The Bandbox Hat
Previously: During a group bowling date, Austin tells SarahJane that his mother was a child actress with a hit show twenty-five years ago. No one else on the show has recognized her. SarahJane spends a few minutes alone with Linda, trying to figure out to find out if it’s true before deciding it’s not important to what’s happening on the current show.
Cassie chattered in the car on the way back to the mansion. Amanda glowered at her the whole way. I couldn’t forget Austin’s warning not to forget that his mother was an actress and a good one. What was he trying to tell me?
The car stopped in the driveway and we tumbled out like copper pennies from a new roll.
“Two hours until the charm ceremony.” One of the production assistants hollered every minute or so as we filed into the house. As if we could forget.
It took me about forty-five minutes to shower, dress and do my hair and makeup. Cassie was right behind me as we headed back downstairs. The upper level was eerily quiet as the others were all deep into their beauty rituals. Plus our numbers were now about half of what they had been.
Cassie and I grabbed a bottle of water before wandering out to the pool and settling in lounge chairs. I kicked off my strappy sandals and settled in.
Nathan and Austin came around the corner of the house deep in conversation, followed by a cameraman and one of the production assistants. They glanced at us and changed directions toward us.
“Eager for the next girls to be eliminated?” Nathan nudged the bottom of my foot with his boot tip.
I kicked back at him. “I can’t wait for the next addition to my charm bracelet, Mr. Smarty Pants.”
Austin sat on the side of my lounge. “Where’s everyone else?”
Cassie scooted the side of her chair, making room for Nathan who perched next to her. “We’re probably too low maintenance for a show like this. We get ready too quick. I feel like a kid on Easter Sunday who was told to wait for the rest of the family outside before we go to church. I’m just itching to do something that’s going to turn out to be a bad idea.”
Nathan laughed. “Is that part memory and part current urge?”
She tucked a strand of hair behind an ear. “Maybe. But if it ever comes up, I know nothing about anyone making mud pies Easter Sunday 1992.”
“Why not make mud pies? We’ve got time to kill.” Austin stood and reached a hand toward me.
Allowing myself to be pulled to my feet, I felt a frisson of excitement ignite along my spine. “I hope the mud is metaphorical.”
“Let’s go find something to eat. I’m starving.” Nathan tugged on his waistband. “See? I’m wasting away. They don’t feed me enough.”
“You’re used to eating like a farm hand,” I said. “Normal people survive on three meals a day.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Cassie stuck her arm through Nathan’s. “I could eat. Let’s see what’s in the kitchen.”
Inside, Austin stepped into the pantry and surveyed the shelves. “Chips and dip. Canned chili.”
I opened the fridge. “Celery and carrots, salsa, some cheddar cheese.”
“Nachos!” Cassie pulled a cookie sheet from the cupboard. “Austin, you grate the cheese. SarahJane, put the chips on the baking sheet.
With Cassie as executive chef, the rest of us did our assignments and in fifteen minutes we bellied up to the granite island and grabbed chips loaded with cheese, salsa, and chopped veggies.
“These are amazing,” Nathan said. “You can cook for me anytime.”
I elbowed him. “That’s not the compliment you think it is, Nathan. Cassie, he’s been known to eat leftovers a week after their expiration date.”
She smiled at my brother. “Just let me know if you’re not getting enough to eat. I’ll find you something.”
I rolled my eyes. “Please. He’ll be following you around like a lost calf.”
“I am a lost calf.” Nathan popped another chip in his mouth and grinned. “I’m away from my herd and I don’t know what to do.”
Austin met my gaze and grinned. “You Richters have some funny sayings.”
Nathan and I shrugged in unison but I spoke first. “We’re from the middle of the state. We farm. There’s cattle death row not far away. We’re Mennonite. Take your pick.”
A murmur of voices from the other room reached up.
“Eat up,” Cassie said. “We’re about to be invaded.”