A Bias for Murder
Oliver Harrington II was one of the most beloved members of Crestwood’s community. Despite being the picture of health at age 52, he died from a sudden heart attack, leaving behind the family mansion on a sprawling piece of property. His twin sister Adele returned to the town she despises to claim her brother’s home, intent on turning it into a B&B. And she’s hired Po Paltrow and the Crestwood Quilters to craft quilts for the guest rooms.
But Adele is not the only one interested in the future of the Harrington estate. A developer wants to put multiple houses on the land. The townsfolk just want their neighborhood to retain its small-town charm and not become a tourist trap. But when an autopsy reveals that Oliver was actually poisoned, suspicion falls on his sister. Po doesn’t believe Adele is guilty, leaving her determined to discover who else harbored deadly designs on the Harrington home . . .
The Time for Murder is Meow
Crishell “Shell” McMillan sees the cancellation of her TV series as a blessing in disguise. The former actress can now take over her late aunt’s pet shop, the Purr N’ Bark, and do something she loves.
While getting the shop ready for re-opening, Shell is asked to loan her aunt’s Cary Grant posters to the local museum for an exhibit. She finds the prospect exciting—until a museum board member, who had a long-standing feud with Shell’s aunt, votes against it. When she discovers the board member dead in the museum, Shell becomes suspect number one. Can she, her Siamese cat Kahlua, and her new sidekick—her aunt’s Persian Purrday—find the real culprit, or will her latest career go up in kitty litter?
Jealousy Filled Donuts
It is a truth universally acknowledged—cops and donuts go together. Exhibit A: Deputy Donut Café, owned and operated by detective’s widow Emily Westhill and her father-in-law, the retired police chief of Fallingbrook, Wisconsin. Named after Emily’s adored and adorable tabby, the donut shop is a favorite among cops, firemen, and EMTs, as well as tourists and townspeople. So when Fallingbrook needs donuts for their Fourth of July picnic, Emily’s shop gets deputized.
But a twisted killer has found another use for Emily’s treats. At the picnic, a firecracker is hidden in a stack of raspberry-filled donuts and aimed at the unwitting queen of the festivities. When it explodes, she is killed. Having her jelly donuts involved puts Emily in a sticky situation, and when a shady shutterbug tries to frame her with incriminating photos, she finds herself in quite a jam. To preserve her freedom and her shop’s reputation, Emily needs to solve this case—before the fuse-lighting felon goes off again …
Lana Lee is all smiles when the first evening of Cleveland’s Asian Night Market kicks off the summer. The weekly festival is always good for business, packed with locals and tourists, and this year, some stiff new food-truck competition. Wonton on Wheels, run by old friends of Lana’s parents, promises to have customers lining up for their delicately wrapped delights—until the truck blew up at evening’s end.
Lana’s boyfriend, Detective Adam Trudeau, had been planning a birthday getaway for the two of them but, lo and behold, Lana must assume the role of amateur sleuth yet again. With one proprietor of Wonton on Wheels dead, it’s beginning to look more like murder and less like an unfortunate accident. And as they begin to unwrap layers of disturbing secrets, Lana’s own family erupts into new drama. Will Lana be able to solve this crime—or has she jumped from the wok right into the fire?
Silent Night, Deadly Night
It’s the week before Thanksgiving, and Merry Wilkinson, owner of Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, is preparing for a weekend reunion of her mother’s college friends. But when the group of women comes into Merry’s shop, Merry is met with frosty attitudes and cold hearts.
The women argue amongst themselves constantly, and the bickering only intensifies after one of the friends is poisoned. With her father’s role as Santa in danger due to his proximity to the crime, Merry will need to use all of her investigative gifts to wrap this mystery up and save Santa and her favorite holiday.
Until next time, Happy Reading!
Victoria called after I got out of the shower and dressed, she needed me to stop and pick her up from her apartment on my way to the high school. Apparently she was having car troubles and the engine wouldn’t turn over. She was waiting until pay day to go take it to Doc’s Auto Repair to see what was wrong with it.
“Hey you! How are YOU feeling after last night?” Victoria asked as she opened the back door of my Jeep Compass and threw her huge bag into the back seat.
“I am feeling fine. A little dehydrated and I had a small headache when I woke up this morning but not too bad. How about yourself?” I asked
It wasn’t fair Vic looked like she got a full 8 hours of beauty sleep. There were no bags under her eyes and she looked simply radiant in her red flowing hippy skirt with a black tank top and boho sandals. Where I on the other hand wore green capris from the Gap, a white v-neck, and chucks. I don’t care what anyone says black Converse shoes will go with any outfit.
“I’m doing fine! I got home, took some Advil, and drank some green tea before heading to be. I woke up early this morning and did some yoga as well. Which by the way you still need to go to the park on Main Street with me and do some early morning yoga! I swear, it will change your world!”
