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Before there were mommy bloggers, there was Britt. San Francisco's brassy scandal queen filled her newspaper column with juicy details of her many marriages, cosmetic surgeries and everything about her only daughter, Mason.
Then Britt dies. Suddenly and in spectacularly embarrassing fashion. So Mason—now thirty-five and vehemently un-Britt-like in every way—returns home to settle her affairs....though some affairs are not so easy to settle.
Now caught in her own sordid debacle, Mason finds herself thrust back into the spotlight, and this time it's her own doing.
Struggling to define herself as anything other than Britt Junior, Mason soon discovers that Britt's intensely public life still holds some secrets. And though the overgrown teen rebel has always favored combat boots, she may yet walk a mile in her mother's shoes.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The apartment my mother shared with Ron is possibly the tackiest I've seen. Everywhere, there are mirrors and furry rugs. The lights are off and the curtains drawn. Lit candles cover every surface and there is a giant photograph of my mother above the fireplace. It's the photo that accompanied her column. It's at least twenty years old and her lipstick is magenta.
Seth pushes a glass of champagne into my hand. The bar is open; we missed the service thanks to the wake-up call I forgot to book at the hotel. I hear someone say something about a pagan priestess and down my drink too fast and the bubbles stick in my head, fizzy needles pricking at my brain. "She's here," Seth says in a whisper.
"I'm serious, Mason. She's in the bedroom. She's wearing fur. And big earrings that look like diamonds but they're so big, they might just be—"
"They're real," I say. I know the ones. My father gave them to her before I was born, when she was his mistress and the scandal whore of San Francisco. I edge through the crowded living room, my head down and Seth a pace behind me. I have no idea where Janet is, but I need another drink more than I need to find her. I order a vodka from the tuxedoed bartender and he pours me an ounce over ice. It is not nearly enough. He pours another careful ounce and now this is tedious, so I take the bottle from him and pour until the vodka is flush with the rim of the glass. "There," I say and take a sip. Half burns down my throat while the rest dribbles down my chin. Seth gets a napkin and dabs at my dress. I swat him away. I don't care. It will dry.
I'm wearing a black dress and heels. My blond roots are showing but I have the pearls my mother gave me for my eighteenth birthday clasped around my neck. I bring my hand to my throat to make sure they're still there, that they haven't fallen off and already been pawned. That's surely what she'd expect. She'd call it typical and then write about it in her column.
We find Janet in the bedroom, talking with Ron, who is crying, but his face is perfectly still. He may have had more work done than my mother.
"Mason! Thank God you're here!" Ron pulls me into a hug and weeps onto my dress. He kisses my cheek and his fluffy mustache tickles my skin. I've met him only once before, about five years ago, when he and my mother came to visit me in Canmore shortly after I started working at the bookstore and was living with Neil. The trip was a disaster. Neil and I split up a week after my mother and Ron left. He said the timing was a coincidence but he wasn't a good liar, and I added him to the list of things my mother has fucked up for me. The list is in a spiral notebook in the bottom of my suitcase back at the hotel. I started it when I was fifteen. It has three hundred pages and is nearly full.
"I just feel like it's my fault," Ron is saying, "that I shouldn't have bought her the gift, but that's what she wanted, she really did, Mason. And you know there was no way to stop Britt from getting what she wants—you know that, right? But I can't help thinking that it's my fault."
Ron is blubbering and he keeps trying to touch me. I think he's right: it is his fault. He's the one who bought her the stupid vaginal rejuvenation surgery. It was a gift for her sixtieth birthday, which would have been next week. As much as I'm sure she's pissed about this whole situation in whichever afterlife she believed in lately, she's undoubtedly glad she is forever fifty-nine because it sounds so much better than sixty.
Ron is a tacky asshole with a cheesy mustache and he killed my mother, whose body is laid out on the double-king four-poster bed, dressed in fur and diamonds just like Seth said. Her eyes are closed, her makeup is perfect and in the forgiving candlelight she looks almost as young as she did in her twenty-year-old column photo. I wish I had a magenta lipstick so I could smear it on her lips—then she'd be perfect. But I only have red.
