Stocking her shop was her one true joy.
She brought the women into the parlor, where she had several jewelry displays, and showed off a long strand of pearls that she’d gotten from a great estate sale of a set designer several years back.
The ladies oohed and aahed over the necklace.
“If you like it,” Olivia said, “I’ve got the earrings to match, and a cashmere sweater set that they’d both look fantastic with.”
The geriatrics got all aflutter at that, and Mary tried on the sweater. “Get a load of me,” she breathed, staring at herself in the free-standing antique mirror, wearing the gorgeous pale-peach sweater and her neon pink track pants. “I’m…glamorous.”
“Hollywood should be knocking,” Olivia agreed, helping her arrange the necklace just right. “You belong on a set with your own name on a chair and everything.”
Mary beamed. “I’ll take it, all of it.”
The other lady, Mrs. Betty Dettinger, was looking through a wooden bin of stuffed animals. “My granddaughter comes to your Drama Days,” she said, referring to the weekly event Olivia hosted here at the shop for the local kids to play dress-up and act out small plays. “She was wondering if she could buy one of the costumes for Halloween.”
“The costumes aren’t for sale,” Olivia responded. They lived in her favorite antique travel trunk, usually placed at the foot of her bed. The exception came once a week during Drama Day. The contents were her own personal collection from Not Again, Hailey!—the one-of-a-kind pieces of her childhood that she wouldn’t sell.
The show had followed Hailey, the daughter of two professors, one who’d taught science and math, one who’d taught acting. Each week, Hailey had gotten herself into a mess, say forgetting to put a dessert in the fridge, so that her father could teach her a lesson, like what happened to food when it was left out. Hailey had played dress-up with her acting-professor mother’s wardrobe—hence all the costumes—and had gotten herself in trouble for a variety of things, such as peeking into her siblings’ private things. Every time she got in trouble, her parents or teachers or friends would say, “Not again, Hailey.”
A simple premise, and shockingly popular.
“Are you sure they’re not for sale?” Betty asked.
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
“Such a shame,” the woman said. “You’d make good money from them.”
She didn’t care about making good money. She’d done that. And then she’d lost it all. It was all the same to her.
When the ladies finally left, Olivia went into the back room and pulled out the box of cookies she’d picked up at the town bakery. Then she went back for the large antique trunk of costumes that she’d hauled into work earlier.
The costumes were just about all that was left of her earlier life. They represented the only good times from that period, times when she’d been loved and adored as Sharlyn Peterson, pre–public breakdown.
At age fourteen she’d been short and chunky and still playing age nine. One year later she’d started to grow up—and out—and from that moment on, she’d been under constant pressure to stay teeny-tiny.
Don’t eat that, Olivia.
But no matter what she’d done, she couldn’t stop time. She’d grown like a weed, and they’d had to give the other actors in the show lifts in their shoes to make her look shorter.
Every year, Tamilyn had said a special prayer over Olivia’s birthday cake. “Please God, don’t let her go into puberty and ruin everything!”
Then it had happened. Olivia had turned sixteen, gotten boobs, and it’d been over. She could still remember being pulled into the producer’s office and being told that they were going to have to recast someone younger, someone “fresher,” or cancel the show.
The powers that be had chosen to cancel.
And just like that, her worth had dried up. In fact, she’d become of less than zero value to the studio. She’d become a liability.
The front door to the shop opened and kids piled in. Six of them, followed by their parents, with the exception of the two little girls holding hands with Becca, who occasionally helped out their father after school. The twins were identical, one in all pink, including her ponytail holder, the other in a variety of mismatched clothes indicating she’d been her own stylist that morning.
“Olivia, Olivia, Olivia!” Pink yelled—the only decibel level she seemed to know—jumping up and down at the sight of her. “What’s today’s play?”
It was silly, but Olivia got just as excited as they did. When she’d first opened Unique Boutique, she’d known she wanted to let her costumes be used by local kids. She’d never been one to dream about marrying and having her own children to share her past with. Her life had always been too chaotic for those kinds of settling-down fantasies. And then when it had no longer been so chaotic, she’d just figured that she wasn’t exactly the maternal type.
After all, she hadn’t had a childhood. What did she know about giving one?
But she could at least connect with kids in the one way she was able to—through the world of make-believe. “Cinderella,” she said. She’d been Cinderella for one entire glorious week during her Not Again, Hailey! days, and it had been her favorite episode.
Pink was jumping up and down again. “That’s perfect!” She peered around Becca and looked wide-eyed at her twin. “Kendra, you’ve always wanted to be Cinderella!”