Victoria was an avid yoga enthusiast. She told me that it keeps her mellow and in line with her inner peace. I have tried yoga many times over the years, but my inner person won’t shut up long enough for me to find inner peace. I have told Vic this multiple times, but she believes she can help me find it now that I live back home and am away from the noise of the city. We shall see.
“Good god, that is so much to do in the morning. I’d rather drink some coffee and read, which is exactly what I did. So tell me, what should I expect from this celebration at the school? What kind of small talk will I be required to be apart of? Am I going to get anytime to tour the school and look at my room?”
I knew that school wasn’t going to start for another few weeks but I needed to have a time frame, some sort of expectation and schedule to follow. I wasn’t the best at flying at the seat of my pants and I really wasn’t good at small talk. I tended to word vomit around people I didn’t know.
“Basically parents will be here from all over the district, not just high school parents but through all grade levels. The Board of Education will be here and the Superintendent. You need to make sure to talk to them with your best possible manners. Stay by my side and I will introduce them to you as best as I can. There will be questions from parents asking about how you plan on teaching this year. Tell them Project Based Learning, they love hearing that. In fact you can tell the BOE that too.”
Victoria went on the for the rest of the ten minute drive telling me all about the board members, the drama with the other teachers, and which helicopter parents to look out for.
“You might have time to quickly look around the school, but you won’t be able to go into your room yet. They will let us in about a week before school starts.” She finished as I pulled into the parking lot to the school. The parking lot was getting pretty full and we were thirty minutes early.
As we got out of the car you could hear the celebration getting started. The town was going all out. There were carnival rides for the smaller kids, games for the bigger ones, a dance floor with today’s hits playing with a few couples dancing, and a big stage getting the final touches before the big reveal of the new parts of the high school.
While we were walking up I noticed Jake standing at the entrance looking through people’s bags and checking for guns. Here in Oklahoma everyone and their mother packed a gun. They were real supportive of the 2nd amendment here. Jake spotted me coming up to the entrance and stopped me.
“Hey Maggie! I’m going to need you to open your bag and let me look inside. You’re not packing any heat are you?” Jake winked as he looked in my bag.
“Nope, the only thing that could be considered a weapon in my bag is a book. But you’re not a firefighter and this isn’t a Ray Bradbury book now is it?” I retorted.
Jake rolled his eyes at me as he checked Victoria’s bag, “You know Maggie, it’s getting kind of old, this grudge you have against me. It was 10 years ago, can’t you just forgive and forget?”
“Forgive you and Bridgett for pulling a Stephen King “Carrie” on me, and making me think that I was worth your time, only to leave me stag at the dance. While I had to watch you and her make out in the corner under the bleachers? While others in her posse threw trash at me until I left the prom crying? I wish I could forget that. The only thing missing was you pouring paint all over me” I snatched my bag off of the table where others were checking their bags.
I knew I was being a brat and over dramatic, but I didn’t know what else to do. It still stung, ten years later. I knew it was too good to be true, but a little part of me had hoped that Jake had been serious.
I had helped him study for his finals that year, we would laugh and joke around. When he passed me that note in history class, I thought I had even seen his ears turn red in a blush. However this wasn’t the case, he was laughing at me. Bridgett had told him that she would go to the prom with him all he had to do was trick me. Well, he did that alright. The town talked about it for weeks afterwards.
I was stopped in the streets by older people telling me that it was okay, I would find someone. Other’s would point at laugh at me in the halls and the coffee shop where I worked. College at UCO, University of Central Oklahoma, was my saving grace. Moving out of Broken Bow into a place where no one knew me was what I needed to do to cleanse myself of that time.
“MAGS! Wait up!” Victoria was running as best as she could to catch up with me.
Out of breath and wheezing she said, “Come on! I know that you’re still upset over what happened, hell I’m still pissed for you, but you are better than that. Better than stomping off and acting like a teenager.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me into a strong hug, “Ignore him. Give him the silent treatment. But don’t let him know that he is even a thought in your mind, okay? Now come on, I’m going to show you around the school before everything starts.”
We turned around and headed to the front of the school building. The crowd was growing even more around the stage area to the right of us. I saw parents with soft drinks, kids with cotton candy, and more than a few people with turkey legs. This was getting a little ridiculous if you asked me, but this was the life of a small town. There wasn’t a lot to go out and get excited about.
Entering the front entryway, I saw a whole wall of glass doors, “Normally you can’t enter these doors during the school day. They are locked for safety, you’ll have a key as a teacher, but if anyone visits they need a visitor’s badge. They can go through the front office through the doors to the right.” Victoria pointed to a glass door that showed the front desks where the attendance clerks and the secretaries sat.
As we walked through the doors I noticed how much everything had changed from when I last went to school here in 2008. There was only one door to the main office and I had to go through that one to get to the rest of the school. There was a corded off hallway that Victoria explain was where the new library was, some bathrooms, and a couple of classrooms.
