Lacy Camey’s The Last Page:
Here’s the set-up:
Norah Johnson is at a crossroads and is in desperate need to heal after a highly publicized breakup from her major league baseball player boyfriend. To escape, she moves to her summer home at the beach with her sister and best friend where she journals, attends therapy and works on her pending clothing line. When a gorgeous stranger finds her lost journal, he seeks to find the author and make her fall in love with him. But is Norah ready to love again? Book 1 in the romantic comedy trilogy of living, loving, and laughing again; a Norah Johnson story.
The author hopes you will enjoy this free excerpt:
My hands shook as I took a deep breath and exhaled. I studied myself in the elaborate, gold mirror hanging on the ivory Mediterranean stone. On any other night, I would have contemplated the stone, estimated the amount of square feet, and judged how nice it might look in the boutique that I was eagerly waiting to open. Or, how amazing the mirror, perhaps full-length, would look in the beautiful, totally chic dressing rooms I envisioned for my future customers.
But my mind was preoccupied.
I looked hot. My brown, silky hair hung in nice, loose waves past my shoulders. My jaw-dropping, black strapless dress-my design-with ruffled detailing at the chest and gathered seams over my tanned skin, and Christian Louboutin heels-I’ll own up to it-made me look like a ten. I’m not a conceited person; I’m just letting you know, I put every effort into ensuring that I looked my absolute best, like any woman would out there trying to win Miss U.S.A. or The Bachelor.
This was a life-changing, pivotal moment. Since I was dealing with a man, the man I loved, the man I wanted to win back, I had to lay all my cards on the table, and I had a royal flush!
Did I mention the dress was formfitting? More like the painted-on kind, yet it was chiffon. No one had a dress like mine. I could hear Jennifer Aniston calling me in the future, wanting the dress for her next movie premiere.
But this time, no matter how good I managed to look even in my own prize-winning design that had landed my current career lead, the biggest lead of my life, I couldn’t calm my nerves even by reminding myself of this amazing accomplishment, one that I definitely did not take lightly.
My nausea made me feel like I was about to perform or give a speech in front of the whole world. I felt like I would vomit any minute! Gross, but that’s my nerves for you. On cue, my mouth started watering, and I knew what that meant-the inevitable would soon follow.
But I couldn’t throw up! Not here. Not now. I took a deep breath and blew out. Closing my eyes, trying to pull it together, I imagined standing on the beaches of… somewhere, Tahiti maybe, although I’d never been there.
I needed to be confident. I am confident.
I needed to pull it together. I can pull it together.
“Pull it together, Norah. Pull it together,” I told myself. Thank goodness, no one else was in the ladies’ room to witness that.
Even with all the energy I could muster, and despite my self-affirming pep talk, I still felt wobbly. I leaned forward against the cold granite. It felt warm against my cool, sweaty palms.
I could do this. I had to do this.
As if a bell from Pavlov’s experiment had rung, I snapped back to reality and looked down into my black Prada clutch in search of my lipstick.
Shimmery? Or sultry red? If I wore shimmery, I’d look relaxed, tanned, and glamorous. If I wore sultry, I’d…
With the thought of sultry, my soul filled with indignant anger at the thought of his sultry seducer, and the fact that she was in the other room. It was all her fault. She was the reason it had ended, the reason I was here in the bathroom in freezing February.
I’ll wear shimmery, I decided.
If this were a movie, you would hear the Ting Ting’s playing, Shut Up and Let Me Go, as I exited, confident, with the footsteps of a determined lioness on a mission. Except, I was thinking, ‘Please don’t let me go. Just shut up and listen and let her go.’
I rehearsed my lines.
“Truett, it’s me. Hi… I know.”
Lame. Of course, it would be me.
“Truett, don’t ask me why I’m here. I forgive you. We can be together.”
I needed to hurry because, standing ten feet in front of me, was… him.
His tall, muscular build fit nicely in an Armani suit. I saw the back of his tanned neck. I felt like I might faint.
Yes, I saw friends trying to warn him of my approach.
