The photo slides out of the envelope first. Its edges are worn from age, a thumbtack hole in the top right corner. The colors are muted. In it, Neil and his daughter Emily sit on a green sofa in front of a walnut-paneled wall. Light from an unseen window casts a soft glow over their faces. Emily’s leaning forward, smiling with an open mouth and a scrunched nose, her eyebrows arching up her forehead. She has a hand to her heart. God, she looks so young. Fourteen, maybe? Thirteen. Neil runs a hand through his thinning gray hair, sees again how full his hair was back then, how his paunch didn’t hang over his belt. In the picture, he and Emily have the same color hair, almost black. Hers is piled up on her head in a messy bun with a chopstick jabbed through it, a chunk on the right side falling to her collarbone. A black choker circles her neck. Under her white ribbed tank top is a black bra, straps peeking out the sides. He remembers when she cut the legs off her jeans to create those shorts. How she hated those freckles swarming her face and chest and arms. Her body looks plump. Well, not plump exactly. It’s just the image stuck in his brain all these years from the last day he saw her at twenty-four, slouched on their sofa, her eyes at half-mast—addicted to heroin long before the words opioid and fentanyl darkened headlines. He’d yelled at her to get up, and when she tried, her pants slid down, revealing the triangle bones of her pelvis jutting out below her hollowed stomach. A purple bruise edged in muddy yellow starburst along her left hip.
Let go, he reminds himself as he steps onto his Seattle condo balcony to read the note that accompanies the photo. It’s one of the rules.
Dear Uncle Neil,
I found this among Dad’s things, and I thought you should have it. She’s been on my mind a lot these days.
Yesterday, Neil took a call from Jessica, Emily’s childhood best friend and the daughter of his oldest friend, Pete. It wasn’t a mystery what she’d say. Pete had been diagnosed with an aggressive lung cancer six months ago, but still, he’s stunned by how the grief overtakes him. Memories of his ex-wife Eileen, of Pete and Carole, of the four of them raising their children together under the never-ending blue skies—moments he hasn’t thought of in years.
In three days, he’ll make the trip down for the funeral. Emily will be there too, hidden in the expansive cemetery grounds, tucked behind palm trees swaying in the breeze, submerged in waves foaming on the shore, invisible yet ubiquitous, like the jasmine-scented air that infuses L.A. as the city tips toward spring.
The Uber driver weaves through traffic on Lincoln Boulevard, blaring his horn when he gets stuck behind a slower car. His urgency startles Neil. Seattleites are more polite—passive aggressive, as Eileen used say. She didn’t exactly hate Seattle, but she never got used to the gray clouds that swaddled the city most of the year. As soon as their divorce was final, she moved herself and their son Sean back to L.A.—by then Emily had been missing for two years. He sometimes thinks if he hadn’t lost his job the day after Emily turned eleven, he’d still live in L.A. He and Eileen would still be married, and Sean and Emily would visit every Sunday, bringing their partners and children for dinner.
Be present, Neil tells himself. It’s another rule.
Cormorants dive to the ocean. A young man pushes a stroller. And then: A woman’s long black hair lifts in the breeze. She and a redhead walk down the street dressed in jeans and light cardigans, a crumpled bit of newspaper swirling up around their hips. The black-haired woman grabs the arm of her friend and turns her head, giving Neil a glimpse of her face. Mid-twenties. Too young.
Sean’s Venice Beach condo is situated between the beach and the canals, and when Neil steps out of the Uber, the smell of sea air whisks him back to his first days in L.A. Everything about the city was foreign to a kid from an Iowa farm: the mist that hung over the ocean in the mornings, the rushing cars, the anonymity. But it was the contrasting smells that startled him. Home was hot grass and sweet hay in summer, manure in the spring and fall. So different from the beach, which smelled of salt and coconut oil. Arriving as a freshman, he’d felt so excited and scared, so free and lonely. Perhaps he should blame the ocean for the spark of hope that lights him up now, certain that Emily is here, and Jessica knows how to find her.
