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Mrs. Perfect

BOOK: Mrs. Perfect
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2008 by Jane Porter

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

5 Spot

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com
.

First eBook Edition: May 2008

ISBN: 978-0-446-53738-4

Contents

Praise for Jane Porter’s Novels

Also by Jane Porter

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

About the Author

5 Ways to Know You’re Mrs. Perfect

PRAISE FOR JANE PORTER’S NOVELS

MRS. PERFECT

“A poignant exploration of the pressures modern moms face today, both from without and within, but ultimately it’s about supporting each other in our choices, no matter what.”

—Melanie Lynne Hauser, author of
Confessions of Super Mom
and
Super Mom Saves the World

“Jane Porter strikes a fine balance in the follow-up to her hit
Odd Mom Out,
MRS. PERFECT, a novel about losing ‘The Good Life’ only to discover what the good life really is—funny, thought-provoking, affecting . . . and highly recommended.”

—Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of
Secrets of My Suburban Life
and
Vertigo

ODD MOM OUT

“Jane Porter nails it poignantly and perfectly. This mommy-lit is far from fluff. Sensitive characters and a protagonist who doesn’t cave in to the in-crowd give this novel its heft.”


USA Today

“A poignant critique of mommy cliques and the plight of single parents.”


Kirkus Reviews

“Funny and poignant . . . delightful.”

—Stella Cameron

“Best of all is Porter’s take on mother-daughter dynamics.”


Newport News Daily Press

“A fun read with some thought-provoking subjects thrown in.”

—Readerviews.com

“A great read.”


Quick & Simple
magazine

“A well-written, original, and interesting story.”

—RomRevToday.com

“I personally loved
Odd Mom Out
. . . Jane [Porter’s] writing is fresh . . . it has a place on my ‘keep shelf’ of chick lit books.”

—AllThingsGirl.com

“A delightful read.”

—BookLoons.com

“Funny, entertaining, original, and clearly defined with wonderful characters . . . This story is a must-read.”

—FreshFiction.com


Odd Mom Out
is an engaging tale that examines important issues of today’s world. Behind the entertaining, witty prose are insightful observations about real life.”


Woodbury Magazine

“Marta [Zinsser] is an intriguing heroine.”


Publishers Weekly

“Keenly emotional and truly uplifting.”


Booklist

FLIRTING WITH FORTY

“A terrific read! A wonderful, life and love-affirming story for women of all ages.”

—Jayne Ann Krentz,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Calorie-free accompaniment for a poolside daiquiri.”


Publishers Weekly

“Strongly recommended. Porter’s thoughtful prose and strong characters make for an entertaining and thought-provoking summer read.”


Library Journal

“This is an interesting coming-of-age story . . . It asks the questions, how much should we risk to find happiness, and is happiness even achievable in the long run? True-to-life dialogue and, more important, true-to-life feelings.”


Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine

ALSO BY JANE PORTER

Odd Mom Out

Flirting with Forty

The Frog Prince

For Jacquelyn Gaskins

1934–2007

The boys miss their grandma and I miss my mother-in-law.

Jackie, you knew how to laugh, live, and wear red lipstick.

We miss you. This one’s for you.

Acknowledgments

A huge thank-you to my agent, Karen Solem, for making this fourth book for 5 Spot a reality. She’s an extraordinary agent and I’m lucky to have her.

Another huge thank-you to everyone at 5 Spot/Grand Central Publishing for their tremendous support. I’m lucky to work with such talented, creative, and dedicated people in publishing. I am especially grateful to my editor, Karen Kosztolnyik, for understanding where I want to go with my stories and making sure I get there. To Elly Weisenberg, my 5 Spot publicist, and all the sales, marketing, and art department folks who always make sure I look good and my books are where they need to be. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’d also like to acknowledge my Bellevue friends who helped my research, notably former ad exec Denise Bocezk, preschool teacher Wendy Lange, and life coach Kristiina Hiukka, for their wonderful insights, inspirations, and brainstorming. There are so many other Bellevue friends who have been here for me over the years. You know who you are. Thank you.

To fellow 5 Spot authors Liza Palmer and Megan Crane, thanks for becoming such good friends. I love talking books with you and just hanging out. I’m lucky to know you.

