Chapter 11

"Remember, ladies," Dottie says to her sister and cousins late the next morning. "This is for an interview for a business opportunity. The clothes have to be riveting, not revealing."

She and Jessica are shopping at a medium-sized shopping centre in downtown Los Angeles, with Sherry and their other cousins – Dennis' two daughters, Heather and Bridget. Jessica frowns and looks around at the merchandise at the JC Penney store they're in. She can't even stand the "ordinary" air she's breathing.

"This is where the middle-class thousandaires shop," she says. "Not famous people who make millions per movie like we do. C'mon, let's find a more exclusive boutique where Dottie can get her clothes. She could use some more colourful silk blouses anyway."

Dottie looks away from the red turtleneck she's been looking at. "Sorry, Jessica," she says, "but some of us Pembrokes have to budget our money, especially in towns like this." She folds the turtleneck, and picks out more in several pastel colours. She takes out one in a bold shade of orange, but Heather quickly takes it from her.

"Dottie!" she cries. "This is a tacky colour for someone who wants to make an impression in the business world. Here's a hint: for blouses, turtlenecks and pullovers with only one colour and no design, steer clear of bright orange and dark green. Pair those colours with anything, and it's a fashion faux pas. Oh sure, the only colour of skirt and jacket that goes with these colours is brown, but trust me, that's not a fashionable colour for skirts and jackets to begin with."

Dottie smiles naturally. "I'll remember that." She heads to the skirts section, where Jessica and the cousins get black, white and grey for her, while Dottie picks up two more. On the way to the fitting rooms, Dottie chooses black, white and beige dress pants.

At the fitting rooms, Dottie tries to choose one turtleneck and one skirt, one blouse and one pair of pants to take in with her. But Bridget just hands her four skirts. She says, "Dottie, if you have more than the fitting room limit of the same item, the rule of thumb is to have all of the same item with you. And don't try on clothes in another category until you've tried on all in one category."

"Are you sure?" Dottie asks. "I was sure you modelling and acting types liked to change into one whole outfit and model it for everyone else when you come out of the change room."

"Yes, but I wouldn't recommend it for a non-actor like you," Bridget replies. "If you keep your shirt on, and just model the pants, it'll save you time, and you won't get confused about what you've already tried on and what you haven't." Wordlessly, Dottie takes the skirts and closes the door.

When Dottie is inside, Heather and Bridget grin at Jessica, and Heather says, "Okay, so you and our Daddy are leaving to start Karma Chameleon next weekend. Are you excited?"

"Don't you know it," Jessica grins back. "I cannot wait to shake up old-time Mississippi. I can't believe all the westerns movie stars I'm going to be working with – Johnny Wade, Ken Shields, Patrick Hewes, Jake Ronalds. Jake Ronalds, oh my God, did you check him out in Hearts of the West? Did he look gorgeous when he took off his shirt in some of those scenes? He's the guy that got me into modern westerns. Uncle Dennis didn't tell me who got cast as whom, but I hope he's in the role of Johnny Dublin. According to the script, that's the guy whom Karma gets it on with most often."

"It's a western, isn't it?" Heather wonders. "I think Daddy told me it's supposed to be a western."

"It sure sounds like a western," Bridget agrees.

"Actually, it's supposed to be a comedy, with a western theme," Jessica replies.

Behind them, Dottie gives a loud "ahem" sound, and the other young women turn to see her in a smoky grey skirt. They make "ooh" and "ahh" sounds as Dottie poses.

"That looks very stylish for a professional like you," Jessica says, and their cousins nod. Dottie disappears and Jessica resumes speaking.

"According to Dad and Uncle Dennis," she says, "Uncle Robert and Uncle Larry both said yes to the script because they liked how the writers were able to mix western settings with comedy, without all the gun-slinging, violent fistfights, and 'good guys vs. bad guys' kind of stuff. Dottie says the movie is going to flop, but I think moviegoers will be interested. I think they'll like that it's a departure from what they're used to seeing in western movies."

Soon, Dottie emerges in a second skirt, black with a gold "swirl" design. Again, her critics are impressed

"Now that is fashionable," Jessica says, giving a thumbs-up. "You should especially get that one. If we ever go to that club that Manuel and I took you the last time, you should also wear it dancing."

Dottie goes back into the fitting room, and Jessica speaks again.

"So, girls, enough about my movie. Sherry, Uncle Larry tells me you've got a new TV series slated to start in the fall, and Heather and Bridget do too. Spill, all of you."

Sherry grins and says, "I'm in the middle of shooting the first season of a sitcom called The Wedding Corporation. I play Christy Speller, one of the newly-hired wedding decorators, a recent graduate from interior design college. And get this, Christy does a better job working to music."

Jessica whistles and says, "Nice. I'm expecting an episode where you eventually get promoted to making CD's for the reception."

"I think we've just finished filming that episode," Sherry laughs.

Jessica puts on a more serious face. "But really, Sherry, it's like I told Dottie, people are going to get tired of you playing the 'goody-two-shoes' bit all the time. I hope this is the last project where you do so, or else you're going to get boring. You're an adult. You're old enough to get into projects where you can be the bad girl. It's not like Uncle Larry is going to kill you if you do so. Audiences will appreciate you."

"Are you sure?" Sherry wonders. "Not to pull a 'teen celebrity role model' thing, but this is just like keeping your purity until marriage."

Dottie emerges a third time, in a white skirt with "polka bubbles" of black and gold. Her sister and cousins immediately take notice.

"Oh, Dottie, that pattern is so cute," Sherry tells her. "I like it. You should get it."

"It's great for the office for when you're settled in your job, and it's very cute for dates," Jessica adds. "But I'd go with the black and gold one for job interviews."

Heather and Bridget grin at her. "We agree," they chorus.

