Film producer, Tessa Reynolds had jumped off buildings, raced cards at high speed and, at one time or another, broken major bones in her body. Shed seen bar fights, spent a night in a jail cell where the artwork on the walls ran to anatomically exaggerated sexual organs. She had loved many women. And she had, she realized, led a sheltered life. She had never faced the perils and predicaments of getting two girls out of the house on a school day.
"What do you mean you cant wear those shoes?"
"They dont go with my outfit."
Tessas eyes narrowed as she studied 10 year old Alis floral skirt and pink sweater. Hadnt she been wearing some green thing a minute ago? "Thats what you said the last time. And it looks fine to me. Theyre just shoes."
Ali rolled her eyes. "Theyre the wrong shoes. I have to change them."
"Well, hurry up, Jesus," she muttered as the girl dashed back upstairs, leaving Kayla tugging on her hand.
"I forgot how to spell "bedlam"."
The six-year old giggled at that. "No, really. Is it l-a-m or l-e-m?"
"A." She was pretty sure. Spelling homework wasnt exactly her strong point. And if they didnt get moving, she was going to be late for her own meetings. Which would never do. Not today of all days. Not when they were suppose to finally approve the final script. "Allison, Im walking out the door with or without you in ten seconds."
"Sometimes Mom says that too." Kayla informed her. "But she never does."
"I will. Come on." She tugged Kayla to the door.
"You cant go without her." Eyes wide Kayla trotted beside her to the car. "Moms going to be mad if you do."
"Were going. In the car, come on."
"How will Ali get to school?"
"She can walk." Tessa said grimly. "In whatever shoes shes picked out this time." Impatience turned to smugness when she saw Ali flying out of the house. "You were going to leave me."
For the next fifteen minutes Tessa was treated to a run of complaints. "Shes pushing me."
"Shes taking all the room."
"Shes sitting on my skirt."
The muscle behind her left eye began to twitch. How did anyone-anyone- tolerate this every morning of their life? Grace was a saint.
"I need to go over my words." Kayla wailed loudly. "Im having a test. Alis pushing her elbow in me again."
"Ali, get a grip." Tessa blew away the dark strand of hair that danced in her eyes.
"Theres not enough room." Ali complained. "Shes taking up the whole seat."
"I am not."
"You are too."
The snarl had both girls momentarily turning silent. Satisfied Tessa took a calming breath. "What are the spelling words?"
"I cant remember. I have them written into my notebook." The
wail inched back.
"So get your notebook out."
This, as she should have known caused more complaints. "Youre stepping
all over my shoes. Youre getting them dirty. Kayla if you
"I dont want to hear about those shoes. Not one more word about the shoes." The twitch was back and this time threatened the right eye too.
"Here are my words." Kayla waved the notebook, conking Tessa on the head with her enthusiasm.
"Study them or something."
"I cant. Ali needs to read them and then I spell them. And I have to use them in a sentence."
"I dont want to read them."
Tessa sent Ali a narrow look. "Want to walk?"
"Oh, all right. But they are just baby words."
"They are not. Youre just mad because Todd likes Marcie better than you."
"He does not. And you didnt learn your words because you were too busy drawing your dumb pictures."
"Theyre not dumb. Youre dumb."
"Cut it out. Right now. If I have to stop this car
" Appalled Tessa trailed off. Had she really said that? Had her mothers voice come out of her? Christ. She forced several calming breaths. "Allison just read the words."
"C-o-m-m-i-t-t-e-d." Kayla bit her lips trying to think of her sentence. She turned hopefully to Tessa.
"Tessa Reynolds, innocently volunteering to drive two young girls to school, has now been committed to an institution for the criminally insane."
The girls started to giggle and they ran through the rest as Tessa pulled
up by the school.
"Scram. Im late." Tessa said as she opened the door.
The girls scrambled out. Ali turned to Tessa. "Dont forget you
need to help us with our costumes tonight."
"Yeah, its Halloween silly. Im going as a vampire." Kayla piped.
Tessa stared at them. "What?"
"Didnt mom tell you, you have to come trick or treating with us?" Ali frowned a little.
Trick or treat? The twitch was back full force. "Right. Halloween. Vampires. Right."
She would break before the end of the day. There was no shame in knowing this.
Allison stared at her. "Im glad you met our mom. She smiles a lot when you are around. See you." With that they were off.
Tessa watched them go in. Was it possible to fall head over heels in love with three people at the same time? Because she knew somehow that she was half way there. Then she glanced down at her watch and grimaced. She was so late. Falling in love would have to wait.