Title: WHAT WE KNOW NOW (formerly A Mother's Guide to Living)
Category/genre: Adult Women's Fiction
Author: Mo Parisian
Editor: Katie McCoach
Original version here.
According to her five-year plan, Grace Foster’s life is right on schedule. After marrying her college sweetheart, she has fought to earn her dream job of evening news producer at WKND. When a story breaks, and her husband is suddenly arrested, she flees for the last place she thought she’d ever find solace: Her mother’s home. The picturesque cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan appears to be the perfect hideout, or is it the battleground she left ten years ago?
Being the daughter of Julia Dunham, best-selling self-help author, has always made Grace cynical. But watching her mother go through her own personal crisis, Grace experiences compassion she’s never felt before. With support from her family and friends, Grace begins to follow the steps in her mom’s latest best-seller to rebuild her own life. Will what she learn give her the courage to let go of the past and move forward, or will Julia push Grace out of her life for good?
There is a moment every morning I run, when I know exactly how my day is going to unfold. Today, when that moment hits, I have the distinct feeling I should go back to bed. It’s not that I’m psychic, but the signs have been unmistakeable.
One: My mom called, woke me from a dead sleep, to tell me that she’s worried about me. “I have a funny feeling,” were the exact words she used. My mom is a lot of things, including a best-selling self-help author, but visionary to my life certainly isn’t on the list.
Two: My husband, Andrew, left before I woke up and didn’t make any coffee. He always made coffee. If there was a reason he needed to be at school so early, he failed to tell me. He only left sticky note on the kitchen table. I had to leave early. XO, Andrew.
Three: My boss texted for a nine o’clock meeting this morning. Given I work the evening news shift at WKND, this was a giant monkey wrench in my day.
A smarter person would’ve made a pot of coffee and relaxed with the news, but training for a marathon exceeds the limit of what is considered normal. Andrew’s words, not mine. He didn't understand my need for five-year plans or training schedules. Andrew's motto was always let’s roll with it.
Either way, I want to go back to bed.
Of all my issues, it’s my mom that is weighing me down. I don’t have that she’s-my-mom-and-my-best-friend kind of relationship with her. It’s more like we tolerate each other and go our separate ways. For her to call me as early as she did, it felt ominous.
By my third mile, I realized I couldn't outrun her words and looped back home. The last thing I needed this morning was to worry about being late for a meeting.
I loved my job as the evening news producer for an NBC affiliate, WKND. It was fast-paced and demanding, but left me feeling exhilarated every night. Even on the slow news evening.
As I walked into work, my manager, Tim, was standing at the receptionist’s desk, chatting with Sherry, our office manager. Their conversation came to a halt when they spotted me, and Sherry’s eyes darted back to her computer.
Tim looked at is watch. “Thanks for making it in so early Grace,” he said. “Let’s head back to my office… an issue has come up we have to deal with.”
He glanced at Sherry before turning, and she tried to smile, but it didn't reach her eyes.
I’m getting fired.
My mind raced to the story about the political scandal involving two senators last week. I held off on it for a day to verify sources, but every other news station went with it. Our ratings tanked, and Tim ripped me a new one.
Tim was not only my boss, but my friend. He was the one person at the station who had my back from day one, even when I made countless mistakes in the beginning. He taught me what anchors wanted in copy, what producers wanted in a piece, and how to put it all together.
My heart started racing. Tim’s face was pasty and he was sweating through his shirt. An empty hollowness settled into my gut.
“Have a seat,” he said, walking behind his desk. “Look, something has come up, and there is just no easy way to say this.”
“I know what you’re going to say,” I interrupted him. “But can I please get a second chance?”
His brow furrowed. “Second chance? What are you talking about?”
“I know last week’s rating drop was all my fault, but please don’t fire me. Give me another chance."
He wiped the sweat from his brow. "Gracie, I'm not going to fire you. But something has come up, and I wanted to give you a head's up on a story we're running tonight."
I released a breath I had been holding and leaned back in my chair.
"Okay, shoot. I'm in the mood for something big,” I said.
He shifted in his seat and stared at his desk calendar. "Well, we have several sources for a story at Patterson High School."
“What is it?" My nerves turned into curiosity. Andrew taught at Patterson, and not only was this going to be a good story, but I was getting a first dibs on the gossip. He loved that.
"Ah, Jesus, Gracie," he sighed. "There’s, uh, several young girls accusing one of the teachers of sexual misconduct."
"I knew it! It's Peter Markson isn't it?" My heart was racing again, but in a good way. I needed to get over there and look into this.
"No, Gracie.” He paused, running a hand through his dark hair. “Actually, Andrew has been named as the offender." For the first time since I walk in the building this morning, his eyes locked on mine.
"Wait." I didn’t understand. "Andrew is accusing girls?"
He closed his eyes and sighed. "Grace, the girls are accusing him. One girl claimed they've had an affair for a year and she's pregnant. That's how this story broke."
My stomach lurched. "Please tell me this is a joke," I whispered.
He walked around his desk and sat next to me, "I wish it were, but it's going to be the lead story on every news tonight, and will most likely be picked up nationally by Friday. From what I've heard, this is going to be another Letourneau. I can't believe I have to be the one to tell you this."
The room began to spin. A chill ran through me. Everyone I knew would hear this story by tonight.
"What the fuck," I said, bewildered. "What the hell am I supposed to do?"
"Why don't you take a day, a week even, to figure out what is going on," he said. "This is still just information from the students. No one has heard Andrew's side of the story, yet."
"Have you tried to contact him at all?"
"I found out yesterday afternoon, and have left three voicemails and sent two texts," he said standing. "He's not responding."
I thought about last night. I tried to remember if he was different, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary when I came home. He was watching TV, the Late Show, his hand propped up behind his head as usual. I asked how his day was, he said uneventful, and quickly rolled over when I got into bed. I just figured he'd had a long day and needed some sleep.
Was this why he left so early?
"What the hell," I shouted this time. I stood and started to pace. "I'll get to the bottom of this,” I said, pulling out my phone.
I dialed his number and listened. The unanswered rings echoed through my head. I stared at my phone, the picture of Andrew and I in Jamaica stared back at me. I hadn't changed the background in three years.
Do I go over to school? Why would these girls say this about him?
"What is going to happen to him?" I said, wishing he had answered his damn phone. What was the truth?
He shook his head. "From what I know, the police will act quickly, and bring him in for questioning. Most likely, today." He sat behind his desk again, loosening his tie.
"If they find sufficient evidence against him, they will charge him with sexual misconduct, and he will have to wait for a bail hearing."
I stared out the window, following a cloud coasting by. In the last five minutes, my life had been forever changed, shattered.
His phone beeped. "Uh, Gracie, the police just walked him out of school. Handcuffed." Another beep. "Every news station is there covering this." He set his phone down. "What can I do to help you?"
I ran my hands through my hair. How the hell does he think he can help me through this?
"I gotta get out of here," I said. I wiped my eyes, realizing my hands were covered in runaway mascara. "I'm not sure when I'll be back, but I'll keep you posted." I stopped on my way out the door. "Will I have a job when I return?"
"This job is yours until you say you're moving on," he said without hesitating. "I hope to see you soon."
Walking out, the sunshine blinded me. Not knowing where to go or what to do, I did the only thing I could think of: I called my mom.