Irene Zutell Pieces of Happily Ever After

ISBN 13: 9781250000569

Pieces of Happily Ever After

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9781250000569: Pieces of Happily Ever After
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What happens after “happily ever after”? Alice Hirsh is about to find out...


Alice, a former New Yorker who thought she’d never feel at home in the bizarre world of the San Fernando Valley, was adapting, raising her 5-year-old daughter while trying to keep her job and make her new house a home.  When her attorney husband lands a trophy client – box-office queen Rose Maris – things begin to look up. Then Alex starts working late – a lot. He crunches his paunch into a six-pack and trades his Gap ensembles for Armani everything.


Soon, Rose and Alex’s affair blazes in the tabloids and Alice is plunged into trash-gossip hell. Her life crumbles around her as she navigates her newly single self through suburban LA --a place rife with porn stars, psycho soccer moms and nutty neighbors.


Is there a chance to wrest Alex from the Sexiest Woman Alive? And if so... would Alice want him back? And what about George--her college sweatheart?  Or Johnny, a walking charm-bomb paparazzo?  As Alice inventories the rubble of her life, she desperately searches for her bearings and is forced to ask herself what she really wants from life, love and herself.

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About the Author:

Irene Zutell began her career as a journalist. She has written for People, Us Weekly, The New York Times, the NY Daily News, Newsday, USA Today and others. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Once Upon a Dream

I spy on them. They’re clustered in the driveway, sipping lattes and chais from Starbucks and Coffee Bean while smoking or talking into cells or thumbing at BlackBerrys or chatting with each other—most likely about me. I straighten up a bit to get a better look and open the blind an inch wider. A straggly looking guy on his cell phone locks eyes with me. I blink, and suddenly they’re furiously snapping away at my eyeball peering through a tiny slit in the blind. This appears to be the most exciting event they’ve ever witnessed. I slide my finger off the Venetians and dive to the floor as if I’m dodging bullets instead of cameras. My heart pounds.

“Alice! Alice,“ I hear them yelling. “Alice! Give us something. Come out, come out. You can’t stay in there forever.”

Maybe I’ll prove them wrong.

It’s Day Three and the paparazzi are still staked outside the brand-new rambling ranch home my husband Alex and I had built.

“I’m starving to death,“ Gabby, my five-year-old daughter, yells from the living room.

I have never been much of a bulk shopper, even though it’s a religion out here. Be fully stocked so you’re prepared when the Big One hits, they say. Everyone swears by Costco or Sam’s. You can buy a whole cow for half the price of one supermarket steak, they giddily tell me. So because I’m not a believer, Gabby and I are stuck inside with hardly any food, except for some pasta, cereal, American cheese, strawberries growing fuzzy beards, and three liver-spotted bananas.

“How about some cereal?”

She answers without turning her head away from Rugrats.

“I hate cereal.”

“You can even have some Froot Loops. I know you love them.” My voice sounds like a crazy falsetto. Until just now I didn’t even know my voice could sound so fake. It frightens me. Hollywood living, I suppose.

Gabby turns toward me and rolls her eyes like some bored teenager. “That’s before you made me eat it like one hundred and twenty-six times, du-u-uh.”

She’s speaking like Angelica Pickles, the snotty oldest Rugrat. During the last three days, Gabby has been sitting glassy-eyed in front of the oversized flat-screen with surround sound that Alex couldn’t live without.

Before the day that changed our lives, I had forbidden Froot Loops and had limited Gabby to two hours of television a week. By Day One-and-a-Half I had surrendered the clicker.

So while Gabby learned how to perfect her Valley Girl lilt, I curled on my bed and cried.

I click off the TV. “Draw. Play with your dolls. Do something.”

“I wanna go outside and catch butterflies.”

“You can’t go outside today.”

“I wanna play outside. I haven’t been outside in one hundred and thirty thousand years. I wanna go outside. NOW. Why can’t I go outside?”

How do you explain any of this to a five-year-old? She’s too old to fool yet too young to know the truth. A year to go before the age of reason, the experts say. She still believes in Santa but doesn’t quite buy the chimney part. And she already has strong doubts about the Easter Bunny.

Instead of waiting for some inadequate response, Gabby plows ahead.

“Play with me, Mommy.”

I open my mouth but no sound comes out.

“I know what you’re going to say. You never want to play with me. I want to play princess. Then we can talk my Barbies and make Easy Bake cookies. I’ll find my Polly Pockets beadmaker and we can make neck-a-laces and brace-a-lets. Then we can make teacups and saucers with my pottery wheel.”

That’s all, I think. Time management is not my five-year-old’s forte. “Well, maybe in a little while.”

Gabby puts her hands on her hips and scowls at me. “Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. You know what maybe means? No! You are no fun. Daddy’s fun. When’s Daddy coming home? I want Daddy. Get me my daddy. Now!”

