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March 2014
Tule Publishing Group


May 18, 2005
Warner Trade
ISBN-10: 0446694495
ISBN-13: 978-0446694490

The Frog Prince

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE FAIRY TALE IS OVER?

Once upon a time, a lovely maiden from Fresno married the man of her dreams. After the honeymoon, she waited for the “happily ever after” part…until her Prince Charming turned out to be a toad.

Now Holly Bishop is about to write a new chapter in her life. She moves to San Francisco to become an event planner—only to find she is dealing with a gorgeous fairy godmother for a boss and corporate witches wicked enough to sabotage her future. Not to mention the egomaniacal frogs Holly finds lurking at the bottom of the dating pool. With no one to save her, will Holly slay the dragons herself and stand on her own for the very first time? Will the man behind the mask at her costume ball make her believe in love again? And will she risk giving up her dreams to become the heroine of her own story?

Order It
» Kindle edition from Amazon.com

» Amazon.co.uk

Print editions:
» IndieBound
» Amazon.com
» Barnes+Noble

 

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Also, see what fellow authors have to say.

» "Witty and fun."

~ The San Francisco Chronicle

» "One part Cinderella, two parts Working Girl, and completely enjoyable, The Frog Prince by Jane Porter is a great summer read and the perfect girlfriend gift...

"The Frog Prince isn't as much about gaining the love of a man as it is about regaining self-confidence. It's easy to empathize with Holly as she deals with broken dreams and nagging worries. And I for one had complete sympathy with her complex relationship with her mother, combining love, respect, resentment, frustration and embarrassment all at once. You can't help but root for Holly as she learns that in some fairy tales, the heroines do the rescuing."

~ Linnea Dodson, a contributing reviewer at OnceWritten.com
~ Read the entire review
(posted September 2005)

» "The Frog Prince: Written in the first person, it is snappy, humorous, and simply delightful. Ms. Porter has written a book that every woman will be able to identify with and say to herself as she is reading it "Oh yeah, that's for sure!" You can't help but root for Holly as she grows from being sad and lonely to becoming confident and happy with herself. After finishing The Frog Prince, you'll definitely be looking forward to more new books from this superb writer."

~ Brooke Wills, Romance Junkies Reviewer awarding The Frog Prince 5 BLUE RIBBONS (out of a possible 5 Blue Ribbon rating) ~ Read the entire review
(posted July 2005)

» "...Porter introduces us to Holly just as she's arrived in San Francisco and gotten a new job and apartment. She's utterly sunk in depression, disinclined to do more than slog back and forth between work and the ice cream in her freezer at home. Her co-workers gradually heckle her into some semblance of a social life, and she eventually starts to recover. Halfheartedly. She's way too afraid of getting hurt again to have any serious interest in a new romance....It takes a few crises at work and plenty of soul-searching, but Holly figures out that one Frog Prince in her past and a goody-goody mother may just make her the princess she's always wanted to be: the warrior version modeled after Xena, not Snow White."

~ Lynn Coddingtion, Books / Times Book Club Reviewer
Read the entire review
(posted June 2005)

» “Most girls are reared on fairy tales...

We never had to consider what Snow White would have done if her Prince turned to her and said, "Look, Snow, I'm just not that into you...”

"The character of Holly Bishop is endearing and delightful, and The Frog Prince is a must for fans of Bridget Jones or Marian Keyes's books. Fun and breezy, real and relatable, the reader roots for Holly every step of the way. And, in a twist from the commonplace Chick Lit, the message is for every woman, not to wait for some outdated fairy tale, but to rescue oneself."

~ Bronwyn Miller, www.bookreporter.com Reviewer
Read the entire review
(posted June 2005)

» The focus is on the heroine and her struggles to reconcile her past and her future. Holly’s transformation was a smooth progression and this reader felt like applauding by the end of it."

~ Susan, Love Romances Reviewer
Read the entire review
(posted June 2005)

» "Filled with vibrant, interesting characters, the world of The Frog Prince leaps off the page and keeps readers enthralled..."

"Far from being preachy, The Frog Prince is just as comforting and enjoyable as the fairy tale the title makes it sound like. It's the perfect beach read or a nice book to curl up with in bed. I couldn't put it down; I read it in a day! I hope you like it as much as I did!"

~ Kristin Harmel, The Daily Buzz Reviewer
Read the entire review
(posted June 2005)

 

» "Porter, a Seattle author, has a great ear for dialogue. She offers a fresh twist on the "broken heart and personal renaissance" theme of so many chick-lit novels. A former Harlequin romance writer, Porter nonetheless resists many of the genre clichés. At the novel's end, the man Holly is seeing may or may not be Mr. Right, but Holly is putting her life together on her own terms."

~ Melinda Bargreen, The Seattle Times Reviewer
Read the entire review
(posted June 2005)

» "I love everything about The Frog Prince. It is a light, breezy read that never bogs you down with details, yet keeps you fully entranced to every page. Holly’s struggles will remind you of your own experiences. I think we all can relate to Mr. Perfect turning out to be a serious dud!”

