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Visits to the playground always brought the children to mind, their images as real as they were in her dreams, which were more frequent now.
Olivia sat down on a bench near the wrought-iron bars separating the playground from the busy city street, her lunch, a salad in a plastic container, on her lap. Her appetite was gone.
The last time she'd come to this playground, just two days ago, the dream boy, three or four years old, had been marveling over a daddy longlegs making its way up his little arm. The girl, the same age, in a yellow tutu, twirled along a meadow filled with wildflowers, despite it being January in New York City. Like now, the images were fleeting, a moment, maybe two. But they were as vivid as a photograph. Sometimes the boy and girl were very young-but never infants-and sometimes they were older. Like thirteen.
"What you're doing is illegal, you know."
Olivia turned at the unexpected voice of her coworker, Camilla Capshaw.Glitz magazine's assistant beauty editor, one of her only friends at the office, waited for a group of moms pushing strollers to pass, then sat down next to Olivia, pulling her own salad from a bag onto her lap.
"Sitting on a bench is illegal?" Olivia asked.
"Entering a playground when you're not accompanied by a kid is illegal," Camilla explained, tossing her shiny, straight dark hair behind her shoulder.
Olivia glanced at her. "Really? We could be arrested for just sitting here?"
Camilla nodded and speared a cucumber. "Don't you remember reading about that woman who got a ticket last year for doing the same thing?"
Olivia shook her head and swiped a cherry tomato from Camilla's salad, her appetite returning. Camilla's presence always made Olivia feel better. "No, but I guess I understand the reasoning behind it. Especially in a city like New York."
"Why would you spend your precious lunch minute watching a bunch of tiny screaming lunatics, anyway?" Camilla asked. "We work with enough screaming lunatics." She sipped from her water bottle. "I've seen you sitting here many times. How can you stand the noise?"
Olivia made a show of glancing at her watch. "We'd better get back to the office. Our lunch minute is up."
Camilla raised an eyebrow. "One day you're going to tell me all your secrets, Ms. Private. But you're right: if we're a second late for Bitch Face's two o'clock staff meeting, she'll probably fire us."
Their boss was definitely a nightmare to work for, but at least she'd saved Olivia from having to answer Camilla's question.
"Motherhood ruins your life," Camilla whispered into Olivia's ear. "Case in point-your boss."
Olivia followed Camilla's upped chin at her supervisor, Vivian Carl, senior features editor of Glitz magazine. Vivian, sitting at the far end-the executive end-of the conference room table, was nine months pregnant, due three days ago, and looked very uncomfortable, both physically and otherwise.
"Vivian, we've reassigned your celebrity interviews for the upcoming months," the editor in chief, Desdemona Fine, announced, without looking at Vivian. "Olivia will now interview Nicole Kidman for our June issue and take over your feature article on the best spas in the country."
Vivian sent Olivia a withering glance, then turned to the editor in chief. "I'm sure I can handle all my work. I'm planning only a three-day maternity leave, and-"
"Moving on to personnel matters," Desdemona interrupted, pushing her poker-straight blond hair behind her shoulder. "As representatives of Glitz magazine, one of the most influential and popular beauty and fashion journals in the country, I expect you to dress appropriately. For example"-she slid her cold gray gaze on an editorial assistant-"Uggs are out. And mock Uggs were never in." Additionally, we at Glitz magazine do not support the counterfeiting of designer goods." The editorial assistant turned red and slid lower in her chair. "If you are unsure about the image you are projecting as a Glitz staffer, please see our fashion director or one of our stylists."
Olivia glanced at Glitz's fashion director, whose cropped blazer was made entirely of sparkling black feathers. Olivia tried not to stare at her hat, a bizarre silver cone that reminded her of an art project for preschoolers.
"Bitch Face chewed me out over the length of my skirt yesterday," Camilla whispered to Olivia as the editor in chief droned on. "An inch higher would completely change your look," Camilla mimicked. "'You really should invest in a full-length mirror, dear.' I hate her guts."
