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“Are you kidding me?”

Trey sat on the front steps. I hadn’t seen him, but I was fairly certain he’d seen us.

“He’s a nice man,” I said by way of explanation. What was there to explain?

“You don’t know what you’re doing. First, this stupid garden, and now flirting with the cop? The cop who arrested me?”

“He didn’t arrest you.”

Trey grabbed on to the front railing and pulled himself to standing. Every so often, I was struck by the size of him—in my mind, he was still a toddler hanging on to my pant leg. “Up to you if you want to make a fool of yourself, but don’t expect me to stick around to watch it.”

“That’s not what I’m doing.” The tears made a reappearance. “Let’s talk about this.”

“Nothing to talk about. You want to bone the cop. End of story.”

“Trey,” I said sharply. I glanced at the garden, away from him, and took a deep breath. He missed Jesse, too. I had to remember that. “I loved your dad, and I would have stayed with him forever. That’s not how it worked out. I’m trying to . . . I’m trying.”

“Trying to do what? Forget him?”

“You know I would never do that.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Whatever. I’m going over to Colin’s.”

CHAPTER 18

“An In-Depth Conversation with Petra Polly,” from Adweek (as read to the employees of Guh by Lukas Giacomo)

Where do you get your ideas?

I spend a great deal of time thinking about how creativity develops. Some might say I live in my head, but I disagree—I live in a cavernous creative space that happens to be inside me! Ideas come from everywhere, but mostly my sub-subconscious.

Sub-subconscious?

I’ve decided there’s a part of the brain devoted to truly subversive thought. It lies two levels below the problem-solving and logic sectors, and one level below creativity and inspiration.

“It’s a good thing Petra Polly isn’t a brain surgeon,” Jackie whispered, and I stifled a laugh. Still, Lukas caught the spirit of our misbehavior and glared our way before reading on.

How did you learn to apply your ideas to the business world?

The entire world is run by corporations. They’ve become our sustenance. The idea of treating a creative workplace as a living thing seemed logical—we’ve become the embodiment of the corporations that dictate every part of our lives.

“If I’m a corporation,” Byron interrupted, “I’m Apple.”

“And I’m Google,” added Rhiannon.

Lukas clenched his jaw. “Please stay focused, people.” He read on.

Do you think noncreative workplaces could benefit from your ideology?

I don’t believe a “noncreative” workplace exists. When people come together, there is a certain dynamism that results in the energy to spark ideas. Creativity takes many forms. Every company has the potential to be a creative powerhouse. Every single one.

“She obviously never worked at Stanley’s Auto Parts,” Glynnis whispered.

Lukas paused dramatically before diving in again.

Do you have any future projects in the works?

Another Lukas pause. Irritated, I glanced up only to see him looking so shiny and proud, like a clever little boy who thought he had figured out the meaning of life. “Wait until you hear this,” he announced. “What you’re about to hear . . . is the future of Guh.”

Well, then. We all leaned forward, waiting.

Lukas continued reading from his iPad:

The future is a very exciting place, and I can’t wait to visit. The second book in my creative workplace series, The Petra Polly Workbook for the New, New Creative Workplace, will release next month. I’m going out on a limb and publishing it myself. I’ve also created some products to enhance the workplace environment—mugs, inspirational posters, and even laptop sleeves that say “Passwork, Not Password.” That’s copyrighted, by the way. The goal is a whole line of books and helpful materials to guarantee success. And I mean what I say. I GUARANTEE success.

“She guarantees success,” Lukas repeated with a sigh. “That takes guts. And true belief in oneself.” Lukas was positively beaming, as if Petra herself had deemed him her personal press secretary.

Byron said what we were all likely thinking. “Is it a good idea to guarantee success for everyone?”

“That’s the beauty of her philosophy,” Lukas insisted. “It suits every worker, in every situation.”

“That might be true,” Rhiannon said, obviously struggling to keep her tone benign. “But is there a reason for reading that interview aloud? I understand studying Petra’s book, but that article doesn’t exactly help us gain insight, you know?”

Rhiannon is the one with guts, I thought. She wasn’t afraid to be confrontational. Lukas, smiling indulgently at her, didn’t seem to mind. Was it her relative youth that gave her such confidence, or was it her security in her position? She brazenly challenged Lukas. If Jackie or I had done it, would the effect have been the same? I didn’t think so, and I stayed quiet, though I, too, questioned the need to listen to Petra’s substance-free interview.

“Petra is touring to promote her new book,” Lukas began excitedly, brimming with the need to explain. “When I learned she was expanding her brand, I sent a message to her Facebook page—” Here he paused to generate a little drama. When none came, he went on, though he seemed slightly irritated. “I asked if she needed help with advertising her new products.”

I nearly choked on my extrastrong coffee. “You what?”

“I sent her a lengthy message detailing our company’s talent and success,” Lukas said, unable to keep the smugness from his voice. “Including catching the eye of our most recent client, Landon Cosmetics.”

Our recent success with Landon Cosmetics was impressive, and I was proud of my company, but scoring Petra Polly seemed slightly unreal, like being allowed to join Oz behind the curtain. Lukas had written to her like a lovesick fanboy? The other employees of Guh obviously felt the same—everyone shifted in their seats and appeared mildly uncomfortable. Had our leader embarrassed himself?

Lukas’s face lit up. “Fate has given us a chance. Petra is making a stop in Willow Falls during her book tour, giving us the perfect opportunity to present our ideas in person.”

Byron dropped his pen. “Seriously? Why would she come here?”

“Tomson’s Bookshop is one of the top independent bookstores in the nation,” Lukas said, grinning.

We all loved Tomson’s, but that was pushing it a little.

“So she responded to you?” Rhiannon asked, as puzzled as the rest of us. “Will she come by the office, or do we have to go to her?”

Lukas’s glow dimmed ever so slightly. “She did not respond. Sometimes, when you shoot for the brass ring, it requires unconventional methodology. Our solution is to use guerrilla tactics. Given her incredible popularity, Petra Polly will likely have a long signing line, which means she’ll be stuck in one place for at least an hour, possibly two.”

“So she has no idea we’re coming,” Byron said, his eyes dancing with amusement. “I’m in.”

The rest of us weren’t so sure. What if she called the cops? Screamed? Getting kicked out of Tomson’s Bookshop in downtown Willow Falls wasn’t exactly good advertising for Guh.

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