"She's going to be okay. We have to believe that."
Seth McKinnon raised his head, eyes weary with the strain of heartbreak and lack of sleep and just stared blankly at his girlfriend, Jamie Simmons. He couldn't muster his normal grin. He just shrugged, shook his head, and looked back at the hospital bed.
"She's so small. It's not fair, Jamie. It's just not fair."
Jamie laid her hand on his shoulder, squeezing hard. He placed his hand over hers, wondering how she could bear to stand, how she found the strength to not fall down at the sight of Brooklyn, their three-year-old daughter, lying in the hospital bed.
"I can't go."
"I can't, Jamie, I can't."
She pulled a chair over and sat next to him. "Seth, look at me." He inclined his head but kept his eyes trained on his baby. "Seth. You've worked so long and so hard. And she's stable. The doctors say she's going to be okay. Yes, this infection was bad, but it's under control. You can do this, and you should."
He sighed, his head dropping to his chest. "If anything happened . . ."
"I will call you immediately with any change. But she's been good for a few days. The doctors are talking about releasing her in a day or two. I really think we're in the clear."
He thought for a long moment. The doctors were as positive as doctors could ever be that Brooke was going to be all right. His parents were encouraging him to go. His sisters were encouraging him to go. Hell, he'd even called and talked to his pastor, and he'd said Seth should go. "Yeah. Okay. Okay." He rose, leaned down to kiss his girl's forehead. Checking the time, he figured he had about two hours to get to San Antonio to audition for The One. He faced Jamie. "This isn't stupid, right? I'm not totally delusional for doing this?"
"Baby, you are so talented. You can do this, I know you can. We are never going to have to worry about money again because I know you are going to blow them away and win the whole thing."
He exhaled heavily. He'd be happy just working his parents' farm and playing locally a few nights a month but Jamie, stars and dollar signs in her eyes, had convinced him to audition. "Okay. Well I better get going. Text or call me, okay?
"I will. Now, go show them what a real singer is. You got this." Jamie pulled him close and he wrapped his arms around her. "I love you, baby. Go make yourself a star."
Seth kissed the top of her head, gave Brooklyn another kiss, and whispered, "Daddy loves you, baby girl. I'll be back before you know it."
He turned, not looking back because if he did, then he'd never leave. He walked out, not knowing that his life would never, ever be the same.
* * *
"This is a nightmare."
"Stella, it's not that bad."
"IT'S NOT THAT BAD?" Stella Abbot, one of Hollywood’s more popular comedic actresses who was in the midst of a paparazzi circus over her personal life, stared in disbelief at her best friend, Margot Santiago-Anderson.
"Okay, it's bad, but it's not world-ending."
Stella rubbed her temples, blinking furiously and trying to hold the tears at bay. "No. It just feels like it is."
"I know, sweetie. I know."
Her arms flailing, Stella ignored an enemy tear as it slid down her cheek. "Men are evil."
"Not Carl. But the rest? Evil."
Stella sat on her couch, eyes puffy and bloodshot from crying. Margot sat next to her with tissues in one hand, a glass of wine in another, and a box of chocolate in her lap. Margot knew how to coddle her when she needed it. The commentators rehashed—over and over—the breaking news that Jessup Altman, action movie star and her boyfriend of almost two years, had cheated on her with a model who had just graduated from high school. Jessup had then proceeded to make a sex tape with this barely legal waif that had been "accidentally" leaked. Apparently even a simple "we're over" text was too much for the dickbag . . . Her public humiliation was much easier.
Stella turned, hands clasped hopefully in front of her. "Margot? I hate men. I want to be a lesbian. Make out with me. Let's see if I can do this."
Margot snorted and leaned back. "Stop. We aren't making out. You have snot all over your face."
Stella waved her arms wildly. "That's called romance in the movies."
"It's called disgusting no matter who you are or what you're doing."
"I think kissing me would be delightful. Apparently Jessup, that small-tooled tool, doesn't agree. Oh my god! What if I'm an awful kisser? You have to kiss me now so I know if I suck or not!"
Margot gently pushed Stella away. "I'm sure you are delightful. But you haven't brushed your teeth. Or showered. Plus the snot. Plus I'm married. Plus neither of us is a lesbian. So no, I'll pass."