Dottie grins back and replies, "Then I'm definitely getting this one." She goes back into the fitting room. Returning to their conversation, Jessica starts to say something, but Heather immediately asks Sherry a question: "What about romantic relationships? Will Christy find true love on this show, or will she be floundering from one relationship to another?"

Sherry clasps her hands together. "Oh, there will be a romance. Don't you be afraid of that. Three episodes into the series, Christy develops a crush on Richard Sbarro, the sole male wedding planner in the company, and one of few male wedding planners in all of Los Angeles."

Bridget wrinkles her nose. "Ugh, Sherry!" she complains. "They aren't going to sleep together, are they? This whole thing with employees falling in love with their bosses, and students falling in love with teachers, is gross, and has been done to death."

"Ah, but I think it's romantic," Jessica replies.

Bridget gives her a look and replies back, "Of course you'd think it's romantic. Your movie roles have been getting pretty exotic lately."

"Well, I hope this will be Sherry's 'baby steps' in shedding her purity image. Maybe I should talk to Uncle Larry about that before Kevin and I go."

Heather smiles, knowing her turn is coming up. Mine is an hour-long drama called Bad Girls. They're looking at Monday nights in the 10:00 PM Eastern Time slot. My character, like Sherry's, is also a post-secondary school graduate and newly-recruited, but from a police academy. I'm a rookie officer in a precinct that also has a group of tough women cops on staff, who call themselves the Bad Girls, and these ladies think that I have potential to be one of them. So they take me under their wing, and show me the ropes on not only police work and procedures, but also how to be tough, and I get to watch them take down criminals in a rather unorthodox way. We're shooting the last of thirteen episodes, but after that, we'll wait to see what the response is from critics and audiences."

"That sounds like something I'd watch," Jessica says. "It'll do well, and you'll get more episodes needed to finish the season."

Dottie re-emerges from the dressing room in a fourth skirt, a plain beige. This time, the reaction isn't as enthusiastic.

"It looks professional, but to us, it looks like plain old porridge," Sherry says.

"I don't think that skirt is for you," Heather says

"That doesn't look as riveting as you'd want," Bridget says.

"I'm going to have to agree with the cousins," Jessica says. "That is bland, boring and blah, blah, blah. If we went to one of the boutiques like I wanted, you wouldn't be wearing stuff like that." Suddenly, she notices a saleswoman coming their way, and Jessica flags her down.

She points to the beige skirt and says, "Do you have that in a royal blue colour, or perhaps a burgundy." The saleswoman nods and leaves to search. Dottie quickly goes back into the change room, and seconds later, tosses the beige skirt over the door for Jessica to catch. When the saleswoman returns with the burgundy skirt, Jessica approaches the door and opens it a creak, hands it to Dottie. Moments later, Dottie comes out in the new item.

"That is a better look for you," Sherry says. "Consider that another option for your job interview." Jessica, Heather and Bridget all chatter wildly in agreement.

"Then I'll take this one, too," Dottie declares, and Bridget hands her the other three skirts when Dottie returns the first four, all folded. She hands them to Jessica.

Bridget puts on a wider grin than Sherry's and boasts, "I have the most fun gig out of all of you. There is a new animated series being launched on the Toon Channel called Seven Wonders. It's about the formation and adventures of a variety band called the Seven Wonders as they write songs and make an album, promote it and plan a tour."

"Variety band?" Heather repeats. "Are you talking about pop, rock, country, jazz, hip-hop, R&B all mixed into one, singing the same songs on the same album?"

Bridget nods. "And my character, Lissa Jackson, represents the 'pop-rock' genre in the band. I portray Lissa in both speaking and singing. Isn't that cool? All the voice work for twenty episodes was done months ago, and they're just finishing up animating some of the episodes. It should be due on television in November sometime."

"That doesn't sound like music I'd buy," Jessica says.

"Me neither," Heather agrees. "Sorry, sis, but I don't see your series surviving past the first season."

Dottie re-appears in one of the three remaining skirts, coloured pea green. Jessica and the cousins all grimace and make faces. Dottie studies the expressions and assumes, "No?"

"Army colour," Sherry says. "Vomit colour."

"That isn't a skirt colour," Jessica comments. "It's a colour for living room curtains and old, crappy furniture."

"It makes a statement, and the statement is 'Trash your stylist!'" Bridget adds.

Dottie goes back into the fitting room, and tosses the green skirt over just seconds later. However, all four of the fashion critics give all-favourable opinions of the last two skirts, one with diagonal stripes of burnt orange and dark chocolate brown, and a lilac-coloured skirt with an Easter lily pattern.

Now, Dottie tries on dress pants. Jessica, Sherry, Heather and Bridget don't say anything, just nod or shake their heads to show their opinions. Out of five pairs of dress pants, they only like the black, white and tan ones.

Dottie spends close to half an hour modelling all the blouses and turtlenecks she bought, getting her sister and cousins' opinions. A healthy amount of positive comments are given out.

"That sapphire-coloured silk is both professional and fashionable for you, Dottie. Get it."

"That looks so bold. Pair that with the orange and brown skirt, and that is an outfit."

"That peacock pattern looks very good on you. Very earthy look."

"Nick turtleneck you chose. Purple should be your colour."

"I like that royal blue, but I know where we can find an emerald-coloured jacket and skirt that'll look good with that."

And some negative comments:

"I can't believe you picked that white cotton blouse. That looks so plain and ordinary."

"That is the ugliest colour combination I've ever seen in my life. You look like a plate of Spanish rice with hamburger. I want to search another store for something else."

"I still can't believe you wanted those black and white stripes. You don't want to go to a job interview looking like a prison inmate. It looks just awful."

When Dottie decides what to buy based on these opinions, she and Jessica agree to split the total cost. They leave with six skirts, three dress pants, and five blouses and turtlenecks each. But right away, Jessica asks her cousins, "Who thinks Dottie should get more?"

