Good afternoon campbellsworld visitors.
I’d like to thank all of you for joining me and all my totally talented Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing contributors for today’s WordPress Wednesday.
After reading the following story, I can’t think of any better way to close out the day.
Trish and I hope you enjoy this terrific tale.
By Trish Hubschman
“Mmm, I wonder…is it rougher being newly married or newly divorced?” Scott Thompson said. He was the new guy at the office. He had the five people at the lunch table laughing, including Emily. She was distracted. She had her own problems in that department. She’d been married and now was divorced. Which one was rougher, she thought? That was a good question.
“Give us the low down on it, man?” Jack Hanson, the office wise-guy, prodded.
Scott’s chin jutted up in the air. “My pleasure,” he replied. “For fifteen very long years I was married. The lady spent every penny I made. Now we’re divorced and she’s still trying to suck every last penny out of me.”
Another round of laughter burst from the group.
Emily glanced over at Scott. It wasn’t like that in her situation. Her ex was being extremely stingy. He was trying to wring her dry and she had more expenses than him, like the mortgage.
“Hey, at least you’re still calling her a lady,” Jack piped up. Beside him, Tara Jones jabbed her elbow into his side. “Ouch!” he squealed.
Emily gave Tara a silent thumbs-up. Tara, an attractive blonde, had no trouble speaking her mind. Emily admired that. She wished she could be that way.
“He was only joking,” Matt Davis defended. “He was just being the funny guy he always is.”
“Yeah,” Jack added.
Scott held up his hands. “Okay, okay, I wasn’t trying to start a war here, I was just pointing out that…”
“Money is the root of all evil no matter which side of the coin you’re looking at. Divorce stinks and there’s no such thing as a good one.”
Everyone agreed and the lunch group broke up. They went back to their desks.
“What do you know about Scott?” Emily asked Tara. Their desks faced each other.
“What do you mean?” Tara shot back.
Emily had been thinking about what her new co-worker said. Divorce always leads to financial problems. “How well do you know him? You get around here more than I do.”
Tara smiled. “If you mean on a personal level.” She waved her hand to the side. “He’s a good looking bachelor but I’m not sure I’d want to get mixed up with the whole scene.”
Emily’s eyes widened. “Did the wife get the house?”
Tara nodded. “I heard he practically sleeps on a park bench. His ex gets and keeps demanding more than he can afford. I’d offer to let him stay at my place but it would cramp my style.” Tara winked. “Why do you want to know about Scott?” Tara asked.
Emily turned back to her computer screen and began chewing her lower lip. “When I figure it all through I’ll let you know.”
Tara didn’t push. “Ooh, I’m intrigued. Can’t wait to hear what’s going through your head.” She returned her attention to the computer too.
The business day was almost over when Emily finally mustered the courage to talk to Scott Thompson. She grabbed a stack of file folders as pretense before leaving her work station. She’d been tossing the idea around in her mind all afternoon. He might laugh at her, she was very nervous. “Scott?” she asked. He looked up. “I’m Emily. I was at the table at lunchtime. I don’t know if you remember me…” She was rambling and wanted to bite her tongue off.
He smiled. “I remember. You were sitting next to Tara.”
“We sit across from each other over there?” She turned and gestured loosely behind her. “But, um.” She chewed on her lower lip. “ I was listening to something you were saying at lunchtime and I am, well, in a similar situation…” She took a deep breath. She had a proposition to make. “Thought maybe we could help each other out.” She exhaled.
His eyebrow shot up. She got his attention. Leaning back in his chair, Scott crossed his arms over his chest. “By all means, shoot. I’m all ears.”
His expression was too eager for what Emily had hoped. Suddenly, she didn’t know what to say. Her tongue felt glued to the bottom of her mouth. Taking a few deep breaths, she willed herself to go forward. Finally, without looking at him, she did. “I’m recently divorced too and in a similar financial situation. I have a mortgage to pay, etc, etc. I have an extra bedroom in my house. I understand you could use a place to stay and I could use a tenant. It’s not like we’ll be living together. It’s just a living arrangement.”
