July 9, 2016: The Day I Nearly Died of Mortification (Part 3)

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After lunch, Mom and the twins took off. I tried to slip out with them, but Mom stopped me on the driveway.

"No no no, Lizzie. You must stay and help Janie."

"Help with what? Her temperature is back to normal."

Mom shook her head. "Not with that, darling. With Charles."

She leaned close and lowered her voice. "Janie is the sweetest, most beautiful girl...but she's also stupidly naive. She refuses to self-promote because she believes her talent will speak for itself. You're the smart one, Lizzie--you know how the business really works. All the talent in the world is useless without connections. If Janie doesn't connect with the right people, she'll spend the rest of her life singing 'Goodnight My Someone' to a half-empty small-town theater."

Now, Mom acts crazy, but sometimes the things she says are so undeniably logical, I wonder if she's secretly a genius. Or a sociopath. Manipulative behavior, casual lying, lack of remorse or shame....Oh my word. My mother is a potential serial killer.

She hugged me lovingly and murmured, "I'm counting on you. We must take advantage of this golden opportunity before it slips away!"

And so, barred from my home for the rest of the afternoon, I trudged back into Mr. Hollywood's living room.

Jane and Mr. Hollywood were flirting with each other on the loveseat, paying scant attention to The Music Man in the background. Caroline was doing something in the kitchen, and Will was typing on his laptop.

I sat down in the window seat and opened the Kindle app on my phone.

"Who's ready for cocktails?" Caroline sailed out of the kitchen with a tray of glasses. Each one was filled with a bubbly pink drink garnished with pineapple wedges and maraschino cherries.

She offered the tray around. Will declined and said he'd be driving home soon. Charles said he doesn't like fruity drinks. Jane said they looked delicious, but she should avoid alcohol today after her heat stroke.

I took a glass to be polite. I've published stories before that nobody wanted to read, so I know how dispiriting it is when you make things for people and nobody wants them. I tried to make Caroline feel better by exclaiming over how delicious the drink was and begging for the recipe.

But my compliments didn't help. Rejected, Caroline set the tray on the coffee table sulkily. She took a cocktail for herself and gulped the whole thing down in one go.

Caroline is very thin, which made that single drink very potent. In an instant, her whole personality changed. Grace Kelly vanished, and Marilyn Monroe appeared.

She picked up a second glass and perched on the arm of Will's chair.

"What're you up to, handsome?" Caroline looked at Will's screen and gasped. "Such big words! I can't understand any of them!"

Will said something about a deposition.

Caroline giggled. "Wow, more big words! I could never do the work you do. It's too hard!"

"Then it's fortunate you went into event planning instead of law."

"Oh my gosh, being a lawyer would be impossible for a girl like me. For someone as smart as you, it must be easy."

"It would be easier if I could concentrate."

A laugh escaped me. Caroline and Will looked my way. I pretended I was reading something hilarious and laughed again on purpose.

Caroline called to me, "What're you up to over there, all by yourself?"

"Reading a book," I said.

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