Authors: Ritter Ames
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"Erin and Collier were an item while he and Lila were in the 'separation' stage," Meg said, as she disconnected from her call with her husband. "Gil knew some of it already—then he grabbed the sports guy, Buzz, who is a bigger gossip than the gossip columnist." She rolled her eyes. "I mean the social columnist."
Kate nodded. Her own husband, Keith, was a former pro hockey goalie, now sports radio personality at KHAZ, and he had mentioned many times how guys knew more
scuttlebutt than most women did and freely discussed it with anyone. "Well, obviously the similarities in appearance between Lila and Erin tells us Blaine Collier has a type he's attracted to or that he might have dated Erin because she reminded him of his wife. But why the protective order?"
Erin may resemble Lila, but according to Gil, her temperament can streak into the crazy zone, and she went off the deep end." Meg put her phone on the counter. "Didn't quite go
on him, but nearly. Sliced up a jacket he'd left in her car and torched the pieces on the barbeque grill out there." She pointed out the window. "Keyed his car with a few not so nice names when he told her they needed to stop seeing each other. But the clincher is when she tried to get Sydney thrown out of the special training camp this summer. Her daughter Nikki was next up, and the Parker duo thought the older daughter would go to California with her family and give up the summer program."
Meg stopped talking and held up a hand.
"Wait, let me back up a bit and start again. Apparently, Erin tried to convince Blaine to take Sydney out of the program before she knew about the move, but he wouldn't go for it. Then when he got the California job she tried to get Sydney thrown off the team when they found out she wasn't moving, too."
What difference would it have made anyway? The program is national. She probably signed up for the Boston location because it was closer."
Nope." Meg shook her head. "It has the best coach. And Sydney Collier is one of the top picks."
Anything Erin did that was truly dangerous? Or just creepy and over the top?" Kate felt a headache starting and grabbed her purse to look for aspirin.
Creepy and over the top, I think." Meg pulled out a bottle of water they'd stocked in the refrigerator. "But that wasn't all. She and Lila tangled over a development property the environmental group was holding up the progress on, and Erin wanted to make her share of the millions. It wasn't Erin's development, but it was her agency's, so she had a good shot at sales. Lila found all her tires flat the next morning, but she couldn't prove anything. Still, Blaine Collier has stroke in the community, so he made it all sound bad enough to get a temporary protective order for himself and Sydney. I assume he thinks having three thousand miles between them will minimize the danger in the future."
Kate pulled out the aspirin bottle.
"Sounds like a good plan for him, but what about Lila?"
Hopefully, she can stay close enough to Sydney to benefit from the protective order." Meg tapped the bottle. "You have another headache? Not to play mother hen or anything, but you're still recuperating from getting bashed around last month by Amelia's killer, and the doctor told you not to overdo for a couple of months. It's nearly two, and we haven't eaten yet. I think it's time for a good break."
Was it really that late? They
'd been so busy with the lists and the labels and interruptions, the day truly had raced. "You know, we've accomplished a lot today. By the time we go and eat anything it will be time for you to pick Ben up from school to take him to his soccer practice anyway. We have to be here early tomorrow to make sure we meet the security guy, so let's knock off now."
You're the boss." Meg grinned when she added, "But you know, as an organization expert you really ought to have a better handle on the time. I could probably turn you in for workplace abuse or something."
Fifteen minutes later they we
re in the café at The Book Nook and sinking spoons into a creamy chicken tortilla soup. The owner of the shop, Saree, was a Jamaican immigrant who'd married a New Orleans history professor, then moved with him a year ago when he gained a better position at the nearby university. Kate watched Saree's graceful movements as she rang up a book sale, her colorful batik cotton dress matching many of the children's book covers she bagged up for the smiling mother making the purchase. When Saree finished her task, she grabbed the tea pitcher and an empty glass and swayed between the tables to where Kate and Meg sat in one sun-filled corner.
Hello, chickies, how are you today?" Saree greeted in her musical cadence. She topped their iced tea glasses, then filled the empty one for herself and took a seat. "It is a beautiful day and so warm in this spot."
Your whole shop is warm, Saree, in more than a hundred ways." Kate laughed. "I had a headache coming on before we arrived here, but your delicious food and atmosphere licked it in a flash."
Saree pointed to the sign over the doorway that read
"Nourishing the mind and the soul."
Nothing better for chasin' away those nasty headaches. Oh!" Saree rose from the chair and moved back to the sales register. There were no customers in line. Kate watched to see what made her move away so quickly.
A moment later Saree pulled several large books from a shelf beneath the counter, sacked them in one of the double-handled Book Nook heavy-paper tote bags, and returned to the table.
"The scrapbooks you ordered arrived." Saree sat the bag on the empty chair beside Kate.
Are you trying a new hobby, Katie?" Meg asked. She reached to pull one edge of the bag open farther to take a look, and Kate removed a book and set it on the table so she could see it better.