Scott held up his hand, abruptly bringing Emily’s outburst to a halt. “Mind if I ask something?” She nodded. “Do you have any children?”
Emily’s breath sucked in, She hadn’t expected that question. “Yes, an eight year old daughter, Lisa. Do you have any children?”
Scott held up two fingers. “They live with their mother. She got the house, car, etc. etc. I’ve been staying in a friend’s garage. It’s cold and uncomfortable and there’s no bathroom.’
She jumped in. “So you might be interested? We won’t even have to see each other, except maybe in the kitchen. We’ll both have our own lives. What do you think?”
He paused for a long time. “Two questions?” He held up his index and middle finger. Emily’s lower lip went between her teeth. “What’s your address and what time do I come over?”
She sighed with relief.
That evening she raced around the house tidying up, then stopped suddenly with a small stack of magazines in her hand. She burst into laughter. Why was she cleaning up? This wasn’t a date, an interview or an appointment, and her house was normally neat.
Lisa was with her father tonight for his mother’s sixty-fifth birthday. The doorbell rang. Emily’s hand came up to pat her hair and smooth down her blouse. She scolded herself for doing it. She opened the door. “Hi, welcome to your new home.” She stepped back.
Without saying anything, he picked up his suitcase and passed over the threshold into the house. He glanced around. “Much better than George’s garage. I was getting tired of smelling motor oil.”
Laughing, Emily closed the front door.
. . .
A few days later, Alan called her cell phone when she was on her way to work. “You’re living with that guy?” he demanded.
“It’s a financial arrangement, Alan, because you’re defaulting on your support payments to me and Lisa,” she said.
“I don’t have the money right now,” he fired back. “You know that. I’ll pay you back in full when things look up but that’s not the point. Why is that man living in my house?” He cleared his throat. “What are you exposing my daughter to?”
Annoyance flared in Emily. “It’s my house and our daughter. And, to be honest with you, it’s none of your business. I already told you the reason for Scott living at the house and I won’t repeat it.”
He snorted. “I don’t like it and I might have to consider taking my daughter out of that situation.”
If Emily had a free hand, she would have gestured furiously. She was having enough trouble keeping focused. She had a cutting retort on the tip of her tongue but bit it back. This wasn’t the time to get into a boxing match. “So call your lawyer,” she dared. “I’ll show you Scott’s rental check and counter you in court. We need a tenant because you’re long behind in payments.”
“That’s not playing nice, Em. Think of how it looks to Lisa. Think of the possible danger for her that a strange man is living in the house.”
There were a dozen things she wanted to say to him but, in the end, it was probably best not to say anything. They would just keep going in circles like they always did. “I have to get to work now. You can call back later if you want.” As she pressed disconnect, she hoped he wouldn’t.
After parking her car, she grabbed her purse and went into the building. Her pace was quick, her attention distracted. “You look like you had an unpleasant drive in,” Tara noted. “Did something happen? Were you in an accident?” Her gaze went up and down Emily’s body checking for bruises.
Emily dropped down heavily into her chair. “Alan called while I was on my way in,” she said and proceeded to tell Tara about the call.
“That would frazzle anyone,” Tara agreed. “Probably the best thing to do is ignore Alan. He’s always full of hot air.”
Emily nodded. “I’m not worried about him taking me to court to get Lisa away from me. It’s his opening his big mouth to begin with. He thinks I’m involved with Scott,” she said.
Tara propped her elbow on the desk and rested her chin in her hand. She stared across at Emily, mischief in her eyes. “That wouldn’t be too hard to believe. You have a gorgeous guy living in your house.”
Emily looked horrified. “You know why he’s
there,” she protested. “Besides, he’s not my type. Have you seen the kind of women he goes out with?”