Two men are staring at me from across the living room. They're young—well, youngish. I'd say they were in their thirties, like me. They're impeccably dressed in tailored black suits and polished leather shoes that even from a distance I can tell are too expensive for them to be writers or arts people.
"Who is that?" Seth asks, pointing to the taller of the men. Seth has never been known for his subtlety.
"Stop pointing," I say. "Do you know him?"
I turn my head to the side, and pick imaginary lint off my shoulder. I squint and focus. "I don't think so," I say. I really do need to get glasses.
"You don't think what?" Janet asks as she joins us.
"That she knows those yummy guys over there," Seth says.
"Never mind," I say.
"The ones in the good suits?" Janet asks.
"Yes, the ones in the good suits," I say. Can we please change the subject? I'm trying to mourn.
"The ones who are walking over here?" Janet asks.
"What?" I spin around and sure enough, there they are.
"Mason, I'm so sorry about your mother," the shorter man says. He knows my name. "She was always my favorite, you know."
"Favorite what?" I take the bait, though I know where this is headed: your mom was great, your mom was funny, I loved her column, you're so lucky. He looks like someone I know, or maybe someone on TV. He's grinning and staring at me like he's highly amused.
He looks puzzled. "My favorite stepmother."
My mouth falls open. I look at him. It's Aaron. I remember the dimples, those bright blue eyes. I look at the other man, the taller one. God, it's got to be Edgar. My mother was married to their father when I was—what, five, maybe six at the most? He was a widower and we lived in a big house on his vineyard in Sonoma. We were only there for a year.
Edgar leans in and hugs me. "It is so wonderful to see you after all this time," he says. "I just wish it was under better circumstances." I look up at him. He's awfully tall. "You look great, by the way." He smiles down at me. Edgar, I suspect, is also a good liar. I push my long black bangs out of my eyes. I wish I had had time to touch up my blond roots before I came, before I had to drop everything and jump on a plane, after Ron called and told me my mother was dead.
"Are you still in the city?" Aaron asks. He's a year younger than me. Edgar and I are the same age.
I shake my head. "I live in Canada," I say. This always throws people off; they never know quite how to react.
"That must be very nice," Edgar says.
"It is," I say, and it's true. It is very nice, my quiet life in Canmore, the small Canadian mountain town where I work at the bookstore and everyone thinks I'm some sort of witch because I wear black and dye my hair. "And you?" I feel like we're reading from a script at a modern etiquette class that teaches you how to deal with awkward situations like running into your ex-stepbrothers at your mother's funeral reception surrounded by animal print furniture and rugs.
"I have a studio in SoMa," Aaron says.
"He's a painter," Edgar adds.
Aaron blushes. "I try."
"What about you?" Seth asks Edgar. The look on his face is carnivorous. I step to my left and my arm grazes Seth's. I take my free hand and pinch him hard on the forearm, through his jacket. "Ow!" he yelps. Aaron and Edgar look alarmed. I notice my black polish is chipped and slide one hand into the front pocket of my faded black cotton dress and drop my drinking hand down, holding the glass behind me in hopes that no one will notice my nails.
"I'm Janet—and this is Seth." Janet shakes Aaron's hand, then Edgar's. Leave it to her to know exactly what to do in an uncomfortable situation like this. She's got a sixth sense for these kinds of things. She should be running modern etiquette classes. She could write books, be on TV—she would make a fortune.
"Looks like everyone could use another cocktail," Edgar says. With introductions done, Janet shuffles the five of us off to a corner that's freed up. I sit on the sofa, between her and Seth. I kick off the cheap, low-heeled pumps I bought yesterday at an outlet store. But my black toenail polish is chipped, too, so I shove my feet back into the ugly discount shoes.
"Just bring a bottle," I say to Edgar, only half joking.
"Maybe you should take it easy," Janet whispers to me. I scowl. I have no intention of taking it easy. Janet is out of line, telling me what to do. She's not my mother, I think, but the moment that thought hits my head I want it gone. I close my eyes in an effort to keep the bigger truth down. She's not my mother. No one is.