“Ms. Star, is there anyway I could talk to you right now?” A female voice from behind us asked. We turned around and saw Mrs. Steinfield, the high school principal, “There is a parent wondering when auditions for the Fall play were going to start. They say that their student needs to get the lead roll. Do you even have the play picked out yet?” Mrs. Steinfield rolled her eyes and laughed.
“Ah! That must be Taylor’s mom.” Victoria exhaled. She turned to me, ”Remember, me explaining helicopter parents? This is one of them, you can wait here and I’ll be right back.” Victoria gave me a wink and followed Mrs. Steinfield out of the front doors into the mass of people milling about.
Now that I was alone I realized that I needed to go to the restroom pretty badly. I remembered that Vic had said that there were restrooms down the gated off hallway. I didn’t want to go wondering around the school getting lost trying to find a bathroom, so I lifted the caution tape and stepped through the entrance to the hall. I didn’t think I could get into too much trouble since I worked at the school now.
While walking down the hall I noticed that the doors weren’t marked for the bathrooms. This could be potentially hairy. I mean I didn’t think anyone was in the men’s bathroom but it would be extremely embarrassing to open the wrong door and have a man standing there trying to do his business only to be interrupted by me.
As I pushed open the first door to my right I closed my eyes and said, “Hello! Anyone in here? Is this the women’s bathroom? I don’t mean to intrude, but I really have to go!” After hearing silence in return I opened my eyes to see a dark classroom. I wondered if this was the standard for what classrooms would look like throughout the school.
Ignoring the persisting pound of my very full bladder, I decided that it wouldn’t be a big deal to turn on the lights and look around the room, noting anything that I could add to my own classroom, and seeing what the desk looked like. I had this certain desk organizer in mind from Target that I wanted to get but I wanted to make sure that it would fit before I spent the money.
I turned on the over head lights blinding myself as I walked into the center of the room. The desks were stacked and push up against the walls leaving ample space in the center of the room to walk around and get a good feel for the size.
My eyes were still adjusting as I tripped over something on the floor by the desk. I assumed it was a rolled up rug because it was pretty stiff, but didn’t feeling like plastic or metal. I looked down to see a leg with a red stiletto on the foot.
My breathing started to come rapidly and my eyes started to darken. I was afraid that I was about to pass out. I needed to slow my breathing down, I didn’t know who it was 100% and I needed to see if I could help.
As I rounded the desk I could see that I was too late. The red stiletto belonged to the person I thought it did. Bridgett Nickel was laying face down in what looked like blood. A red grading pen was sticking out from the side of her neck. I knew that she was dead, but I needed to check her pulse just to be sure.
I grabbed her wrist, it was stiff and cold. There was no pulse to do found. I turned around and ran to the door, stopping to throw up in the hallway.
I ran down the hall and into the school entryway. Running right into the last person that I wanted to see, Jake.
He grabbed onto my shoulders to keep me from tripping over my own feet. “Hey there! What’s the rush? I promise they still have another 5 or 10 minutes until everything starts.” He put me right on my feet and then he noticed how white my face was. “Mags, everything okay? You’re not looking so well. Do you need me to drive you home?”
“No, Jake. I don’t need you to drive me home. But I found something. I mean I found someone. You need to call for an ambulance. I don’t think she is okay. Really, I don’t think she is.” I started stumbling over my words. My mind was fogging and I couldn’t get the words out right.
“Woah there! Slow down honey. Who isn’t okay? Who is SHE? Where is she? Talk to me. Breath. “ His voice was floating away from me as I leaned against the wall and slid down. Everything was dimming. I knew that I needed to shake out of it though. Something happened to Bridgett and I needed to explain what happened.
“Bridgett Nickel. I think she is dead.” I said as I finally sank all the way down to the floor. I could hear Jake talking into his radio for backup as he was running down the hall where I came from.
I woke up the next morning with a killer headache. After Bridget’s dramatic exit, Victoria and I had a few more beers and talked about the upcoming school year. I had a lot more planning to do then I had thought otherwise. I hadn’t realized that the standards had changed three times in just the past 5 years. I knew that I would up late most nights for the rest of the summer getting up to date with what was going to be expected of me.
I had about three weeks until the school year started, which sounded like a long time, but creating lessons, setting up my classroom, and getting to know my new team members would take up a lot of my time.
However the day could not and would not start without a giant cup of coffee. I was what my friends and family called a coffee snob. I actually didn’t know that much about coffee, I just knew what I liked. If I had time in the morning I would freshly grind a Breakfast Blend coffee, boil water, and use my French press. However, most mornings I would just throw in a Breakfast Blend K-Cup into my Keurig Coffee maker and call it a morning. No breakfast was complete without a toasted English Muffin with peanut butter on it.
