"Have you seen it?" asked Samantha.
I leaned close to my computer so my editor wouldn't hear me on a personal call.
"Oh, nothing. Never mind. We'll talk when you get home."
"Seen what?" I asked again.
"Nothing," Samantha repeated.
"Samantha, you have never once called me in the middle of the day about nothing. Now come on. Spill."
Samantha sighed. "Okay, but remember: Don't shoot the messenger."
Now I was getting worried.
"Moxie. The new issue. Cannie, you have to go get one right now."
"Why? What's up? Am I one of the Fashion Faux Pas?"
"Just go to the lobby and get it. I'll hold."
This was important. Samantha was, in addition to being my best friend, also an associate at Lewis, Dommel, and Fenick. Samantha put people on hold, or had her assistant tell them she was in a meeting. Samantha herself did not hold. "It's a sign of weakness," she'd told me. I felt a small twinge of anxiety work its way down my spine.
I took the elevator to the lobby of the Philadelphia Examiner, waved at the security guard, and walked to the small newsstand, where I found Moxie on the rack next to its sister publications, Cosmo and Glamour and Mademoiselle. It was hard to miss, what with the supermodel in sequins beneath headlines blaring "Come Again: Multiple Orgasm Made Easy!" and "Ass-Tastic! Four Butt Blasters to Get your Rear in Gear!" After a quick minute of deliberation, I grabbed a small bag of chocolate M&M's, paid the gum-chomping cashier, and went back upstairs.
Samantha was still holding. "Page 132," she said.
I sat, eased a few M&M's into my mouth, and flipped to page 132, which turned out to be "Good in Bed," Moxie's regular male-written feature designed to help the average reader understand what her boyfriend was up to...or wasn't up to, as the case might be. At first my eyes wouldn't make sense of the letters. Finally, they unscrambled. "Loving a Larger Woman," said the headline, "By Bruce Guberman." Bruce Guberman had been my boyfriend for just over three years, until we'd decided to take a break three months ago. And the Larger Woman, I could only assume, was me.
You know how in scary books a character will say, "I felt my heart stop?" Well, I did. Really. Then I felt it start to pound again, in my wrists, my throat, my fingertips. The hair at the back of my neck stood up. My hands felt icy. I could hear the blood roaring in my ears, as I read the first line of the article: "I'll never forget the day I found out my girlfriend weighed more than I did."
Samantha's voice sounded like it was coming from far, far away. "Cannie? Cannie, are you there?"
"I'll kill him!" I choked.
"Take deep breaths," Samantha counseled. "In through the nose, out through the mouth."
Betsy, my editor, cast a puzzled look across the partition that separated our desks. "Are you all right?" she mouthed. I squeezed my eyes shut. My headset had somehow landed on the carpet. "Breathe!" I could hear Samantha say, her voice a tinny echo from the floor. I was wheezing, gasping. I could feel chocolate and bits of candy shell on my teeth. I could see the quote they'd lifted, in bold-faced pink letters that screamed out from the center of the page. "Loving a larger woman," Bruce had written, "is an act of courage in our world."
"I can't believe this! I can't believe he did this! I'll kill him!"
By now Betsy had circled around to my desk and was trying to peer over my shoulder at the magazine in my lap, and Gabby, my evil coworker, was looking our way, her beady brown eyes squinting for signs of trouble, thick fingers poised over her keyboard so that she could instantly e-mail the bad news to her pals. I slammed the magazine closed. I took a successful deep breath, and waved Betsy back to her seat.
Copyright © 2001 by Jennifer Weiner
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Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
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