Stella quietly watched the headlines vilify her for being the reason Jessup had cheated on her. According to the news she was (in no particular order) too controlling, not strong enough, too interested in her own career, too clingy, too successful, not nearly successfully enough, too fat, too old . . . just too much. The bitter pill of her insecurities choked her as Stella watched Jessup, who’d always been able to sweet talk the media, comment to the paparazzi and detail her faults. Making it sound as if he’d loved her and tried to work things out with her, he listed all the reasons he’d been “forced” to look elsewhere. They happened to be all the reasons she had always feared would prevent her from finding anyone to really love her. And that bastard knew them all. She wanted to slap the smug smile off his face and kick him in his teeny-tiny nuts.
Instead, Stella turned her head into Margot's shoulder, who maneuvered quickly to put the wine and tissues down, and cried. She had worked her ass off for almost twenty years to be one of the funniest and most successful comedic actresses in Hollywood. She was strong, independent, wealthy, famous, and pretty.
She. Was. Fabulous.
And yet, here she sat: crying over a guy who didn't deserve it.
Stella sniffled loudly. "Never again, Margot. I'm thirty-five years old and I’m done with this crap. Men are good for one thing. And that's all I'm going to expect from them from now on. Assholes, the lot of them."
"You don't want to hear this, but you'll change your mind. You're only thirty-five. Someday you will find a guy who is as into you as you are into him. Don't be scared of that when it happens."
Stella grumbled, "Well I reject your ridiculously reasonable advice."
"Fair enough. Want to print out pictures of Jessup and play darts?"
Laughing, Stella sat up. "It's like you read my mind."
"That's what I'm here for, my darling."
Stella took the tissues offered by Margot and asked, "What would I do without you?"
"You will never have to find out."
Three Years Later
"Okay, Seth, you're live in five . . . four . . . three . . ." The floor manager sidled offstage, gave a silent count for the last two, and cued him to begin.
The lights were blinding, the crowd deafening, his nerves almost overwhelming. He took a breath, let it out, and closed his eyes briefly. His fingers moved over the guitar strings, and just like that, the lights were gone, the crowd gone, his nerves gone.
I can remember the way you looked that summer.
Smiles on our faces, we only needed each other.
Somehow, some way we lost our place.
I wish, how I wish, we could go back
But time moves so fast that we just can't.
Now who I am is not who I used to be . . .
Well I've learned how to live out on my own
And I know that sometimes you can't go back home
But I'll never forget what you meant to me.
So, baby, let's remember how we loved once
And try not to tear each other down.
I swear I never meant to make you cry.
But you and I . . .
We can never go back, never go back
And it's way past time we both accept that.
There is no way back to how we used to be.
I swear, I swear I'll always love you
But not in the way you need me to.
Sometimes I think of how we used to be.
Because I still remember that summer
Smiles on our faces when we only needed each other
Somehow, some way we lost our place.
As the last of the music faded away and the screams of the crowd took its place, Seth smiled and waved. "Thank you." The hundreds calling his name drowned his words, and the intensity of their cries increased when he raised his hand in farewell.
After walking off the stage, someone grabbed his guitar, someone else handed him a hot tea, another person handed him his cell phone, and two more people ushered him down the hallway toward some rear exit, all while his publicist chattered in his ear about album sales, movie and television offers, upcoming interviews and appearances, and Q Scores. When his phone buzzed and Jamie's name popped up, he almost rolled his eyes but instead just sighed internally and answered.
"Seth, you said you would call."
He nodded distractedly at his agent's urgent whispering as he tried to concentrate on Jamie. "Uh, yeah, I literally just walked off the stage."
"I know, I'm watching."
"You're lucky you caught me. Normally I'd be heading to the press room, but I've got some stuff the next few days so I'm supposed to head back to the hotel and rest."
"Yeah, I get it. You're super busy and super important."
Seth shrugged his shoulders, trying to ease the tension that inevitably developed when he spoke with Jamie. "No, that's not . . . Okay, anyway, what's going on?"
"Can I just say first that I hate that song?"
He shook his head, desperately trying to hold back a heavy sigh. "Uh, okay. Sorry? I sent you a copy before I released it."
"I know. I just . . . hate it."
"Okay, well I'm sorry you don't like it. What's up?"
"Did you get my email?"
"What? Hold on . . ." He mouthed, "I'm sorry," and held a finger up to silence his publicist. "Okay, sorry. What did you say?"
Annoyance dripped from every word. "I said: Did. You. Get. My. Email."