As my coffee was brewing and my English Muffin toasting in the toaster, I turned on Christmas music at the loudest capacity possible without waking up my parents. It was weird that I now had to think about my neighbor’s sleeping habits now that they were my parents.
I knew my dad was already up, he wasn’t necessarily a morning person like me, but he has spent the majority of his adult life getting up at the butt crack of dawn to get to work at the pipelining business that he was a partner in with his best friend and my god father, Greg.
My mom however was an artistic soul. She didn’t have a 9-5 job like most people do. She would stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning working on her latest creation. She had her own Etsy store called Heather’s Creations, which she actually made decent money at, so much so that she hasn’t had to work a part time job in years. However, this meant that at 7:00 am in the morning she was most likely snoozing away in their bedroom.
I decided that I didn’t want to spend the morning by myself listening to music. I took my coffee and my toast and headed up the basement stairs into the kitchen of my parent’s house.
It hadn’t changed much since I lived here ten years ago. The basement stairs led into the kitchen. You could turn right and go into the garage or turn left right into the kitchen. It was a decent sized kitchen with glass front cabinets that I loved. They were etched with beautiful designs by my mother.
I turned to the doorway of the kitchen into the dinning room and I saw my dad drinking his own coffee and reading the newspaper.
“Morning kiddo! I wondered how long it would take you to get your butt up here and have a coffee with me.” My dad put down his newspaper and pulled out the chair right next to him.
“Well, I didn’t want to intrude! What if you had changed your habits and you decided to read the newspaper in the NUDE!?” I dramatically whispered to him while smelling my coffee. It was an intoxicating smell.
“Ha! Nope, same old same old here, kiddo. I pulled out the comic page for you to read. There is a pretty good Dennis the Menace in there today.” He gingerly tossed the comics my way. This was our routine from as long as I could remember. Even before I was reading and drinking coffee. Dad would read to me and I would sip on orange juice.
“Thanks dad!” I read a few comments before staring off into the living room. Watching the sun pour into the three huge bay windows was relaxing in ways I couldn’t remember but I couldn’t help wondering if being back home solidified my complete failure as an adult. I must have sighed pretty heavily because my dad peered over his newspaper at me.
“Alright kiddo, what’s wrong? Spill it.” My dad put his sports column down and looked over his glasses at me. I realized then that he did look older. His jet black hair was turning salt and pepper at the temples. His smile lines were etched into crows feet at the corners of his eyes, looking as though he was always on the verge of smiling. The years had been kind to my dad. He was sort of a Sean Connery meets Patrick Stewart kind of man.
“I don’t know dad. I am happy to be home. I never thought I’d say that. I mean, I just never thought that I would be living at home again. But after everything that happened in the city. I really needed to come back to where I could recharge. I was just wondering, are you sure it’s okay that I’m back? I mean, you and mom have your own lives now. You go to bingo, have friends over, and have started something new. I just don’t want to impede on your life.”
I was basically word vomiting all of my worries on my dad. That is what he was always there for, helping me get through the difficult times in my life. It wasn’t that I couldn’t talk to my mom, I could. But she would always take my side. I was never in the wrong. Whereas my dad, he would call me out on my stuff if I needed it. He kept me level headed and humble.
“Honey, you will always be our child. This doesn’t end just because you’re 28 and an adult. You will always be our baby girl and we will always be here. Your mother has always talked about having you closer to us. You will never be a burden or a bother. You are welcome for as long as you need.” My dad patted my hand, took a drink from his coffee and started reading the sports page again.
That was the end of the serious ‘life’ conversation with my dad. He was a man of few words, but I liked it better that way. You couldn’t skew his words or think they were anything other than what they were. He was blunt and straightforward, something that I also inherited from him. It wasn’t the best trait to have though, it sometimes got me in trouble.
After having coffee with my Dad I headed back to my basement apartment to take a shower and get ready for the day. Victoria mentioned an opening at the high school that evening. Apparently all summer the district was redesigning and building onto the different school sites in Broken Bow, the high school got a new library and a new field house. The Board of Education wanted to celebrate the two week early completion with a party at the high school. Everyone in the district was welcome, parents, students, and influential people of the town would be there. It was supposed to be a big deal and all of the teachers were ‘voluntold’ to be there.
I wasn’t too upset about this though. I needed to get a look around my new classroom, take some measurements, and see what I needed to purchase to make sure that my classroom was welcoming to the students on the first day of school. No one likes walking into a drab classroom that looks like a prison cell
Oh Say Can You Fudge
(A Candy-coated Mystery Book 3)
Red, White, And Boom
It’s not Fourth of July on Mackinac Island without fireworks and fudge. The Historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop is supplying the treats–and Allie has hired Rodney Rivers, the biggest name in aerial displays, to create an unforgettable spectacle. Unfortunately, Allie finds him dead, covered with screaming chicken fireworks, just before the entire warehouse of pyrotechnics goes up in smoke. Is it arson or is it murder? Allie and her bichonpoo, Mal, must sift through the suspects until the killer is caught and the island can enjoy a star-spangled celebration.
