EXCERPT

P r o l o g u e


"The studio lights are too hot; they're melting the fucking meringue! And the Forefather's Flourless Chocolate Cake is beginning to fall flat! We need cameras rolling now, people! Not in five minutes, not in thirty seconds, right now! Let's do it! Let's do it!" Nick, the director, barks at the frenzied production crew as he paces back and forth in front of the television monitor, punctuating his words with a wooden rolling pin. "We need this last segment in the can. The holiday episode airs tomorrow, people - July second. We've got to get it over to Network!"

"Alright, quiet on set please. Everyone settle," Carl, the assistant director commands, indicating to the crew and studio audience that after waiting patiently for over an hour (and enduring the "riotous comedy" of an "up and coming" comedian who was about as funny as one of those "Save The Children" commercials), it's finally time to shoot the scene. "Ladies and gentlemen, after we're done with this shot, it's a wrap, and everyone can go home and get on with your July Fourth celebrations!" he announces.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the horrible… the unspeakable… the worst thing that could possibly happen at this particular moment actually happens: the cake deflates like a sad, neglected blow-up pool toy.

For a moment, time stands still.

Some members of the studio audience say that right before the cake tragically collapsed, it emitted a faint but desperate high-pitched squeal. Others say the sound came from the director.

"Why? Why? Alright, minor setback. Not a problem," he insists. "Nothing we can't handle. We're professionals here. We'll just use the backup cake; that's what it's there for after all."

"Um, actually, that was the back-up cake," Carl sighs, bracing himself for the temper tantrum he knows is coming.

"Motherfucker bloody hell! Domestic Bliss, my ass! We're in hell! We're gonna be here till two in the morning," Nick huffs, waving the rolling pin in the air like a lunatic.

"Make that four. It takes three hours to bake one of those cakes, and it's already after midnight," Eleanore, the chief of Pastry Production, states dryly, removing her chef's hat. "I say we ax this idea and do something else for the segment."

"Have anything in mind?" Nick asks, eyes bugging out, face and neck turning an alarming shade of raspberry.

"Arsenic pie, perhaps? It's blissfully delicious."

The clever quip is lost on Nick, who has now slumped into his director's chair. "We need Delilah. Somebody get Delilah White on this set! STAT!!!"



D e l i l a h W h i t e


Delilah White, Producer of Domestic Bliss, network television's highest-rated lifestyle how-to program and originator of the popular catchphrase "Now that's bliss," checks her watch - 2:20pm - and makes one final bathroom break. Pulling her loose ebony waves into a ponytail to avoid a messy tangle during the upcoming convertible ride, she notes her pale complexion and thinks she bears a striking resemblance to Casper the Friendly Ghost. Dear God! Look at those dark circles under my eyes... I look like a linebacker… Or a drug addict. Not cute… Delilah sighs and crosses her fingers that she will return home well-rested and with a tan. Her sister, Francesca, has always said Delilah looks her best with a "healthy glow." Miraculously, the holiday weekend weather forecast calls for warm temperatures, clear skies, and low humidity - which is great news for Delilah, who battles a much-dreaded frizz factor. She's fairly certain she's tried every hair gel/mousse/glaze/pomade/leave-in-leave-out-shake-it-all-about product available in America. Due to recent changes at the television show, however, she has spent a large majority of her time cooped up at the studio, working much too hard and way too late. If it weren't for her sky-high air-conditioning bill, swollen fingers (damn heat!), and daily walk to and from the subway, she'd hardly even know it's summer.

She has been looking forward to this holiday, albeit mini, for longer than she cares to admit and is determined to relax and have some serious fun. Delilah promises herself that she won't take any work with her on the trip or even so much as think about her job while she's away. This is a VACATION, dammit! V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N! Time to drink martinis and laze on the beach in that sassy new bikini scoping out men! Then again, one never knows when inspiration will hit, and Delilah could use some inspired segment ideas for Domestic Bliss, now more than ever. Her career depends on it. On second thought… Her laptop contains all of her thoughts and ideas for the show. From completed transcripts for future episodes, to potential segment concepts that are still in the incubation stage, to single mysterious words that once inspired her - though now she struggles to recall what the devil "twirsty lizard," "wicked," and "Burkina Faso" were referring to. It's all there on her trusty laptop. She makes a last minute decision to bring it along. Just in case.

