Oh no! Bailey Devlin is looking for love in all the wrong places. When her horoscope promises the man of her dreams is coming to her door, Bailey is ready. But what she finds on the other side makes proves that the stars didn’t align, they went haywire. Even if he’s not the man she wants, he certainly is the man she needs.
Targeted Age Group:: all audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 1 – G Rated Clean Read
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
When my mother asked me why I never wrote books-without-bodies (yes, I usually write thrillers) I didn't have a ready answer. So, with her 90th birthday on the horizon, I wrote the Bailey Devlin trilogy. A humorous look at romance, family, fun, and how the school of hard knocks can be the best thing in the world. Bailey Devlin is a little bit of every woman who has navigated the sea of life and love. Happy birthday mom!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Seymour L. Sullivan is at the core of Bailey's adventures and he was inspired by my grandfather – my mom's dad. Bailey shares quite a few of the same quirks I remember my girlfriends and I having at Bailey's age. Ethan and Jeffery were inspired by my grown sons.
My first time?
Frankly, it wasn't what I hoped for.
Actually, the whole thing was downright disappointing.
Now that I'm older, though, I can see that it was partly my fault that things turned out the way they did. My mistake was expecting so much. I was very literal when I was young. I was also hopeful, full of girlish anticipation that, one day, life would magically explode and shower me with wonderfulness. I was going to get all the good stuff because I was an eye-scrunching, breath-holding, hand-clasping believer in the goodness of the universe. But that Tuesday, at seven in the a.m., on a very ordinary morning, I wasn't even thinking that anything life-changing was about to happen to me, Bailey Devlin.
That morning, my mom was stirring up one of her famous breakfasts. You know, the kind mothers make in the vain hope that their kid won't be hungry again by ten? This one was the mother lode of a stick-to-your-ribs carb driven repast: left over noodles fried up in Canola oil, scrambled with eggs and sautéed onions. A shot of Tabasco was thrown in for good measure. Mom called this Depression food, and I ate it at least twice a week. My mother wasn't old enough to remember the Depression, of course, but her mother's mother had been. She was the one who handed down the noodle/egg/onion/Tabasco recipe, and we revered that dish as if it was a culinary treasure discovered in Bobby Flay's underwear drawer. We felt the same way about tomato mush even though that really wasn't anything more than canned tomato soup sprouting a sponge-like lump of saltine crackers in the middle of the bowl. Then there was Melba toast. I'm not talking about the little wood-shaving crackers you get at the grocery. Our melba toast was a Sunday-special dish and it was my all time favorite Depression food. Pay attention. I'm only going to give out the recipe once.
Scald milk, thicken with cornstarch, sweeten with sugar. Pour over toast.
Melba toast was hot and sweet and creamy. If you toasted the bread you didn't even notice it was stale. Melba toast actually did stick to your ribs. For a kid like me, an only child of a single mother who didn't have a clue where the next paycheck was coming from, those meals were heavenly. If Mom was cooking, that meant she was home. If she was home, I was loved. I also liked the idea that my breakfast was cooler than anyone else's in school. In those days I, Bailey Devlin, could convince myself that weird and poor really meant exotic and interesting. I believed I was wealthy in experience unlike those poor schleps that grew up in a house with two parents, siblings, and a dog.
I lied to myself about my situation because that made it easier to be the one who stood out. I was a little taller, a little smaller in the chest, and a lot more noticeable because of my huge mop of long, curly red hair. Heck, if I could convince myself that I was special in junior high, I could convince myself I loved Mom's cooking. Bottom line, I just loved my mom.
What I didn't love was that hand-to-mouth stuff. I was probably five years old when I figured out that I would do things way different when I grew up. I'd have so much money I would pay for groceries and rent at the same time and maybe even have a dollar left over. I would have great clothes that came from a real store instead of the thrift shop. When it came to men, I would find a really good one. My man would be solid. He would have prospects. We would be a team. None of this 'but I love him' nonsense that Mom still drooled out when I asked her why she had married someone who thought 'till death do us part' translated into three years and six months. Mom would laugh when I got mad at the way she talked about my absent father. It made me madder that she looked beautiful when she laughed. Why would someone leave anyone who was beautiful when she laughed? She never had an answer to my questions about my father. She just said my dad would be back one day because he 'loved' us. She kept saying things like he'll get 'it' out of his system. I hoped he would hurry and cough up whatever 'it' was because there were times we really could have used another adult around the house.
