When she tried to conjure up the man who’d asked her out, she could only see Travis’s face. Ignore him. Easier said than done, though. She’d been picturing him in conjunction with her every romantic impulse seemingly forever. “Um. His name is Pete. Midthirties, maybe? Single dad. He came to give me an estimate on fixing my fireplace.”
Bethany made a low whistle. “You’re one to talk about betraying the family business.”
“If I hired Brick & Morty to do the work, they would see it as a favor. I don’t want favors. And I don’t want what Stephen and Dom and Travis think is best, which is exactly what would happen.”
All three women fired back another shot.
“Anyway.” Georgie swiped at her mouth with the back of her wrist, remembering too late she was still wearing clown makeup. Bethany lobbed Georgie a napkin and she cleaned the white-and-red residue from her costume sleeve, while continuing the story. “I didn’t say yes or no to the date, but I promised to call with an answer. So I have to say no, right? I kind of thought the point of this club was to shun the menfolk.”
“Not shun. Just . . . compartmentalize.” Bethany pursed her lips. “The point of this club is to support and encourage each other. Yes, we’re also taking a firm stand against the men in our lives being dicks and leaving them behind if necessary, but we have to give new men a chance to be dicks before we shun them.”
Georgie gave a golf clap. “Somehow that made perfect sense.”
“Go on your date, Georgie, but keep everything on your terms.” Her sister jabbed the island with a square-tipped fingernail. “Maybe getting a sampling of what’s out there will help you move past your Travis hang-up. Sounds like it’s long overdue.”
“Yeah. It is.” Georgie twisted her lips. “Speaking of Travis . . .”
Rosie turned in her stool. “Ooh.”
“Bad: Travis showed up with his tools while Pete was there, demanding I let him keep his word and fix the fireplace. It was a giant tool party in more than one sense of the word.”
“Oh my God.” Bethany threw back her head and cackled. “This is such a priceless gift.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying it.” Seeing the other women react with openmouthed shock made the reality of what Georgie had done caught up with her. “I kicked him out.”
Her older sister took a twirling victory lap around the kitchen.
“They argued?” Rosie asked, her voice soft with concern.
“Yeah. They totally did the alpha male construction dance. Me fix fireplace. You go home. Look. A hammer.” Georgie sighed. “Travis got all weird about me being alone with Pete—”
Bethany fell forward over the island, chin on fists. “Oh, really?”
“Not like that,” Georgie huffed. “Trust me, Travis Ford couldn’t care less if I go on a date. For some reason, he decided to show up and make me feel like an incompetent child.” Georgie swallowed hard. “And I’m really over people making me feel that way.”
Her sister’s triumph went flat. “I’m guilty of it, too, Georgie. It’s hard to think of you as anything but my little sister sometimes.” She nodded. “I’m going to try harder, okay?”
Georgie didn’t know how to verbalize what it meant to her, just having those insecurities acknowledged, so she stayed quiet. Until Bethany showed up at her side and delivered a hip bump, almost knocking her off the stool.
“Text Pete. Do it now in front of us so you don’t chicken out.”
“What . . . now?”
Bethany raised an elegant eyebrow. Rosie leaned in, too, as Georgie took out her phone and tapped out a brief text message. Her phone buzzed almost immediately with a response.
“Done,” she breathed. “We’re having lunch.”
“Fabulous! Now tell me again how you kicked Travis out. Talk slowly. Leave nothing out.” Bethany laughed when both women gave her disappointed looks. “Okay, fine. I’ll just have to imagine it. And I will. In the meantime, though, let’s talk Georgie’s entertainment business and Rosie’s restaurant . . .”
Georgie had never set foot inside the local girlie boutique. But she could tell from the outside that it was a far cry from Second Chance Zelda’s. Yes, she was about to darken the doorway of Glitter Threads for the first time—which really shouldn’t have been so daunting. Most of Georgie’s outfits came in the form of used denim and unwanted sweaters, but clothes were clothes, right?
Still, she hesitated.
Time to play a round of What Would Bethany Do?
Georgie’s sister would sweep in and walk straight into a changing room, rattling off her measurements without looking up from her phone. Clothes would be brought to her for approval. No perusing racks for Bethany Castle. Oh no. She didn’t buy clothes. The clothes needed to be sold to her.
