The Sweetness of Life(3)

By: Kathryn Andrews

Meg turns to face me with an understanding look. “I know you’re worried about the articles, but don’t be. They’ll be amazing . . . no, they already are.” She smiles, and it’s so genuine I almost believe her. How crazy different would life be if I’d never met her?

“I hope so,” I mumble.

Last year, a representative from the magazine contacted me to see if I was interested in writing for a special edition magazine, All About the South, and I about died. Someone had seen my blog and thought I would be perfect given my thorough knowledge of restaurants in the South. Meg and I celebrated for a solid week by eating, drinking, and splurging on some new shoes.

My assignment was simple, they were constructing four magazines for the four regions of the United States, and I was asked to recommend twenty-five different restaurants across the southeast with the theme focusing on seafood: Gulf shrimp, crawfish, crab, grouper, et cetera. Meg and I changed OBA’s operational hours to four days a week and we traveled Monday through Wednesday for three months, eating our way to a complete state of bliss.

I mean, why not? Both of us are young, single, the restaurant is ours to open and close when we want . . . and best of all—we got paid. So, when they called again this year, I was over the moon. I now have two consecutive years of work for the magazine to add to my resume, and I know I have to make my contribution super spectacular.

This year the focus is farm-to-table. Each regional issue will highlight restaurants that use locally grown food. They want another twenty-five recommendations where I mention impressive farmers’ markets and family farms. Personally, I think it’s a great idea. The fresher the better.

“You headed home?” I ask her. Meg and I are also roommates, but occasionally she sleeps at her aunt’s just to keep an eye on her.

“Yeah, after I drop this off at the bank.” She waves the zippered bank envelope at me and flips the lights off.

Together we walk out the front door, she locks it and hits the remote alarm app on her phone. From inside my bag, my phone starts ringing. I drop it on the sidewalk and start digging until my fingers find it.

“I’ll see you in a bit,” Meg says, taking a few steps backward. “I’m thinking it’s a wine and a hot guy dancing kind of night.” She drops her arm and does a bad version of the robot.

A laugh bursts out of me and echoes down the sidewalk.

“Sounds perfect!” I grin at her before turning my attention to my phone. It’s my editor from the magazine, Teddy Carothers. Every time his name flashes across the screen, my heart skips a beat—half excitement and half nerves. I’ve wanted to be a part of the Food Network family for so long, there’s always this slight fear that with one phone call it can go away, just like it arrived.

“Hi, Mr. Carothers. How are you?” I stand and grab my bag, trying to keep my voice calm and my hand steady. Ever since I started working for him last year, I have had to remind myself to show no fear. I’ve worked hard for this, and I deserve it.

“I’m great, Shelby, thanks for asking. Is now a good time?” It’s after eight—he never calls this late—and my hand tightens on the phone. Part of me wonders if he was contacted about the studio job, but I’ll never ask.

“Yes, now’s a great time. We just locked up OBA, and I’m about to head home.” I make my way across the street to my car, barely feeling the inconsistencies of the cobblestone and fallen oak pollen under my bare feet.

“Very good. So, I’m curious, how’s the assignment coming along?” Last year, he never asked me about the assignment. I had three deadlines—the twenty-five recommendations were broken up into sections: nine, eight, and eight. I submitted on time, he said, “Great job,” and that was the end of it.

Sliding into my car, I toss my bag onto the passenger seat and when it tips over, I frown as all my things spill out onto the floor. “I’m almost done with it. Would you like me to send you what I have?” Nerves flit through my stomach and I grip the steering wheel. The article isn’t ready yet, I glance to my laptop which is standing on its side, but I could spend all night on it if I had to.

“No, that won’t be necessary. You can send it all once it’s done.” There’s a pause in the conversation. I can hear the shuffling of some papers on his end, him swallowing, and a glass hitting the table. Anxiety takes off and my hands start to sweat. “But listen . . . turns out, I have another idea to run by you.”

Another idea?

Images of the last two months and all the work I’ve put in skip through my mind.