The Return of Miss Blueberry
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Excerpt
When Callie Creighton opened her eyes that May morning, the thought of quitting her dream job hadn't occurred to her.

But at a later meeting with her boss, he casually decimated her plans to be in her friend Andrea's wedding.

She longed to spit out, "You're fired!" and toss him through his omnipotent twentieth-story window into the Chicago skyline—or Lake Michigan, since she'd heard he didn't like to swim.

Instead, Callie sucked in a breath and sanded the gritty words in her mouth to smoothness before she spoke. "Mr. Stonewell, I believe you approved my vacation dates four months ago."

He was scrawling his signature on correspondence as if she'd already left the room. "Did I?"

"You did." Forcing a charming smile felt harder than pushing toothpaste back into a tube.

He didn't raise his pale, bulgy eyes. "That was before we landed the Turpin account."

We? She was the one who had grabbed that advertising contract before their competitors had a clue. Did he consider wrecking vacation plans a reward?

Her boss pushed the letters aside and scrolled on his smart-phone. "We'll need you to clean up details before we start their campaign mid-September. Sorry, but you'll have to stay in town Labor Day weekend to finish the project and take care of any glitches." He stuck the phone to his ear, leaned back in his black leather chair, and fixed a cordial smile on his lips. "Hello, Jim? Glen here. I wanted to share new ideas I think will bump up your sales during the holidays…."

Callie waited.

Still talking, he gradually swung his chair around to the side.

Mr. Stonewell hadn't exactly turned his back to her. But his unspoken dismissal felt that final.

Turning to leave, Callie caught the heel of one of her new cut-out pumps on the carpet and almost fell headlong, spoiling her dignified exit.

No problem. It wasn't like her boss noticed.

Her tiny apartment usually presented a refuge after a hectic day's work. Today, though, Callie felt like she'd come home to a pink cave.

When Ty nicknamed it that, she'd defended her space as if it were a friend. What did Ty, who only felt at home in a stainless steel world, know about color?

He teased her about living in a Barbie house. She found her apartment a welcome relief from the soulless neutrals of the business world, though she did calm her pink walls with soft gray furniture.

Their uneasiness in each other's homes had kept them from moving in together, a fact for which she now thanked God. Some empty evenings, she still missed Ty's edgy smile and conversation. God had rescued her, though she hadn't wanted His help.

Her pink walls closed in on her tonight, reminding her of Pepto-Bismol. She plopped onto her loveseat, hot, sour bubbles seething in her stomach.

Lord, what am I going to do?

She and Andrea Taylor, best friends since Miss Pringle read them Green Eggs and Ham at the library's Wee Wiggler Story Hour, had pinky-promised at their thirteenth birthday party to be bridesmaids in each other's weddings. How could Callie tell her she couldn't come to Plymouth? That she had to stay in Chicago on the biggest day of her friend's life to "clean up final details"?

She reached for the glass of raspberry tea on the end table and, instead, picked up the hideously cute black-and-white ceramic pig Andrea sent her after last year's Blueberry Festival. She ran her fingers over the red and pink roses on its back, growing more homesick every second. How long had it been since she'd attended the Festival? She couldn't remember.

The pig's goofy grin always made her smile. It fit perfectly in her funky little living room. Nobody else would give her such a gift. Certainly not Ty.

Andrea had become her sister. Without the love and encouragement of Andrea and her parents, Callie would have been sucked down the same alcoholic black hole as her own mother and father.

She set the pig on the table and glanced at the shoes that almost sent her sprawling in Mr. Stonewell's office. Andrea definitely would approve—of the shoes, not the lack of coordination—especially since Callie bought them at 30 percent off. She grinned. The Taylors might be wealthy, but they went grocery shopping on triple coupons day, as Callie did.

She gulped tea, but doubted it would settle her belly burner. Did she remember to buy antacids on her last trip to the drugstore? Lately, soothing her stomach after work had become a daily ritual, along with dosing major gastric disturbances when her employment difficulties escalated.

When her last impossible project kept her working more than seventy hours a week.

When Ben, her coworker, with Mr. Stonewell's blessing, pressured her into business tactics that made her feel dirty.

When her friend Sarah was unjustly blamed for a mistake and fired.

When…when…when… Callie's mind compiled a list of erupting office volcanoes. She realized they occurred monthly, with ever-increasing daily activity rumbling under the surface.

She gazed at her shoes again. Maybe she was thinking negatively. After all, what could she expect from a promising job? Callie loved the stimulating work that paid for occasional splurges at City Soles, frequent trips to downtown theaters, and gourmet cheesecake afterward, along with this cute apartment in a relatively safe, upwardly mobile neighborhood. Who would have thought a trailer-court girl from Plymouth, Indiana, could have made it this far, this fast?

Made it? A cold, clear thought interrupted. Exactly what have I made? Money, yes. But have I made a difference in anyone's life?

Well, she'd made Ty crazy. Mr. Stonewell, too.

But a positive difference?

In Plymouth, she'd been all about making a difference in the lives of kids who lived several trailers down. She'd cared about her aunt and alcoholic uncle, and even her cousin Brandy, though she put Callie down and always grabbed the bigger half when they split a candy bar.

Did she still care about her only blood relatives? Hallmark wasn't a very good substitute for hugs.

Callie stretched her neck to ease the tightness and slipped off her shoes. She grabbed her briefcase and padded to her bedroom to change. She needed a run to chase away the tension. A run to Grant Park then along Lake Michigan. Its vast expanse of blue sparkles and fresh breezes would dispel her clouds and give her focus. Then a walk as the sun hid behind the skyscrapers, with the dazzles melting into a milky, glimmering sea. She'd slow her body, mind, and heart and ask God what He thought about the whole situation.

And listen.

 
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