~ Tracy Farnsworth, www.roundtablereviews.com Reviewer
Read the entire review
(posted June 2005)

» "With a smart and snappy style Ms Porter takes the reader along on Holly’s journey toward self-discovery, confidence and independence as she makes a new life for herself in San Francisco. You will laugh and cry as you journey with Holly toward self discovery and you just may learn a few things about yourself along the way. Ms Porter has penned a clever tale that’s not to be missed.

With her sparkling, loveable characters and witty storytelling Ms Porter promises to be a bright new voice in the world of chick lit. Hopefully more tales as witty and entertaining as The Frog Prince are soon to follow.”

~ Barbara, A Romance Reviewer
Read the entire review
(posted May 2005)

 

» "The book is subtle, sweet, sometimes sad, and sometimes funny- but always true to life. Porter did an awesome job at capturing the true angst of a newly-divorced woman trying to pick up the pieces of her life. The writing in this book flows seamlessly from one scene to the next, and Holly is such an interesting, slightly flawed yet likeable character that one will feel they are there, experiencing the things she does.

I couldn't find one thing about this book I didn't like. Even when Holly was at her lowest point, she didn't act like a wet dishrag or doormat – and that, in my opinion, is highly commendable in chick lit. I simply cannot recommend The Frog Prince highly enough – other than to say “Get out and get yourself a copy already!”

~ Rian Montgomery, www.chicklitbooks.com Reviewer
Read the entire review
(posted May 2005)

» "Jane Porter's witty and touching novel, The Frog Prince, takes you along on Holly's journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment. The Frog Prince is a winner! It will make you stand up and cheer for the rejected princess as she battles the emotional demons holding her down. Not your typical, shallow chick-lit story of vanity and designer shoes, The Frog Prince is a deep, complex story interwoven with the sticky, tangled strands of a mother-daughter relationship that is sure to capture your heart and soul."

~ Anne Lum, Writers Unlimited Reviewer
(posted May 2005)

» "There's real heart to this book. Porter admirably pulls off Holly's transformation from forlorn divorcee to strong, resilient woman.... Porter's offering is enjoyable reading for those who wonder what comes after the happily ever after."

~ Romantic Times BOOKclub
(posted May 2005)

» "Holly Bishop is still reeling from the beating life has given her. She's only twenty-five and her short marriage is over. She moves to San Francisco, where she knows no one, and takes a job as an event planner. Her boss, Olivia, is model-thin and confident, and everything Holly is not, and Olivia becomes so concerned about Holly's despondency and lack of a social life that she takes her under her wing. Slowly Holly rejoins the land of the living. She dates an ogre or two and still makes depressing late-night calls to her ex, but she is getting out there. Then her big event looms, and in spite of all her hard work, no one shows up. Aghast, Holly realizes she's been sabotaged. Will this be the end of her job and any progress she's made in her self-esteem? Porter's tale is entertaining and witty as she tugs on the heartstrings in a big way, and readers can't help but cheer Holly on."

~ Maria Hatton,
Booklist
(posted April 2005)

» "Holly Bishop is experiencing her very worst happily ever after. ...divorced after only 10 months of marriage,... she's starting over... Putting her past firmly behind her is proving impossible, though, and matters are not helped by having a gorgeous boss, Olivia, who's determined to put Holly back in the dating scene again. A series of frog princes follows as Holly attempts to take charge of her own life. Somewhere in the middle of surviving after marriage life, Holly begins to reinvent herself while discovering that she is an interesting person who can create her own future.     
 
Jane Porter has a fresh and lively writing style that is a pleasure to read. This book reveals the story of a real woman in today's world with humor and truth. It is most definitely the reader who gets the happily-ever-after with Ms. Porter's writing! She's a rising star, so make note of this author."

~ Mary Neal,
www.freshfiction.com
Read the entire review
(posted April 2005)

» "As a debut star on the horizon of the chick-lit genre, Jane Porter has made a stunning entrance with The Frog Prince and her light is shining far and wide. The Frog Prince will melt your heart as you accompany Holly Bishop on her journey through loss, pain and various other complexities of life to find the path of joy and acceptance once more. Gripping emotion, vivid descriptions and a beautiful character who wraps herself around your heart from the first page, The Frog Prince is a story that will stay with you for a long long time."

~ Leena Hyat, Senior Editor, www.thebestreviews.com
Read the entire review
(posted February 2005)

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Jane's newsletter announces all new releases. It's spam-free! Find out about Jane's privacy promise. And read one of Jane's newsletters online to see what you'll get. Stay informed!

