Today's Reading

Afterward, Zanne filled a bucket with soapy water and mopped the floor clean, allowing herself this brief moment to do one thing well before she returned to the problem of the monkey. So many parts of the job were like this—almost soothing in the precision and patience they required—if you could find your way past the ludicrous banality to meditative enjoyment.

She made it outside just as Bill coaxed Alfie down from a fig tree, slipping a leash over the monkey's head.

Zanne tugged at her short, black hair. Nothing surprised her about this job anymore. Not the range of competencies it required, from a fluency with security protocols and two-factor authentication to an encyclopedic knowledge of Minecraft and LOL Surprise! dolls; or the succession of raises she'd received, each bigger than the last; or the deep sense of personal responsibility she felt to make the Stabler family's dreams come true, come what may of her own. Now she could add monkey wrangling to her résumé, too.

"What'd I tell you?" Bill said, beaming at Zanne, as if he'd just lassoed the moon. "Alfie's my—"

"Alfie's fired, Bill," she said.

Today was too important to the Stablers, and to her future here, to be derailed by predictable chaos. Zanne would keep this day on track and nothing—not an ill-behaved monkey or a tech disaster or a ho-hum party—would get in her way.


CHAPTER TWO
Holly

Ted lay flat on his back—slack-jawed, legs akimbo, sheets kicked aside—looking like he'd been murdered. Holly slipped out of their bed, her shift completed but his only half begun.

When they were dating, she'd tried to match her schedule to Ted's, falling asleep in his arms around 2:00 a.m. But fifteen years into marriage, she'd long since faced facts. She was a morning person, her husband was a night owl, and they would rarely do much more than brush past each other in the night. At least he didn't snore.

She went to the gym for her scheduled half hour on the Peloton, but the live stream was buffering, buffering. What was the point of pushing herself if she couldn't tell where Sasha, her avatar, was on the leaderboard or how she stacked up against other women in their thirties? She made do with one of her preset scenic rides from the digital library, dodging taxis on the streets of Midtown Manhattan, but the video cut out twice and she didn't get that fizzy sensation of being transported into another life. There was just this life and all the obligations that came with it: the speech this morning, the party tonight, all that air-kissing. She grabbed an overnight chia seed pudding Katya had left in the refrigerator and then headed back to the master suite for a shower.

In her closet, she found the asymmetrical navy blue pantsuit her stylist, Rio, had laid out for her. It was edgy, but was it the right look for the conference? Holly wasn't sure now. She'd been invited to give the keynote address at the annual Producers Guild of America conference, and she wanted to appear professional but not too severe, fashionable but approachable. Holly wasn't a producer and didn't want anyone to think she didn't know her place, even if "her place" was changing these days. She could do adoring wife of a film legend in her sleep, but the face of Hollywood's movement to reform itself after #metoo was a role she was still settling into, even eighteen months after the first of those ladies' luncheons that got the ball rolling. She wasn't a victim herself (thank God), just a concerned citizen and a sympathetic ear. But those early conversations with actresses, filmmakers, and all the other wives had spawned an advocacy group, and now she was one of Genders United's most recognizable members. She put on the blazer and pants and strode toward the mirror, imagining herself at the dais speaking the words she'd signed off on last night, a clarion call to the industry for gender equity. But it felt like a costume, like she was the female detective in a police procedural getting tough with a witness.

'No', she thought, no one likes a scold. She changed into the pale pink Jenny Packham jumpsuit and the strappy gold Jimmy Choos Rio had marked "backup." She took a selfie and texted it to him for approval.

Knockout! Rio texted back, followed by a string of fire emojis. She'd been married to Ted long enough to spot the mixed metaphor, but she didn't care. The compliment made her feel pretty.

"Holly, we need to leave in five minutes," Erin said.

"Oh!" Holly said, hand to her breastbone. She hadn't heard Erin come in. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Only a minute or two. I'll knock louder next time."
...

