Authors: Rachel Hollis
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2014 Rachel Hollis
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Lake Union Publishing, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Lake Union Publishing are trademarks of
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Cover design by Elsie Lyons
Cover photo by Jacqueline Pilar
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014946876
For Mama, who gave me wings
For Daddy, who taught me how to use them
I’m singing . . . or, really, bellowing might be a better word.
My voice is miserable, and I’m a far cry from Miley, who’s wailing from my iPod dock, but I’m too happy to care.
This is the very first day, of my very first real job, in my very first week in my very new city. This is the first day of the rest of my life, and I’m going to kick this day’s butt! Watch out LA, Landon Brinkley is here and she’s . . . belting out every word of this song like her life depends on it!
I wrap another piece of long blonde hair around the outside of the flat iron and stare at my reflection in the mirror while the curl heats to perfection. My big blue eyes shine back, outlined all around by the perfect shade of teak liner. The few clusters of individual lashes I added are definitely the right choice; they really stand out against the shimmery champagne coating on my lids. The eye shadow matches the MAC Lipglass in glittery pink I’ve bought just for this day. There’s a little shimmer in my bronzer too, so my makeup ties in beautifully with the gold rhinestones lining the collar of my fitted pink cardigan. I smile at my own shining reflection; all the light-catching glimmer is gorgeous, and so
. If I had a power color, it would definitely be
I work the last length of hair down through the flat iron, creating the ideal bouncy curl I perfected in seventh grade. The door to the bathroom bursts open behind me, and I try not to flinch when Max glares at me through mascara-smudged eyes. Her dark pixie cut is sticking up in every possible direction, and I gather from the deep creases running down one side of her face that however few hours she’s been in bed she’s slept all of them on that cheek.
“I’m sorry, is the music too loud?” I smile sheepishly and lower the volume.
“Miley isn’t appropriate at any time of day, but before eight is ridiculous for anyone over the age of eleven,” she says with a scowl.
She rubs one eye aggressively and pushes a hand through her hair. The movement jangles the pile of bracelets she never seems to remove from her left wrist. Her “pajamas” are an oversize T-shirt with a picture of a muscle car and the words “My Other Ride is Your Mom” stamped across the front.
I hope she’s got underwear on, but the shirt’s hanging down too low to tell. She’s clearly comfortable walking around the apartment wearing just a top, and I suppose if I were that thin and tall and had legs that long, I’d probably run around naked. I sigh. At five foot three I suppose it’s my lot in life to forever envy anyone taller than I am. Oh well, a little tease and a back comb and my hair gets me at least two inches closer to heaven.
“Oh, come on, she’s edgier now. She got that crazy haircut, I thought you’d—” I try.
“We can’t even debate this topic . . . My brain cells are
dying right now in an attempt to contemplate something so inane.”
She doesn’t even look at me as she speaks. She just walks across the space of the small bathroom, pulls down the underwear that were indeed hidden by her shirt, and sits down on the toilet.
I want to act cool, like finishing my makeup while she pees three feet from me is totally normal. But we’ve been roommates for exactly six days, and during that time we’ve spent a sum total of forty-something minutes together. I’m not a prude or anything, but
, let’s ease into this, shall we?
“Why are you even awake this early?” Max grumbles, standing back up.
“It’s my first day, remember?” I sound way too perky, even to my own ears.
“Oh yeah. Well, good luck, I’ve heard Selah’s a total asshole.”
I start to ask her what that means, but she’s already yawning out the door, presumably to sleep until the afternoon. I take one last look in the mirror and then head into my room to grab my purse. My bed is already made and covered with throw pillows in various shades of purple. Max made fun of the fact that I was already unpacked, with pictures hung and clothes organized by style, by the end of my first day here, but I can’t stand disorganization. I told her that when she interviewed me on the phone for the roommate position. She told me she was the polar opposite but that she was home so rarely it shouldn’t be an issue. Then she said that if I could cover half of the $1,650 monthly rent and promise not to bring home any douche bags (her words, not mine), I could move in. And $825 later I had a place to live . . . in
. I still smile every time I think about my new zip code.
I step into the pumps patiently waiting next to my bed and reach for my purse. Even though it’s a couple months old, I grin every time I look at this bag. It’s a velour Juicy Daydreamer in bubble-gum pink with satin bows and gold charms; I saved my tips for months to get it. I don’t usually buy anything so expensive but it was
worth it. I glance at the clock on my phone: it’s 8:17 a.m.
Perfect: I have just enough time to head down to the garage, get on the road, and drive from my apartment to my new office in Beverly Hills. I might even get there a little before nine and have a chance to grab some coffee.
Beverly Hills. Eek! I almost can’t believe it. I’ve dreamed about moving to LA for most of my life, and now I’m here!
The ancient elevator doors open to reveal our apartment’s underground garage, which apparently always smells like trash no matter what day it is. With every step the butterflies in my stomach seem to grow in size and strength. I start whispering the mantra I’ve said to myself a thousand times over the last year whenever I’ve gotten nervous.
I am strong. I am smart. I am courageous.
I am strong. I am smart. I am courageous.
