Pretty Woman
  • Pretty Woman
  • Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman

4.1 50
by Fern Michaels
     
 

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In Fern Michaels's extraordinary, inspiring New York Times bestseller, an overweight woman sets out to improve her life by losing fifty-five pounds — and ends up changing much more than her dress size!

Rosie Gardener fell under the spell of handsome Kent Bliss, and not even her best friend Vickie could persuade her that her fiancé was a

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Overview

In Fern Michaels's extraordinary, inspiring New York Times bestseller, an overweight woman sets out to improve her life by losing fifty-five pounds — and ends up changing much more than her dress size!

Rosie Gardener fell under the spell of handsome Kent Bliss, and not even her best friend Vickie could persuade her that her fiancé was a two-timing cad. Now it's her third wedding anniversary, and Rosie, fed up with Kent's mistreatment, realizes her estranged best friend was right. But the day after kicking Kent out and beginning a diet and exercise regime, Rosie experiences another life-changing event: she wins $302 million in the Wonderball lottery. Now with Kent lurking in the shadows to claim a share of her money, Rosie needs her friends more than ever. As she works out under the eye of sexy personal trainer Jack Silver, a stronger new Rosie emerges — a woman who wants to learn to trust love once again. Can she keep her vow not to be stopped by Kent's bitterness and her own self-doubts and jump into life with a passion she didn't know she possessed?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fern Michaels 'SHINES!'"

Publishers Weekly

"Fern Michaels's characters are real and endearing, her prose so natural that it seems you are witnessing the story rather than reading about it."

Los Angeles Times

Publishers Weekly
Rotund Rosie Bliss, nEe Gardener, is miserable. She has known all along that her husband married her for her money she runs a successful mail-order business, Nature's Decorations but she has always lacked the courage to do anything about it. She even lost her best friend and business partner, Vickie, over the truth. In a rare show of spine, Rosie throws out the sorry Kent when he misses their third anniversary dinner. Kent isn't sorry to leave (You're nothing but a fat pig with big feet), but he slinks back the next day when he discovers that Rosie has won the lottery a $302 million jackpot. As she fights to keep Kent's hands off her windfall and resolves to become the pretty woman he never saw in her, Rosie is cheered on by wonderful trainer Jack Silver, housekeeper Luna Mae, and Vickie, with whom Rosie renews her friendship. Kent schemes alternately to get Rosie back and to steal from her, but ends by almost believably growing up, even seeing her transformation as an inspiration for his own necessary changes. Rosie, however, isn't waiting around for him. The concluding triathlon, in which Michaels's likable heroine shows her stuff, is a strong finish to a frothy read. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743483506
Publisher:
Pocket Books
Publication date:
03/28/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Three Years Later

Rosie Bliss feigned sleep in the early-morning light. There had been a time when she'd loved lying in bed watching her husband get dressed for the day. Two years and fifty-one weeks ago. Now, she dreaded opening her eyes in the morning to watch him fuss and fiddle and primp like some movie star.

Oh, Kent had the looks of a movie star, that was for sure. He could have doubled for George Clooney with his dark unruly hair and bedroom brown eyes. It was the rest of him that didn't go with the image. She'd found that out, too, two years and fifty-one weeks ago.

She sneezed. The jig was up. Rolling over, Rosie turned on the bedside lamp and sat up. She hugged her knees close to her chest. No mean feat with the extra pounds she'd put on over those two years and fifty-one weeks. She waited now for the verbal onslaught she knew was coming. When she finally got tired of waiting, she said, "Well, let's get on with it so we can both start our day."

Today he wouldn't look at her. She wondered what that meant. Once she had cared about every little thing he did. She'd done everything but turn herself inside out to please the man she'd married. It had taken her exactly seven days, the length of their honeymoon, to figure out it was never going to happen.

The realization that her friend Vickie had been right made the knowledge all the more bitter. So she'd doubled her efforts to win her husband's love. She'd bought him outrageous gifts, mountains of pricey clothes, a Rolex, a Mont Blanc pen, a speedboat, a flatscreen television set, any number of electronic toys, the memberships at the country club and the Olympus Gym in the hopes of a smile and maybe a lovemaking session. It never worked.