Olivia shot her friend a commiserating smile. "I love the way you dress," she whispered back, taking in Camilla's thrift-store glamour ensemble. The editor in chief often commented that vintage and "send to Goodwill" were not synonymous.
Olivia had worked at Glitz for five years and had never been taken to task by the editor in chief.
Because you have a great sense of style, Camilla had once said. That's all Bitch Face really cares about. And because you have the bucks to buy great clothes. And because you're a Sedgwick. You can do no wrong.
First of all, Olivia wouldn't say she had a great sense of style. She was attracted to understated, classic clothes in pale, muted shades or black. She hated to stand out. And she didn't have big bucks. As the associate features editor of Glitz, Olivia could barely afford the rent on her Manhattan apartment.
It was the Sedgwick that gave the impression of money and glamour and grandeur. Olivia's father, William Sedgwick, who'd passed away only one month ago, had been a regular on Forbes magazine's Wealthiest in America list.
In fact, magazines and newspapers provided Olivia with most of her information about her father; the rest came from gossip-which might or might not be true-from her mother.
Olivia hadn't even known that her own father had been dying of cancer.
If he hadn't named Olivia in his will, she had no doubt she would have found out about his death from the New York Times obituary section. As it was, she'd learned of his death from his lawyer.
Olivia forced herself to focus on the editor in chief, who was sitting at the head of the long, polished table, still cutting staffers down with a word or even just a glance.
"You're not related to the Sedgwicks, are you?" the editor in chief had asked five years ago at Olivia's interview-her fifth and final for the magazine.
The Sedgwick Olivia had wanted to correct. But she'd rightly sensed you didn't correct Desdemona Fine, whose real name-according to office gossip-was Mona Fingerman. There was no family of Sedgwicks, past or present. There was William, the Sedgwick. And his three daughters, each born of a different mother, none of whom were society page material or remotely well-off, let alone living in luxury.
Olivia's mother berated Olivia on a daily basis for not living up to her name. You're a Sedgwick! If I had the name, I'd milk it for all it's worth. And it's worth millions.
Olivia's mother had never married William Sedgwick. She'd famously sued him for millions in child support and had been awarded a very comfortable settlement. Of Olivia's half sisters, only Ivy was a "legitimate" child, only Ivy's mother had been married to William. Briefly of course. According to legend, Dana Sedgwick had gotten a young William dead drunk during a trip to a luxury casino in Las Vegas and sweet-talked him into marrying her at a drive-through wedding chapel. He had the marriage annulled within the week. When anyone asked Dana how long she'd been married to William, she often said they'd had many good years together.
Olivia's mother had had a fling with William. She'd been his flavor of the month twenty-nine years ago, and when Candace Hearn told him she was pregnant with his child, he ended the relationship. She won her settlement and had tried to foist Olivia on her father since the day she was born. William had never been interested. Fatherhood wasn't among his interests or priorities.
Except for the summer she turned sixteen. A summer she never allowed herself to think about.
"Those staffers on the associate level would do well to emulate Olivia Sedgwick's style," Desdemona said, smiling at Olivia.
Olivia felt her cheeks burn. She also felt the eyes of her coworkers and her immediate supervisor, Vivian, narrow on her. Thanks to being Desdemona's pet, most of Olivia's coworkers hated her. Those who took the time to get to know her, like Camilla had, realized that Olivia wasn't the affected snob they thought she was.
"I can handle the Nicole Kidman interview," Vivian said to Desdemona. "It's the cover story, so-"
Desdemona held up a hand. "So Olivia will handle it for you. Do you really think you can represent Glitz magazine with leaky tits and baby spit-up on your blouse?"
Vivian burst into tears. Hormonal, I-can't-take-another-minute-of-you tears.
Olivia closed her eyes and shook her head. This was so unfair. Desdemona was so unfair. But instead of threatening the editor in chief with a discrimination suit, Vivian simply sobbed, then ran out of the room. No one would ever back her up anyway. Desdemona was too powerful.
