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Authors: Viola Shipman

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BOOK: The Charm Bracelet
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The Hot Air Balloon Charm

To a Life Filled with Adventure

 

One

May 2014—Arden

Arden Lindsey realized too late that she was shouting.

She got up and slammed the door to her office at
Paparazzi
magazine, fuming over the terribly written article just submitted by her youngest online staff writer.

Beyoncé
rocked her “recently unpregnant stomach” with sushi?!

Are you kidding me?

Simóne was always more interested in champagne and backup dancers than writing bubbly headlines and flowing sentences.

“And how many times can you use some form of the word ‘sing'?” Arden continued to yell. “Sing? Sang? Song? Singer? Songstress?”

Arden took a deep breath.


And
could you even attempt to code the article for the website?” she mumbled to herself.

Arden plopped back into her chair, the momentum causing her black bob to swing in front of her face and her thick, black eyeglass frames to bounce on the bridge of her nose.

She removed her glasses, closed her eyes, and rubbed her temples. She could already feel the dull thump of a headache approaching even before it arrived, just like the vibrating tracks of the El train that ran outside the hip River North warehouse offices of
Paparazzi
magazine announced the train's arrival.

You can't stop this train, either,
Arden thought, pulling two ibuprofen from her bag as the El suddenly roared by her window.

Arden popped the pills into her mouth and drained the remnants of her latte. She inhaled deeply, attempting to channel her inner yogi, pushing her glasses high onto her nose and positioning her fingers over her Mac like a trained pianist.

Behind the Scenes with Beyonc[ACUTE “e”]!
(Only [ITALIC “Paparazzi”] Was There!)

By Simóne Jaffe

[P]

Are you ready to party, single ladies, because [CELEBRITY_LINK “Beyonc[ACUTE “e”]”] is!

[P]

The pop diva, who will perform her [LINK “Mrs. Carter Show”] Friday and Saturday at the [LINK “United Center”], held a private bash at [LINK “Sunda”] to celebrate her arrival in [LINK “Chicago”], where she dined on sushi and saki with [BUSINESS LINKS “hubby”] [CELEBRITY_LINK “Jay-Z”] and celeb BFF's [CELEBRITY_LINK “Gwyneth Paltrow”] and [CELEBRITY_LINK “Alicia Keys”].

When Arden Lindsey was in a zone like this, it was as if her soul had suddenly left her body and now hovered over her watching from above with the exposed ductwork and the wood beams of the drafty warehouse ceiling.

She could see her hands fly across the top row of her keyboard, using keys few ever touched.

Brackets and parentheses, number signs and ampersands.

Arden had a job few even realized existed.

Arden spent her day editing and rewriting, creating search engine optimization, click-throughs, coding, links, all the things that nobody considered when they read the magazine from their laptop, iPad, or cell, but which made advertisers happy and made
Paparazzi
the most searched celebrity website in the world.

Arden began to click through the pictures that
Paparazzi
's photographer had sent at dawn: Beyoncé hugging Gwyneth. Jay-Z in shades. Impossibly tall Kimora in high heels.

Of course, Simóne was stunning, too.

Simóne looked like she belonged in the pages of
Paparazzi
: Lush, dark hair, pale skin with emerald eyes, exotic yet accessible, a sort of step-Kardashian. In person, Simóne was maybe five feet tall, perhaps a hundred pounds. But in photos, she looked like a star.

And she acted like one, too. She could chat with celebs in a way that made her seem as if she belonged in their inner circle. She could get them to say things after a few drinks.

That is, if she remembered to take notes,
Arden thought
.

As Arden studied the pictures, she suddenly caught her own image in the reflection of her laptop screen, her pale face and dull dress juxtaposed against the beauty of Alicia Keys and Kelly Rowland.

She stared more closely at Kelly Rowland's hair, studying it, wondering if her sleek mane was actually a wig.

Now, that's a good wig, Mother,
she chuckled, remembering the embarrassing wigs her own mother wore to entertain tourists in her resort hometown.

