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Authors: Beth Harbison

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women

Driving With the Top Down

BOOK: Driving With the Top Down
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.

 

To Paige Harbison, for helping immeasurably with this book and cheering me along.

To Jack Harbison, who has shown great grace and maturity in the face of hardship.

To my mother, Connie Atkins, for helping us all through everything, all the time—you are the most generous spirit I have ever known.

And finally, this book is dedicated to the memory of the wonderful Matthew Shear. You will be forever missed, but your laughter lives on.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Charlie Ugaz, you’ll never know what your help has meant to me. Also all the little kindnesses—John will appreciate the flowers. Love, Long Legs ☺.

Thanks to Mary Rast for coming back into my life with your calm, cool, collected self and hitting the road to NYC with me. We could have been in this book!

Much gratitude to Cinda O’Brien for your friendship and generosity and the occasional dose of sanity, when needed.

AFIL, I’ll always be your ADIL.

Connie Jo Brown Gernhofer, you have been a lifesaver. One of these days we have
got
to go to this store I’ve heard about called T.J.Maxx.…

Chandler, what fun times we’ve had! Our wine fest in Gettysburg was the best!

Kim Nash Amori and Dana Carmel, even in the worst of times we are still our old selves, aren’t we? Thank God (and Colonel Kieffer) for you guys, the best of friends.

Marianne Williams, this will probably surprise you, but you and your zest for life inspire me hugely.

Jordan Lyon, thanks for bringing your bright light into our house and lives.

Brian Hazel, thank you always for being such a great and positive friend—you are the bomb-diggity!

Jennifer Enderlin, thank you for your patience and brilliant input.

Annelise Robey, I am blessed to have you as an agent and a friend.

Meg Ruley, do you know it’s been twenty-four years since Tina Isaak suggested you look at my manuscript? Thank you for taking me on!

Jen Lancaster, you raise the bar—not just for writing but also in furniture rehab. God bless Annie Sloan! See you in rehab … which I picture as your workroom, with lots of wine and old furniture and paintbrushes.

Quinn Cummings, I will never be as funny as you, and that makes me sad. But then I read your books and FB notes and they are funny, so that makes me happy. Quite the dichotomy. ☺

Denise Whitaker, you’re the coolest long-lost cousin ever, and a great counselor as well!

Thadious Brookheimer, we’ve certainly been through hell together. Thanks for being there for me.

And Devynn Grubby, you’ve been a rock. A very witty rock. Thank you for bringing something wonderful into a difficult year—and welcome to the world, Miss Sadie Rose!

 

CONTENTS

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Epilogue

Also by Beth Harbison

About the Author

Copyright

 

PROLOGUE

Once upon a time, there were three happy girls, all born into charmed, sunshiny, shampoo-commercial lives. If into each life a little rain must fall, for these three, it fell after midnight, and by morning—as in the song from
Camelot
—the fog had flown. Though their lives were different from one another’s and they lived in different towns, each enjoyed the best their world had to offer.

Each one could have come from central casting.

*   *   *

THE PERFECT HOUSEWIFE
and mother—pretty, blond, thirty-four-year-old Colleen—leans against the Carrara marble countertop in her pristine white kitchen, one hand on her still-twenty-eight-inch waist, the other holding the latest, thinnest iPhone to her ear.

“Yes, let’s get together soon!” She idly runs a finger along the bubble-glass front of her new cabinets, the perfect way to show off her grandmother’s Spode Stafford Flowers china, the full set! “Maybe we can even do a little antiquing!” Laughter. A private joke. Their husbands always rib them good-naturedly about their antiquing trips. Their acquisitions were meant to stock Colleen’s shop, Junk and Disorderly, but Colleen always kept much more of the stuff she purchased and fixed up than she ended up selling on the showroom floor. “All right, Stephanie, I’ll see you on Thursday!”

She hangs up, and just as the phone beeps off, the oven announces with a
ding!
that her neighborhood-famous pot roast is ready.

“Piper!” she sings up the staircase.

A moment later, a bedroom door scuffs open overhead, and Colleen’s daughter, Piper, flies from the room and down the steps, their golden retriever, Zuzu, trailing her ankles. “Is it time?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

Piper is sixteen now. Still a little lanky and not quite filled out. But seemingly before Colleen’s eyes, her nose has begun to thin out, she has lost her squeezable chipmunk cheeks, and beneath them, cheekbones have begun to appear. She pads into the kitchen in the knee-high tube socks she splurged on at American Apparel last week. Colleen doesn’t have the heart to tell her that tube socks didn’t always cost twenty-five dollars—they
used
to be tossed in with gym clothes and considered a truly dorky fashion item.

Colleen takes the pot roast out, raises the temperature on the oven, and brings the KitchenAid mixing bowl over to her daughter. “Drop the cookies on the pan, not in your stomach. You can’t stay home from school tomorrow because of a cookie-making illness.”

Piper raises her eyebrows innocently. “I’m not going to!”