"Waddling doesn't become anyone," Desdemona said under her breath with a tsk-tsk tone, then returned her attention to the meeting minutes.
And Olivia thought Desdemona couldn't possibly get any more vicious.
"Do yourself a very big favor," Camilla whispered to Olivia. "Never get pregnant."
Too late, Olivia thought. Not that she was pregnant right now. But she had been once. A long time ago.
As Olivia settled herself in bed with an article to edit (how many pieces on Botox was Glitz going to run?), a boy's face flitted into her mind, a good-looking face with intelligent, kind hazel eyes. This was not the dream boy, though once upon a time he had been Olivia's dream man. Not that Zachary Archer at sixteen had been a man, of course.
Olivia could still see the way Zach's sandy brown hair fell over his forehead. She could still see him so clearly.
It had been so long since that summer-since that lonely fall and winter and heartbreaking spring-that thinking of Zach and what she'd gone through had lost its power to send her to her knees. She had no idea how she'd managed to get through that time and then immediately afterward, college, as though she'd graduated from a regular high school like every other incoming freshman. Her mother had used the Sedgwick name and legacy to get her into her father's alma mater. Olivia would be walking across campus, forcing herself not to think of Zach, but his face would appear before her mind's eye and the pain would whoosh the air of her lungs.
She'd spent her college years either studying or crying, which didn't allow for friends. And then after college she'd come home to New York City, where she'd grown up just off Park Avenue in a small apartment her mother had managed to buy with her settlement from William. Her mother had a contact at Glitz, and Olivia, still numb, had come back to life just a little. Working for a fashion magazine like Vogue or Glitz had always been her dream. Olivia's relationship with her mother had improved in those early months, when Olivia had had something else to think about other than Zach.
Other than the pregnancy. The birth. The news that had come so cruelly.
"Why isn't it crying?" sixteen-year-old Olivia had asked the nurse, still unsure whether she'd had a boy or a girl.
"Because it's dead," the nurse had said flatly. "Stillborn."
She'd fainted then and had woken up alone in a small, airless room. When the nurse's words had come back to her, she'd gasped and dropped to her knees and then screamed. The same nurse had come rushing in and told her to "stop making such a racket," that it was the middle of the night.
Her mother was all she'd had after that. Her father couldn't stand the sight of her after that summer. Her sisters had no idea that Olivia had been pregnant and shipped off to a home for unwed mothers hours up the Maine coast. They had no idea that she'd been forced to put the baby up for adoption. Or that the baby hadn't taken a single breath. And so Olivia had distanced herself from her sisters even more. Her mother had been an only child, so there were no aunts, no cousins to turn to. Just Olivia and her memories.
Her father's name had gotten Olivia the job at Glitz, and she'd been there ever since. Five years. She'd started as an editorial assistant to Vivian and had been promoted twice. Desdemona had often hinted that Olivia could count on having Vivian's job, too.
Tears burning her eyes, Olivia set the article aside and glanced out the window of her skyscraper apartment building; flurries blew around in the January wind. Despite the warmth of her apartment and her cozy down comforter, she shivered. The idea of stealing her boss's job while Vivian was on maternity leave-a weeklong maternity leave-made her sick to her stomach. Sometimes Olivia thought about leaving Glitz, but crazy as it sounded, she liked her job very much; she was suited to it, and she adored Camilla. Despite the bitching and backstabbing, Glitz had provided Olivia with work she loved, structure, a life. And with a mother like Candace Hearn, Olivia had learned to tune out bitching. Backstabbing was another story. Her mother might have had a shrill shell, but inside she was something of a marshmallow. Desdemona Fine, on the other hand, was a shrill shell inside and out.
Out of the corner of her eye, Olivia noticed the red light blinking on her answering machine. She'd been so wrapped up in memories and work when she arrived home that she hadn't even thought to check her messages.
She padded out of bed and pressed Play.
