“Did she die?” a high squeaky voice asked. Who in the fuck said that? Cecil? Cecil sounded like a ten-year-old nerd before puberty. His voice did not match his body. He and Evangeline were quite the pair.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out in the sequel,” I said. As if.
“What’s the sister’s name?” Cecil asked.
What the hell was it with these people and names? “Laverne, her name is Laverne.”
Cecil gave me a big shit-eating grin. “Laverne and Shirley? You named them Laverne and Shirley?”
If he wasn’t connected to the viper bitch whore from hell, he might just be okay . . . but he was with her, and therefore he was the enemy. “Yes.” I couldn’t help but return his grin. I could hear the stifled giggles from behind me. Evangeline looked confused and pissed about being left out of something.
“What are you idiots laughing at?” she snapped. “This is based in truth. I remember reading all about this in high school. Rena has no imagination! She just looked up facts and is trying to make you think she’s created a masterpiece.” Her voice was shrill.
My God, she was stupid and evil, never a good combination.
“Jeeves—” She unconsciously grabbed both of her breasts and her eyes got glassy. The images she was embedding in my brain would take years of therapy to remove . . . and I thought his name was Cecil. “We’ve not done a paranormal yet. They’re very popular right now,” she hissed with excitement. “This will be my crowning glory! I will be bigger than Jackie Collins!”
Cecil-Jeeves nodded and continued to write. Wait . . . was it really a good idea? I basically just coughed up a hairball of idiocy and she planned to turn it into a
New York Times
best-seller? You know, maybe it was good. The whole time-traveling vampire warlock thing hadn’t been done yet. I’d just come up with the next big thing and this over-Juvédermed shrew was going to steal it. I’d never read a romance novel about conjoined twins. It was a huge market that had never been tapped. I had just come up with the new
and it was slipping through my fingers. This would make a riveting movie. What in the hell was I thinking, giving my entire future away like that? The whole separation of the twins and the murder plot was truly inspired. There was absolutely nothing like it out there. Thank God I hadn’t told her about the teacher and the convict bus driver—that would be a hit for sure. She was going to steal my story and make millions off it. My millions. Damn it, that was not going to happen.
“There’s just one little problem,” I replied sharply, cutting into her Jackie Collins fantasy. “It’s my idea and I’m writing the book.”
Evangeline’s nostrils flared with fury and she glared at me. The little ladies gasped and without even seeing them, I knew they had huddled closer together in abject terror. Cecil-Jeeves raised an eyebrow and Shoshanna swallowed a laugh that ended up sounding like the first gag of someone throwing up.
“You’re right, Rhonda”—Evangeline’s voice was like honey—“but you’re a nobody. Never been published. Sholulu here says you’re not even a writer.”
It was funny how she couldn’t remember anyone’s name, but she could recall every word they said. I had a bad feeling Shoshanna’s comment would come back to haunt me.
“When I said that”—Shoshanna leapt to my defense—“I was simply referring to her unpublished status . . . at the moment.”
“Of course you were, Shoshanka.” Evangeline had turned on a dime. She now sounded sane, rational, and sweet. WTF? “Reba, darling—” She smiled and extended her claws to me. I so did not want to touch her, but politeness dictated my decision. I gingerly took her hands. I’m a good Midwestern girl, after all. Her hands were ice cold, and I tried to block out the fact that they’d been cupping her bosom only moments ago. “You’re right,” she continued gently. “It is your idea and it’s brilliant. I’d like to offer you something. . . something rare and special. Something I offer to no one. Would you like that, Rona?”
“I don’t know,” I answered, half in anticipation, half in dread. The room had become so quiet, I thought everyone had left. Nope, they were still here, they’d just stopped breathing. So had I.
“I’d like to mentor you on your book,” she purred.
My ladies gasped. I don’t know if it was in envy or horror. Although, if I was a gambling girl, I’d put my money on horror. I noticed Cecil’s jaw clench. He continued to write, but his body language suggested anger. What was that about? Was he jealous? Ew, did he have a thing going with her and didn’t want to share? I needed to stop this line of thought before my gag reflex kicked in.