To my boys, Jake and Ty, thanks for understanding that Mom needs her words but loves you both dearly.

And finally, to my guy, Ty Gurney. You’re my sugar and salt. You make life taste better.

Chapter One

Zooming into the country club parking lot, I snag a spot close to the club pool. Okay, technically it’s not a spot, but there’s nothing else close and I’m late.

Nathan says I run late often, and yes, sometimes I do, but not always. It’s just that my schedule all summer has been ungodly. I’ve always been busy, but in the past year I have taken on way too much, sat on far too many committees, agreed to assist too many organizations.

The problem is, everyone needs help, and I hate inefficiency, I really do, which is how I got to be on so many committees in the first place.

I know how to get things done. I’ve always known how to get things done, and for me, it’s relatively easy organizing functions and raising money. And as we all know, everything these days is about raising money. As well as improving the quality of life for the kids.

It really is about the kids, isn’t it?

I sign in quickly at the poolhouse’s front desk and wave at a passing mother—never do remember her name, though—and emerge into the late afternoon light that already streaks the pool.

Scanning the area for my girls, I tug my top over the waist of my white tennis skirt. I wish I’d showered and changed before heading to the pool, but I was afraid of being even later. It’s Friday, Labor Day weekend, and my nanny hoped to leave early today to go camping with her boyfriend.

I feel bad that Annika, our Finnish nanny, didn’t get to leave at three-thirty as requested (it’s nearly five now), but today was hellacious. Morning Pilates, two-hour auction committee meeting, afternoon on the tennis court before quick grocery shop. Then it was a rush home to get the salmon steaks into the bourbon marinade for dinner before another rush out to pick up the girls from the club.

Pulling my sunglasses off, I spot the girls. Tori’s in the baby pool, Brooke’s lying on her towel on the lawn, and my eldest, ten-year-old Jemma, swims in the deep end with her friends. Annika sits in the shade near the baby pool, her purse on her lap. She’s ready to go, which annoys me.

I don’t like being disapproving, but I do resent being made to rush and then feel guilty. It’s Labor Day weekend. She has Monday off. It’s not as if she won’t have three full days of vacation.

Annika spots me. I lift a hand, letting her know she can go. She leans down, kisses Tori, and, with a nod at me, leaves. Quickly.

“Taylor!”

It’s Patti calling my name. I turn, spot her and a cluster of women at one of the pool’s round tables, and indicate that I’ll join them in just a moment. First, I have to get something cold to drink.

Something preferably with alcohol.

A few minutes later, I collapse in the poolside chair with my gin and tonic. Nice. Sliding my sunglasses on top of my head, I sip my drink appreciatively. Day’s almost over. I’m almost free.

Suddenly Annika reappears on the pool deck, dashes to a table near the baby pool, and rifles through the stack of beach towels they brought earlier. She’s looking for something, and it’s got to be her car keys or her cell phone—she couldn’t survive without either.

It’s her cell phone.

I’m not surprised. What twenty-two-year-old girl doesn’t live on her cell?

Annika leaves again, and I watch her dash back out. She’s worked for me for over a year now, and we almost never talk. I leave her to-do lists, and when she goes home at night she leaves the lists behind, everything done, all the chores checked off.

Sometimes I feel a little guilty for not ever having a proper chat, but what would we talk about? My girls? My house? My laundry? No, thank you. I have enough on my mind without having to discuss the above with a foreign teenager.

What a day. Not bad, just long and busy. Pilates nearly killed me, I killed my opponent in tennis, and the committee meeting . . . well, that went so much better than I expected.

“Have you been here long?” I ask the group at large, dropping my sunglasses back onto my nose.

“An hour,” Patti answers.

Monica grimaces. “Since two.”

“Noon,” Kate adds.

Noon?
I make a face. I can’t imagine sitting here for five hours. My God, doesn’t she have anything else to do?

“You should have gotten a sitter,” I say, glancing at my children, praying they’ll be content for another half hour at least, an hour if I buy them an ice cream. Tonight I would buy them ice cream, too, if it meant I could just leave my feet up for a while and relax.

Kate sees my grimace. “I couldn’t get a sitter,” she explains. “Labor Day weekend. Everyone’s going away.”

True. We were going away, too, and then Nathan begged off at the last minute, said all he wanted to do was stay home, enjoy the girls, and maybe get in a round of golf.