Murder Most Frothy
A Coffeehouse Mystery
Clare Cosi’s new friend, millionaire David Mintzer, has an offer no New York barista could turn down: an all-expenses-paid summer away from the sticky city. At his Hamptons mansion, she’ll relax, soak up the sun, and, oh yes, train the staff of his new restaurant. So Clare packs up her daughter, her former mother-in-law, and her special recipe for iced coffee–for what she hopes will be one de-latte-ful summer…
Soon, Clare tends the coffee bar at her first Hamptons gala. But the festivities come to a bitter end when an employee turns up dead in David’s bathroom–a botched attempt on the millionaire’s life. Thanks to the Fourth of July fireworks no one heard any gunshots, and the police are stuck in holiday traffic. Concerned for everyone’s safety, Clare begins to investigate. What she finds will keep her up at night–and it’s not the java jitters…
Bikinis In Paradise
When the Tropical Tan Corporation descends on Maggie’s Hideaway, the lakeside resort where Tj Jensen lives, she must juggle a bikini contest, a BBQ cook-off, a missing model, and a dead chaperone while her father is out of town.
Lead Deputy Dylan Caine is on vacation while his sister is visiting, leaving Assistant Deputy Roy Fisher in charge. When Roy asks Tj for her help, they find there may be more going on than anyone realized.
With Kyle and Jenna’s help, they dig into the lives of those involved, only to find a mystery more complex than anything they could ever have imagined.
Lemon Meringue Pie Murder
Hannah Swensen thought she’d finally discovered the recipe for a perfect life. But her sometime beau Norman Rhodes tosses a surprise ingredient into the mix when he phones to tell her he’s just bought a house from local drugstore clerk Rhonda Scharf—which he plans to tear down in order to build the dream home he and Hannah designed. It seems the plan has been cooking for quite some time, and Hannah’s shocked. Especially since her ring finger is still very much bare. . .
The good news is that the soon-to-be-torn-down house is full of antiques—and Norman has given Hannah and her mother first dibs. They uncover some gorgeous old furniture, a patchwork quilt . . . and Rhonda Scharf’s dead body. A little more sleuthing turns up the half-eaten remains of a very special dinner for two—and one of The Cookie Jar’s famous lemon meringue pies. Now it’s up to Hannah to turn up the heat—and get busy tracking down clues. Starting in her very own kitchen.
With Independence Day fast approaching, Liv Montgomery is swamped coordinating one of the town’s biggest festivals. In addition to the traditional July fourth events, the town stages a spooky Revolutionary War reenactment that can’t be missed. Every year, the ghost of local war hero Henry Gallantine—played by his eccentric descendant of the same name—appears at the top of the family mansion, kicking off the night’s revelries.
But Henry’s annual cameo goes awry after the ghost signals SOS instead of his traditional cue. When Liv rushes to the rescue, she finds Henry missing and a real dead body instead of a fake haunt. Now she will have to hunt down both a murderer and a missing person quickly before unwanted political fireworks ignite and someone else winds up as local history…
Until next time, Happy Reading!
There is nothing more that I love then a box that has a theme to it. Bonjour Jolie really knocked it out of the park. This month’s theme is all about the Stars, the Universe, and You!!!! This box was stunningly curated and I loved every inch of it! I love that this box has everything that I need!! Especially for when I am on my period.
“The Ultimate Subscription Box Designed Exclusively for You to Be Pampered on your Period! We take the Frustration out of Menstruation!”
$23.50 / month
Let’s dive into this month’s box a little deeper!
The Hikari Cosmetics Glitter Mask Duo set was the gift in this month’s box. I love that it comes with two different masks! One of the masks in gold while the other is silver. This is going to be so much fun to do! I love the idea of pampering myself when I’m not really feeling my best. These masks are vegan free in their ingredients and are meant to purify pores and firm up the skin!
This bath bomb by The Bomb Gals is just what you need to add to those fantastic glittering face masks! Put one of those on, burn a candle, and start the tub with this wonderful smelling bath bomb! You can’t go wrong!
Of course you can’t go wrong with the tasty treats this month! Seriously! I love the fact that they really stayed on course with the theme of the stars and the universe. All of the snacks had something to do with stars, moons, or even the milky way! I’m not going to like. I have eaten EVERYTHING except the stuffed cookies, but I’ll get to those tomorrow for a snack, you can count on it!
The teas were perfect for the summer with the peaches, raspberries, and the different levels of caffeine.