Tara’s hand dropped from under her chin, smacking her desk. “That’s because he’s divorced and hasn’t found Ms. Right yet.”
“I’m not that,” Emily protested. “Ours is a strictly professional relationship. If you and Alan have dirty minds that’s your problem.”
. . .
Friday, Scott had a date with Marilyn. he spent the larger part of the evening worrying about what Emily would think about him going out with Marilyn. He was settling in too well at Emily’s house. She had made a wonderful dinner Thursday night and he sat at the table like a member of the family. It had been nice.. Saturday, he had to pick up his daughters for their weekend with Dad. He was never sure what to do with them. Emily suggested he bring the girls back to her house.. She wanted to meet them. Lisa would be with her father.
“So, where are you taking the girls today?” his ex-wife Janet asked.
“For starters, we’ll be going back to the place I’m living.”
Janet narrowed her eyes. “George’s garage?”
Pressing his lips tightly together, he shook his head. “I’m renting a room in a co-worker’s house.”
Janet clapped her hands together. “Oh, how wonderful, you finally found a home,” she said. “How much is it costing me?”
Fire flared in Scott. Before he could say anything, their twelve-year-old daughter, Dianne, hopped down the stairs. “Hi, Dad, Pam’s on the phone.” She turned and gestured to the stairs. “I told her you were here and to get her butt moving but you know how she is.”
Like a fourteen year old, Scott thought.
“Go up and tell your sister to get down here now,” Janet said. “Or she’ll be grounded, meaning no computer or cell phone for two weeks.” Janet winked at Scott. He frowned.
“She’s not going to like that,” Dianne replied. “”She says her call is important.”
Dianne sat in the front seat of the car. Pam was in back, cell phone pressed to her ear.
“Do you think there’s anyone on the other end of the phone?” Scott mused. Diane shrugged. “Well, if there is, they’re not getting a word in edgewise.” He changed the subject. “Do you like school?”
“It’s okay,” she replied. They lapsed into silence. Fifteen minutes later, he pulled into Emily’s driveway. Dianne jumped out of the car. Pam didn’t move. Scott got out and walked around to open her door. It took another minute of standing there before Pam noticed him and got out. She never disconnected the call.
“Oh, dad, this call’s important,” she gestured to the phone in her hand. “Can’t you wait a few minutes?”
Without saying a word, Scott turned and went up the steps to the house. Pam followed. The front door was open and Dianne was on the other side of the threshold, chatting with Emily.
He was impressed. Dianne stuck to Emily like glue, Pam was distant. Scott made her shut off her cell phone and now she wouldn’t talk to anyone. “I’m sorry for Pam’s behavior,” Scott said to Emily when his daughters went into the rest room in the mall’s food court.
Emily smiled. “I’ve seen much worse than Pam.”
“You mean they get worse than that?” he asked, gesturing in the direction the girls had gone. They both laughed.
After dinner Emily invited the girls to stay the night. “You can sleep in my daughter Lisa’s room. She’s with her Dad this weekend.”
Scott caught Emily’s eye over the top of Dianne’s head. “That’s very nice of Mrs. Cook,” Scott emphasized.
“Wow, sure,” Dianne added.
“Whatever,” Pam droned and Scott rolled his eyes.
The next morning, Emily made breakfast, then Scott left to take the girls home. “Dad’s got a great girlfriend,” Dianne told her mother.
Scott opened his mouth to correct his daughter but closed it again. Let Janet think what she wanted.
“Well, it was better than staying in Uncle George’s garage,” Pam added, flipping on her phone and heading for the stairs.
Dianne jumped up and kissed her father’s cheek. “I really like Emily,” she said, then darted up the stairs.
There was a long, uncomfortable silence. Finally, Janet broke it. “I thought you said you were renting a room from this Emily woman.”
He looked at her and grunted, then left the house. Lisa was home when he got back to Emily’s. She sat in the kitchen, excitedly telling her mother about the weekend with her Dad. “Hi, Mr. Scott,” Lisa called out.