Even when I was little, though, I knew he wasn't coming back. The idea that someday the front door would open and a dad and husband would walk through was my mom's dream. My own dreams were centered and smart, even for a kid. I dreamed them with my eyes wide open. I called my dreams plans. First, I would go to college and then law school. Once I was a lawyer, I would find a man. I would play the field and weed out the losers. I wouldn't settle just for love. I would have standards. I just hoped I would recognize the perfect man when I saw him. I mean, there I was that Tuesday morning, twelve and three quarter's years old, and I still hadn't been able to check a guy out up close and personal to see what was what. In seventh grade, most of the boys were shorter than I was and most of them were dumber if you measured intelligence by how often they put together a full sentence without including a reference to any number of bodily functions. Most of them….
I'm getting ahead of myself, and way far away from the point.
My first time is the topic.
That morning I did what I always did while I waited for the noodle/egg/onion/Tabasco glop to fry: I read the newspaper, front page first. I lost myself in breathless tales of crime and punishment in the gritty city of San Francisco. Those stories made me want to be a lawyer. I would be the Joan of Arc of the legal profession, tying myself to the tree of truth, enduring the flames of evil to fight for justice and the American way – but only until a guy on a white horse told me I had worked hard enough and it was time to go live in a castle if that's what I wanted. Or we could be partners and hang a shingle from the turret.
He would say: "Whichever pleases you, Bailey."
And I would say: "Thanks tons. I'll think it over."
And if the guy on the horse never came I would still be a lawyer, and that would be good too. Lawyers never let anyone just disappear the way my dad did. They knew cops and investigators and FBI agents who found missing people. Lawyers drove great cars, and wore snappy clothes, and were just all around really successful people who probably never heard of tomato mush much less ate it. Plus, all the lawyers I read about in the paper were either strong, good looking men or women who weren't afraid to talk to the press and seemed like they could have their nails done once a week. Fingers and toes no less. I bet they could even afford to have their own washer and dryer right in their house, and that was really saying something.
So I read the front page of the newspaper, then the California section for local news, and finally my literary dessert: the entertainment section of the San Francisco Chronicle. I tried not to read the comics because if I did that I might forget all the important stuff I had just read. I'll be honest, though. I peeked at Zits and the Far Side. In my defense, those comics were smart-funny so I made an exception.
What I lived for, though, was Joyce Jillson, psychic to the stars and to me. Reading my horoscope was the one really important thing I did every day. Reading my horoscope (Gemini just in case you hadn't figured it out) made me feel special because deep in my ungainly frame, in a heart that really was bigger than anyone imagined, I believed.
I believed that the stars would align one day. Someone named Joyce Jillson would look up into the sky and see Bailey Devlin's future. Joyce would be so excited by what the stars had in store for me that she would scribble down the information and send it to the newspaper. There the editors and printers and the newspaper delivery boy would make sure I got the message.
I believed that woman in the photo knew something about the great beyond that I would never understand because she was ageless. In all the years I had been reading my horoscope, she had never changed. Anyone who didn't age had to have a cosmic connection, didn't they?
My mother had read me my horoscope since I was two. Horoscopes were my primer, my phonics lesson, and by the time I was five I was reading them myself. On that Tuesday, when I was twelve and three quarters, just as my breakfast was being dished up and put in front of me, I started to read. I read Mom's horoscope first.
Sagittarius – Throw yourself into a new venture. Your work life holds enormous promise.
Mom put a fork on my dish of noodles. Her eyes, green like mine, were dancing she was so delighted with her horoscope. My eyes never danced. People pointed that out a lot. People would say that my eyes looked for the stuff you were made of while my mom's eyes looked for the stuff you dreamed of. I would have liked my eyes to dance like my mother's; I would have liked it if people stopped pointing out the difference.
