An excerpt from

Love in Bloom's

Eddie was a Snickers.

 

Susie and her roommates knew a little about sex, but they knew a lot about chocolate. So they’d tak­en to rating men in terms they understood. Encounters that didn’t go far were “Hershey’s Kisses.” Young guys were “Junior Mints.” Underendowed guys were “Baby Ruths.” Rich guys were “Paydays,” even though Anna argued that Paydays contained no chocolate. Guys who specialized in foreplay were “Butterfingers.” Guys who specialized in oral sex were “Charleston Chews.” Guys who came too quickly were “Milky Ways.” Guys who indiscriminately screwed around with airheads were “Tootsie Rolls.” Caitlin recently mentioned “Three Musketeers” in reference to a long, hot night that had begun at a party for a visiting hockey team from Cana­da, but Susie had chosen not to ask her for details. 


“Snickers” seemed to peg Eddie pretty accurately. He was robust and cheerful, satisfying in a comfortable if not particularly breathtaking way. Susie genuinely liked him, but she had no fear that love might sneak into the situation and throw everything out of whack. She and Eddie were compatible, they laughed a lot when they were together, and although his husky build sometimes squashed her when he was on top, it made him won­derfully cozy to cuddle up with afterward. His chest was nicely upholstered, his body always warm. Sleeping with him was a pleasant way to pass the dark hours. 
 

A cell phone was chirping. “Is that mine?” Eddie asked sleepily. 


“No.” She eased out of the curve of his arm and sat up. “It sounds like mine.” 


“Sounds like mine, too. They all sound alike.” 


“I’m pretty sure it’s mine.” She shoved back the wool blanket and the musty top sheet and reached for her camisole and panties, which lay on the floor right beside the bed. She yanked the burgundy cotton knit over her head and wriggled it into place, then slid the matching panties on and swung her legs over the edge of the mattress. The cell phone chirped again as she strode across Eddie’s small, cluttered bedroom. 


By the time she’d reached her black leather ho­bo-style bag, she knew her phone was the one making the noise. It twittered up from the depths of the bag like a trapped bird. She loosened the drawstring, dug the phone out and tapped it. “Hello?” 


“Susie? It’s Julia. We’ve got a disaster.” 


“Huh?” 


“Susie. It’s one o’clock. Why do you sound like you just woke up?” 


Susie ran a hand through her hair and gazed across the shadowed room at Eddie, who had closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep. Her watch lay with her earrings on the splintery orange crate that served as his night stand, and the only other clock in the room was the tiny digits in the lower right-hand corner his laptop screen, which she couldn’t see from where she was standing. 


She’d accept Julia’s claim that it was indeed one o’clock. Big deal. Why shouldn’t she sleep late? She’d worked past midnight last night, and then she and Ed­die had gone out to an all-night movie house to see some strange Italian film that hadn’t made any sense, and then they’d gone to a café for lattés and returned to his place and done the Snickers thing until the caf­feine from the lattés finally wore off. 


So, yeah, one o’clock seemed about the right time to be waking up. It was Sunday, after all. People were allowed to sleep late on Sunday. 


“What do you mean, we have a disaster?” she asked. Julia never had disasters. She was too orga­nized, too in control. She was a lawyer, for God’s sake, well dressed, well groomed, the sort of role model chronically held up to her younger sister as an exam­ple of the right way to manage one’s life. 


The word disaster must have reached Eddie’s ears. He blinked awake and stared at her, not an easy thing to do without lifting his head off the pillow. His neck was crooked at such an odd angle, it almost seemed dislocated, and his thinning red hair splayed across the pillowcase like cobwebs. 
“I can’t talk about it on the phone,” Julia said. “Can you come to the store?” 


A store disaster? What? Had the refrigerator cas­es lost power, and now the place was reeking of rot­ting cheese? Had one of the ovens exploded and sent pulverized knishes flying through the Upper West Side sky? “What kind of disaster?” she pressed Julia. “Are there injuries?” 