» The Frog Prince is racking up some fun foreign sales with deals to Portugal, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, and Latvia. (posted December 3, 2007)

» The Frog Prince is now in its 4th reprinting and is being made into a true 5 Spot novel with a fun new bio, note from Jane and more.  Look for the new Frog Prince editions in your bookstore soon! (posted December 3, 2007)

» HOT ON THE PRESSES! The Frog Prince has gone back for second and third printings since the book was released May 18th. (posted August 16, 2005)

» THAT WAS QUICK! The Frog Prince, on shelves barely two months, sells Czech language rights. Cool! Janeporter.com will post the cover as soon as we have it (should take considerably longer than two months). (posted July 14, 2005)

» ATTENTION COSTCO SHOPPERS: The Frog Prince is now available at Costco warehouse stores. The book was featured (along with a photo of Jane and a cover image) in the July issue of The Costco Connection. (posted July 5, 2005)

» Jane gets interviewed by The Bellington Herald about her inspiration and The Frog Prince. Read the interview online to see why how "she discovers inspiration in nearly all she reads." (posted June 30, 2005)

» The Frog Prince got a favorable mention in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle (June 12, 2005) in Sifting Through Chick Lit. Jane is mentioned alongside Melissa Bank (of "Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing" fame). Read the article in The San Fransisco Chronicle online at sfgate.com. (posted June 14, 2005)

» The Frog Prince is Chick Lit pick of the month for The Daily Buzz t.v. show. (posted June 14, 2005)

» GREAT NEWS! The Frog Prince made a great appearance on Bookscan's Top 100 for the week ending May 29th! (posted June 3, 2005)

» The Frog Prince and Jane get A Closer Look in depth on writerspace. Lots of info! (posted June 3, 2005)

» Check out a new article about Jane and The Frog Prince in the June 2005 issue of Romantic Times BOOKclub. (posted May 17, 2005)

 

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» "This book is a gem. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's painfully funny. But Jane Porter has created the most real and three-dimensional chick-lit heroine I've ever read. And she wrote a book that stayed with me for weeks. Don't miss it."

~ Julia Quinn, New York Times bestselling author in her website's "JQ Recommends" feature. ~ Read the entire review
(posted June 2005)

» "A sweet, funny, 'this-could-be-me' book. Porter's Prince is absolutely charming. I really, really enjoyed it."

~ Liz Maverick, author of chick lit hits What a Girl Wants and Adventures of an Ice Princess.
(posted May 2005)

» "Jane, Gotta hand it to ya. The book was so good.  It was so real life. I couldn't put it down.

~ Jamette Windham, reader
(posted February 2005)

» "A painfully funny, utterly true story for every woman who has ever wondered what happens after the fairy tale ends. I absolutely loved this book!"

~ Susan Wiggs, USA Today bestselling author
(posted February 2005)

» "Witty, Smart, Sophisticated. A must read for women entering the dating game and reinventing themselves. I loved this book!"

~New York Times bestselling
author Christine Feehan
(posted 2.14.05)

» "Charming, touching and poignant, The Frog Prince is unputdownable. Brava, Jane Porter!"

~ Michelle Cunnah, author of Call Waiting, and 32AA
(posted February 2005)

» "I can't begin to tell you how wonderful Frog Prince is, how much I enjoyed it.... it was like therapy for me. My eyes are red and swollen. This has touched me beyond belief. With exception of divorce, the rest of the book is my life...... this is me, my feelings, thoughts, everything bottled up inside me, laying dormant... waiting to surface. "I don't want to miss out on anything. And I'm struggling with the dreams, all those dreams I still have and can't let go of". The mother/daughter story. I've lived it and then some. Have you? The divorce thing, pissed me off and I wanted to get even. Just wanted to let you know how wonderful I thought the book was."

~ Marilyn Shoemaker, reader
(posted February 2005)

» "WOW... I just finished reading your book, and you made me cry (which isn't easy!) I love what you did with Holly and her Mom's relationship, it was great!"

~ Sam Nuxoll, reader
(posted February 2005)



Turkish Edition

 

 

 

The Frog Prince was a hit among Readers Groups. Bring Jane to your group!

Read some sample questions from The Frog Prince.

And this from a readers group in Texas:

» "Dear Jane,

What a hoot! We are the Bonham Romance Readers Book Club. (BRBC) We are located in Bonham, TX What a great time we had with the "Help Yourself Signing" for your book "The Frog Prince."


Bonham Romance Readers Book Club,
The Frog Prince, June 2005

Our members dressed in their princess garb entered into the plush haram lounge in Bonham, Texas. The evening was set and the princesses where settled into a variety of plush seating areas.

The Jungle Princess, Hawaiian Princess, Renaissance Princess, Fairy Princess, Modern Princess, and Nancy Princess Our drawing for the Princess gift bag went to Kay Sisk, our Jungle Princess.

The Frog Prince will be our June read and we will discuss and go through the readers guide questionaire. Looking forward to everyones input.

Thanks for taking the time to include your readers. This is what reading and being apart of an elite group is all about.

Sincerely,

~ Lisa Williams - President, BRBC "The Modern Princess"
(posted June 2005)


 

 

 

 

» A Reader's Guide is now available. It contains two pages worth of questions to choose from and is in PDF form. Here are some sample questions:

Spoiler Alert: Looking at the Readers Guide may give away key plot points.

On Divorce:
··· Holly is devastated over the failure of her 'storybook marriage'.  In what way has her upbringing shaped her outlook on what a good, happy marriage is supposed to be?

