Montecito Dorm Rooms
“Knock, knock,” called Beth as she opened Stu’s door, a formality that wasn’t really necessary anymore. “I’m here and ready to work-”
“Ahh!” yelled Stu, hurling a half empty bag of Doritos to the floor. It landed softly on the mound of clothes strewn haphazardly across his dorm room.
“Hey, hey, why so stressed my friend? This is our summer break!” Beth laughed as she struggled to close the door. She kicked at the offending shirt that was obstructing its path. Beth looked fondly at her best friend as he raked his fingers through his dark brown hair. It was still too long.
Stu’s green eyes flashed at Beth in consternation. “Easy for you to say. You don’t really need to worry about Network’s current financial disaster. This is just play money for you!” He blew out a frustrated sigh, rubbed his eyes and held up his hand toward Beth. “Before you start yelling, I didn’t mean that. I’m just-” Stu struggled to find the right word, but settled for “pissed.”
“Okay, I’m going to let that one go. You’re obviously not thinking clearly. It must be pretty bad for you to be tossing Doritos away.” Beth picked up the bag and sat down on the bed.
“It’s worse!” Stu’s voice took on a whole new level of urgency as he pulled up the user accounts for Network before continuing. “We have lost over 300 accounts in the last two weeks alone! That’s $3000 dollars we are losing every month Beth! And, our pending applications are currently sitting at 3! We used to have 50 to 60 applications awaiting our approval! It can’t be just because of all the crashes we’re experiencing right now, is it?”
“That’s not good.” Beth got up and paced the room. “Why is it that when it rains, it pours? I mean, come on! Like my life wasn’t difficult enough with moving to Montecito, living with the asshole Robert, only to find out that another asshole, Dean Clark, is my father, and now this! I know I don’t need the money, but I need Network. I need the satisfaction of making something for myself, of earning my own money!” Beth took a deep breath and faced Stu. “We’ll just have to fix it.”
“How?” Stu spat, crossing his arms. There was simply no way around this mess.
“Well, we need to figure out what the problem is, before we can fix it. Is it just the crashing of the app that got everyone pissed?” Beth asked. Her normally bright blue eyes were shaded dark with worry. “Or has Network truly become a fad that is now passé?”
“What? Am I a mind reader? How am I supposed to know that?” Stu snapped, throwing his arms up in the air.
“Wow, you really do need some sleep or something Stu. Wasn’t it you who said, and I quote, accept Nicole and then you can see who she’s hooking up with on the side. Information is power, my friend. Remember that?” She punched Stu in the arm, still a little sore at his prior betrayal.
Stu smiled sheepishly at Beth, rubbing his arm. “Oh yeah, I’m one smart cookie. Pass me those Doritos, we have some serious creeping on people to do.”
Beth laughed as she tossed him the bag. “Man, and I thought I had mood swings. I got nothin on you!”
Stu chose to ignore the remark and the two settled back on the bed and began scanning many prominent members’ communications. After more than a half an hour searching through a dozen different accounts, it was clear what had happened. Several members had the app suddenly disappear from their phones and they weren’t able to re-download it again. And, when their friends tried to send an email through the contact button on the app, the app crashed.
Beth drew in a sharp breath.
“How the hell did itunes suddenly delete all those accounts? And why the hell can’t they reach us through our contact button?” Stu yelled, pulling the shared computer more fully onto his lap.
“I have no idea!” Beth replied, jumping up to retrieve her own laptop from her bag. She quickly removed the computer from its protective case and fired it up. “But I’m about to find to out! At least all those crashes we’re seeing through the developer’s reports make sense now. Every time someone tried to get a hold of us to ask about the disappearing apps, it crashed. I’ll work on fixing the contact button and you look through some Apple forums on this whole disappearing app thing.” Beth looked up at Stu. “Oh, first send an email to Apple support and ask them.”
“Already on it,” came the reply from Stu. He was hunched over his computer, furiously typing on his keyboard so loudly that Beth thought it would break. Her throat became just a little less tight knowing that Stu would have her back, that he understood how important it was for Network to be successful. She would at least have one thing going right for her. She returned her gaze to the screen in front of her.
Thirty minutes later both Stu and Beth completed their respective tasks. It turned out to be way easier than either had anticipated. Beth quickly fixed the broken link for the contact button and Stu learned, through Apple forums, how to stop the apps from disappearing.
“Phew! Crisis averted!” announced Stu. The relief he felt was immediate. He just couldn’t imagine having to go back to worrying about the insanely expensive college tuition again.
“Yes, but not completely.”
Stu’s stomach dropped as Beth continued, “I think we need to do damage control on our public appeal and persona.”
