- Pages: 368 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Viking Books for Young Readers
- ISBN: 9780593205266
An Excerpt From
Margot Mertz Takes It Down
“Sorry. I was just trying to give you context but . . . you’re right. That’s not important. Nor does it excuse what I did. Or the damage it could do if it got out! Margot . . .”
Mrs. Blye looked down at her drink, as if her gin and tonic were somehow going to save her. Clearly she was embarrassed and a little confused. This must have been weird for her. The random brunette she had once given a B+ suddenly had a lot of power over her.
“Josh was one night. It was just sex. Great sex, yes, but—-”
“Mrs. Blye, again, I really, really don’t need to know—-”
“I still love my husband. Sure, we have our problems. I can be distant. And he’s gotten very into role--playing board games.” She cringed. “But that doesn’t excuse what I did! And I don’t want one stupid, drunken night to . . .” She started to tear up. “I believe we can make this marriage work if you can just, please, help me.”
And that’s when she really lost it. We’re talking heaving, loud, ugly crying. Normally, Mrs. Blye was pretty attractive. For a teacher. Her white skin was a little too tanned, especially for winter. But she dressed okay and knew her way around a Sephora. If you passed her on the street you wouldn’t be like, “Daaammn.” But if you had to stare at her for forty--one minutes while she described oxidation--reduction reactions, you might find yourself thinking, “Huh, she’s kinda pretty.” But right now? She looked like wet garbage. And she was starting to attract attention.
“You okay over here?” The ancient cocktail waitress, who I assumed was named Rhonda or Nancy, had appeared beside our booth.
“We’re okay, thanks,” I answered confidently for both of us. Rhonda/Nancy hobbled back to the bar.
I never worried about being carded at Petey O’Taverns. Petey’s was a seedy bar for serious drinkers who didn’t require ambiance or natural light. The floors were sticky, there was a cigarette machine (?!) by the bathroom, and behind the bar hung a poster for a movie from the ’80s called Ski School. (This exceptionally misogynistic poster features a giant pair of bikini--clad boobs with two tiny “cool guys” skiing down the cleavage. The tagline: “Curves ahead and behind.” I feel like this movie hasn’t aged well.)
Anyway, I wasn’t there to score booze. The only drink I ever ordered was a club soda with lime. I just needed a place to bring clients. Petey’s was gross, sure, but it allowed my adult clients to be anonymous, order a drink, and forget that they were about to Venmo a teenager thousands of dollars.
“Look, it’s always a mistake to sleep with a man named Josh,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. It wasn’t clear if she found this funny. “But . . . I might be able to help.”
Mrs. Blye looked up at me, searching my pale, pale (so pale) white face for a glimmer of hope.
Over the past two years, I had sat across from teachers, students, parents, and one time a state legislator. I listened to the details of their affairs, their embarrassing tweets, their shameful videos—-and then I’d make it all go away. That was the job. For the right fee, I would go to the ends of the internet to clean up their mistakes.
In this case, Mrs. Blye, a tenured chemistry teacher at Roosevelt High, cheated on her husband with Josh Frange, a chemistry teacher at Brighton High. (Brighton is our school’s rival. If you care about high school rivalries, which I don’t.) Josh had kind of a rep. He was a teacher--slut who slept with most of the district’s STEM departments. I’ve seen his Instagram account, and I have to say I don’t quite get it. In my opinion, he’s an average--looking forty--year--old with a very punchable face. But to each their own, I guess.
This is how it went down. Last weekend, Mrs. Blye’s husband left town to visit his sick mother (oof!), and Mrs. Blye got hammered at a “Teachers and Administrators Bonding Night of Rockin’ Karaoke!!!” [Shudder.] There was off--key singing, there were premixed margaritas, and there were a lot of pictures taken. By Josh. Pics of Mrs. Blye singing. Pics of Mrs. Blye and Josh dueting “Under Pressure.” (Thus causing both Freddie Mercury and David Bowie to die again.) And . . . pics of Mrs. Blye and Josh kissing.
Mrs. Blye was now freaking out because one of those photos had shown up on Josh’s Instagram feed. It was one of their tamer “duet” pics, but it contradicted her alibi that she “went bowling with Sheila.” Mrs. Blye worried that it was only a matter of time before more pictures showed up on his feed. Or before her husband saw it and started asking questions. She’d tried texting Josh to see if he would take it down, but so far, he hadn’t responded.
“Well?” Mrs. Blye asked after telling me her sordid tale. She was dying for a response.
I know this may sound like an easy gig. I mean, all Josh did was post one picture, right? But it was never that simple. You never knew how many pictures or tweets or emails there were, or who had downloaded them. You never knew where they were stored. On just one phone? Uploaded to the cloud? Backed up on a laptop? And you never knew what your target’s intentions were. What was Josh planning? If he was just a careless dum--dum who didn’t realize he was putting Mrs. Blye at risk, then erasing the pics might be easy enough. But if he was purposely trying to break up Mrs. Blye’s marriage? Well, that could get ugly real fast.
My gut told me Josh Frange was going to be a pain in my ass. And that Mrs. Blye probably hadn’t told me the whole story. Which could mean tons of billable hours for one stupid picture.
“I have to think about it.”
Mrs. Blye wrinkled her UV--kissed brow. “I have to think about it” wasn’t the answer she was expecting. Suddenly, she was a pissed--off teacher who would not accept your forged doctor’s note. “What is there to think about? My life is falling apart, and I’m willing to pay you. What the hell else do you have going on? Studying? Extracurriculars? An awkward hand job? You’re a high schooler!”
High schooler? That pissed me off. The label “high schooler” completely trivializes what I am. Labels I prefer? Entrepreneur. Tech--curious. Lone wolf. Daughter. Misanthrope. Possible witch. (Okay, I’m not a witch at all, but Greg Mayes called me that once in a study hall, and I have to admit, I kind of liked it. Even though the witchiest thing I’ve ever done is burn palo santo in my room.) Point is, call me any of those things! But when you say “high schooler,” it sounds like I’m some dud who doesn’t know who she is. And I know who I am. I’m Margot Goddamned Mertz.
And besides, Mrs. Blye needed my help! Did she think her “I’ll send you to the principal” voice would really scare me? She just told me she’d had an affair! I had the upper hand!
But of course I didn’t say any of that or even show the slightest bit of resentment. Because I’m a professional. I simply responded, “It’s gonna cost you.”
Baller move, if you ask me. Like I said before, I didn’t need this job.
Mrs. Blye didn’t care about the price. Nobody cares. Once they think you’ll fix a life--destroying mistake for them, teachers, teenagers, local weathermen . . . they always agree to my terms. What choice do they have?
“Thank you. Thank you, Margot. Whatever it costs! Just make this go away!”
Mrs. Blye reached into her big teacher tote bag and gave me $200 as a down payment. I told her I’d be in touch with further details regarding her case. And then I got the hell out of there. Petey O’Taverns smelled like failure, and I had a lot of work to do.
1. She gave me a B+ for using the colloquial name for a sugar solution on the final, instead of using the chemical formula. Which is BS because she knows I was doing A--level work. (Not that I hold a grudge.)
2. And it begs so many questions. Why is she wearing a bikini to ski? Did the men shrink or is she a giant? What did female moviegoers do in the ’80s?
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