Back in the Burbs by Tracy Wolff



Chapter One


            How is my day going? Well, I’m thirty-five years old and hiding from my parents in the bathroom at the swanky offices of Lagget, Lagget, & Lagget, Attorneys at Law. So super, obviously.

            Sure, it’s a classy bathroom, with the wood stall doors that run all the way from the floor to the ceiling and the continual scent of jasmine in the air, but eventually Mom or Dad will find me. And shake their heads before insisting I go out there.

            I sigh and flush the unused toilet. So many metaphors for my own life come to mind as I watch the water spin around and around before going down the drain, but I’m not feeling especially witty today. Mainly because the out there I have to face is the stuffy office of Thaddeus P. Lagget IV—where my aunt Maggie’s will is about to be read.

            I pull the heavy stall door open and start to pat myself on the back for at least leaving the cubicle. No, I should probably reserve congratulations for after I work up the courage to leave the bathroom entirely.

            I sigh again. Ballsy, loud, and always in charge of her destiny, Maggie O’Malley would have never holed up in a fancy bathroom when there was business to be done. She would have blazed in there, rolled her eyes at the snarky comment my dad would inevitably say about the pink tips at the ends of her bone-white hair, and enjoyed the roller coaster of whatever came next.

            Then she would have laughed, a great booming sound that could be heard halfway across Penn Station and probably out in the parking lot. It’s been four weeks since she passed, and I still wake up every day missing that woman. But she wouldn’t want me to dwell. In fact, she’d be angry if she knew I wasted one moment regretting anything about her life—or her death.

            And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Aunt Maggie lived a life without regrets. And me? Well, I regret most everything.

            As I walk up to the granite bathroom counter, I go on autopilot and gather the crumpled towel someone left discarded on the counter and use it to wipe up the small puddle of water around the sink before tossing it into the nearby trash bin. Just typical me, cleaning up other people’s messes because it’s so much easier than dealing with my own.

            And what a mess I made.

            I’m out of work—note to self, spending the last decade working as the office manager for your soon-to-be-ex-husband’s law firm was not the brightest idea.

            My bank account needs CPR because not only have I always worked for pennies so more money could be funneled back into building the practice (worst decision ever), I also spent what meager savings I have on a cheap sublet in Hell’s Kitchen (yes, irony’s a bitch) as I tried to hunt for a new job. Of course, when your ex is your only job reference, well, like I said, worst decision ever…

            I finally gave up the ghost and slunk back to Jersey last week. And to my parents.

            Now I’m living in my childhood bedroom—because the upscale condo on the Upper East Side where I spent the entirety of my doomed marriage is listed as belonging to my ex’s law firm and apparently not a marital asset. Oh wait, no, that was my worst decision ever.

            My shoulders sink as I stare at my reflection and wonder for the hundredth time how I let this happen. Aunt Maggie would have never ended up in this position.

            If she’d found any one of her three husbands going down on his paralegal, she would have pulled some kind of dramatic, awe-inspiring act of vengeance that would probably have involved the bottle of hot honey she always seemed to have in her giant purse and fire ants she would have willed into existence simply from the power of her fury.

            Me? I shut the door quietly and waited until I got home to cry. Turns out more than three decades of lectures on the proper way for a Martin woman to behave was too much to overcome.