Sean and his wife Inge gutted and remodeled the condo before they moved in, and Neil feels like he’s walking into a spread in Home & Gardens, with the red Wolf oven, gleaming marble countertops, and walls in bright floods of citrus. Through the back window, the sun leaves a glittery trail on the water.
After dinner, Sean tips back in his chair. Tall like his father, but with sandy blond hair like his mother, he’s bigger than Neil remembers. His chest fills out his t-shirt and his bicep bulges every time he moves his arm. He wasn’t a planned baby—Eileen had just wanted one—but during the beginning of Emily’s descent, she’d gotten pregnant again, giving birth to a child who is nothing like his sister. Outgoing. Good-looking. He breezes through life.
“We have something we’d like to talk to you about. It doesn’t have to be tonight, but when you’re feeling up to it, let us know.”
“Tomorrow, after the funeral,” says Neil. “Tonight, I just want to go to bed early.”
But despite his exhaustion he’s up for hours staring at the photo. He can’t believe how beautiful she looks when she’s laughing. Her eyes are turned up ever so slightly at the corners. The tips of her fingers graze her sternum. She always did that when she was touched by something—placed her hand on her chest. Someone must have said something funny, but also sentimental, right before the shot. What was it that made her laugh? Who said it? He should be able to remember. But he’s not even sure which trip to L.A. this was. They visited Pete and Carole and Jessica every summer until Emily destroyed herself with drugs, turned her mind from geometry to theft, disappearing for days and then weeks at a time. He’d like to think he’d made her laugh, but it was probably Pete.
After the funeral, Neil drives Sean’s car to Pete and Carole’s house. It’s been thirty years since he’s seen most of the people that fill the house. Everyone’s dressed a little sharper than his friends in Seattle. The fabric of their clothes is crisper. Their shoes are shinier. But their faces look tired. That’s what he’s noticed about aging—it saps people of their brightness. He searches the crowd for Pete’s lanky form, but no, he’s not here. He’ll never see him again. A headache forms in his left temple.
Eileen is on the other side of the living room with her new husband, and, as if she can still sense his presence after all these years, she turns and waves. As always, she’s at ease with people, confident that she belongs, what attracted him to her in the first place, although at the time he would have described it as sensuousness. It saturated her, from her love of poetry to her curvy body to her ability to charm her professors into replacing a B with an A when they were undergraduates.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” she says when they reach each other. There are new lines in her round face, and her body has softened, but she’s still beautiful.
“Emily took her first steps here, remember?” he says. “And every time Pete’s dog barked at her she fell, but she kept getting back up. Do you remember?”
“Mmhmm. Did Sean tell you?”
“I’ll let him share it.” She smiles. “He says you’re still working. I thought for sure you’d be retired by now.”
Past his ex-wife’s shoulder he sees Jessica towering over her petite mother as they talk with Carole’s sister. Her face has thinned over the years, but she still sports the pointy chin and crooked nose of her childhood. It’s hard to believe she’ll turn forty in a couple months. Neil feels for the photo in the pocket of his suit jacket.
“I wouldn’t know what to do with myself,” he says, but Eileen is already walking back to her husband.
Neil winces at the sound of his old nickname and turns to the balding man who stands in his path. He’s thinner than Neil remembers, but the gold wire-rimmed glasses and thick black eyebrows haven’t changed.
Neil shakes his old college buddy’s hand.
“This is my wife, Liz,” Jim says, placing his hand on the woman’s back. “I’ve been telling her stories about you and Pete and the fun we got up to in college. Tell her how many people live in that town you grew up in.”
“Danbury. Population: six hundred,” Neil says.
“Wow,” says Liz,” My high school was bigger than that.”
“And it’s shrinking,” says Neil.
Jim clasps Neil’s shoulder. “I was just thinking about that weekend in Tahoe when we crashed Pete’s father’s boat. God he was so scared, he started crying. I think it’s the only time I saw him cry.”
