Valentine's Day is Killing Me
By Mary Janice Davidson Leslie Esdaile Susanna Carr
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP. Copyright © 2006 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved. ISBN: 0-7582-1285-2
Chapter One EconoHart Corporate Headquarters Minneapolis, Minnesota February 13, 2006
-Original Message- From: Scott Wythe To: Julie Kay About Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2006 12:02 PM Subject: latest draft
hey girl so here it is i made some changes but it's looking really good, maybe tweak the dog a little more and then it'll be perfect. way cool girl! scotty
-Original Message- From: Julie Kay About To: Scott Wythe Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2006 12:12 PM Subject: Re: latest draft
Stop doing that. You're a grown man (I'm assuming, as we've never met face-to-face) and you write e-mails like you just escaped the second grade.
Say it with me: punctuation. Capital letters. "I" is always capitalized, even when it's in the middle of the sentence. We might write for a bad greeting card company, but we're still writers, for Christ's sake.
Now: I will not tweak the dog, I will do nothing to the dog. The damned dog is fine the way it is. Let's let this thing GO already.
- Original Message - From: Fred Hammer, I.T. Department To: Julie Kay About Cc: Scott Wythe Sent: Tuesday, February13, 2006 1:02 PM Subject: Re: re: latest draft
Ms. About, during a random check of company e-mails, the I.T. department noted unacceptable language use in your account. Please consider this your fifth warning. Further warnings may result in disciplinary action. Remember, wherever you go, you are representing EconoHart Corporate.
Have a nice day!
- Original Message - From: Julie Kay About To: Fred Hammer, I.T. Department Cc: Scott Wythe Cc: Mr. Donald Erickson, CEO Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2006 1:06 PM Subject: Re: re: re: latest draft
Stay out of my e-mails, you jackbooted Nazis! If you prying motherfuckers don't pull your thumbs out of MY business, I'm going to dump a coffee milkshake into the main server! Don't you have anything better to do than spy on me like a bunch of virgin idiot losers? We've got viruses up the ass and our firewall is constantly going down, so you can't tell me you've got nothing better to do than read e-mails.
Don, if you want to fire me, then fucking fire me. If you want me to get my work done, call off the goddamned dogs. And if I see another smiley face emoticon in any corporate communication, I WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS.
- Original Message - From: Don Erickson To: Julie Kay About Cc: Scott Wythe Cc: I.T. Department Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2006 1:22 PM Subject: Everyone get back to work
Julie, sorry to bother you. Keep up the good work. I can assure you, the I.T. department will not be bothering you again.
Scott, I hope recent events aren't putting you off the work environment here at EconoHart. We're one big, happy family and we're glad you've joined us!
Julie Kay leaned back in her office chair and smirked at the screen. Good old Don-o, swinging to the rescue. He didn't spend eight months wooing her away from Hallmark only to have I.T. weenies drive her out the door over some silly bullshit.
Although, cc'ing the big boss was kind of a dirty trick. But then, who played nice these days? It slowed you down, if nothing else.
Her computer beeped at her and she frowned-hadn't there been enough of this stuff today?-then called up the e-mail.
- Original Message - From: Scott Wythe To: Julie Kay About Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2006 2:30 PM Subject: still waiting
hey so glad we got that cleared up you were totally awesome grrrl but i'm still waiting for the last draft of the card. do u want me to come over there and pick it up cuz it's no prob.
good job with the weenies. maybe we can have a drink sometime
"Arrrrgggggghhh!" she yowled, and slammed her fists on the keyboard. Instantly, "sdlkjfa;slektjwpeoituwpoeituwopetuiw" streamed across the screen and she hastily took her fingers away and cleared the mess.
Would the boy never learn? Why wouldn't he let the stupid card go to Production? She was the one with the degrees in Creative Writing and Graphic Arts. He was-what? Was he even her age? He sure didn't write like it.
But then, who did these days? It was like most people assumed having e-mail meant never having to spell or capitalize. She was shocked at the number of high-level executives who would never dream of sending out a business letter without punctuation, but thought nothing of e-mailing "how u doon grrrl?" to a colleague.
Although ... she was at Corporate, and Scott was forty miles away in the Marketing building at Brooklyn Park. Not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump; plus, they had couriers to pick up the hard stuff.
That was kind of nice of him, offering to come over ... must be because he was the new guy. New guys were always anxious to make a good impression.
