Chasing Lucky - Jenn Bennett Page 0,1

of it was about me. They’ve since made up … sort of ? But whenever we come back to visit, it’s never for more than a day or two, and things are always strained.

Our family is kind of messy.

Mom’s distracted and not listening to me, as usual. “Crap. Think that was one of your grandmother’s friends who just passed us,” she tells me, eyes on the rearview mirror. “She’s probably on her phone right now, calling up half the town to alert them that Diedre’s harlot of a daughter is crossing the border.”

“You’re being paranoid. Grandma would never call you that.” Probably. Fifty-fifty chance.

Mom snorts. “Oh, to be young. Be glad I shielded you from that old bat the past few years. Thank God for Mongolia.”

“Nepal. You know Grandma’s in Nepal.”

My grandmother and my mom’s older sister, Franny, joined the Peace Corps and left to teach English in Nepal last week. Just like that, Grandma temporarily gave up the independent bookshop that had been in our family for generations and handed over the keys to my mom—someone she doesn’t trust to post a letter in the mail, much less run an entire business. And between you and me and this bargain-priced moving truck, my mom isn’t exactly the most reliable person in the world.

Which was why Grandma and Aunt Franny running off to Nepal and leaving us as stewards of the family bookshop was a shock to all. Aunt Franny’s daughter, my nineteen-year-old cousin Evie, is currently minding the store and will be helping my mom run it while attending college and shacking up with us in my grandma’s above-shop apartment.

“There’s no reason for you to be nervous. Grandma’s gone. Aunt Franny’s gone. You can make a fresh start here in Beauty—”

“Dream on, baby.” Mom rummages through her purse for a tube of lipstick labeled Ruby Kick. Bright lipstick and pointed cat-eye glasses are the two things my mother wouldn’t be caught dead in public without. “You have no idea what we’re about to walk into. You were twelve years old when we left this wretched village of the damned. You don’t remember what it’s like. Beauty is a viper pit for people like us, Josie.”

“Then don’t give them a reason to gossip.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

I clutch my camera case tightly. “You know what it means.” Blame the stupid Saint-Martin love curse if you want, but my young-and-single mom never has long-term boyfriends. Never brings men home. But she swipes right and sneaks out to meet guys … a lot. I used to keep track of the numbers, but it got depressing. I mean, hey. We aren’t living in eleventh century feudal France: I know women can and should have whatever sex life they want. But it’s my mom, and I know she’s not happy. Also, the lying. If it’s no big deal, why lie about it?

If I end up with trust issues, this is why.

Anyway, Mom did imply that she’d cool it with all the online hookups if we moved here. It’s not something we directly discussed, because we don’t talk about anything uncomfortable, so it wasn’t a firm promise. But she gave me a silent nod that said: I will not sleep with everyone in our small hometown, where people know us and our family, and gossip is currency. And I gave her a return nod that implied: Okay, cool, but mostly because I’m tired of you lying to me.

I can tell by the way she’s biting a hangnail that I’ve hurt her feelings by bringing this up right now—the forbidden subject of the dates she doesn’t really have. And because I’m always forced to be the adult in the room, I opt to cool things down and switch subjects before we end up in a fight before we even get into town.

“Now you’ve got me all freaked out about vipers and pits and black holes,” I say, trying for lighthearted. “Is it really going to be that bad here?”

“Worse, shutterbug. So much worse. It’s not too late. We can turn back around and go right back to Thrifty Books in Pennsylvania.”

Mom has managed every chain bookstore on the East Coast, along with some amazing indies … and a couple of complete hellholes. The one she just quit in Pennsylvania was in the hellhole category.

“You emailed your district manager that ‘Take This Job and Shove It’ song and walked out on your staff in the middle of your shift,” I remind her.

The corner of her mouth tilts up.