Rosie wondered if Kent even remembered that it was their wedding anniversary. She bit down on her tongue to make sure she didn't blurt it out. Instead, she let her gaze go to a small television set perched on the corner of the dresser. Kent liked to hear the local news while he got ready for his day. Her ears perked up when she heard him make a sound. Maybe it was a grunt. He rarely spoke so early in the morning. He did point to the screen. She grimaced as the morning news anchor rattled on about the Wonderball lottery drawing that was going to be held that night. Someone, the news anchor said, was really going to win 302 million dollars, the largest Wonderball drawing ever. He went on to say people were coming to Savannah from other states, mostly South Carolina and North Carolina, to buy tickets. The wait in line, according to the newsperson, was up to four hours.

Rosie blinked when she heard her husband say, "I bought a hundred dollars' worth of tickets yesterday. Man, I could spend that money in a heartbeat."

Rosie swung her legs over the side of the bed. "It's always about money with you, isn't it, Kent?" she observed quietly. "Between the two of us we make almost half a million dollars a year." There was no need to remind him that four hundred and fifty thousand of the half million dollars was money she earned. Kent just played at selling real estate and looking nice for the customers he drove around all day long in his Porsche.

Rosie stood up, moved closer to her husband. He deliberately inched away. He still wasn't looking at her. Today of all days. She bit down on her bottom lip again to prevent herself from mentioning their anniversary. She sniffed his aftershave. She loved the way he smelled so early in the morning. Rather like a woody glen on a clear summer day.

She was a fool.

She hated the anxiousness in her voice when she said, "Will you be home for dinner, Kent?"

"Probably not. I have appointments right through seven o'clock."

She was angry now. She couldn't remember the last time they'd had dinner together. She couldn't remember the last time they'd done anything together. Sex was something other people had. She felt her insides start to shrivel at the coldness in his voice.

"I think, Kent, it would be a good idea for you to come home to dinner this evening. This is June." Maybe mentioning the month would trigger his memory. "You haven't sold a house or a piece of property in three months. You haven't contributed a cent to this household since we got married. Since I am the breadwinner, I want you home for dinner." She was surprised at the ring of steel in her voice.

Kent jerked at his tie before he turned around. He stared at her, a look of revulsion on his face. Stunned, Rosie backed up two steps. "And if I don't come home for dinner, what are you going to do, Rosalie? Are you going to cut off my allowance?"

Damn, when am I going to learn? When did I turn into such a gutless wonder? Her spine stiffened imperceptibly. She summoned up the steely tone again. "Worse. I'll sell your car. The one I'm still paying for. The one you trade in every year. On your salary, you should be able to lease a Volkswagen. After I do that, I'll drive over to the country club and cancel our membership, and your membership to that prestigious gym where you pretend to work out. Effective immediately. Depending on my mood at that point, I might or might not sink that damn speedboat. Dinner will be at seven. My advice would be to show up on time."

Rosie slammed, then locked the bathroom door. She sat down on the edge of the Jacuzzi and cried.

She was a fool.

A stupid fool who still had feelings for her handsome husband. A husband who made no pretense of even liking her, much less loving her. A husband who'd never said a kind word to her. However, he had said bushels of unkind words. He hated her weight, hated her freckles, hated her pug nose, hated her curly brown hair, hated her clothes. Loved her money. Loved her prestigious address. And, of course, he loved himself. And yet she stayed with him. I'm not just a fool, but a stupid, ignorant fool.

She should have had the guts to kick him out of the house two years and fifty-one weeks ago. But, because she was a fool in love, she'd thought their marriage would get better. Just like every other dumb woman who fell for a bad apple. Even when she knew it was getting worse, she'd hung in there, hating to admit she'd made a mistake, so she turned pretense into an art form. Her housekeeper, Luna Mae, said she was in denial.

Luna Mae was right.

Well, it's time to do something about it. Tonight I'm going to lay down a whole new set of rules, and if Kent doesn't like those rules, then Kent can leave.