“Not yet. I might have to strangle Grandma Ida.” 


“Oh, that sounds like fun.” Her worry abating, she sent Eddie a reassuring smile. He nodded, rolled over and sank back to sleep. “Why do I have to come all the way uptown so you can talk to me?” she asked. 


“Because you’re my sister and you love me, and you don’t want me to go to jail for murdering our grandmother. So you’d better get up here and re­strain me.” 


“Can you restrain yourself for an hour? I’m not dressed yet.” 


“It’s one o’clock, Susie!” 


“Thanks for reminding me. I’ll see you in an hour. Where will you be?” 


“In the olive section. Did you know the only dif­ference between Greek olives and Turkish olives is that Turkish olives cost more?” 


If Julia was babbling about the price of imported olives, she must be really upset. “I’ll try to get there in less than an hour,” Susie promised, then turned off her phone and stuffed it back into her bag. “Eddie, I’ve got to go.” 


“Yeah, okay,” he said, his voice muffled by the blanket. “Everything okay?” 


“Everything’s fine.” She searched the room un­til she located the long black skirt and the loose-knit black sweater she’d worn last night. She liked wearing black, but she especially liked wearing it over colorful underwear. It was her little secret, her deception, her taunt. Aha! her apparel said. I am wearing all black like a typical downtown girl and you think you know who and what I am. But you can’t pin me down so easily. Underneath this black attire lurks flamboyant lingerie. Not that burgundy was the most flamboyant color, but Susie also had orange, turquoise, pea green and siren red panties, polka-dot, striped and jungle-print bras, and a complete wardrobe of camisoles and chemises because she was flat-chested and they fit her better than the bras. 


Once dressed, she made her way into Eddie’s bathroom, which had a suspicious smell, part citrus and part mildew. Lacking her own toothbrush, she had to borrow his, which was icky but better than not brushing her teeth at all. The mirror above the sink was missing large patches of silver, but enough remained to reflect her groggy face back at her. Her cheeks were mottled, her eyes glazed. Her hair didn’t look too bad, at least. She’d gotten a really good cut last week, chin length, the ends ruler straight. A few fluffs with her fin­gertips and she looked salon fresh from the eyebrows up. 


She left the bathroom, gathered her jewelry from the crate and crossed back to her purse. Wedging her feet into her clogs, she called to Eddie, “Gotta go.” She spotted her black denim jacket draped over the back of a chair and put it on. 


“Yeah, I’ll see you,” he mumbled without opening his eyes. If she were in love with him, she would have been insulted. 


Someday, she thought as she clomped down the stairs to the front door of his building and exited onto the sun-washed pavement of Avenue B, she’d like to find someone a little better than a Snickers bar. A Swiss truffle, perhaps. A hand-dipped strawberry. A slab of homemade cream-cheese fudge riddled with pecans. Not that she was ready to settle down, not that she would ever be ready to settle down, but a little gour­met chocolate, something a touch less sweet, a touch deeper and more complex… Chocolate liqueur, per­haps. Chocolate covered halvah. Perugina. A girl could dream. 


The train was fairly crowded for a weekend after­noon in March. In another month, a day this sunny would inspire hordes of New Yorkers to travel uptown to hang out in Central Park. But today wasn’t quite a hanging-out-in-Central-Park day. The air still held a chilly bite. Winter stood at the open door, on its way out but loitering on the porch as if it had one final bit of gossip to share before it departed for good. 
 

At Grand Central Station, Susie took the cross­town shuttle, then hopped onto another uptown train. She could understand why Julia lived on the Upper West Side, even if it was their old neighborhood and way too close to Mom and Grandma Ida. Julia was living an uptown life—nylons, manicures, J. Crew en­sembles and La Prairie facial cleansers. In a way Susie felt sorry for her sister. Julia was trying so hard not to live their mother’s life—yet there she was, slowly, inev­itably evolving into their mother. 


