"And with that, the six Holy Rollers — Golly, Polly and Molly, Ike, Mike and Spike — took off their magical roller skates for the last time. Their job on earth was done. They'd earned their beautiful, sparkly angel wings and could stay in heaven forever ... and ever ... and ever. The end."
Parker Harrington Welles suppressed a dry heave, closed the book and tried not to envision smothering the fictional angels, no matter how much she would've enjoyed it.
Don't kill us, Parker! squeaked the imaginary voices in her head, their voices helium-shrill.
I can't kill you. You're immortal. Unfortunately. One of the huge downsides of writing the series?the little pains in the butt talked to her. Another downside? Parker talked back.
Seven or eight little hands shot up in the air.
"Please write more Holy Rollers books, Miss Welles."
I'd rather bathe in my own blood, kid, thought Parker. "No, sweetie, the Holy Rollers are in heaven now," she answered. "This is the last book in the series. But you can see them in a movie this summer, don't forget."
Today at her son's preschool, the Holy Rollers, a book series so sickeningly precious it made The Velveteen Rabbit look like a chapter out of Sin City, was officially done. Though they had made Parker moderately famous in the world of kiddie lit, had been translated into sixteen languages and had print runs in the gazillions, there was no getting around the fact that their author hated them.
Hate is such an angry word! chorused the child angels. We love you, Parker! Honestly, they were a Cartoon Network version of a Greek chorus, always popping into her head with unwanted advice.
"Did you write Harry Potter?" was the next question, this one from Nicky's friend Caitlin.
"No, afraid not, honey. But I love those books, don't you?"
"Sometimes I get the Warm Fuzzles, just like the Holy Rollers," Mariah said, and Parker nearly threw up in her mouth. Had she really invented that term? Had she been drinking at the time?
"Are you rich?" Henry Sloane asked.
"Well," Parker answered, "if you're asking if I make a lot as an author, the answer is no. All the money I get for the Holy Rollers goes to a charity called Save the Children."
"That's for kids who don't have enough food," Nicky said proudly, and Parker smiled at her son. It was the one good thing about the book series. Parker didn't need the money, so right from the get-go, she'd donated all proceeds to the charity, which took away some of the nausea.
"But you live in a mansion," Will Michalski stated with authority. "I've been there. You have twenty-nine bathrooms."
"True enough," she said, a twinge of discomfort flashing through her.
"It's a mansion. It's a castle! I want to live there when I grow up!"
"Are you going to write another book?" asked Amelia.
Excellent question. Parker might not love the Holy Rollers, but new ideas hadn't exactly been pouring out of her. "I hope so."
"What's it about?"
"Um, I'm not quite sure yet. But I'll let you know, okay? Any other questions? Yes, Ben."
After another half hour, as the questions dwindled into what color wings Golly should have, the teacher finally stepped in.
"Miss Welles has to get going, I'm sure," she said. "Kids, can you say thank-you to Nicky's mom?"
"Thank you, Nicky's mom!" the kids chorused, then rushed her, hugging her legs, the payoff for reading The Holy Rollers Earn Their Halos out loud.
"Am I staying with Daddy this weekend?" Nicky asked as they walked to the car.
"You sure are," Parker answered. She stroked her son's dark hair. Ethan's weekend had come awfully fast, it seemed. She gave her son a kiss, then bent to buckle him into his booster.
"I can do it myself," Nicky said.
"Right. Sorry, honey." She got into the driver's seat and started the car.
A weekend alone. Parker tried not to sigh. She really needed to find another idea for a series. The Holy Rollers had been born as a spoof, sure, but they'd been her job for the past six years. Aside from staring at a blank computer screen and possibly watching a Gerard Butler movie or three, she had no plans.
"You should sleep over, too," Nicky suggested, practically reading her mind. "We could have popcorn. Lucy said she's making me a cake."
"The woman can bake, that's for sure," Parker said. "What kind?"
"My favorite kind. With the frosting and the coconut. I can eat seven pieces, she said."
"Did she, Nicky?" Parker cocked an eyebrow. Truth wasn't a strong point for her little guy these days.
"I think so. She maybe said five. But it was a lot."