She gives Piper a knowing look. These battles, Colleen knows not to fight. They are life’s lessons, not hers to hand out. Piper would either be fine, or learn the hard way. She glances at the clock. Six forty-five. Kevin should be home any minute now.

She gets the ice-cold beer mug from the freezer and then pops open a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. She hasn’t even finished pouring it—carefully down the inside of the mug, to avoid too much foam—when the front door opens and she hears the familiar sounds of her husband coming home.

He might as well be Hugh Beaumont. Ward Cleaver.

A moment later, he comes into sight and says, “There they are—how are my two favorite girls?”

“Sup, Big D?” says Piper, holding up her hands in two mock gang signs, really sign language for “I love you.”

“Whattup, lil’ P?” He gives an upward head nod at her. This is some inside joke of theirs, its origins a mystery to Colleen.

Colleen looks at her husband. All these years, and she is still as in love with him as ever. Her heart pounds.

A moment later, their son, Jay, comes in the back door. He is twelve. Still young enough to be called adorable, but old enough to hate it.

Jay puts down the basketball he has under his arm and comes into the kitchen, heat radiating off him from the last few hours he has spent playing basketball in the fading sun with his friends down the road.

“Is dinner ready?” he asks. “I’m starving, but I need to take a shower first.”

“Yeah, you smell like gym socks,” Piper agrees.

“I’ll go take off this monkey suit and make sure he’s back down within five minutes.” Kevin heads up the stairs after his son. Colleen hears them talk upstairs in the hall, something about a football player being traded—could they believe it?

Colleen takes a fingerful of dough, Piper does the same, and they pop each into their mouths, relishing the deliciousness of raw cookie dough and a happy childhood.

She has the best family in the world.

*   *   *

IN A HOUSE
an hour south, Tamara—Teenage Girl–Prom Queen Type—sits on a couch, her hand holding popcorn she hasn’t yet been able to shove in her mouth in the usual fashion, because she and her best friend are laughing too hard to even breathe.

It doesn’t even matter what exactly they are laughing about. This is how it is with Tamara and Lily. Always laughing. Always having a joke.

“Oh my God,” says Lily. “That … was … hilarious.” She catches her breath at last and glances at her phone, which illuminated for a moment like a firefly. She hits a button to read the screen. Her eyes go wide. “Oh my gosh.”

“What?” asks Tam, finally eating the popcorn.

“Mike and Ben are on their way here.”

Tam almost spits the popcorn out. “No. Way. What?” She needs to put on makeup! Change out of her cat pj’s! Take her hair out of this lazy ponytail and make it more Victoria’s Secret!

Lily’s eyes go wider. “I think Ben’s going to ask you to prom!”

It’s Tam’s turn to go wide-eyed. Her heart pounds like a jackhammer. “No way! We have to go get pretty. Immediately!”

They both fly from the couch with the kind of speed mustered only when two teenage girls find out their crushes are about to come over in the middle of the night—and they have about thirty seconds to get ready.

Tam’s layered hair spits out of her ponytail spunkily, and she pulls the band out, her hair falling into haphazard waves of dark honey. It wasn’t bad. In fact, it was pretty good. She looked like herself. Felt like herself. If Ben didn’t like her for that, then he wasn’t the kind of guy she’d like anyway. That’s how her mother has raised her.

Lily tries a little harder, putting on a little mascara and blush.

“Don’t look like you’re trying too hard,” Tam cautions.

“Easy for you to say—you always look perfect.”

“That’s not true.” But Tam’s cheeks warm with pride at the idea.

“Oh, please, name me one guy who doesn’t want to take you to prom this year.”

Tam rolls her eyes. “I’m not going to sit here and name six hundred reasons my self-esteem should suck.”

Lily give her an
a-ha!
look. “Because you can’t!”

“Shut up.” But inside, Tam is on top of the world. Lily’s exaggerating her draw to the opposite sex, but if she’s one-tenth as attractive to Ben as Lily would have her believe, then she just might score the guy of her dreams.

Lily’s phone goes off again, and they both squeal—and then cover their mouths not to be heard and wake Tamara’s sleeping parents.

“They’re here!” announces Lily. “They say to meet them next door at the soccer field.”

Whenever the two of them “sneak out,” this is where they go: a hill right next door at the elementary school, within screaming distance of not only her own protective parents, but about twelve other equally attentive and caring suburban moms and dads too. So it’s hardly a decadent escape. Sometimes they roll down the hill like little kids, or they lie back on a blanket and stare at the sky. They always have fun. One time, it even started raining, and they just ran around, laughing and getting drenched, not caring at all.

They meet the boys on the hill. Ben is looking nervous by the distant yellow glare of the school’s outdoor halogen lights. With a butterfly flutter in her stomach, Tam notes his quick breath and the slight tremble in his voice.

“So,” Tam says to him, hands clasped behind her back, “what’s up?”

BOOK: Driving With the Top Down
12.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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