“Actually,” Kate continues, crossing her legs, tugging down her straight twill skirt that looks like Eddie Bauer but I know is Ralph Lauren, “I feel like I got off easy. The kids really wanted to go to Wild Waves, but I convinced them they’d be better off just spending the day here and saving the money.”

Saving money?
Kate?

I struggle to keep a straight face. Kate Finch is loaded, one of the area’s old money, and then she married Microsoft money—and not one of the little Microsoft millionaires who pop up everywhere, but Bill Finch, head of the games division—so the Finches are set for life.

“How did you convince the kids to do that?” Patti asks, leaning forward to get out of the sun’s rays. Petite and brunette, Patti Wickham has endless energy, a vivacious personality, and the inability to take no for an answer.

“Bribed them.” Kate sniffs. “Told them I’d give them the cost of the admission ticket and what I would have spent on gas if we could just come here. Worked like a charm.”

Thank God for money.

Hate to admit it, but I’d do the exact same thing. Who’d want to make the drive from Bellevue to Federal Way—what is that, forty minutes each way?—and then spend hours worrying about the kids getting lost or abducted before driving back home in rush-hour traffic? No, Kate’s right. Far better to take advantage of the Points Country Club pool before it closes for the summer.

My youngest daughter, Tori, who has just recently turned four, remembers I’m at the pool and comes running over to give me a wet hug. “Mama, Mama, Mama! I missed you!”

I hug and kiss her back. “Having fun?” I ask, rubbing her bare tummy.

She nods, her blond curly ponytails like piggy corkscrews in the sky. “I’m hungry.”

“We’re having dinner soon.”

“Can I have some French fries?”

“We’re going home in twenty minutes—”

“I want French fries.”

“Honey.”

“I’m starving.” Her lower lip thrusts out. “
Starving
.”

Oh, why not? It’s Friday. Labor Day weekend. I’m tired and don’t want to get up. If French fries will keep her happy, let her have them. “Tell Brooke to go with you to order. She’s right there, in the shallow end.”

“’Kay.”

“’Kay.”

Tori runs off in her pink two-piece, her still chubby thighs making little slapping noises. “Is that bad?” I ask, looking at my friends. “French fries right before dinner?”

“It’s the end of summer,” Patti answers with a shrug.

Exactly. Kids will be back in school in just days, and it’ll only get harder, what with homework and sports and meetings. Being a mother is a full-time job. I couldn’t work outside the home even if I wanted to.

“Mom!
Mom! Taylor Young!
” My middle daughter, Brooke, shouts at me from the pool, resorting to using my name when I take too long to answer.

I put a finger to my lips, indicating she’s too loud. “Come here if you want to talk to me,” I stage-whisper. “Don’t shout across the pool.”

With a sigh, Brooke drags herself out of the pool and splashes her way to our table. “Did you tell Tori I had to go order her French fries?”

“She’s hungry.” I’m not in the mood to deal with Brooke’s attitude now. For a middle child, Brooke is extremely strong-willed. “You can share her fries.”

“I don’t want fries.”

“What do you want?”

“Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream bar.”

“No—”

“You said.” She gives me her “I’m seven and going into first grade” look. “You did, Mom.”

“What about a Popsicle?”

“Why does Tori get fries and I have to have a Popsicle? Why does she always get everything she wants? Because she’s the baby? When I was her age I could order my own fries—”

“Fine. Get your ice cream.” I give up. I just can’t do this today. Not without another drink. “Help Tori and get what you want.”

She flounces away, and I see the face she makes at me. I don’t call her on it, though. I’m too tired, and as the parenting experts all say, you have to pick your battles. I want them to get good grades, so I suppose I’ve picked mine. Besides, they’re not as lippy with Nathan. They wouldn’t be. He doesn’t put up with it, not like I do.

“Good meeting today, Taylor,” Patti says as Brooke grabs Tori by the shoulder to haul her into line at the snack bar.

Patti is co-chair with me for the Points Elementary School auction, and we held our first meeting of the year this morning at Tully’s on Points Drive.

I was worried about the meeting, but I needn’t have been. Our committee of seven is amazing. We’ve got the best parents this year, the best moms hands down.

