This Heart of Mine(4)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

"Get your backpack. I won't be long."

She left them behind and headed down a corridor lined with photographs that marked the history of the Chicago Stars. Her father's portrait came first, and she saw that her sister had freshened up the black horns she'd long ago painted on his head. Bert Somerville, the founder of the Chicago Stars, had been dead for years, but his cruelties lived on in both his daughters' memories.

A formal portrait of Phoebe Somerville Calebow, the Stars' current owner, followed, and then a photograph of her husband, Dan Calebow, from the days when he'd been the Stars' head coach instead of the team's president. Molly regarded her temperamental brother-in-law with a fond smile. Dan and Phoebe had raised her from the time she was fifteen, and both of them had been better parents on their worst day than Bert Somerville on his best.

There was also a photo of Ron McDermitt, the Stars' longtime general manager and Uncle Ron to the kids. Phoebe, Dan, and Ron had worked hard to balance the all-consuming job of running an NFL team with family life. Over the years it had involved several reorganizations, one of which had brought Dan back to the Stars after being away for a while.

Molly made a quick detour into the restroom. As she draped her coat over the sink, she gazed critically at her hair. Although the jagged little cut complimented her eyes, she hadn't left well enough alone. Instead, she'd dyed her dark brown hair a particularly bright shade of red. She looked like a cardinal.

At least the hair color added some flash to her rather ordinary features. Not that she was complaining about her looks. She had an all-right nose and an all-right mouth. They went along with an all-right body, which was neither too thin nor too heavy, but healthy and functional, for which she was grateful. A glance at her bustline confirmed what she'd accepted long ago—as the daughter of a showgirl, she'd been shortchanged.

Her eyes were nice, though, and she liked to believe their slight tilt gave her a mysterious look. As a child she used to wear a half-slip over the bottom half of her face as a veil and pretend she was a beautiful Arabian spy.

With a sigh she swiped at the muck on her ancient Comme des Garçons pants, then wiped off her beloved but battered Prada tote. When she'd done her best, she picked up the quilted brown coat she'd bought on sale at Target and headed for her sister's office.

It was the first week of December, and some of the staff had begun to put up a few Christmas decorations. Phoebe's office door displayed a cartoon Molly had drawn of Santa dressed in a Stars uniform. She poked her head inside. "Aunt Molly's here."

Gold bangles clinked as her blond bombshell of an older sister threw down her pen. "Thank God. A voice of sanity is just what I—Oh, my God! What did you do to your hair?"

With her own cloud of pale blond hair, amber eyes, and drop-dead figure, Phoebe looked rather like Marilyn Monroe might have looked if she'd made it into her forties, although Molly couldn't imagine Marilyn with a smear of grape jelly on the front of her silk blouse. No matter what Molly did to herself, she'd never be as beautiful as her sister, but she didn't mind. Few people knew the misery Phoebe's lush body and vamp's beauty had once caused her.

"Oh, Molly… not again." The consternation in her sister's eyes made Molly wish she'd worn a hat.

"Relax, will you? Nothing's going to happen."

"How can I relax? Every time you do something drastic to your hair, we have another incident."

"I outgrew incidents a long-time ago." Molly sniffed. "This was purely cosmetic."

"I don't believe you. You're getting ready to do something crazy again, aren't you?"

"I am not!" If she said it frequently enough, maybe she'd convince herself.

"Only ten years old," Phoebe muttered to herself. "The brightest and best-behaved student at the boarding school. Then, out of nowhere, you hack off your bangs and plant a stink bomb in the dining hall."

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