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Mister O(5)
Lauren Blakely

“Funny, I’d been worried about the same thing. If you did, you would have named the baby after me, right?”

“No. If I had the baby in the bathroom, I was going to name it Sink,” she says, then holds up her finger. “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you.” That’s how she always prefaces requests from the head of the network. “There’s an event Gino wants you to be at on Thursday. It’s just a little charity fundraiser schmooze at a bowling alley, but he wants all his home-grown stars there.”

“Of course I’ll be there,” I say, grabbing my jacket. I mean, what other answer is there? Paranoid prick or not, Gino controls the time slots on the network, and he likes me to remember he handpicked my online strip to turn into an animated show a few years back when he was in the development division. I’m grateful as all hell that he gave me a shot, but he’s strangely jealous, too, and I suspect it’s because he created a show years ago that faded from the limelight quickly, and none of his efforts to craft another one of his own panned out.

“And you know the drill,” she says as she zips up her purse and we wander through the shelves, heading for the exit.

I recite the rules. “Gino wants me to be charming, but not so charming that women hit on me instead of him. And I should be awesome at bowling if I’m on his team, and if not, I should throw the game so he wins. Because if I don’t play his games, the greater the chance I’ll get screwed in negotiations in a couple more weeks, since contract talks are at the end of this month.”

She taps her finger to her nose. “Perfecto.”

“It’s almost as if I’m used to his completely mercurial personality.”

She smiles. “That’s our boss. You know he was used to being the center of attention ’til you came around. You’re the full package, and it drives him crazy. But I really appreciate you doing these public events.”

I glance around the bookstore, filled with customers, some of whom just bought my cartoon collection. I’ve been asked to go bowling with a TV executive, who is a crazy, capricious ass, but who signs my fat paycheck. My show is killing it. I’m raking in the money, and the praise, and I do very well with the ladies. There’s something that they like about the scruff, ink, glasses, and hair, and the fact that my once-lanky frame is packed with toned, strong muscles.

Life is good.

“Serena, I assure you, it’s not like attending a party is some hardship. The fact that the head of the network has some weird complex about me is the very definition of a first-world problem.”

“No,” she says sharply as we reach the front door of the bookstore. “You know what a true first-world problem is? The other day I went to Ben & Jerry’s and got a pint to take home. I wanted two flavors. Coconut Seven Layer Bar for me, and Mango Sorbet for my hubby. But guess what?”

I hold a hand to my forehead like a fortuneteller. “They didn’t have Coconut Seven Layer Bar.”

“Worse,” she says, slamming her hand onto my chest and practically toppling me into the new release shelves with her exuberance. “They forgot to put a sheet of wax paper between them to separate the flavors. The mango leaked into the coconut,” she says with a pout.

I frown. “That’s really terrible. I kind of wish I never knew such a horrific thing happened. I’m not sure I can get that image out of my head.”

On that note, I say goodbye to Serena and head to Peace of Cake where Harper waves to me from a table in the back. She’s reading my book.

Is it wrong that I wish she still had those glasses on?

But glasses or no glasses, she just does it for me.

3

We share a piece of double chocolate cake.

I know how this looks.

Like a date.

But it’s not. It’s just that the slices here at this cake/coffee shop are huge. No way can you eat one all by yourself, unless you were born with two dessert compartments. I love dessert, but I only have one.

Besides, it’s not like that between us. I’ve known Harper for what seems like forever, since I’ve been best friends with Spencer for that long. The three of us went to the same high school, but Harper is three years younger than me, so it’s not like I was doing the left-hand shuffle to thoughts of her when I was a senior and she was a freshman. I’d never thought of her that way then.

Besides I’m right handed.

Anyway, now that we’re both in our late twenties and living in New York City, we hang out from time to time. Maybe even more so since Spencer got engaged; he’s much less available these days. Sometimes Harper and I go to the movies on weekends, and lately, sitting next to her in the theater is the definition of distracting.

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