“What?” says Neil.
“Remember? You got drunk and threw up in the lake. Summer between junior and senior year.”
“No,” says Neil. “I worked all summer.” In college, he couldn’t afford the many trips his friends took—weekend jaunts during the school year, weeks on the water and the mountains in summer.
“Oh,” says Jim. “Who threw up then?”
“Don’t look at me,” says Liz. “That was before my time.”
Neil feels a tap on his shoulder. It’s Jessica.
“Excuse me,” she says. “Do you mind if I borrow my uncle?”
Jessica and Neil wander through the crowded living room and kitchen into the empty den. It’s the room from the photo. A place he spent so many evenings relaxing after dinner or watching football. The walnut-paneled walls are now white, but the green velvet sofa is the same.
“How are you holding up?” he asks.
“There’s always someone here. Half of me wants everyone to leave, and the other half wants nobody to go, ever.”
This would be the moment that Eileen would pat Jessica’s arm, but he keeps his hands by his side. “You know Eileen and I are here for you.”
“Emily’s been on my mind a lot these days. We’ve been looking through old photos. So many of my memories of Dad include her.”
“Have you heard from her?”
The sky changes, casting a lattice shadow on the floor.
A ray of sun blinds Neil to the room. It passes, and the imprint of the tree on the floor is gone.
Jessica continues, “But every once in a while, I think I see her, or I’ll be watching a TV show, and I’ll know she’s watching it too. It’s stupid.”
“No,” says Neil. “It’s not. I feel the same. I can still feel her out there. If she was…I would know.”
“After things went bad, she told me she wanted to become someone else. Just disappear. I think about that sometimes.”
“She was perfect,” says Neil. “How could she not know that? That was the drugs and alcohol talking.”
Jessica opens her mouth and then stops. “I should get back.”
When Neil returns to Sean and Inge’s home, he immediately wants to leave. The cheerful colors mock his pain, the luxury appliances a reminder of all that Emily never had.
“Hey, Sean, I’ve had a really bad day. I hope you don’t mind if I skip dinner. I just want to go for a walk.”
Sean’s smile falters. “Sure, Dad. I understand.”
Neil uses the bathroom and changes his clothes. He looks at the photo again. The nails of Emily’s right hand, which rest on her heart, are painted black, bitten to the quick. Her left hand is clenched in a tight fist by her hip. When she was just barely eleven, he announced they were moving to Seattle, and her whole body quivered. She pounded that left fist into her thigh, trying to stop the tears. Even as a little girl she’d expressed sadness with violence. But in this photo, she’s smiling. She’s laughing. How had he not noticed how much happier she was in L.A.? He pictures her holding up her pants, her shoulder blades poking her thin t-shirt as she limped up the steps of a Greyhound bus with the words Los Angeles on the front.
“You’re looking for her, aren’t you?” says Sean.
Neil is at the door. “Of course not.” He means it. Let go is a strict rule. Besides he wouldn’t know what to look for. He doesn’t know if Emily’s hair is still long and if there’s visible gray. Or if she’s still impossibly skinny. No, he doesn’t trust his sight, but he does trust his instincts. It’s another rule. There are three in total. Let go. Be present. Follow instincts. He’s imbued these rules with mystical powers that he doesn’t quite understand but believes with his whole body. It’s a form of torture, and he hates himself for it. But the rules pulse, electric currents singeing him from the inside out. He avoids his son’s face and walks out the door.
The evening is cool. Gray clouds stretch over a sky dusted pink and gold as the sun sets into the Pacific. When Neil rounds the corner, he hears Inge’s voice through an open window.
“Did your dad just leave?”
“Yeah,” says Sean.
“But he knows we want to talk to him?”
“He probably forgot.”
Neil did forget, but he’s indignant all the same. He slows his pace.
“I’m sorry,” says Inge.
“Well, he did just go to a funeral. It was probably too much to ask.”
