“He's so bright. It's only a matter of time. I'll admit I was skeptical about all those learning tapes, but here he is, only three, and what an amazing vocabulary.”
“Is he still saying asshole?”
“That's not funny.”
In the old days, when her mother had a sense of humor, it would have been funny, but, at sixty-two, Kate Granger wasn't taking well to retirement. Even though she and Annabelle's father had bought a spectacular oceanside home in Naples, Florida, Kate missed St. Louis. Restless and bored, she'd turned all the energy she'd once directed toward a successful banking career onto her three grown children. Especially Annabelle, her only failure.
“How's Dad?” Annabelle said, hoping to postpone the inevitable.
“How do you think he is? He plays eighteen holes in the morning and watches the Golf Channel all afternoon. He hasn't opened a medical journal in months. You'd think after forty years as a surgeon, he'd be a little curious, but the only time he shows any interest in medicine is when he's talking to your brother.”
On to chapter 2 in the amazing saga of The Granger Wonder Twins, this chapter featuring the dazzling life of that prominent St. Louis heart surgeon, Dr. Adam Granger. Annabelle reached for her water bottle, wishing she'd had the foresight to fill it with a nice peach-flavored vodka. “There's a lot of traffic, Mom. I don't think I can stay on my cell much longer.”
“Your father's so proud of Adam. He just had another article published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Yesterday, when we met the Andersons for Caribbean Night at the club, I had to kick him under the table to get him to shut up about it. The Andersons' children are a terrible disappointment.”
Just like Annabelle.
Her mother swooped in for the kill. “Did you get the applications I sent?”
Since Kate had sent the applications FedEx and undoubtedly tracked their arrival on her computer, the question was rhetorical. Annabelle's head started to pound. “Mother…”
“You can't keep drifting like this—jobs, relationships—I won't even mention that awful business with Rob. We should have cut you off financially in college when you insisted on majoring in theater. And hasn't that been a gold mine of job opportunities? You're thirty-one. And you're a Granger. It's long past time you settled down and applied yourself.”
Annabelle had told herself she wouldn't rise to the bait regardless of the provocation, but between Mouse, Heath Champion, the mention of Rob, and a fear that her mother was right, she broke. “Applying myself in the Granger family only means two things, right? Medicine or finance?”
“Don't start. You know exactly what I mean. That awful matchmaking business hasn't turned a profit in years. Mother only opened it so she could nib into other people's lives. You're not getting any younger, Annabelle, and I won't stand by and watch you waste more of your life when you could be going back to school and preparing for the future.”
“I don't want—”
“You've always been good with numbers. You'd make a wonderful accountant. And I've told you we'll pay your tuition.”
“I don't want to be an accountant! And I don't need my parents supporting me.”
“Living in Nana's house doesn't count, then?”
It was a knockout punch. Annabelle's cheeks burned. Her mother had inherited Nana's Wicker Park house. Annabelle was living in it, ostensibly to keep it from being vandalized, but really because Kate didn't want Annabelle staying in some “dangerous urban neighborhood.” Annabelle lashed back. “Fine! Do you want me to move out? Is that what you want?”
Oh, God, she sounded like she was fifteen again. Why did she always let Kate do this to her? Before she could retrench, her mother went on, speaking in the same overly patient maternal voice she'd used when Annabelle was eight and had announced that she'd run away from home if her brothers didn't stop calling her Spud.
“What I want you to do is go back to school and get your accounting degree. You know Doug will help you get a job.”
“I'm not going to be an accountant!”
“Then what are you going to be, Annabelle? Tell me. Do you think I enjoy nagging? If you could just once explain it to me…”
“I want to run my own business,” Annabelle said, sounding whiny even to herself.
“You tried that, remember? The gift shop? Then there was that awful dot-com. Doug and I both warned you. Then that tacky employment agency. You can't stick with anything.”
“That's not fair! The employment agency folded.”
“So did the gift shop and the dot-com. Did you ever think it's more than coincidental that whatever business you attach yourself to goes bottom up? It's because you deal in daydreams not in reality. Like that whole fantasy you had about being an actress.”