[PHOTO CODE: “TZQ189&04L”]

Arden gave the article one final review, then uploaded it to Paparazzi.com, a stunning photo of Beyoncé and Gwyneth hugging the top of the page under a red banner that danced and screamed, “BREAKING NEWS!”

Arden picked up her coffee cup and arced it into her trash can. She stood and walked over to her eighth-floor window, which offered a peek—between the elevated tracks of the train and the high-rises around her—of Lake Michigan.

It was a beautiful, mid-May day, and the sunlight turned the surface of the water into a kaleidoscope.

Arden watched the deep green waves rock the boats dotting the lakeshore.

She had grown up on Lake Michigan, seemingly a million miles away—“on the other side,” as Chicagoans sometimes referred to their Michigan counterparts.

It was only one lake, but it was, truly, a “great” lake to Arden, and it had seemed to separate her from the rest of the world when she was a kid.

“I can't smell salt,” LA and New York celebrities would always say when they visited Chicago. Or, “You mean you can't see the other side?”—unable to comprehend the vastness and freshness of Lake Michigan.

“Nice job on the Beyoncé story.”

Arden turned at the sound of her boss's voice.

“Thanks,” she said to Van, noting his Zac Efron hair and bow tie.

“Online a couple of minutes, and it's already gotten a few thousand views,” he said. “Jay-Z already texted me to thank us for adding all the links to his corporate ventures. We do a great job, don't we?”

We? You may be the editor of Paparazzi.com, and we may cover the royals every single day, but that still doesn't give you the right to use the “royal we” in regard to
my
work,
Arden thought
.

“Yes,” Arden said, instead. It was all she could do to keep from rolling her eyes.

She hesitated.

“Is there a chance you'd let me cover her after-party tomorrow night?”

“Sounds like a great idea, but we need you here,” Van said, smiling, in the same sweetly condescending way her ex-husband used to speak to her when she talked about writing her novel.

Even a decade later, Arden still couldn't believe that her ex fought with her about everything—writing, money, the news—everything except for his own daughter. In the end, he didn't even fight for custody. He didn't want Arden. He didn't want Lauren. His iciness had frozen Arden, paralyzed her ability to stand up to him and, as a result, she walked away with little financial support. Now, her ex had a new family, a new wife and a new life without them.

“How would we survive without you?” Van asked.

Arden smiled at the irony of his question, before turning to look out the window in an attempt to hide her disappointment and frustration.

“Let Simóne do that,” he continued. “She lives for that sort of stuff. She's going to be our next feature writer anyway.”

Arden winced, as if her boss had suddenly walked over and slapped her. Out of habit, she tugged at her earlobe, a quirk that had started years ago watching
The Carol Burnett Show
with her mom. It had morphed into a nervous habit when she first went to kindergarten and was too scared to leave her mom.

“Just tug your earlobe like Carol,” Lolly had told her outside the classroom door. “It's your silent way to tell me—and yourself—that everything is going to be all right.”

Arden kept her back to Van until she could hear him walk away. Van was—
what?
—a decade her junior and her seventh boss in the last decade? They all came and went, like pretty toy soldiers, putting in their time until the New York office called them up, or they landed at
People
,
EW
, or
Entertainment Tonight
.

No one wants to be a writer anymore, they want to be a celebrity, just like the ones they cover,
Arden sighed.

“Mail!”

Arden heard a loud plop, and turned to find a mountain of mail already sliding across her desk. She walked over and began to rifle through it.

“Same ol', same ol',” she said, shuffling through press releases and early samples of celeb perfumes. A return address on a padded envelope caught Arden's eye, and her pulse quickened. Arden's desk began to rumble, and as she looked out her window to see the El screech by again, its tracks shaking violently, she could feel her headache begin anew.

Arden picked up the puffy package and nabbed a pair of scissors from a
Paparazzi
coffee mug on her desk to cut it open.

A little card came tumbling out.

