Published 8th July 2014
Published by Orion
Two days before they're supposed to visit Neal's family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells him that she can't go. She's a TV writer, and something's come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her - he is always a little upset with her - but she doesn't expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she's finally done it. If she's ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It's not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she's been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts...
Is that what she's supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
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Chapter 3 -
“Do you need some help?”
Seth was standing beside her. Tapping the top of her head with a folder. Jeﬀ German wanted an episode rewritten before the writers all left for the holidays—a nd it was mostly Georgie’s job to ﬁ nish it. (Be-cause she didn’t trust anyone else to help.) (Which was her own issue.
And not something she should be irritated about.)
The whole afternoon had been a blur of noise and food and Christ-mas carols. For some reason— well, for alcoholic reasons— everyone had decided to sing Christmas songs from two to three thirty. Then somebody, maybe Scotty, had tried to slide a shrimp tray under her of-ﬁ ce door. Now it was six, and quiet, and Georgie was ﬁ nally making progress on the script change.
“No,” she told Seth. “I’ve got it.”
She didn’t look up from her screen. “Yep.”
He settled against the desk, her side of the desk, next to her key-board. “So . . .”
“So,” he said, “they went to Omaha.”
Georgie shook her head, even though the answer was yes. “It made sense. We already had the plane tickets, and I’m going to be working all week anyway.”
“Yeah, but . . .” Seth nudged her arm with his leg. Georgie looked up. “What’re you gonna do on Christmas?”
“I’ll go to my mom’s.” It was only sort of a lie. She could still go. Even if her mom wasn’t home.
“You could come to my mom’s.”
“I would,” Georgie said. “If I didn’t have my own.”
“Maybe I’ll go to your mom’s, too.” Seth grinned. “She loves me.”
“That’s not much of a character reference.”
“You know, she called here three times this morning before you got in. She thinks you let your phone die on purpose. To avoid her.”
Georgie turned back to her screen. “I should.”
Seth stood up and slung his leather messenger bag over his shoul-der. It was going to take Georgie another hour to rewrite this scene. Maybe she should just start over. . . .
She kept typing. “Yeah.”
She looked up one more time. He was standing at the door, study-ing her. “We’re so close,” he said. “It’s ﬁ nally happening.”
Georgie nodded and tried to smile. It was another weak eﬀ ort.
“Tomorrow,” Seth said, then thumped the doorframe with his palm and walked away.
Georgie was on her way home when her sister called.
“We ate without you,” Heather said. “What?”
“It’s nine o’clock. We were hungry.”
Right. Dinner. “That’s okay,” Georgie said. “Tell Mom I’ll call to-morrow.”
“She still wants you to come over to night. She says your marriage is over, and you need our support.”
Georgie wanted to close her eyes, but she was driving. “My mar-riage isn’t over, Heather, and I don’t need your support.”
“So Neal didn’t leave you and take the kids to Nebraska?”
“He took them to see their grandmother,” Georgie said. “It’s not like he’s ﬁ ghting me for custody.”
“Neal would totally get custody, don’t you think?” He totally would, Georgie thought.
“You should come over,” Heather said. “Mom made tuna mac.”
“Did she put peas in it?”
Georgie thought about her empty h ouse in Calabasas. And the empty suitcase sitting next to the closet. Her empty bed. “Fine,” she said.
“Do you have an iPhone charger?” Georgie dropped her keys and her phone on the kitchen counter. She never carried a purse anymore; she kept her driver’s license and a credit card out in the car, shoved in the glove compartment.
“I would if you bought me an iPhone.” Heather was leaning on the counter, eating tuna mac out of a glass storage container.
“I thought you already ate,” Georgie said.
“Don’t talk to me like that. You’ll give me an eating disorder.”
Georgie rolled her eyes. “Nobody in our family gets eating disor-ders. Stop eating my dinner.”
Heather took another giant bite, then handed Georgie the container.
Heather was eight een, a change-o f-l ife baby—m eaning, Georgie’s mom had decided to change her life by sleeping with the chiropractor she worked for, and accidentally got pregnant at thirty-n ine. Her mom and the chiropractor w ere married just long enough for Heather to be born.
Georgie was already in college by then, so she and Heather only lived in the same house for a year or two. Sometimes Georgie felt more like Heather’s aunt than her big sister.
They looked enough alike to be twins.
Heather had Georgie’s wavy, browny- blond hair. And Georgie’s washed- out blue eyes. And she was built like Georgie was in high school, like a squashed hourglass. Though Heather was a little taller than Georgie. . . .
That was lucky for her. Maybe someday, when Heather got pregnant, the babies wouldn’t beat out her waist like a Ca rib be an steel drum. “It’s those C-sections,” Georgie’s mom would say. As if Georgie had chosen to have two C-sections, as if she’d ordered them oﬀ the menu out of sheer laziness. “I had you girls the natural way, and my body bounced right back.” “Why are you staring at my stomach?” Heather asked.
“Still trying to give you an eating disorder,” Georgie said.
