Enthusiastic applause erupted. Dr. Penelope Wolf smiled, pushing down the ripple of anxiety. Her eyes darted from the bookshop’s front door to the rear exit. Jessie patted Penelope’s knee and leaned in close.
“Remember, breathe.”
Jessie’s motherly voice smothered her forest fire of nerves. Penelope released a trapped sigh. Despite the lavender bubble bath, the honey ginger tea, and the Zoloft, Penelope was still not ready for the question and answer portion of her book tour. She was fine with reading aloud from her book. When she read, Penelope could picture herself in her favorite sweats in her favorite chair editing with Alabama Shakes blasting in the background and Belvedere snoring on her slippers. But people, yuck. People asking questions, midnight in nightmare alley. The bookstore blurred.
“Thank you so much for your insightful questions. Excellent audience! Dr. Wolf could answer your questions all night. We’re going to take a little break while the Books By The Cover staff sets up the book signing table. There will be cheese, wine, and of course plenty of opportunities to buy New York Times bestseller, Glitch, the Mandela Effect and the Psychology of Collective False Memories,” Jessie said.
Penelope gasped as she realized what her publicist was saying.
Not again, Penelope thought, not now.
Chuckles and snatches of conversation whirled around her. People were stirring. People were gathering their bags and coats, lured by free chardonnay and waxy cheese cubes. Everything in Penelope’s field of vision was accelerating. Closing her eyes, Penelope threw out a grappling hook to stop the freefall. She cracked open one eyelid. She was in a rental town car with Jessie speeding back to the hotel. Shutting her eyes, Penelope bungeed back in time. Shifting back and forth, Penelope slipped into the correct groove in time. Sweat droplets broke out on her forehead.
You got this Lope a voice, familiar yet unknown, whispered in her head.

That’s right I got this, Penelope thought.
Holding her breath, Penelope opened her eyes. Her vision was swimming, but Penelope was back in the book store after her book reading but before the Q&A. Quietly she blessed the voices in her head.
“Remember, breathe,” Jessie said.
Jessie watched the younger woman face, clenched in concentration. Jessie added, “Penelope, love, have we lost you?”
“No, I’m back. I mean I’m here. I mean I was just remembering when it was enough for writers to write the book instead of writing, marketing, wining and dining. Slight headache, but I know I am going to ace this night,” Penelope said.
“That’s my ballsy broad. You’re an old soul, love. I will cancel our dinner reservations and reschedule that podcast interview to tomorrow afternoon. You need a room service hamburger and a good night sleep ASAP,” Jessie said in her motherly voice and patted her author’s knee.
Penelope faced her fans.

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