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Authors: Laura Caldwell

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BOOK: A Clean Slate
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28

I
t's been six months since I was in the hospital. Some days I love my life, particularly when I'm working well with Cole, when I'm having dinner with Laney and him, when I'm out practicing with my Nikon, when I saw William's sweaty pink face on a billboard. On other days—when I'm sponging down sticky tables at Katie's, when I'm lonelier than hell on a Saturday night, when I feel the scary, familiar tug of those summer months—I'm not always so thrilled. I guess this is because my life truly is a combination of what I want and what I have to do. Luckily, the scale weighs a little heavier toward the what-I-want side, and that helps me get up at four-thirty every morning.

In fact, the scales may be tipping even further in my favor, because last week Sam called while I was working
at Cole's. I thought at first that he was calling to ask me out, maybe tell me he was coming to town, and I felt a quickening excitement in my belly. I'd been thinking about Sam a lot, pumping Cole for information about him, getting on the Internet and running Google searches on his name, and debating whether to call him myself. And yet there he was, calling me! But after a few minutes of idle chat he began talking about
U Chic,
and it seemed clear that this was a business call. Probably another assignment for Cole, I figured, since Cole was getting more work than ever, even from the people in New York who'd been avoiding him for years.

“It's a small job,” Sam said. “It's for one of our inserts, and it won't pay much.”

“Well, let me get Cole,” I said, trying not to sound disappointed. “I'm sure he'll want to at least consider it.”

“Whoa, Kelly. I thought you understood. I'm calling you.”

“What?”

He chuckled, and I remembered hearing that same quiet laugh in my hotel bed as his warm hand trailed over my shoulder.

“I'm calling to offer
you
the job.”

I blinked a few times, my mind a whirring fit of starts and stops. I wondered for a moment if it was my AVM, if I should sit down or call Dr. Sinclair, but then it cleared. “Are you kidding?”

“Nope. Have you seen this month's issue of
U Chic?

“Not yet.”

“Well, we used one of your shots with the models and that group of guys. Everyone over here loved them.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. So we want you on something else. What do you say? Want to hear about it?”

I nodded, and, as if he could see me, he started making plans.

 

Now I'm in a hotel room in Manhattan, one paid for by
U Chic,
and I've just put on the silver dress that Laney and I bought during my shopping spree. It slides over my head, the cool lining stroking my skin. I step up to the mirror on the back of the door and smile at my reflection. The dress has been in a garment bag since last October, but it's lived up to my memories.

Today is my thirty-first birthday, exactly one year after everything started to crumble. When I'd mentioned to Sam that the shoot was scheduled for my birthday, he'd told me we'd celebrate that night, and he'd asked me to bring something extra special to wear. In fact, he'd invited Laney and Cole, too, and they're in the room next to mine. The thought of Cole in a tuxedo is one I'm having trouble with, but then again, Cole has managed to surprise me many times.

I step into the delicate bone-colored sandals, thinking about my shoot for
U Chic,
which went amazingly, fantastically well today. It was only a few bottles of suntan lotion, and I'm getting paid next to nothing, but being there in that rented studio—consulting with the art director, taking my Polaroid test shots the way I'd learned from Cole, adjusting the lights, raising the Nikon to my face—made me feel as if I had arrived on some new and wonderful planet, one that had been waiting for me all along.

Whether I will ever make a living at this remains to be seen. Whether I will still be working in a coffee shop when I'm forty is a real possibility. Whether something romantic will happen with Sam and me tonight, whether I'll be married by the time I'm thirty-five, whether I'll
ever
get married and have kids—all these things are complete toss-ups. All I know right now is that my life is a clean slate. And I can't wait to see what I make of it.

Book Club Questions
  1. One of the themes of the novel is the concept that our lives are always ours to remake. Why does it take a memory loss for Kelly to realize that? Where do you see her in five years? Ten years?
  2. Do you agree with Kelly's decision to cut off her relationship with Ben? What do you think will happen with Sam and her?
  3. Did you fault Laney when she admitted that she had, in a way, enjoyed it when Kelly was depressed? Have you ever experienced a time when you felt needed and important during a crisis experienced by a friend or family member?
  4. Were you surprised by Cole's revelation of why he had been blacklisted from the New York fashion world? Do you think he will permanently revive his career? What do you think of Laney and him together?
  5. How did the death of Kelly's sister, along with the loss of Ben and her job, combine with her physical condition to cause her memory loss? Do you think the physical was more instrumental in the memory loss than the psychological?
  6. What would
    you do if you found yourself in Kelly's
    situation and your life was suddenly a clean slate?

A CLEAN SLATE

A Red Dress Ink novel

ISBN: 978-1-4268-3682-4

© 2003 by Laura Caldwell.

All rights reserved. The reproduction, transmission or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission. For permission please contact Red Dress Ink, Editorial Office, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

® and TM are trademarks. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Trade Marks Office and/or other countries.

Visit Red Dress Ink at
www.reddressink.com

BOOK: A Clean Slate
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