Authors: Ann B. Ross
Also by Ann B. Ross
Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble
Miss Julia to the Rescue
Miss Julia Rocks the Cradle
Miss Julia Renews Her Vows
Miss Julia Delivers the Goods
Miss Julia Paints the Town
Miss Julia Strikes Back
Miss Julia Stands Her Ground
Miss Julia's School of Beauty
Miss Julia Meets Her Match
Miss Julia Hits the Road
Miss Julia Throws a Wedding
Miss Julia Takes Over
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind
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First published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2014
Copyright Â© 2014 by Ann B. Ross
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Ross, Ann B.
Miss Julia's marvelous makeover : a novel / Ann B. Ross.
1. Springer, Julia (Fictitious character)âFiction. 2. CosmeticsâFiction. 3. Self-realization in womenâFiction. 4. Domestic fiction. I. Title.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This one is for the multitalented and multitasking Valerie Wellbourne, professional land surveyor and superb bookseller, with appreciation for her help with this book and with all the others as well. Thanks, Val!
I didn't see it at the timeâhow many of us do?âbut it all started back in January, a few days into the new year, when I felt compelled to sit down and take stock as, on occasion, I feel the need to do. So with the house quiet that morningâSam off meeting with some local businessmen, Lillian at the grocery store, Lloyd in school, and me with time on my handsâtaking stock was exactly what I was doing.
Now, I'm not talking about counting up assets and debits in a portfolioâI let Binkie, my curly-headed lawyer, take care of thatâbut rather, totting up the pluses and minuses of my life while hoping that they'll balance out in the final accounting. Admittedly, I have a lot of pluses: Lloyd, Sam, Lillian, Hazel Marie. I could go on and on, but I also have a lot of minuses, like stubbornness, self-centeredness, a tendency to jump into the problems of other peopleâall for their own good, but stillâand a certain impetuosity when action is called for.
I would like to report that, at the time of which I speak, I dwelt on the pluses and how thankful I was for them, but I didn't. I was in a critical frame of mind, and all I could think of were the numerous times that I'd overstepped myself, blithely confident that I knew best and acting on that certainty.
Even as I inwardly cringed at the remembrance of some of my rasher moments, I could also comfort myself with the fact that only a few of them had actually made things worse. I will concede, however, that my recollections can on occasion be a tiny bit selective. But that in itself is a gift, an asset if you will, for who among us could live with our character defects constantly in the forefront?
I know I couldn't face a day with mine uppermost in mind.
I have to keep them safely stored in a mental box, opening it only when I feel the need to take stock, then quickly storing them away again.
So that's what I'd been doing the morning after Sam had told me in no uncertain terms that he was tired of taking trips by himself and that, furthermore, he had no intention of giving up his trips. In other words, he meant for me to go with him, and right there I had to add another minus to my debit list: I was too self-centered to put his desires above my own, but I'll tell you the truth, I did not want to go traipsing all over the world.
“But you'd love it, Julia,” he'd said. “Think of all the places we could goâIreland, for example. Wouldn't you like to go there? Or we could do a cathedral tour in Europe or a tour of the great houses of England. Or what about Rome or Paris?”
“Yes, and what would we have when we got back? Aching feet and a bunch of pictures with nowhere to put them.”
“Memories, honey. We'd have memories, and we wouldn't have to take any pictures.”
“I should say not,” I said. “The thought of walking all over creation with a camera around my neck is not my idea of fun. Besides,” I went on, “I don't fly.”
“We wouldn't have to fly. We could go by boat. You'd like it if we went first classâdressing for dinner, strolling on the deck, meeting interesting people.”
“And suffering from seasickness the whole way, too. Oh, Sam,” I said, immediately contrite at the disappointed look on his face, “I'm sorry. It's just that I have no desire to see the world. I like it right here, doing the same things every day. The daily routine ressures me, while constant change disturbs my equilibrium. But I know you love to travel and I wouldn't discourage you from it for anything.”
“I know you wouldn't, but I'd enjoy it so much more if you were enjoying it with me. And I think you would, if you'd just try it. We could start with a few short trips to get you used to being away. We could take the Amtrak Crescent to New Orleans, for instance,
or take it the other way and go to New York. See some Broadway shows, go to museums, do a little shopping.”
“You're getting closer,” I said with a smile to show I was teasing. “What about a Sunday afternoon drive? Wouldn't that suffice?”
“And see what?”
“Oh, there're waterfalls around and fruit stands and motorcycle convoys. Maybe a fireworks stand. And we'd be home by dark.”
Sam laughed. “You just don't want to leave home.”
“That's right. I like it here.”
“Well, I like to travel and I'd really like you to go with me.”
“I'll think about it.”
That had been the end of the conversation, but I knew it wasn't the end of the matter. But, I declare, I didn't want to take off for parts unknown and leave the people who might need me. Why, what would happen to Lloyd without me around to watch over him? And what if Hazel Marie needed help with her twin babies? And what would Lillian do if trouble descended on her or Latisha, her great-granddaughter? To say nothing of the Abbotsville First Presbyterian Church. If I were gone any length of time, there was no telling what Pastor Ledbetter would get in his mind to do. He might change the order of worship againâsomething that he seemed to do just to keep us off balance. Or to keep us awake, but who knew?
The last time I'd been out of town for a few daysâthe time I chased jewel thieves all the way to Floridaâyou wouldn't believe what had happened while I was gone. I'd been elected treasurer of the garden club, president of the Lila Mae Harding Sunday school class, and leader of the book club for a whole year. And on top of that, I'd been volunteered to host a Christmas tea and to help with Vacation Bible school the following summer.
No, it wasn't safe to leave town. I needed to stick around to protect myself. Sam, of course, didn't have that problem. If he returned from abroad or wherever and found himself in an office he didn't want, he'd just smile and say, “Thank you all the same, but I think I'll pass on that.” And he'd stick to it, whereas I would
be so riddled with guilt for turning down an elected honor that I'd accept it and hate every minute of it.
So the days and weeks passed with no further mention of the wonders of travel while I put aside my stock taking since I couldn't remedy or rectify any lapses of the past anyway. I noticed, however, a few travel brochures left lying around the houseâon the hall table, for one, in the kitchen by the phone, and even next to the sink in our bathroom. It seemed that Sam had in mind a boat trip down the Rhineâor up it, depending on which way it flowed. And all I could think of was how could he expect us to spend a week or more on the high seas just to get to the Rhine, then spend more time on water once we got there.
Looking back now, though, I should've jumped at the chance to fill our summer with a globe-trotting trip. I should've realized that my husband's inquiring mind would not be content without something new and intriguing to occupy it, but I made no mention of the brochures nor did I ask about Sam's plans. I just let things ride while hoping that his wanderlust would wear itself out or, if it didn't, that he'd get over wanting me along. Neither happened, but a few things came up that took their place, and I'm still not sure which would've been for the best.