This is the last chapter that I will be posting up for Happy Hour. If you've enjoyed the chapters, I hope you will purchase a copy of the book. This is a great "girlfriend" book. If you're wondering what to give your good friends, your sisters, your mothers, mother-in-law, (speaking of, I have a wonderful mother-in-law--actually the best, and in Happy Hour, I think one of the sweetest relatsionships is between Jamie and her mother-in-law Dorothy), cousins, etc--pick up this book for them.
Also, for those of you with a Kindle, the book is on sale right now! You may want to check it out on amazon.
The book is still only currently available from my blog site and website at http://www.michelescott.com. It will be available on amazon in the next week. However, if you order this week off of my site(s), you will also recieve a signed copy of "Zamora's Ultimate Challenge." For those of you with middle grade aged kids, this is a book for them. To check out some information about Zamora, visit my site where you can view the book trailer and read an excerpt.
Have a wonderful day, and I hope you enjoy Chapter Four of Happy Hour.
Three and a half years ago...
God the traffic was a mess today. Probably an accident. Someone who’d had too much wine visiting the local wineries. Thank God, Jamie Evan’s exit came before she reached what might possibly be a grizzly scene. Sighing as she turned her Volvo SUV onto her street, her stomach coiled. It had been one of those days that started out kind of depressing, then with an ironic twist turned into massive excitement. Now hope filled her, causing her to wonder if the day would end on a high or low note. It all depended on the little bird.
That morning her six-year-old daughter, Maddie, while eating her silver dollar pancakes and watching Charlie & Lola, said, “Mommy what is that noise?”
Jamie came from behind the kitchen counter where she’d quickly tried wiping up the coffee grounds that Nathan had spilled in his early morning rush to make coffee.
Already dressed for work, Jamie needed to get Maddie to kick it into high gear. “What noise, pumpkin?”
“At the door. Don’t you hear it?”
Jamie walked to the French doors where she heard a faint repetitive thud against the pane. She opened up the door and gasped. “Oh. Oh, no.” Jamie knelt down.
“What is it, Mommy?” Maddie swung around in her chair and bent over her mother. “What is it?” she demanded again.
“It’s a baby bird! It must’ve fallen out of its nest.” Jamie looked up into the eaves of the patio overhang and spotted the remnants of a bird’s nest. The baby sparrow flopped pitifully against the window. Jamie gently scooped it up. “You poor thing. Maddie go out to the garage and get that cage we had for Bunny. It’s in the corner by Daddy’s camping stuff. Can you carry it?”
Maddie nodded, her dark curls falling into her blue eyes.
Maddie went to get their old rabbit’s cage while Jamie examined the baby bird. It didn’t seem badly injured, but it was certainly a bit frightened. She was an animal lover, but no expert, and she knew nothing about birds.
“Here you go, Mommy.” Maddie bounded in and set the cage down on the kitchen table.
Unsure of what to do, and racing against the clock, Jamie told Maddie to sit down and she handed the bird to her. “Don’t squeeze. Hold it there like that.” She grabbed the morning’s newspaper, shredded some of it, put it in the cage, and took the bird from Maddie and placed it inside. She then hooked up Bunny’s old water bottle, and after washing her hands, took out some crackers and smashed them into small bits and placed them on a paper plate for the bird.
“That’s all we can do for now,” Jamie said. “We have to get you to school and me to work.” She sat down in the chair next to Maddie. “Listen sweetie, we’re going to hope that our little friend here lives so it can get better and we can turn it loose, but I don’t know for sure if it will get better. I can’t promise you. I want you to know that.”
“I want to keep it.”
“I know. Let’s see how it does. Okay? Now run on upstairs, wash your hands and brush your teeth. We have to haul booty.”
Jamie thought about the baby bird off and on all day, her fingers crossed that it survived. She’d put the cage out on the back patio where it would have some sunlight, but also a little shade from a couple of hanging ferns. Now as she pulled into the garage, Jamie’s fingers were still crossed.
Please let it be alive. Jamie had such good news to share with Nathan—thus the exciting part of the day. After working at The Wine Lover’s Magazine for seven years, today she had been promoted to editor-in chief! Yes! Yes! It was a position she’d coveted for quite some time and through diligence and hard work, she’d made it. She’d finally arrived.
She glanced to the back seat where Maddie lay half asleep. Jamie got out of the car, grabbed her briefcase, and started to lift her little girl from her seat.
“Hi, Mommy.” She rubbed her eyes and looked up at her mom, her baby blues innocent and sparkly. “The birdie!” she said, remembering. She was wide awake now and out of the car, heading for the back door.
“Wait, Maddie. Wait, wait, let Mommy go first.” Too late. The back door off the garage wasn’t locked and Maddie was through it before Jamie reached it. She made it to the patio as quickly as possible and sighed when she caught the smile on her daughter’s face.