Sherry, Heather and Bridget all nod and raise their hands. Dottie checks her watch and declares, "Well, the afternoon's not over yet. I suppose we can find a women's store for more stuff." Bridget points one out on the left side just five stores ahead of them, and she leads them in a straight line.

Three hours later, the young women come home with close to four hundred dollars worth of new clothing. As they get into the apartment, Sherry, Heather and Bridget express their disappointment that they can't go out to eat. Bridget says, "Dottie, this is one of the last things we'll be doing as just us girls before Jessica and Kevin leave – including going dancing. Why do you insist that we eat here?"

Dottie rolls her eyes. "Bridget, that's the difference between you celebrities and us regular people," she says. "Especially in large cities such as this one, eating out can get expensive. You guys can afford to eat out at fancy schmancy restaurants once or twice a week, but I can't, especially since I don't have any paycheques yet." She puts her parcels in her bedroom. "Besides, I took out a whole bushel of meat to thaw, and it should be ready by now. And if you guys can help me cook, the sooner we'll eat, and the sooner we'll go out and hit the town."

Jessica notices the light on the answering machine blinking twice. "Ooh, messages," she coos, and presses the play button.

The first message is from a perky female voice. "Hi, this is a message for Dottie Pembroke. This is Melissa Agnelli calling from Fit and Fashionable. I've read your cover letter and résumé, and I'd love to see what kind of person you are. I'd like to schedule an interview sometime next week, say Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The store is open until 6:00 PM today, so if you can give me a call at 555-2367, I'd love hear from you. Thanks and goodbye."

Then the second message, from a more conservative sounding woman. "Yes, this message is for Dottie Pembroke. This is Joan Danner from Hollywood Milan. I've read your correspondence, and I believe you'd be just divine to work for our store. Please call me at 555-4784 if you get this before 6:00 this evening, and I'd love to set up an appointment for the coming week. Thank you."

Jessica copies down both names and numbers. Dottie checks her watch. It's twenty minute after five. She's just in time. Dottie takes the paper from Jessica and calls Melissa first. "Yes, Melissa Agnelli? This is Dottie Pembroke calling. I just got your message."

"Wonderful," Melissa beams on the other end. "When will you be available?"

"How does Monday morning, around 10:30 sound?" Dottie offers.

"That's great," Melissa says, then a pause while she likely writes it in her date book. Dottie takes her date book and pen from her purse and writes it in. "So, I'll see you on Monday morning at 10:30, okay. See you."

Next, Dottie dials Joan's work number, and is pleased to hear her voice, relaying the same thing as to Melissa.

"Excellent," Joan says. "Can you give me the day and time when you're available?"

"I already have an appointment this coming Monday morning," Dottie answers. "Would you be willing to see me at two o'clock on Monday afternoon?"

"Two o'clock is just perfect with me," Joan replies, and Dottie writes in her date book. "I'll expect to see you at your best. Goodbye until Monday." Then she hangs up.

Jessica and the cousins give her a strange look. Dottie folds her arms and smiles. "What?" she says. "I'm a successful, confident businesswoman. I can handle two job interviews in one day. Besides, I'll bet all of you go to at least ten acting auditions in between your movies. Now, how about that dinner? This definitely calls for celebration." She takes an onion and chops it fine pieces quickly, adding it to frying hamburger.

Monday morning comes, and Dottie is driving down the streets in search of Sunset. She looks at the addresses she copied down, 8523 Melrose Avenue for Fit and Fashionable, 1760 Hollywood Boulevard for Hollywood Milan. She's thankful for her electronic navigator telling her which directions to go, but she drives a steady pace anyway. She arrives at Fit and Fashionable five minutes before her interview, goes to the cashier desk, and says, "Excuse me, I'm Dottie Pembroke, and I'm looking for Melissa Agnelli, please." The cashier nods and goes to the office in the back.

Minutes later, a perky young-looking woman with chocolate-coloured hair, in a floral blouse and pink Capri's, appears before her. Dottie guesses her age as early forties. She smiles at Dottie and introduces herself, then takes her into her office. A small desk with a light grey top and sides, orders and other correspondence piled up in one corner, and a computer set up in the middle. Dottie looks around to see another desk with a computer. Dottie smiles, thinking she might use it if she gets hired. She notices another chair sitting across from Melissa's, and sits down.

"Let me say, Dottie, I'm pretty impressed with your résumé," Melissa begins. "You only have one establishment under your belt, but you've been with it since you were thirteen. I'm proud of your loyalty."

"Well, it helps when the person you've been working for is your mother," Dottie replies. "She was the one who got me into accounting when the only subject I was both best at and most interested in was Math."

"I like how you were so inspired," Melissa responds. "So, you've just described your best subject in school, what was the worst."

"It would be a toss-up between English and Social Studies," Dottie answers. "In Social Studies, I found geography and world issues interesting, but I was just so bad in History. In Canadian History, I liked working with dates, but anything that didn't have anything to do with the House of Commons didn't hold my interest. As for English, I liked to read and write essays and opinion pieces and other non-fiction items, but I didn't like the novels and short stories. I was never all that much into fiction."

"You say you worked for your mother. What was she like as a boss?"

"She was wonderful. She always marvelled on how quick I was, and make such few mistakes – well, I owe a large chunk of that to my education. But she would always delegate work with a smile and a generous face. Many of her workers were willing to work hard for her, which pleased her so much. Her classy mannerisms combined with professionalism was what made Helen's Interiors so popular. Mind you, though, she's only vile and hard with people who don't want to work with her." Dottie is thinking about Jessica's stint at Helen's Interiors, including her sudden departure, but she decides to keep that to herself.

"How often did your mother go away when business had to be in tact?" Melissa asks. "Did she ever leave you in charge of her store?"

Dottie is surprised for a minute, but answers quickly. "Mom didn't really feel a need to go away all that often. She was so driven and dedicated to her work. She's told customers and employees she'd rather come to work than go on a vacation. But if she did decide to go away, it'd be just for the day or two, like to a business conference or something. The only time she'd leave for longer than that was to travel to another city to see about opening a Helen's Interiors franchise in another city. All those times, she'd ask one of the senior salespeople to look after the business for her."