The words are a litany as my heels clip-clop on the cement and I home in on my battered Ford Explorer. I had it washed once I got here to get rid of the millions of bugs that were murdered against the windshield on the drive through four states, but it still looks beat-up. Even if the license plate weren’t from Texas, the SUV, with its custom Longhorns trailer hitch, would be out of place on LA streets. But it’s not like I can afford to get anything else.
I pull out of the garage and am just turning right onto Fountain when my iPhone starts playing “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack . . . It’s Mama.
I hit the button for speakerphone. I’m still not used to this whole hands-free thing in Cali.
“Hi—wait, hold on, I thought this lane was clear. Now I’m stuck behind a parked car—ugh! Come on, let me back in!”
“Are you hollerin’ at me, baby?” Mama asks cheerfully.
“No, Mama, I’m tryin’ to—wait, OK, I’m back in. Sorry, I was tryin’ to merge. How are you?”
“Oh, I’m fine. Just workin’ on my biscuits.”
In the background I can hear the rolling pin hit the edge of the counter as she works her dough down to the perfect density. My parents have owned The Pit since before I was born, and even though they have plenty of faithful employees, Mama refuses to let anyone else in on her legendary buttermilk-biscuit recipe. Even I don’t know what she puts in those things, because a southern woman would sooner give up her firstborn than share the secrets of her best recipe.
The Pit is famous for Daddy’s barbecue, but no table ever leaves without working their way through at least two helpings of Mama’s biscuits. Which is why, every day they’re open, you’ll find Mama in the kitchen making her biscuits.
“Ooh, I wish I had one right now. I’m starving!”
“Bless your heart, why didn’t you eat somethin’?” she asks, concerned.
“I was too nervous before. I’ll grab something later.”
“Baby, don’t start skippin’ meals now; you’re already too skinny.”
“Oh, I won’t. I was just in a hurry. Hmm, I wonder what’s taking so long—” I glance at the clock on my dash: 8:41.
“What’s that honey?”
“Sorry, it’s just, I haven’t gotten all that far down the street. I don’t understand where all this traffic is coming from. I’m supposed to be there in nineteen minutes and I’m not even to La Cienega yet.” I crane my neck to try and see around the car in front of me . . . All I see are more cars.
“All right, girl, I’ll let ya go. Just wanted to check in. I miss ya.”
“I miss you too, Mama. I’ll call you after, OK?”
I push the end button and scoot my car forward a scant two feet in line.
, I can’t be late!” I cry out to the cars in front of me. The clock on the dash reads 8:45.
Oh God, Lord Jesus, I cannot be late on my first day!
I don’t know if what Max has heard about Selah is true, but I certainly don’t want to make a bad impression. Everything I know about my new boss is based on a Google search. She started Selah Smith Events five years ago just after turning twenty-eight, and in that short time has become the most publicized event planner ever. SSE has produced some of the biggest celebrity weddings, baby showers, and movie premieres in the last few years, giving each one the stamp of edgy luxury Selah is known for. She isn’t just the planner either; Selah has become a celebrity in her own right, often walking the red carpet at the same events she produces. She’s model gorgeous, tall and thin, and her dark-brown hair never changes from her signature severe A-line bob.
Selah is easily the coolest woman alive, and I can’t believe she’s going to be my boss! I had to beg,
, the planner I’d assisted last summer to make a call to her old colleague in Houston. That colleague called someone else in LA, who called someone else, who finally had a contact at SSE. I’d e-mailed back and forth with someone named McKenna for nearly two months before finally getting a ten-minute phone interview with some girl who was in such a hurry that I never even got her name. After another e-mail from McKenna asking for a picture of myself that was apparently approved, I got a formal offer letter via e-mail. The deal was for a three-month unpaid internship with the promise that if I proved myself I’d be offered a permanent position at one of the most successful event agencies on either coast.
Unpaid or otherwise, I am beside-myself-excited by the opportunity; my parents, less so. I’m their only child, so the idea of me leaving our small town in West Texas to move to Los Angeles was more than a little upsetting. But there was really nothing for it. I’d grown up in a big, loud southern family, surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins, with parents who made a huge fat celebration out of
I could set a dinner table with Mama’s wedding china by the time I was four, write out my own invitations by six, and when I was thirteen I saw Jennifer Lopez in
The Wedding Planner
. It was the first time I realized there were people whose job it was to throw beautiful events. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since. Daddy couldn’t fathom a world in which someone would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single party, but he wasn’t allowed to complain about my choices since I’d done everything he asked of me first.
I’d gone to all four years at the state college in the next town over and earned the teaching degree he’d insisted I have as a fallback. I knew he had secretly hoped I’d find some reason to stay home during those years, but my resolve only grew. I took on every shift I could at The Pit and stockpiled my cash reserves so that I could move to LA and start the glamorous life I’d always dreamed about. By my calculations, the $9,342 in my savings account can last exactly five months. It’s a big gamble, but one I am willing to make in the hopes that I’ll be promoted to the job of my dreams.
Every single dream I have revolves around me working for the best in events, and that’s Selah Smith. I have to go in there and show her what an asset I am to her team. I have to—
The clock on the dash reads 8:58 a.m., and I’m nowhere near Beverly Hills.