“It’s always too much to ask,” says Inge. “You deserve a father that pays attention to you.”
Neil waits, but he doesn’t hear whether his son defends him or agrees with Inge. He stands on the corner. He should go back. He should listen to what they have to say. He turns, but no, he can’t. Tomorrow. Tomorrow he’ll give Sean his undivided attention.
At the boardwalk, he turns north. He can make out the Santa Monica pier in the distance. He winds through the cyclists and runners and tries to stay in the moment, tries not to miss anything or anyone. He nears a blue tarp stretched between a low wall and a planter. Next to it is another makeshift home constructed with a rainbow umbrella and blankets. There are about twenty shelters in grayed out shades of the rainbow. Shopping carts, bicycles, and blankets are scattered next to some, others are pristine. A few men sip beers and voices move through the homes.
“Hey man, you lost?” someone yells.
Neil turns to see a thin man with a scruffy beard propped up on two elbows on a blanket.
“No, I’m fine,” says Neil. And then, “Do you know Emily?”
“Hey, Em,” the man calls. “Someone’s looking for you.”
Neil’s heart pounds in his temples. A green tent speaks in soft thumps, the rustle of Gore-Tex, the grunt of a woman. Then it bulges on one side from the impression of a body. Overhead seagulls cry. The zipper whizzes open, and a gray-streaked head peeks out. Neil turns before they can see his reaction. His breath overtakes him in fast waves. He makes it to the ocean and bends over with his hands on his knees until his breath slows. Pinpricks of silver light dot a darkening sky. The moon curls over the horizon.
She’s not here.
He heads inland to Main Street and begins the walk back to Sean’s. After a few blocks a cocktail lounge beckons. Inside it’s candlelit and moody with exposed brick walls, concrete floors, and a matching bar that curves in a half circle around the liquor display. Neil pauses at the tropical-toned paintings on the walls and takes a seat in the middle of the bar. A woman with wavy dark hair and brown skin bartends. She flashes a dimple in each cheek when she smiles.
“Woodford Manhattan,” he says. “And the fish tacos, please.”
Sheila submits the man’s food order, mixes the drink, and sets it before him. He’s older than most of the patrons, with thinning gray hair and thick skin that sags under his eyes and chin. Heavy is the word she would use to describe him, but not because he’s fat. It’s his demeanor.
Two seats down from him, a woman tilts her glass back and drains her wine. Sheila suggests another, and the woman nods without looking her in the eye or saying thank you when the drink is refreshed. Sheila’s tempted to pick up the glass and hold it just out of reach until the woman acknowledges her.
This is new, these subversive thoughts. She’s always loved this job because she knows if she works the same hours as everybody else, she’d have to battle the tide to create time and energy for her art. She’s seen it happen to so many of her friends. But tomorrow she has an appointment with a gallery owner, and a fantasy she’s had since childhood feels real: She’s at the edge of her big break. She doesn’t want much. She doesn’t need to be famous, but how much better would life be if she could support herself with her art? Have dinner with her beautiful girlfriend, Kara, every night, instead of mixing drinks for others. Never again have to serve a rude customer. It’s unlikely. She knows that, and yet she can’t seem to tame these wild notions.
To calm her brain, she picks up her sketch pad and pencil and scans the bar. Who’s in charge? she wonders. Who’s left out? A woman at the only occupied table stares into the middle distance, the shadows crisscrossing her face, leaving just her lips in light. But it’s the heavy man that has cast a spell. What are the facial details and mannerisms that evoke heavy? She starts with the bags under his eyes. There are three folds under his left eye and two under his right. It’s strange how skin does that, loosens over time, as though it’s releasing its grip on the muscles and bones beneath it. She uses her finger to smear the pencil lines and create the shadows where his skin indents. The upper lid on his left eye doesn’t open as wide as his right, giving it a sleepy look. Crow’s feet radiate to his temples and down his cheeks. Later she’ll use a 2B pencil to give the lashes—which are surprisingly thick and still black—more definition. She’s careful not to smudge the two dots of light that brighten each pupil. Has she captured his heaviness? She isn’t sure.