Nicky continued to chatter about the joys that lay ahead of him for the weekend: eating cake; a sail on Ethan's boat; more cake; sleeping with Fat Mikey, Lucy and Ethan's cat; possibly taking a bath with Fat Mikey; having cake at midnight; and finding the pirate's cave that Mackerly, Rhode Island, supposedly possessed. Like his grandmothers, Nicky had been born with the gift of chat.
As she pulled onto Ocean View Drive, Parker frowned a little. The preschooler's comment about living in a mansion had struck a nerve. Lately, she'd been thinking of moving, concerned over the idea that Nicky would be thought of as the rich kid. It hadn't helped her; trust funds were hard to get past for a lot of people. But Gray-hurst had been in her family for four generations, built by her great-great-grandfather at the turn of the century, and though she'd grown up in New York City, Parker had moved to Mackerly permanently after she'd gotten pregnant. She had a lot of happy memories of childhood summers?tea parties with her three cousins, learning to sail with her father. Ethan lived in town, and she'd wanted Nicky to grow up knowing both his parents, even if they'd never been married. But two people, living in a mansion in which they really only used a few rooms?it didn't feel right.
The place was gorgeous, though, she thought as they pulled into the driveway. Silhouetted against the aching blue of a June sky and bathed in the golden sun of late afternoon, the gray stone building looked like a stately grande dame gazing out contentedly over the acres of manicured lawns, flower beds and mature trees. Frickin' huge, but beautiful.
Ethan and Lucy, Parker's closest friends, were already here, holding hands as they sat on wide front steps that led from the driveway to the enormous entryway. Ethan jumped up to open her door as she pulled in.
"Daddy!" Nicky yelled, scrambling out of the car.
"How's my guy?" Ethan asked, scooping him up.
"So," Lucy said, "are congratulations in order?"
"I am officially done with the Holy Rollers. Let the good times roll."
"Good for you, Parks," Ethan said, kissing Nicky's cheek. "You proud of Mommy, Nick?"
"Yup. What's for snack? Is cake for snack?"
"No cake till after supper," Lucy said. "Unless your dad decides otherwise."
"Decide otherwise, Dad!" Nicky commanded, cantering ahead.
"Parker, do you have plans tonight?" Lucy asked. "I figured the boys could have some time alone, and we could hang out."
Saved! "I would love that! We can break open some of my father's wine and gossip about Ethan's flaws all night."
Lucy reached for his hand. "He's driving me crazy. I'm thinking marriage was a huge mistake."
"My God, it's like you're reading my mind," Ethan said. "Shall I call an attorney?" They grinned at each other.
"Guys, I just ate, okay?" Parker said, cocking an eyebrow. The tiniest swirl of envy threaded through her. Lucy and Ethan were crazy in love, and yep, Ethan was the father of Parker's child. It wasn't as freaky as it sounded. Or maybe it was, and Parker was in denial.
"We brought the itinerary for our trip," Ethan said, standing back to let the ladies go in first. "Figured you'd want a copy."
"Great!" Parker said firmly. "I'm dying to see it."
Her friends had gotten married in February, but they hadn't had a honeymoon yet; instead, they were taking Nicky to California as soon as preschool finished. San Francisco, Muir Woods, Yosemite. After that, Ethan would be occupied with the reopening of his restaurant, so the timing seemed perfect.
It was just that it was for three weeks.
Three weeks without her boy.
"Daddy!" Nicky galloped back and grabbed his father's hand. "Come see my room! I cleaned it yesterday. Mommy made me. She said it was a sty. Where pigs live. I found Darth Vader's head!" He tugged his father up the curving staircase.
Parker and Lucy went through the house to the kitchen, Parker's favorite place in the house. "I brought us sustenance," Lucy said, holding out a bag. "White-chocolate macadamia cookies."
"Satan, get thee behind me." She took out a cookie?heck yeah, still warm!?and took a bite. Bliss. "Do you know I've gained eleven pounds since last year? You hit thirty-five, and bam, all those things you ate in your twenties launch themselves onto your ass." Parker raised an eyebrow as Lucy laughed. "You'll see."
"I already see," her friend said. "So what? You're a size eight now? The horror, the horror."
"Oh, I hit double digits some time ago. Let's never speak of it again."
"You bet," Lucy said.
