Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel
by Melody Carlson
an excerpt from chapter 2, pg.’s 15-18
Amelia had been surprisingly agreeable to Daphne’s sudden need for time off from work. “Take as long as you need,” she told Daphne. “No problem.”
Daphne should’ve felt relieved as she buckled her seat belt on the plane the next day. Instead she felt dispensable. Of course, The Times could get by without her. They’d gotten by without her for over 150 years. They wouldn’t even notice she was gone now. Beverly was right—Amelia did take Daphne for granted.
As she looked out the window, staring blankly at the clouds, Daphne decided that when she returned to New York, she would confront Amelia and insist on discussing a promotion. Beverly had been telling Daphne to do that for years now. It was high time Daphne grew a backbone and did it.
She thought about Aunt Dee. Wasn’t that what she would tell Daphne? Grab life by the horns and live it fully? And truly, that was what Daphne had thought she was doing back in 2000 when she’d first come to New York. She had felt like she was reaching for the stars and dreaming big. But somewhere down the line, she’d given up . . . but why?
The sun broke through the clouds with blindingly bright light, and Daphne quickly slid down the window covering, and leaning back she sighed. She knew exactly why . . . as well as when and where and how and who.
She’d given up on her dreams after Ryan broke her heart.
Although he was seven years her senior, Ryan Holloway had come to work at The Times a couple years after Daphne—shortly after she’d been promoted to writing engagement pieces and was just starting to feel more confident. Previous to The Times, Ryan had been the sports editor for a small newspaper out west, but he’d showed enough promise and potential to secure an impressive job as a sports writer for The Times. And to Daphne’s amazement, she was the girl who had caught his eye. Ryan didn’t know about her ugly duckling past. He’d never seen the gawky, skinny, redheaded girl who never fit in—the girl with freckles and braces and eventually zits.
Instead, he looked at her with hungry eyes. He was the first man—the only man besides her father—who told her she was beautiful. “Who can resist a long-legged beauty?” he’d say as he dropped a long-stemmed red rose on her desk. “Here’s one hot number for another,” he’d say as he unexpectedly delivered a cup of steaming mocha. It wasn’t long before they were dating—steadily. And right from the start, the relationship had been magical, wonderful, amazing.
In some ways it had probably appeared similar to Shelby’s seemingly charmed life now. There had been many incredible moments when Daphne and Ryan, feeling young and in love and invincible, ran around the city with abandon. It had felt like she was starring in her own wonderful movie. A romantic love story that was so totally unlike her previous life—the life where she’d taken everything far too seriously and made all her choices much too carefully. But with Ryan by her side, she threw caution to the wind. She dove into romance, and the water was fine. Sometimes it all seemed too good to be real. Unfortunately it was.
Everything came to a screeching halt when Daphne discovered Ryan was already married. They’d been dating for a year and the
whole time she had absolutely no idea, not an inkling, that Ryan had a wife waiting for him back in Idaho. And not just a wife. Two small children as well.
Because he traveled a lot for sports events, she had never questioned his absences. And when he returned to New York, he always seemed as thrilled to see her as she was to see him. Really, if not for that one unforgettable phone call, they could’ve gone on like that for ages.
Ryan had left his cell phone on the table while they were having a late dinner one night. He’d been paying close attention to his phone because he was waiting to hear about a big assignment from his boss. So when the phone rang, thinking it was Rich at The Times, Daphne answered. In retrospect, she wondered why she hadn’t let it just go to voice mail . . . but perhaps she’d intuited something. Maybe somewhere deep inside she had known that something was amiss . . . too good to be true. But sitting in the plane, thirty-five thousand feet over the Midwest, Daphne still remembered the phone call like it was yesterday.
“Who is this?” a female voice demanded. “I’m trying to reach Ryan Holloway and I know this is his number.”
“I’m sorry,” Daphne said. “This is Ryan’s phone, but he’s in the restroom at the moment, so I answered for him. Is this Rich’s assistant?”
“No, this is not Rich’s assistant. This is Ryan’s wife. Who is this?”
“I—uh—I—uh . . .” Daphne felt like someone had just pushed a diabolical button causing the floor beneath her to vanish, like she was tumbling down into some deep, dark bottomless abyss. “Pardon me?” she said meekly, hoping she’d heard this angry-sounding woman incorrectly.
“I said this is Ryan’s wife. Belinda Holloway. What I want to know is who are you? I know Ryan’s been seeing someone. And since it’s nighttime, I’ll bet that makes you that someone. Tell me, are you the other woman? The one who’s been stealing my husband’s affections? The home wrecker who doesn’t even care that Ryan has two young children? Tell me the truth!”
Without saying another word, Daphne closed Ryan’s phone, set it back down on the table, and slowly stood. She gathered her bag and jacket and, on shaking legs, walked out of the restaurant, got on the subway, and went home.