Dedicated to my favorite avid reader, Rachel.
Finding A Groove
"HI, JILL," ANNA SAID coming through the door of Green's Boutique. "How's business today?"
"Good. People are already asking about the winter line," she smiled, and then noticed Megan behind her, craning her neck to get a better view. "Hi, Megan, are you here to shop?"
Seeing the familiar face shocked and pleased Megan, yet she found it ironic that the one friend she'd missed the most over the years worked at the boutique. "I'm with Anna."
"Yes, meet my new assistant," Anna announced.
Meg couldn't believe her ears. She thought it was just an ordinary job, mostly being a gopher or something, but an assistant had merit. The excitement began to take over as her title drifted into her mind and swirled around like a windmill.
Jill's soft brown eyes lit up with excitement. "Really? That's great."
"Well," Lisa Green interrupted. "Imagine my surprise when I call your house, your cell phone, your mother-in-law and Brady construction looking for you, and here you are." She moved gracefully like a ballerina from the stockroom doorway and toward the counter where the women stood.
Anna rolled her eyes. "What's next a search party? A little excessive, don’t you think?"
"So, does this mean that you finally have the line ready to roll?" One eyebrow rose as she crossed her arms in front of her and waited for the answer.
Lisa’s gaze snapped from Anna and narrowed to Megan’s face, before checking her over from head to toe. "Hello, I'm Lisa Green," the sharply dressed woman said extending her hand.
Meg smiled and shook the firm hand. "Megan Evans.”
"My assistant," Anna interjected.
A smile broke out on the porcelain-skinned beauty. "Finally. Megan, we have much to discuss. You'll need a cell phone, a tour of the shop. You'll have travel expenses if needed. Come with me."
Meg gave a wary glance to Anna, before letting Lisa lead her away.
Lisa directed Megan toward the back room. "This is a good place to start. You'll be required to work at the boutique two days a week." Lisa opened a door to a big room. "All of the stock that comes in is put here. They go from the boxes to the steamer, and then the floor."
Megan's eyes widened as she stared at the number of stacked cardboard boxes. Obviously, they'd start her in the back room, instead of on the floor. She saw the break room, received a key for a locker and a tour of the store, and then they went down the street and Lisa set her up with a cell phone of Meg's choosing. Meg didn't know much about the expensive gadgets and chose one of the three Lisa recommended. She met the other girls who worked at the Boutique and received a list of phone numbers for the Grayburg family in New York.
The Grayburg family provided the financial security for Anna's line and a large part of why Anna’s Originals was doing so well. The vision was to make designer fashions that were affordable for the everyday business woman. AO’s casual line outsold the formal wear line, but not by much, and the demand continued to grow. The challenge of this job intrigued Megan as she soon realized how much she had to learn, but with the opportunity in front of her of doing something significant with her life, she knew it could be the beginning of a promising career.
AS SHE DROVE HOME from her first day of work, electrifying thoughts raced through her mind. She loved her first day, even feeling overwhelmed. The exhilaration of working in this fast-paced industry had latched onto Megan. Things that once seemed out of reach became obtainable. Finally, for the first time in her life, she would become financially stable. If only Daddy could see me now. Tears sprang to her eyes as she bit her bottom lip and pulled the car into the driveway.
"You’re kidding?" Dex sat shaking his head in disbelief. "Why would you do this?" His brown eyes never left her face, searching for understanding and questioning her as if she'd just made the worst decision of her life.
"I have no home of my own, no car and no money. I need a job, something with a future. I can't stay here and sponge off you and Karen forever. I'd like my own place. The only thing I'm asking from you is to let me keep the car."
"His will was drawn up before you were eighteen, and Dad just never changed it. Someone had to take care of you if something were to happen to him."
Karen sat down at the dinner table. "It's yours. We would never take it away from you, will or no will."
"Thank you," Meg said breathing a sigh of relief. "It's really quite fascinating. I had no idea how much work actually went into fashion design."
"It's great to see you happy and smiling for a change."
The new cell phone began to ring, grabbing their attention.
"What the hell is that?" Dex inquired.
Meg jumped up from the table and rushed to her purse. "Sorry. I'm on call 24/7."
"Is she serious?"
"I believe she is."
"Of all the people in this town for Meggie to be working for, she had to pick Anna Wright. The woman is up to something."
Karen laughed, "You mean Anna Brady."
