On Second Thought(7)

By: Kristan Higgins


Hudson Lifestyle, however, was glossy fluff. Lemonade stands and barn restorations, new restaurant openings and the history of Overlook Cemetery. Before I worked at the magazine, I’d been a producer on The Day’s News with Ryan Roberts, the second most-watched news program in the country. I could handle Ten Ideas for Fall Porch Decorating.

That being said, yes, I had some difficulty in following every one of Jonathan’s many rules to the letter. He liked us to roll in at exactly 8:30 every morning, which didn’t take into account the fact that I might change outfits or get caught on the phone with my grandmother. He didn’t allow food to be left in the employee fridge for more than four days in a row. No personal phone calls at work? Come on. No checking Facebook? What century was this?

These were the things Jonathan had discussed last year in my review, before I knew that dodging them was a friendly competition held among all Hudson Lifestyle employees. The current champion was Deshawn in Sales, who’d gone three years without one and was now flirting with Beth at the martini bar.

“Hello! Are you married?” Gram-Gram, my stepmother’s cheerful and slightly senile mom, popped over and beamed up at Jonathan.

“Gram-Gram, this is my boss. Jonathan, my grandmother, Lettie Carson.”

“Hello!” she said, taking his hand and kissing it.

He glanced at me, alarmed, then said, “Very nice to meet you.”

“You, too! Ainsley, I was wondering if you could help me, honey. I’m on a dating website, but I can’t seem to swipe. How do you swipe on your phone? My swipe is broken.”

“Um...well, show me, and I’ll help you.” She handed me her phone.

Jonathan didn’t seem compelled to move on. He watched us, expressionless.

“Tinder, Gram-Gram? It’s kind of...trashy. And hey, that’s my picture! Not yours! You have to use a picture of yourself, you know.”

Gram-Gram humphed. “I hate pictures of myself. Besides, you’re so pretty.”

“Well, you’re misleading people.”

She winked at Jonathan. “Maybe they’ll date me if they think I look like her.”

“Shame on you,” I said. “Here. Smile!” Before she could protest, I’d snapped a shot, opened Tinder and changed her profile shot.

“Fine,” she grumbled, scowling at it. “Thank you, I suppose. I’m getting more champagne! Nice to meet you, young man!”

“Go easy on the booze, Gram-Gram.” She wandered away, patting people in her wake. I force-smiled at Jonathan. “She’s quite a character.”

“Yes.”

I suppressed a sigh. Though my boss was somewhere around my age, he gave the impression of being a seventy-year-old minor British lord, an ivory-topped walking stick firmly impacted in his colon. In the two years I’d worked at his little magazine, I had yet to hear him laugh.

“Well, thank you for coming, Jonathan, and for the wine. That was very thoughtful. Here, come talk to my sister. I don’t think you’ve met her. Kate! This is Jonathan Kent, my boss.”

Yes. Let Kate have to deal with him. Like Nathan (and now Kate), Jonathan, too, was a platinum member at the Cambry-on-Hudson Lawn Club. From the corner, Rachelle, who answered phones at the magazine, made a sympathetic face. To be honest, I’d invited the boss only because he overheard me talking about the party this very morning. Jonathan was, to put it kindly, a downer.

But he had given Eric the online column—just a WordPress spin-off that Eric posted himself, the magazine’s website providing a link and a byline. Eric loved writing The Cancer Chronicles, so I guess we owed Jonathan for that, though it hadn’t been easy convincing him to say yes.

“Nice to meet you,” Kate said. “This is my husband, Nathan Coburn.”

Being that it was Cambry-on-Hudson, Nathan and Jonathan had met sometime in the past. Ah, yes. Hudson Lifestyle had done a feature on Nathan’s house a few years ago, before my time.

I wondered if I’d ask Kate to be my maid of honor, even though she’d eloped and hadn’t even asked me to come as a witness. If I asked, would she somehow make me feel dumb? Then again, she was my sister...well, my half sister, but still. Nathan could be in the wedding party, too. He was a sweetheart, that guy. He caught me looking at him and gave me a wink. In some ways, he felt more like a brother than Sean, who was eleven when I was born, fourteen when I came to live with them.

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