She took another look at the final sketch. Stupid dog on the cover, stupid, insipid saying on the inside, Happy Birthday, buh-bye. She had planned to write the Great American Short Story, and instead she drew dogs and thought up words that rhymed with "birthday."
And no matter how hard she worked, how hard they all worked, business was steadily dropping off. The homemade card craze-Julie Kay mused, rubbing her lips, then scowling at the bright red stain on her fingers-is killing us.
So, it made sense to put forth her best effort, always. And Scott was a pair of fresh eyes. Maybe the puppy could use a little more definition in the face and paws ... wouldn't hurt to try and it would only be another five minutes or so ...
- Original Message - From: Julie Kay About To: Scott Wythe Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2006 3:21 PM Subject: Absolute final draft
Scott, (I'm assuming you're a grown man, thus I refuse to refer to you as Scotty. Puppies and pet rabbits are named Scotty.)
I gave it one more tweak, as you suggested, and though I can't tell the difference, you might. I'm sending the final version over by courier right now; you should have it within the hour. So off my back, hose-head.
Sorry about the mess you got in earlier. The I.T. department (and I know you're reading this, you Gestapo bastards, and why don't you go fuck yourselves?) and I have a history. They think the Third Reich is alive and well, and I think that as long as I'm working here sixty hours a week and getting more work done than anyone else in the department, it's none of their damn business what I put in an e-mail.
Don't forget what I said about capitalizing and punctuation. Even if you are only a sixteen-year-old intern, you can do better than that.
"I'm holding up fine."
"I didn't say anything."
"So don't start."
"I love my life."
"I love your life, too."
Julie Kay sipped coffee and studied her sister with narrowed eyes. Four years younger, Kara Jay was her psychic and physical opposite: short, plump, blond, radiant with sunshine and fulfillment. She had two under two at home, and another baby due in April. She had the open, friendly face of a foundation model, light blue eyes, and a small nose-a classic Swedish face, coupled with a classic Midwestern temperament. Her husband made a great living in construction, and looked like he modeled for Speedo calendars in his spare time. They went to Disney World for a week every year, and cut down their own Christmas trees. They had been happily married for five years, and made their own baby food.
It's like she's an alien come to observe me, Julie Kay marveled, counting the freckles on her sister's nose, right in my own family!
"So what are you doing tomorrow?" Kara Jay asked. "And stop counting my freckles."
"Basking in the joy of my single lifestyle."
"If you just-"
"-he's a very nice guy-"
"-has his own roofing company-"
"-showed him your picture-"
"He thought you were cute," her sister peeped, then took a hurried gulp of her double-tall, caffeine-free skinny latte.
"No blind dates. And that ..." she added, pointing, "... is not a coffee."
"Now who's starting?"
"Kara Jay, I'm just saying. I know you don't believe me, but let's go through it one more time. I like being single. I like being able to stay up as late as I want-like a real grownup!-and never once have to read, or think about reading, Everybody Poops."
"It was just that one month," her sister grumbled. "To get Willie over the hump."
"I like being able to eat cold pizza from any room in my house at any time. I like having the bed to myself. I like having the place to myself. I like having my life to myself."
"Except tomorrow," Kara Jay pointed out triumphantly. Literally pointed out, and Julie Kay noticed her sister was in sore need of a manicure.
"Valentine's Day. The holiday. You can't be alone that day, you just can't. It breaks my heart to think about it. It's practically a law."
"Would that be federal or state?"
"And look where you work! You'll be surrounded by plush things all day. You'll be deluged in pink and red! Everywhere you look: hearts and chocolate. If you don't have a date to look forward to after work, how will you get through it?"
"I had planned," she admitted, "to bring my friend Captain Morgan to work."
"No, don't get drunk again-Don will only overlook so much."
"I have to spread my creative wings," Julie Kay declared. "And since I'm the best graphic designer he's got, Don will overlook a lot."
"Well, your wings aren't helped by getting sloppo at work and then picking fights with the I.T. guys. Ugh, remember the Christmas party? It was so mean-you were bigger than all of them."
"Considerably bigger," her sister added, which was a good one, given that she wasn't exactly a lightweight herself. "And before you say it, I'm creating life. What's your excuse?"
"You're also creating my ulcer. And there's nothing wrong with an extra ten pounds here and there."
"And everywhere!" Kara Jay added brightly. "It's a good thing you're tall."
"Kara Jay ..."
"That's all I'm saying. You can hide almost anything on that long frame of yours, you lucky cow."