“I heard so many great ideas during our brainstorm session,” I say, squeezing the rest of my lime wedge into my gin and tonic. “I have a hunch that this year’s auction is going to just blow everyone out of the water.”

And it will with what we’re planning.

We’ve got some
spectacular
live-auction items already lined up, including a trip to Paris—first-class on Air France—and a week on Paul Allen’s private yacht . . . in
Greece
, no less. I suppress a shiver of excitement. Corny as it is, I get goose bumps just thinking about it. “Patti, we can make this happen.”

“We are making it happen,” Patti corrects. She might be tiny and pretty, but she’s a workhorse. “We’ve already got chairs for each committee, and everyone’s experienced—”

“On the
ball
,” I add.

“And as we know, experience makes all the difference.”

Isn’t that the truth? I just love Patti. We’re on the same wavelength. It’s not just that we’re friends, but we’ve served on practically every school committee possible, and there’s no way I would have tackled the school auction if Patti hadn’t suggested we co-chair it together.

The school auction is Points Elementary’s biggest annual fund-raiser. The phone-a-thon, walk-a-thon, and wrapping paper sales all bring in money, but they don’t come close to generating the kind of money the auction does.

A strong auction nets a quarter million dollars. A fabulous auction nets a hundred thousand more.

Patti and I think we can hit four hundred thousand this year. At least that’s our goal.

“Anything juicy happen at the meeting?” Kate asks, pulling up another white chair to stretch her legs on. Her legs are thin and tan, but they’re always tan. Kate plays a lot of golf, and she and Bill routinely sneak off to Cabo.

Patti and I look at each other, try to think. There wasn’t a lot of chitchat. We were pretty organized, and the auction meeting isn’t the place for gossip. It would look bad. Unprofessional.

“I know something juicy,” Monica chimes in eagerly.

I shoot Patti a “here we go again” look. Monica Tallman irritates me. She isn’t poor, and she’s not unattractive, but she’s pathetically insecure and compensates for her feelings of inferiority by trying too hard.

The truth is, Monica needs a life. And she needs to stop copying my hairstyle.

Monica throws a hand into her hair, showing off her most recent highlights, which are nearly identical to mine. “The Wellsleys separated this summer,” she announces loudly.

“The Wellsleys?” Kate gasps.

Monica nods, sips her wine cooler, pleased to be the bearer of horrible news. “Apparently Lucy was having an affair.”


What?
” We all turn, shocked, to stare at Monica.

Patti frowns, a deep furrow between dark eyebrows. At least I know she doesn’t do Botox. “I don’t believe it,” she says. “I can’t believe it. Lucy would never do that. I’ve known her for years—”

“She’s on the altar guild at St. Thomas,” Kate adds.

Monica shrugs, lips curving. “Jesus loves a sinner.”

Unbelievable
. I drain the rest of my gin and tonic and immediately crave another. Too bad I can’t send one of my girls for the drink, but they don’t sell liquor to minors here.

Monica gives her wine cooler a twirl. “Pete’s going after custody.”


No
.” Now this is going too far. It really is. I know Lucy, too, and she’s a great mother, a good wife, and it would destroy her not to have the kids. Kids need to be with their mother, too.

Well, unless their mother’s a nutcase.

Like mine was.

“Pete thinks he’s got a case.” Monica sounds smug.

I hate it when she’s so smug. I really think she needs to work out with her personal trainer a bit less and volunteer a lot more.

“You can’t take children from their mother,” I defend. “Courts don’t do that. I know it for a fact. Are you
sure
she’s having an affair?”

“I imagine it’s over now that Pete found out, but Pete’s embarrassed. He paid for her lipo, the implants, the tummy tuck, the eye job, the laser skin treatments, and now he finds out it wasn’t even for him? Fifty thousand later he feels a little cheated.”

Patti’s outraged. “Lucy didn’t even need the work. She did it for him. He’s never been happy, especially with her.”

I nod my head in agreement. Lucy was really attractive, even before all the surgeries, and you know, you couldn’t tell she had that much work done because it was subtle.
We
knew, because she’d told us, highly recommending her plastic surgeon to us. And in the plastic surgeon’s defense, he was very, very good, and the only way I knew Lucy had done her eyes (before we knew about the plastic surgery) was because she just
looked
happier.

Apparently, she was happier.

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