Arden's heart leaped into her throat. Her mother's beautiful handwriting was no longer the looping, expressive cursive of her youth. Instead, it was jagged, slanted, hunched.

She read the card:

ALICE:

But I don't want to go among mad people.

THE CHESHIRE CAT:

Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here.

How's the writing going, my dear?

Remember, we all must go a little CRAZY sometimes to find our happiness.

Hope you can visit this summer. I miss you and love you with all my heart!

All my love to
Lorna
Lauren.

Mom

Arden's heart began to beat in her temples, then in her eyes.

Lorna? Oh, Mom,
Arden said to herself, seeing her mother's mistake.
How could you get your own granddaughter's name wrong?

Arden picked up the envelope and turned it upside down. A little box rolled across her desk. She popped it open and sitting atop a velvet throne was a silver charm of the Mad Hatter.


Alice in Wonderland
!” Arden smiled. “My favorite book!”

Arden studied the charm, placing it in her palm and rubbing her fingers over it.

Still with the charms, Mom? Still believe they're somehow magical?

She thought of her mother's charm bracelet, thick with charms, the one she never removed, the one that drove Arden crazy growing up with its incessant jangling.

How long has it been since Lauren and I have been home to Michigan? Where does time go?
Arden felt a tinge of guilt and then her laptop dinged.

Deadlines. That's where.

Arden picked up the card and reread it.

“Hope you can visit this summer.”

Her mother rarely asked for anything, much less a visit. Visiting home was tough for Arden, a lot like, well, Alice falling down the rabbit hole. It had not been easy for Arden growing up in small-town America. She had been an awkward kid, and it had not been easy having a mother like Lolly Lindsey.

“It's not that she's a bad person,” Arden said to the charm, as if it were a therapist. “It's just that she's…”

“Debbie Reynolds!”

Yes! Exactly!

Bigger than life. Always on stage,
Arden thought.

“Arden?”

Arden jumped and turned to find Van standing in her doorway, his blue bow tie adorned with yellow boats twitching around his neck.

Wait. I didn't say that?
she realized.

“Debbie Reynolds is dating a twenty-five-year-old! Story's coming now! We have an exclusive. We'll need it online in less than fifteen minutes!”

“Of course,” Arden nodded. Van was already walking away when she called, “But when I'm done, I think I'll take an early lunch, if that's okay. I need a little fresh air.”

Van stopped, moonwalked back three steps, and checked his watch, before shooting a finger at Arden.

“Sure thing. We need you fresh. But it's still too early. Make it a late lunch, okay? We have a lot happening today. No plans tonight, right? Or this weekend? That promotion to web news director is still up in the air…,” Van added.

Arden opened her mouth to respond, but Van was gone.

 

Two

May 2014—Lauren

Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Lauren set down the quote she kept framed on her dorm desk and stared at her MacBook, her econ notes blurring in front of her eyes.

A warm breeze raced through the window of Lauren's dorm room and tousled her blond hair.

She inhaled deeply, the smell of Lake Michigan and the approaching summer air filling her lungs and her room, that sweet perfume of flowers and fresh water, newly cut grass and warmth, that smell of … hope.

She heard playful screams outside and stood, leaning over her desk to study the scene: Her dorm on Northwestern University's campus looked out at the lake and student beach. Even though the breeze off the water was still a bit chilly, boys played Frisbee without shirts and girls in bikini tops soaked up some rays.

There was something about the simple scene, of her fellow students enjoying a day free of care, which caused Lauren to stand, yank off her purple Wildcat hoodie, and walk over to the painting easel she had perched by her desk.

She lifted her brush.

“Ice cream!”

Lauren jumped, as her roommate twirled into the room like a tornado, dark curly hair flying, carrying two ice cream cones.

“I thought we could use these,” Lexie said, speaking even faster than her typical New York style, “between being stuck inside studying for finals on this gorgeous day and … well, I just found out Josh is playing me again.”

BOOK: The Charm Bracelet
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