I love Tiger Balm! This is a brand that I back up 100%. Their products are naturally made and really do relieve all of the stress or hurt you are feeling in a particular area! The herbal ingredients really do soak in and make you feel better. I have a feeling that I am going to be taking this patch with me to Japan this month. I just know that 12 hours on a plane is going to be painful on my back!
Although all of the items in this month’s box were amazing and wonderful, the real MVPs are the products we use to help us feel better throughout the struggle of Aunt Flo visiting. The tampons, the cleansing wipes, and the midol are things that every person should have during their cycle and Bonjour Jolie has fulfilled that department as well.
Overall, this has to be my favorite box that I have received from Bonjour Jolie! I can’t wait to see what next month’s theme is. I don’t know how they are going to top this months, but some how, some way, I have a feeling that they will.
I couldn’t believe I was back home. Even after packing all of my earthly belongings, driving three and a half hours from the city, and unpacking my things into the basement apartment, I couldn’t believe it. But here I was, walking into my favorite local pub, Murphy’s. Scott and Cindy were the owners and had been alive for as long as I could remember. I swear it was the homemade brew that they made here in Broken Bow. That was what kept them alive and kicking.
Our town was small. Everyone knows everyone. A person’s personal business is technically not their own here with a population of around 4,000 people. There were some great things about this. For example, I grew up never knowing a stranger. However, there were downs to this as well. Every person I ran into knew about the fact that I couldn’t make it in the big city, Oklahoma City.
“Hey everyone! Look who’s back! Mags!” squealed Cindy as she ran from around the counter to envelop me in a huge hug.
“Hey Cindy! How’s it going?” I breathed as Cindy squeezed all of the breath out of my lungs. She smelled the same, of citrus and cigarette smoke. Not the most appealing of scents but it made the reality of being home so much more clear. They said that scent was one of the most important of the five senses, it could bring back memories a person thought was forgotten.
“Oh, you know! My back has been acting up, and Scott fractured his hand when a crate of beer fell on it! It’s never boring here! But we are fine just the same. Smithwicks for you, Mags?” Cindy asked as she squeezed my shoulders one last time before heading back behind the bar.
“Yes! You remembered! You’re the best. Have you seen Vic? She was supposed to meet me here to talk about the beginning of the school year.” I said as I wove my way in-between the tables to get to an empty barstool table with two seats.
“ Of course I remembered! I follow you on your Facebook! Trying to keep up with all of those city drinks! And no, she hasn’t made it in yet. But grab that table and I will point her your way when she gets in. Until then here is your beer, want anything to snack on while you wait?” Cindy took out a notepad from her apron and took the pencil out from behind her messy bun.
“Got any specials today?” My stomach was rumbling. I remembered that I hadn’t had anything to eat since this morning when I was filling up my car with gas at a QuikTrip.
“We have some cheese fries, chili, and some broccoli soup with bread from the bakery down the street. Any of that sound good to you?”
“I think I’ll have some broccoli cheddar soup and two pieces of bread, thanks Cindy. You’re the best.” I smiled at her as she nodded and walked back to the kitchen.
Looking around the pub I noticed that things hadn’t changed much in the 10 years since I had last been here. The booths still had the same green cracked leather and faux wood veneer. The lights were still dim and caked with years of dust and other things that I didn’t want to think about. But I could tell that Cindy and Scott were doing well. They had new beer mugs, new taps, and a new POS system, with a fancy touch screen.
As I was scanning the room my eyes fell on the last person I wanted to see, Bridgett Nickel. I could tell time had not been kind to her. There were lines deeply edge in her face from years of smoking and a hard life, I assumed. Her hair was bleached to the last possible inch of its life. She looked a good ten years older than me, and yet she was still wearing clothing from what looked like our high school days.
A tight red halter top, a size too small, a black lacy bra, not strapless, a short jean skirt with embroidered flowers on it, and bright red stiletto heels. She was leaning down talking to a man at the bar, so she didn’t notice me staring. They looked to be having a heated discussion, he grabbed her arm, she pushed back and yanked it out of his grasp. He grabbed her waist and pulled her in, giving her a very sloppy and messy kiss. I couldn’t tell if she was enjoying it or not. As I was trying to figure it out someone came up from behind me.
“Hey Mags, what are you staring at?” A soft voice whispered behind me.
My heart jumped into my throat at being caught staring, but I knew that voice almost better than my own, “Victoria Star! You know it’s rude to sneak up on people unannounced!” I said as I grabbed her and forced a hug on her.
“Ha! Says the woman who was staring down Bridgett over there. You know, if you are going to spy on people, you should at least be more secretive about it. Maybe put a magazine in front of your face, and peak over it every once in a while. Haven’t you ever watched a James Bond movie? Or Harriet the Spy?” Victoria lectured as she put her Mary Poppins bag on the table and started to bring out stacks of papers. I swear that purse had no ending.