“What were you thinking?”
“We need to throw a Network party, hosted by Network itself. It will be the biggest, hottest party of the summer, and everyone will want to jump back on board. The catch is that they have to be a current Network member to be invited,” finished Beth, smiling.
“You are brilliant Bethany McKellar!” The earlier relief that Stu felt quickly returned. He never should have doubted her.
“Yes I am.” Beth closed her laptop and laid down on the bed. The comfortable silence stretched into minutes before Stu finally broke their individual reveries.
“Well, I for one am glad you decided not to go with Ava to Europe this summer, but why didn’t you go? I thought you were thinking about it?” Stu turned to his side and propped himself up on his elbow, studying Beth’s profile.
“I was thinking about going. I mean, come on, a free trip to Europe? Who would say no to that? I was tempted, believe me, but then I remembered that good ‘ole Robert would be footing the bill. And no matter how badly I’d like to see Europe, or any country really, it just isn’t worth it to let Robert pay for it.”
“Why didn’t you go and pay for it yourself?” he prodded.
“How would I explain my being able to afford that kind of trip? Did you see the hotels that were on that itinerary? My God, it was like Ava was the Queen of England or something! Robert really planned a doozie of a trip! And besides, it was weird how he offered the trip to both Ava and me. He must have been in the doghouse with my mom or something to offer to send me to Europe. Plus, with all the issues we were having with Network, I figured I needed to stick around here.”
“Who’d Ava end up taking?”
“Savannah. They’ve been having a great time. Posting pictures all over the place on Network. At least their accounts didn’t disappear! It’s too funny. Ava’s been sending me the odd email with pictures, followed by yelling in all caps to ‘JOIN NETWORK ALREADY SO I DON’T HAVE TO EMAIL YOU ALL THESE PICTURES! UPLOADING TAKES FOREVER HERE!!!!!!!’ Oh, the irony. If she only knew! But it’s sweet and I’m kind of enjoying having a ‘sister’ of sorts.”
“Hmm, I’m enjoying picturing you guys as ‘sisters’ and all those sisterly pillow fights!”
Stu laughed as Beth threw a pillow at him. “How’s this for a pillow fight? Pervert!” She was about toss another at him, feeling that just one wasn’t nearly enough punishment when her phone buzzed.
“Not again,” muttered Beth, looking down at the incoming text. She dropped the prone pillow and picked up the phone instead.
“Who is it? It can’t be Noah, you’d never say not again if it were Noah!” teased Stu. He leaned over her shoulder trying to get a better view of Beth’s phone.
“Shut up Stu, or the next thing I throw at your head won’t be a soft pillow! It’s Jess. That friend of Ava’s remember? Ever since Ava left for Europe she’s been trying to get together. I guess she’s bored or something, but I’ve been putting her off for a few weeks now. I can’t stall any longer.”
“What’s the big deal? She seemed nice. And hot.”
Beth shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know. She is nice enough, and I won’t even dignify your rating her hotness with a response. I don’t know what my problem is. I guess I’m just overwhelmed with the whole Clark/murderous aunt situation, that I literally don’t feel like I can add one more person to my life that I have to edit myself for. I’m already doing that enough with my own mother.”
“Makes sense,” Stu replied.
“But, I guess I can’t hold her off any longer without actually coming off like Nicole.” Beth literally shuddered at the thought and began to text a response to Jess.
Cameron Mansion, Montecito
Nicole turned her semi-naked body sideways in the mirror, her hair still cocooned in a bath towel. Her eyes narrowed as she analyzed how her once comfortable pair of boy style briefs and matching purple, cotton bra, seemed to be hugging her curves a little tighter than they had just a month ago. She frowned at her ever-so-tender boobs, wondering why they weren’t growing at the same rate as the paunch brimming over her underwear band. Sucking in her belly was pointless, as the extra padding remained unmoved. Oh God, I’m disgusting.
Nicole moved away from the antagonistic mirror and climbed back into her unmade bed. Curling up into a ball under her duvet, she replayed her last conversation with Robert in her head.
His words burned in her memory, “Get rid of it”. The response had been so quick and the delivery so heartless that she had no other choice than to tell him “No.” It was all a blur after that. Robert became enraged and in response, she became irate. The argument highlights included moments of Robert implying she was out to ruin his life, Nicole accusing him of seducing her, Robert blaming her for being careless and then accusing her of trying to trap him, which led to Nicole’s unflattering description of his male anatomy. She remembered how she wiggled her pinky finger in the air as she mused aloud, “Oh please, like I want to be stuck with a micro-penis the rest of my life!” Of course this wasn’t true. Robert was actually quite well-endowed, but she wasn’t about to let him know she thought so.