Mom sat down and assured me that the darn thing was right on. Her boss at the Curl Up and Dye Salon (Hair, nails and skin care) had promised her that she would be the first one to go to massage school at the beauty parlor's expense as soon as they fixed up the backroom (closet) and got a massage table. Mom would wear a white coat like a doctor. She would burn pine scented green candles and rub down naked housewives to the smooth sounds of Johnny Mathis. Tips would triple. We would be in hog heaven. We would go on a shopping spree. She said we would go look for my dad if the tips were really good. I told her that I would rather put a little something away for all the schooling I was going to need.
She touched my hair, told me she loved me, and that I should never change. Somehow that seemed a little off topic to me, but I liked it when she touched my hair and looked at me like that. I let her do it even if I didn't get why the idea of saving a few bucks made her get all sentimental.
"Your turn," she said and got up to clean the frying pan. Fried noodle glop always left a big mess.
I obliged even though mine seemed to be the same from one day to the next – until that Tuesday. That was the day the thunderbolt of good fortune struck or sounded or whatever thunderbolts did. Bottom line, it was awesome.
I started to read, but then I stopped. I started from the beginning again. I read it all the way through silently to be sure I hadn't made a mistake. This was personal. Really, really personal.
Life changes forever with Venus lighting up the part of your solar chart pertaining to intimacy.
I could hardly breathe.
Mom's voice sounded so far away that I didn't hear her the first time she called to me. When she asked about my horoscope again I sputtered that it was 'nothing special' and wolfed down those noodles. I didn't lie, really. In a way, there wasn't anything special in store for me. There was just the PROMISE of intimacy. Still, I sure wasn't going to talk to my mom about that. If I did that she would want to know what happened at the end of the day. And, duh, I sure wouldn't want to talk about that. Worse, she might keep me home from school just to make sure I never met my destiny. I sure couldn't let that happen, now could I?
I buried the Calendar section under the rest of the paper, told Mom I had dropped a noodle on my old and faded red skirt, and ran to my room where I changed into my new white denim skirt with the blue ticking. All the while I tried to ignore the strange feelings in my stomach. I was near fainting and that, I decided, was only normal since this was it. The day I had been dreaming of. Jimmy Brewster was going to ask me to the seventh grade cotillion. We would slow dance. His arms would be around me and his head would be on my shoulder since he was shorter than me. But I'd still be slow dancing with Jimmy Brewster. You couldn't get anymore intimate than that, right?
There was no one more awesome than Jimmy Brewster. He was going places. Everyone said so. Jimmy had won an award – first place at the science fair for testing the effectiveness of over the counter cold medicine. He had worked on that project for two whole winters, putting himself in harm's way every time someone sneezed, taking on bugs no one else wanted with a courage seldom seen in someone his age. He ran for class president and lost by one vote just because he was nice enough not to vote for himself. Just last week he had chosen me to help him hand out the tests in algebra class. He picked up a pencil I dropped in the hall. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now my horoscope confirmed it: I was going to go on my first real date with someone who was going places.
I fairly flew to school and then lounged at the lockers trying to look nonchalant. When Jimmy came down the hall I made eye contact with him, but he went by me twice without stopping. He was blowing his nose on the first pass so he might have figured it wasn't the best time to talk about the dance. The second time around, he was pure coolness. He pretended he didn't see me – and I'm hard to miss. The bell rang and I didn't see him again until after lunch.
Jimmy sat behind me in algebra and still didn't say a word. By this time my stomach was in knots. I had never felt anything like it, all that tugging and pulling as if my whole body was just going to fall right into my tummy. This must be the kind of love my mom always talked about, the kind of love my horoscope promised. But I wasn't my mom. I wouldn't wait for love to come to me. If fate had chosen to initiate me into the mysteries of personal intimacy today, I would meet fate head on.
When the bell rang and Jimmy didn't say anything, I chickened out. I stood up and started for the door but changed my mind before I got too far. It was up to me to get the ball rolling, right? Isn't that what I decided? What kind of lawyer will I be if I don't stick by my guns?