Delilah knows it will be next to impossible to make it through the weekend without somebody instigating a conversation about Domestic Bliss or requesting an autograph. While she's been making guest appearances on the show since she began producing it five years ago - demonstrating how to fold a well-starched cloth napkin into an elegant swan, or how to bake an irresistible cobbler, or how to make a charming yet durable luggage tag using recycled cardboard and used plastic wrap - it never ceases to amaze her that strangers actually know her name. And she can't fathom why anyone in their right mind would want her silly signature. Of course, at thirty-three she still has David Hasselhoff's autographed picture, which he kindly signed for her when she was sixteen (twenty-four in reality, but she thinks sixteen sounds less demented), tucked away in a very private, very safe spot. But that's different. David's a real celebrity. Delilah's not even one of the four highly adored rotating cohosts of Domestic Bliss who are hounded by paparazzi and often seen gracing the glossy pages of celebrity gossip magazines. But still, she is often recognized. How marvelous and refreshing it would be to have three Domestic Bliss-free days to clear her head and relax! To stop thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking about work and where her fate lies at the show, which she truly loves, but knows will soon be forever changed. The more Delilah considers it, the more she looks forward to sitting back in a deckchair with a viciously strong beverage - preferably something frosty, tropical, and sporting a festive little umbrella - and not thinking about D.B. (as the show is known in the industry). Hmmm… I could always pretend to be an endocrinologist. Or a Radio City Rockette. Oh! How about a chimpanzee trainer? Or, better yet, Editor of 'Crossbow Enthusiast'… Delilah eventually resolves to tell anyone who asks that pesky question, "What do you do?" that she's a taxidermist to the stars.

After watering the bright red geraniums on her kitchen windowsill, Delilah collects her suitcase, two thermoses of her famous homemade strawberry lemonade, and makes her way outside. In her breezy crimson sundress and vintage oversized sunglasses, for which she paid a pretty penny, she feels sophisticated and chic. She wishes that handsome tenant who lives down the hall in apartment 21 would walk out at the same time, but he hardly knows she's alive and calls her Kumiko (the previous owner of Delilah's apartment). Maybe he'd finally stop and notice her. At least long enough to realize she's not an Asian paleontologist who moved to China three years ago.

Delilah stops to say a quick hello to Rodrigo, the doorman, who immediately perks up at the sight of her. "D.W.! Leaving us, I see. Taking off the holiday?"

"Yep," she says, beaming. "Delighted to say I am, my friend."

"Well, it's about time you took a break! Have a great trip. You deserve it."

"You deserve a vacation yourself," Delilah says and smiles, glancing at her watch. "I better get going. Sofia'll be here any second." She switches her luggage, which suddenly feels like it's stuffed with Grandmother Violet's lasagna (translation: ten-ton bricks), to the opposite hand and trundles toward the revolving glass door. "Happy Fourth! See ya when I get back!"

"Hey!" Rodgrigo hollers. "Think she'll be late?"

Pivoting around, Delilah smirks. "You kidding? Of course."

Call her old-fashioned, but Delilah's big on proper manners and punctuality. Not in a hoity-toity snobbish sort of way, but rather in a kind and genuine fashion you just don't see much nowadays. Please and thank you are a natural part of her vernacular, and she finds it plain rude to keep people waiting without a damn good excuse, even if it's totally made up (in her mind, nobody wants to hear that their date is late because she accidentally spilled scalding wax all over the Venetian marble floor while tending to her not-so-cute upper lip, thank you very much).

Her best friend, Sofia, is always late. By now Delilah knows better than to pay this any mind and simply factors in an automatic ten- to fifteen-minute delay (ten if they're already on the same side of Manhattan, fifteen if one's on the east side and the other's on the west). Over the years, this basic equation has come to be known as Sofia Time Conversion. When Sofia first began working as marketing director of Domestic Bliss, Delilah took offense at the new girl's seeming disregard for rules and her fellow production staff. In a rash snap judgment, she decided they would never get along. Delilah was so positive Sofia's constant tardiness would get her fired, she even placed a bet on it in an unofficial and somewhat mean-spirited F.N.G. (Fucking New Girl) office pool.

Thanks to her killer marketing skills and shrewd negotiating power, Sofia shows no signs of going anywhere, and Delilah's out fifty bucks.



S o f i a


Sofia's 1962 classic cherry-red Ford Thunderbird convertible pulls up in front of Delilah's Central Park West high-rise at two thirty - right on time according to Sofia Time Conversion. Predictable as ever.

"Hey, D!" Sofia cheerfully shouts and waves. "Toss your suitcase in the back seat."

She notices Delilah's not carrying her ratty old LeSportsac, circa 1989. "Why hello, Mr. Vuitton. New bag?"

"Guilty," Delilah cringes. "I know I shouldn't have, but it was thirty-five percent off at Bendel's a couple weeks ago. Quite a steal if I do say so myself."

"I'll second that. It's beautiful." Sofia lifts up her sunglasses to get a better look. "Hop in, lady!"

"We're on VACATION!" Delilah belts out, shooting her arms in the air as they speed down the street. "Glory hallelujah!"