“Georgie!” Her mom walked into the room, holding a small but very pregnant pug up to her chest. Georgie’s stepdad, Kendrick—a tall African-American guy, still in his dusty construction clothes—wasn’t far behind. “I didn’t hear you come in,” her mom said.
“I just got here.”
“Let me heat that up for you.” Her mom took the tuna casserole and handed Georgie the dog. Georgie held it away from her body; she hated touching it— and she didn’t care if that made her the villain in a romantic comedy.
Kendrick leaned over and took the dog from her. “How’re you do-ing, Georgie?” His face was entirely too gentle. It made her want to shout, “My husband didn’t leave me!”
But Kendrick didn’t deserve that. He was the best shockingly young stepdad a girl could ask for. (Kendrick was forty, only three years older than Georgie. Her mom met him when he came to clean their pa-thetic excuse for a pool.) (These things actually happen.) (In the Valley.)
“I’m ﬁ ne, Kendrick. Thanks.”
Her mom shook her head sadly at the micro wave.
“Really,” Georgie said to the w hole room. “I’m better than ﬁ ne. I’m staying in town for Christmas because our show is really, really close to getting a green light.”
“Your show?” her mom asked. “Is your show in trouble?”
“No. Not Jeﬀ ’d Up. Our show—Passing Time.”
“I c an’t watch your show,” her mom said. “That boy is so disre-spectful.”
“Trev?” Heather asked. “Everybody loves Trev.”
Trev was the middle son on Jeﬀ ’d Up. He was Georgie’s special creation—a slack-f aced, twelve-y ear-o ld misanthrope, a character who didn’t like anything and never did anything likable.
Trev was where Georgie buried all her resentment. For Jeﬀ Ger-man, for the network, for Trev himself. For the fact that she was work-ing on a show that was basically Home Improvement without anything good— without Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Wilson.
Trev was also the breakout star of the show.
Georgie narrowed her eyes at her sister. “You love Trev?”
“God, not me,” Heather said. “But everybody. The thugs at school all wear ‘This sucks’ T-shirts. Like, not the intimidating, cool thugs— the depressing, homely thugs who listen to Insane Clown Posse.”
“It’s not ‘This sucks,’ ” Kendrick said helpfully. “It’s more like ‘This suuuuuuucks.’ ”
Heather laughed. “Oh my God, Dad, you sound just like him.” “This suuuuuucks,” Kendrick said again.
“This sucks” was Trev’s catchphrase. Georgie took oﬀ her glasses and rubbed her eyes.
Her mom shook her head and set a plate of tuna mac on the table, then took the dog back from Kendrick, rubbing her face into its damp gray muzzle. “Did you think I forgot about you?” she cooed. “I didn’t forget about you, little mama.”
“Thanks,” Georgie said, sitting down at the table and pulling the plate of tuna mac toward her.
Kendrick patted her shoulder. “I like Trev. Is your new show going to be more like that?”
“Not exactly,” she said, frowning.
It still made her uncomfortable when Kendrick tried to be fatherly with her. He was only three years older. “You’re not my dad,” she some-times wanted to say. Like she was twelve years old. (When Georgie was twelve, Kendrick was ﬁ fteen. She might have ﬂ irted with him at the mall.)
“Passing Time,” Heather said in a smooth voice, pulling a pizza box out of the refrigerator, “is an hour-l ong dramedy. It’s something plus something plus something else.”
Georgie threw her sister an appreciative smile. At least someone listened to her.
“It’s Square Pegs,” Georgie said, “plus My So-C alled Life, plus Arrested Development.”
If Seth were here, he’d add, “Plus some show that people actually watched.”
And then Scotty would say, “Plus The Cosby Show!”
And then Georgie would say, “Minus the Cosbys,” and feel bad that their pi lot didn’t have more diversity. (She’d bring that up with Seth tomorrow. . . . )
Passing Time was a show that captured all the angst of high school life— all the highs and lows, all the absurdities— and then made them higher and lower and more absurd.
That’s how they’d pitched it, anyway. That’s how Georgie had pitched it to Maher Jafari last month. She’d been on ﬁ re in that meeting. She’d hit every note.
She and Seth had gone straight from Jafari’s oﬃ ce to the bar across the street, and Seth had stood on his barstool to toast Georgie, ﬂ icking Canadian Club down on her head like holy water.
“You are fucking magic, Georgie McCool. That was a Streisandic per-for mance in there. You had him laughing through his fucking tears, did you see that?”
Then Seth had started stomping his feet on the barstool, and Georgie’d grabbed on to his bare ankles—“Stop, you’ll fall.”
“You,” he’d said, craning his head down and holding his drink up, “are my secret weapon.”
Heather leaned against Georgie’s chair now, gesturing with a piece of cold pizza. “Passing Time is already my favorite show,” she said, “and I’m part of a very desirable demographic.”
Georgie swallowed the bite of tuna mac that was sitting at the back of her throat. “Thanks, kid.”
“Have you talked to the girls today?” her mom asked. She was hold-ing the pug right up against her face, scratching between its ears with her chin. The pug’s watery eyes bulged with every pull.
Georgie grimaced and looked away. “No,” she said. “I was just about to call.”
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