The following is an excerpt from Comeback:
“She’s up there — somewhere.”
Frankie Posey-Gilbert’s words left her mouth in barely a whisper, riding on a thread of cigarette smoke. She was perched on a picnic table, staring into the vacant summer sky. Her cousin Meghan was somewhere in the baby-blue expanse 35,000 feet up, flying from New York City to Indianapolis.
She absently flipped the stub sideways into the gravel, tilting her face upward toward the mid-July sun. A soft breeze played with her hair, while the sweet scent of freshly cut grass co-mingled with the pungent lawnmower exhaust and fading smoke in front of her nose. Warmth had finally crept back into her cheeks, frozen from the past four hours on the Agricorp production floor. A quick glance at her watch confirmed her break would be over in eight minutes, just enough time for one more cigarette, which she immediately lit. Frankie hired in at Agricorp before the ink had dried on her high school diploma. Nearly everyone in Midway worked for the company in one way or another. And if they weren’t working at Agricorp, they were farming the surrounding fields.
Except for Meghan.
Meghan spent the past 10 years out of state, first living in Los Angeles for a few years, then moving to New York City. She’d found fame and celebrity starring in a popular reality television show; however, her growing ego turned off enough producers that eventually she was only able to get spotty work, guest appearances and endorsements. That is, until three quick flutes of champagne and a hot mic at an awards show got her into a hot, snarled mess.
And now she was coming back home. She had to come back. Not only because a judge ordered her to do so, but because home is where you go when you’ve hit rock bottom and alienated just about everyone in your professional and social circles.
Frankie smirked, recalling the entertainment news segment describing Meghan Posey as “a world-class arsonist with impeccable talent for burning every viable bridge behind her. At one point, a rising star, she has perfected the art of career suicide.”
Not usually one to take delight in others’ misfortune, if she were completely honest, Frankie would admit to feeling more than a twinge of satisfaction reading about the demise of her cousin’s career. A career that could have been — should have been — hers.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the groan and sputter of a riding lawnmower, as Brewer “Boo” Huntley came around the end of the building. He spied Frankie and turned, making a line in the grass that stopped three feet from where she sat. He flipped the key to cut the engine, which stopped with a rattle that shook the entire machine.
“Hey, Frankie… on break?”
Boo was quite the master of deduction.
“Yep,” she replied, squinting through the sunlight. “Almost done though.”
Boo reached behind the mower seat and grabbed two sodas from a cooler. He turned and leaned forward on the steering wheel, offering her a dripping can.
“Here. S’really hot today.”
“Thanks, Boo.” She took the drink, and icy droplets ran from her palm to her elbow. She cracked open the tab releasing a sneeze of carbonation and took a quick sip.
Boo wiped sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, and they both watched a bumblebee hum through the heavy air between them. She knew what was coming next.
“So, I heard Meghan’s coming back today.”
And there it was.
Frankie sighed, took a deep drag from her cigarette, remaining silent.
Boo shrugged. “Yeah, well…. Hey, there’s a field party out at Tucker’s on Saturday…,” he paused for a swig of soda.
Frankie held her breath in anticipation. “Don’t say it,” she thought.
“You wanna come?”
She exhaled. Relieved.
“And, y’know… bring Meghan.”
Frankie’s glare locked on Boo’s sunglasses as she leaned forward.
“I’m sorry, I’m busy Saturday,” she replied in a tone well-suited for the inside of Boo’s soda cooler. She ground out the last of her cigarette against the blistered green paint on the table, before sliding down and walking toward the building.
“As for Meghan,” she threw back over her shoulder, “you’ll have to ask her yourself.”
“What?! What’d I say?” Boo called after her.
Frankie didn’t even feel bad. He knew exactly how she felt about Meghan.
Everyone in Midway knew.
Frankie’s hard steps crunched and scattered gravel as she crossed the parking lot, her mind racing back to last week, when the certified letter arrived, announcing Meghan’s return. As the words on the page were registering in her brain, her hands started to shake.
July 15, 2018
85 Market Street
Midway, IN 45792
Ms. Alice Posey
Dear Ms. Posey:
This letter is to inform you that Meghan Posey, will arrive in Indianapolis on July 23, in immediate need of transport to Midway. Specific flight details will be provided as received.
Please be advised that Ms. Posey’s arrival has been mandated by Judge Ramona Green’s sentencing decree of July 14, 2018. Ms. Posey is to remain in Midway for a period of one (1) year, or until Judge Green sees fit to rescind the restriction. During said period of one (1) year, Ms. Posey is to remain within the town limits of Midway only. Failure to comply with this sentence will result in one (1) year of incarceration and up to a $10,000 fine.
Please direct any questions you have regarding this arrangement to my office via the contact information below.
J. Nathan Sommers
Attorney at Law
834 W. 34th Street
New York, NY 10012
She’s here for a whole year — 365 days of hell.