I wasn’t sure how that made me feel. Had I been unhappy and not realized it? Acknowledging any unhappiness while Jesse was still alive felt like a betrayal. Recognizing it when he was no longer around to defend himself felt grossly unfair. But still, I had to ask myself—was I unfulfilled and didn’t know it? “I don’t know,” I said. “And I don’t know how valuable it is to dig that deep.”
A slow smile spread over Mykia’s pretty face. “Worst pun ever.”
I laughed, and it felt like a release, an exhale. “Yeah. I guess so.”
She handed me a bunch of dandelion greens. “On the house. Keep getting those toxins out.”
Without thinking, I grabbed her shoulders and gave her an awkward hug. “Thanks,” I said, emotion muddying my voice.
Mykia pushed me away gently. “Go back to the office and figure out how to sell your shit. My grandmother used to love her false eyelashes. She looked like Diana Ross, but with better hair.”
And then there it was. The lightning bolt. I waved the dandelion greens at Mykia and dashed for Glynnis.
I handed Glynnis my phone with the video I’d found on YouTube.
“They’re gorgeous,” she said after watching, “and they sound great. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that song before.”
It was “Stop! In the Name of Love” by the Supremes. Pretty sure? It was my mother’s generation’s music, but still. Sometimes Glynnis had the ability, with just a single phrase, to make me feel like one of the ancients.
“How are we going to use it?” she said, brow furrowing. “It’s the era Landon is trying to evoke, but the ad can’t be stuck in the past. Trinka’s targeting a younger demographic. Does that make sense?”
I brought up a photo of Diana Ross backstage before a show, sitting in front of her makeup mirror, carefully applying liquid eyeliner. Then I brought up one of Tina Matthews, a pop star I’d seen on the cover of Teen Vogue. It was an arty photo of her pressing a lip gloss wand to her pouty lips. It had a retro feel.
“We can’t use these,” Glynnis said. “They’re proprietary.”
“But we can use the general impression. We’ll tell a story of how these women use makeup to build themselves up for a concert, but it’s their confidence that really shines through. One from the past, one from the present, connected. Get it? Not ancestors, glamcestors! The performers from today got their cues from the ones of the past, the ones who set the mold. Landon becomes both a homage to those women and a modern link to them.”
“Isn’t it a little too obvious?” Glynnis said, drawing out every syllable of the last word as if to annoy me thoroughly and completely. “But I guess we don’t have much else.”
“We don’t,” I said tersely. “You can handle the modern image, and I’ll do the retro one. We’ll find common ground and put them together when we’re done.”
Glynnis shrugged. “I guess it’s not too bad. But I don’t know.”
I bit my tongue so hard I was surprised it didn’t fall out on the desk between us. So much about my life confused the hell out of me, but professionally, I thought I knew what I was doing. Was I wrong? Maybe Glynnis didn’t like the idea because it was me suggesting it. Or maybe the idea sucked. When had I lost my confidence? I gathered the tattered shreds from some corner of my brain.
“What’s your idea? Let’s hear it.”
Glynnis flushed. “You know I don’t have one.”
“Exactly,” I said.
We sat there for a moment, in the silence of a passive-aggressive tug-of-war.
“If this isn’t good enough,” Glynnis said softly, “we’ll lose our jobs. I need to be sure.”
I put my hand on her arm. “I know. But we don’t have time to be sure. It’s better to have something than nothing.”
“I’m always trying to have something,” she said miserably, “but I always end up with nothing.”
“Not this time,” I assured her, though I wondered if it was a false assurance. “Not this time.”
When I got home that night, the house was quiet in a way that made me feel a deep loneliness, but the garden’s silence had a velvety softness that had me sitting on my small patio, breathing deeply and wondering if I could just stay there forever.
Some of the tomato plants had already yellowed at the bottom, and the blackberry bushes looked a bit peaked, but, overall, the plants took every opportunity to burrow in and make my yard their home. My garden had a chance.
I was briefly entertaining the fantasy of success at the farmers’ market, my salsa a big hit, when I heard the siren. Since Jesse’s death, the sound of wailing sirens picked and prodded at my imagination like a dentist poking at a bad tooth. I wasn’t there when Jesse was taken, his breathing ragged and labored, to the hospital where he would pass before I arrived. I imagined being there, holding his hand, telling him to stay with me—the Hollywood version of a death scene, but I didn’t know any other. The only thing I was fairly sure of was that I could have said something to him, something meaningful, something other than Remember to pick up the dry cleaning, which were the last words I said to my husband of twenty-one years. It could have been worse—he could have stormed out after an argument, or we could have not said anything to each other at all—but it also could have been better. So much better.
The siren blared. It was getting closer. Some instinct, the sixth sense of one who has experienced tragedy, sent me walking to the front of the house just as a cop car cruised slowly down our block past the neighbors and, as my stomach sank to my knees, stopped directly in front of my driveway.
The siren cut off abruptly. Officer Leprechaun exited the vehicle with a nod to me and opened the back door. I recognized the boots that hit the pavement, the tattered jeans, the holey concert T-shirt.
“What happened?” I didn’t know whom I was asking, but Trey didn’t answer, and focused his attention on the ground.
“I want to know what’s going on,” I said to Officer Leprechaun, but I moved toward Trey, protectively. “Was that siren really necessary?”
“I wanted to impress upon Trey the seriousness of his actions,” he said, and I wanted to extinguish the twinkle in his eyes with the hose I used for my garden.
“And those actions were . . . ?”
Officer Leprechaun glanced at Trey. “Shoplifting.”
“What?” It was my turn to bore a hole into Trey’s skull with my eyes. “Is this true, Trey?”
“Not guilty,” Trey said, but he wouldn’t look at me and instead stared at the house.
“The owner of Pizza City said he wouldn’t press charges if I spoke to you,” Officer Leprechaun said, with a note of something meaningful in his voice. What was it? Apology? Pity? Embarrassment?
Anger took over. I grabbed Trey’s chin and forced him to look at me. “What is he talking about? You stole some pizza?”
Trey didn’t respond. I thought about when he was a toddler and stuck a small rubber ball in his mouth. He had clenched his lips together and wouldn’t give it up until I’d pinched his nose and he had to open up to gasp for air. The ball had bounced on the floor in front of him and then into the toilet. The look on his face—horror, anger, astonishment—had surprised me. There was no fear. But now, now I saw the swirling mix of emotions in his deep brown eyes, and fear, well, that was front and center.