“I don’t know . . .” I started.
“We will write together,” she quickly interjected. “You and I will share co-author credit. I already have an agent, a publishing house, publicity team, website, and a fan base of millions. You would be a shortsighted fool not to take me up on this . . . That is, unless you’re not really an author,” she challenged, watching me carefully.
I was still freaked out that she liked the pirate idea. Was she brain damaged? Even though I loved the idea of being a rich and famous author, I wasn’t sure selling my soul to the devil was the best way to go about it. I knew deep down inside that the Pirate Dave–Laverne and Shirley conjoined twins concept sucked. And while I was being brutally honest with myself, the bus driver–teacher thing was pretty horrid, too. Shoshanna was right I’m not a writer. I’m an accountant. I just wished there was a little more excitement in my life . . .
“Um . . . thanks for your interest, but no. I already have a job, and I am saving my vacation days for a trip to see the Tommy Bartlett Show at the Wisconsin Dells.” Oh my God, did I just say the Tommy Bartlett Show? The cheesy water show with the skiing squirrel? Yes, I did . . . I had just revealed my total inner dork. Why didn’t I lie and say Aruba or someplace sexy?
I began biting my cuticles in panic. I didn’t belong there. All these women, eyebrows or not, were authors . . . real authors, who could actually write. Not young, bored-with-their-life girls who were desperately searching for something to feel passionate about. That being said, I wasn’t about to let the skanky witch have my idea. I’d give it to one of the girls there. Shoshanna would love it; there could definitely be some girl-on-girl action in this one. Although the conjoined twins thing made it a bit complicated. I noticed everyone in the room was breathing again and Cecil’s jaw had relaxed. Everyone seemed happy, except the viper bitch whore from hell.
“I’ll pay you,” she spat. “I’ll pay you ten thousand dollars a week for three weeks.” The happy relaxed atmosphere in the room disappeared abruptly. My stomach clenched and I felt dizzy. That was a shitload of money. “You’ll be at my home every day from eight in the morning till five. We will write the book. We will split the profits fifty-fifty and then you will be free to go to the Tommy Bartlett Show,” she sneered.
Damn it to hell, why had I mentioned the Tommy Bartlett Show? That would be hard to live down . . . God, I could make more than half a year’s salary in three weeks . . . if I sold the witch my soul. I’d done plenty of stupid things for free; why not do something massively stupid and make a butt load of money doing it? Could I stand being around her for that long? I was a little curious to see if food dropped from her mouth when she ate . . . I could probably see her without makeup. No, that would induce nightmares. Shoshanna took my hand.
“If she goes, I go with her,” she said in a steely tone.
“Delightful,” Evangeline trilled evilly, “that makes me very happy, Shrilanka. I’ll see you both on Monday.” She stood with an enormous amount of help from Cecil or Jeeves or whatever his name was and sauntered out of the room.
“Wait,” I gasped when I found my voice, but she was gone. “I never said I would do it. Shit, shit, shit.” I paced the room in anxiety. “Shoshanna, I can’t go work with that thing.” My cuticles found their way back to my teeth.
“Relax, Rena, I’ll be with you. I wouldn’t leave you alone with that heinous cow bitch from the underworld. Do you really have vacation time?” LeHump asked and I nodded. I couldn’t speak because my mouth was full of fingers. “Good, then you can make a bunch of money and we can get our lives back from that skank.” Shoshanna rubbed her hands together with glee. “This could kill two birds with one stone.”
“What in the hell are you talking about?” I was still in shock that by not speaking up I might have fucked up my life for the next three weeks, although I’d be richer for it.
“The first bird is the money for you,” Shoshanna explained excitedly; then she began to fidget. “Rena”—LeHump’s fidgeting increased—“I don’t want you to get offended by what I’m about to say . . .”
“Okay,” I said, feeling a little nauseous and bracing myself to be heartily offended.
“We could effectively end her career with that paranormal Pirate Dave–Laverne and Shirley story. It’s the worst pile of shit I’ve ever heard,” she exclaimed with intense pleasure. “We help her write it, take absolutely no credit . . .”
