Doing Good

Doing Good

4.2 4
by Pamela Morsi

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Jane Lofton may have grown up as a nobody, but she didn't stay one for long. Not once she figured out that hard work, tenacity and blond ambition were a girl's best friend. Of course, having the right husband doesn't hurt, either. But being rich and successful is not all it's cracked up to be. Okay, maybe it is—but life is still tough.

Jane is so busy

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Jane Lofton may have grown up as a nobody, but she didn't stay one for long. Not once she figured out that hard work, tenacity and blond ambition were a girl's best friend. Of course, having the right husband doesn't hurt, either. But being rich and successful is not all it's cracked up to be. Okay, maybe it is—but life is still tough.

Jane is so busy rescheduling her next liposuction, shopping for clothes she doesn't need and bragging about her latest real estate sale that she hasn't noticed the callus forming around her heart. Her husband is cheating on her, and she talks to her daughter through a therapist. No, life is not perfect.

So what should she do? Jane's not sure, but she figures a drive in her convertible might help her relax. A broken fingernail momentarily diverts her attention, and when she looks up she sees an eighteen-wheeler bearing down on her. Suddenly Jane's problems become incidental. She barely escapes with her life, but not before she makes a solemn promise to "do good" for the rest of her life.

So how come "doing good" is so complicated?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Clever and comical at its best and slow-moving and chatty at its worst, Morsi's (Matters of the Heart) first foray into the realm of contemporary women's fiction chronicles the painstaking transformation of 40-something Jane Lofton from narcissistic snob to messianic do-gooder. Jane has everything she thought she ever wanted a filthy rich husband, a successful career as a realtor and a membership to the most exclusive country club in Texas. Even the knowledge that her husband is cheating on her again and her 19-year-old daughter will only speak to her through her therapist doesn't phase her. It isn't until she's nearly killed in a car accident and miraculously saved by Chester Durbin, a frail old man living in an assisted living center, that she realizes how skewed her priorities are. After the accident, Jane embarks on a mission to do good, but her initial attempts (writing checks to charities and helping a young girl find her way back to her mother in a mall) fail miserably. With the help of Chester's sage advice, Jane eventually gets on the right track, weathers the dissolution of her marriage and finds love in the arms of an old school chum, but her journey, though inspirational, is hardly exceptional. Middle-aged working moms may identify with Jane's struggle to trust her daughter, but others will be hard-pressed to find anything redeeming about Morsi's protagonist aside from her desire to do good. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Chapter One

If anyone had asked me that morning how my life was going, I would have told them that I was doing good. I'd had a five-million-dollar year in real estate sales, much to the chagrin of some of my less ambitious colleagues. I'd just finished remodeling our impressive five-bedroom Italianate in the exclusive Cambridge Heights neighborhood. I chaired the Corporate Development Committee for the Junior League. And my bright and beautiful daughter, Brynn, was in her second year at college back East.

Of course, things were not perfect. David, my husband, was having his little "affair" with that tacky, blond, 20-something hairstylist. It was so typical and such a cliché.

I, though still dealing with that dead-skin feeling from my recent tuck and lift, was trying to schedule some free time to get my thighs sucked. Plastic surgery is like painting the baseboards. It makes you notice how bad the walls look.

Brynn was seeing a highly reputable and expensive therapist twice a week. He felt that it would be counterproductive for her to take time away from school and her sessions with him to visit her parents. I missed her.

So it wasn't as if I was living in a fairy tale, but I thought that I was doing good.

That same afternoon I took a couple with midlevel salaries and a Ford Expedition to look at a renovated ranch house in Stoney Hills. It was pretty lackluster, but the neighborhood was prime.

"It's a big house for just two people," the husband pointed out. His wife raised her head immediately. Whether they had opted for a childless marriage or it had been a medical issue, she was obviously defensiveabout it. I was on her side.

"The size of a house shouldn't be determined solely by the number of people who are going to live there," I told him. "A pair of successful, goal-focused individuals certainly deserve as roomy and as comfortable a living space as some Brady Bunch horde."

The description of the latter was voiced with deliberate disdain.

"A fine home," I continued, "like a luxurious car, is a reflection of the owner's personal worth and value in the community. I don't think that can ever be too large."