Yes, I heard the few rehearsal dinner guests seated at their lavish tables whispering as they took notice of my appearance, along with a few clanks of forks against china plates. The bride, Alicia, was greeting an elderly couple, and luckily God answered my prayers; she didn’t see me. She was as fake as ever. Couldn’t anyone else see through her façade? The fact that she was clearly using Truett’s fame for her instant acting career stardom?
But I knew everyone would soon find out. After, of course, she delivered their baby and joined Tracy Anderson Method workouts.
I saw Truett’s parents and made eye contact with his father; he looked white as a ghost and dropped his wine glass. The swing band and commotion of the excited guests were graciously loud enough, however; no one heard or thought twice about the breaking of the crystal.
Kind of like the way Truett couldn’t care less about the breaking of my heart.
But alas, there he was. There was my goal, the back of a man in a black suit. My bullseye.
One of his genius friends coughed under his breath, “Johnson at six o’clock.”
Another stretched, as he pointed and whispered, “Dude, you won’t believe who’s behind you.”
Then, as if in slow motion, he turned around. I had dreamt of this moment, of him seeing me, saying how fabulous I looked, of me sweeping him off his feet. But that wasn’t the reaction I received.
He cursed. And cursed loudly.
“What are you doing here, Norah?” Before a giant scene could be made, he grabbed me by the arm. Of course, not in a gentlemanly gesture, but more like a reproach of a mother grabbing her seven-year-old by the ear for back talking-and led me to the side of the white tent. Away from the heaters. Away from the few guests who had begun to take notice of Truett’s sudden change in demeanor.
His groomsmen, thank God, had some common sense and tried to block us from the nosy audience. But honestly, I really didn’t care who else saw me there. They all knew the story. If they’d experienced what I had, they would be there, too. Maybe.
“Are you trying to sabotage my rehearsal dinner? I’m getting married tomorrow.” He crossed his arms and let out an irritable, “Geez, you have some nerve.”
Then he began to pace, unable to stand still. He always did that when he didn’t want to think about the problem at hand.
I reached out to stop him and, as my hand touched his arm, he flinched. He closed his eyes and sighed annoyingly. “Well, what do you want, Norah?”
What do I want? I want you! I want us together again.
But standing there, staring into his cold, hardened eyes, I felt like an alien had abducted the man who used to love me, an alien from the used-to-be planet of Pluto, because it was the coldest one. His heart was clearly frozen, iced over. Feeling nothing. Looking at me as if I were the antichrist or something.
He was so different from the Truett I knew. He loved me. He was enamored with me. In the four years we dated, he never acted as if I annoyed him. He was clearly under a witch’s spell.
Everything in me wanted to rip him to shreds and claw his eyes out. The fire in my chest felt like heartburn, as if I was about to have an anxiety attack. But practice and rehearsing paid off. So my rehearsed speech, which my best friend in the world, Chloe, who was waiting in the car for me had heard me say over and over, went to good use.
Be calm, collected, my subconscious reminded me.
I will appear calm and collected. He will remember what he loved about me, that I had class, and I was always collected. I would appear as if nothing fazed me. It was me, not her, who would be the perfect, overly-exposed wife of a mega-athlete superstar.
And on that note, I was ready to say it. I lifted my chin with perfection.
“Truett, I forgive you,” I said ever so tenderly, yet matter-of-factly.
“What?” he asked, irritated. “You forgive me?” He laughed an utterly horrific, patronizing laugh. As I stood there, my insides screamed for me to stay composed.
I felt as if I was in a presidential debate and the ugliest jab had been thrown, yet I remained unfazed. So I continued with my mission.
“Look, please don’t marry her. You’ll make the biggest mistake of your life.”
He put up his hands in protest. I could tell I was running out of time, so I quickly got to the most important part.
“I forgive you. We can work on us. We can make us work. You don’t have to marry her just because she’s pregnant.”
Now this was the part where the beautiful music was supposed to start playing, like in the movies. Perhaps Coldplay’s Fix You, where his eyes were supposed to fill with tears, and he would open his arms and embrace and kiss me, telling me I was right. That he was glad I came. That he had been praying to God all day for a sign because of his own apprehensions, showing he was supposed to be with me.