"My store is not only about making people look fashionable and feel good about themselves," Melissa says next, "it's also about inspiring people to get in shape through great physical fitness. What do you know about the fitness industry?"

"Not much, I'm afraid," Dottie says. "Although I think I have a good enough body, I'm not all that much into fitness. My old apartment was a bit small to fit so much equipment, and I've never really thought about joining a gym. When I lived in Winnipeg, I went out running and walking at Assiniboine Park and the Forks. If you ever visit the Forks in Winnipeg, the Wall Through Time is a great opportunity to go running. But that's all the fitness I get. I do, however, buy lots of vegetables, breads and grains, and meats when I go grocery shopping, so I know some things about eating healthy."

"I see," Melissa responds. "And what do you know about the fashion industry?"

"Very little, I'm afraid," Dottie confesses. "However, I am new to Los Angeles and Hollywood, and though I've never held in interest in acting or movies, I am a member of the famous Pembroke family." She mentions some things about Jessica, Kevin, and their father's family. "My sister and female cousins are very big on fashion, and love to buy and wear flashy, colourful clothes." She stands and spins around to model her outfit, a goldenrod blouse with her black and gold skirt. "In fact, this is one of the newer outfits they helped me buy this past weekend. So, as you can see, I've just started to learn and care about fashion, and I'm a quick learner."

Melissa looks impressed at her outfit. "Nice," she says. "Where did you get that?"

Dottie mentions JC Penney. "I'm afraid my budget only allows me to buy regular department store stuff. I've looked at the merchandise in this store, and it looks a bit expensive for me to buy."

"What made you decide to work in the fashion industry?" Melissa asks.

"Jessica inspired me," Dottie answers. "When she came out to Winnipeg to see me, she brought about a thousand dollars' worth of flashy clothing, clothes I wouldn't normally wear. As well, after thirteen years of working in the interiors industry, part- and full-time, I felt it was time for a change." She thinks of Kevin's comments about "déjà vu," and decides to withhold them.

Melissa goes onto the next question: "What do you like most about accounting?"

Dottie gives a, "Did you even have to ask?" look. "Definitely working with numbers," she replies. "I like to look at bills and copies of receipts and jotting down how much money we've made and how much we spent, and I like the sound of my fingers tapping on the accountancy calculator. It gives me an opportunity to show my talent with mathematics."

"What is the one thing you liked least about your last job?"

"Although I'm not really a big fan of writing documents, the one thing I didn't really like about my job was checking the stockroom. But I understand how necessary it is, in order to inform my mother what merchandise we needed to order more of. Helen's Interiors never really hired a stockroom person. Will I have to do much of the same here?"

"Not really," Melissa answers. "We've hired salespeople who check the racks of clothing and inform me what we need to buy from clothing designer companies. Sometimes we get offers from some of the most creative designers for new looks."

"Perfect," Dottie replies. "That leaves me free to concentrate on the books."

"Now, I normally wouldn't ask this of an accountant candidate, but how are your skills in working with customers, dealing with complaints, and basically running a business in the owner's absence?"

Again, Dottie is thrown off, but decides to answer truthfully. "Not very good, I'm afraid. I know I've learned some of these things when I received my post-secondary education, but as I've said before, I've never had any experience with this. Mom always asked one of her sales staff to do this, leaving me to concentrate on the money flow. Um, I hate to be rude and turn the tables, but is there a reason why you're asking me these things?"

Melissa smiles, and takes down a display of some exercise DVD's from her wall unit. A muscular man in a black tank top, probably mid-forties but looks younger, with jet black hair covered by a baseball cap, smiling with his fingers like two pistols, and the words Italian Building Workout on the cover. "This beautiful hunk of a man here is my husband, Bruce," she says. "He created this home exercise system designed to help people improve physical fitness and get their bodies into powerful, lean, muscular shape. This is a rigorous segmented training program that deals with cardiovascular, strength training, muscle building, fat burning and weight loss. His dedicated career in physical training was what inspired me to open this store. Another way I make money is by conducting seminars with Bruce, inspiring people who need help with losing weight and getting into shape to sign up for his program, by showing them clothes they could be wearing if they complete this successfully in ninety days. I sell outfits that are size eight and under, and before the seminars, I ask the salespeople to put together a package of five hundred dollars' worth of merchandise. Sometimes it's for one day, but mostly it's for the morning or afternoon. During these times, it'd be your responsibility to look after the store while I'm away. I can show you the ropes, but do you think you'd be up for it?"

"I suppose," Dottie answers. She gives it some more thought. "Now that you mention it, I guess I could try something very challenging."

"Good," Melissa replies. "Now, what would your ideal salary be?"

"When I worked with Helen's Interiors, I was making a little over $2,800 per pay period," Dottie replies. "What would you be willing to offer me?"

"For thirteen years of this kind of dedication to your work, I'm willing to go a little higher. How does $3,500 per pay period sound?"

"Sounds just great to me," Dottie beams. "Now, you said that you motivate people to sign up for your husband's fitness program. Are many of them customers at your store?"

"I've had hundreds of success stories from Bruce's fitness program come here to shop for a new wardrobe, and I have accounts set up for those who are local," Melissa says. "I've also had lots of Hollywood celebrities shop here, and the wardrobe departments of various movie studios are also customers."

Dottie smiles with interest. "Would Pembroke Pictures be one of these studios?"

"Indefinitely," Melissa grins.

