On the night of her 21st birthday, Murphy drinks until she gets kicked out of the bar. On the drive home she wraps her car around a tree. She wakes up the following morning in a hospital bed. Her collarbone is broken and her mouth tastes like beer and blood. She never touches the stuff again.
She used to be so good at this, but like everything else, it's getting harder. She blacks out at night before she finishes her notes. She sleeps through her alarm. She forgets to eat.
It's worse at work. Names get jumbled, stories won't stay still. Sometimes her brain feels so slow and heavy she wants to climb under her desk and never come out.
By the time they fire her she's already given up.
It was a compromise. She dropped out before graduating and waited tables so that John could go to law school. She always planned to go back, but then his political career took off, and there were campaign events to attend and parties to throw.
She brings it up sometimes when she's feeling brave, but he always reminds her how essential she is to everything, and her heart stutters with guilt before she can stop it.
You'll be first lady someday, he whispers, kissing down the column of her neck.
He never asks why her mouth always tastes like gin. He knows which battles to fight.
Frank comes to pick her up from Betty Ford, and she's so glad to see someone familiar that she almost forgets she wants to kill him.
Her arms are still around his neck when she remembers, and she draws back to look at his face.
His smile drops and he starts to squirm away, but Murphy just tightens her grip. He clears his throat. "Well, you said you didn't want to be admitted under your real name."
She squints at him. "So you somehow landed on Bertha Buttercup?"
"I thought it might take your mind off some things. Keep you entertained."
"By thinking up different ways to torture you?"
His eyes come up to meet hers and he nods. His thumbs are moving in nervous circles against his thighs. She can see the sweat staring to form on his upper lip.
Murphy grins at him, she can't help it. Kisses his cheek and lets him go.
"So you're not going to kill me?" he asks, some of the color coming back into his face.
She walks around the car to the passenger seat. "Not today, Frank."
She wins two Peabody awards before she's forty. Time Magazine has her on their cover more times than any other woman in history. She marries well; three children and two dogs. Despite her celebrity the divorce is dignified and mostly kept out of the tabloids. The 'True Hollywood Story' hints at a drinking problem, but whose doesn't?
She gets the job done. Always has.