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Today's Reading

Afterward, Zanne filled a bucket with soapy water and mopped the floor clean, allowing herself this brief moment to do one thing well before she returned to the problem of the monkey. So many parts of the job were like this—almost soothing in the precision and patience they required—if you could find your way past the ludicrous banality to meditative enjoyment.

She made it outside just as Bill coaxed Alfie down from a fig tree, slipping a leash over the monkey's head.

Zanne tugged at her short, black hair. Nothing surprised her about this job anymore. Not the range of competencies it required, from a fluency with security protocols and two-factor authentication to an encyclopedic knowledge of Minecraft and LOL Surprise! dolls; or the succession of raises she'd received, each bigger than the last; or the deep sense of personal responsibility she felt to make the Stabler family's dreams come true, come what may of her own. Now she could add monkey wrangling to her résumé, too.

"What'd I tell you?" Bill said, beaming at Zanne, as if he'd just lassoed the moon. "Alfie's my—"

"Alfie's fired, Bill," she said.

Today was too important to the Stablers, and to her future here, to be derailed by predictable chaos. Zanne would keep this day on track and nothing—not an ill-behaved monkey or a tech disaster or a ho-hum party—would get in her way.


CHAPTER TWO
Holly

Ted lay flat on his back—slack-jawed, legs akimbo, sheets kicked aside—looking like he'd been murdered. Holly slipped out of their bed, her shift completed but his only half begun.

When they were dating, she'd tried to match her schedule to Ted's, falling asleep in his arms around 2:00 a.m. But fifteen years into marriage, she'd long since faced facts. She was a morning person, her husband was a night owl, and they would rarely do much more than brush past each other in the night. At least he didn't snore.

She went to the gym for her scheduled half hour on the Peloton, but the live stream was buffering, buffering. What was the point of pushing herself if she couldn't tell where Sasha, her avatar, was on the leaderboard or how she stacked up against other women in their thirties? She made do with one of her preset scenic rides from the digital library, dodging taxis on the streets of Midtown Manhattan, but the video cut out twice and she didn't get that fizzy sensation of being transported into another life. There was just this life and all the obligations that came with it: the speech this morning, the party tonight, all that air-kissing. She grabbed an overnight chia seed pudding Katya had left in the refrigerator and then headed back to the master suite for a shower.

In her closet, she found the asymmetrical navy blue pantsuit her stylist, Rio, had laid out for her. It was edgy, but was it the right look for the conference? Holly wasn't sure now. She'd been invited to give the keynote address at the annual Producers Guild of America conference, and she wanted to appear professional but not too severe, fashionable but approachable. Holly wasn't a producer and didn't want anyone to think she didn't know her place, even if "her place" was changing these days. She could do adoring wife of a film legend in her sleep, but the face of Hollywood's movement to reform itself after #metoo was a role she was still settling into, even eighteen months after the first of those ladies' luncheons that got the ball rolling. She wasn't a victim herself (thank God), just a concerned citizen and a sympathetic ear. But those early conversations with actresses, filmmakers, and all the other wives had spawned an advocacy group, and now she was one of Genders United's most recognizable members. She put on the blazer and pants and strode toward the mirror, imagining herself at the dais speaking the words she'd signed off on last night, a clarion call to the industry for gender equity. But it felt like a costume, like she was the female detective in a police procedural getting tough with a witness.

'No', she thought, no one likes a scold. She changed into the pale pink Jenny Packham jumpsuit and the strappy gold Jimmy Choos Rio had marked "backup." She took a selfie and texted it to him for approval.

Knockout! Rio texted back, followed by a string of fire emojis. She'd been married to Ted long enough to spot the mixed metaphor, but she didn't care. The compliment made her feel pretty.

"Holly, we need to leave in five minutes," Erin said.

"Oh!" Holly said, hand to her breastbone. She hadn't heard Erin come in. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Only a minute or two. I'll knock louder next time."
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...