On New Beginnings:
··· Have you ever had to begin again? Start Over? Change jobs? Move to a new city? Make new friends? What was the hardest part and how did you handle it? What is your opinion on how Holly chooses to handle it?

On Relationships:
··· At the coffee shop, Holly meets a “hunk”. Have you ever felt sexual attraction “immediately” on meeting someone? Was that due to physical appearance or personality? What is your opinion on the idea of falling in love at first sight?

On Mother/Daughter Relationships:
··· How does the relationship between Holly and her mother change in the end? Or will it really change?

On Women & Self Image:
··· How realistic are Holly's attitudes on life in terms of modern women today? Does she seem like a real, living breathing person to you, why or why not? How do you relate to Holly? 

On Setting:
··· How does Holly’s depiction of growing up in a small town affect you? Are her memories of Visalia realistic or sentimental? Why are childhood memories often bittersweet?



» Share this Reader's Guide with your book group!

 

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Jane Talks: How much of me is in my books?

» Like Holly Bishop, my main character in The Frog Prince, I grew up in Central California. Unlike Holly, mine was — as I mention in my bio — a wonderful, idyllic childhood and I look back on my early years with fondness. Many of my Cental California memories made their way into  The Frog Prince. I invite you to browse a few of these memories.

See how much of Jane is in other books.

 

Fun Books Extras from The Frog Prince

» Launch Party » Recipes » Book Setting » Cartoons/drawings

» THE LAUNCH PARTY in SF » Jane's launch party for The Frog Prince at La Barca in San Francisco was such a hit San Francisco's mayor showed up (below right)! Read all about it and see more photos from the party!

» THE LAUNCH PARTY in Bellevue » Jane's launch party in Bellevue was a blast. Check out photos from the party!

» RECIPES FROM THE BOOK » Check out these tasty cocktail recipes from The Frog Prince and find out how to make them on your own. The lemon drop originated in San Francisco.

Lemon Drop

INGREDIENTS:
» 1 1/2 oz. Vodka
» 1/2 oz Triple Sec
» 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
» 1 tsp superfine sugar
» Ice cubes, superfine sugar for dipping, twisted peel of lemon

PREPARATION:
Mix the vodka, Triple Sec, sugar, andlemon juice in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice; shake well (supposedly the cocktail is to be shaken 40 times to make sure the sugar is well blended). Pour strained liquor into sugar -rimmed martini glass and garnish with a twisted peel of lemon.

 

» THE BOOK SETTING » The book is set mostly in San Francisco, but the main character is from Central California.

Visit Jane and The Frog Prince in Central California, where both Jane and her character Holly grew up.

The Frog Prince is set in San Francisco, one of Jane's favorite places on earth. Visit San Francisco with Jane and The Frog Prince and find out about some great places mentioned in the book. Have fun!


» KISSING FROGS » Jane at Storybook Land in Roeding Park in Fresno (above). Holly, the main character from The Frog Prince, used to live in Fresno.

» FROG PRINCES » Below are drawings by Jane's 6-year-old son, Ty Gaskins. The drawing on the left is his version of The Frog Prince.

» Here's a frog prince cartoon:

"Do you really expect me to believe you're a prince"?

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Here comes the bride, all dressed in white. There goes the groom, running from the room...

And there's my single mom, spending the next twenty years paying for a lavish wedding that didn't even last a year.

Frick.

What happens now? What happens when you've had the fairytale?

When you've done the big wedding? The dream honeymoon? What happens after the fantasy's over?

You file for divorce. Di-vorce. Such a big concept for what amounts to a little word.

I still can't quite say it, can't feel anything when I think it, can't imagine that we're now talking about me.

But I was the one in the wedding gown, and then I was the one talking to a lawyer, and I was the one who had to ask my brother and my girlfriends and their boyfriends to help me pack so the movers could move me.

I've recently changed cities. Jobs. Lives. I'm starting all over again. But of course it's not the same. It'll never be the same. Because I've done it. I've been married and divorced and I'm not even twenty-six.

Long and short of it? He was perfect. I was raised in the country; he was French, together that made us French Country. Perfect. The house was perfect, the car, a smoky gray Citron, was perfect, the clothes and restaurant and champagne…perfect, perfect, perfect! He even respected me.

Not perfect.

Hindsight's amazing. I can see now there were problems in our relationship, huge problems, like trust, respect, and sexual compatibility. I should have known Jean-Marc wasn't attracted to me. I should have known he was avoiding physical intimacy. But I didn't. I blamed it on the wedding, new financial commitments, the stress of me moving into his house.

Maybe if I'd dated more…

Maybe if I'd had more realistic expectations…

Maybe if I hadn't read fairy tales and then later all those romances I bought at the used bookstore…

But back to reality, and I've got more than enough to deal with in reality, what with my new job, in my new apartment, in my new city, with my new boss who doesn't seem to approve of anything I do.

In fact, right now, my new boss Olivia Dempsey is standing next to my desk at City Events here in San Francisco and she isn't happy. She's currently conveying her unhappiness in a very loud, crisp voice.

