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Authors: Liz Fenton,Lisa Steinke

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Family Life, #General, #Thrillers, #Suspense

The Status of All Things

BOOK: The Status of All Things
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Praise for
Your Perfect Life


Your Perfect Life
has all of the ingredients that I love in a book—relatable characters who made me laugh out loud, a delicious, page-turning premise, and sweet and surprising insights about how the perfect life may be the one you’ve already got.”

—Jen Lancaster,
New York Times
bestselling author

“I loved this from the very first line (which will go down in history as the funniest, bravest first line ever). Hilarious, honest, and truly touching, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke are two important new voices in women’s fiction who write about life in such a real, relatable way.”

—Sarah Jio,
New York Times
bestselling author

“For every woman who’s ever wondered about the path not taken, Fenton and Steinke mine—with tremendous humor and insight—the mixed blessing of unexpected second chances.”

—Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus,
New York Times
bestselling authors

“Liz and Lisa’s voices are warm and comforting, like a relaxed chat with great friends while wearing cozy PJs and sipping wine. I highly recommend
Your Perfect Life
!”

—Beth Harbison,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke blend their voices seamlessly and hilariously and remind us that even though the grass often looks greener under our friends’ lives, nobody gets
happily ever after
unless they go
after
it.
Your Perfect Life
is clever, quirky, fresh, and ultimately, empowering!”

—Claire Cook, bestselling author of
Must Love Dogs
and
Time Flies


Your Perfect Life
puts a fresh twist on a ‘Freaky Friday’ scenario: What if you switched bodies with your best friend, and got the life you’d always secretly coveted? I adore Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke’s witty, winning style and gobbled up their debut novel.”

—Sarah Pekkanen, author of
Things You Won’t Say

“Sassy, heartfelt, and smart,
Your Perfect Life
is a clever take on switched identities that will make you think hard about the choices you’ve made in your life and what matters most to us all in the end.”

—Amy Hatvany, author of
Safe with Me

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To Cristine, for being so much more than my mom

To Matt, for making this dream possible

CHAPTER ONE

In less than 24 hours, I’ll be walking down the aisle.

Something borrowed, something blue? Check.

Something old, something new? Check.

The love of my life? Double check! #whatcouldgowrong

I upload my status to Facebook, tuck my cell phone away, and try to savor the only minute alone I’ve had all day. Sitting on the veranda of the bridal suite, I stare hard at the waves crashing against the Wailea coastline. I tug on the unforgiving fabric of my black peplum dress, having just fought my way into it moments ago
.
Stella, my wedding planner, with a permanent flush to her round cheeks and steely look in her eyes had unabashedly yelled,
suck it in!
as she yanked the zipper until it stubbornly found its way to the nape of my neck.

Embarrassed, I had immediately sent her away with a checklist, to place the gerbera daisies in the vases—two orange and one white in each—and to confirm that the ginger-glazed shrimp skewers and crispy spicy tuna rolls would be passed at 7 p.m. sharp. I also reminded her to make sure my mother and father,
divorced for almost two decades, would be sitting not just at different tables, but across the room from each other, my mom’s quiet anger over my dad leaving her still easily triggered like a scab that gets scratched and starts bleeding.

“And please don’t forget to deliver Max his groom’s gift!” I had craned my neck out the doorway as she’d jogged down the hall, giving me a thumbs-up without ever turning around, no doubt trying to put as much distance between herself and the memory of forcing the folds of my lily-white skin into a size 8 dress.

I had spent months scouring Pinterest boards for the perfect gift for Max—finally settling on a vintage Tag Heuer watch, lightly engraving
You’re still the one
on the inside of the band, a nod to the Shania Twain song we’d danced to at the wedding where we’d been introduced by my best friend, Jules, three years ago. I couldn’t wait to tell Max the story of how I’d found the antique timepiece on eBay, then engaged in an intense bidding war with Shaggy202, my eyes burning and my hands sweating, all while Max slept soundly next to me. I waited patiently for the final seconds before the auction closed, then punched in a final bid, a number that far exceeded my budget, sending Shaggy202 retreating into cyberspace as I silently pumped my fists in the air and mouthed the words
take that, bitch!

But if Max received the watch, he hadn’t told me. I’d texted him several times coyly referring to a
special delivery
he should’ve received—and it wasn’t like him not to respond. I push the thought aside as I watch two little girls giggling as the turquoise ocean water splashes up around their knees. I close my eyes, knowing I should take a cue from them and inhale the warm Maui air and
just be
. That my mind shouldn’t be swirling like the tide as I second-guess practically everything—including
my decision to get Max the watch instead of the cuff links. But when you devote a year to planning one day, you want everything to be perfect.

