Award–winning author Spring Meadows and newspaper–turned–literary editor Rachel Templeton have one thing in common: they can’t stand each other! Spring is sure that her bestselling talents single–handedly keep her publishing company afloat, while Rachel would like nothing better than to take this smart–mouthed, button–pushing prima donna down a peg or two. When Spring makes the fatal mistake of accusing Rachel of sexual misconduct, Rachel decides to teach her a lesson.
”What is an author to an editor?” Spring asks herself. If only she had been prepared for Rachel’s answer…
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms?”
She held out her hand, and I accepted it as if I were enthusiastic to meet this former newspaper editor who knew nothing about my craft. Who had no idea that I was an artist and needed time and space to create my art. I’d get old Merry to fire this loser sooner or later if she interfered with my work. It did no harm to pretend that I would play nicely.
“Meadows. Spring Meadows.”
At her polite disbelief, I rattled off the usual spiel.
“Yes. Spring Meadows. Parents thought they were brilliant. I have an older sister named Autumn and a younger one named Summer. Thank God they stopped with three.”
“Rachel,” she said, placing her left hand on top of mine to make the shake more emphatic. A strong, no-nonsense grip. “Rachel Templeton. I’m sure we’ll get along wonderfully. My job is to help you be the best writer you can be. Merry’s praised your work to the skies.”
Yeah, right. We’ll see what you say after she fires you.
I turned on my heel to make a smart exit, but she called after me.
“Spring? I’ll need your synopsis by Monday. Merry said your last editor never got it, and it’s several weeks overdue. Thank you.”
I slammed the door on my way out.
The dark-haired head in the sleek silver car ahead of me stayed burrowed downward. Probably checking Facebook on his smart phone.
I laid on the car horn until the head jolted upright and tires squealed through the intersection. I stepped on the gas only to curse as the green light flashed to red and an enormous white truck with double wheels blared through the intersection.
“You idiotic, good-for-nothing, low-life loser scum! Who taught you how to drive? It’s jerks like you who jack up all of our car insurance rates!” I pounded on the steering wheel, but by then the stream of oncoming cars blocked any chance of a turn.
On my way home, I pulled into the local McDonald’s to see a line five cars deep at each of the two drive-through lanes. Drive through lanes. What idiot decided to name them “drive thru” lanes? Not only were people incapable of driving, but they couldn’t pass a third-grade spelling test.
“Cheeseburger and fries!” I barked into the speaker box when it was my turn at last. “No ketchup, extra mustard, and no salt on the fries!”
“No salt on the…but fries come with salt.”
“No extra salt! Make them separate, and don’t shake salt over them!” I’m not sure whether it was the metal of the speaker box that groaned or the voice from inside.
“Medium or large?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we no longer have small fries. We have medium or large.”
“Whatever! Just give them to me.”
Behind me, the car honked to hurry up. I was doing my best! Did they not see that I was dealing with a moron who probably didn’t even have a high school diploma?
“That’ll be a cheeseburger, medium fries, and what would you like to drink?”
“Nothing! No ketchup, extra mustard, and no salt on the fries.”
“A drink comes with the value meal, and it’s a better deal because…”
“Just give me the freaking cheeseburger and fries!”
“That’ll be four seventy-nine, ma’am, at the first window.”
I glared at the black sports car that shot into the pick-up window lane when it was clearly my turn. Even liberal use of the horn failed to shame the driver. When I pulled up to the window, a pimply-faced boy handed me a slim paper bag and took my credit card.
“Give me some salt, please,” I barked. The boy looked confused but rummaged for a few white salt paper packets before sliding the window open again and handing the salt to me.
If you ask for fries without salt, you get freshly made ones. Little secret.
“Hey, Victoria.” Before I could get the door properly open, soft insistent fur entwined itself around my legs. “Hungry? Me, too.”
I set my warmish food on the kitchen counter and shucked off my leather jacket. It was later than usual.
“Mreow,” Victoria scolded me, her green-flecked eyes watching my every move. When I wanted to pet her, she had no time for me. When I just wanted to get myself something to eat, she stuck closer than a wedgie.
“You don’t care about me at all, do you?” I reached down to rub the back of her head. “I’m just a great big can opener with legs, isn’t that right? If something happened to me, all you’d do is find some better owner who fed you more regularly. Great big furball.”
“Mrrreow!” Victoria insisted, and I slid her can of Gravy Lover’s Fancy Feast underneath the electric opener.
“What do you feel like today? French fries? Too bad. They’re just for me.” I dumped half of the can of wet, stinky mush onto her plastic cat-food dish decorated to look like an open book. My best friend Sara said that Victoria read more than I did.