"It's just, you're so pretty without half trying! That's what makes me nuts!" Her sister ruffled her own streaked hair in frustration. "Think how great you'd look if you'd actually-you know-make an effort." She nearly spilled her latte in her excitement. "You know, get a haircut, some bangs, stop wearing it in that tacky long braid all the time. You look like Xena-"
"I think Lucy Lawless has bangs," she said mildly.
"-started wearing some color instead of black all the time, start wearing pretty shoes instead of those clunky-er-whatever they are ..."
"Clogs. And they're comfortable."
"You sit down all day! What do you need comfortable shoes for? You could stand to wear a pair of nice pumps every other day."
"You forgot to tell me that colored contacts will rid me of my boring brown eyes," she prompted, "and the glasses."
"Your eyes are beautiful-don't you dare touch them! But you should get contacts, definitely get rid of the glasses, so everyone can see how pretty they are."
"Well, the usual."
"Get married and have babies."
"Death first," she said grimly, and finished her coffee in a scalding gulp.
She didn't even have to look at the Caller I.D. on her phone to see who it was. She debated letting her sister yammer into voice mail, but there would be no forgiveness if there wasn't an immediate call back.
"Johnny's Mortuary," she said, cradling the receiver between her neck and ear. "You stab 'em, we slab 'em."
"That is so old," her sister said. "That was old when we were in training bras."
"I still am. What is it now? I'm busy." Julie Kay stared at the galley-a galley! for a get-well card!-before her.
Thought this might cheer you up And make you feel frisky as a pup.
Ugh! "Is it dog week around here and nobody told me?" she asked. The last thing I want to feel like is a frisky pup.
"Not that I know of," Kara Jay replied impatiently. "Listen, we didn't really get a chance to finish talking about your date at lunch."
"No blind dates!" She picked up a pen and angrily slashed through the insipid text.
"Julie Kay ... be reasonable. Just once, to see what it feels like."
"Just once? How can your memory be so shitty?"
"No, I meant try a blind date for once, not be reasonable for once. Besides, Sean really thinks you two will hit it off."
Thoughts of your imminent demise Make me wish we had come to a compromise
"No, no, no."
"What? Julie Kay?"
"Never mind. I mean, do mind! No blind dates-jeez, do I have to tattoo it on my shoulder?"
"That reminds me, do you have any tattoos? Sean asked me to find out so he can tell this guy. I remember you were threatening to get one of a run-over Road Runner on your ass, but you never showed it to me, so I honestly don't-"
"Kara Jay! Why aren't you listening to me? You can hear a toddler drop a Cheerio from half a block away, but 'no blind dates' doesn't hit your radar?"
"It's a totally different thing," her sister insisted.
"The next time your kids come over," she warned, slashing through the new, equally awful text, "I'm stuffing them with ice cream and chocolate."
"You do that every time."
"Need I remind you?"
"What? I already know; I'm the one who has to talk them down from the ceiling at 10:30 P.M."
"No, I mean, need I remind you of my track record with blind dates?"
"A few bad experiences shouldn't-"
"What? Are you on drugs?"
"That's none of your business," her sister said primly.
"Remember that guy, the Iowan who took us out with your then-boyfriend? We went to the state gymnastics trials? On the way there, he talked and talked about 'the Republican way of life,' got out of the car to try to shoot the deer that had crossed the road-who brings a shotgun on a date, by the way?-then sulked through the sets because he missed the poor thing."
"He was just trying too hard." "Trying too hard? I'd hate to see him slacking off. Then-remember? I make the casual comment that I think gymnasts are really gifted, and he gets all huffy, like, 'You saying I can't do that?' and stomps down to the floor and tries, actually tries one of the routines, and breaks an ankle! Then got pissed when I wouldn't ride in the ambulance with him!"
"That just put you off Republicans," her sister said reasonably. "Not blind dates."
"Okay, fine. You want to play rough? How about the model you set me up with during college?"
"The watch model, or the dress-sock model?"
"The entire date he kept checking himself out in the mirror behind me. I mean, he was good-looking, but nobody's that much of an Adonis. The whole time I had the creepy feeling someone was sneaking up on me. I had to constantly fight the urge to turn around and check. Then I find out his nickname ... Trojan? It wasn't because he was a Greek major, like he told me. It was from the condom brand! Yerrrgggh!"
Excerpted from Valentine's Day is Killing Me by Mary Janice Davidson Leslie Esdaile Susanna Carr Copyright © 2006 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission.
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