Then we would leave together as the entire wedding party and guests watched in aghast bewilderment.
If only life were like the movies. Let me be the screenwriter.
Before I could even get to the good part and tell him, “Listen, she’s using you. Don’t you know anything about her? Don’t you know this, don’t you know that?”
He bluntly said, “No, Norah.” He said it sharply like someone would say if they were a prime candidate for anger management counseling. “You made the mistake by walking out on me when I needed you most to go to Milan.”
“But I didn’t walk-”
He didn’t want to hear it. It was too late.
“Get her out of here,” he said to Lewis, the Yankee’s second basemen. He turned back to me. “Get out of here, because if you don’t leave-”
Suddenly, that little piece of me that lurked deep inside in that little corner crevice of my heart, that piece that so wanted to give him a piece of my mind, suddenly came unfolded.
“If I don’t leave, then what?” Okay, my plan of remaining calm and cool went out the window. Suddenly, everyone in the room, as if they were all a part of a rehearsed, synchronized swimming team, placed their forks and drinks down and looked my way. I felt as if I were in the Twilight Zone. And for crying out loud, the band even stopped playing!
You could have heard a cricket.
My question sat in the thick, quiet air waiting to be answered. Angrily, he turned and walked away. He snapped his fingers, and the band began to play again. People whispered. Picture phones snapped. Paparazzi hiding in the bushes flashed their hot bulbs at me.
And with that, I was escorted from the premises. As I walked away, my heart pounded with adrenaline. The man I loved with my whole heart, the man I was supposed to marry, the man I was supposed to build a fairy-tale life with-we were supposed to be the next Posh and David Beckham!-had left me for another woman, a pregnant woman.
I was left to pick up the broken pieces of my seemingly never-ending broken heart, as the rest of the country had the lovely privilege of reliving my awful breakdown on TMZ, E!, US Weekly, and every other media outlet. And I felt like I had nowhere to hide.
Then, I woke up.
But it wasn’t all a dream. I awakened with my head pounding and spinning. Where was I? It all felt blurred. As I continued to lie there in the comfort of my Tempur-Pedic cloud, I knew I was either in Dubai again, or in my bedroom. My familiar alarm clock, which read 9:30 a.m. in red letters, reminded me I was home.
I was home.
I sat up slowly. I could smell the sizzling bacon I guessed my mother was making. Suddenly, I didn’t feel very well. I quickly ran to my bathroom and threw up. I wallowed my way to the sink and, as I splashed my face with cool water, Chloe entered and sat down on the toilet. Good thing she didn’t know I had just thrown up.
In her perfectly trained nurse-like way, she asked, “Are you okay? You don’t look so good. Pepto? Sprite helps. So does ginger beer. Pregnant women drink that a lot. Of course, the non-alcoholic kind. But it’s not like that matters or anything, because you’re not pregnant. So…” I watched her come to the sudden realization of saying the extremely sensitive word, pregnant. As in, Truett was marrying a pregnant woman!
“Oh, sorry. Oops.” She bit her nails, obviously wishing she could retract her words.
For a second, I felt like saying something in regards to the pregnant women drinking beer, but I just didn’t have the energy. Not only did I feel like I had been hit by a train, with my entire body aching, I felt like one must feel after competing in a triathlon-unable to move.
My mouth was parched. I opened my mouth to speak the first words of the morning, but she beat me to it.
“Your mom is bringing you a tray. We heard you get up.”
I slowly turned, leaning against the counter. Am I really awake? Did this really happen?
“It was like an elephant was stomping across the room.” As soon as she said the words, like a woman in a crazed daze, I walked back to my bed and fell facedown on the bed like a ton of bricks, sinking into the duvet.
Then, I spoke my first words of the day, or rather, screamed them in pure agony.
“He’s getting married today!” My muffled, scratchy, desperate declaration was the most pitiful thing imaginable. And then my elephant tears poured.
“Aw, Nor, I’m so sorry.” She came over and sat down to pat my back. Just then, my mom and dad walked in with a tray holding breakfast, coffee, and orange juice.
The embarrassment! Forget the day when your training bra was found, or your first box of tampons. I was crying like a second grader with a tantrum, and I was a grown woman. I did not feel like being on display!