Dex glared at her. "She's still the same selfish person she was in high school. Putting Meg on call 24/7,” he huffed, “giving Meg a phone so she'll be at her beck and call. Don't you find that a bit much?"
"Lisa Green gave me the phone; she put me on call along with her sister Penny, Debbie Porter and Jill West. What is your problem with Anna anyway?" Meg asked.
Dex shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "I just don't think she's being straight with you. That's all."
"It doesn't matter anyway. I'm keeping the job and I really like Anna. She's been good to me," Meg said, her eyes blazing, staring at him until he finally looked away. Everything she said was true. The woman she once disliked had become her confidant, friend and now her boss. As long as she was happy, it didn't matter what her brother thought.
Meg was so exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before and running around with Anna all day that she went to bed at seven. The sun was just beginning to set, but she couldn't keep her eyes open much longer. She was proud that she'd attained one of her goals. Now she'd look forward to saving up as much money as possible and getting her own place.
SHE HAD BEEN WORKING FOR Anna for one month, and as each day progressed, Megan grew stronger and more confident in her capabilities. Life, she found, was sweet. Dex and Karen flew back to Florida to pack up their belongings and bring them up to Michigan while Megan enjoyed being a hands-on aunt, taking care of Eric and Annie while they were away. Their once run-down house was now filled with modern furniture and looked completely different. Megan found that she enjoyed all of the changes to her world, they somehow had found a way to infiltrate and lift her spirits.
Megan stared at the emerald green gown that Anna designed, the same dress that caught her eye on the very first day she started working for Anna, and now she would be the first person to wear it. It was beautiful, but she wasn't sure if she could even pull it off. She'd never seen anything so spectacular, let alone worn something like this.
She showered quickly and then waited for Karen to come and help her style her hair. As the clock ticked by, excitement began to build and with that came the nervous twinges in the pit of her stomach. She'd never been to a formal dance at school, so this would be her first taste of dressing up and going out. She had no idea how to act in front of the Grayburg's or the rest of the town that Anna had invited.
"Excited?" Karen asked from the doorway.
"Yes, and nervous. Do you think if I spilled my drink or tripped I would lose my job?"
Karen chuckled and shook her head. "No. You've worked your butt off for Anna, I doubt she'd let you go even if you tried to quit." She moved into the room and stood behind Meg gathering her hair up, pulling all the black strands away from her face. "So, do you want it up into a twist, or we could just pull the front back and leave most of it hanging down your back."
"Whatever you think is best." The nervousness made her tremble and her mind raced, making any decision impossible.
Karen swept everything up, leaving small sections dangling around her ears and a few in the back, those strands were curled and sprayed in place as Karen placed a few small, gold clips in the back of her hair. She smiled at Meg and then turned her back to the mirror.
"So what do you think?"
Meg was speechless. Miraculously she didn't look like a teenager anymore; she actually looked grown up. Tears welled in her eyes at the change. "You do good work," she choked.
"Well don't get all mushy on me now. You don't want to have tears on your face or on the gown."
"Listen, Meg, I know you've had a rough time lately, but through it all, you've come out on top. After your father died, you could've hidden out in the house, but you didn't run and hide. You pulled yourself together, got a good job, and your life is on the right track. You should be proud of yourself for accomplishing so much. I know I am, and so is Dex, even if he won't admit it. He only wants what's best for you."
Megan stood and hugged Karen tight, glad that her sister-in-law had moved back home. Megan always liked her, but once she and Dex left Michigan, the relationship drifted apart. Karen, always the sensible one, kept her brother from losing control and anyone who could control that ticking bomb was someone that needed to stick around.
MEGAN AND JILL ARRIVED together dressed to the nines in their Anna’s Originals. Every employee from the boutique wore something from the new line. Meg was thankful that Anna and Lisa decided to hire a few models to display the rest of the collection so they didn't have to change during the party. Meg hated being the center of attention and was on pins and needles as the last week rolled by, leading to the big event. She could just picture herself tripping and falling in front of everyone, turning the showing into one great big disaster her first time out.
Anna, Lisa, Penny, and Debbie huddled together talking in the backyard next to the makeshift dance floor that a few men from Brady construction erected over the last few days. Long, narrow tables with deep red linens lined up around the twelve-foot by twelve-foot oak paneling. Elaborate white floral arrangements of Daisies, Roses, Lilies, and Orchids sat in the middle of each table, looking more like a wedding set up.
