Love is calling... Wait for the beep! A widowed mother of two, Annie Harlowe has a secret: She likes to call her late husband's cell phone just to hear his voice, even if it is only a recording. Then one night she dials-and something extraordinary happens... Thomas Brannock IV has had his life mapped out since he was a kid, but a free-spirited woman with flowing hair and sun-kissed cheeks is about to change all that. Still reeling from her heart-to-heart with the other side-and wondering if she's so lonely she's gone off her rocker-Annie literally bumps into Thom at the posh soiree she's catering at his family's Southampton mansion. From the moment she looks into his eyes she feels like she's experiencing a true heavenly intervention-as two people from totally different worlds begin to make the most passionate connection of all... With a little help from above!
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February 28, 2005
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Excerpt from Hello, It's Me by Wendy Markham
Hey, you've reached Andre. You know what to do. Wait for the beep and don't forget to leave your number." Clutching the phone between her shoulder and her ear, Annie pipes another stripe of red icing along a rectangular sugar cookie, wondering how many stripes an American flag has, anyway.
Not that it matters. There aren't fifty white dabs of icing on the square of blue to the left of the stripe. Who cares whether a flag cookie is historically accurate, as long as it tastes good? Beep.
Annie sets down the tube of icing and presses a button to disconnect the call.
Someday, maybe she'll leave a message, just for the hell of it. Even though Andre's phone, its battery long dead, is lying useless in a drawer, along with the other personal effects the hospital handed her that awful day. Or maybe someday, she'll stop calling Andre's cell phone just to hear the sound of his voice. Yes, someday, she'll stop paying the bill just so she can do that.
After all, it's not as though she can afford it. She can't afford much of anything these days. The Widow Harlowe is in dire straits, reduced to decorating cookies for some wealthy Hamptonite's Flag Day soiree tomorrow night, just to earn enough cash to keep her kids in Fritos and Lunchables.
She's lucky, she supposes, that her friend Merlin's catering business has taken off so quickly. With the summer season about to kick into full swing, she can probably count on enough cookie-decorating gigs to carry them through the summer.
Then what? Come September, the rich New Yorkers will flee back to the city, leaving the eastern end of Long Island to the hardy natives once again.
As much as she cherishes warm days in the sun and surf, Annie has always preferred the off-season. She may not have grown up here as Andre did, but she learned early on to resent the "outsiders" who clog the roads and restaurants and beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Now, she resents that they've become her livelihood. Hell, what-and who-doesn't she resent at this point?
The summer people, the bill collectors who call incessantly, even her friends-especially those who are happily attached.
The Widow Harlowe can't help but notice that the world is one big Noah's Ark, made up of twosomes, which leaves her . . . Alone. You're all alone, Annie.
A tear drops into the icing stripe, bleeding red across the white buttercream background.
Annie is instantly reminded of Milo losing his tooth in the apple the day her world turned upside down. The day that began as happily as the endless string of others before it, and concluded with sirens and a uniformed policeman at her door.
And now . . . Well, now she's all alone. Everything happens for a reason, Annie. Andre said those words frequently-usually, whenever she was complaining about something that hadn't gone the way it was supposed to. Everything happens for a reason. Yeah. Right.
What reason could there possibly be for this? For Andre dying, for Annie being left alone to- Thud.
Annie looks up at the water-stained kitchen ceiling. Okay, not quite alone.
In fact, never alone. Never, ever alone. Being with her children 24-7 has taken some getting used to. She still isn't accustomed to not having a minute to herself during the day; nary a reprieve from her maternal watch.
Andre always liked to take Milo and Trixie off on adventures, leaving Annie with time to herself. She hasn't had that in almost a year now, but was too caught up in her grief to realize how much she craved relaxing solitude until recently.
"What are you doing up there, Milo?" she calls, even as she wonders whether the teardrop will make this cookie taste salty. She can always toss it aside . . . but then she won't have a full sixteen dozen, and Merlin-or his snooty client-are sure to notice.
Not that she's even met the man who's throwing the Flag Day shindig. But it's safe to assume that anyone with a waterfront estate in Southampton is snooty. "I'm practicing, Mommy," Milo shouts down the stairs.