“There’s coffee in the pot,” Emily pointed to the counter.
He crossed to the counter. “Aren’t you a little young to be drinking coffee, Lisa,” he teased.
Her face turned beet red. “This isn’t coffee.” She finished her cup of milk. Jumping up, she skipped out of the room. Scott came back to the table and sat down in the chair Lisa vacated.
“Having problems with Janet?” Emily asked.
“Always,” he replied. “My kids like you.”
She smiled. “They’re great girls. Maybe sometime they can come over when Lisa is home. She’d love to have two sisters.” Emily got up from the table and picked up hers and Lisa’s cups. “Why don’t you go join Lisa. I’ll make the three of us some dinner.”
Emily realized that it was becoming too comfortable with Scott Thompson. She did not want to get involved with a co-worker, her tenant or him.
. . .
She had a date. Tara set it up. It had been Emily’s idea and she asked Tara for help.
Emily headed down the stairs. Scott was in the living room sitting in Alan’s favorite chair. “You don’t mind watching Lisa, do you?” she asked.
He waved his hand. His face looked tight. “I’m not going anywhere and she’s a good kid. We’ll be fine. Go out and have a nice time.”
She hesitated. “Thanks,” she finally said, going to the hall closet. She took out a light weight jacket and her purse and went out the front door. She was meeting Tara’s friend, Howard something, at the restaurant.
Howard Lancing was tall and trim and wore metal-framed glasses. He was impeccably dressed, a bank executive, was polite and gracious. He answered the cell phone three times during the meal for business. That annoyed Emily.
“Thank you for a lovely evening,” she said to Howard in the parking lot outside the restaurant. They exchanged verbal good nights, with a promise to do this again soon, and got into their cars.
“Mom, you’re home,” Lisa called out. Scott looked up surprised.
“Another one of Tara’s bombs?” he asked.
“Not at all,” she replied, smiling. “Howard was a lovely man. He smelled of business and money.”
Scott wrinkled his nose. “I’ve got a scent of boring too,” he mused. Emily laughed.
She changed the subject. “Aren’t you going out with Marilyn tomorrow?” He scowled. “More than one date means there’s prospects in the air,” Emily noted.
His face went gray. “I have some paperwork to do. I think I’ll go up to my room.” Scott got to his feet.
He asked Marilyn out again because he needed a distraction, needed to get away from Emily’s wonderful home cooked dinners, her mouth-watering baked goodies, her warm, comfortable house.
The next night, he left the house much earlier than
his date and drove around for a while, until it was time to pick her up. They went to a Japanese restaurant, then dancing. The club was crowded and noisy. That should have been the perfect distraction but he had a headache and major heartburn. He longed to go back to the peace and quiet of Emily’s house and relax.
He drove Marilyn home at one a.m. “You want to come up for a nightcap?” she asked.
Scott shook his head. “It’s late. I’ve got to pick the girls up early tomorrow. We’ve got a full weekend planned.”
The house was dark and quiet when he got home. He slipped inside, went up to his room and closed the door. In the morning, he came down to the smell of pancakes.
“Mr. Scott, hope you’re hungry, Mom’s making us pancakes.”
Bending over, he kissed the top of Lisa’s head. “I can see that.” He sat down at the table.
“Guess what,” she said. He didn’t reply. “Daddy called before, he had to go away on business, so I’m going to be home this weekend. Mom says you’re bringing your two daughters over here and we’re all going to the zoo.”
Scott held up his hands. “Hey, slow down, kitten.” He exchanged glances with Emily, who was stacking pancakes on a plate. She gave a small nod of her head. He turned back to Lisa. “That sounds great. I’ll go pick up Dianne and Pam right after we eat your Mom’s great pancakes.”