Victoria Star had been my best friend since we were in middle school. She was into oldies music, black and white movies, and old books. Of course, in a small town like Broken Bow, where sports ran the schools, this made her an outcast. It didn’t help that she was 5’2” with bright red hair, and had a garish laugh. She might have been small, but she was fierce. As an awkward middle schooler who basically lived in the library, hit puberty way to early, and actually liked school, I wasn’t part of the ‘cool kids club’ either. Thus a wonderful friendship bloomed.
Victoria took to her artistic way of living and got her degree in the Visual Arts at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. She tried her hand at show business, I mean, with the last name of Star, she had a lot to live up to. But she missed home too much and came back home about 5 years ago. She got a job at the local high school as the Art and Drama teacher.
“Listen, you know Harriet the Spy was my favorite book and movie growing up. I just didn’t expect to see Bridgett here in town. I thought when we graduated she was going to make it big as a TV anchor or something like that. You hadn’t mentioned her during our weekly phone calls. I was just caught off guard.” I said defensively and I watched Cindy weave her way through the now full pub with my bread and soup.
“Hear ya go, darling. Enjoy! Anything I can get you, Vic?” Cindy asked while wiping the table next to us off with a damp rag.
“I’ll have what she’s having. A smithwicks right?” Victoria looked at me with a glint in her eye. I knew I was predictable but I liked what I liked. No sense in straying from something I knew was going to taste good.
“Alright, it might be a little bit longer, we always get slammed around this time every day. The new school they’re building brings in a lot of thirsty and hungry construction workers. See ya in a bit, I’ll bring your drink over first. though.” Cindy made her way back to the bar, getting stopped every few steps to take empty glasses, pick up tabs, and orders. She made it look easy, but I know it takes a special person to be able to handle this kind of crowd.
“I didn’t know that she was back in town. I knew that she was in and out of rehab after we graduated high school. She got knocked up, by her drug dealer, I believe, and the kid lives with her parents while she wanders around town to town.” Victoria looked like she was going to cry. I knew that she didn’t feel bad for Bridgett, she was just as mean or worse to Victoria in high school then she was to me. There had to be something else that Vic was upset about.
“What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?” I asked
“It’s just, I know her son, Blake. He is in 3rd grade now, and is the sweetest, most talented kid I have in the Young Actors Guild that I run after school. She isn’t the kindest to him. She picked him up last week, drunk off her rocker and swearing at him. Calling him a fairy because he had stage makeup on. It was just hard to watch, and I feel so bad for him.” Victoria wiped away a tear as she started to sort the papers in front of her into piles that only made sense to her.
“Hey, Vic, I’m sorry! Just know that everything you are doing with your after school clubs and before school tutoring is amazing! You are a wonderful mother figure for these kids and you are helping them with everything that you can. But you have to remember that you’re only human, you can’t do everything.” I squeezed her arm and smiled at her.
“Oh, I know! This is me being tough, you should have seen my first year teaching. I cried every day. Speaking of first year teaching, you ready to tackle History for Juniors and Seniors? I brought the textbook and the most recent state standards for you to look over before school starts. You’ll be working with Mike, the 9th and 10th grade teacher on collaboration and lesson plans.” Victoria went into organization and planning mode. I knew that I wouldn’t get anything else out of her if we didn’t get everything settled and sorted out now.
“Mike? Who’s Mike? You never mentioned that I would have to work on a team with anyone else. What was it that you said? ‘Mags, you’re basically your own boss. You won’t even have to deal with adults, besides parents. I promise this will be amazing!’, I’m pretty sure you didn’t mention working with anyone else.” I didn’t like surprises and Victoria knew that.
“Listen, I knew that you might say no if I told you that you weren’t going to be 100% on your own. And no job lets you work all alone, you need to socialize more! Besides, it’s not like its a stranger. You know Mike.” She said while averting her eyes from my gaze.
“I do? Who is Mike?” I could feel the apprehension climbing from my stomach to my heart and into my throat.
“Michael Johnson. He was a year behind us. He followed you around like a lost puppy our senior year. Asked you to prom but you decided to go with Jake instead. Which I still can’t understand.” Victoria scrunched up her face to show her displeasure in my choices ten years ago.
“You knew from the beginning that I was going to be working with him didn’t you?!” I squeaked just a little bit too loudly, causing others in the tables near us to turn around and stare.
I don’t know why I was so upset or why I was acting like a scared teenager. Mike never creeped me out or anything. He wasn’t a stalker by any means, but he did like to hang out with our group and try to be next to me most of the time. He actually helped me study a time or two in the library for a history exam from Mr. Rod. His tests were always so brutal it was hard to keep up.
Looking back I realize that I wasn’t the best of friends with him that I could have been and I didn’t want to have to relive my past mistakes even more than I was already going to.