"I thought we talked about this," Olivia says, fashionably slim, toned arms crossed. "You have to take charge of your life, Holly. You're dying on the vine, girl."

I don't look up as I don't want to hear this, at least not again, not so soon this week. Didn't I just get the need-to-get-out-more pep talk on Monday?

"You were crying in the bathroom again, weren't you?"

I open my mouth to deny it but she holds up a finger, and wags it in front of my face. "Oh no, no lying. No denying. And you weren't just crying, you were sobbing."

"I wasn't sobbing." I shoot her a disgusted look, because even the word sobbing is irritating, but I know my eyes are red.

Olivia leans down, puts her face in mine. "Sara heard you." Sara being another member of Olivia's team.

I'm beginning to think I'm not ever going to warm up to Sara. She tries too hard to get Olivia to like her.

"I'm over it," I say, forcing a toothy grin and feeling absurdly like the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. "See?"

"Hmmph." Is all Olivia gives me, but Olivia has no idea how hard all this is for me. No one knows how hard this has been.

There are days I still don't know how I manage to climb from bed and stagger into the shower, days where I still cry as I make coffee and try to apply mascara and eye liner between mopping up tears. It's just that I'd barely gotten used to the idea of being a bride and now I'm a…divorcee…?

 "You need to start getting out," Olivia adds firmly, her tone no-nonsense. "It's time for you to be pro-active, not reactive."

Of course she'd think like this. She grew up immersed in the world of professional sports and everything to Olivia is about offense and defense. If Olivia were an athlete, she'd be a quarterback and a pitcher rolled up into one.

"I'm getting out," I say, shifting uneasily, knowing that Olivia's voice carries and I'm not particularly eager to have the rest of the staff hear my shortcomings. Again. "I'm here, aren't I?"

It was supposed to be a joke but she doesn't laugh. "This is work, Holly."

"Exactly."

Olivia rolls her eyes. She's beautiful. Even when she rolls her eyes she looks sleek. Sexy. With the ultimate in DNA—Olivia's mother is a former model, the blonde glossy type that graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, while her father dominated the Oakland Raider's offense, a star wide receiver still talked about in hushed voices twenty years later--Olivia's perfection. She modeled for two years in Paris but hated it, apparently modeling wasn't challenging, as it did nothing for her mind.

"This is no social life," she says, leaning against the edge of my desk, her long legs even longer in snug low- waisted trousers, her black cashmere turtleneck sweater cropped short enough to reveal two inches of flat, tone midriff.

I feel like a slice of Wonder bread. "I don't need one."

Her gray-green eyes narrow, squint. She looks at me hard, the same up and down sweep she gives decorated ballrooms before handing responsibility over to an underling. "You need something bad, girl."

Yes. I need my bed with my duvet pulled up over my head, but it's only Wednesday and I have two more days before I get to dive back between my covers and stay there for the rest of the weekend. "Am I not performing?" I ask, trying to shift the focus from personal back to professional. Olivia was the one that hired me three months ago. She'd be the one that'd fire me.

Another narrowed gaze inspection. "You've lost your…edge."

Edge? I don't remember having an edge. I was desperate when I interviewed for the job, but there never really was an edge. I mentally add ‘Get Edge' to my increasingly lengthy to-do list.

"You need attitude," she continues. "Presence."

I say nothing because quite frankly, I do have an attitude and I suspect it's not the one she wants.

"What do you do when you go home, Holly?" Olivia's fine arched brows beetle. "Sit down in front of the t.v—"

"No—"

"Eat your way through a bag of chips? A carton of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey?"

"I don't even like Chunky Monkey."

Olivia is gaining momentum. Her purple black polished nails tap-tap the laminate on my desk. Her stellar eyebrows flatten. "You're getting fat."

The word fat hangs there a moment between us, pointed, sharp. Ugly. This is a full-scale assault.

For a moment nothing comes to mind and I inhale hard, topple forward in my chair, feet clattering to stop my fall.

I check to see if anyone else has heard. This is about as low as anyone could go. She knows it. I know it. "I'm not fat."

Surreptitiously I glance down at my lap, honing in on my thighs. They do look rather big, but that's because I'm wearing speckled wool pants, and the fuzzy spotted texture isn't exactly slimming. "My clothes fit fine."

Olivia shrugs. Says nothing.

I feel all hot on the inside, hot and prickly and a little bit queasy. I move my right thigh, check the shape. It does look rather spread out on the chair. "I need to work out," I add, awkwardly. "I haven't joined a gym since moving here."

She shrugs again and I look up, see my lunch still sitting on my desk. A half-eaten burrito, guacamole and sour cream oozing, obscuring the chicken and black beans. I can picture my leg naked. Or what it must look like naked if I ever looked at myself in a full-length mirror anymore because I avoid mirrors, especially full-length mirrors. I haven't taken a look at myself naked in oh…three months…ever since I moved to San Francisco and realized I couldn't bear to look me in the eye, couldn't bear to see what I—once so pathetically hopeful—had become.