The interview ends then, and Dottie thanks Melissa. She checks the time. Close to eleven o'clock. She decides to browse around the store. She's in the women's section. It's pretty much the same thing she's seen in JC Penney, but in smaller sizes. She also notices workout gear in wild colours of hot pink, sky blue, different shades of purple and violet, as well as bold shades of red, orange, yellow and green. T-shirts and shorts in the same colours, some with slogans and brand names. Small belts in the accessories section. She wanders to the men's and children's sections to see much of the same things, only these sections include smaller versions of men's boxer shorts, dress shirts and jeans, and children's shirts with cartoon designs on them. She thinks about how friendly Melissa was in the interview. She figures she'd be very comfortable working at Fit and Fashionable, but is curious to see what Hollywood Milan has to offer.

Dottie decides not to go home and change into a second interview outfit. Instead, she decides to go back to the mall she shopped at the weekend before, for a quick browse and lunch. Two hours to pass, she decides. She keeps an eye on her watch as she passes along to stores that interest her, then at one-thirty, leaves for Hollywood Milan. Her navigator gets her there in fifteen minutes.

Dottie does some browsing through the store on her way to the manager's office. She's in the women's section. Blouses, shirts, skirts and pants made from silk, rich cottons, and other fabrics Dottie deems expensive. She looks at several price tags. Four hundred dollars for a cotton blouse, and almost double that for a silk one. Skirts and pants that cost no less than two hundred dollars. She looks at a collection of formal gowns and dresses. The cheapest gown costs over one thousand dollars. She imagines the belts to be studded with diamonds, and shoes made from leather or other material that would be too valuable to be exposed to the elements. She notices some tuxedos and suits in the men's section at the far end of the store, and guesses they're no more expensive. She crosses her arms tightly across her chest, too afraid to touch anything, rushing to the office.

She knocks on the door and is greeted by a woman, jet black hair in a bun, dressed in a red silk blouse and black pants. Dottie guesses her age to be mid-forties, but her skin is smooth enough to be ten years younger. Her lips are rich with ruby-coloured lipstick, and Dottie notices black mascara on her eyelids.

She smiles naturally and says, "Ah, you must be Dottie Pembroke. I'm Joan Danner, owner and manager of Hollywood Milan. Do come in."

In the office, Dottie sees a larger mahogany desk, all tidy and paper-free, with a medium-sized laptop and fancy telephone in the middle. Joan sits in a big leather chair behind the desk, and offers Dottie the leather high-back chair sitting in front.

In the interview, Joan asks almost the same questions that Melissa had asked, except for questions about fitness, and there's no mention of any workout program. Dottie answers all of them with swift promptness, and says the same things about working for her mother. She's is even offered the same salary that Melissa has offered: $3,500 per pay period. But then, Joan asks more questions that Dottie's never heard from Melissa.

"Do you believe that a leader should be feared or liked," Joan asks.

Dottie smiles, thinking of her mother again. "I think a leader should be neither liked nor feared, but respected," she answers. "And the leader must give his or her employees the same respect, just like employees and team members should respect their leaders just as they should respect their parents. This is one of the many things I learned from working for my mother all those years."

"What were some of the biggest mistakes that you made in your job, and what did you learn from them?"

"I'm proud to say that I haven't made any major mistakes in my accounting job. However, one of my weaknesses is that I tend to jot down numbers a little too fast, or in the wrong column when I get excited about a major purchase or a big order that was successful. Fortunately, I was taught the legal way of fixing mistakes – writing the correction in another column and signing your initials. I just hope I can remember this procedure if I do choose to work for you."

"You've worked at the same business in your hometown for thirteen years. Why did you leave?"

Here, Dottie tells Joan about the counselling session with Dr. Aspinall. "It was here that I had an epiphany, and I realized that I would never be able to establish the sisterly relationship that Jessica wants if I kept my mother at my hip. So I agreed that moving to Los Angeles, and even living with her, would be the best way."

"What attracted you to my business, as opposed to a large corporation?"

"I've always been used to working for small businesses, and I can't really see myself working among many other accounting secretaries in big corporations. I would like to call myself a team player, but I discovered that I do my best work alone. Besides, given the fact that I went to a small business college, as opposed to study accounting and business administration, I'm pretty sure that a larger law firm or product testing company, or advertising agency, or even a movie studio like Pembroke Pictures, would pass me over in favour of someone who has a four-year university degree."

Before the interview concludes, Dottie asks about Joan's clientele. "You must have the wardrobe departments of major movie studios flocking here to buy your clothes for contemporary pieces," she says.

"I do," Joan answers. "Starlight Pictures bought some elegant business suits worn by some of the protagonists and 'female supervisor' characters in National Working Woman's Holiday, due to be released next spring."

"Is Pembroke Pictures one of your customers?"

"Yes," Joan answers. "In fact, one the last things that Pembroke Pictures bought from us were some elegant gowns and tuxedoes with neckties that were worn in some fancy balls and New Year's Eve scenes that were filmed for a movie due out next Valentine's Day, The Best Years of Our Love."

Dottie looks interested and says, "I'll have to check that out." The interview ends then, and Dottie thanks Joan and leaves.

At dinner that afternoon, Dottie gets a call from both Melissa and Joan. They say the same thing: "Dottie, I loved your professionalism, and the way you responded to all my questions. I think you'd fit in perfectly. I'd love for you to work as my business accountant." That night, Dottie is left with a major decision. Both Fit and Fashionable, and Hollywood Milan are very interested in her, and have offered her the same salary. But Dottie is more impressed with Melissa's friendly demure, while Joan seemed a little bit more cold and conservative to her. Kind of like a cross between Anna Wintour and Helen Pembroke. Surely Jessica wouldn't like her sister working for anyone who had their mother's personality, even if they did approve of the movie business for their children. As well, the clothes at Fit and Fashionable are more in tune of what Dottie would buy; whereas with Hollywood Milan, a shopping spree there would take up her whole paycheque, even if she did get an employee discount.

She does the dinner dishes, then calls Melissa on her cell phone.

"Melissa, it's Dottie," she says. "I'd like to take your offer working at Fit and Fashionable, and I'll start as soon as tomorrow."