My mom sat opposite me and ran her fingers through my hair as I continued sob. Dad set the tray on my nightstand and cleared his throat nervously. He didn’t do well with tears and hated to see any of his girls cry. He muttered under his breath about what a jerk that Truett Mason is.
“He is a jerk,” I muttered, as I rolled over and sat up. “He’s a jerk!”
“Yes,” Mom agreed. “He’s a horrible person, Norah. But we love you very much, and that man doesn’t deserve your beautiful heart.”
I looked around at the pitiful scene, Mom on one side, bestie on the other, Dad in the doorway, and for the first time, I noticed what I was wearing and how I looked-tank top and undies. Oh, no. I jumped out of bed and grabbed the robe draped over the chair next to my bed.
“We just wish you would have told us you were going, honey,” Mom said, unfazed by my lack of clothes.
I tied my robe and sat in the chair. Too dazed to even form a thought, I laid my head back and closed my eyes.
The next few months looked like this:
Wake up at, well, one or two.
Shuffle in my slippers to the coffee pot and grab a pop tart if my stomach could handle it. If not, I simply ate toast and drank Sprite. I was a ball of nerves.
Shuffle my way to couch. Cry. Moan. Watch TV.
Mom or Dad, or my sister Maycee try and make conversation with me. Say something about how pretty the day is, and maybe we should go out. Or how fabulous this new shampoo is, and maybe I should give it a try. Yeah, not washing your hair for seven days straight might attract some of those comments.
All the while, I looked like Adam Sandler in the movie, Click. I was there, but not really there. But, instead of time flying by in an instant, like it did for Adam, time dragged for me.
Chloe had to fly back home, naturally. My ten pieces for my line were due in eight more weeks, and I had nothing to show for it. I was beginning to see the need for great robes, however.
Then, my parents stepped in.
It all happened like this.
I was perfectly miserably-happy watching a Basketball Wives rerun. I think I had seen that particular episode um, maybe three times, after, of course, seeing every episode, every season, as well as every other reality show available on Bravo. As I lay there curled up in my fleece blanket, Dad took a seat in the chair next the couch.
“Sweetie, it’s time for a change.”
Like a sad dog who never got to go on walks anymore, I glanced his way, again with the Click daze. “Sweetie pie, starting next week, you’re starting therapy.”
“Therapy?” I gawked at him.
“Yes, I’m tired of seeing my bright, aspiring fashion designer so defeated. We Johnsons don’t let life get us down. Why, when I was in my fourth year residency program competing for that one spot with Dr. Chinagens, I-”
I blocked out everything he was saying and averted my eyes to the women lunching and drinking Champagne after a day’s worth of shopping. That was supposed to be my life. And I was supposed to be in the new reality show, Baseball Wives. No, that wasn’t technically a show yet, but I just knew it was the next sport franchise reality show. It had to be! At least, before Hockey Wives, or Soccer Wives. Baseball had to be next. And I was supposed to be the fabulous one with the design line, and chic boutique and…
“And that’s why Maycee had the great idea of you two living in the summer home together because, not only is it near Dr. Hood, but…” and his voice became softer and softer in my brain. I was getting good at shutting out the world. But there was only one thing I couldn’t shut out-how I felt.
Oh, wow. The women lunching were getting into a fight, and one was pouring an ice bucket over the other woman’s head. I wished I could pour an ice bucket over that scum-sucking, bottom-feeding, tramp of a woman, Alicia.
One week later.
“Why are you here, Norah? Tell me about yourself,” were his first words to me.
There I was. Vulnerable. A mess. Broken!
“Tell you why I’m here?…” I said slowly.
Let’s see…where do I even begin? Great question. Yes, I knew that was the standard question a therapist asked a new client. Before I could even answer, my memory reverted to that chilly February evening. I closed my eyes and swallowed. Even though it had been three months ago, I felt like it had just happened last night.
“Have you ever woken up and found it was all a dream?”
He nodded slowly. Yet, in that nod, I just knew he was analyzing everything.
“I just woke up from my worst nightmare, except it wasn’t really a dream. And I feel like I’ll never wake up again, per se.”
