It's me, Rachel de Luca. You might recognize me from the Brown and de Luca thrillers. If you haven't read them, come back when you have.
So here's the thing. If the bullshit I write about is true, then why the hell aren't Mason and I married by now? Yeah, things got in the way.
Anyway, I didn't stop existing through all this. We've been home. All of us. Home. In the house.
I have a certain reputation to maintain on my social media. Rachel de Luca, self-help superstar, create your own reality, yada yada yada. The election damn near killed me. I thought my head would explode.
And then Amy, my formerly goth but now more adult-and-depressed-about-it, assistant suggested I take up…oh what the fuck did she call it? It was noun made into a verb by some new age twa–ah, right. Journaling. She even bought me a fake leather blank book with weird-ass parchment pages that you coluldn't write on if you wanted to. Still, the idea of bitching in print someplace it couldn't destroy my career was too appealing to pass up. So I did what I always do when I have something to say. I created a new file on my MacBook.
If it's not a journal are you still journaling? A question for the ages.
So yeah, I took up journaling. And it occurred to me the other day that you might enjoy a few carefully curated selections (some stuff is personal, after all) from my journey through hell. You know, while you're waiting for my author to stop fucking around with that Fiona bitch and write MY next novel.
Here's what I wrote down one day in March, 2020. It was the day when everything changed, so it seemed a good place to start.
March 19th, 2020
So there I was, all set for a day of writing. And I was starting it just like I always do. The house was nice and quiet. Josh was in school, and Jeremy was at college and Mason was at work and Amy wasn't coming in today. There was a bulldog snoring on my feet and a hot coffee in front of me. There is nothing I love more than this house when it's just me and the dogs. There's a peace that settles in. Very conducive to writing. I was working on my next book and with days like this, long, quiet, solitary days, I was going to wrap it in no time. As soon as I finished searching Pinterest for “dream wedding” boards.
Not sure dress shopping qualifies as writing.
“Shut up, Inner Bitch. It's part of my process. Besides, I deserve it.” This had become my answer to everything since the previous fall. Mason and I had big plans for that autumn. But then his mother got sick and had to go in for surgery, and then she didn't get better right away. She's fine now, if a little more fragile than before. By the time she'd recovered it was winter, and I really had my mind made up to have an outdoor wedding. So we decided to wait until spring. If I couldn't have fall foliage I would take apple blossoms instead.
Not gonna happen, Inner Bitch said. And that dress is hideous. Keep scrolling.
I kept scrolling. “It is going to happen. This Covid thing is no big deal. I mean, they might have to close school for a few weeks but–”
A door slammed downstairs. Nobody slams a door like Josh, but he was supposed to be at school. Hugo, the bulldog pup, had been sleeping on the sofa, but I heard him hit the floor and scrape an inch of finish off the hardwood with his toenails before he got his footing and thundered across the room to greet to his best pal.
I looked at my Apple Watch and frowned. Myrtle got up from my feet, then pressed her forehead to my shins to roll my chair backwards so she could get out from under the desk. I followed her downstairs. Yep, the kid was home all right. There was a trail of muddy snow and melting puddles from the living room to the kitchen, with a jacket and a backpack dropped at intervals along the way.
I found him in the kitchen holding the fridge open and staring inside, doing inventory I guess. “You didn't take off your shoes,” I said.
He heeled them off where he stood, like that was going to help. I handed him a mop. “Clean up your mess. Why are you home?”
“Somebody tested positive at school.”
My body just about froze like an overblown affect. A literal chill went up my spine. “What do you mean somebody tested positive at school?” My voice had gone up an octave. Covid was here? In my town? WTAF?
My phone chirped. Josh picked up his dripping wet shoes and carried them back through the house, dragging the mop behind him like that was going to do any good. “Josh.”
“I know, I know.”
I looked at the phone. Special notice from the school. “We got word today that one of our students has tested positive for the Novel Corona Virus, or Covid 19. If your student was exposed, you will be notified and will have to have your child tested. At this point we don't know what our plans are, but there is an emergency board meeting tomorrow to decide.
“That the school?” Josh asked.
“Yeah. They don't say much. Who has it?”
“Kayleigh Webster,” he replied. Because there's no such thing as privacy in a town the size of Whitney Point. “Her mom just got back from New York City, and now she's sick. You think she'll die?”