The train creaked and squealed. Whenever the tracks curved, the metal wheels shrieked in protest. Even though there were plenty of empty seats, Susie chose to stand, balanced against one of the vertical poles. Her muscles were a little stiff, especially in her shoulders and her thighs. Eddie had just a bit too much heft. He was always coming into Nico’s and ordering a slice of pizza—so he could see Susie, he claimed, but honestly, he didn’t have to order a jumbo slice of Si­cilian with everything if all he wanted was to see her. Ten pounds, fifteen at most—lay off the pizza, add a little exercise, and he could lose the weight without suffering inordinately. If she ever believed she had a relationship with Eddie, something real, something that implied a future, she’d get him organized into a proper regimen. 


He’d appreciate it, too, wouldn’t he, she thought with a sarcastic snort. “Gee, Susie, I’m so glad you love me enough to turn into a shrew, nagging me not to eat that extra-big slice with the works.” 
The train whined as it rolled into the Seventy-Sec­ond Street station. Susie was the first one out the door. Eddie faded from her mind as she focused on her more 
immediate situation. What disaster could have arisen that would make Julia want to murder Grandma Ida? 


Actually, Susie could think of lots of possibilities. Grandma Ida bugged the hell out of her. She didn’t fa­vor murder as a way to resolve problems, but if Grand­ma Ida were removed from her life, Susie wouldn’t have to spend so much time and energy dreading her. 


All right. She didn’t exactly dread Grandma Ida. She just…resented her. Grandma Ida had never left any doubt that she considered Julia a vastly superior specimen of granddaughter-hood. She’d always criti­cized Susie. As a child, when Susie would sit at Grand­ma Ida’s imposing dining room table for a Passover Seder, and Grandpa Isaac would drone on and on in what sounded more like gibberish than Hebrew, she’d get bored and swing her feet back and forth under her chair, and Grandma Ida would humiliate her by inter­rupting the gibberish to announce, “Susie, stop kick­ing.” 


Julia never kicked. 


But being scolded for kicking wasn’t the worst of it. When Susie had gotten B-pluses in school, Grand­ma Ida had called her an underachiever. When Susie had set the table, Grandma Ida had chided her for not folding the napkins symmetrically. When Susie had run up and down the hall, Grandma Ida had yelled at her for making too much noise and failing to act lady-like. When Susie had drawn pictures to hang on the refrigerator, Grandma Ida had pointed out all the flaws: “This bush has blue leaves on it. Why did you put blue there? Leaves are green.” 


Susie had always believed leaves could be blue. She’d believed buttons could be soldiers and a sewing box could be used to stage an imaginary war. She’d be­lieved that a cookie before supper did not necessarily spoil a person’s appetite. She still believed that writing poetry was a higher calling than marketing bagels and lox to yuppies. 


“Poetry?” Grandma Ida would sniff. “You can’t eat poetry, can you?” 


So if there was going to be a homicide involving Grandma Ida today, Susie definitely wanted to be there to witness it. 


A few blocks north of the subway station, she spotted the Bloom Building. Above the broad ground-floor display windows chaotically crammed with at what appeared to be least one of every single prod­uct in the store’s inventory, a banner sign circled the building with “Bloom’s Bloom’s Bloom’s” painted in white letters against a dark brown background. The re­peated names sloped diagonally upward, each “B” at the bottom of the sign and each “s” banging against the top edge. For some reason, the effect made Susie think of the Rockettes, a line of dancers all leaning back and kicking high. 