“Knock-knock,” Jules says as she pushes the door of my suite open and I spot the familiar yellow label on the bottle of champagne she’s holding before I see her. I smile as she giddily holds up my favorite bubbly. From the moment we’d met over fifteen years ago on the first day of freshman orientation at UCLA, bonding over a shared disdain for our smarmy tour guide and his repeated use of the word
homeboy
,
she’d had an uncanny ability to anticipate exactly what I needed. That day, as we’d paused in front of the student union, listening to our guide ramble on about the
off the chain
clubs we could join, at the precise moment I didn’t think I could take one more minute of his
legit raps
, she’d stage-whispered, “I don’t know about you, but I say we ask those guys to give us the rest of the tour,” pointing to a group of frat boys tossing a football in the quad. Jules looped her arm through mine, and as we muffled our giggles and inched away from the group, I knew I’d made a best friend.

“Hey.” She pulls me into a deep hug then steps back. “You look absolutely gorgeous,” she says, knowing exactly what I need to hear.

“Are you sure?” I prod, smoothing the material of my dress that’s buckling slightly at my waist and trying not to think about the way the shapewear underneath it is cutting off my circulation or the offending red indentation mark it will leave around my middle.

“Will you stop?” Jules pleads and grabs my arm, guiding me in front of the mirrored closet door. “Do you know how much I would kill for
this
hair?” She touches one of my
strawberry-tinged loose curls. “And
this
face
?”
She smiles as she runs a finger across my lightly freckled nose and over my cheekbone, my powder-blue eyes peering back at me, wanting so badly to see what she does. I don’t understand the fuss she’s making. Staring back at me is an average-looking girl who easily blends into the crowd—with limp locks, a button nose that’s too small next to her round cheeks, and a few extra pounds she hasn’t been able to lose since college. I can’t help but envy Jules, whose naturally lean figure towers over me, whose body has never needed the assistance of spandex underwear, whose nonexistent love handles have never been shoved into anything.

I tug at a straight strand of my hair that has lost its curl. “I’m not sure I should wear this up tomorrow.”

“No updo?” Jules frowns.

“Maybe not . . .”

“But you were so happy with it when we did the trial run last week. It looks great with the dress and jewelry. Very elegant.”

“I’m just rethinking the pictures.” I pause and gather my hair on top of my head. “I’m not sure I want to be
that
bride. Maybe I should go for a more casual look?”

Jules waits a beat before answering me, the slight frown that flashes across her face giving away her frustration with my indecisiveness. “What do you mean by
that
bride? Did something happen? What’s making you second-guess your hair in the eleventh hour?”

“Are you friends with Anne Freeborn?”

“On Facebook?” Jules squints at me as if she’s trying to conjure her face.

I nod.

“Yeah, but I think I hid her from my feed after the last election—her political rants were making me crazy. Why?”

“She’s getting married next month and she posted two pictures this morning asking people to vote on which hairstyle she should go with. Up or down? Tight bun or beachy waves?”

“Okay . . .” Jules continues to look at me skeptically.

“And way more people said down—something like 112 of her friends were against wearing it up—they commented that she’d look more carefree if she wore it loose.”

“Okay . . .” Jules says again.

“So it just made me think—maybe I should wear mine down too? I don’t want to look uptight. Like I’m not having a good time.”

“Because you won’t actually be having a good time?” she asks gently.

“No, but it’s something to think about. The hair,” I say slowly, suddenly feeling self-conscious as I stare at Jules’ face, still registering confusion and doubt. “What?” I challenge. “I can’t make a last-minute change?”

“Of course you can, but—”

“But what?”

“Never mind. You’re right. It’s your day. Down it is!” She claps her hands together, the sound echoing loudly on the balcony.

“Tell me what you were going to say.”

“It’s just . . . you should do what you want and not worry about what others think of it. It’s going to be the biggest day of
your
life—not theirs.”

I know she’s right—that it’s my day—but I also can’t ignore the words on the tip of my tongue, even if I wish they weren’t perched there, like divers about to sail off the board. The truth is, I care.
I care a lot
.

“I can’t really explain it, okay? It’s just how I feel. And anyway, maybe I should take this as a sign? Maybe I was supposed to wear my hair down, no matter what the reason.”