Bitter bile rose in her throat. If he left her, everyone in town would talk and gossip. Luna Mae Luna would look at her with pity. Thank God Vickie wasn't around to say, I told you so. She'd have to turn into more of a recluse than she was already. If she did that, she'd go from a size sixteen to a size eighteen. Fat women's clothes. She'd been a size fourteen when she married Kent. Now she was a size sixteen as long as the garment came with elastic. Her favorite word these days, elastic.

Not only was she a stupid, ignorant fool; she was a mess, too. Physically as well as mentally.

A bold knock sounded on the bathroom door. Kent apologizing? Not in this lifetime. "What?" she barked tearfully.

"Open the door, Rosie."

Luna Mae.

Rosie hitched up the bottom of her pajamas and opened the door. She fell into her housekeeper's arms, hoping for kind words and solace. It wasn't to be.

Luna Mae Luna, aka Charlotte Bertha Hennessy, fixed her steely gaze on her employer before offering up a solid whack on Rosie's behind. "I heard everything, and yes, I was eavesdropping outside the door. Are you ever going to learn? When are you going to stop taking his crap? That weasel has made you a laughingstock in this town. I hear everything when I go to the market. I even overhear things I'm not supposed to hear. Things your husband says about you at the club. You're a standing joke, Rosie. We've had this discussion a hundred times, and you don't do anything."

Luna Mae Luna had been a homeless person when Rosie, who'd been eighteen then, had found her and brought her home to Rosie's mother, who had cleaned her up, then hired her on the spot. Luna Mae was a female Mr. Clean, opinionated, a hell of a cook, and read the Bible every day. She'd gone to seed, as she put it, after her boyfriend, a man named Skipper who had sixty-seven tattoos and a cat, crashed and burned on a racetrack. She'd cremated him, what was left of him, with her last cent, taken his mangy cat, and lived on the streets begging for handouts. Skipper, his ashes in an urn, sat on the mantel in her bedroom. She talked to him every day. She'd cremated Buster the cat, too, when he'd used up all his nine lives. Sometimes she talked to Buster when she got really lonely.

If there was anything or anyone Luna Mae truly loved, it was Rosie because Rosie had been her savior.

"You need to grow some balls, honey, and kick that man's ass all the way to the Mason-Dixon line. He doesn't love you. He loves your money, child. When are you going to see that? When it's too late, that's when. You're letting the business slide. I'm one person. I can't keep doing it all. I'm thinking it's time for you to do some major sucking up and call Vickie. You need her, Rosie. You really do."

"No, Luna Mae, I can't do that. I was so ugly to her the last time we talked. I don't even know where she is. I thought she would keep in touch, but she didn't. Let's be honest here. If the situation were reversed, I wouldn't call her either. Besides, how can I admit how wrong I was and how right she was?"

"You just say it, honey. Friends understand things like that. She can't be that hard to find. I can ask around. I'm sure someone in town has her address. Like the post office," she added slyly. "Look, you two girls loved each other. She only wanted what was best for you, just the way I did. Vickie didn't say anything to you that I didn't say. You took it from me but not from Vickie."

Rosie rubbed at her temples. "I thought she was jealous. Pride is a terrible thing, Luna Mae. Okay, enough of this. In case you forgot, today is my wedding anniversary. I want you to make a big dinner, standing rib roast, Kent's favorite. I want scented candles, lots of fragrant flowers. Use Mom's linen tablecloth, the good silver and crystal. Dinner is at seven. Then I want you to go to the movies. A double feature. Can you do that, Luna Mae?"

Luna Mae nodded. "It isn't going to work, Rosie. I hate saying this, I hate being so blunt, but the man doesn't love you. A fine dinner with real silver and crystal is not going to make a difference. He doesn't even remember it's your anniversary. Why do you want to torture yourself like this?"

"Because I have to."

"Baby, you can't still love that man. He's not worth your little finger. Okay, okay, that's enough talk about him. What would you like for breakfast? How about some waffles with blueberries?"