"Livvy, dear, it's Mother. I ran into Buffy Carmichael. You remember, Buffy, darling. She chairs so many charity events. Anyway, Buffy mentioned that her son, Walter, is recently separated, and of course I gave Buffy your number, so expect a call, dear. He's very wealthy. She showed me a photo and he's no Orlando Bloom, but at your age you can't afford to be picky about looks-only about income. Bye, dear. Oh-I'd really like you to consider changing your mind about tomorrow. I'd really like to be there when you find out what your father left you in his will. Ta-ta!"
Olivia rolled her eyes at the phone. She'd gotten out of bed for that? And why couldn't her mother talk like a normal person?
At your age ... Please. Olivia was twenty-nine! Young. And she couldn't care less about a man's looks or income. Once she'd moved back to New York and started working at Glitz, Olivia had numbly dated many different men-grad students, CEOs, a plumber (whose pants did not hang down), a chef, a mechanic, a shrink. The list went on and on. She dated. She had sex. And that was about it. She tried-really tried-to fall in love with several of the men she dated; she tried to develop real relationships with them, but a piece of her-the most important piece, the deepest piece-just didn't come out of its hiding place. It had once. With Zach. Maybe you loved like that only once.
She hoped not. She'd last loved like that when she was sixteen. If that was her last hurrah-her only hurrah-she was in big trouble.
And no, Mommy Dearest, you can't come with me tomorrow. Tomorrow, Friday, January thirtieth, was the day she was to receive her father's letter from his lawyer. An envelope with her name on it. To Be Opened No Sooner or Later Than January 30.
Olivia had no idea what the date could possibly mean. Why January 30? It was just an arbitrary day, but perhaps it meant something to her father.
Her sister Amanda had already received her inheritance letter a month ago (also on a specific day); it had stated that Amanda would inherit their father's million-dollar brownstone on the Upper West Side-if she followed a bunch of ridiculous and arbitrary rules for a month, such as not looking out of certain windows or going in certain rooms. Her father had even arranged for a watchdog to ensure that Amanda followed his rules to the letter-literally. That watchdog ended up becoming Amanda's husband. The happy couple-who donated the brownstone to a children's charity-was now on an extended honeymoon.
Excerpted from HAUNTING OLIVIA by JANELLE TAYLOR Copyright © 2006 by Janelle Taylor. 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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Posted December 9, 2008
Thirteen years ago in Blueberry, Maine Olivia Sedgwick gave birth to a stillborn child. She never saw her offspring and was so distraught she never learned the sex of her baby. She left Maine vowing to never return as even the father of her child Zach Archer was not there for her. However Olivia is haunted by dreams of a boy and a girl, whom she assumes is a subconscious memory of her lost baby.---------------- When her father dies, his will contains a stipulation if she and her mother are to inherit anything. Olivia must live in his summer cottage in Blueberry for one month and everyday during her stay she must buy one item each at two local stores everyday. She wants to say no, but she knows her mom needs the money so she agrees to the terms set forth by the dad she never met and quits her job at Glitz Magazine.------------- In Blueberry, accidents begin to happen as if someone wants Olivia to leave town. More haunting is seeing Zach with his daughter Kayla, whose age would be the same as the child they lost. Olivia soon realizes that her father lied about his granddaughter as her baby is now a young teen raised by Zach. As they try to clear up misunderstandings fostered by Olivia¿s late dad, someone wants Olivia and seemingly all the teen-age beauty contestants dead.-------------- This is a fascinating complex romantic mystery with a touch of the paranormal. Olivia is a terrific protagonist who finds herself stunned to learn her daughter lives and that she still loves Zach. He feels the same way, but has problems trusting his beloved though he realizes her father manipulated everyone. Though the beauty pageant killer subplot seems over the edge (Miss Congeniality aside) the sequel to Watching Amanda (Olivia¿s half-sister) is a wonderful second chance at love thriller.-------------- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 4, 2013
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Posted December 23, 2012
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