She knew the store. It had changed over the course of her life, but so had she. She wasn’t the three ­year-old she used to be, chasing her big sister along the aisles, her flailing hands swiping at boxes of crack­ers and delicately balanced pyramids of sardine tins. Bloom’s had grown up, too. Sometime in the nineties, the linoleum floors had been replaced by hardwood floors that looked simultaneously more rustic and more elegant. Varnished oak shelves had appeared where once uninspired metal shelving had stood. The second floor had been reborn as a kitchenware center, walls hung with copper-bottom pots and cast-iron skil­lets, displays jammed with potato peelers, apple cor­ers, egg slicers and rice steamers, counters crammed with bread makers, yogurt makers, pasta makers, mel­on-ball makers, ice-cream makers and any other kind of maker a person might want in her kitchen. 


So much stuff. It boggled Susie’s mind that her family had been able to accumulate a significant for­tune by selling people four different kinds of special­ized cheese slicers when any old knife would get the job done. 


Or corkscrews. These had been articles of great fascination to her as a teenager, when sneaking the occasional bottle of wine with her friends had been considered the ultimate triumph. Bloom’s sold about a dozen different kinds of wine bottle openers, from the basic portable corkscrew model to three-hun­dred-dollar gizmos. Susie used to fantasize about own­ing a wine bottle opener—any style would do—but of course she couldn’t ask her father to bring one home from the store for her. Nor could she purchase one her­self. In those days, all the clerks had known the boss’s daughters, which meant they’d also known Susie was years below the drinking age and had no legitimate use for a corkscrew. 


She could legally drink wine now, and she owned a simple corkscrew with “Nico’s” etched into it, from the pizza place. As for all the other kitchen gadgets sold at Bloom’s, well, she and her roommates didn’t do a whole lot of cooking. Their kitchen wasn’t much bigger than the average shower stall; they couldn’t all fit into it at the same time. They went through a lot of coffee and tea, and the refrigerator was usually full of bottled water, clementines, leftover sushi and Caitlin’s nail polish, which she claimed lasted longer if it was kept cold. Susie got free dinners at Nico’s, and other than that, she lived on cereal, yogurt and fresh fruit. Most of the meals she knew how to cook weren’t worth eating, at least not the way she cooked them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entering Bloom’s, she acknowledged that if she lived uptown, she’d stock her fridge with gourmet cheeses. Bloom’s was a study in indulgence run amok. Only the sort of people who needed four different kinds of cheese slicers would demand seven different kinds of extra-sharp cheddar, imported from upstate New York, Vermont, Wisconsin, England, Ireland, Canada and Australia. 


Australian cheddar cheese, she thought with a faint shudder. A big hand-printed sign announced that the Australian cheddar cheese was priced at a special discount. Susie wasn’t surprised. 


She wandered further into the store. The Sun­day afternoon crowd included lots of tourists—people from the outer boroughs and New Jersey for whom Bloom’s was worth a special trip to Manhattan. They carried canvas totes with “Bloom’s” stenciled onto the cloth, the word angled just like on the sign outside. People actually bought these totes and used them whenever they made the pilgrimage to Bloom’s, as if the tote marked them as cognoscenti. 


The store might have changed, but its aromas were the same as she remembered from her childhood. The cheese section smelled dense and earthy. The coffee section smelled dark and rousing. The bread section smelled the best, rich and crusty. 


She was nearing the bakery department when she spotted Julia’s bright red pashmina scarf. Julia had spent way too much money on that thing. Susie had told her she knew a guy on Houston Street who sold pashmina scarves for less than half of what Blooming­dale’s charged, but Julia preferred to be ripped off by fancy department stores. “Who is this man on Hous­ton Street?” she’d asked indignantly. “How do you know he’s not selling stolen merchandise?” 

 

“I take his word for it,” Susie had said. 


“And how do you know it’s really pashmina? It could be just regular cashmere.” 


“If a person can’t tell the difference, why pay more for it?” 


Julia had shaken her head, as if gravely dismayed by her sister’s lack of class. 


The scarf was pretty, a vivid clutch of color under­lining Julia’s pale face. She was always pale, so Susie didn’t take her chalky complexion as a sign of disaster. And her hands didn’t seem to have any blood on them, so Grandma Ida was probably still alive. 