When Megan caught her first glimpse of Anna in a sexy light gray jersey dress that hugged her trim figure, she gasped. The thin spaghetti strap on the left shoulder had a crystal broach that caught the light and sparkled like diamonds when she moved. A front slit ran up her thigh almost to her hip, where the gray material gathered. With her long, light brown hair spiraled in one thick piece around her right shoulder, completing the soft feminine look, she looked very much like the Fashionista.
Lisa Green screamed sophistication in a black taffeta skirt that hung to the floor. Sheer mesh covered her torso. Velvet flowers adorned with intricate beadwork ran across the bust line with a diagonal line over her stomach. Even though the mesh was black, you could still see her alabaster skin peeking through. Her impeccable posture made her seem almost regal standing beside Anna. Blonde hair piled on the top of her head, showing off her oval face and delicate features. A wide diamond bracelet clung to her left arm.
Penny Green, because of her elfin figure, was the only one willing to wear the sleek, black gown Anna made. The daring dress had sheer black mesh from shoulder to waist, with black stretch velvet covering only her breasts. Her hips and bellybutton were exposed, the satin fabric of the skirt started at the top of her buttocks, revealing more than Megan would ever dare show. The one-shouldered gown was gorgeous, with a long train that pooled at her feet. As usual, Penny caked on her makeup and managed to look bored even though music played, and Debbie Porter spoke to her.
Debbie’s lavender knee-length, strapless dress, with a wide satin ribbon tied to the side of the waist, was cute. The skirt flared and made the twenty-five-year-old look like a teenager heading to the big homecoming dance. The silver satin heels she wore were adorable, especially with her black hair pulled back off her face with a matching silver rhinestone barrette.
Anna saw Megan, nodding her approval as Meg and Jill made their way over to the group.
"Are you nervous?" Anna asked.
"I'd be lying if I said no," Meg admitted, fidgeting with her hands.
Anna gave her a reassuring squeeze on her forearm. "You look beautiful; you'll do just fine."
Megan gazed down at the emerald green dress with a pleated neckline. The slim rhinestone shoulder straps glittered in the light and made her smile. Just wearing something this beautiful and the feel of the stain material against her fingers made Megan feel sexy and alive.
"The Grayburg's should be here in thirty minutes," Lisa began. "I know that John and Carol will be here, but as of last night, I hadn't heard how many of their children will be attending. Make sure one of you is with Kurt, Calvin, and Edward always. I'm sure Grace and Isabel will be looking for a male to occupy their time." Megan knew it was the third launch party at Anna’s and didn't understand why Lisa hadn't learned how to relax.
"The caterers should be here any moment, go ahead and look around and make sure you're ready. The guests will be arriving soon." Lisa took Anna’s arm and led her away.
"I don't think I can do this," Meg muttered, her legs shaking as if she were standing on a trampoline.
Jill put her arm around Megan's shoulder. "You'll be fine. I promise you'll have a good time. Let's get a drink, it helps take the edge off."
Jill was charming in her canary yellow satin dress with asymmetrical hem. It clung to her thin figure and left hardly any breathing room. Somehow, Jill managed to act as if this happened every day, which put Megan at ease. If she stayed close to Jill and listened to her advice, she'd be all right.
"Just make sure you don't drink too much. My sister will have a fit if you get drunk," Penny said joining them at the bar. "I made that mistake once, and I swore I'd never do it again."
"That's only because you started hitting and hanging on every man in sight," Debbie added with a laugh, “even the dogs!”
"I'm only after one man, in particular, tonight," Penny admitted.
Jill rolled her soft brown eyes, stood straighter in her yellow dress, standing eye to eye with Penny. "Who would that be?"
Jill's mouth flew open. "He's eight years older than you. What are you thinking? What could you possibly see in him?"
Penny sighed as if annoyed by the stupidity of the questions. "Where should I begin? He's cute, single, rich, and he can get me the hell out of this damn town. I'm tired of living in my sister's shadow."
The severe twist of Penny's bleached blonde hair had the girl's blue eyes drawn back into slits. Meg knew that if Penny pursued this it would only lead to trouble. She looked at the too thin woman, saw the loneliness that she tried to mask, and felt sorry for her. Lisa was nice but strict. If Lisa thought for one second that her sister had decided to pursue one of the Grayburg's she'd probably escort Penny straight to the mental ward.