"That is wonderful," Melissa says. "I'll see you at eight-thirty tomorrow morning then. Bye for now." Dottie hangs up.

Dottie has already sent Joan a message passing up the Hollywood Milan offer when Jessica comes into the apartment. She gets up and excitedly touches Jessica's shoulders.

"Jess, guess what," she says. "I succeeded at my two interviews today, and both wanted me to work for them. But I chose Fit and Fashionable, and I start tomorrow."

Jessica grins and says, "Wonderful! You'll love Melissa. She puts out the best clothes and discounts that all the celebrities love to take advantage of. And much of what I bought from her is perfect for my body. Joan is a little too upper class and snobby for me. I only go to her for something to wear to red carpet events and fancy galas. And she reminds me too much of Mom. While Joan doesn't diss actors and singers and other celebrities, she once told me that she'd much prefer it if her two daughters strictly concentrated on the store for when she retires. Her fifteen-year-old just told me she thinks show business is scary, and that running the store would be 'more in her future,' as she put it. Just like a Stepford child, and she works as her salesperson and cashier. Trust me, you made the right decision with Fit and Fashionable."

Dottie now thinks of the send-off party for Jessica and Kevin. "Okay, but can we keep this a secret from the family until Friday night? I want this to be my special dinner announcement."

Jessica smiles and agrees, "The party would be a perfect time. My lips are sealed until then."

On Wednesday, Dottie comes home and checks her e-mail. She is happy to see messages from the other Pembroke actors, Kevin, Sherry, Heather and Bridget, and even messages from her other cousins. Sherry's older brother, Blaire, has sent an e-mail saying it's been so long since he's last seen her, and so has Robert Pembroke's youngest child, David. She clicks on all their messages to see their acting résumés attached. Just then, a message from Dennis Pembroke comes, with the acting résumé of his sixteen-year-old son, Ethan. Ethan, a cousin Dottie has never, ever met. All except Blaire and David say they look forward to seeing her at Jessica and Kevin's party on Friday night; Blaire and David are both out of town filming movies and can't make it.

Dottie smiles and retrieves Dr. Aspinall's business card from her wallet. She saves all the résumé documents in her computer, then clicks on the "New Message" button and types in the e-mail address, downloading all the attachments.

Hi, Dr. Aspinall, she types. Attached are the résumés of my younger brother, Kevin, and all my cousins on my father's side who are experienced actors. Please pass them all to my mother as part of her "movie and television" assignment. Thanks. Sincerely, Dottie Pembroke.

She thinks of her mother as she sends the message. She should give her a call one of these days to ask how that assignment is coming.

Jessica picks Dottie up from work on Friday. "You should be excited, Dottie," she says as she drives to Dennis Pembroke's mansion-like house in Beverly Hills. "This is your chance to interact with the rest of the family." They arrive at the house a few minutes after five-thirty.

"Maybe I haven't been thinking about it, but why is Uncle Dennis holding yours and Kevin's party here?" Dottie asks. "It seems a bit silly to hold a party at a place where the guest of honour doesn't live."

"One small problem – Kevin doesn't live with us, remember?" Jessica reminds her. "He's got his own place in Inglewood. He called before I left, telling me he's on his way." She rings the doorbell, and Heather and Bridget greet them both, all screaming like a group of girlfriends.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't one of the guests of honour," Bridget declares.

"Yes, Kevin said he was already leaving," Jessica replies. "I hope he remembers to stay on Sawtelle before turning onto Santa Monica Boulevard. I don't want him to get lost."

"If he does and ends up late for dinner," Dottie says, "I'll buy him an electronic navigator for his birthday. He doesn't have one in his car, does he?"

"Not that I know of, no," Jessica answers.

Dennis and his wife appear from the kitchen and he says, "Well, you know we can't start dinner until he arrives." He goes up to hug Jessica and Dottie hello, then looks straight at Dottie. "Dottie, I can't believe it's been so long since I last saw you. Your mother should've at least made you visit your father every other weekend and during one month in the summer, like all the other divorced mothers."

"Hey, if she had, then I wouldn't have had all the work experience I put on my résumé," Dottie replies.

Dennis frowns. "Your mother had you working at thirteen, and all throughout high school? I hope that divorce judge never picked that up. Your mother would've been in so much trouble, I'd bet."

"And yet, he had no problem with Jessica and Kevin having acting careers as children," Dottie thinks, but refrains from saying it. Instead, she says, "At least I never went out and drank, smoked and partied my butt off like some other teenagers."

Soon, a teenage boy, about as tall as Bridget, comes to the front hall to greet Jessica. Dennis' son, Ethan. He looks at Dottie and smiles naturally. "And you must be Dottie," he says, shaking her hand. "Dad and Uncle Jack always said you two were twins, but we wouldn't have known seeing that we rarely ever saw you two together. I still can't believe that old judge decided to split you up in the custody session. That is so wrong."

"Ethan, if he hadn't, then I wouldn't have had the success I've garnered," Dottie replies. "Didn't Daddy tell you about my interest in Math? You think I'd want to waste my potential starring in a bunch of movies that have nothing to do with number work? I'd stick out like an ingrown hair."

Jessica stops Dottie before she says anything further. "Dottie," she says, "Ethan's been in movies as a child just like Kevin and I, and the rest of us have, and is currently starring in a teen-based TV series. Please don't do any preaching about appropriate career choices, not this evening."

Minutes later, the sisters see Jack and Kevin arriving. Dottie immediately gets up to hug Kevin. She attempts to hug her father, but he just looks at her rather coldly. Both Jessica and Dennis notice this, and try to talk to him.

"Daddy," Jessica says, "please remember that she's also your daughter. Try to be civil with Dottie for Kevin and me, okay?"

"Yeah, just because she didn't want to be in show business with them, it doesn't make her any less of a Pembroke," Dennis reminds her. This prompts Dottie to hug him, but he doesn't hug back.

