green-and-white-striped lounge chairs out for me to sit on. “I’m sure Grant will get a kick out of hearing how you met Heather, Stephanie.”
I shoot him a dirty look since he’s spoiled my plan, but he only frowns at me. Cooper doesn’t like it when I “diminish my extraordinary accomplishments,” as he puts it, by not introducing myself as the Heather Wells, youngest artist ever to top the Billboard charts with a debut album, and the first female to have both an album and a single simultaneously at number one ( Sugar Rush ).
Honestly, though, what person who is practically thirty goes around reminding people of something they did when they were fifteen? That’s like using a picture of yourself as your high school’s quarterback or homecoming queen as your Facebook photo.
I can see in the glow of the terrace’s fairy lights, however, that it’s too late. Stephanie’s already figured it out, thanks to Cooper’s hint. I can tell the exact moment I go from being the shrewish college administrator in Stephanie’s eyes to Heather Wells, former pop teen sensation, and one of her boss’s biggest success stories . . . until I gained a few pounds, insisted on writing my own songs, and suddenly wasn’t so successful anymore.
I can’t hold it against Cooper, though, because Stephanie realizes she’s put her size 7 foot in it, and it’s amusing to watch her backpedal.
“Oh, that’s why you look so familiar,” Stephanie says, graciously holding her perfectly manicured hand out to me across the glass table between our two chairs. “ ‘Don’t tell me stay on my diet, you have simply got to try it,’ ” she sings, perfectly on pitch. “God, I can’t tell you how many times I must have listened to ‘Sugar Rush’ when I was younger. It was my favorite song. You know, before we all moved away from pop and on to real music?”
I keep my own smile frozen on my face. Real music? I hate that so much. Some people seem to forget that “pop” is short for “popular.” The Beatles were considered pop musicians. So were the Rolling Stones. Stephanie seems to be forgetting pop music pays her salary, and the salaries of everyone working for Cartwright Records. Give me a break.
“Right,” I say as Stephanie crushes my fingers in her own. She must do Pilates. Or press diamonds out of coal with her bare hands.
“I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you right away,” Stephanie gushes. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Still, you look great. So healthy. Your skin is glowing.”
When skinny girls say that you look healthy and your skin is glowing, what they mean is that they think you look fat and you’re sweating. Cooper and Christopher are sitting there, completely oblivious to the fact that Stephanie has insulted me to my face.
I know it, but I’m going to let it go, because I’m the bigger person. Not just literally but metaphorically as well. I believe what you put out into the universe comes back to you times three, which is why I try only to say good things, except of course when it comes to Simon.
“Wow, thanks,” I say in the kindest voice I can muster.
Some of the members of the film crew are drifting out onto the terrace. All of them are holding cold drinks from the Allingtons’ refrigerator. Most of them are clutching cell phones to their ears, using their break to call friends or significant others to make plans for later, from the snatches of conversation I can hear floating toward us. The production assistant, Lauren, brings us each a bottle of cold mineral water, though neither Cooper nor I asked for one.
“Thanks,” I say to Lauren, again in my incredibly kind voice. So much goodness is going to come back from the universe, it’s amazing. I’m going to find the most beautiful dress to marry Cooper in, and all the students are going to behave like angels for the rest of the summer.
“You kinda disappeared off the face of the earth for a while there, didn’t you?”