WHEN THE PHONE rang, Rachel Keats was painting sea otters. She was working in oils and had finally gotten the right mix of black for the eyes. There was no way she was stopping to pick up the phone. She had warned Samantha about that.
"Hi! You've reached Rachel, Samantha, and Hope. We're otherwise occupied. Please leave your name and number, and we'll call you back. Thanks."
Through a series of beeps, she applied a smudge of oil with a round brush. Then came a deep male voice that was too old to be calling for Samantha. Rachel would have pictured a gorgeous guy to go with the voice, but he'd said his name too fast. This man wasn't gorgeous. He was a ticket agent, a friend of a friend, more sleeze than style, but apparently good at his job. "I have in my hand three tickets for tonight's Garth Brooks concert," he said. "San Jose. Goooood seats. I need to hear from you in five minutes or I'm moving down my list --"
Rachel made a lunging grab for the phone. "I want them!"
"Heeeey, Rachel. How's my favorite artist?"
"Painting. You need a credit card number, right? Hold on a second." She put the phone down, ran through the house to the kitchen, and snatched up her wallet. She was breathless reading off the number, breathless returning to the studio. She swallowed hard, looked at the canvas on the easel and six others nearby waiting to be finished, thought of everything else she had to do in the next three weeks, and decided that she was crazy. She didn't have time to go to a concert.
But the girls would be absolutely, positively blown away!
She threw the window open and leaned out into clear, woodsy air.
"Samantha! Hope!" They were out there somewhere. She yelled again.
Answering yells came from a distance, then closer.
"Hurry!" she yelled back.
Minutes later, they came running through the woods, Samantha looking every bit as young as Hope for once, both with blond hair flying and cheeks pink. Rachel shouted the news to them even before they reached her window. The look on their faces was more than worth the prospect of an all-nighter or two.
"Are you serious?" Hope asked. Her eyes were wide, her freckles vibrant, her smile filled with teeth that were still too large for her face. She was thirteen and entirely prepubescent.
Rachel grinned and nodded.
"Awesome!" breathed Samantha. At fifteen she was a head taller than Hope and gently curved. Blond hair and all, she was Rachel at that age.
"Tonight?" Hope asked.
"Good seats?" Samantha asked.
Hope pressed her hands together in excitement. "Are we doing the whole thing -- you know, what we talked about?"
Rachel didn't have the time for it. She didn't have the money. But if her paintings were a hit, the money would come, and as for time, life was too short. "The whole thing," she said, because it would be good for Samantha to get away from the phone and Hope to get away from her cat and, yes, maybe even good for Rachel to get away from her oils.
"Omigod, I have to call Lydia!" Samantha cried.
"What you have to do," Rachel corrected her, "is anything that needs to be done for school. We leave in an hour." She was definitely crazy. Forget her work. The girls had tons of their own, but...but this was Garth.
She returned to her studio for the hour and accomplished as little as she feared her daughters had. Then they piled into her sport utility vehicle and headed north. Having done her research during the someday-we-will stage, she knew just where to go. The store she wanted was on the way to San Jose. It was still open when they got there, and had a perfect selection. Thirty minutes and an obscene amount of money later, they emerged wearing cowboy boots under their jeans, cowboy hats over their hair, and smiles the size of Texas.
Reproduced with the permission of Simon & Schuster.
Copyright © 1998 by Barbara Delinsky.
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