But beyond the burrito and the mirror, it's not all bad. I still drink diet-coke. I've always drunk diet-coke. There are limits to indulgence and I know mine.

"The point is," Olivia says more delicately, "You go straight home after work. You sit on your couch. Veg in front of the t.v. That's no life, and you know it."

For a moment I say nothing, because I'm not even thinking about my new apartment in San Francisco, but the house I'd left in Fresno where until recently I'd been a spanking new wife.

The house in Old Fig Garden was originally Jean-Marc's house, a 1950's ranch that looked cozy and cottagey with a split rail fence and hardy yellow summer roses. After we married I couldn't wait to make the house mine, too, and I loved personalizing it, adding festive, feminine touches like the new cherry sprigged dishtowels from bridal shower one hanging on towel bars in kitchen, or the sparkly crystal vase with zinnias and yellow roses displayed on Jean-Marc's dining table. We had new 300 thread count sheets on the king bed and fluffy white and blue towels in the bathroom and it was like a dollhouse. Charming. Warm. Storybook.

Turns out I wasn't the storybook wife.

"Holly."

Olivia's impatience cuts and I look up quickly, so quickly I have to bite my lip to keep the rush of emotion away.

"You moved here to start fresh." Olivia taps her nail on my desk. "So do it."

Olivia's right. I'm lonely as hell, but I've hit the place where its not just a little lonely but really lonely. The lonely where you slide below the radar screen, lonely where you've become pathetic, lonely where it's better to just stay inside, hidden from civilization.

I don't belong in civilization. I'm a misfit. A blight.

Well, maybe not a blight. But I definitely feel like a pimple on a chin. As you know, not a good way to feel.

Cautiously I shift my left leg, checking to see if the left thigh spreads as much as the right. It does. I suppress the rising panic. I'm in trouble, aren't I?

I look up, meet Olivia's eyes. "I am a little…big…ger."

The light of battle shines in Olivia's eyes. "It's not the end of the world. Yet." She sounds crisp now, decisive, as if we've settled on a plan, and she leans forward, urgency in her voice. "The key is to get a grip. Face whatever it is you're avoiding." She pauses, considers me. "Are you still in love with him?"

Him? Him, who? And then I realize she's talking about Jean-Marc. "Y--no. No," I repeat more forcibly because I'm not. How could I still be in love with a man that essentially rejected me on our honeymoon?

But Olivia isn't convinced. "Do you need professional help? There's no shame—"

"No." God, this is so humiliating. Olivia could be my mother. My mother would handle a conversation this way. "I'm fine. I'm…better. Getting better." And bigger, according to Olivia. I squeeze out a smile. "But you're right. I need to take charge. Join a gym. Take better care of myself."

"What else?"

What else? I thought that was really good stuff.

Olivia rises, and her stomach goes concave making her trousers hit even lower on her magnificent hipbones. "You need friends."

"I have friends."

"Where?" I open my mouth but she holds up a slender honey cocoa finger. "Don't say here. Work isn't your social circle. If you got fired—"

"Am I getting fired?" Olivia doesn't own the company, but as a director, she's high up in management, knows everything, has a say in everything. It doesn't hurt that Olivia has that enviable trait called star quality. People want to be around Olivia. Customers flock to City Events to work with Olivia. Olivia makes things happen.

"No." Olivia glances at my half-eaten burrito in the foil wrapper, the crumpled napkin on my desk, the diet-coke with the smudge of lipstick on the rim and the files spread open in front of me. "You work hard, you're conscientious, detail-oriented."

But?

"But what happens here, at your desk, is only part of the job," she adds. "We're all responsible for bringing in new accounts, for promoting City Events, and one of the best ways to sell City Events is by selling you." And she smiles, a dazzling smile of lovely straight white teeth—her own, not veneers. "But you know that, Holly, and that's why I hired you."

I like her, I really do, and yet right now I'm wanting to crawl under my desk now and stay there forever.

More pathetic internal monologue: if Jean-Marc had loved me I wouldn't be here now, in San Francisco, in a strange cold apartment, at a strange confusing job trying to figure out where I got it wrong, how I failed in love, why I'm the first of my friends to marry, as well as the first to divorce.

Rationally, I know Olivia is trying to help me. It's her job to give me feedback and direction, but honestly, her cool crisp analysis cuts, wounding my already bruised (shattered?) self-esteem. I know we're not supposed to rely on others for our self-worth. I know we're supposed to look inside for validation but how are you supposed to like yourself, much less love yourself, when the person you trust most asks you to just go away?

"Two words," Olivia says, holding up two fingers and looking down her long elegant nose at me.

"Zone Diet?"

"Image. Success."

I can feel my thighs sprawl on the chair, the weight of my limp ponytail on my neck. How can it only be Wednesday? I need Friday. I really need Friday.

"You've got to take charge, Holly. I know you said in the interview you've just been through a rough patch—divorce, you said—but it's time to return to the land of the living. Get back in the ring. Make something happen."

"Right." And she is right. More or less.