Instantly, a black blur darted toward the food and a pink tongue lapped delicately. Honestly, my cat eats better than I do. I washed my hands, made a face at the cat who was too good for me, and headed to the living room. If I opened the paper bag all the way, I could use it for a placemat and save having to wash dishes later. I clicked the television on, scanned through the channels, and settled on a DVR of my favorite soap opera. Warden had just declared his undying love for Sephora, but Warden’s long-lost evil twin Engster had knocked him unconscious in order to cash in on their also long-lost billionaire father’s inheritance. Sephora was set to meet Warden at a local bar to celebrate their engagement, but Engster had told Warden yesterday that he would kidnap Sephora today.
It might be trashy, but it sure was fun.
Plus, secretly it reassured me that my writing was quite brilliant.
“No, Sephora!” I shouted at the screen as I dunked a fry into the ketchup I’d squirted onto the unfolded cheeseburger wrapper. “It’s not Warden! Don’t go with him into the car!”
Halfway through, Victoria strolled through the room. I leaned over to pick her up, but she skittered out of my reach.
“Come here, you dork!” I ordered. “You’re not fulfilling your end of the bargain. You’re supposed to love me unconditionally.”
Victoria sniffed. Should have gotten a dog, I thought to myself as Victoria vaulted into the shadows of the hallway. Probably to hide under the furthest corner of my bed, as usual. Sometimes I wonder what her previous owner did to her. Why did she hate people so much? I guess she’s just a cat.
If I could do it over again, I’d come back to life as a cat.
The phone rang, and all of the seven words not fit for public consumption flew through my mind. I checked the black-rimmed clock on my wall. Yep. Five-thirty.
“Spring!” came the querulous greeting. “Why don’t you ever call me?”
I tossed a now-tasteless fry back onto the pile of empty cheeseburger wrapper and ketchup packets. Ketchup belongs on fries, not cheeseburgers.
“Lovely to talk to you too, Ma.”
“Is it really that much to expect you to call once in a while? My back aches like you wouldn’t believe, and your father refuses to take me to the doctor.”
“You can drive yourself, Ma.” I set the rest of the cheeseburger down, too. Maybe I should pick off the cheese to serve as an accompaniment to the daily dinner whine.
“You know how the traffic rattles me! I could never…”
That I did know. The few times that Dad hadn’t been able to drive, the three of us kids had held onto the car door handles for dear life. They were the only times that Summer hadn’t gotten huffy about wearing a seatbelt. Ma didn’t believe that traffic rules applied to her but that everyone else needed to follow them.
“So what’s it today?” I broke in. Dad’s flatulence? Their neighbor’s child who had the cheek to leave her tricycle too close to the invisible boundary between their lawns? Please let it not be a migraine. Migraines are contagious, at least if the migraine-ee is your mother.
“My head is killing me. I said we shouldn’t have pancakes and that it would put me over the edge, but your father insisted. I told him I did the cooking for how many?forty-six years. It’s his turn now.”
I’m not always certain that the parent who suffers from headaches is my mother.
“Gotta go, Ma. Deadline on Monday.”
“What, you don’t have time for your mother? I changed your diapers, gave up everything for you…and what happened to Sean? I thought you two were finally going to give me a wedding.”
“Ma! I said not to talk about him any more!”
“It’s not like I’m getting any younger, you know. Am I going to get any grandchildren before I die?”
It’s a good thing that my mother lives three hundred miles away. It’s a bad thing that phone companies no longer charge extra for long-distance calls.
“For crying out loud, Ma, ask Autumn. She’s the one who got divorced. Bug her about giving you grandkids. And it’s not like you don’t adore Kayley, either.”
Summer, the baby of the family, had managed to finally outdo both of us by successfully getting married and producing a child. Thank goodness she did because my mother just might have died from guilt otherwise.
Not her guilt. The guilt she so generously passed on to us.
“Kayley never calls me any more. Getting too big and more interested in her own friends…”
“Ma, she’s twelve. She’s supposed to have friends.” I flicked the French fry crumbs with my fingernail. “Look, I gotta go. Merry’s gotten this new hotshot editor who says she needs a synopsis by Monday.”
“I told you yesterday. When are you going to get a real job? Frank saw on TV the other day that you can become a dental hygienist and make good money. You should give it a try.”
I picked up the cheeseburger wrapper and crinkled it right next to the receiver. Crackle. Crackle. “We’re breaking up, Ma. I’ll talk to you later. Bye!”
I slammed the phone down with relief.
Maybe I would write my great American novel about mothers who drive their children crazy.