To be fair, Georgie could do things Bethany wasn’t capable of. She could juggle five oranges, could make scarves come out of people’s ears, and had the ability to stop a child’s tears in under five seconds. Her other non-clown-related skills included making her own bath bombs, gardening, and reciting dialogue from the classic Tom Hanks movie Splash. None of which gave her the push she needed into the shop. This should be easy. She’d even come bearing gifts.
Georgie looked down at the sea salt caramel mocha in her right hand, hoping Boutique Tracy wasn’t lactose intolerant. That would really put a damper on her apology. And Georgie definitely owed her one. The Just Us League meeting had left her with such a good feeling. The support of two women had really dragged her out of her gloom. Now here she stood outside this intimidating, hyperfeminine environment, ready to pay it forward.
“I’m going to count to three,” she whispered. “There will not be a four.”
As soon as the countdown ended, Georgie propelled herself into the shop, coming to a halt when she realized Boutique Tracy had been watching her from the other side of the glass the whole time.
“Well.” Georgie extended the coffee. “This is off to a great start.”
Tracy eyed the to-go coffee cup like it contained slugs. “Can I help you?”
“I just came in to apologize.” She turned in a circle, looking for a place to set down the coffee, deciding on a pretty shelf full of headband/scarf things and a fanned-out stack of the newest sex-themed issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. “You don’t have to accept. But what I did was really mean. I shouldn’t have lied and put you in an embarrassing situation. And I’m sorry about it.”
Nothing from Tracy. Not the slightest twitch.
“Okay, well . . . that’s a sea salt caramel mocha and it’s the shit. I’ll take a sip if you want to make sure it isn’t poisoned—”
Silence fell again. “Gotcha. I’ll be on my way.”
Georgie barely made it to the door when Tracy snagged her elbow. “Wait.” The other woman shifted on her feet. “I didn’t mean what I said about you having short legs.” She sniffed. “But you wear really unflattering pants. I can help you with that, though. Since you did bring me my favorite drink.”
“It’s so good, right?” Georgie whispered.
And just like that, Georgie was being dragged to the dressing room and stuffed inside. This wasn’t just your average dressing room with two hooks and a bench, though. An antique chair sat wedged in the corner beside a very flattering mirror. Her feet sunk into plush pastel carpeting. And the lighting. My God. This dressing room was an Instagram filter a girl could live inside. Woodsy potpourri smell emanated from all sides, but no matter how many times Georgie turned around, she couldn’t figure out where it had been stuffed.
Overall, it was nice. Really nice. Just standing in the room made her feel important.
“All right, bitch.” Tracy burst through the heavy velvet curtain with an armful of blouses, dresses, skirts, and those headband/scarf things. “Why are you still wearing clothes?”
Panic cut Georgie’s excitement in half. “I didn’t realize you’d have to see me naked. I’m wearing, like, the worst underwear you’ve ever seen.”
Tracy sighed. “Jessica! Panties!”
Thus the transformation began. Over the course of the next hour, Georgie was divested of every piece of clothing on her person, including her basic cotton underpants, sports bra, ancient Skechers, jeans, and hoodie. Left behind in their place, she was fitted with a matching purple silk bra and panty set, a black pencil skirt, a bright blue sleeveless blouse, and sparkling silver pointed-toe flats. Every time a new piece of the ensemble was added, she stood a little straighter. It couldn’t be this easy, could it? They let just anyone dress this fashionable? She looked . . . nice. Really nice.
“This is going to cost me big time, isn’t it?” Georgie said, staring at the unrecognizable girl in the mirror.
Tracy picked some lint off Georgie’s shoulder. “Don’t think of the numbers. Think about how you feel.”
“Easy for you to say, person who works on commission.” Although Georgie couldn’t help but admit . . . wow. Her legs didn’t look the least bit shrimpy now. Had her body always been this shape, or did the mirror possess magic, transformative qualities? The skirt rounded at her hips, cinching at her waist. She had pretty damn decent boobs, too! Who knew? She definitely wouldn’t get seated at the kids’ table in this outfit. Still, she couldn’t exactly dress this way at children’s birthday parties. “Where would I even wear this?”