Rosie looked at her housekeeper. She was tall and skinny, with double braids that were now gray hanging down her back. Granny glasses perched on the end of her nose. Rosie knew Luna Mae forgot to look through them and was forever squinting. Two round circles of bright rouge dotted her bony cheeks. She wore no other makeup. A five-carat diamond graced her middle finger. Luna Mae called it her personal headlight. She was never without it, even in soapy water. Skipper had given it to her after he won a big race. It was supposed to be their nest egg in their retirement years.

"Waffles and blueberries sound just fine, Luna Mae."

At the doorway, Luna Mae turned to call over her shoulder. "Wear something festive today. It will lift your spirits."

Rosie snorted her opinion of that statement. "They don't make festive in size sixteen, Luna Mae."

"Then do something about it," Luna Mae snapped. "You're carrying around enough blubber on your person to sink a ship."

Rosie burst into tears when she slammed the bathroom door shut for the second time. She hiccuped, blew her nose, squeezed her eyes shut, then stripped down to the buff. The mirror was something she avoided like a plague, especially when she was naked. Today she stared at her unflattering figure with wide-open eyes. She looked like a washboard, with all her rolls of fat. She couldn't see her belly button. Every ounce of fat on her body was dimpled.

Rosie stared at her naked body for a long time.

She wasn't pudgy; nor was she chubby or plump. She was fat, fat, fat, from her neck down to her toes.

Whirling around, Rosie stared over her shoulders at her buttocks. This time when she bit down on her lower lip, she tasted her own blood.

Rosie thought she could hear the floor rumble when she stomped her way to the shower, her face a grim mixture of misery and determination.

Thirty minutes later, Rosie presented herself in the kitchen attired in a cranberry sleeveless shift with matching sandals. Festive it wasn't. Luna Mae rolled her eyes as she poured coffee before sliding two delectable-looking waffles onto Rosie's plate.

"I changed my mind, Luna Mae. I'll just have the blueberries and a piece of toast. No butter or jam. No sugar on the berries either, and no cream in my coffee."

"Yes, ma'am," Luna Mae said, saluting smartly. "Now you're getting it, girl."

"Instead of that rich dinner I suggested earlier, let's have poached red snapper. I have to go to the post office, so I'll stop at the fish store. Baked potatoes, green salad, maybe some snap peas and baby carrots. Sorbet for dessert. No rolls, no butter. Just seasonings. For the record, I have nine, that's n-i-n-e rolls of fat from my neck down to my thighs. Later, I'm going to measure my thighs. While I'm out, I want you to call that sporting goods store out by the River Walk, and have them deliver a treadmill, a StairMaster, and an Exercycle. When they deliver it, have them put it all in the sunroom. No one ever goes in there. Take one of the television sets from another room and hook it up in there."

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"You know he's going to have something to say about all this, don't you?"

"Yes, I guess he will, Luna Mae. As you well know, this is my house. My parents left it to me. That means I can do whatever I want here. Kent's name is not on the deed. Now, ask me if I care if he says anything about the equipment."

Luna Mae pushed her granny glasses up to the bridge of her nose. She actually peered through them. "Do you care, baby?"

"No. This toast is delicious. These blueberries are scrumptious, and the coffee stinks without cream and sugar. How long do you think it will take me to lose fifty-five pounds, Luna Mae?"

"A year if you do it right. More coffee?"

Rosie held her cup out for a refill. She looked around at what she considered her mother's kitchen. It was warm and cozy. Comfortable, too. The word homey came to mind. It was a yellow kitchen, the color of sunshine on a warm summer day. The dishes were yellow, too, with a bouquet of green mint in the middle to match the handles on the everyday flatware. She particularly loved the yellow teakettle sitting on the stove. It was probably her favorite thing in the whole kitchen. Then again, maybe her favorite things were on the shelves — her mother's teapot collection. Teapots she'd collected from all over the world. Luna Mae washed them twice a year.

Admiring the pretty, comfortable kitchen, Rosie asked, "Why do you suppose Kent never liked this kitchen or liked eating in it? I don't feel comfortable eating in the dining room because it's so formal."

