The vague tingling sensation started at her polished toe and quickly crept up her, shapely calf.
"Damn!" Eliza Blake exclaimed as she opened the bottom drawer of her desk fingers shuffling through the jumble of Band-Aids, dental floss, hair spray, makeup and tampons until she found the clear nail polish to stop the run in the second pair of designer pantyhose she'd gone through in what had already been a fourteen-hour day.
Putting her long, well-defined leg up on her desk, she applied the sticky liquid as her mind replayed the day's mishaps. The satellite difficulties on this morning's show were then followed by the first lady's office's abrupt canceling of a long-sought interview scheduled to be taped that afternoon. Scrambling, the KEY to America bookers had called around for a replacement to flu the time allotted for Angela Grayson on the following morning's broadcast. They performed admirably, coming up with the starlet du jour, the latest overnight sensation. The actress, however, didn't want to be questioned on live television so early in the morning, And she didn't want to come to the Broadcast Center either. Eliza would have to go to her hotel suite to tape the interview this afternoon.
On the ride to the Plaza with her camera crew, Eliza hurriedly scanned the research packet provided by an associate producer, framing the questions she would pose. She and her gear-laden, videotape team were met in the hotel's opulent lobby by the star's apologetic publicist who claimed his boss had suddenly come down with some sort of bug. While thecrew resignedly reloaded the camera and lighting paraphernalia back in the car, Eliza spotted the actress and her latest handsome co-star, holding hands, smiling and skipping out the side exit of the hotel toward Central Park,
"Should we take this personally?" Eliza asked her crew wryly, gesturing toward the oblivious lovebirds.
"Nah," came the response from Gus, the senior man on the KEY News camera staff, who squinted at the pair and shook his head. "Raging hormones'll win every time."
Now, back in her KEY to America office, Eliza had just screened the piece on a popular author that would ultimately fill the minutes originally planned for Mrs. Grayson. The writer had been eager to come in for a last-minute interview. Nothing like a chance to market a few more books and stay on the New York Times bestseller list for another week or two, thought Eliza, smiling to herself.
She was tired and eager to get home to Janie but the orange-wrappered Butterfinger called to her from the desk drawer. Aching for the sweet pick-me-up, she debated for all of five seconds and gave in. Guiltily, she relished the candy bar. There had been a time when she never had to worry about what she ate. But no more. The last few years, since John had died and Janie had been born, weight came on more easily and was harder to take off. Stop it! She shook herself. If you're going to sin, at least enjoy it.
As she crinkled up the candy wrapper, the tiny oval locket hanging from the delicate gold chain on her wrist caught Eliza's eye. She took it between her fingers and began to play with it. The locket was her grandmother's gift to her on her tenth birthday. Her grandmother, who had spent her working life scrubbing and cleaning one of the big "cottages" in Newport, had saved to buy the locket. As a kid, Eliza had thought it magical, and she rubbed it and made wishes on it. When things went the way she wanted, she gave the locket credit. When she didn't get what she desired, she ignored the possibility that perhaps the locket didn't have all the powers she wanted to believe it had.
Now, rationally, she knew that a tiny golden oval couldn't really have any force. But that hadn't stopped her from rubbing the yellow charm, dented and jammed unopenable, as she prayed through the long hours at Sloan-Kettering. She hadn't gotten her wish.
Tossing her head to clear the painful memories from her mind, Eliza began to straighten the papers on her desk. She wanted to go home. She thought of how she planned to give Janie the locket on her tenth birthday, in six years. Meantime, Eliza would wear it, still savoring its specialness. Eliza knew it was ridiculous, but when she rubbed it something always happened. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but something. Silly. What would the KEY News viewing audience think if they knew her foolish little superstition?
She was stuffing the last of her homework in preparation for the next morning's broadcast into her canvas tote when her co-anchor Harry Granger appeared at her office door. He was gripping a rolled-up newspaper and by the expression on his face, Eliza could tell he wasn't happy.
"What's up?" Eliza asked, fully prepared for some vintage Granger moaning about KEY News management.
But Harry, usually so straightforward and unreservedly opinionated, was hesitating.
"C'mon, Harry, what gives? What have they done now?" Eliza found herself smiling. They had played this scene many times before, using each other as sounding boards, venting frustrations about the workings of KEY to America and KEY News. But they knew they were just blowing off steam. They weren't going anywhere. They loved their jobs.
"I wanted to show you this before someone else did." Harry slowly unrolled the newspaper. Eliza saw the blazing masthead of The Mole, the most popular of the nation's supermarket tabloids. At the side of the front page sat an inky black rodent with oversize teeth; next to it was the slogan "We dig it all up."
Beneath that was the gigantic headline. Eliza stared at it, feeling her chest tighten. She let her telephone buzz insistently as she scanned the story about the most painful period of her life. Harry rambled on in outrage.
"Everyone knows these tabloid stories aren't worth the paper they're written on! Oprah just won a lawsuit against one last month. Nobody really pays any attention to them."
"You did," she said.