He nodded again, with great understanding.
I looked into his warm eyes. He made me feel okay. I could tell him, and he could help me. I desperately needed help. I just wanted it to all go away.
“I was on the verge of getting engaged to…”
“You’ve heard of him. Truett Mason. Pitcher for the-”
“New York Yankees,” he finished.
“Yeah.” I exhaled slowly.
“Sorry.” He cleared his throat and repositioned himself in his big leather chair. “Kind of a big fan here. Go ahead.”
Ugh! Was there anyone in the entire world who was not enamored with the illustrious Yankees or, furthermore, their star pitcher? Didn’t anyone know about his former girlfriend who practically held his entire world together for him? I knew I could keep going with my rabbit trail thoughts, so I stopped and focused.
“Listen, I’m serious. I just want to be able to trust you not to go to the media. To not-”
“Norah. Patient-doctor agreement. There is no fear of that. You can trust me.” He smiled. “Or you can sue me and make lots of money.” He leaned forward and folded his hands.
Not funny. I didn’t know what to say.
“I just…” I took another deep breath. “Want to be me again. I’ve experienced recently, let’s see… betrayal, cheating, pain, sadness, disconnect, loneliness, disappointment, not being myself, feeling stuck in a rut.” I said all of this in one giant breath, as fast as Speedy Gonzales. “Really, I’m a normal, happy, successful woman.” I smiled my charming, plastered smile.
Again, that nod. What was it with therapists and nods? I hated silence so I continued, “I’ve been to Milan for an extensive, elite, completely exclusive fashion internship. I’m about to launch my own line because of that internship, well, after I show my financial backer the remaining ten pieces, which are not created as of now, and here I am facing this…” I searched for words to explain it.
“Massive roadblock.” I just want my broken heart to heal! I screamed inside. Just fix me already!
Gosh! This was going to be hard to explain! “I wish there was a cord you could plug into my mind and preview it all like a sitcom off of iTunes, and call it a comedy, preferably. I’m at the point where I’m ready for some comedic relief. And then be able to say, ‘And that’s why I’m here!'” I laughed nervously. Is this guy going to talk? Give me advice?
But, maybe on another planet where species are more advanced, he would have just read my mind, understood everything, and had the perfect solution for me, and so that therapy would be a one-time visit.
“Here’s what you do. Here’s how you can be yourself again. Here’s how to push the delete button from your mind and erase your awful memories.”
But who was I kidding? It’s planet Earth. We’re human. It’s 2011. Time to face reality…
And then, finally he spoke.
“You know, it’s okay. Just keep talking. You don’t have to tell me everything at once,” he explained.
For the next two hours, I tried my absolute best to relay to him everything. Afterward, he gave me gentle instructions to journal every day, take walks, and relax.
I replied, “But I can’t relax, I have this line I’m supposed to produce. My entire career hangs on it.”
“I understand,” he said kindly.
Uh, he understands what a line involves? Designing, creating, sewing, cutting, stitching, working. Functioning!
“The important thing is for you to take the pressure off. From what it sounds like to me, you’ve worked hard all four years in college, worked even harder in this internship, and endured a life-changing crisis. Your heart is broken; now you need to heal. Part of healing is simply resting. Think of this as healing after an open-heart surgery. What does one do? One doesn’t overly exert themselves. So my order for you for the next couple of weeks is journal, walk, relax, do something new, watch your favorite movies, and just relax.”
Um, one also doesn’t deserve this awful pain.
Just relax? Does he know my personality? Does he know about my career?
As if he could read my thoughts, he added, “Often, our best ideas come to us out of a rested soul.”
A rested soul. Not heart, but soul. So I was supposed to heal my heart and let my soul rest? Isn’t my heart my soul? I furrowed my brows in confusion. I’m not a dense person, but couldn’t one just heal without getting all philosophical and multi-dimensional?
“We are beings composed of mind, body, and spirit. Each component works in unison to create optimum harmony in one’s health. We need balance in all three,” he continued, as the perfect therapist would say. I wondered how many times he had told his patients that. Considering his gray hair, his robust belly, his classic sweaters, and the pictures of children and what seemed to be grandchildren on his shelves, I guessed he had said it thousands of times.