Luna Mae jammed her hands on her skinny, bony hips and glared at her boss. "Because kitchens represent family and unity. In a time of crisis or a time of happiness, people tend to gather in the kitchen. It's homey, comfortable, safe. It's where the stove is for coffee or tea. Liquor is kept in the cabinet. If you want a single word, then I'd have to say a kitchen is a commitment. That man you married doesn't know the meaning of the word. He's a wannabe. You know it, and I know it.

"Now, what's on your agenda for today other than going to the fish market and the post office?"

"Nature's Decorations," Rosie said, referring to the business she ran out of her three-car garage, "is crying for my commitment. I have orders to pack up for UPS, orders to process, and I need to meet with the photographer to go over my Christmas catalog. I think, if I stay focused, I can double the business I did last Christmas."

Luna Mae twirled one of her long braids between her fingers. "Do you think any of your customers suspect you sell them weeds?"

Rosie grimaced. "They're only weeds when I start out. The finished product is a work of art. The best part is, weeds are free. It's just the lacquer, the paint, and the sparkles that cost money. It's a win win for me. Vickie was the only one who believed in me when I started this. Remember how she and I used to go out in the country and fill our cars with weeds on the weekends? Then we'd dry them out, decorate them, and fill our bank accounts. She hasn't touched any of her share of the money from the business, do you know that? I wonder why."

"Vickie is a woman of principle. Like I said before, you owe her an apology, Rosie." Luna Mae shook her head. "Well, you better get a move on because UPS will be here at three o'clock. If you need me, call me on the intercom, and I'll help you pack up the orders. Since dinner is going to be so simple, I won't need much time to prepare it.

"Would you look at that!" Luna Mae said, pointing to the television set where excited people standing in line to buy lottery tickets were jabbering to a reporter interviewing customers. "It's an obscene amount of money. I'm going to buy a ticket today. What do you think my chances of winning are?"

"Probably one in a billion. You might as well save that dollar because you aren't going to win. I'll see you later."

"Spoilsport. I'm buying it anyway." Luna Mae grinned as she set about clearing the table.

· · ·

Her errands completed an hour later, Rosie stopped at the local gas station. "Don't bother with the windshield or oil, Bobby, they're okay. Just fill it up, and can you bring me a copy of the paper when you come back?"

"Sure, Miz Bliss. You sure about the oil? You want to buy a lottery ticket? Tonight is the big night."

"The oil is fine, and there's no way I'm going to get in that line," Rosie said, motioning to the triple line that ran around the building.

"No problem. I'll get you a ticket. I work here, and rank has its privileges. How many do you want, Miz Bliss?"

"It's like throwing money away, Bobby, but I'm game. I'll take five dollars' worth. Let the machine pick four tickets, and the numbers for me are 1-3-6-7-9 and the Wonderball number is 2." Rosie handed over two twenty-dollar bills. While she waited for her tank to fill and Bobby to return, she thought about her husband buying a hundred dollars' worth of tickets. With her money, of course. She wondered where her husband was at the moment and what he was doing. Did she still care for him, or was it that she was so humiliated she felt she had to care? She thought about how she used to melt when he touched her arm, or smiled at her. She had loved him. What a fool she'd been. Vickie had been so right about everything. She'd wanted to be married so desperately, to validate herself somehow. Being Mrs. Somebody had been the most important thing in the world to her.

She wished now that she had insisted on a prenuptial agreement. Vickie had suggested it, but she'd been outraged with the suggestion. She needed to talk to a lawyer to find out if Kent had any claim to her business, a business she'd incorporated with Vickie long before she'd married Kent. She crossed her fingers that the corporate veil would protect her.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Yet, deep in her gut she knew that if Kent showed up for dinner with a bouquet of flowers, she'd smile, hug him, and all her wicked thoughts would disappear until the next time he berated her. She was a stupid, gutless wonder. If he remembered that it was their anniversary, then she felt confident he would show up for dinner if for no other reason than to get his hands on the gift he would expect her to give him. Wasn't he going to be surprised? She hadn't bought him a thing. But in her heart of hearts she knew full well that he was not coming home for dinner.