At thirty-four, Sofia is one year older and considers Delilah the younger sister and best friend she never had growing up as an only child. Sofia's last name, Trawler, might go unrecognized by a majority of the population, but to those who are knowledgeable about great inventors, Trawler is synonymous with patent royalty. Back in the 1950's when Sofia's father, Stanley, was a temperamental teen, he once unhappily discovered a large portion of his delicious cheese pizza stuck to the top of the pizza box. Irrationally irked, he set out on a noble quest to solve this problem once and for all and make the world a better place. Several years of research later, he developed a nifty little plastic device resembling a quarter with three inch-long prongs attached to it. When placed in the center of a pizza pie, this ingenious device, known as the Pizza Protector, serves as an effective barrier between hot melted cheese (plus any tasty toppings) and a hostile cardboard lid. Thanks to this two-cent piece of plastic and a few other inventions he's developed along the way, today the Trawler family fortune amounts well into the millions. They live in the proverbial lap of luxury and enjoy the finest of everything without having to work a minute in their lives if they don't want to. Importantly, Sofia wants to. Working gives her a sense of purpose, which she especially needs. The Trawlers own yachts and stables and beautiful homes all over the world - Manhattan, Paris, Napa, and Aspen, to name a few. Right now, Sofia and Delilah are heading to her family's sprawling beachside estate, known as Cherry Pond (so named in the spirit of a grand old Southern plantation for its many cherry blossom trees), in the scenic Catskill Mountains, where Sofia and her family have invited their closest friends to attend their annual Fourth of July celebration. According to the society page of the Catskill Gazette, the Trawlers' Independence Day soiree is the party of the summer.

There's a dark side to this phenomenal tale of patents and invention. Sofia's father is a cynical man, and he taught his impressionable daughter that not everyone can be trusted, that most people are more interested in the family's massive wealth than in her companionship, or her love. Growing up under his watchful, often disapproving eye, Sofia became a bit of a loner. Delilah relates to this all too well. As a fat child, friends were always hard to come by. "Delilah Doughnut," they used to tease her in the schoolyard.

Sofia is a natural beauty, like the Noxema Girl. Her striking green eyes and honey-blonde mane create an appealing and wholesome look, yet she has the figure of a petite vixen with shapely legs, full breasts, and a tiny waist. She's five foot two inches tall and appears even more diminutive next to Delilah, who stands five foot eight barefoot. On a recent shopping spree at Barneys, a sleek black skirt caught the eye of both women. Delilah searched the display rack to find the garment in their sizes. As always, a size 2 for Sofia hung at the front of the rack among a bevy of other size 2s. In the way back of the display, behind at least fifteen other skirts and a misplaced Prada blouse, hung one lone size 12 for Delilah. Someone else had clearly tried on the skirt, as it was replaced backward on the hanger with the zipper down.

While it sometimes seems that most women roaming the streets of New York, and the country's other major metropolises, are stick-thin model-types with freakishly plump lips who could survive on six raisins and a small wedge of lettuce a day, Delilah's well aware that the average female in America remains a size 12 or larger. As a result, apparel in this size tends to fly like hotcakes, which, unlike the stick-thin model types, Delilah allows herself to eat. With butter, no less. (Mrs. Butterworth, who always served as a sweet and attentive listener at the breakfast table during Delilah's formative years, is also a dear friend.)

Delilah isn't skinny, but she's not fat either. She's somewhere happily in between. One might describe her as full figured, or big boned, or possibly even plus sized, although this would be a bit of a stretch. One eloquent yet mildly offensive blind date recently inquired if she had always been a "lady of generous body mass." Delilah admitted that, indeed, one could say that. One could also say this eloquent yet mildly offensive man had a small lump of crab Rangoon stuck to his nose, but Delilah kept this fact to herself, as it was the most entertaining part of their evening. Years ago she would have been hurt by her date's tactless comment, but it takes an insult with a lot more venom than that to rattle Delilah today.

Resembling a Botticelli beauty with voluptuous curves, Delilah White likes herself just the way she is: a perfect size 12.

While their work at D.B. brought Delilah and Sofia together, it was Sofia's fiancé, Brad "the Evil Bastard," who helped them forge a true friendship. When The Evil Bastard left her for a younger model/actress with no last name, Sofia's universe came crashing down. Not knowing what else to do, she threw herself into her job, directing all of her energy toward marketing the show. Delilah noticed that Sofia seemed gloomy and curiously punctual. She knew something must be very wrong and decided to try to cheer her up. Before long, the two women realized they shared a lot in common. Besides being smart, independent women with a thirst for adventure, they ran in similar social circles, sported a passion for cheeseburgers, and refused to take themselves too  seriously.

Delilah was there to pick up the pieces when the Selfish Prick left Sofia shattered. She listened to her cry, helped her get rid of the mushy CD mixes the Cheap Schmuck had filled with "meaningful" songs symbolizing their eternal love, and dragged her out for champagne against her will to celebrate the Repugnant Fool doing her a favor by heading for the hills sooner rather than later. When Sofia hit rock bottom, Delilah gently reminded her that any man who would choose Phoenix - JUST Phoenix - a girl with poorly streaked hair and a teensy Chihuahua named Mon Ami that she carried around town in a rhinestone-studded BabyBjörn, was not worthy of her tears. This did the trick, and Sofia thanked Delilah profusely for helping her finally see that she was better off without Satan's Burp, and it was time to get on with life.

As they drive toward the Catskills, heading north out of the bustling cement island of Manhattan, Delilah breathes a sigh of relief. "Ditto," Sofia agrees and turns up the radio.

© 2007 Robin Gold, All Rights Reserved

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