"Mason, are you okay?" I hear Aaron's voice and open my eyes. He's kneeling across from me, a long glass coffee table between us.
"I'm—" What am I? I blink back the tears I can feel rising. Janet rubs my back. "I'm—" I look up and see Edgar, an ice bucket under one arm and a full bottle of premium vodka in the other. I laugh and smile. "I'm fine."
I have no idea what Aaron and Edgar are talking about, but I nod and laugh in all the right places and stuff myself with grapes and cubes of cheese. They're reminiscing, telling stories about the silly games we played as kids, the times we got away with things and the times we got caught and in big trouble. Most of it I can't remember. Before middle school, there are only flashes and faces, moving boxes, new schools and new classmates, but no complete stories. And everything I do remember I hardly trust, since most of the information about my earlier childhood I got from reading my mother's column. She wrote about me incessantly, documented my every move and mood, for better or worse—whether it was embarrassing for me or not was hardly her concern.
"The estate sounds lovely," Janet says. "Is it still in the family?"
Edgar shakes his head. "My Dad sold it years ago and we moved back to the city. I wish we could have stayed—I loved it out there, all that space to run around. Right, Mason?"
"Yeah, sure," I say. I think I remember the summer in Sonoma, the heat, the three of us running through the vineyard when the sprinklers were on.
"Edgar's place in Montana is a bit like that," Aaron says.
"Well, there's lots of space," Edgar says. "But we have to buy our wine in the shop like everyone else, I'm afraid."
"I thought you lived here," I say, confused.
"I do. Montana's just for weekends. We should go some time, take you out there." Edgar throws back another vodka in one shot. The bottle is nearly empty. "You'd love it."
"Everyone loves it," Aaron adds.
"I'm sure," I say as I toss back the vodka the way I watched Edgar do. But instead of nonchalant and smooth, the burn gets stuck in my throat and I start to cough, sputtering wet goo onto my sleeve. Janet rubs my back again and Edgar hands me a cloth handkerchief he pulls from his jacket pocket. Aaron fetches me a glass of water as Seth gazes off into space.
"Are there real cowboys in Montana?" he asks.
Several full glasses of vodka have propelled us across town to The Cecil, which is the same as always: dirty, divey, selling cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon for a dollar. There was a show tonight at the Warfield, the concert hall on a sketchy stretch of nearby Market Street. Some nineties British band I think I know but could very well be confusing with Oasis performed, and now everyone is here, crammed into the tiny bar, drinking gross cheap beer and slouching. In the corner, two girls dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." They're laughing. They think they invented irony. They're maybe just legal and their skin is perfect. I dance alongside them in my faded black dress and pearls.
I smile at the Irony Girls, letting them know I'm in on the joke. They stare back at me with big eyes and then look at each other. I shuffle around until my back is to them, moving in a slow groove, a nearly finished can of beer in one hand. I down what's left and look for a place to set the can, but there's nowhere. I could drop it on the floor, step on it, crush it with the heel of my sensible black pumps and belch the way Seth taught me to do when we were twelve. But I do none of these things and dance the song out with the empty can in my hand.
"Thriller" segues into New Order's "Blue Monday" and the Irony Girls disappear into the crush around the bar. Now it's me, dancing alone, wishing I had worn a more supportive bra. I'm careful not to move too fast or sway my upper body too much for fear that any sudden movement may cause my breasts to swing and bounce in ways that give away my age.
Aaron and Edgar are the only ones in the bar not drinking beer. They're standing together, drinking highballs and looking out of place in their designer suits. Edgar taps a toe of his polished black loafer in time with the music. I cringe for him and spin around. I wave to Seth and Janet and beckon them with my finger. Come dance. Janet shakes her head—she doesn't dance except if she's at a wedding or a fancy party and it's a waltz or a fox-trot and her date is taller than her even when she's in heels. Seth will dance and as he pushes his way through to me, I catch the Irony Girls staring, pointing, whispering to their friends. They must recognize me; not only did my mother write about me obsessively, she liked to run pictures with her column.
Title: Every Little Thing
Book Condition: LikeNew
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