“Look, Mommy! It lived. Can I touch it?”
“No, babe. Leave her be.” Jamie peered into the cage and could see that the bird appeared much better and had eaten most of the crackers. What a great way to end the day. Now Jamie could go ahead with her celebration plans for the evening with Nate. If the bird hadn’t made it, Jamie knew that they would’ve had one unhappy child on their hands in need of a night of comforting—comforting that typically meant sleeping in Mommy and Daddy’s bed and taking all of the bed while Mommy and Daddy scrunched up into their corners.
“Let’s leave the bird alone and go in and fix some dinner. Daddy will be home soon.”
“I want to watch it.”
Her daughter frowned. “Five minutes.”
Jamie held up her hand. “Five and don’t touch her.”
“I wanna name it. I wanna name it Lola, like on Charlie & Lola.”
“Lola it is.”
Jamie walked back into the house, leaving the door open. The lemon scent of cleaning products hit her now that she knew Lola seemed to be on the mend. The housecleaners! God bless them. Today had been their day. Friday was Jamie’s favorite day because she knew she’d return home to find the morning mess gone upon their return. Bliss!
“When is Daddy going to be home? I want to show him Lola,” Maddie hollered from the patio.
“Any minute!” Usually Nate made it home first. He must have gotten caught in traffic. Maybe he stayed late? No, he would’ve let her know that by now. He had to be in traffic. He’d show any minute. Time to pour two celebratory glasses of wine and let it breathe. Then get Maddie’s dinner started so she could get her daughter to bed early, new bird or not. Jamie had plans for her husband.
A little celebration. And what went with celebrations? Veuve Clicquot. What a good idea. It was their favorite champagne. After the wine and after Maddie was tucked in her bed, the Vueve would be exactly what tonight called for. And the little black, silk number from La Perla that Jamie purchased the week before would be icing on the cake.
“I’m hungry,” Maddie whined, walking back into the house. “Lola is just sitting there.”
“It’s probably best to leave her alone. I’ll put her in the laundry room soon. The sun is going down. We don’t want her to get cold.”
“But I’m hungry.”
“You’re hungry? You’re hungry? Wait a minute. I thought your name was Madeleine or Maddie, but Hungry? No. I don’t think so. Unless. Wait! Wait, wait, wait, wait.” Jamie shook her head in exaggeration. “Did you change your name?” She picked up her dark curly headed daughter whose eyes were exactly like her father’s—eyes that could melt any heart like chocolate on a hot day and make a person feel gooey all over.
Maddie giggled. “No, Mommy. I am Maddie. I want to eat.”
Jamie set her down and bent to her level, finger on her cheek. “I think that can be arranged. What do you say about some Mac and cheeeeeeezzze?” Jamie wiggled her eyebrows in Groucho Marx fashion, a maneuver that always elicited the same reaction from her daughter—laughter and an eye roll. “Don’t you go rolling your eyes at me, Madeleine Elise Evans.”
“You’re so silly, Mommy.” She bobbed her curls. “Plain old silly!”
“I can take silly. But don’t you dare call me old. Okay, remember I said that Daddy will be home soon. So hop, skip, and jump out of your school clothes and I’ll run a bath for you. Then get your jammies on and your dinner will be ready. And tonight I’ll even let you watch a movie in your room on my laptop.”
Maddie frowned. “Why do I have to put my pajamas on so early? And can Lola sleep in my room?”
“It’s already after six-thirty. And did you not hear what I said? A movie in bed? How about some popcorn too?”
“What about Lola?”
Jamie closed one eye and looked like she was really thinking about it. “I’ll see what Daddy thinks about that.” She went to the clutter drawer (the one everyone has in their kitchen, save for Martha Stewart) and dug through it until she found some matches. A little wine, a little candlelight. Ooh, and wait a minute. A takeout menu from Arrivederci’s. Perfect.
“I wanna’ watch Zach and Cody.”
“Why do I always have to stay at daycare? I hate staying so late. I’m the last one.
Ugh. Shot through the heart. The kid would make one heck of a mother someday. She had the guilting thing already down pat. But how could Jamie blame her? It was true that most evenings Maddie was the last one to get picked up—usually one minute before six o’clock. Mrs. Sheffield, the after-care provider, would regularly place her hands on her hips, furrow her already furrowed brow, and remind Jamie that for every late minute she would be charged five dollars.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. Next week, I promise, I will come early every day.” The editor-in-chief position should provide some kind of privileges, like working from home, or leaving early on occasion.
“Good, because Mrs. Sheffield smells like farts!”
Jamie tried hard not to laugh. “Maddie, the term is gas or flatulence.”