“Yeah, about that. Is there like some sort of special happy pill I can take?” I smiled with all the charm I could muster.
He laughed genuinely, then swiveled around in his chair and pointed to the vast collection of diplomas and awards hanging on his wall. “As you can see, I’m a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. Besides that, I tend to lean on more of the holistic side of healing and treatments.”
He turned back around. “Trust me. You’re in good hands. You’re in a good place. You being here. You being at the summer home with your sister. You have great support. You’re going to do just fine. More than fine. You’ll see.”
I had been living in the summer home for two weeks, and it wasn’t too bad. It was actually a progression, as I went from the sliding around in my slippers to flopping around in Tory Burch flip-flops.
I had my thrice-weekly sessions with Doctor Hood, and was reminded again to journal constantly and to take walks. But still, no matter how beautiful it looked outside, I found myself feeling lackadaisical about walking and exercising as Dr. Hood had suggested. I just felt like doing nothing, extremely not like me!
In college, I had been extremely athletic and always on the go. Of course, I had been extremely a lot of things pre-heart wound, pre-open heart surgery.
And I was reminded again to try something new, which was something I hadn’t done yet, but was planning on doing. And lastly, I was told to, oh, to love myself.
To love myself.
“Of course, I love myself,” I told Doctor Hood in one of my sessions when he had asked if I loved myself. But as I said those words, I knew I was struggling with the thought, “Why did the man I loved, my soul mate, cheat on me with such a skank?” Yes, I guess such thoughts can wreak a little havoc on one’s self esteem, more than one realizes. Yes, I guess Dr. Hood had his PhD for a reason. He could psychoanalyze, but not give me medicine. Oh, well. I did love myself, but I could love myself a lot more, considering the circumstances.
Anyway, I had to journal. And journaling, really journaling, required being alone with my thoughts.
The last thing I needed was to be alone. Yet I had to be alone to write and “think about my feelings.” Now, this absolutely did not make sense to me. Why think about feelings more than I already had to feel them? But, I desperately wanted to heal and move on, so I was doing everything Dr. Hood had told me to do. Maycee and I had already watched like fifteen movies. I was actually getting my color back from laying out in the sun. But there was an aching feeling in the pit of my stomach about the last pieces of my fashion line that were due in seven short weeks. Our giant sitting room, surrounded on three sides with floor-to-ceiling glass, had been hijacked by every fashion magazine imaginable, as well as my sketches, fabric pieces, the sewing machine, my empty coffee mugs-that is, the coffee mugs Maycee overlooked when she tried to clean. She was such a neat freak, and it drove her crazy that the room was so messy. But she never said anything to me. She already felt too sorry for me-a card I might use a few more times with her.
The only problem with such a messy room was trying to keep it off limits to the adorable puppy my insightful parents, who seemed to be always ten steps ahead, had bought for me in an effort to raise my spirits. Did I mention the puppy was a little high-maintenance? Yeah, just a tad. She was beautiful, though, a Teacup Pomeranian, who chewed everything. All of my heels were on lockdown. I put up a giant makeshift safety gate to keep Coco out of the most important room in the house, my creating room. That was after she almost destroyed a dress I was working on. But, the little tear she chewed in it actually worked out for the better, giving the dress a more eclectic character. I decided maybe she liked fashion. So, I spent an entire day-yes, instead of journaling, or walking, or working on my creation, or trying something new-sewing her the most perfect little doggie outfit. No one would look as fabulous as Coco. She wore doggie couture. I guess you could say that was something new. Doggie Couture. Maybe that counts.
After I made her first outfit, I decided to make a few more, as well as a luxury dog bed, one covered in silk. It was just so much fun. It was effortless. The hours flew by as I listened to music, harmonizing with the hum of my sewing machine. I had an energy to create, but to create for my dog, not my nine remaining pieces.
That wasn’t like me. I normally had things done ahead of time, way ahead of time. I had practically half a year to prepare my line, ever since I had come home from Milan. But considering the circumstances, I was slightly sidetracked. I had a plan, though. I would create two fabulous pieces each week for five weeks, then have the remaining week to modify.
