Love at 11 - By Mari Mancusi


I still couldn’t believe I was actually doing this.

Clutching the videotape in one trembling hand, I strode down the hallway, heading for what in the TV news world we called Receive. The place where my story could broadcast to the world. Well, at least the world of San Diego. Receive was the gateway to the airwaves, and its guardians had no idea what they were about to let loose.

In just minutes, my five-year career at News 9 would be over forever. Heck, they’d probably blacklist me from ever setting foot in a TV station again. My dream of working at Newsline would never come true. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t want to work in a business that was as corrupt as I’d recently determined it to be.

The truth was more important. My sister and the others like her were more important.

My heart slammed against my rib cage as I pushed open the door. The Receive coordinator gave me a stressed smile before going back to organizing the videotapes for tonight’s broadcast. I smiled back, knowing from her look that no one had time to check to see what was on the tape I delivered.

I took a deep breath. This was it.

“This is for you, Lulu,” I whispered to myself, then handed the coordinator the tape. “Here’s tonight’s feature story. ‘Cosmetics That Kill.’”

I held my breath as she took the tape and examined the label. Please don’t check, please don’t check.

“Great,” she smiled, filing the tape in its appropriate slot for the five o’clock news. “Thanks, Maddy.”

It was done.

Chapter One


FROM: “Laura Smith”

TO: “Madeline Madison”

SUBJECT: re: story idea

Hi Maddy,

Thank you for your story idea about how dangerous blind spots behind SUVs have caused parents to inadvertently back over their own children––striking them down in their very drive—way. It’s distressing to hear that more than 72 kids died last year alone in this horrific manner.

But after talking it over with the promotions department, we think it’d be better if you could just stick with the “Cosmetics That Kill” story we assigned you last week.

Thanks! Laura

Executive Producer

News 9 —San Diego, CA

I pressed “delete” and leaned back in my squeaky cubicle chair, suppressing a long sigh of frustration.

Why was I even surprised?

After five years of working as an assistant producer at “if it bleeds, it leads” News 9, I knew I should have been used to the rejection of thought-provoking, legitimate stories in exchange for sensationalistic trash. I should have been content pitching the plastic surgery, the diet, the who-is-Paris-Hilton-sleeping-with-now stories.

I was a glutton for punishment.

I should have known that my boss Laura didn’t want to do a story about SUVs with dangerous blind spots. News 9 aired advertisements for those same SUVs during its commercial breaks. Paid advertisements. It was simple as that.

“Hey, Maddy, why the long face, girl?”

The voice of my coworker and best friend Jodi brought me back from my job-induced doom and gloom. Spinning around in my chair, I watched the five-ten blonde plop herself down at my cubicle-mate’s vacant desk and look at me with concerned eyes.

“Oh, nothing. Just the usual,” I said with a shrug. “Typical day at News Nine, San Diego.”

“Uh-oh.” Jodi grinned. “I know that look. What is it this time? Deadly Dishwashers? Perilous Pets? Killer Clay?” she mocked in her best TV newsman voice.

“Killer Clay was last month,” I reminded her. “This episode of the fabulous Household Products That Kill series features murderous makeup.”

“Oh dear,” Jodi said, feigning shock. “I’m going to have to rethink my whole morning routine.”

I swatted at her with the back of my hand.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong,” I said. “It’s not that I’m against informing the public against the hidden dangers of Mary Kay and the rest. It’s just that as far as I can tell cosmetics simply don’t kill. Ever. Like, in the history of cosmetics there hasn’t been a single fatality.”

“Did you look up ancient Egypt? I read once that they wore makeup. Maybe someone crushed up a poison berry or something.”

I rolled my eyes, not even dignifying that with a response.

The problem was, the powers-that-be at News 9 didn’t care that cosmetics didn’t actually kill; it sounded good in the promo and that was all that mattered. If the station could convince the twenty-four- to fifty-five-year-old woman who planned to go to bed after she saw who got fired, kicked off the island, or brutally humiliated by an arrogant Brit named Simon, to stay up and watch the evening news, that was enough.