Few people can say they're starring in a real-life version of Romeo and Juliet. And single mom Leigh certainly doesn't want to play the role of disapproving mother. But when her daughter runs off to New Hampshire for a boy she's met over the Internet, it's a discomfiting reminder of Leigh's own past....
The problem is Sam Wallace, the boy's father, and his ridiculous notion that love conquers all. Worse still is that Sam could be a pretty darn good (not to mention attractive) distraction for Leigh. But how can Leigh think about herself when her daughter is about to make the worst mistake of her life?
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July 09, 2007
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Excerpt from Star-Crossed Parents by Elias Dafoe
THE NOTE WAS STUCK to the fridge with a magnet when Leigh Hartwell came home from work, but she was too rushed to read it.
She set the bag of groceries on the counter, then opened the fridge to store the assorted cheeses she'd picked up for the party tonight. She'd hardly finished when the phone rang. It was the caterer, her friend, Tina O'Dell.
Leigh had a premonition of trouble. "Don't tell me you couldn't find fresh scallops."
"I found them." Tina sounded grumpy. "But why didn't you tell me you weren't inviting men to this party?"
"I sent you the guest list a month ago and you're just noticing that now? Anyway, why should it matter whether there are men at the party or not?"
It wasn't as if she and Taylor had set out to avoid them. It just so happened that when they'd listed the important people in their lives--her coworkers at the dental clinic and the people in her running group, Taylor's best friend and her pals from ballet--no males had made the cut.
"I bought a low-cut blouse to wear tonight, that's why it matters. I was going to look hot."
"I'll take a photo. You can put it up on an Internet dating site."
"Hey, I'm not that desperate. You, on the other hand--"
"No lectures, Tina. I don't have time." She still had to shower and change before Tina arrived with the food. "You still planning to be here in an hour?"
"Of course. I'm never late for a catering gig. So how was the run? You know I love Taylor and wouldn't have missed cooking for her party, but I hated to miss it."
"I didn't go, either."
"How could I, when I'm expecting twenty guests less than two hours from now?"
"But running relaxes you, and worrying about your guests is my job. If you trusted me--"
"I do. Really. I know everything will be perfect. It's just--what's one run? We'll both go a few extra miles on the weekend." "This isn't about your training schedule. It's about your need to relax and enjoy yourself now and then. I want you to have fun at Taylor's party. Not worry about every little detail. Speaking of Taylor, how's our girl doing?"
"Actually...I'm not sure. She should have been home by now. There's a note on the fridge. Let me just grab it." She snatched it too quickly, sending the magnet flying to the floor.
"Wasn't today the first day of her new summer job?"
Leigh grabbed the magnet and stuffed it into the drawer where she kept pens and paper. "Yes, if she made it on time. She didn't get to bed until after midnight last night." She'd been on the computer again. Since receiving her letter of acceptance from Cornell University a month ago, Taylor was forever on their Web site.
"Look, Tina, I'd better run. See you soon, okay?" As Leigh returned the phone to the counter, she skimmed the note.
Hi, Mom, Taylor had written. I know this is going to sound crazy...
Leigh stopped breathing as she read the rest. No. Impossible.
This had to be her daughter's sick idea of a joke.
She set the paper down, pulled out an open bottle of white wine and poured herself a glass. She took a long swallow, then read the note again.
I know this is going to sound crazy, Mom, but I've been chatting with this really nice guy over the Internet for several months and last week he asked me to come and visit him. Don't worry, he's a great person and I'm not in any danger. I'll call you once I get there.
P.S. Sorry about the party...
No matter how many times Leigh read the note, the message wouldn't change. And yet she still couldn't believe it. She and Taylor had had so many conversations about the dangers of meeting people over the Internet and the folly of dating someone you only knew through correspondence.
All those late nights when Leigh had assumed Taylor was either studying or researching Cornell...she'd really been chatting with this guy.
And who was he? Taylor had left her no clue. No name, no address, no contact information of any kind. Leigh grabbed the phone again and tried her daughter's cell phone. She was shuffled straight to the message service.
"It's Mom, Taylor. I've found your note. Please call me as soon as you get this."
How could Taylor have done this? Leigh's daughter was a shy girl who didn't date much. Years of struggling with acne had left her selfesteem a little battered where boys were concerned. In a way, Leigh could understand why Taylor had felt more comfortable meeting a guy at the distance the Internet offered.
But why hadn't Taylor said anything? Their relationship was close, or so Leigh had thought, but she'd had no clue Taylor was carrying on this way.
Who was this guy? How old was he? Was he a predator?
No, no, don't panic. Stay calm. Think. Focus. It was no use. One scary possibility led straight to another. Where was her daughter, right now? Still en route? Or had they already made contact?
The very idea had Leigh hyperventilating. Don't worry, the note had said. He's a really nice guy.