"Yes, Jamie, I did." His publicist started talking again as she herded him into the car waiting out back. "Look, can we talk about this in a little bit? I have this thing I have to do."
Jamie barked out a short, biting laugh. "Of course you do. You always have a thing to do. But when I need something—"
Finally, Seth could no longer choke back his annoyance. "Are you freaking kidding? Jamie, all I do, every single thing, is for Brooklyn. I'm busting my ass while you're sitting pretty in a big expensive house, driving a big expensive car, wearing expensive clothes—"
"Raising your daughter!"
Great. She'd reached the level of epically (loudly) pissed off. Seth's head fell back and he rubbed the bridge of his nose with his free hand. He gave in, as he nearly always did, and tried to placate her. "Okay, look . . . I got it. I just didn't get a chance to read it very closely. But I will. Tonight. Okay?
"I hope so because it is very important."
"Yeah, I know. Hey, is Brooke—"
"I have to go. Bye."
She hung up. He shook his head, trying to tamp down his frustration and disappointment at not speaking to Brooke, and wondered, for the billionth time, how things between them had deteriorated so much in the last three years.
Seth finally rolled his eyes at his publicist, Nadia Santiago. "Same as usual."
"Yeesh." Nadia pushed her black-rimmed glasses more firmly up her nose. "I don't know why you put up with what you do from her. She's a real bi—"
Seth held up his hand in warning. "Don't. Jamie and I might not be together anymore, but we do still have to raise Brooke together. I'm gone a lot and I'm sure it's not easy being a single mom."
Nadia laughed. "Oh, no doubt. But I'm sure the free ride you're giving her is helping an awful lot."
Seth said nothing because what could he say? Nadia was right. Winning The One had given him everything. Subsequently, it had given Jamie access to his everything. Things hadn't been the same from that point on. Jamie’s obsession with being rich, and her increasingly jealous tirades when he had to leave town to work, had caused an implosion of their relationship within a year after he’d won and Brooke had gotten better. He’d tried, desperately, to keep things civil between them. Some days were harder – way harder – than others.
"Look, I need some time, okay? Any way to clear my schedule for a few weeks?"
As Nadia enjoyed a hysterical laugh, he shook his head and looked out the window.
"You're funny. We're going to try to get you on some kind of comedy, because You. Are. Funny."
Seth turned back to her, imploring her with his eyes. "Seriously, I need some time."
"Hey, I know you're overwhelmed—"
"No. I'm not. I just need to get Jamie straightened out. And I need to see Brooke for more than a few minutes of video chatting a few times a week. I need time."
Nadia studied him for a moment, then pulled out her phone and tablet. She hemmed and clucked a few times, typed furiously a few more, then sighed heavily, then whooped in surprise and typed even more furiously. After several text exchanges she smiled and then put everything down.
"Okay, you must be the luckiest son of a bitch ever. Here's the deal: You were supposed to start filming your next movie in three weeks, in Texas, and you were going to have a few days ahead of time to chill out at home."
"Okay, I remember that."
"Good. Well, looks like the actress who was supposed to play your love interest had to, uh, take a break. Due to exhaustion."
She looked at him with glee, as if certain he knew what that meant. He shrugged. "Well . . . okay. What does that mean?"
Nadia briefly closed her eyes. "You'd think after almost three years with me, you'd know."
"I'm ashamed of my ineptitude. You can spank me later. What does it mean?"
She grinned. "It means, my dear, you may have a longer break. You have some studio work to do next week, but we can schedule that back in Texas. You have a few talk-show appearances that you can do same-day flight in and out, but other than that? You're free and clear to have two whole weeks off before filming begins and that's assuming they can find another actress to play opposite you by then. You'll have some preproduction stuff to do, but actual all-day filming will almost certainly be pushed back."
Seth grabbed one of her hands and kissed it with a flourish. "Nadia, forget everything I've ever said: I love you."
"Well, thank you . . . wait, what?"
Seth winked and leaned his head back, earbuds in as he listened to music, and tried to relax for the car ride back to the hotel. He must have dozed off because Nadia shook him awake with a "We're here" and mumbled something about photographers. When his door was opened, he made the mistake of not dropping his eyes down and was temporarily blinded by the flashes. Seth felt a familiar, momentary rising panic. Thankfully, someone had his arm so he just pulled his beanie down almost over his eyes and let himself be guided.