"We're going out for drinks after work. Join us. You already know some of my friends, and you'll meet some new faces. It'll be good for you."

"Right." Her friends are gorgeous. And manically extroverted. A thought comes to me. "But cocktails have calories."

"A lot less than a pint of Ben & Jerry's."

Enough said.

Olivia walks away. I stare at my desk.

So that's where we are. I'm Holly Bishop, living the suddenly single girl life in San Francisco, which is also the Turtleneck Capital of the US. Everyone here wears turtlenecks, lots and lots of black and gray turtlenecks with the inevitable leather coat, barn coat, barn leather coat. It might be the City by the Bay, but it's also the City of Cold Hands, Neck and Feet.

Despite the need for sweaters even in July, I'm told that San Francisco is a great city to live in. You don't have to drive to get around, there's decent public transportation but I don't know anyone that actually takes the public transportation. We drive on the West Coast.

And drive.

And drive.

We also pay huge sums to park. We pay for parking at work. We pay for parking at home. We pay for parking each time we head out to shop or see a flick or do anything remotely fun. (This is new to me. I was raised in a small town where you got angle parking on Main Street.)

But I'm not in Kansas anymore, or in California's Central Valley, for that matter. I live in Cow Hollow, a great neighborhood not far from San Francisco's Marina district, and work South of Market, which used to be cagey but now is cool at City Events, which as you can tell, is far hipper than I am.

Olivia hired me because I had the good sense to talk sports during the interview (thank God for a sport loving brother) and I pretended my limited PR skills in Fresno translated into something bigger than it did. And Olivia, showing rare sensitivity during the second interview, didn't call me on the fact that a Fresno Golf Tournament isn't exactly on the same swish scale as SF's annual Leather & Lace Fundraiser Ball, and hired me despite my profound lack of interesting experience.

For three months she's let me work at my own pace but clearly she's ready for change. She wants something more from me. And she's not the only one. I'd love more, too.

But what?

And how?

I eye my cold burrito in the creased foil wrapper. I should throw the rest of my burrito. Get started on my new life plan now. But I don't have a new life plan yet. I don't know what to do…

Correction. I don't know what to feel.

This is the part I can't talk about, because it's been so long since I felt anything, much less anything good, that I just don't know what's normal anymore. But I am trying.

I left Fresno, a huge step for me since I knew next to no one in SF, but I did it. I found an apartment on my own. Searched the want ads and applied for jobs. I interviewed, even though most of the time I had no idea where I was going—and once I was hired by City Events I put on my happy face and went to work. Every day. On time.

Despite the fact there's this ridiculously massive hole in my heart.

And people who say there's no such thing as a broken heart, or pontificate on the physiological impossibility of a heart actually breaking, these people don't know hurt. Because the day Jean-Marc finally said I-don't-love-you, and I-will-never-love-you-that-way, my heart just stopped.

It stopped. It stopped because everything inside me was squeezing so hard and tight and kept squeezing until there was nothing left of me, at least not in the middle of my chest where my heart used to be.

So here I am in San Francisco trying to start over, as well as figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

And that's where it gets murky because honestly, what am I supposed to do with the rest of my life? I'm a disappointment to my mother (I hate that she'll be paying for my wedding forever). I've lost my new in-laws, although they do live in France and only met me once. And even my oldest friends have gone strangely silent.

So what do I do now?

I eat what's left of my cold burrito.

Five thirty arrives and Olivia appears at my desk with her coat and purse slung over her shoulder. I save the document I'm typing up and look at her.

"Ready?" she says and I'm momentarily perplexed.

Ready? Ready for what?

"The others are waiting at reception." Olivia taps her watch. "Drinks. Remember?"

No. I've obviously forgotten and I open my mouth to beg off but Olivia shakes her head. "I'm not letting you out of this. The city will never feel like home if you don't give it a chance."

She does have a point and I could use a new home. I can't remember the last time I really felt like I belonged somewhere. "Give me just a second," I say, pushing away from my desk and heading for the ladies room where I do a painful inspection.

Pale. Lumpy. Frumpy. My God I look tired.

I rummage in my purse, search for something to help revive the face, and find an old lipstick, a brownish shade that does nothing for me and apply some anyway. Hmmm. Brown lipstick, a black turtleneck, lavender circles beneath the eyes. Not exactly a come-hither look.

Maybe some hair would help so I lift my limp brown ponytail, pull on the elastic, freeing hair which becomes limp brown hair with a slight kink in it from the hair elastic. I fluff the hair. Comb the fingers through it. The ends stick out. Doris Day crossed with Chubbakah.

Irritably I pull the hair back into a ponytail again before wiping off the brown lipstick. Just get the hell out of here, I think, particularly as I don't even know why I'm doing this. I'm not in the same league with Olivia. Olivia's friends are all city girls. Sophisticated, urban, glam. I'm one step removed from country, and it shows. I wasn't raised on a farm but I know my farm smells. They call the 99 Highway the scratch-and-sniff drive because it's all sulfur, dairy and manure. But the 99 leads home. Or to what used to be home.