I turned around and smiled at Jimmy Brewster, but he didn't smile back. In fact, he looked horrified. That threw me off what little stride I had. I thought fast, convincing myself that all I needed to do was break the ice. If I talked, so would he. Unfortunately, my lips were stuck to my teeth and nary a word came out.
Jimmy got up from his desk, but he did it real slow. He had never looked more handsome or more strange. He was shaking like a leaf as he leaned close to me. There was that tug-in-my-tummy again, and who could blame me for being flustered? He was so close I could smell the peanut butter from lunch on his breath. For just a second I thought he was going to kiss me. My eyes were like microscopes. I saw the little zit on the side of Jimmy's nose. There was a bead of sweat hanging in his hair just above his ear. My heart fluttered when I saw that his eyebrows grew together over his nose. All of it was so endearing that I gave myself over to the moment, completely unaware that the fates were about to screw me big time.
"Bailey?" Jimmy whispered.
That came out badly. My tongue had dried out too since I had been breathing through my stuck on smile for a good three or four minutes.
His tiny Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. I leaned closer, ready for him to pop the question. With a great effort, with amazing courage, he spoke once more. His voice shook; my stomach lurched.
"Bailey." He whispered my name again and this time he added: "I think you're dying."
He pointed behind me. I looked over my shoulder.
I looked over my other shoulder.
There was nothing there.
I looked back at Jimmy. He pointed lower. He kept pointing. It wasn't until I pulled my skirt around that I saw what he had seen: my brand new, hardly been worn, Salvation Army, blue ticked, white denim skirt was bright red right where my butt had met seat 3b in Mr. Horkan's Algebra class. The goddess of fertility had visited me while we were trying to solve for X. Those pangs and pulls were not the stirrings of desire for Jimmy Brewster at all. I looked back at him. He was right. I was dying of embarrassment.
Now you know about the first time my horoscope came true. It didn't happen in the way I had hoped; then again, it wasn't exactly wrong. I mean Venus is the Goddess of Love. I figured love and fertility and intimacy went hand in hand so, technically, my horoscope was cruelly on target that day.
I didn't go to the dance that year. Jimmy Brewster avoided me like the plague until we graduated. The days of my young life went on. I still read my horoscope every now and again, and it freaked me out when it happened to be right. Thankfully it was only right about little things like when my horoscope predicted I was in for a big raise. I sure could use it considering I was working my way through law school. Sadly, it was a raise in the rent on my little dilapidated one bedroom apartment that came my way. Still, I couldn't argue the accuracy of my horoscope.
Secretly, I still hoped that one-day my horoscope would put my life in order. While I waited, I would order it myself. There was high school and college and yes, law school. I grew older. I grew taller, and most people said I got prettier. Life was busy and love visited me in the guise of a man or two who caught my fancy and won my heart before fading away for one reason or another.
Which leads me to today. In two short weeks I will take the bar exam and I will pass it because I have worked so hard, and because I'm smart, and because I need a home run so badly. I have lived on noodle/egg/onion/Tabasco glop and I bless my mother for showing me how to survive on nothing, but I want a steak. I have thrown pennies in fountains when I had them, but I'd like to have a dollar to my name. I have figured out my numerology (6) just in case the answer to love and life isn't in the stars. I like to leave all mystical options open.
I'm twenty-three now. I've been waiting a lot of years for the big one. I admit that I really, really don't believe like I once did. But there are times when I lie in the bathtub with my eyes closed or stare at the ceiling in the bedroom because I feel really alone, that I remember the first time and all the other little times after that when Joyce Jillson was right. In those quiet, alone times I tell myself this: the first time was just a little cosmic experiment, a celestial joke, a let's-test-Bailey Devlin-day. Maybe all the rest of them were, too, and that's okay. I can take a joke. I like a chuckle just as much as the next guy. But once – just once – I would like to have a star truly shine on me.
Eventually, I get out of the bathtub or fall asleep in my bed, and I forget all about stuff like horoscopes and good luck. Life is hard. Life's surprises are just that – surprises. It is up to me to take care of my future. Little do I know how wrong I am about that. There is a storm brewing on my horizon. The Bailey-Devlin-meets-her-destiny moment is coming.
When it hits it is going to be a doozy of a day.
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