The whole thing was ugly. She wrapped the covers around her body a little tighter and tried not to think about how hungry she was. She just had breakfast an hour ago. How could I be hungry again? At this rate I’m going to be the size of a house!
She tried to preoccupy her mind, but images of panini sandwiches and pasta salads kept highjacking her thoughts. It didn’t take long for her stomach to win the battle. She unwrapped herself from the warmth of her sheets and searched for a pair of tights to pull on before heading back down to the kitchen.
Williams Mansion, Montecito Hills
Mrs. Healey wrapped the hot water bottle in a thin tea towel, testing the temperature as she turned it in her hands.
“Who is that for?” asked Andrea, walking into the kitchen with a few mugs in hand.
“Ms. McKellar,” she replied. “Looks like she has another one of those bladder infections.”
“Again? I don’t think a hot water bottle is going to help with that,” offered Andrea as she opened the dishwasher and set the mugs on the top tray. “Doesn’t she have any antibiotics left over from the last time?”
“I’m not sure,” pondered Mrs. Healey, “I’m not sure this is just a bladder infection this time, anyhow. She’s complaining of stomach pain and cramping, too. I thought maybe a little heat would help.”
Andrea leaned in and dropped her voice to a whisper. “I’ll bet these infections have something to do with her husband. Who knows how many twinkies he’s been sampling, or what he’s now had time to pass on to his poor unsuspecting wife.” She cocked her right eyebrow in a you-know-I’m-right gesture.
“Hush,” reprimanded Mrs. Healey, checking all the kitchen entrances for lingering staff or family members before replying in an equally conspiratorial whisper. “I don’t want to talk about that anymore and I don’t want to hear you talking about it either! You may want to lose your job, but as I’ve said before, at my age I have no interest in spending my mornings perusing the wanted sections of the newspaper!”
“I’m only talking to you,” said Andrea, defending herself.
“Yes, today you’re talking to me, tomorrow you’re talking to Tom,” she pointed to the door as though the gardener were standing there, “and before you know it, the topic becomes as common as the weather.” She wagged her finger as though she were scolding a child. “No more. You never saw anything. You don’t know anything. You have nothing to say about Mr. Williams, other than the fact that he pays your wages plus benefits.” Andrea stood back, surprised at Mrs. Healey’s chastising. The older woman scooped up the hot water bottle and headed towards the hallway. She thought about Andrea’s words as she climbed the stairs to the master bedroom.
She’s probably right. Dirty dog is likely carrying unimaginable diseases. She tried to remove the frown she was sure had crept onto her face before entering the bedroom. “Here you go Ms. McKellar,” she said as she gently placed the hot water bottle on Claire’s abdomen. “How does that feel? Is it too hot?”
“Oh, Mrs. Healey, you’re a lifesaver,” grinned a pale looking Claire.
“Is there any medication you’d like me to bring you?” asked Mrs. Healey, hoping there had been some left over antibiotics from the last episode a few weeks ago.
“No, I don’t think I have anything here,” sighed Claire. “It’s these damn bladder infections. I don’t know why I’m getting so many now. I use to get the occasional one every now and then in my 20’s, but this is ridiculous.” Claire clutched the water bottle and turned onto her side before asking, “Can you get my husband? Let him know he’s going to have to take me to see the doctor. I think he’s in his office.”
“Of course, no problem, Mrs. McKellar,” replied Mrs. Healey dutifully. She walked out of the bedroom and toward her employer’s office.
Robert was typing away at his computer and Mrs. Healey stood watching him for a moment before interrupting. Bastard is oblivious to the fact that his poor wife is lying in bed a few yards away. Probably planning a rendezvous with some young...what did Andrea call them? Ah yes, Twinkie. Some young Twinkie.
Mrs. Healey knocked on the door frame, “Excuse me, Mr. Williams, I think your wife needs you. She’s not well and is asking to be taken to see the doctor.”
“The doctor?” he responded with clear alarm in his voice.
“Yes, she’s applying some heat right now, but I’m not sure it’s going to do the trick,” she replied as she stepped aside for Robert to walk by. Mrs. Healey followed Robert to the bedroom and watched him as he leaned over the bed and kissed Claire on the forehead.
“Is it the same infection?” he asked as he tugged on her arms, helping her sit up.
“Yes, I think so,” she replied, “But it feels worse this time. It’s my abdomen too.”
“Where exactly?” he asked.