Susie worked her way around a trio of overweight women braying to each other about the nuances of ex-tra-virgin olive oil in heavy Bronx accents. She almost paused to listen. She’d always wondered how a thing could be extra virgin. Either it was virgin or it wasn’t, it seemed to her. Being extra virgin was like being a little pregnant. 


But she continued on to her sister, who looked, if not apoplectic, deeply concerned. She was study­ing a rack of small olive oil bottles as if searching for the meaning of extra virgin. Susie sidled up to her and tapped her shoulder. “Hi.” 


Julia flinched, spun around and relaxed. “Look at this.” She pointed to a slender bottle featuring a pain­fully tasteful label. “Fifty nine dollars for this.” 


“Fifty nine dollars?” Susie squinted at the bottle. Olive oil. Six ounces. Extra virgin. “Why would anyone pay fifty nine dollars for that? One salad and it’s gone.” 


“I think you use it a teaspoon at a time.” 


“For that price, it ought to be in a crystal bottle with a stopper, so you can dab it behind your ears. Lucky I found you here. I thought we were supposed to meet by the olives, not the olive oil.” 

 

“It was even more crowded by the olives. It’s too crowded here, too. Let’s go to the stairs.” 


“If this disaster isn’t the sort of thing you can dis­cuss in a crowded place, maybe we ought to leave. Ev­erywhere is crowded at Bloom’s.” 


“That’s because Bloom’s is such a successful store,” Julia said, then winced. 


Susie scowled. The fact that Bloom’s was a success­ful store shouldn’t fill her sister with angst. The success of the store enabled their mother—and Grandma Ida, and Uncle Jay—to enjoy a very affluent lifestyle. This was a good thing. 


“Let’s just go to the stairs,” Julia said in answer to Susie’s unvoiced question. 


Susie turned in the direction of the stairway—and felt her heart seize. Godiva. That man behind the bagel counter was definitely Godiva—dark chocolate, may­be spiked with hazelnuts—or no, filled with marzipan. Deserving a wrapper of pure gold. 


“Who’s that?” she whispered. 


Julia followed her gaze and shrugged. “How the hell should I know?” 


“He’s gorgeous.” 


“He’s a bagel guy,” Julia remarked, sounding not condescending but simply matter-of-fact. 


“I’m in love.” 


“You’re insane.” 


Susie was not insane. The fellow counting ba­gels into a bag for a dark-skinned woman in a sari was gourmet chocolate. He was tall, and lanky, with dirty blond hair pulled back into a neat ponytail, a long face, a forceful nose and chin, and green eyes so round his lids didn’t seem able to open all the way. They drooped slightly, giving him a deliciously sleepy look. His smile was sleepy, too. Lazy. Dangerous. 

 

She wanted to eat him up. 


“Come on, we’ve got to talk.” Julia clamped her hand around Susie’s elbow and tried to steer her away from the bagel counter, toward the stairs. Susie tossed a look over her shoulder, but he didn’t notice. He was busy with his bagels. 


It occurred to Susie that, much as she wanted to eat him up, she wanted even more just to eat. Julia had sounded panicked enough on the phone that Susie hadn’t stopped to grab a bite before leaving Eddie’s apartment. She hadn’t consumed anything since that latté at around three o’clock that morning. She was famished. 


“I never had any breakfast today,” she said. 


“It’s too late for breakfast.” 


“I never had any lunch, either. I’ve got to get something to eat, and then we’ll talk.” At Julia’s impa­tient frown, Susie added, “I bet you’ve eaten breakfast and lunch.” 


Julia looked sheepish. “Brunch at Grandma Ida’s. Lyndon made lox and eggs.” 


Susie felt a stab of jealousy. Lyndon’s lox and eggs qualified as five-star cuisine. “You ate that, and you’re going to make me starve to death, and I’m supposed to help you with your disaster?” 