“Maybe that’s it.” Jules smiles, and I can tell by the flickering in her eyes that there is a lot more she wants to say, but she lets it drop and I’m relieved.

“Sorry. I’m just kind of a mess. I want to get it right.” I consider asking Jules for her opinion about why I haven’t heard from Max, but worry I’ll sound too neurotic after my hair up/hair down diatribe. My cell phone buzzes and I pull it out of the pocket of my dress and shake it at Jules. “And it’s not helping that my mom refuses to stop texting me about Dad and
the wife
—”

“I cannot believe she
still
won’t use her name,” Jules says, cutting me off.

“Well, you know, it’s only been
eighteen years
.” I shake my head. “Apparently
the wife
has already offended her, and I quote,
‘multiple
times,’
today.” I think of the last message from my mom demanding that I ban my stepmom, Leslie, from the family picture and feel my stomach tighten into yet another knot.

“I’m sorry you’re even dealing with this! I told Stella she was supposed to keep your mom’s neurosis from you—she’s under strict orders to pass all of her complaints
my way
.” She places her hands on her slim hips and narrows her green eyes.

“Cut Stella a break. She’s had to operate way beyond her job description in other ways today.” I pat my stomach and laugh as Jules gives me a questioning look. “She deserves hazard pay for helping me squeeze into this.”

Jules rolls her eyes as she pops the cork and pours the champagne into two flutes and holds one out to me as the bubbles race to the surface. “I’d like to propose a toast. To your marriage tomorrow. Welcome to the club!”

I press the glass to my lips. “I know! Me? A married woman . . .
finally
.”

“Thanks to my supreme matchmaking skills!” Jules pats herself on the back.

I clink my glass against Jules’. “How will I ever properly thank you?”

“You can start by naming your first child after me!” she teases.

“Maybe.” I run my finger around the rim of my flute, thinking of the night Max proposed, his voice breathless after I’d said yes, like he’d just sprinted at the end of one of his long runs.

I can’t wait to be a family
, he’d whispered
.

His olive-green eyes had brightened and then squinted as if he was picturing us with our arms wrapped around a baby. I knew Max would be a good dad—he had an instinct with children that didn’t come as naturally to me. I loved kids and wanted to be a mom, but I was always afraid of something happening to any child in my charge. Even Jules’ kids, Ellie and Evan, whom I considered my niece and nephew because Jules was like the sister I never had, would roll their eyes at me if I suggested taking them to the pool or for a bike ride. It was as if they could smell my apprehension. But they’d been calling Max Uncle M practically since the moment they’d met him, when he’d scooped them up, under each arm, and swung them in the air as if he’d done it a hundred times before. As they’d squealed in delight, Jules raised her eyebrows and pressed her lips together, her look saying,
this could really be the guy for you.

I watch Jules smoothing a strand of her white-blond hair that has fallen from its effortless-looking sleek ponytail and I think about how it mimics the way she has always seemed to glide through life. She’d married her college sweetheart, Ben, almost ten years ago and had quickly produced Evan, then two years
later, Ellie, both blond-haired, emerald-eyed replicas of her. And although she had no formal training, she’d always been able to whip up the richest masterpieces from the most basic of ingredients, quickly working her way up to her current position as the pastry chef for The Midnight Snack, one of West Hollywood’s hottest restaurants. She seemed to juggle motherhood, marriage, and a career with the precision of an air-traffic controller, not to mention the confidence of one. It was probably the reason why people had always been drawn to her the way a bee is pulled to a budding flower.

As Jules and I nearly drain our glasses, a familiar deep voice cuts through the air. “Is everyone decent in here?”

Jules giggles. “No, we’re hanging out in our lingerie even though the rehearsal dinner starts in fifteen minutes!”

Liam peaks his head out, his hazel eyes lighting up when he sees my arm wrapped around Jules’ waist. “Well you two may not be half naked, but this still looks like some fun I’d like to get in on.” He smiles and raises his eyebrows. As he ambles across the room, I notice his new charcoal-gray suit drapes perfectly over his tall, lanky body, smiling as I remember his moans after yet another jacket he’d tried on was too short for his arms, warning me that we’d better find something,
anything
soon because if he missed the Dodgers game there’d be hell to pay. He wraps a strong arm over each of our shoulders, the white pocket square the salesman talked him into grazing my cheek, me reaching up and touching his tousled light brown hair.

“Did you even bring a brush on this trip?” I tease.

BOOK: The Status of All Things
13.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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