“That was so far from awesome,” I said. The rain had stopped temporarily, but I worried about what would happen if it started pouring again. Would all of my topsoil run off into the gutters? I wished I could ask Mykia to come over, but she was fifty miles away at her farm. She would know what to do. Her men had the foresight to throw a tarp over the pile of mulch—too bad they didn’t have a supersized one to cover the whole backyard. Maybe I’d text her later, but maybe I wouldn’t. I needed to start learning things for myself if I was going to get serious about this garden. I had a date with Google later.
“You’re going to help me put the plants on the porch and at the side of the garage,” I told Trey. “Tomorrow, if the backyard dries out enough, you’re going to help me plant the tomatoes. Those we can put in rows.”
Trey made a face. “I’m going over to Colin’s tomorrow.”
“No, you’re not.”
He went silent for a moment and then said, “Fine. I’ll help you. But afterward, I’m going to Colin’s. His dad’s painted the gallery wall, and I want to hang some of my stuff.”
“What kind of stuff?” Jackie asked innocently, though I thought she’d caught the look that said, sensitive topic!
“I’m kind of into photography,” Trey answered, suddenly shy. “Wait, I am a photographer. Well, sort of. Colin’s dad said I shouldn’t belittle myself just because I’m young and lack experience. He says talented people are born that way, so technically I have a lot of experience, even though I’m not an adult.”
What a bunch of horseshit, I thought, but knew enough to keep it inside.
“He’s right about that,” Jackie said.
Trey and I responded at the same time. “He is?”
“Big Frank used to say something similar—‘fake it till you make it.’” Jackie gestured to me. “You can only fake it well if you know what you want to be.” She flashed her nicotine-stained teeth at Trey. “You just gave us a good reminder. Your mom and I are fighting for our jobs because we forgot how to fake it until we could figure out what to do.”
Trey turned to me, his face pale. “You might lose your job? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s not likely,” I assured him, shooting Jackie a surreptitious dirty look.
“Forget I said anything,” she muttered. “But I’m right about the faking it part.”
She was. Jackie and I needed to up our confidence game. Here I was worried about Glynnis’s self-esteem, when I could use some lessons myself. “We don’t need to fake it,” I said, still thinking the opposite. “You and I could write a hundred campaigns for Landon Cosmetics, and they’d all be fantastic.”
“Landon Cosmetics?” Trey wrinkled his nose. “What’s that?”
“Makeup. They do retro products. Red lipstick, cream blush.” I fished around in my bag for the sample lipstick I swiped before walking out of the meeting. “Here, check this out. They’re getting into sixties stuff, and we might work on their campaign.”
Trey accepted the lipstick case as though it might double as a hand grenade and studied it closely. “It looks kind of like a rocket.”
“I call that one,” Jackie said quickly.
I took the lipstick back from Trey. “You can have that idea. I think we need to move beyond the obvious.”
We. But we weren’t “we.” Jackie and I weren’t on the same team. That was vaguely unfair and depressing, but it was the reality of it. “We’ve both got to work our hardest on this, and I don’t think we should help each other until we’ve got a solid idea down on paper.”
“I don’t think we should help each other at all,” Jackie said, frowning. “One of us is going to be disappointed, and I couldn’t stand the burden of feeling that I hadn’t helped enough.”
“What are you two talking about?” Trey said, his gaze wandering back and forth between the two of us.
Briefly, I explained Lukas’s obsession with Petra and the competition he’d set up, carefully editing out the part about two of us losing our jobs. But Trey was sharp, and he’d picked up not only on the tension but also the true effect the competition could have on our lives.
“One of you needs to come in first, and the other second,” he said, working through it aloud. “That’s doable, isn’t it? What does this Byron guy have over you? Or Rhiannon? That’s a stupid name.”
I smiled to myself. It’d been a long time since Trey was on my side about anything.
“They’re younger,” Jackie said miserably. “Hipper. And Rhiannon is a beautiful name.”
“Well, ‘hip’ is definitely a stupid word,” Trey interjected. “Why does Lukas have you following a book? Is it any good?”
I pulled Petra’s book from my work tote and handed it to Trey. He stared at the cover for a long time, and then paged through it while Jackie hobbled outside for a smoke. (I told her to exhale in Mr. Eckhardt’s direction.)
When Jackie returned, Trey pushed the open book to the middle of the breakfast nook. “She’s hot. And British. Did you notice?”
I slid the book toward me and flipped open the back cover. “She is? I hadn’t noticed.”
“Why should we listen to someone who isn’t even American?” Jackie added. “That’s weird.”
“I’m guessing the principles of business don’t vary much, Western nation to Western nation,” I said.
“Frank would use her book as a coaster,” Jackie said grimly. “Or he’d leave it in the john for bathroom reading.”
Trey’s addition to the conversation was, “She’s seriously hot.”
A smaller photo of Petra Polly stared back at me. I read the short biography aloud, “‘Petra Polly lives in the London area with her three kittens, two dogs, and pet cockatoo. She is currently developing a line of business products based on her popular philosophy.’”
Jackie rolled her eyes. “Of course she is.”
Trey paged through the book while Jackie and I drank another cup of coffee.
“Check out what she has to say about the creative process,” he said after a while. “This Petra is pretty slick.”
Chapter 5. I hadn’t read it, and from the look of mild interest on Jackie’s face, I could tell she hadn’t either. I began reading aloud:
Petra’s Rules for Creative Engagement, Part 1
1. An idea has both a body and a soul, just like a human. The soul is the initial spark. The body is what you share to your group—the practicalities, the plans, the blueprint. The key to success is retaining the energy of that spark through the life span of your project. After a while it will become greater than you, and only then will you achieve success.
“Does she think she’s the freaking Dalai Lama?” Jackie grumbled. “Come on. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“I think it’s kind of interesting,” Trey said. “Keep reading, Mom.”
Trying to please both of them, I rolled my eyes in solidarity with Jackie, but cleared my throat and read on:
2. How does one enrich the soul? Reveling in nature. Falling in love. Eating a delicious meal. This is how you prepare your idea to live in the world. Expose it to the elements. Share it with others so that they may become entranced. Feed it with the contributions of your peers.