“I don’t know, Robert,” said Claire exasperated. She knew he was trying to be helpful, but she needed to explain her symptoms to someone who could fix the problem. She looked at Robert and could see he was worried, so she obliged, “It’s everywhere from here,” she said, placing her left hand under her bust line, “to here,” she added placing her other hand just below the waistline on her leggings.
“Hmmmm,” sighed Roberts, “We should go.” He placed a hand on the small of his wife’s back, leading her towards the door when she abruptly stopped walking. “What’s wrong? Did you forget something?” he asked.
“I can’t go like this.” She looked down at her clothing as though she were a dressed in a nightshirt.
“Really?” asked Robert. “You think the doctor cares what you look like?”
“No, I suppose not,” conceded Claire, feeling a wave a nausea come over her.
“You look fine, Ms. McKellar,” reassured Mrs. Healey, still standing at the door. “I’ll get you your purse.”
Robert led his wife down the stairs, hoping this doctor visit wouldn’t take too long as he had a pressing matter to deal with later this evening. Nicole had been avoiding all phone calls since her surprise announcement and the subsequent argument. He need to figure out how serious she was about keeping that baby. That was simply not an option he was willing to have her entertain.
Williams Mansion, Montecito Hills
Beth threw her bag and computer onto her bed and flopped down beside the items. What a day it had been! She was exhausted from all the crisis intervention, frantically coding to correct the errors in their program; however, as exhausted as she was, she didn’t feel she could nap. She had a nervous sort of energy and, oddly, thoughts of Noah kept flashing in her head. Who was that girl in all those pictures? To be more precise, who was that to Noah? Beth, through some inventive searching, had already ascertained her identity. Elise Harper, Montecito student, but not a Network member. Had she been a member, it would have been much easier to get some information on her, or exactly what the relationship was between her and Noah. Beth could have read the Network texts and figured it out in a matter of minutes.
Unfortunately, this Elise was not a member and had never applied to be one. That left just a one-sided search on Beth’s part, through all of Noah’s pictures, posts and messages, to try to figure it out. Best as she could tell, Noah had been spending a lot of time in the Hamptons with this Nicole look-a-like. He sure had a type. Blonde. Beautiful. Mean. Beth actually couldn’t tell whether she was mean or not, just by the photos, but it was an easier pill to swallow if she was.
The Hamptons? Beth couldn’t believe that she was using the word Hamptons in association with anyone other than fictional television characters. What a year it had been.
Beth’s phone buzzed, drawing her attention to it. Jess. Beth sighed, and read the incoming text.
Beth paused for a moment before replying. Why not? It would beat stalking Noah on Network like a crazy person.
Moments later Beth’s cell rang. “Hey,” laughed Beth. “No one just calls anyone anymore, but how’s it going?”
“Good,” replied Jess. “I know, I sometimes just hate texting, it takes too long, and I figured I would just give you a call. Not much is going on, my Network app actually erased from my phone, so I’m completely out of the loop! I’m just bored, I guess.”
“Oh yeah, I heard something about that, but I think it’s back working properly again. You just have to re-download it,” sighed Beth. She switched the cell to her other ear and massaged the kink that had developed in her neck at Stu’s. Too much screen time.
“Oh really? That’s good news. I’ll have to do that. Say, any chance you free to see a movie or something tonight?” asked Jess.
“Um, yeah, actually. I am free to see a movie. Do you mind if I ask my friend Stu to join us? He gets kind of snippy if he’s not included.”
“Ha ha, sure. Of course he can come. Why don’t you guys figure out some movie choices first, and then let me know? We can go from there?”
“Sure, sounds good.” Beth’s phone buzzed, registering an incoming text. “Oh, that might be him now. I’ll let you know soon okay?”
“Sounds good,” said Jess.
As Beth disconnected, she pulled the phone back to read the text. Noah? Her heart, despite itself, jumped involuntarily. Why was Noah texting me from the Hamptons?
Beth hit the send button too quickly. Lucky you? How lame am I? She cringed inwardly, but waited for his reply.
Beth laughed at her latest text. At least she could always rely on sarcasm to take her out of the lame category. Noah’s response came quickly and frantically.
Beth jumped up off her bed, suddenly renewed with a burst of excited energy. You are ridiculous. She continued to chastise herself as she quickly touched up her make-up and hair. Besides, he has a girlfriend. Or maybe not a girlfriend, but he’s definitely dating someone. Or at least, they are hanging out. He definitely has an Elise.
Beth dismissed the thoughts. Doesn’t matter right now. Right now we are just two friends going to hang out at a coffee shop, catch up a little. Beth nodded at her reflection in the mirror, grabbed her car keys and set out to see Noah.
When Beth arrives at the coffee shop, does she meet just Noah alone, or has he brought Elise with him?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.