Lawrence arrives with his wife and Sherry, followed by Robert with his wife and two of their three grown children, Celeste and Graham. More cousins she hasn't seen in years. Celeste quickly introduces Dottie to her husband. Dottie shakes their hands and hugs them hello, but stares at the way the look. She guesses Celeste and Graham to be early to mid-thirties; she knows Celeste is almost a decade older than Jessica and herself. She is impressed by the way they're dressed; Celeste in a navy sweater with the same black skirt with gold swirls that Dottie is also wearing, Graham is lavender-coloured dress shirt with a red necktie and green dress pants. Dottie looks over at everyone else. All the other Pembroke children are wearing jeans. Even Jessica and Heather are wearing jean skirts for the evening.

Graham notices the similar skirts and jokes, "Well, maybe we should give Us Weekly a call, and let's see who wore it best!" Dottie smiles at him; she's sure she would get the bigger vote.

Dottie decides that she likes Celeste and Graham, and talks to them until dinner. Celeste looks disappointed with her as she says, "I can't believe you let so much time pass without speaking to any of us, Dottie. I got married three years ago, and you didn't even come to my wedding, even though I had Uncle Jack track your mother down to get your address."

"I showed it to Mom, and she ended up vetoing it," Dottie replies. "Not only because of Dad, but because a lot of businesses and new offices were being formed all over Winnipeg that year, and it would be the busiest time ever for us."

"I'll bet," Celeste scoffs. "It was only because Helen hated Uncle Jack and his career so much, she didn't want you to have anything to do with him… or us, for that matter. Well, I'll have you know that Graham and I are just as business-driven as you are – certainly not as driven as your mother, though – and we wouldn't dream of behaving as maliciously as her!"

Dottie becomes more interested in them now. "Really?" she asks. "You want to go into business instead of just acting."

"Actually," Graham says, "when Dad saw how much more talented we were in business matters, he and Uncle Lawrence decided that we would be taking over Pembroke Pictures when they retire or kick the bucket. Right now, we're working in the advertising and business management side of the studio. We hope to at least make president and CEO by their retirement."

"But still, Dad and Uncle Jack have told us about your mother," Celeste continues. "We take that as lessons on how not to raise our children. You should see David in his movies, and Jessica and Kevin and all the rest of our cousins are very good at what they do. If any of our children develop that same talent and drive, you'd better believe we're going to encourage their acting careers."

She puts her hand on Dottie's shoulder. "You should thank Jessica for getting you away from that bohemian, Helen. She's a thorn in the Pembroke family. Separating from her to connect with us will be good for you."

Dottie spends the time until dinner thinking about it. Sure, she thinks she should connect with her father's family, but she doesn't want to lose the connection with her mother.

Dinner consists of a rice casserole with chicken and hamburger, with various assortments of potatoes and vegetables. Before they eat, Dennis rises to begin a speech. "I'm so happy that the family members who were able to come out could be here this evening," he declares At this time tomorrow, Jessica and Kevin will be out of Los Angeles, preparing to film Karma Chameleon and If You Steal My Sunshine, flying to Toronto with their father and myself to shoot their opening scenes."

Dottie gives Jessica a strange look. Toronto, she mouths to her. Didn't Jessica say her opening scenes were set in New York City?

"And both Jack and I are confident that these films will serve as comedy and drama gold, and will become legends of the genre," Dennis continues.

Dottie bites her lower lip, keeping any laughter and negative comments inside her. So far, this seems like a bad speech to her, so she decides to tune out until her uncle finishes. Several minutes later, they start serving each other, and when Dottie has her plate full, she clinks her glass to get everyone's attention.

She looks at her relatives and says, "I'm sure you're all wondering how my job search is going since getting your newspaper ads and shopping for all those fancy clothes. Well, I'm happy to announce that after interviews with two prestigious fashion boutiques, I've started working with Fit and Fashionable on Melrose just this week as the business accountant."

Everyone except Jack, Celeste and Graham are very happy for her. Jack just looks at her and says, "An accountant? You're an accountant, Dottie? Once again, you've sucked up to your mother!"

"Dad!" Dottie protests loudly. "I thought I made it clear: I have a fascination for numbers. How can acting in movies and TV shows possibly encourage that?"

"Oh, Jack, don't be like that!" Robert protests further. "So what if you couldn't get all three of your children into show business? I'm happy that Dottie's found something that suits her."

"My question is," Celeste adds, "why didn't you come to Dad and tell him you needed work? Pembroke Pictures could've put you right into the accounting department."

"I thought about that," Dottie answers. She eats some casserole, then tells about her education at Herzing. "Now, put me up with two other Winnipeggers who graduated from business programs at Red River College and the Universities of Manitoba or Winnipeg, and worked at small businesses. In fact, put all three of us up against candidates who studied business at the University of Los Angeles or Southern California, Harvard, Yale, and any Columbia University in the country. Who would you hire? You'd single out even the Red River College guy, never mind me."

"Yeah, but you're family," Graham says. "Send us your résumé sometime. If our business advisors told us to pass over you because of your 'inadequate' education and experience, our reply would be, 'Stuff it, she's our cousin!'"

Dottie laughs and says, "Oh, how professional."

When dinner is over, she is sitting with Jessica and Kevin. Dottie gives her sister another strange look and said, "You're going to Toronto to film your opening scenes? I thought you said they were set in New York."

"They are," Jessica replies. "But you know how expensive hotels and meals and apartments are there. There simply wasn't enough money in the budget. Uncle Dennis and the accounting team managed to find some cheaper deals in Toronto, and did extensive research on Toronto strip clubs."

"My opening scenes are set in New York, too," Kevin adds, "and the budget for If You Steal My Sunshine was a little bit more than Karma Chameleon, but not that much."

Dottie turns to face Kevin. "You and Jessica haven't told me much about your movie," she says. "What's the story behind If You Steal My Sunshine?"