Julia conceded with a sigh. “Fine. Go get some­thing to eat, and then meet me at the stairs.” 


Susie hurried over to the bagel counter. Godiva was busy wrapping a twist tie around a bag filled with bagels and grinning at the lady in the sari. 


Susie sidled up behind the woman. An older clerk working the bagel counter was available to help her, but Susie could survive another few minutes without food for the opportunity to talk to Godiva. When the older one tried to catch her eye and beckon her over, she pretended to be fascinated with the marble ryes stacked on a shelf beside the bagel bins. 


At last the sari-wrapped woman departed. Susie leaped forward and planted herself in front of the man. “Hi,” she said. 


His smile was slow and effortless. “Hi.” 


No “Can I help you?” No “What do you want?” Just a husky-voiced “Hi.” 


Her stomach rumbled hollowly. “I’d like a bagel,” she said. 


His smile didn’t change. His eyes were as much gray as green, she realized now that she was close to him. “Okay,” he drawled. 


“What flavor do you recommend?” she asked, gesturing at the variety of bagels. Raisin. Whole wheat. Cranberry. Pumpernickel. Pesto? Who in their right mind would want to eat a pesto-flavored bagel? 


Godiva gave her a thorough perusal, his gaze lin­gering at her mouth, at her unspectacular chest and lower, in the vicinity of her navel. “Egg.” 


“Egg sounds great.” She watched as he plucked a square of wax paper from a box and used it to lift an egg bagel from the bin. His fingers were long and thin, surprisingly graceful. As he handed it to her, his smile grew warmer. “Why did you pick egg?” she asked. 


“Because you’ve got a nubile look about you.” 


Nubile. What kind of bagel counterman knew the word nubile? 


Definitely, she was in love. “I can’t remember the last time I ate a Bloom’s bagel,” she told him. “Are they any good?” 


“They’re awful,” he whispered, his eyes glinting with the kind of mischief that made Susie giddy with lust. “People just pretend to like them. It’s the biggest scam in town. You want some cream cheese to go with that?” 

 

 

“No, I’ll take it straight up.” 


“Pay for it before you eat it,” he warned as she lift­ed it to her mouth. He gestured toward the cashiers at their posts along the front window. 


She sighed at his dismissal of her. He’d made his sale; he didn’t need to flirt anymore. 


Okay. She’d go pay for her bagel and eat it, and get some nourishment out of this encounter. Obvious­ly, her nubility failed to leave him in a state of abject passion. Several customers had formed a line behind her—and he probably found one or two of them even more nubile.


 “Thanks,” she mumbled, then spun away and stalked to the cashier. 


She could have told the woman there that she was Susie Bloom, of the Blooms, and then she wouldn’t have to pay for the bagel. Assuming the cashier be­lieved her. She’d probably ask for two forms of identi­fication, and then she’d fuss and shout across the line of cashiers, “Look who’s here! It’s one of the Blooms!” And then Susie would have to smile and be charming, and she wasn’t in the mood to smile and be charming after Godiva had sent her packing. 


And it wasn’t as if she couldn’t afford the buck-twenty-five. 


She paid, took a bite of her bagel and shook her­self out of her Godiva fantasy. Christ, what was wrong with her? Not much more than an hour ago, she’d been in Eddie’s bed. She must be some kind of slut, yearning for a total stranger with droopy eyelids. 


No, she wasn’t really a slut. Just a chocoholic. 


She found Julia waiting halfway up the stairs on the landing, perhaps the only place in the store that wasn’t full of chattering, browsing customers. Susie took another bite of her bagel and glanced around. 

 

They were surrounded by wall clocks in a variety of colors, offered at a variety of prices. To have so many clocks staring at her was like being trapped in a Salva­dor Dali painting. 


“So, what’s this disaster?” she asked, feeling a little better now that she had some food inside her.


“Grandma Ida wants to name me president of Bloom’s.” 


“She wants to name Mom president? That sounds about right to me.” 