“Mrs. Sheffield has horrible flatulence.” Maddie wrinkled up her nose, and rolled her eyes again.
“Upstairs now. Bath! I’ll be up to run it.”
“I can do it. I’m a big girl.”
“Apparently. You and your potty language. Go then!” Laughing, Jamie kicked off her shoes by the couch and glanced around her tastefully decorated family room. The entire house was tastefully decorated, thank you very much to those brilliant designers who do model homes. Jamie may have lived in a tract home, but not just any tract home. This was Napa Valley and a million dollars for a tract home was not unreasonable. The home came with that old California architecture—arches and sconces and all that chic stuff, plus a wine cellar. In Napa, even tract homes have wine cellars. They do if they cost a bundle, anyway.
Jamie went into the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. She ran her fingers through her blonde pixie haircut, giving it a little mussed up look, then opened the drawer full of makeup and rifled through for the red lipstick that Nate liked on her. After that she lined her hazel eyes with black liner—viola, the vamp.
Walking back into the kitchen, she looked at the clock again. She called the restaurant and placed an order for shrimp scampi and chicken parmigiana. She started the pot for Maddie’s mac n’ cheese and then went to the wine cellar, pulled the Vueve, and set it on ice.
The water stopped running upstairs. Maddie was splashing around and singing a made up song about Lola the birdie. Jamie smiled, shaking her head and went around her family room lighting candles—all perfectly placed and in various sconces and candlesticks. She would have never picked any of this stuff out on her own. Decorating was not her forte, but she sure loved looking at it.
When Jamie heard the garage door go up and the engine of Nate’s Range Rover pulling in, she sighed. Her husband. Her soul mate. Her best friend in the world. She couldn’t help smiling thinking of the night to come.
She picked up the wine glasses and tried to strike her most seductive pose, which probably looked more like she’d already had a few drinks rather than the sex kitten persona she was going for.
The back door closed and the tapping of Nate’s hard-soled shoes echoed off the tile floor. Then they stopped. He must have been putting his briefcase down. A few seconds later he rounded the corner and she smiled widely, holding out a glass for him. “Hey, hot stuff.”
He didn’t say anything. His normally clear blue eyes were red and his dark hair was disheveled, as though he’d been running a hand through it. He did that when he was upset.
“You okay? Looks like you’ve had quite a day. Lose a big case?”
He shook his head. “No, babe. I didn’t lose a case.” He took the wine from her and sucked it down like water.
Her stomach sank. “You’re scaring me. What is it? You didn’t lose your job, did you?” She laughed nervously.
He shook his head again and looked at her as if he was about to cry. Nate didn’t say anything. He just looked at her.
“Honey? What? What is it? Talk to me. Please.”
Tears now slid down his face. “I didn’t want to do this. I swore I’d be strong and wasn’t going to lose it and frighten you, but, God dammit. God dammit!”
Impatience that now turned to fear gnawed at Jamie’s gut. “Nate, what the hell is going on?”
He took her hand. “Where’s Maddie?”
“In the bath. What is going on?”
“I saw Robert Kurtz today.”
“Yeah, so?” Her stomach sank. “You have lunch with him sometimes, right?” Jamie asked, knowing that Nate was referring to an old college buddy of his. “You see him sometimes. What? Why is that a big deal?”
“No, Jamie. I saw him. I saw him as a patient. I didn’t go back to Dr. Riggs. He’s retired now.”
She closed her eyes and tried wrapping her mind around what Nate was telling her, but it didn’t make sense. No. It couldn’t. Robert was an oncologist.
“Why? Why did you see him as a patient? What are you saying?” She tried hard to keep the panic from her voice. Jamie choked back the suffocation grasping her around the throat, making it difficult to breathe. She knew exactly what he was trying to tell her, but not until he said the words would she believe him and even then… she shook her head. “No. No, no, no. No.”
“It’s not good. It’s back, J.”
“No. I… I…what? It’s not back! You beat it. We beat it. We beat it. The doctors told us. They said that the chances were good that it was gone. You were in remission and we were told that your chances were really good! Five years and it’s been gone.” She flung her hands making the safe sign like in baseball. Tears stung the back of her eyes.
“I know what they said, honey. They were wrong. I had a biopsy. It’s in my liver.”
“You had a biopsy? When? No!” A vice gripped her heart as she watched her husband’s face wrinkle up, the tears now streaming down. He rubbed his hands through his hair and nodded. “I didn’t want to tell you and worry you. I really thought it would all be okay.”
Jamie couldn’t speak. Nate set his glass down and pulled her into him, smelling woodsy and warm. He stroked her hair and she wrapped her fingers around the tiny curls at the nape of his neck. Comfort. He was her zone—the soft place she came home to every night. He held her tightly, as if he was as afraid as she was to ever let go.