It would all work out.
Since Maycee was off for the summer from teaching, her days were pretty methodical. Get up, breakfast, lay out in the sun, read, come in, eat, go out and tan, read, run, write on her iPad, check on me, eat, then we would watch a movie while I interjected with sobs, comments about the jerk in the movie, or the horrible cheater. Then I would rant about how all women should just join a union or something against cheaters. I was seriously super close to calling Elin Woods or starting a YouTube Channel-Women Unite against Male Athlete Cheaters. All the while, my wonderful sister never told me to stop feeling or stop saying anything. She would just smile and pat my feet, as we kept watching whatever it was we were watching.
Yes, I know. I had a great support system. I was truly thankful.
Sister, cute dog, summer home… oh, and my parents came by a few times a week with tons of food, still concerned about the weight I had lost when I literally couldn’t stomach anything besides toast, saltine crackers, and Sprite. But, hey! I was gaining it back.
Things got a lot better one morning.
There I was, up early, trying to journal since I had kept putting it off with puppy duty, sewing, sketching, and watching movies. It was the day before my next session with Doctor Hood, and I had nothing written in my journal to show him. I was tempted to Google “journal entries to show therapist” because I didn’t want to feel. Finally, I decided to get down to business and write. Live with Regis and Kelly was on the TV, with Nick Lachey as the guest host, since Regis was on vacation. Kelly was asking her energetic questions, the ever-so-perfectly-enunciated-word-questions, like, “So-is-this-your-first-marathon?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “It served as great inspiration for my latest album. I-”
I need inspiration for my line! I whined inside. My anxiety grew, and I started sketching a dress in my journal.
Maycee walked in and poured a bowl of cereal.
“Oh, he’s so hot!” she observed, as she leaned against the counter.
“Yeah, I miss Jessica and Nick!” I said sadly, as I worked on the sketch of a strapless dress.
“Yeah, but I love her with Eric Johnson. He seems like he’s always protecting her in the pictures, and they just seem like more of a match. They seem like companions. Maybe soul mates!” Maycee shrugged and dropped her spoon in her bowl. The clank was loud.
“You know, that’s exactly what I need!” Her face was bright, excited.
“You need an Eric Johnson?”
“No silly. Norah, that’s it. We’re running a marathon. You see-”
Uh, oh. I knew what this meant.
“No, no, no,” I replied, in uneasy protest that escalated to a stammering absolute,
“No! I’m supposed to walk, not run! Dr. Hood said-”
“Exactly! Aren’t you ready to take long strides and heal? Running will speed up the process!”
I shook my head. Was she trying to use psychology on me? Because it was working. I was actually considering it.
“I’ve got to get my books out to my agent this summer. Running will shake up my brain! I haven’t done something like this in years, not since I went hiking in Costa Rica in college.” Her eyes went to the ceiling. “I miss adventure,” she said, like an old person missing the good old days. With finality, she added, “Let’s do it. You’re doing it.”
I don’t have a choice, I realized. When my sister said I was doing something, it always meant I was going to do it.
It was a trend set early in my life. I was four. She was seven. She wanted to play dress up, be in a play, do this, do that; I was always drawn in. I didn’t mind it. I actually liked her initiative. Life with my sister was like an adventure. That was why she was so proud of me when I went to Milan on my internship, because it was such an adventure.
I remember sharing my excitement with her when I found out I got in, a spot among the chosen twelve from thousands of other applicants across the world.
“Oh. My. Gosh. I’m so inspired to write a novel about this. I’m so coming for research,” she had said. New adventures always inspired her. That was one reason why I thought her being there for the summer with me was almost as beneficial for her as it was for me. She hadn’t pushed out a book in three years. She was a New York Times best-selling author. I knew deep down that what kept her mentally and creatively blocked was that blood-sucking boyfriend of hers, Josh. No, he wasn’t a vampire. He couldn’t hold a candle to Edward Cullen, but he did have the pale part down and could seriously benefit from a nice spray tan. He also wore the solemn, blank stare all the time. I guessed that was compliments of a doctor’s residency program, our father’s residency program. I always speculated that there was something fishy with that, like maybe he was using my sister, but I could never tell her that.