When they stopped, someone pulled up his beanie and Nadia stood in front of him, looking equally amused and annoyed. "You can come out now. The vultures are gone."
Seth smiled, feeling sheepish that he'd been caught hiding. "I know I should be used to it, but dammit, I'm not."
"Well if you wouldn't be so damn mysterious, they wouldn't bother you so much."
He scoffed, pulling the beanie completely off and running his fingers through his hair. "How am I mysterious? I don't date, I don't go out to bars; I work or I stay home."
He chuckled and then entertained himself by trying to see how long it took anyone to react to the increasingly ridiculous faces he was making in the mirrored walls of the elevator. Nadia, not paying attention, was on her phone—again—and the two security guys with them were remarkable at keeping straight faces. As the doors opened, one of them finally cracked a smile. Seth grinned and the guy nodded.
Nadia ushered Seth out of the elevator and across the hall to his suite. Having made sure there were no issues, their escorts took their leave after Seth forced a tip on both of them.
"You don't have to tip them."
Seth shrugged. "I feel like I do."
"Well, you don't. They make a lot of money."
"Eh, whatever. If someone tries to kidnap me, they'll stop the bad guys. Or die trying. Right?"
"Well, they'll try to stop them. Can't say they'll die doing it though. Sorry, kid."
"That's disheartening. Maybe I should go ask for my tip back."
"I'll pay you one thousand dollars if you do."
He grinned. "Never mind. I'm not that brave."
Nadia walked around the suite, checking to make sure room service had delivered the dinner she'd ordered for him from the car. "Don't blame you. Well try and relax the rest of the night. If you need something, text me. Remember, you have the morning talk show tomorrow and then studio time and then a few radio interviews I just scheduled. After that is the party at George Turing's house. I'll be here at seven in the morning to pick you up. It's gonna be a long day so rest your voice, okay?"
He saluted and winked. "Yes, boss."
"That's my boy. Okay, I'm off. I have a dinner I have to attend. Stay out of the news."
"That's what I do."
She smiled, shaking her head. "Oh, I know. Sometimes, in my weak and shameless moments, I wish you didn't."
"Well that's what happens when you get someone who hates being the center of attention for a client."
Nadia tweaked his ear as she walked past. "Yes it is. Great job picking this life as a career, by the way. Okay, have a good one."
She left and Seth finally took a deep breath. He loved Nadia and counted on her to have his back. But she was always on the move, always calculating, always planning. Always on his behalf, of course. But it was exhausting. It was also the reason he'd gone from some guy who'd won some dime-a-dozen singing show to a multimillionaire performer in two years. His phone dinged with a text from Jamie.
He shook his head but opened up his laptop to read the email she'd sent. There it was. Apparently, she wanted to make sure he had no trouble finding it because it was in his email eleven times. All but the first two had been sent in the last hour. Fun.
As you know, I am raising Brooklyn pretty much on my own. I recognize that the reason for this is that you are out in LA "working," but I'm still quite lonely. So, I'd like you to buy my parents a house closer to us. There happens to be one for sale across the street. It's perfect for them. You'll find the link to the listing below.
Also, Brooke needs more specialized education. The public school she is in is simply not meeting her needs. All the kids in the neighborhood go to a private school. It is embarrassing that she's attending public school when all her peers do not. Also, she indicated she was interested in horses. I think you should buy her one—I have a few links to some options below. You'll have to pay for boarding and training as well. Of course, she wants to continue dance but I'd like for her to have some private lessons three times a week, in addition to her two group classes. The cost for each private lesson is about $100.
And I'd like for Brooke and I to have a private tutor for Spanish and French lessons. If you're going to take us abroad, like you promised, I want to feel comfortable walking around and navigating these countries. You had mentioned Europe in the fall, after this upcoming movie is done filming. She and I will need new clothes for that.
Also, my Mercedes sedan simply isn't big enough. I'd like to give it to my parents and get a Mercedes SUV. According to the dealer, we can get a new one for less than $100 grand.
Seth stopped reading at this point and leaned back against the couch. He couldn't even process the list of demands in this email, which went on for several more paragraphs. His phone dinged again and he knew he had to respond. Without looking at the newest text, Seth dialed Jamie's number.
"Finally. So when will I hear from the accountants?"
He winced at her abrasive tone. "Jamie. Come on. I'm willing to talk about some of these things, but Jesus."