Olivia's waiting at the front door with Sara and a couple of other girls who work in various City Events departments. "You look great," Sara says with a big smile.

We both know she's lying, but that's how we women are. Practical and impractical. Helpful and cruel.

We leave our loft office, take the elevator down, exit the building and Olivia's cell phone rings before we've even crossed the street.

"The Barrio," she says into the phone, "and if we're not there, then try Lucille's."

The phone rings three more times during our five minute walk. She gives the same info each time. Try the Barrio, and if not the Barrio, then Lucille's. Olivia always makes the decisions, but then, she is the Queen and everyone wants to know the Queen and they want to keep the Queen happy.

We reach The Barrio. "How many people are coming?" I ask, as the club's salsa vibe pulses out the windows and the Laffy Taffy purple front door.

"Five. Ten. Fifteen." Olivia shrugs. "Who knows?"

And twenty minutes later I wish again I'd just gone home. I feel huge. Plain. Horrendously fuddy duddy. The salsa music is hot, sultry, sexy and Olivia and her circle feel it, slim shoulders shaking, amazing tone bodies in the groove.

I stand at the tall red and stainless counter holding my drink feeling like a Popsicle stick. I don't really know what to do with salsa music. Or reggae. Or rap. Where I come from it's country or hard rock. Jocks and goat ropers. In Visalia I was exotic but here, I'm just white and self-conscious and uncoordinated.

Olivia laughs and I glance her way. She's sparkling and her laugh still hangs in the air. Despite the loud music, the raised voices, the speakers thumping, Olivia commands attention, and her dramatic coloring just plays off the crimson and ochre painted walls. Here at The Barrio she looks tall and thin, and as she leans back against the bar stool, even more of her stomach shows.

I hate her.

No. I hate me.

Olivia was right. I am fat. Whenever I stop tucking my shirt in that means I'm fat. And I've given up belts. Another sign of fat. The long loose skirts—fat.

Fat, fat, fat.

Rejected, dejected. I'm beginning to scare even me.

This has got to stop.

I need my old jeans back. I need the old me. The one that was fun. The one that laughed and didn't take herself so damn seriously. The one that didn't spend an entire Saturday in bed reading Oprah Winfrey's bookclub novels where every child either drowns or gets abducted which I read crying and sniffling into my pillow because while I haven't drowned or been abducted I do feel lost. Really lost and I'm not sure how to find where it is I'm supposed to go.

How pathetic does that sound? Snap out of it, Holly, I say, taking another sip from my icy salt-rimmed margarita. You're not Hansel or Gretel. Not Snow White, or Belle from Beauty and the Beast. You can't be lost. You're an adult. Twenty-five. College educated. There's a way out of this and you're going to find it.

The thing to do is keep it simple. Take it a step at a time. Maybe Olivia is right. Start a diet. Then join a gym. Then get the legs waxed, and you know, reclaim the self.

I take a bigger sip from my hand blown margarita glass thinking it wasn't so long ago that I had a decent body. Eighteen months ago I was that wide-eyed bride and I'd worked hard to look magnificent for the wedding. Slim, tone, fit. Ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

The wedding photos never made it into an album. I still have the photos, though, in a big brown mailing envelope, a stack of glossy photos that will never get looked at, a stack of photos of a bride and groom laughing, smiling, photos that should have been cherished but won't be.

I wish I'd known then that it wasn't going to last. I wish I'd known what he was thinking. Feeling.

Funny, when I look at the photos now, especially the one where we're dancing, our first dance, Jean-Marc's unhappiness is so obvious. If you look at his face, you can see it there in his eyes. If you know Jean-Marc, you can see the emptiness behind the smile, the distance there. He's not actually smiling. He's already detached himself.

He's already divorcing me.

"Another drink?" Aimee, Olivia's friend, Director of Fundraising for the Met Museum, is gesturing to me and my now nearly empty glass.

I look up at her, but I don't see Aimee, I see Jean-Marc and we're on our honeymoon in the South of France. We're doing everything big, everything splash, and I'm standing in the doorway of our suite's living room, wearing a Victoria Secret's pink lace teddy and not much else (but the hair's done, lots of sexy tousled curls and flawless make up) and I'm smiling at him even as I try not to cry.

You don't like this?

It's fine.

You don't want this?

You look great.

But you don't want me.

I'm just not in the mood.

It's our honeymoon, Jean-Marc.

Holly, I can't.

Why not?

He says nothing. Why not? I shout.

Because I don't love you that way.

I drain the rest of my hand-shaken, fresh fruit juice Margarita. Tequila's good. It works. "One more," I say to Aimee, blinking hard, refusing to cry, refusing to think about the disaster honeymoon, refusing to think about the pile of sexy lingerie that never got worn, refusing to accept that I own more Rosenthal than common sense.

That way? What the hell does that way mean?

Touching my tongue to the edge of the salt-rimmed glass, I'm suddenly hugely grateful for tequila and lime juice and Mariachi bands.

California would be nothing without Mexico.

 

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