Get a Life, Chloe Brown Page 2

Gigi managed to stiffen and gracefully take a seat at the marble kitchen island simultaneously. “You weren’t hurt?”

“No. A lady crashed her car right in front of me. It was all very dramatic. I’ve been drinking tea from Styrofoam cups.”

Gigi peered at Chloe with the feline eyes that lesser mortals tended to fall into. “Would you like some Xanax, darling?”

“Oh, I couldn’t. I don’t know how it would react with my medication.”

“Of course, of course. Ah! I know. I’ll call Jeremy and tell him it’s an emergency.” Jeremy was Gigi’s therapist. Gigi didn’t strictly need therapy, but she was fond of Jeremy and believed in preventive measures.

Chloe blinked. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

“I quite disagree,” Gigi said. “Therapy is always necessary.” She pulled out her phone and made the call, sashaying to the other side of the kitchen. Her mules clicked against the tiles again as she purred, “Jeremy, darling! How are you? How is Cassandra?”

These were all perfectly ordinary noises. And yet, without warning, they triggered something catastrophic in Chloe’s head.

Gigi’s click, click, click merged with the tick, tick, tick of the vast clock on the kitchen wall. The sounds grew impossibly loud, oddly chaotic, until it seemed like a tumble of boulders had fallen inside Chloe’s head. She squeezed her eyes shut—wait, what did her eyes have to do with her hearing?—and, in the darkness she’d created, a memory arose: that crisp, blond bob swinging. The way it remained so smooth and glossy against the black leather of the gurney.

Drunk, the nice paramedic had said, sotto voce. That’s what they suspected. The lady had been drunk in the middle of the afternoon, had mounted a pavement and plowed into a building, and Chloe …

Chloe had been standing right there. Because she walked at the same time of day, so as not to interrupt her work routine. Because she always took the same route, for efficiency’s sake. Chloe had been standing right there.

She was too hot, sweating. Dizzy. Had to sit down, right now, so she wouldn’t fall and crack her head like an egg against the marble tiles. From out of nowhere she remembered her mother saying, We should change the floors. These fainting spells are getting out of hand. She’ll hurt herself.

But Chloe had insisted there was no need. She’d promised to be careful, and by God, she’d kept her promise. Slowly, slowly, she sank to the ground. Put her clammy palms against the cool tiles. Breathed in. Breathed out. Breathed in.

Breathed out, her whisper like cracking glass, “If I had died today, what would my eulogy say?”

This mind-blowing bore had zero friends, hadn’t traveled in a decade despite plenty of opportunity, liked to code on the weekends, and never did anything that wasn’t scheduled in her planner. Don’t cry for her; she’s in a better place now. Even Heaven can’t be that dull.


That’s what the eulogy would say. Perhaps someone especially cutting and awful, like Piers Morgan, would read it out on the radio.

“Chloe?” Gigi called. “Where have you—? Oh, there you are. Is everything all right?”

Lying bodily on the floor and gulping air like a dying fish, Chloe said brightly, “Fine, thank you.”

“Hmm,” Gigi murmured, slightly dubious, but not overly concerned. “Perhaps I’ll have Jeremy call us back. Jeremy, my dear, could you possibly … ?” Her voice faded as she wandered away.

Chloe rested her hot cheek against the cold tiles and tried not to add more insults to her own imaginary eulogy. If she were in a twee sort of musical—the kind her youngest sister, Eve, adored—this would be her rock-bottom moment. She’d be a few scenes away from an epiphany and an uplifting song about determination and self-belief. Perhaps she should take a leaf from those musicals’ collective book.

“Excuse me, universe,” she whispered to the kitchen floor. “When you almost murdered me today—which was rather brutal, by the way, but I can respect that—were you trying to tell me something?”

The universe, very enigmatically, did not respond.

Someone else, unfortunately, did.

“Chloe!” her mother all but shrieked from the doorway. “What are you doing on the floor?! Are you ill? Garnet, get off the phone and get over here! Your granddaughter is unwell!”

Oh dear. Her moment of communion with the universe rudely interrupted, Chloe hauled herself into a sitting position. Strangely, she was now feeling much better. Perhaps because she had recognized and accepted the universe’s message.

It was time, clearly, to get a life.

“No, no, my darling, don’t move.” Joy Matalon-Brown’s fine-boned face was tight with panic as she issued the nervous order, her tawny skin pale. It was a familiar sight. Chloe’s mother ran a successful law firm with her twin sister, Mary, lived her life with almost as much logic and care as Chloe, and had spent years learning her daughter’s symptoms and coping mechanisms. Yet she was still thrust into full-blown panic by the slightest hint of sickness or discomfort. It was, quite frankly, exhausting.

“Don’t fuss over her, Joy, you know she can’t stand it.”

“So I should ignore the fact that she was lying on the floor like a corpse?!”


As her mother and grandmother bickered over her head, Chloe decided the first universe-mandated change in her life would be her living quarters.

The mammoth family home was suddenly feeling rather snug.


Two Months Later

Oh, you are a gem, Red.”

Redford Morgan attempted a cheerful grin, which wasn’t easy when he was elbow deep in an octogenarian’s toilet bowl. “Just doing my job, Mrs. Conrad.”

“You’re the best superintendent we’ve ever had,” she cooed from the bathroom doorway, clasping one wrinkled hand to her bony chest. Her shock of white hair fairly quivered with emotion. Bit of a drama queen, she was, bless her.

“Thanks, Mrs. C,” he said easily. “You’re a doll.” Now, if you’d just stop shoving bollocks down your loo, we’d be best mates. This was the third time in a month he’d been called to flat 3E for plumbing issues, and frankly, he was getting tired of Mrs. Conrad’s shit. Or rather, of her grandsons’.

Red’s rubber-gloved hand finally emerged from the toilet’s depths, clutching a soaking-wet clump of paper towel. He unwrapped the little parcel to reveal … “This your vegetable casserole, Mrs. C?”

She blinked owlishly at him, then squinted. “Well, I’m sure I’ve no idea. Where are my spectacles?” She turned as if to hunt them down.

“No, don’t bother,” he sighed. He knew full well it was vegetable casserole, just like it had been last time, and the time before that. As he disposed of the clump and peeled off his gloves, he said gently, “You need to have a word with those lads of yours. They’re flushing their dinner.”

“What?” she gasped, clearly affronted. “Noooo. No, no, no. Not my Felix and Joseph. They never would! They aren’t wasteful boys, and they love my dinners.”

“I bet they do,” he said slowly, “but … well, Mrs. C, every time I come over here, I find a little parcel of broccoli and mushrooms clogging your pipes.”

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