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On her fortieth birthday, housewife Wanda Jo Ashton is expecting her husband’s standard gift of an E and E from T—that being Elegant and Expensive from Tiffany’s. However, what she gets is the news that her formerly successful, dependable, corporate attorney husband is leaving her to pursue the rich life of a kept man.
Left with nothing, she has no choice but to escape the San Francisco area with her sixteen-year-old daughter in tow and head toward the mountains of West Virginia and the embarrassingly quirky family she left behind twenty years ago. Here, Wanda Jo must carve out a future, complete with career and home, in the midst of family feuds, computer phobias, and the occasional home-brewing explosion.
Only the presence of her daughter and a few good friends, including her old buddy Sam Branson, make life bearable at all. Can it be true that the good life begins at forty?
Page Count: 312
Word Count: 74290
I flipped the book open to Chapter One and read:
Darlings, do not despair because you were born low. It matters not that you have no money, no skills, and are seemingly doomed to toil until exhaustion claims you. A Valiant Knight is waiting to rescue you with the power of true love. You have arrived at a starting point, and with the turn of a single page you will begin the self-improvement necessary to attract your very own Valiant Knight!
I hugged the book to my chest, realizing I’d found my secret weapon, my ticket out of Exhaustion City. I was Galahad holding the Holy Grail; I was Scarlett in the radish patch. I gloried in the wave of hope that washed over me. I would be rescued!
And with God as my witness, I swore I’d never ask, “Want fries with that burger?” again.
It would be a great many years before I realized the foolishness of that afternoon.
Present day, San Francisco
Darlings, the day will come when you realize your rescue by Valiant Knight is complete and you are now living your dreamed-of happily ever after. This is the time to celebrate your success. Revel in the true love you have made yourself worthy to receive.
Andre unfastened the cape and whipped it off with a flourish. “Très magnifique!” he declared with a kiss of his fingertips and then offered me an oversized hand mirror.
I took a quick peek at my now exquisitely tinted champagne blonde and expertly styled, sleek, chin-length bob. Perfect. Andre was a god amongst hairdressers. I switched my gaze to my complexion. Elasticity good, pores minimized, smallish laugh lines, tastefully applied cosmetics—all very elegant, just as Reed always insisted.
La Praire cosmetics. Why use anything else?
And I could honestly say I hadn’t touched a drop of Visine in years.
I extended the mirror toward Andre and cast a look downward. I rotated my foot while admiring my new bone-colored Manolo pumps. Ashton Trews, you have arrived.
I stood, smoothing the slight wrinkles of my Albert Nippon cream-colored linen skirt suit, and took one last glance in the gilt-framed mirror above Andre’s station. I think it’s both a Yes and, at the same time, a great resounding No.
Yes, Corporate Wife is a very good look for me.
And No, as in No One would ever connect me with Wanda Jo Ashton from Buckston County, West Virginia. Thank Goodness.
Now that twenty-two years had passed, I figured it was safe to assume no one would ever realize what a failure I had been or really care where I’d come from. I could relax now. Wanda Jo Ashton, former hillbilly and abject failure, was dead and buried. And Ashton Trews, successful wife to an even more successful corporate attorney, was alive and well.
And looking pretty darned good on her fortieth birthday, even if I did say it myself.
Andre offered his hand, and I accepted it, as he led the way through the exclusive, patchouli-scented, tastefully furnished salon toward the impressive marble reception desk. I nodded politely as he chattered away in his usual mix of French and English. Once we arrived, Andre busied himself assembling my usual monthly take-home package of first rate, hideously expensive grooming products. I cringed inwardly at the prices but justified the expense by reasoning that I had gotten up extra early and cleaned the house from top to bottom, thus saving an equally hideous charge from a cleaning service.
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