Bobby returned with the lottery tickets, the newspaper, and her change. "Those numbers you picked are all single digit. For some reason the Wonderball number is always a high one. You picked a low one. I don't think you're going to win with those numbers, Miz Bliss, they're just way too low. Usually the high numbers win. For some reason the machine printed out five separate tickets instead of one. Sorry about that."

Rosie shrugged as she shoved the tickets and her change into her purse and waited for the young man to remove the gas hose and close the tank. "It doesn't matter, one or five. If I win, Bobby, you'll never have to pump gas again, and I'll put you through medical school."

"I'll hold you to it, Miz Bliss." The lanky teenager laughed as she drove off.

Back home, Rosie parked the car, put the fish in the refrigerator, and walked back to the garage. She really needed to move to a warehouse or bigger quarters. The business was getting too big for her to operate out of her garage. She also needed to think about hiring more full-time as well as part-time help.

She was on her own today. Originally, she hadn't planned on working at all because it was her anniversary. She'd given her help the day off. She'd planned on going to the hairdresser, getting a manicure, pedicure, and a full-body massage. Now, for some strange reason, none of that seemed to matter. What mattered was her flourishing business.

She and Vickie had started the business with $1,790 between them. The biggest expenditure had been the ads in newspapers and magazines. The cost of the sprays, the paints, the shipping cartons, and other incidentals had been charged to their respective credit cards. Inside of six months, they were rolling along and looking forward to a busy holiday season. That first year they earned out, after expenses, a cool thirty thousand dollars that they put right back into the business. The second year they tripled their profits and actually took salaries. The seven-page glossy catalog they'd created for Nature's Decorations had put them over the top in the third year.

They'd hired two full-time workers the fourth year so they could spend more time traveling in their truck to other states to pick weeds. The fifth year they paid off the truck and bought a van. They also added two additional pages to the catalog. By the end of the eighth year, they netted four hundred thousand dollars. In year nine, they took a bad hit with the drought in the South, and their net profits plummeted to the hundred and fifty thousand mark. Year ten found them flush again. Year ten was when Kent Bliss entered her life.

Rosie shivered when she realized she was now in her thirteenth year of business. Thirteen was such an unlucky number.

The pile of orders filled the in basket. There had to be at least three hundred. She hadn't checked her Web site to see how many orders were logged on there. She estimated it would be around seven hundred. Bottom line, she was backlogged. How in the world was she going to get all these orders out and still go to North Carolina with Luna Mae this weekend to pick cattails? Maybe if she didn't sleep, she could pull it off.

Luna Mae had offered to go to the Senior Citizen's complex to post a notice for any seniors wanting part-time work. Over the years she'd found that the college kids she hired for the summer months liked to call in sick at the last minute and take off for the beach. They were not dependable. Her two full-time moms had demanding personal lives, and often had to take off if they couldn't find a sitter or if their kids were sick. She was at the mercy of her employees. More often than not, she worked through the night, catching a nap here and there.

Rosie could feel the stress building between her shoulder blades. It wasn't just the business either. Her life, her future, were on the line. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. She needed to take an inventory of what she was going to do today. Along with all her other problems, she was running late.

Normally, she was here in her workroom by seven-thirty, getting the weeds ready for spraying or painting. Her gaze swept the entire first section of the garage. She was running low on thistle, one of her best sellers. The cat's ears, another of her best sellers, were down to a dozen or so. The creeping buttercup and Virginia creeper weren't as plentiful as she'd thought. She made red check marks on her inventory list.

As she moved down the wall, she noted that she had more than enough mustard leaves, nettle, plantain, milkweed, lady's thumb, and horsetail. She looked over to the left to sift through a huge box of dandelion and crabgrass that had been thoroughly dried and was ready to be worked on.

Rosie pulled on a canvas apron, the kind barbecue chefs wear, donned her goggles, and headed to the far end of the working garage, where she would spray a light polyurethane onto the weeds. Yesterday's weeds were ready for the spray painting and glitter. She looked over at her worktable to see the Christmas centerpiece she'd made three days ago. It was going to be photographed for the cover of the catalog later that afternoon.

Rosie touched one of the gilt leaves. She smiled. Perfect.