Marriage agreed with her, Parker thought. Lucy'd had it rough; widowed before her first anniversary years ago. Jimmy, her husband, had been Ethan's older brother; Ethan and Lucy had been college friends; the shared loss brought them closer together. About six years after Jimmy died, Ethan and Lucy had finally hooked up.
And somewhere in there, long before Ethan and Lucy had anything romantic together, he'd dated Parker for about two months. The guy had been great on paper, save for one minor detail: he'd been in love with Lucy. Parker always thought it funny that more people hadn't seen it. She broke up with him?it wasn't terribly hard; they'd already seemed more like old pals than anything?then found out six weeks later that she was pregnant. They'd shared Nicky from the beginning.
She took another cookie out of the bag and ate it. "Holy halos, these are good. Shoot me if I eat another. Where's the itinerary? It's color coded, right? Tell me it's color-coded."
"Of course it is," Lucy said, unfolding a three-page spreadsheet.
"So you'll be in San Fran for three days?"
"Four." Lucy pointed. "See? San Francisco's in pink."
"Of course." Parker bent over the paper, grateful for Lucy's organizational skills. She'd know where her son was every minute.
Ethan came into the kitchen and helped himself to a cookie. "Parker, what are your plans while we're away?" he asked. "Got anything lined up?"
"Oh, I might bop out to Nantucket and see some old pals out there. Go into the city. Maybe visit my mom. You know." She reached for another cookie.
The truth was, she hadn't made any solid plans. The idea of having her son four thousand miles away made her want to sleep at the airport, in case something went wrong. Which it won't, the Holy Rollers assured her. Lucy and Ethan are the best! Plus, it 'll be good for Nicky to see what a healthy adult relationship looks like!
Take a bite, Parker thought. So she hadn't been in a relationship since Ethan. So she'd yet to go on a second date with anyone in five years. So what? She tended to attract emotionally unavailable men, anyway. Married men, engaged men, sociopaths, that sort of thing. Better not to date at all. The fact that she'd spent a lot of time watching gritty TNT dramas and eating Ben & Jerry's should not be construed as jealousy. It was more like a filling of the gap.
A gap that would now be uninterrupted for three weeks.
When Ethan broached the vacation idea back in March, it had seemed like a fabulous idea? Parker, on her own, free to do whatever she wanted?sleep past 5:00 a.m., for example, as Nicky was like a rooster about mornings. Find that elusive new idea for a book series. Just because Parker had been born with a trust fund didn't mean she wanted to build a life around shopping for handbags.
But as the spring progressed, she did nothing. What if something happened with Ethan's restaurant, and the trip had to be canceled? What if a new book series came to her, and she was on fire to write it, the way she'd heard other authors describe? She should probably stay home, in case something came up.
It didn't. And now with ten days to go, the time alone seemed to loom like a mine shaft. She didn't even have the Holy Rollers to keep her busy, and the fact that this even caused a twinge was deeply disturbing.
"I was hiding! No one found me! I beat you all."
Nicky charged into the kitchen with Elephant, his favorite stuffed animal.
"Nicky, you can't hide without telling us, remember?" Parker said. "It's not a game that way."
"But I always win," her son pointed out.
"He has a point," Lucy said.
Parker grinned and knelt down. "Kiss me, mister. I love you."
"I love you, too. Bye, Mom! Bye, Lucy!" He bolted out of the kitchen.
"That's my cue. See you, girls. Have fun tonight." Ethan kissed Parker on the cheek, then went out to the foyer with Lucy, where Parker presumed he would kiss her goodbye a little more intensely.
For a second, she wondered if Lucy was here out of?well?sympathy. Once, she, Ethan and Lucy had been three single friends. Now, instead of three, it was two and one.
So? Get a boyfriend, Golly advised. Since the release of the final book, it seemed to Parker that the Holy Rollers were aging in her imagination. They were depicted in the books as being about eight, but here Golly was already trying on mascara.
"Right. A boyfriend," Parker answered. "I need that like a stick in the eye."
She headed down to her father's beloved wine cellar, complete with a stone tasting room?fireplace and all. Thousands and thousands of bottles, including the bottle of Chateau Lafite supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson. Or not. Harry was quite a liar.
Excerpted from Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins. Copyright 2012 by Kristan Higgins. Excerpted by permission of HQN Books.