Early Access: The Taste Of A Smile Part 9 ‘Negative energy’ Excerpt

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Good morning,

It’s excerpt day! Time to grab some coffee or tea, sit back and find out what Mary’s been up to. (Or maybe more what Hannah is up to!)

Hope you enjoy,

Sigrid

Mary’s heart leapt once she saw who was calling her.

She tapped the screen and said, “Hannah!”

“Hey, Mary, how are you?” Hannah asked. She sounded okay-ish.

Mary couldn’t hold back any longer. She blurted out, “How is Lucile?”

“On the mend,” Hannah sighed, “Thanks to a small miracle.”

Mary fell back in her chair. “I’m so relieved to hear that.”

“Thanks,” Hannah replied. “I really appreciated your text yesterday.”

Mary smiled. “The whole team has been crossing fingers and lighting candles.”

“Well, it must have helped,” Hannah said, “because even the doctors are amazed she’s pulling through so fast.”

Mary rubbed the back of her neck. “Would it be okay if we sent her some flowers and a card?”

“Of course!” Hannah replied. “She would love that!”

“Great,” Mary said, grabbing a pen. “What room should we send it to?”

“Presbyterian, room 134.”

Mary wrote that down. “Okay, thanks!”

“I’m calling about Lex,” Hannah explained before Mary could ask another question about Lucile.

Mary pursed her lips. “Oh?”

“I have the impression you two got off to a rocky start,” Hannah said.

The clock on Mary’s cabinet drawer seemed louder than usual, Mary thought. She stared at it while she replied, “Yeah, I guess that’s true.”

“Lex didn’t tell me much last night,” Hannah continued, “It’s more of a feeling.”

Mary let her head fall back against the chair. She was still pissed off at Lex. She was even a little angry at Hannah for sending Lex here. And yet, she had not called her boss last night.

Sure, it had been tempting to pick up the phone and tell Hannah her cousin’s behavior was unacceptable. That she didn’t want to work with that kind of person. That she would resign if this was the new direction Hannah was taking Leroy in.

But she hadn’t. One reason Mary had kept her mouth shut was Lucile’s condition. Mary didn’t want to cause Hannah any more distress. There was something else that had stopped her from picking up the phone, though.

Lex had locked herself up in the bathroom for over an hour before sneaking out of the building after their fight. Karen had seen it all and had told Mary about it. Lex’s weird behavior had made Mary think there was more to her story than she knew.

“Mary?” Hannah asked. “What happened?”

Mary sandwiched her phone between her cheek and her shoulder. “Nothing, just the usual hiccups,” she lied.

Hannah was quiet for a few seconds. “I get the feeling you’re both keeping something from me. You don’t have to. I’m fine.”

It surprised Mary that Lex hadn’t spoken to Hannah about the fight. It would have been an excellent opportunity to spin things her way. Mary had sort of expected her to try to get away with it one way or another.

“Anyway, I think I might have an idea on how to help you two get along,” Hannah announced.

Mary grabbed hold of her phone again. “Eh, how?”

Hannah sounded very pleased with herself now. “By getting you out of the store.”

“Out of the store?” Mary repeated.

“Yes! The day-to-day stuff can make one focus on the details too much, you know? Obsess about the differences rather than trying to find common ground?” Hannah continued.

Mary got up from her chair. She had no idea what Hannah was talking about.

“I have tickets for Retail Experience Expo,” Hannah explained. “I can’t go because of my mom and I thought maybe you should go.”

Retail Experience Expo was the biggest retail conference in the country. It was *the* place to go to if you wanted to stay ahead of the competition. The tickets were expensive, though, and usually reserved for C-level executives.

The words tumbled out of Mary’s mouth. “Wow, that would be amazing.”

She could practically hear Hannah’s grin now. “I thought you would say that. It’s perfect for you, isn’t it?”

Mary had goosebumps all over her body. “It is.”

“Great, so you’ll go?”

“I’d love to! But what about the store?” Mary asked, her shoulders dropping. “And Lex’s training?”

“Karen can manage the store for a week, can’t she?”

Mary hesitated. “Yes, but …”

“And you’re taking Lex with you!”

Mary froze. “What?”

Hannah giggled. “What better way to find common ground than at a conference with the greatest thinkers in our industry?”

Mary covered her mouth to stop herself from saying something she would regret later. There was no way in hell she would go on a trip with Lex Emsworth.

“What do you think?” Hannah asked. Her voice was a little uncertain now.

Mary looked up at the ceiling, widening her eyes. “Eh.”

How could she explain she did not want to go to the fair with Lex? Hannah might think she was being difficult or obstructive.

“Don’t worry about the train tickets and the hotel,” Hannah offered. “Suzy will set you up with a comfortable schedule and a great room.”

Mary considered coming up with an excuse. What if she said she just remembered an important doctor appointment? No, that was lame.

“Great, thank you,” she said, resting her hand on the desk for support.

“Cool,” Hannah said, “I’ll call Lex and ask her.”

Mary straightened. So Lex hadn’t agreed yet? That meant there was hope! She doubted Lex would be keen to go on a trip with Mary. And she was probably a lot better at saying no to Hannah.

“Okay, I will wait for news before I start planning,” Mary said smoothly.

“Oh, I’m sure Lex will want to go,” Hannah chirped. “You can start packing!”

“Right,” Mary said, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Will text you as soon as I have confirmation!” Hannah said.

Mary plopped back down in the chair. “Thanks, bye!”

She hung up and looked at the clock again. She had about 30 minutes left until the rest of the team arrived, Lex included. Mary inhaled slowly, rubbing her stomach.

All this tension was making her body ache in weird places. She hoped Lex wasn’t out for a confrontation again today. She didn’t know if she could take it. It was only Thursday of the first week with Lex and she felt more stressed than ever.

Lex’s job was to help out in the café today, Mary knew. “Maybe I can try to avoid her as much as possible?” she wondered. “Yeah, that seems like a good plan for now.”

 

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