"What? I'm not being unreasonable—"
Seth took a silent breath, knowing it would be a struggle to keep his annoyance out of his voice. It was rare he told her no, but she was majorly overreaching with this one. "Uh, yeah. You are. I'm willing to discuss private school and dance lessons. I'll even talk about the language lessons, although if she's not getting that at a private school, then that's pretty shitty. Of course she can have new clothes. And yes, you can get some clothes as well. I have horses at my parents', so I don't need to buy her one. If she wants lessons, I know several people who will give them to her. I'm not buying your parents a house—I haven't even bought my parents a house. And if you want to trade in your car for an SUV, that's fine. But again, I'm not giving your parents that car and then buying you a hundred-thousand-dollar truck. It's just not happening."
She was speechless for a moment.
But only a moment.
"Unreal. I care for her day in and day out—"
"Jamie. You have two nannies. You don't work anymore. She's in full-day kindergarten so she's gone six or seven hours out of the day. You rarely cook. You rarely clean. I pay for everything. Plus I give you five thousand dollars a month in support. And before you go off, I'm happy to. I want you and Brooke to have a good life, the best life I can give you. But come on."
"You just don't understand. Every day I worry that she's going to get sick again. And I have to deal with that all by myself. I just want my parents here to help. And if they are here, then we don't need the nannies. And that's why I want to give her all of these things . . . because I'm afraid that if she does gets sick again, she won't have the chance."
Seth closed his eyes, his head hanging back off the couch. He hated to talk about Brooke’s illness, but he did understand. He felt the same way, which was why he was so extravagant with the girls, despite his business manager's, lawyer's, and Nadia's concerns that Jamie was taking him for a ride. It was times like this when she sounded like his Jamie, when everything in her life was about Brooklyn, that he remembered why he'd loved her so. And times like this were when he wanted to give her everything she asked for, and more.
"Okay, Jame. Okay. Your parents can move in with you. It's a seven-bedroom house, there's plenty of room. But I'm not taking them to Europe. And I'm not giving them the car. Brooke can take horseback riding lessons. I'll even talk about buying her a horse later. I'll have someone look into private schools. Go ahead with the private dance lessons. Will that do for now?"
She was silent, again.
But again, not for long.
"Yes. I'm sorry. I'm just . . . sorry. Will we see you soon?"
Her words, small and sad, made him feel smaller and sadder. He'd loved her so fiercely not too long ago, and the memory of that tightened like a vise around his heart.
"Yes, Jame. I'll be around soon. Is Brooke there?"
"Yes, but she's asleep . . . but I guess I can wake her?"
"No, no. Don't do that. Just give her a kiss from me and I'll call tomorrow before she leaves for school."
Silence. Heavy, emotional silence. Silence weighted down with the memory of their love broken apart piece by piece.
Seth shifted restlessly. "Uh, do you need anything else?"
"No. I'm okay. I guess I'll talk to you later?"
"Yeah, okay. Night, Jame."
"Good night, Seth."
He shook his head as he hung up. It wouldn't exactly be a good night, but it would be a productive one. He pulled out a pad of paper and started writing. Good thing he had an album to record.
"I feel like my boobs are incredible in this dress. So is my ass. All we need to do is hide my gut and we are good to go."
"Stella, you're crazy—you look awesome, head to toe. Okay, neck to toe. Okay, neck to ankles. Your hair and your hobbit feet are gross."
Stella turned one way, then the other, studying her reflection. "Maybe that's the look I was going for. Hobbit chic."
"Well, you've nailed it."
"Perfect. Um, is that your phone?"
Margot looked around, shuffling through the piles of dresses and shoes, and finally dug out her phone. Once Stella figured out that Margot was talking to her sister Nadia, she tuned the conversation out. Since she'd first met Margot in an Intro to Theater class at UCLA nearly twenty years ago, she'd become infinitely acquainted with the general tone of the Santiago sisters' interactions.
Stella laughed as Margot hung up. "I don't even have to listen to you guys anymore to know that Nadia wants you to do something you can't or don't want to do."
Margot sighed. "Yep. This time it's not that I don't want to, but I have this dinner party with Carl tonight so I can't."
"Ah, Carl and his scintillating dinner parties."
Margot flopped down on the settee. "Yep and lucky me for having the honor of accompanying him. Sometimes I wonder what he'd do if I started working with Nadia full-time again and made him go with me to industry dinners."