His daughters took to Lisa at once. The three girls kept up a fast pace at the zoo, while he and Emily trailed behind. Scott couldn’t remember the last time he was at the zoo. It was a great day, hot and happy for all of them. When they got home the girls raced up to Lisa’s bedroom.
He threw his arms up in the air. “So what are we supposed to do now?” he asked.
She was laughing. “Enjoy our children’s enjoyment. It’s one of the great pleasures of being a parent,” she said.
The next day he drove his daughter’s home, then returned to Emily’s. He found her sitting on the sofa, knitting needles in hand. “I didn’t know you did that.” He was impressed.
“You might say I just tinker. It’s a way to relax. It was a lovely weekend. I can’t remember when I last had so much fun.”
He sat down not far from her. Scott scratched his ear. On the drive home, he decided that he had to take a chance. He cleared his throat. “I was wondering if I could ask you something.” He paused, feeling like a school boy. He was tongue-tied.
She looked up at him with nervous eyes. “Is anything wrong? Did Lisa do something?”
He chuckled and shook his head. “No, nothing is wrong. I think I’m trying to ask you out and, God, this is not easy.”
Her eyes widened. Suddenly, she couldn’t speak.
“So, would you like to have dinner with me? I don’t mean here.” He waved around the room. “I mean, you know, we both get dressed up, go out to a nice restaurant, just the two of us, drink wine and chat about adult stuff, then maybe go dancing.”
Her face was blank. Slowly, a smile drew to her lips, her eyes brightened. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know the last time anyone’s asked me out.” She giggled, then gulped hard. “What about Marilyn?”
He shook his head. “She’s not my type. We decided to go our separate ways. So, should I ask you again or should I go up to my room like a good little boy?”
She laughed. “My ex-husband warned me about guys like you,” She teased. She closed her eyes, then opened them. He was still there. “Yes, I’d love to go out to dinner with you, just the two of us.” She pointed her finger at him. “But You still have to pay your rent while you’re living here.”
“Scouts honor. Shall we shake on it?” What he really wanted to do was kiss her but he didn’t dare, not yet.
ABOUT TRISH HUBSCHMAN’S WORK…
RATINGS GAME (TALK SHOW QUEEN)
by Trish Hubschman (C 2019)
In print ($9.50) and e-book ($2.99) from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online sellers.
The e-book is text-to-speech enabled.
Cover image, free text preview, buying links, and more:
Trish Hubschman has three previous Tracy Gayle mysteries in print: The Fire, Unlucky Break, and Stiff Competition (Miss America).
Synopsis of Ratings Game:
The Danny Tide story continues.
Somebody’s trying to kill the rock star’s second wife, talk–show hostess Blair Nelson. Danny and Tracy, now a couple expecting a baby, get pulled into it because Danny finally agrees to do an interview with his ex–wife. She’s been bugging him for a while.
That evening, after a draining day at Blair’s studio, when Danny and Tracy are home in bed, Danny’s phone goes off. It’s his and Blair’s daughter, Liz, announcing that she found her mother unconscious on her bathroom floor. Blair ingested a drug overdose.
Who would want to eliminate the talk show queen, and why? Could the perpetrator be Blair’s housekeeper? Her personal assistant? The owner of the television station? The show’s producer? Even Danny and Liz are on the suspect list.
Everyone had opportunity, but no one has a motive. They’re all devoted to Blair. They need Blair to wake up and give them some answers.
In the foreground, a black TV camera is in sharp focus against a blurry blue and orange background. The words “A Tracy Gayle Mystery” are centered at the top of the cover, and the author’s name is at the bottom of the cover, off to the right. Both of those are in white letters. The main title, Ratings Game, is in red-orange letters just above the camera. The subtitle, Talk Show Queen, is in parentheses in dark gray letters on an off-white background on the small screen on the top of the camera.
Editing, cover design, print layout, and e-book conversion are by DLD Books Editing and Self-Publishing Services. Cover photo is by Joshua Hanson on Unsplash.