They offered a full-price contract on the house. To celebrate this coup, I dropped by the Yesteryear Emporium on Broadway at San Jose near the edge of downtown. It was a dark, cavernous building that had housed a big department store that had gone bankrupt in the 30s. It was my favorite antique store in the city, and I had been to all of them. It wasn't just that they had some nice things from time to time, which they certainly did, but it was crammed full of every imaginable glass or chair or unimaginable farm implement. Three floors and a back lot to the alley—open for wandering among the superfluous and the sublime. Only the mezzanine level, where the owner lived, was off limits. Although for all that fellow noticed, I probably could have rifled though his apartment and bought his own door lock, and he would have neither known what it was nor recognized its value.

He was a big, burly, good-looking guy who didn't know squat about antiques. No matter how unreasonably low the price might be on a treasured item, I could always intimidate him into letting me have it for less.

He rarely ventured from beyond the counter. Partly because he had a pronounced limp that frequently required the use of a cane. But more often, I think, because he was busily typing on a greasy old Underwood. I assumed he was either writing pornographic novels or editing an outlaw-biker magazine. Whatever his preoccupation, it was my pleasure to talk him out of his best inventory at a 10th of its value. I didn't feel bad about it. If the guy doesn't know what his merchandise is worth, he deserves to have it stolen.

That particular day I got away with a star-cut crystal jardiniere for 45 dollars. I was smiling all the way home.

I fixed a light dinner. David's 18 holes ran long, and he came straight from the shower to the table dressed in Dockers and a polo shirt.

"You should have seen me on the seventh green," he said. "I was perfectly aligned. If I hadn't seen it myself, I would have thought I'd put the ball down by hand. Dolph bogied and I cleaned it up. I tell you, when that happens I just feel like I can do anything."

I do not play golf. I never have. I never will. None of that mattered to David, of course. It was beyond his imagining that anyone might not be interested in a shot-by-shot replay of his game.

I didn't bother to interrupt him. I tuned out what he was saying and waited, rather patiently, I thought, for him to finish. Eventually, he did.

"You remember that we have that party at the club tonight," I said.

Clearly he didn't remember, but he nodded as if he did.

"You'll have to make my apologies," he said. "I can't make it tonight, I'm due back at the office."

David's work as a partner in the law practice started by his grandfather barely required a 30-hour work week. Anything more than that would have conflicted drastically with his golfing schedule. The phrase due back at the office was David's private unspoken euphemism for his having made plans with Mikki, the aforementioned blond, 20-something hairstylist.

I was furious, not because he was going to be with her, but because he was not going to be with me. I didn't really care where, or with whom, he slept, but when facing the lions of country club society it was always easier to go at it as a team, with someone beside you to watch your back.

"This is the most important get-together of the season," I pointed out. "Next year's membership applications are all in. There'll be plenty of discussion about who is to fill the vacancies."

The country club was as exclusive an old guard as can be imagined. It dated back to 1914, and most of the original family names were still on the roster. The annual fees were exorbitant—sufficient deterrent to keep out the vast majority of the populace. But there were plenty of other restrictions. Only a current member in good standing could put a name up for consideration. And new people were added reluctantly. Neither money nor politics nor social position could ensure acceptance. Inclusion was entirely at the whim of those already ensconced. The voting was done at the Christmas party, by secret ballot. And it had to be unanimous. Private pettiness was disguised as conservative concern. In the 20 years that I'd been a part of it, fewer than a dozen new families had been accepted for invitation. The only long-term way to sell exclusivity was to not sell too much of it.

"You just go without me and tell me later what I need to know," David said. "I always vote the way you want anyway."

That was certainly true. David could not have cared less about the club or the politics swirling within it—even though it had figured prominently in his childhood as the site of every birthday party, Easter-egg hunt, and Fourth of July fireworks display. It was where he'd first learned to dance, where we'd had our wedding reception, where he'd introduced Brynn at her debutante ball. Close association with the club had made David less in awe of it. For him, it was just another golf course. And not even one of his favorites.

For me, who would have never been allowed through those gates without him, the club was the symbol of all I had attained in my life. I'd grown up as a west-side nobody. Now I was Someone, with a capital S, in the city. I was not likely to take that for granted.

"I talked to Brynn today," David said, deftly changing the subject.

I stopped in midbite and held myself completely still for an instant.

"She called you?" It was not like her to disturb Daddy at work. Me, of course, she would call up on my mobile at any time of the day or night.

"She said she was working through her primary relationships with Dr. Reiser," David said. "She didn't want to confuse the situation with any input from you."

I nodded. Hopeful. Accepting. Dr. Reiser was not her first therapist. The previous half dozen had nodded a lot and appeared thoughtful, but none had ever been able to hone in on Brynn's problem.

Excerpted from Doing Good by Pamela Morsi. Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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