EXCERPT FROM Chapter One of THE SWEET LIFE #1 by Francine Pascal
“Thank you, everybody,” Jessica said. “I would love to stay and listen to more, but I really am late.” She scooped up her laptop bag and, like the star she was, left them wanting more.
These were the times when she absolutely loved her work. Sometimes, hours would pass in the day when she didn’t think about anything else. Not even Jake, her two-year-old. Of course, she was always there if he needed her. One call and she’d be out the door.
She checked her watch. It was six thirty, and by the time she got home she’d be almost an hour late and Todd would be furious.
“Jessica.” Michael Wilson followed her out the door. “This will only take a couple of minutes.”
She really liked Mike. He was a great boss, about thirty-seven and very good to look at. He was also single. And sort of interested in her, maybe more than sort of, but he kept his distance. If you didn’t know the situation, you wouldn’t, except everyone in the office did already. Gossip, that’s what coffee machines were for.
“What’s up?” Jessica asked.
“We should talk about the green paint stuff.”
“I was just on my way out. I’m really late.”
Now here was the running problem: the mother/wife stuff. At the office, they didn’t want to think about her personal obligations. And she couldn’t look like she was letting them cut into her work. Not a whole lot different from Todd’s problem with her, only inverted.
Which kept her always teetering on the brink between crazy and balanced.
“You can’t give me ten minutes?”
“Can’t.” Being a pro, she took the coward’s way out. “Theater tickets.”
And it worked.
“Oh, sure. It can hold till tomorrow. Enjoy the show.”
Theater tickets he understood. Motherhood, not so.
“See ya.” She caught a glimpse of Katy’s knowing look, winked, and was out the door.
And inside of three minutes, she was in front of her silver BMW that was waiting in its own parking space, the one with her name printed on the wall: Jessica Wakefield-Wilkins. As much as she pitched “going green” at work, she would never be caught dead driving a Prius!
She was very late, but luckily there wasn’t much traffic, and inside of twenty minutes flat she was home in Sweet Valley Heights.
She left the car on the street in front of her town house, which looked exactly like every other one on the block. The only thing they let you choose was the color of the front door. Being Jessica Wakefield, she chose pink. Yves Saint Laurent Pink Ice number 22, to be specific. No one ever had trouble finding Jessica.
As soon as she opened the car door, she heard her son’s squeals of terror and delight. She could see the monster box game through the window. A moment of silence and then Jake’s favorite two-year-old word: “More!” And by the time she got to the door, he was squealing again.
She opened the door and Jake saw her. He was torn. He loved his mommy, but he loved the game, too. Todd was on the floor with him, holding a cardboard box over his head, ready to raise it and make the big growl noise that had delighted Jake for months now. Todd’s face was turned away from her, but she knew he had to be pissed.
She watched Todd raise the box in one grand finale of monster roar, get the expected scream of joy, and put the box down on the floor and free Jake to run to his mother.
Jessica scooped her precious baby into her arms and covered him with kisses. The chill coming from Todd, who was on his feet now, folding up the cherished box that was practically collapsing on its own from overuse, was almost palpable.
If she could just keep kissing Jake, she could postpone the bad part that was coming. But unfortunately she couldn’t because Jake was squirming out of her arms, rushing to get back to the game. But the game was over.
For her, too.
NEXT: Read what Francine Pascal herself has to say about The Sweet Life.