“No, of course I don't think she'll die!” The kid was so fatalistic, sometimes. I mean with good reason, but still. “Have you been in the same room with her since she got back?”
“No. I mean, except for the cafeteria.”
I went over to him and put my hand on his forehead and realized I was becoming my older sister, who had long since become our mother. Josh rolled his eyes and pulled away. “She was at a different table. I'm fine.”
I heard a rumble that had to be either Jeremy with his Camero or Mason with his Monte Carlo. They sounded the same to me. Deep and loud with a testosterone leak.
Josh had leaned the mop against the wall and was on his knees, wiping up muddy snow with a nearly new bath towel when his big brother came in, tracking more mud.
“Shoes!” I said before he could take another step.
Jeremy grinned at me. “Thanks, Aunt Rache. It's good to be home.”
All sarcasm, wasn't he? “College is an hour away. You don't give us much time to miss you.”
“And now even less,” he said. “College has officially gone remote.”
“Remote,” I repeated. “As in…?”
“As in, we're going to be holding classes on Zoom until further notice.”
“My teacher says that's what she thinks we're going to end up doing, too,” Josh put in. He tossed the muddy towel toward the gorgeous and nearly new sofa. We'd had a fire and had to rebuild, so everything we nearly new.
I pivoted like a player in the WNBA, leaned in, and snatched towel out of mid-air while asking, “For how long?”
“I don't know,” Jeremy said. “Nobody knows.”
My phone went off again. Mason, this time, calling, not texting, which meant something was up. Jeremy and Josh were already back in the kitchen, standing in front of the open fridge staring inside. I rolled my eyes and walked deeper into the living room where it was quieter. “Hey babe. Your nephews are home. For a while, it looks like.”
“Yeah, I heard that was happening today. Cases doubled again overnight. Tomorrow they're shutting down the whole state.”
“What do you mean, shutting down the state?”
“All non-essential businesses have to close and people are supposed to stay home if they possibly can.”
“What's an essential business?” I asked.
“Hospitals, clinics, grocery and drug stores.”
“As a matter of fact–”
“Cause I know we went dry for Jeremy's sake,” I said, glancing toward the guys to be sure they were not within earshot. “But uh, desperate times call for desperate measures and if it's the end of the fucking world, I'm drinking.”
He laughed that soft sexy laugh that drives me crazy. Then he said, “I'm gonna pick up a month's worth of groceries on the way home, just in case. For my mother, too.”
This was feeling more serious by the minute. “Jeeze, Mason, is it really that bad?”
He lowered his voice. Softly, he said, “I think it's worse than anybody wants to admit. I hope I'm wrong.”
I said, “Oh no.” And I was thinking about us, our spring wedding, and maybe now, another postponement. He knew it because he knows me just that well.
He said, “Yeah. I know.”
When you have a man of few words, you have get good at interpreting them. He was disappointed, too. And he felt bad, as if there was anything he could have done about it. So I bucked up and said, “You know what? A summer wedding is way less likely to get rained out. And what's wrong with roses instead of blossoming apple trees? So we'll just…put it off a little longer.”
“I know this self-help guru who'd probably say this was happening for us, not to us.”
“Punch that bitch in the face for me, would you? It's a fucking pandemic.” I heaved a sigh. “This is so surreal.” I looked out at the boys, glad they were close where I could keep this thing from touching them. They were foraging deep into the fridge, having already unloaded half its contents onto the island. “You probably better bring home pizza, too. Lots of pizza.”
“Will do. See you soon.”
We disconnected and I sat down to do my journaling and get all this down. I feel like today was big. A turning point. I mean, we haven't seen an actual pandemic in, what? A century? And now it's here. It's near my kids.
I'm just glad it's happening now, in modern times, when we can handle it.
So I guess it's gonna be a few weeks of togetherness and another delay for Mason and me tying the knot, which, you know, I was never in a big hurry to do anyway.
You are a damn liar.
We'll rough it for a few weeks and wait for this insanity to run its course and we'll be fine. Everything will be just like it was before. And tomorrow, I'm going to start planning our summer wedding.
We're gonna look at dresses again, aren't we?
“We sure are, Inner Bitch. And don't even pretend you aren't enjoying it as much as I am.”