaxes.

“Until I found out Catelyn’s been lying about everything, and she used my son, which almost cost him his job.”

“What do you mean everything?” Holly asks.

“Well…uh, Sam says she can’t cook. Not even rice.” Lily glances at Holly again, who smiles encouragingly.

“And what else, Mrs. Harding?”

Lily looks at her hands and then out at the cameras. I try to catch her eyes, but she won’t acknowledge me.

“Didn’t you tell my producer that Catelyn’s home is a disorganized mess and that she secretly hires someone to clean and organize for her?” Holly raises her eyebrows at Lily.

“Yes.”

“And is your son married to Catie?”

“No. She’s not married to anyone.”

“Yes, I am!” I yell the only true thing I can.

Holly looks at me like the cat that got the cream. “You mean Christophe Martine?”

Shit. How did she learn that?

“Yes, you married him in college. But you haven’t seen or spoken to him in over a decade. And soon you’ll be divorced. So you don’t have the perfect little life you’ve been selling to your public. Not even close. Millions of women around the world depend on you to help them, and you’ve been lying to them for years. You’re a slob who can’t cook and has lied about having a husband.”

“I’m so sorry your son was dragged into all this.” Holly pats Mrs. Harding’s hands and looks at her like she’s just lost her dog

“Thank you. But I—”

Holly turns sharp eyes on me, interrupting Mrs. Harding. “Do you have anything to say to the millions of fans you’ve been duping over your entire career?”

I blink several times, my mind spinning, trying to figure out a way to unwind the web that’s spun around me. “I didn’t lie,” is all that comes out.

“I think we all know that’s not true.” Holly scowls at me before looking into the camera. “I’d like to apologize to our viewers for ever having Catelyn Bloom on our show. We, like you, were also lied to.” Holly pauses and then throws a brilliant smile on her face. “Next we’re going over to Central Park where Ed Priestly is reporting on the impending snow storm and how you can prepare for the worst.”

As soon as the red light goes off, Holly shoots up from her seat and hurries past the cameras, and Karen rushes after her.

Mrs. Harding sits alone, looking shell-shocked. She gives me a small smile before being escorted from the set. In the studio, everyone bustles around, moving on to the next segment.

My shoulders slump, and I walk into the green room, grab my bag, and pray that the rest of the nation can move on just as quickly.