I bite my tongue.

“Daddy is just taking a little vacation, but he’ll be back very soon.” The crazy falsetto invades my vocal chords again. “He loves you very, very much.”

Gabby slams her head on the back of the couch.

“Du-uuh, you said that like fifteen hundred and eighty times already and I’m actually sick of it. I want to go outside.”

“How about a lollipop?”

The phone shrills. I hand Gabby a grape Tootsie Pop and wait for the answering machine. Lately every time the phone rings it’s a reporter calling for an exclusive. This time it’s Hilda, the Teutonic owner of the board and care where my mom lives. She speaks in her clipped officious German accent.

“Your mussa iss out of diapers. As part of ze agreement you signed, you, not ze board and care, are required to provide diapers for your mussa. Vee are not in ze diaper business. Please come over and remedy zis situation ASAP.”

I haven’t visited mom since Alex left. I haven’t gone to work or taken a shower. I haven’t eaten. I haven’t fed my daughter anything today except for the purple Tootsie Pop.

I look over at Gabby. Her narrow back is facing me. She’s clicked the TV back on and is immersed in the animated world of stupids, duhs, and whatevers. Angelica’s probably about to go on The Pill. Gabby’s thick, shoulder-length, honey-colored hair is a tangle of knots and grease. Her Cinderella dress is stained with spaghetti sauce and milk. Two miles away, Mom is festering in feces.

I’ve got to get it together. One person’s needs depend on me. Another person needs Depends.

I click off the TV again. “You’re taking a shower with Mommy,“ I say.

“Tartar sauce! I hate showers.”

Somehow we manage. I find coconut and lavender swirl soap.

“Look, this is special secret princess soap.”

She perks up. “Will this turn me into a princess?”

“It might. It’s the soap all the princesses use.”

“Even Ariel?”


She thinks about this. “Actually, how does Ariel take a shower if she lives under water? You’re making this up.”

We stay in the shower for nearly a half hour. I keep my head under the hot water and feel the stress oozing out of me while Gabby soaps up every inch of her body until she is covered in a layer of foam and resembles a snow tot. We get out and dress. Miraculously, Gabby doesn’t protest when I tell her the Cinderella gown is too filthy to wear. I manage to shove my contacts into bloodshot eyes. I comb out Gabby’s hair.

“What are we gonna do?”

“We’re visiting Grandma.” Again, I sound as chipper as possible.

“Oh no. I hate that place. It always smells like poo-poo and pee-pee. I want to do something fun. Let’s go to Disneyland. Please! Please!”

“Sure, honey.”


“Just not today, okay? Soon.”

Gabby balls her hands into fists and punches the air. “Soon means never, never, never. We never do anything fun. I want a new mommy.”

I look out the front door window. There are about ten of them, talking, laughing, flirting. Their cameras dangle from their necks like an afterthought. This has become a party. They figure I’m holed up here for good, so why not make the best of it? There are six empty Domino’s pizza boxes on the sidewalk. Next they’ll bring a keg, a boom box, and a limbo stick. My misery is a cause for celebration. A day out of the office, soaking up some rays, enjoying another perfect early September Los Angeles day. Temperatures in the low eighties with absolutely no chance of precipitation. Ever.

I’m sure the neighbors are enraged. I’ve only lived in this house Alex and I built from scratch for a few months now. I don’t know the neighbors yet. The association is probably convening right now to discuss this latest problem. That woman with the paparazzi staked out in front of her house. No welcome wagon for me.

Welcome wagons? Whatever happened to them? When I was a kid, my parents moved us out of our Bronx apartment to a colonial house in Larchmont, New York. All the neighbors stopped by to meet us with pies, casseroles, and wine. It was mandatory that your neighbors become your best friends, for better or worse. When Alex and I moved here, the neighbor next door grunted a hello. No cookies. No cake. No wine. Everyone says Los Angelinos are so much friendlier than New Yorkers. It’s not true. They’re only friendly if they think you can help them move up the Hollywood food chain.

I must get out. I look in the mirror in the hall by the front door. Sunlight pours in, denying me any illusion. They say some women one day look in the mirror and think, What’s my mother doing here? But how could she be here when she’s wallowing in her own excrement at Hilda’s House of Horrors? When did I start to age? Just the other day I was twenty-eight and now I’m thirty-eight. My skin has lost its softness. My hair looks flat and dull. I haven’t slept for days and it shows. There are dark circles and puffiness under my eyes. A few years ago I could pull all-nighters and sparkle the next day. Now I just look like, well, my mother.

I can’t go out like this—not with them waiting for me. I think of a strategy. I remember that I parked the car in the driveway. When Alex was here, the cars were always parked in the garage. He was meticulous about it. “I don’t want olives from the tree dinging the hoods,“ he said. But I’m lazy. I left the glinting white Volkswagen Passat outside for three days and now I must b...

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