“Yes Mags, I knew that you would be working with him. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. You both are mature adults, right? You can be kind and helpful to one another. Plus, he is your mentor actually, so you have to meet with him at least once a week.” Victoria said the ending sentence as quickly as she could while drinking a large gulp from her beer. I think she was hoping that I wouldn’t hear the last part.
“EVERY WEEK?! Jeez Vic, I’m not a child. Just because this is my first teaching job outside of my internships doesn’t mean I need to be babysat. I do have a degree in American Studies, I know what I am teaching. I have my teaching certificate which is more than a lot of alt-certified teachers here in the state.” I could feel the vein in my forehead bulging. When I get mad or upset that traitorous vein always pops.
With the recent cuts to education in the past ten years Oklahoma teachers were flocking to the surrounding states for better teacher pay and support in the classroom. This left a lot of empty holes that needed to be filled in Oklahoma schools.
Instead of actually raising teacher pay, the legislators decided that they were going to give emergency certifications to people who have degrees semi-close to what they would teach. They would have two years to pass the state test for the subject, but until then the school districts would throw these adults into the lion’s den with students who would eat them alive due to lack of classroom management or understanding of children’s phycology.
“Do you know how to read IEPs? 504s? BIPs? What about the new OAS standards? There are many more acronyms that have come out since you graduated. You will need help with accommodations, talking to helicopter parents, and the flow of classroom management.”
“Wait a minute, what is a helicopter parent? That sounds like something that would come out of a Science Fiction novel.” I laughed into my drink
“A helicopter parent, is a parent who thinks they know more about educating their child then you do. They’ll march into the Principal’s office to demand a 5-page report on why little Suzy got a B+ instead of an A for the paper they wrote for them because God forbid kids do their own homework and then they’ll force you to share your lesson plans with them and quickly respond by supplying you with their own they downloaded off some home-schooling website, while threatening to have you fired because they attend the same country club as the superintendent. And all because their child didn’t score high enough on the SAT, which how could they have when their parents were doing all the work for them or hired it out to tutors….” Victoria’s voice got low and turned into a hissing whisper. It was like she was afraid a helicopter parent was going to pop up and scare her even before the school year started.
Just as Victoria was finishing her scare tactic lecture someone bumped into my chair and sloshed their drink down my back.
“Excuse me!” I gasped as the warm beer trailed down my back and into my shorts.
I turned around to see none other than Bridgett Nickel, trashed. She was so wasted that her eyes were barely open. No wonder she slammed into my chair she could hardly see.
“Whaaat?! You bumped into me witch.” Bridgett slurred, “You owe me a new drink!”
“The hell I do. You slammed into my chair, spilled your beer down by back, and you’re blaming me?” My voice was raising and people around the pub stopped their conversations to peer our way. I remembered quickly that this was an extremely small town and anything said would get around quickly.
Bridgett narrowed her eyes as though she was trying to focus on them, “ Maggie Turee! Ha! Is that you? It can’t be, your face isn’t the Grand Canyon anymore and you’ve lost the baby fat. It looks like you’re still stuffing your bra though.” Bridgett hissed and looked around the bar to get people to snicker with her. She was met with silence.
One of the many rumors that Bridgett spread around the high school was that I stuffed my bra or got breast implants. She was tall and skinny in high school and part of what my mom called the Itty Bitty Titty Committee. It was the one thing that I had that she couldn’t take from me. My genetics.
Being heavy on top was not all it was cracked up to be. I had to buy shirts a size too big so that they would fit my chest. Bras would wear out quicker. Worst of all was the back pain that they caused. They were actually a bigger problem than they were a blessing. I had thought many times about getting a reduction, but never went through with it.
“Wow, you really haven’t grown up have you? You still have to put others down in order to bring yourself up don’t you?” I was trying not to let her put me back into my old high school mindset. I knew who I was and what kind of person I am. I wasn’t going to sink to her level.
“Hey Cindy! Do you think you can get Bridgett here a pot of coffee? She needs to sober up!” I called over all the people to the bar.
Nodding Cindy started pouring a glass of coffee out for Bridgett. As I walked closer to Bridgett the smell of alcohol seeping from her pores and the acidic stench of cigarette smoke insulted my nostrils as I tried to coerce her towards the bar.
“Bridgett, you should go and sober up. Your son needs a mom. Someone to be there for him. You can’t continue to live life like this.” I was trying to be as kind as I could be. I was doing it for her son, not for Bridgett I told myself.
Bridgett did not see this as a kind gesture. She yanked her arm out of my grasp and screamed as loud as she could, “DON’T TOUCH ME! You all saw! Maggie Turee assaulted me! I am going to the cops! I’m going to sue you!” She was walking towards the door as she was yelling, tripping over her own feet as she went, “This isn’t over, Turee! I will get you! No one makes a fool out of Bridgett Nickel!” Her voice faded as the pub door slammed shut.