The books are for the Collier kids. My idea kind of goes as a flip to the one Lila referenced today when she brought the memory books." Kate opened the cover of the book. "I plan to give one to each of the kids on moving day, so they can build scrapbooks about their lives when they're apart from one another. Then, the younger kids can mail their California adventure books to Sydney, and she can mail hers to the two of them in So Cal." Kate shrugged. "I thought it might help them feel they were staying better in touch with one another if they added ticket stubs and pictures and memory bits that point to the places and events they'd been to while everyone is apart."
Meg flipped through the blank pages.
"Great idea. And what a good size. You are always thinking of things I never even consider. I feel like such a shlub."
Shlub, huh?" Kate laughed. "Don't sell yourself short. Remember this is my business, and I have to think about ways to help people transition from all their stuff, to less of their stuff. And speaking of business." She grabbed her purse from where it hung on the back of her chair. "I need to find a credit card so you can charge these books, Saree."
." Saree waved a hand. "It is my treat for all the good business you brought me from your organize workshop last month. We can have another one soon? Yes?"
Meg put a hand on Kate
's arm. "You really need to work up that newsletter idea. You could put a bunch of hard copies in here and build an online mailing list."
Please, both of you." Kate held up her hands in surrender. "I appreciate the books, Saree, and I'm glad the workshop was a success. And, yes, I will finish up the newsletter I've been working on. But I'm swamped right now with this Collier move. I may be good at organization, but I'm not a time wizard." She smiled to take any sting out of her words.
The counter girl got Saree
's attention and pointed to a customer at the book register. The three women said their goodbyes. Meg looked at her watch and added, "We need to finish and get moving if we're going to grab our kids on time."
Minutes later they were in the van, and Kate was about to start the engine when the driver side door flew open.
"I thought that was you!" It was Erin Parker, now standing inside the space between Kate and her open door. "I need you to run some interference for me. To get me access to the house. I promise I'll only be there when you're around. You can tell Blaine that."
Erin," Kate corrected, gripping the steering wheel. Hard. Anxiety coursed through her veins like adrenalin. She stared at the thick green rubber band on her left wrist, and as she willed herself to imagine she'd already snapped it, she was already getting calmer. She spoke slowly to keep the panic out of her tone, "We have our own contract to fulfill. I can't take on more—"
So you're on his side." Erin hit the glass in the door with her open palm. "I might have known. Well, you just wait, missy. I'll get my way, and you'll regret you ever crossed me."
She isn't crossing you—" Meg started.
Well, she certainly isn't helping me!"
Kate took a deep breath and squeezed the wheel for another second before turning a smile toward the scary woman standing beside her.
"Erin, you are such a pro at what you do. I know you'll figure a way to handle this through real estate channels. We're all on such a close time frame here, but if you and Lee Ann put your heads together, I'm sure you'll figure out a solution to this problem."
Lee Ann, right." Erin actually snorted. "The woman is incompetent. If I had to count on her I would never have reached my current position in sales. Everything is up to me."
When she stepped back and slammed the door, Kate sighed in relief. But
Erin didn't leave yet. Through the glass, she shook a blinged-out index finger and added, "Too many people want to rock my boat. But it's time I start rocking back. So don't get in my way, Kate McKenzie. Or you either Meg Berman."
She turned away, and Kate and Meg simultaneously hit the power lock on both their doors.
For the Newsletter:
As a former pro-hockey wife, I learned how to pack and move the fastest and least expensive way possible. Here are some tips I figured out by trial and error:
Packing in this way not only saves the cost of packing material, but reduces the garbage you create in the move. Plus, some of the paper and fiber packing material leaves dust and little bits behind. Wrapping in clothing and towels often keeps your moved items cleaner.
But the best benefit is that all the room
's items are packed together, whether they were liquid or laundry. So you won't have to look for the box marked "Towels" to find a dishtowel—just look in the kitchen boxes, and get the towel you need while you unpack your dishes. And, yes, you can use the towel to wipe out the cabinet before you stow the glasses and dishes. The time you save unwrapping later is time earned. And this method means you can also save the time you would normally use disposing of packing material. You won't just keep the environment green—you'll be
saving the green
while you clean and pack in a greener way.
* * *
Ten minutes after dinner, Kate heard Meg knocking on the back door.
Wow! Got chilly all of a sudden," Meg said, hurrying in and grabbing a coffee cup. "Sorry for the intrusion, but I wanted to see if you could run with me to the Collier place, or if I can take the key. I drove by there, but the family is still gone to dinner."
I forgot and left my phone on the kitchen counter this afternoon, and I need to make some mom-scramble calls tonight. I don't know any phone numbers anymore without my cell."
I hear ya." Kate put the last two dirty glasses in the dishwasher. "I still use my address book but find I pull it out less often as my phone takes over so many new duties."
That reminds me. Mother traded in her old flip cell phone for a new smart phone. And the old phone wasn't even broken."
This was news. Meg
's mother was a diehard thrifty Yankee who used everything as long as it still had any life left. Her grandsons had teased her mercilessly over her "ancient phone," but to no avail.
What made her finally make the switch?" Kate asked.
I used my phone a couple of days ago to show her a photo," Meg said. "I wanted her to see one of Ben's cute looks and homed in on his face in the crowd then enlarged that part of the shot. She went out and bought a new phone the next day."