“Not Mom. Me.” 


“You?” Susie guffawed. Her sister could no more run Bloom’s than Bart Simpson could run the Vatican. And her sister wouldn’t want to run Bloom’s. She was a lawyer. Lawyers didn’t sell lox. Fifty-nine-dollar bottles of olive oil, maybe, but not lox and latkes and round slabs of stuffed derma. “Why the hell would Grandma Ida do something like that?” 


“Because she’s Grandma Ida,” Julia explained, twirling a finger nervously through the fringe of her scarf. “Because she’s crazy. Because she’s pissed at Uncle Jay and she can’t bring herself to turn the place over to someone who isn’t a blood relation.” 


“Why is she pissed at Uncle Jay?” 


“Because he married The Bimbette and he spends too much time doing Internet stuff.” 


“The web site is cool. It’s got all these great pic­tures of gift baskets overflowing with bread and phal­lic-looking salami and big green apples.” Every now and then, when Susie was web surfing, she liked to visit the Bloom’s site, just to get in touch with her roots. 


“Grandma Ida doesn’t understand the internet, so as far as she’s concerned it’s useless.” “And this president thing can only go to a blood relative?”

 

“That’s why she won’t give it to Mom.” 


“That’s ridiculous.” Susie tore off a small chunk of bagel and popped it in her mouth. “Why you? How come she didn’t name me the president?” 


“You’ve got a tattoo,” Julia told her. 


Grandma Ida was clearly exercising great wisdom. Uncle Jay had married The Bimbette, so he was out. Susie had a little butterfly inked into her skin above her left anklebone, so she was out. Mom had spent thirty years married to Dad, but she carried no Bloom blood in her veins, so she was out. “It should have gone to Mom,” Susie said. 


“I know. I feel sick about this. I don’t want it, Mom does want it. Grandma Ida has managed to screw us both.” 


“So why don’t you kill her? I’ll be your character witness during the trial. I’ll testify you were driven to it. I’ll say you acted in self-defense.” 


“Thanks,” Julia grumbled. “I knew I could count on you.” 


“What does Mom have to say about all this?” 


“She doesn’t know yet. Grandma Ida asked me to come for brunch, and then she laid this on me.” 


“Yeah, but she laid lox and eggs on you, too,” Susie reminded her. There was a limit how sorry she could feel for Julia, given the quality of Lyndon’s cooking. 


“She said she’s going to talk to her lawyers next week. We’ve got to do something.” 


“What can we do? She owns the damned company.” 


“And if she wants it to stay solvent,” Julia said, “she’ll name Mom the president, because Mom ran the damned company with Dad for years, and she’s been practically running it all by herself since he died.” 


“Well, you’d better tell Mom. She’s going to shit a brick.”


“What do you mean, I’d better tell Mom? We’re going to tell her together.” 


“Why do I have to be there? You’re the president.” 


“I can’t tell her alone. You see? I can’t become president of Bloom’s. A president would have to have the guts to give people bad news. I don’t.” 


“You’re a lawyer. You give people bad news all the time, and charge them hundreds of dollars an hour for it.” 


Julia ignored her remark. “What I thought was, if Mom is home now, we can go upstairs and tell her. The three of us can come up with a plan.” 


“What if she’s not home?” Susie asked hopefully. She really didn’t want to have to go upstairs and deliv­er such lousy news to her mother. There would likely be a scene, and Susie hated scenes—at least, she hated scenes involving her family. Scenes involving strang­ers she found kind of fascinating. 


Julia hauled her cell phone from her purse. “I’ll call her, and if she’s home I’ll tell her we’re coming up.” 


Susie nibbled on her bagel and issued a silent prayer that her mother wouldn’t answer. God must not have been paying attention, because in the time it took her to swallow, Julia was saying, “Mom! You’re home! Wonderful!” 


Wonderful, Susie thought grimly. Just wonderful. 

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