“Like she would have given you any credit anyway,” Nancy chimed in.
“True—” Shoshanna was on a roll. “The toothpick with knockers takes full credit, gets it published, and goes down in flames!”
“This could solve all of our problems,” Petunia Tree Bush yelled, eyes blazing with joy.
“Possibly,” Nancy said cautiously, “but it could backfire.”
“How could bringing her down with conjoined twins and a time-traveling vampire warlock with erectile dysfunction backfire?” Shoshanna was confused. Clearly she thought my story was a no-brainer career killer.
Fine. I knew it wasn’t a good idea, but to have it paraded around as the crowning jewel that could bring a career down in flames was humiliating. More so, because I knew it was true. And what was this backfire talk? I felt the heat crawl up my neck and I bit my bottom lip so I wouldn’t cry. It didn’t work.
“Oh dear heavens,” Eyebrow-less Joanne, the purple grape, grabbed me in a bear hug and rocked me back and forth. “LeHump, you made her cry.” She held me in a vise-like grip and I was having a hard time breathing. These ladies were strong.
“Oh fuck,” LeHump was distraught, “Rena, I’m so sorry. Were you serious about that story? I had no idea. I thought for sure you were making that pile of crap up as you went along.” LeHump started to cry. “I feel awful,” she sobbed.
They all started to cry. The room was filled with snot-nosed, weeping seventy-year-olds . . . and it was my fault. The viper whore bitch from Hades had nothing on me. I brought an entire roomful of sweet women to tears and because of Joanne’s stranglehold, I couldn’t breathe well enough to tell them it was all right.
“Can’t breathe,” I wheezed, trying to extricate myself from my comforter.
“Jesus Christ on a cross,” Poppy Bush shrieked, “you’re killing her!”
Joanne screamed, dropped me to the floor, and started to wail. Holy hell, this was worse than speed dating for Lutherans. I landed on all fours at her feet. I felt light-headed and had to remain in the doggie position for a few moments before the dizziness subsided.
“It’s okay, guys.” I struggled to my feet. “It’s okay,” I repeated. “I did pull it out of my ass and I knew it sucked . . . it’s just hard to hear somebody else say it out loud.” I drew in a huge shaky breath and wondered if Joanne had crushed my lungs. I dropped into the chair that Evangeline had vacated minutes ago as all the ladies nodded in understanding.
“I feel like a douche bag,” Shoshanna groaned, her shoulders slumped; she wiped her tears on the sleeve of her lavender fleece pullover.
“You’re not a douche bag,” I said, the beginnings of a smile pulling at my lips.
“I’m a total douche bag,” she muttered, running her hands through her hair and making it stand up on end. “A thoughtless stinky douche bag.”
“I’d say you’re just a douche, not a douche bag.” I giggled at her description of herself and the scary hairdo.
The rest of the girls began to smile and chuckle. Shoshanna grinned at me gratefully and took my hand. “I really am sorry. I have a malady called diarrhea of the mouth. I am insensitive and loud and . . . I’m sorry. It’s not that bad of an idea. With some work . . .”
“Stop,” I laughed, smacking her little hand. “I’ll be more hurt and insulted if you lie to me. The idea sucks and if you guys want me to feed it to her, I will. God knows I could use the money, but how will we get away with this? She’s got to know the idea is awful.”
“Are you kidding me?” Joanne couldn’t control her burst of laughter. “You think she has taste? She’s under the very mistaken assumption that her plastic surgeon is a genius!”
“Joanne’s right,” Poppy Rose Vine laughed. Her voice was rich and warm, almost masculine. She was anything but, with her trim bod and pink feminine clothes. “She thinks she looks forty!”
“She’s smokin’ crack,” I laughed. I twisted my hands and racked my brain, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember Poppy’s whole name. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s because it doesn’t fit her. “What’s your real name, Poppy?” I asked, wondering if it fit her any better. A blush covered her face, and I noticed she could use a really good lip wax. “Um . . . ,” she stammered, looking around for support. Had I gotten too personal? “I’ve changed it several times”—she smiled shyly—“but lately I’ve been going by Harriet. It was my mom’s name.”