Can't Let You Go
concussion.”
    “I have to get back to try on dresses with Frances.” Lord knew I’d rather be eating two-for-one ice cream.
    “Oh. Well, then I want to go.”
    “Not this time.”
    “Please don’t be mad at me, Katie,” Maxine said. “I’m too old to find a new best friend.”
    I gripped the steering wheel as I pulled onto the interstate, knowing I couldn’t stay mad with words like that. She had pulled a lot of stunts in our time together, but scheduling an audition in New York might’ve topped them all. It was even worse than the time in high school when she got me to climb the water tower with her so she could hang a banner declaring her love for her estranged Sam. She had fallen over the railing, held on for dear life, then miraculously been saved by a truck full of hot fire fighters. The woman always landed on her feet. Or on a beefcake in uniform.
    “I’m not mad,” I said.
    “Oh, good.”
    “But I’m not happy either.”
    “I didn’t mean any harm talking to your director.”
    “He’s not my director. We’ve never even met. But harm is exactly what you caused. Now I have to call him back and explain what happened.”
    Maxine turned the radio to her favorite pop station. “You could avoid that awkward conversation.”
    “By telling him you’re insane?”
    “By going on the audition.”
    “No.”
    “It wouldn’t hurt to just—”
    “I’m done with acting. Done with the stage.”
    “Then what are you going to do? You have too much talent to waste it here.” Maxine tapped irritated fingers on the armrest.
    “Maybe I’ll go to Vegas and be a show girl like you were.”
    “Look, Sweet Pea, I’m being for real here. What’s the plan?”
    I turned the corner a little too sharply, sending Maxine leaning a hard right into her door. She grabbed the overhead handle and shot me a look that would scare misbehaving children and men with any sense about them.
    “I said, what’s the—”
    “When Delores leaves, I plan to take over the Valiant.” I had already informed James of my idea, and while he wasn’t happy I was abandoning acting, he knew I would take care of the Valiant better than anyone else.
    “And if it’s not saved from the chopping block?”
    “I don’t know,” I said. “I have no idea, okay? It’s not like I knew I’d already need a career change at twenty-three.”
    “Then don’t change. Or at least not ’til you have a good reason to.”
    “Do you want to know how I got the role of Beatrice?”
    “A sassy, smart-mouthed heroine who shoots one-liners like arrows? Can’t imagine why they’d cast you.”
    “I got it because the director liked me.” Note to self, never date your boss again .
    “Well, of course he did. You’re a brilliant actress.”
    “That’s not what I meant.” Though Maxine’s version made for a much nicer story.
    “I don’t know what happened in London,” Maxine said, her voice gentling, “but your incredible gift got you to London in the first place. You were all but plucked from obscurity at that college. How many kids graduated from your university and were invited to work in London?”
    “One.”
    “And how many from the entire state of Texas?”
    “One.”
    “Remind me what her name was?”
    I sighed as I switched lanes. “Katie.”
    “See. End of story. You need to go on that audition and show them what you’ve got. Your acting career isn’t over. It’s just taking a new direction. And maybe that direction is New York.”
    “I’m not going on the audition.”
    “Fine.” Maxine cranked up the radio volume. “I’ll go in your place.”
    *
    Diamond’s Bridal sat on the corner of Twelfth Street and Main in a town called Newman, one hour and five Golden Arches down the highway. Traditional red bricks made up the outside of the shop, but inside was a harem of lace and satin, ivory and white, sequins and tulle.
    Frances’s mother, Maxine, and I perched on pink pin-striped chairs, sipping sparkling water in wine

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