Chapter Three

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8:23 a.m.

Lyndon University Studio

HOVERING BETWEEN SLUMBER AND consciousness, I nestled in secure arms. Gentle kisses dotted my cheeks. The fullness in my bladder urged me to get out of bed, but the thrill rushing through me coaxed me into lingering a bit longer in the arms of my husband. I jolted awake. It’d been two years since Jack shared my bed.

“Mari, are you okay?”

That voice. Pressure squeezed my head as Fletcher’s face came into focus. He held a rag in his hand. “Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

“Was this one of your practical jokes?” Face flushed and head airy, I wormed out of his arms. “Grow up!” I pushed him away and staggered to my feet. I should’ve known he’d only bring trouble. “FYI, your little joke cost me the morning show at KTXL.”

He knelt, open-mouthed. Pity-filled stares from the crew burned, penetrated; reminding me of my humiliation. I had to escape—to my dressing room.

After a quick detour to the restroom, I entered my closetsized sanctuary, kicked off my heels, and plopped in the chair. But found no relief. Dropping my head on the vanity, I knocked over my purified water. It spilled along with my tears. Tears of embarrassment and for a lifelong dream shattered. I set the bottle upright and used half a box of Kleenex to dry the mess. A soft knock sounded on my dressing room door. “Just a minute.” I blew my nose. “Come in.”

Elizabeth Darby’s hazel-blue eyes misted, her curly, blonde hair illuminating her angelic complexion. What a contrast to my brunette, frizzed mop and caked-on foundation.

“Oh, Mari, bless your heart. I got here as soon as they let me out of the control booth.”

My best friend since kindergarten ran to me and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. Her Texan drawl was as soothing as a  pint of Ben and Jerry’s after a relationship breakup. “I had no idea he’d pull a stunt like that, but I should have seen it coming. I’m so sorry.”

Despite her I’m-not-perfect-just-forgiven T-shirt, my best friend was perfect. 

Elizabeth handed me my blew-my-whole-paycheck-on-it Coach bag. “You left this in the studio.”

“Thanks. You’re a lifesaver.” Too bad she couldn’t resurrect my career. I set my oversized, red tote under the vanity and shrugged. “Ididn’t have time for another job, anyway. This single-mom gig and

 teaching keep me busy enough. Plus, I’m the acclaimed hostess of the hit cable show ‘Archaeology Today.’ What more could I desire?”

“You can’t give up on your dream. Maybe it’s not that bad.” Elizabeth knelt and took my hands. “If you want, we can pray?”

Like that had ever worked for me. “No, that’s okay.” I pulled my hands from hers and turned toward the mirror. “You’re right. It’s probably not that bad. Can’t be worse than the last two years.” I wiped the mascara from under my eyes and tried to brush the soil from my suit, but only smudged the dirt in deeper. “I’m such a mess. Why do you put up with me?”

“Don’t know?” Her playful tone couldn’t mask the sincerity in her eyes. “Maybe we’re M.F.E.O.”

I tried not to raise my eyebrows, but I couldn’t help it.

“Made For Each Other. It’s Rachel’s new catchphrase.”

I thought of Hattie, my eleven year old. It’d been so long since we talked, I didn’t even know if she had a catchphrase. I’d have to remember to schedule mother-daughter quality time soon.

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