Kevin explains, "In this one, I play Peter Shields, an artist with his own artwork business, who's just found success with his first art show featuring colourful scenes from all around the world. But he's feeling miserable and down because he's suffering from unrequited love with his girlfriend. So he decides to visit his older brother and sister in Southern Florida for sunshine, beaches and adventurous escape. You really should read the script. I just about cracked a gut laughing at some of the scenes."

He hands her his movie script. "Be sure to note the scene in the airplane lavatory just before Peter lands in Miami, and the way he walks off the plane, as well as the scenes involving go-karting, jousting, jet-skiing, and when his siblings and all their friends take Peter riding on scooters. It's awesome. I just can't wait to start filming in Florida. It's going to be a blast!"

Dottie nods and takes the script into Dennis and his wife's bedroom. She closes the door, sits in the middle of the bed and starts reading. The opening scene shows the art show scene with some very descriptive artwork, how the show is successful, even Peter getting a call from his siblings, telling him to spare a couple of pictures for them. The scenes switch as Peter gets compliments all around, then finally a comment from his less-than-impressed girlfriend: "At least you're good at something."

Dottie stops and thinks about herself, feels guilty. This is exactly what she'd say if her boyfriend was an artist, she knows.

She keeps reading to the part where Peter leaves for Miami. When she get to the part in the lavatory Kevin has told her about, she starts laughing. Apparently, Peter uses the toilet, then is thrown back and forth between walls during turbulence. He is seen limping as he walks off the plane and into the airport, and when his siblings see this, Dottie reads aloud the advice: "If you have to go just before the plane lands, save your piss for the airport washrooms." She keeps laughing, but not loud enough for everyone to hear from the living room, then stops after a while. "Okay, Peter, I'll remember that."

As she reads the scenes in Miami, she can already feel the warm sunshine, the hotter heat in the summer, the warm sand and the cool ocean water lapping against her own thighs. Jessica's told her that Los Angeles can be like this, too. She must remember to go to the beach come Sundays. But despite her images of the weather, she sees that the script varies between adventures. She decides to keep reading, looking for anything interesting. She notices the jousting scene Kevin told her about, and sees Peter's brother, Jackie, engaging in a match with one of his friends. Jackie and his friend both are jumped from behind mid-match. Peter then jumps in, steps onto one of the stools and screams for a challenge like a medieval warrior.

Suddenly the door opens, and Dottie sees Bridget come in. She is startled, wondering why she's interrupting her.

"What are you doing in here?" Bridget asks. "This is Mom and Dad's room. Why aren't you out in the living room, socializing with Jessica and Kevin… oh, is that Kevin's script you're reading?"

"Yes, and not to be rude, but I'd like some quiet, please?" Dottie requests. Bridget shrugs and leaves the room for a bit

Dottie resumes reading. As she reads on, there's a scene in an indoor arcade where Peter does badly at a "carniball" game, so the next game, he takes all the balls, jumps onto the rolling alley, and dumps them all into the 100-point target. But mainly, the movie consists of Peter, his older brother and sister, and all their friends horsing around in Miami, getting drunk and picking up women, or so Dottie thinks. When she finishes it, she looks back at the cover to see who wrote it. The writer's name is Morgan Courtland.

"Thank God Dad's name isn't listed here," Dottie says to herself. "Surely he'd have more sense than this."

It's after ten o'clock when Dottie returns the script to Kevin. He smiles and asks, "Well, Dottie, what do you think?"

"I don't know what to say," Dottie replies. "Sure, the script has some funny bits, and I felt bad for Peter's life in New York. Maybe this is why he's looking for an escape, but it seems as if the characters jump from one adventure to another while in Miami. This is where the story stops making sense, and I wonder if there's any story at all in here."

Kevin nods his head towards his father, and slashes his throat with his finger. Dottie doesn't notice this and keeps speaking. "It looks like the writer came up with about fifty different story ideas and tried to bunch them all into one movie. I tried to follow it the best I could, but it seems all they do is drink, horse around and party for about 100 minutes."

Dottie thinks about the argument Jessica had with their maternal grandfather and uncles when the twins were ten years old. She says to Kevin, "Years ago, when Grandpa Street, Uncle Paul and Uncle Gerald all tried to persuade Jessica – and perhaps you – to give up acting, Uncle Gerald said something about 'a bunch of movies and shows that the real world won't watch.' This is going to be one of them."

"Dottie, shut your mouth!" Kevin seethes, certain that Jack was overhearing her criticism.

"How in the world can you to persuade me to support this one?" Dottie asks.

Suddenly, Jack turns around and announces to her, "How about the fact that your father is directing this movie?"

Dottie turns around, and is horrified to see Jack's angry look. He approaches Dottie and asks in a stern booming voice, "So, you think the real world isn't going to watch this movie, do you? Copying your Uncle Gerald, is that it?"

Dottie grins and innocently replies, "I'm sorry, did it come out like that?" Jack's face gets even more gruff, and Dottie knows she's busted now. She covers her face with her hands and groans, "Oh, no."

"Listen, missy, I'm tired of you telling Jessica and Kevin how your career is superior to theirs by bashing the projects they're involved in," Jack lectures to her. "Jessica brought you here to get you away from your mother, and you have a lot of work to do. It's about damn time you showed appreciation for what we all do, and it's about damn time you showed appreciation for Hollywood and the movie industry!"

Dottie looks up at her father, looking both scared and embarrassed, wondering what her punishment will be – just like what she faced with him as a child. "You, little missy, will spend the next coming weekends in Miami with your brother and me until we finish filming for If You Steal My Sunshine."

Dottie looks around at her family, all giving her varying looks of disapproval, even Robert and Lawrence. Suddenly, she gets a sick feeling in her stomach, yet she isn't nauseous. Still, she feels she can't stay here any longer. She checks her wallet and is thankful she has enough for a taxi. She uses the living room phone to call one, then leaves the house wordlessly.