Stella snorted as she held up another dress to her front, made a gagging noise, and tossed it aside. She collapsed on a chair opposite Margot. "Carl is awesome, but something tells me he would be less awesome if that happened. Besides, if you worked for her full-time instead of just writing press releases sometimes, you'd have less time to do things like aimlessly hang out with me."
"How true, how true. Stella?"
"Please, knees together. We are practicing being a lady."
Stella snapped her legs together. "Ugh, fine. What did sister dearest want?"
"She wanted me to go with her to George Turing's dinner party. But I can't, like I said."
Stella bolted up, eyes wide, hands flailing. "George Turing? The producer George Turing?"
"Why, she asks. She asks why. WHY DO YOU THINK?"
"No, Stella. No. Absolutely not, no."
"Please, please, please, Margot! Please! I've been trying to get face time with him for-freaking-ever." Stella fell to her knees, hands clasped beseechingly in front of her. "Please. I beg of you, on my knees! Please!"
"Say please one more time."
"I hate you."
"Seriously, why do you need the intro?"
Stella shrugged, one hand circling the air aimlessly. "Apparently a popular TV show, several hit movies, and just being one of the funniest damn women in the business aren't enough. Therefore, I need the intro. I'm your Cuba. You're my Jerry. SHOW ME THE MONEY!"
"I don't think that analogy applies. Also, it's weird. Don't use it again. But fine. Get up. You're going to ruin the dress."
"I am. Good grief." She dialed Nadia back, and after several minutes of bargaining, Margot gave Stella a thumbs-up and hung up. "Done. You owe me. I made her a promise you wouldn't embarrass her."
Stella snorted. "Well, that's unfortunate for you."
"Fine. I'll be good."
The relief in Margot's voice couldn't be denied. "Thank you."
Stella waved her hand in lazy circles. "Ish."
"Ish. I'll be good-ish."
Margot rubbed her temples. "Oh god, you're going to be ridiculous."
Stella absentmindedly examined her nails as she asked, "I'm sorry, have you met me?"
"Well, I guess there's no stopping you."
Margot stood and started sorting through the piles of clothes in their dressing room. "At least we can make you look like lady."
"I am a lady."
"Are you going to wax your legs and underarms?"
Stella looked at herself in the mirror, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "I'm. Not. Sure."
"Yes, case in point. You are absolutely a lady."
Stella stood and curtsied. "I am, thank you."
"You have to wax."
"Hmmm . . ."
Rolling her eyes, Stella clapped her hands over her ears. "Stop yelling at me. I'm sensitive. Of course I'll do something."
"Thank god. Now what are you going to wear?"
"I have no idea . . ." Stella swiveled her head around the dressing room, slightly frantic.
"You've been to industry parties before."
Stella started to pace, gesturing more and more wildly as she lapped the room. "Yes, true. But normally I'm not trying to seriously impress anyone. What should I wear? What's the dress code? Oh god, it's not a black and white party, is it? Because black makes me look like I'm auditioning for the newest vampire movie and white is just so not okay because I will spill everything on me."
"It is not a black and white party. It is a cocktail party. So you should wear a dress, probably. A knee-length one." Margot rifled through the dresses on the rack, as well as many on the floor.
"Not yellow. Or green. Or brown. Or grey. Or—"
"Shut up. Here."
Stella took the dress from Margot. "Well, wow. This looks lame."
"Try it on. It's one of those dresses that have no hanger appeal."
"Very few size fourteen dresses have hanger appeal."
"Just try it on."
She shimmied into it and adjusted certain parts so they were lifted up where they should be. Then turned to the mirror.
"Yes, girl. Damn."
She was the sexiest thing that had ever walked the planet—voluptuous, sensuous, and provocative. The things she didn't like about her body were framed and molded and the things she loved about her body were highlighted and accentuated. All she saw were soft, sweet curves, bright eyes, and long legs.
"Okay. I want ten of each color of this dress because I am never taking it off. Why did I not try this on first? Instead, it was all that crap on the floor."
"Because I asked you to try it on first and you refused. Because you're an ass. Now, this is definitely the one. But you have to take it off. So . . . take it off."
After slipping it off and putting her street clothes on, Stella left the dressing room with Margot in tow. A salesclerk appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
"Miss Abbot? Did you find that to your liking?"
"Wow! Geez! You guys just pop up out of nowhere, don't you?