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JOSIE PIGEON EXAMINED her reflection in the dressing room's mirrors, a frown creasing her freckled face.
"It looksYou lookuh, lovelydear." The slim, young saleswoman seemed to be having a difficult time finding the right words.
Josie didn't bother responding. She knew she didn't look lovely. She never looked lovely. Slightly overweight, with frizzy red hair that she had given up trying to control, she was usually satisfied with perky and thrilled if anyone thought she was cute. "Maybe I should try a smaller size?"
"It's not fashionable to wear them tight."
"I'm not trying to be fashionable! I'm buying them to work in," Josie explained. "They're carpenter's pants. I'm a carpenter."
"Yes, in fact, I own my own contracting company." She was bragging, but after three years it still pleased her to say those words.
The saleswoman was not impressed. "I did think you were a bit old to be a student."
"I'm going to be on TV," Josie stated, trying to gain prestige. "On Courtney Castle's Castles."
"Courtney Castle! She's wonderful. So pretty and chic. You would never know she's a carpenter from just looking at her" Realizing that she was possibly treading on less than popular ground, the saleswoman changed the topic. "And she builds the most wonderful houses! Did you see that log cabin in Minnesota? My husband was watching with me and he said it looked more like a log palace. Of course, that's why they call them Courtney Castle's castles, isn'tit?"
Happily, the woman chatted on and on and Josie wasn't forced to admit that she had never seen the Courtney Castle show. To tell the truth, watching builders on television wasn't her idea of a relaxing way to spend an evening. And every time she happened on a show while channel-surfing, there seemed to be a man explaining just how easily the homeowner could do something Josie and her crew were well paid to do. "I'll take these and another pair, if you've got them in my size," she finally interrupted.
"Of course, and maybe you could tell that lovely Courtney to come in here if she needs any clothing. I'd be happy to put aside some things for her."
"Yes, I'll do that," Josie lied, fumbling around in her purse for the one credit card she possessed that wasn't maxed out and then handing it to her.
"Josie Pigeon." The saleswoman, reading the name on the card, was now gushing. "Ill be watching for you on television. Wait until I tell my husband I met someone who actually knows Courtney Castle. He'll be so excited!"
Josie just took her card back.
The level of excitement in the office of Island Contracting made the saleswoman seem blasé by comparison.
"I can't believe we're going to meet Courtney Castle. She's been my idol since I was a little girl!" At nineteen, the speaker was the youngest member of Josie's crew. To most of her coworkers, Annette Long still was a little girl. Sitting on the floor, legs crossed in a yoga position, blond hair tied in a skinny ponytail snaking between bony shoulder blades, she barely looked old enough to smoke the cigarette she was holding.
"You know, TV people are real snots. You probably won't like her at all in person." Dottie Evans was the oldest member of the crew as well as the most recently hired. In the few weeks she'd been with Island Contracting, no one had heard her say anything positive about anyone. Her graying hair was badly cut, barely covering her ears. Her skin was pale, puffy around the eyes, and the frown that was usually found on her face did nothing to enhance her appearance.
The third member of the crew spoke up. "I just wish they were filming a different job. I mean, Island Contracting has remodeled some great housesold Victorians downtown, big modern things on the water, that little chapel we turned into a family home over the winterNow that job would have interested television viewers. But a 1964 A-frame on the bayit's so dull.' As she was speaking, Jill Pike looked around at the birdhouses decorating the shelf that circled the room near the ceiling. Each one represented a remodeling job completed by Island Contracting. Brightly colored cottages covered with ginger bread sat beside modern duplexes, that were next to the little Cape Cod boxes, and so on. A frown caused her sunburned nose to crinkle. "It would be nice if we made a really good impression," she said wistfully.
"Why? You think someone watching the show will see you working, fall in love with you, and take you away from all this?" From the blush on Jill's face, it was apparent that Dottie Evan's comment had hit at least one nerve.
"I don't think we should get our hopes up about becoming rich and famous. After all, how many people even watch those building shows?" Josie asked, hoping to change the topic.
"How many people? Thousandsmaybe millions! They're some of the most popular shows on television! And Courtney Castle's show is the best! There was an article all about her in Parade magazine just a few months ago. She lives in this fabulous penthouse apartment on the water in Boston. She gutted the whole placeeven replaced the windows with huge made-to-order Pellas. It's fabulous!" Annette waved her hands around to demonstrate the size of the glass as she spoke.
"Working as a contractor for a television show must pay really well," Dottie commented sarcastically.
"Better than working for a contracting company," Jill agreed somewhat wistfully.