“Yes,” She interrupted my train of thought.
Oh, she agrees? He is a blood-sucking vampire? He is just using you for his residency spot with dad?
“Yes, we’re running. I’m looking it up right now!” She left to get her iPad. Her voice echoed down the hall. As I watched her leave, her blond ponytail bounced back and forth. I admired her silk pajama shorts with fuchsia flowers and realized three things: I love silk; my sister is perfect. Like she needs to run. And three, I seriously hoped it would rain so there would be no running!
Or would that last part even alter the plans? My sister would probably want to run in the rain. Even more adventure.
Just then, our doorbell rang, and I sighed. Saved by the bell.
“Are you expecting anyone?” I yelled, as I stomped to the door. “It better not be another shamefully awful reporter!” I had had quite a few paparazzi try and follow me, but Dad had given them a piece of his mind that they would never forget, a.k.a. including the threat of not only a restraining order, but of “his people” who “knew people” who “knew people” from Jersey who would pay them a nice visit. That got them pretty quiet, fast. After that, I finally felt free from the press. No more paparazzi.
But, no. It was not a feared reporter. When I opened the door, there stood Chloe, the best girl in the entire world, besides my sister, of course.
Chloe and I were like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. We were totally twins in our sorority house at UT Austin. We were the best of friends. No, we didn’t look like twins but I swear, we knew each other’s thoughts.
She was dressed in yellow rain boots, cut-off denim shorts, a plaid shirt rolled up over her arms and belly, showcasing her perfectly tanned skin. Her auburn hair with its perfectly placed highlights tumbled down her shoulders.
I squealed with delight. “Chloe!” I hugged her. “You’re here! What the heck? And you’re in rain boots! Look at this outfit.” I laughed.
“Listen, it seriously is raining a few miles out. Heading this way, it looks like. And I was cold. And well, it’s summer, and I know it’s East Coast here, but hey, a girl just has to wear shorts when she’s worked so hard on this tan and these legs!”
“Oh, thank God,” I muttered.
“You said rain is heading this way. Thank God! Maycee wants me to train for a marathon with her. Come in, silly!” I motioned for her to come in.
She walked through the marble entryway and checked herself out in the antique mirror that covered an entire wall. “I just love antique, floor-to-ceiling mirrors.” She adjusted her flannel shirt. “Oh, marathon, huh? Guess that means I’ll be training, too,” she said in little girl fearful apprehension as she followed me to the kitchen. “Would you look at this place? Look at the view.”
Windows from floor to ceiling in the kitchen, living room, and sitting area were framed with cedar wooden beams, giving the home a French country vibe. The summer home really was a sight to new guests and even old guests, like me. I loved it and appreciated the view daily.
“Very inspirational here. I can see why you and Maycee just love being here.”
I led her to the kitchen bar, and she sat down and placed her bag next to her.
Coco ran in with the excitement of a new guest.
“Look how cute this little pup is!” She bent down to pick her up as Coco profusely licked her face. “And look at her precious collar! In calligraphy! And her adorable outfit! You have such style, Norah. Did you make this?”
“Of course.” I smiled proudly.
She touched the fabric, admiring the feel. “Is this satin?”
“Yep.” Her expression said it all. “I know, a bit overboard, but I wanted her to enjoy the soft feel. She’s my baby, after all. Girl, when I have a real child, you know she’s going to be dressed like a princess! Coco is the closest thing I have right now.”
“Wow. Well, this is impressive! Coco’s wearing Coco couture,” she said in a baby voice, and kissed Coco on the head. Coco wagged her tail harder.
“Thanks.” I smiled like a proud mother. Coco Couture. I liked it. I really felt maternal toward the little puppy, as if my life had suddenly taken on new meaning. I hadn’t taken care of an animal in years, but my heart would instantly warm just at the look of her. She needed me, depended on me, and I was determined to take the best of care of her. She was going to be the best-dressed dog in the world with my fashion designs. Funny, how when you started taking care of something, it did something inside of you.