Startled, Rosie turned around when she heard Luna Mae tromping through the garage. "You forgot to open the doors, Rosie. Do you want to pass out from the fumes? I brought you some coffee, and the paper. You left it on the front seat of the car. You might want to take a look at the front page. You go ahead and read the paper, and I'll pack up the boxes for UPS."

Rosie removed the goggles, hitched her foot on a stool to drag it closer to the worktable before she flipped open the paper. She frowned. Why did Luna Mae want her to see a picture of a funeral cortege? She read the caption under the picture. Adeline Simmons's funeral. There was a picture of Vickie dressed in black from head to toe with a wad of tissues in one hand and a white rose in the other hand.

Vickie Winters was back in Savannah. Rosie felt light-headed at the knowledge.

Was Adeline Simmons's death an omen of some kind? She shook her head again to clear her thoughts.

"Say something," Luna Mae shouted from the far end of the garage.

"Mrs. Simmons, patron of the arts, died peacefully in her sleep. I'm sorry that she had no immediate family to grieve for her. It's sad when someone dies," Rosie shouted to be heard.

"Read the article, Rosie. It says Mrs. Simmons left that big old house in the historic district to Victoria Winters, her loyal companion. I'm thinking Vickie could probably use a good friend right about now."

"If that's what you're thinking, perhaps you should stop by and offer your condolences. I really don't want to talk about this, Luna Mae."

The skinny housekeeper tugged at her braids, twirling the ends this way and that. "See, that's part of your problem. You never want to deal with a situation. You walk around it, you look at it, you sniff at it like a dog, then you turn away because you don't want to deal with it. Your husband is a case in point. Vickie was a case in point. You better shape up, Missy, or I'm moving on. I need to live in harmony."

Rosie hated it when Luna Mae turned belligerent. She'd never even come close to winning any kind of verbal fight with the housekeeper. She didn't even try anymore. It was simpler to let Luna Mae talk until she was talked out.

"You aren't going to start that feng shui stuff again, are you?" Rosie asked.

"There are people who would benefit from the Chinese art of harmonic placement. You are not one of them. First you have to be cosmically enlightened like I am." Luna Mae sniffed and tossed her head to make her point.

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Rosie adjusted her goggles with her left hand. Her right hand was busy shaking an aerosol can of lacquer. "You don't have a very high opinion of me, do you, Luna Mae?" The words came out strangled, like she was choking back a sob. Luna Mae finished packing up the cardboard box she was working with before she ran to her employer.

"Baby, I have a very high regard for you. I don't like some of the things you do, but that's okay. You don't like some of the things I do. However," the housekeeper said as she wagged a finger under Rosie's nose, "I never delude myself, nor do I lie to myself. I like who I am. I didn't like being Henrietta Bertha Hennessy so I became Luna Mae Luna. You and your mother helped me get my act together, and for that I will be eternally grateful. I'm trying to do the same thing for you so you don't waste any more of your life. Life is too precious to spend it being miserable. Pride, Rosie, is a terrible sin." Luna Mae shook her head.

"You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to go to that mansion and welcome Vickie back to Savannah. It will give me great pleasure to tell her we were both right and how miserable you are."

Rosie stopped spraying the Virginia creeper that was laid out on a rough board in front of her. She pulled off her goggles. "Don't you dare! I forbid you to do that! If you do, I'll fire you!"

Luna Mae worked her facial muscles into something that passed for a smile. "Like I said, pride is the deadliest sin of all. You just made my point for me." She turned and marched back to her end of the garage. She called over her shoulder, "If you fire me, then I'll go to work for Vickie. I bet she'd love to have me help her in that big old house she just inherited."

Rosie clamped her hands over her ears. She could feel her world starting to crumble around her. She wanted to stomp her feet and cry the way she had when she was a child. She knew she wouldn't do either of those things because she was no longer a child, and her world, such as it was, was of her own making. What she had to do was make sense out of her life, deal with it, then get on with that life. If she faltered or screwed up, she'd just have to deal with the consequences.

What a fool she'd been!

Copyright © 2005 by First Draft, Inc.

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