She thinks of herself as a contemporary Wyeth, although she’s never said that aloud. As a teenager she’d seen his work at a museum, thinking she’d be bored by the expansive scenes of farms and lone people, but instead she’d felt drawn to them. An aching sadness had welled up in her, knowing those people were no longer alive. She imagines telling the gallery owner this tomorrow, using words like lineage to explain the connection of her work to Wyeth’s, but she fears he’ll think her old-fashioned. His gallery is filled with abstract pieces, expressionism and multimedia collages that use color and exaggerated lines to elicit an emotional response.
The door swooshes open. It’s Kara in lipstick the exact same shade of magenta as her pixie hairstyle, her petite frame in skinny jeans and a soft blue sweater. She makes her way to the bar followed by their friend, Ali, an Asian woman with white cat-eye glasses and no visible makeup. Kara and Ali work at an advertising agency in a world filled with people who consider themselves edgy, even as they churn out glittery ads designed to turn people into consumers. About once a week they come to the bar after work.
“Hey, Babe,” Sheila says. “Lemon drop?”
“You know me so well.” Kara smiles.
“What about you, Ali? Old fashioned?”
“No, let’s shake things up. How ’bout a Moscow mule?”
Ali doesn’t look at Sheila as she orders her drink. Lately, she’s seemed skittish and restless, her eyes darting all over the bar. Sheila tries to tell herself that she’s imagining it or that Ali’s always been this way, but in the early morning hours, lying next to Kara listening to her quiet breathing, she feels water seeping into the cracks of her life.
Ali’s different than others at Kara’s agency. More reserved. She wears what Sheila guesses are thrift store finds, rather than Kate Spade or DVF like Kara. When Sheila accompanies her girlfriend to the holiday party or even just an evening of cocktails, she’s always struck by how beautiful everyone is, as though it’s a requirement that the creators of advertising embody what they’re selling. After just a couple hours, she feels the subtle pressure to conform, aware of how frumpy she looks next to her glamorous girlfriend. She wonders how Ali manages to resist day in and day out.
A couple a little bit older than Sheila arrives. Then a group of three. She buzzes up and down the bar mixing drinks, pouring beers and wines, seeking excuses to hover near Kara and Ali.
“Hey, Sheils,” Kara says. “Ali was asking how we met. You were at that party with someone weren’t you?”
“No, that was you. I was very single,” says Sheila.
“That’s right, you told me a story about someone you met on a dating app.”
“Oh, which app did you use?” says Ali.
“All of ’em. OkCupid the most. Bumble.”
“I can’t meet anyone,” says Ali.
“It’s awful,” says Sheila.
“We met the old-fashioned way,” says Kara. “I never use dating apps.”
“If I looked like you, I wouldn’t either,” says Ali.
Kara winks at Sheila. “She’s just buttering me up so I won’t force her to change the concepts we’re presenting tomorrow.”
What are you doing? is what Sheila wants to say, but she turns and walks over to the other side of the bar to clean up after another group. She’s still amazed that this woman is her girlfriend. When they met three years ago, she’d begun to wonder if maybe she was past her romantic peak, and her body would never again fizz at the sight of someone new. And then, at a party she almost didn’t attend, she spotted her: golden and bold. They locked eyes. A few hours later Sheila saw her again on a sectional and sat next to her. What joy to discover that the attraction ran deeper than the physical. Kara had been an art history major, and they bantered about the Venice Beach art scene. When Sheila shyly revealed her own artistic ambitions, Kara touched her arm once and then again.
The heavy man has turned his attention to something in his hands, so she can’t see his eyes. She works on his eyebrows, which are still dark with just a few stray grays. His nose is long and wide. The round tip of it the lightest part of his face. She recreates it on her sketch pad by building the shadows along the sides, adding a few wrinkles where the bridge of his nose meets his forehead. The left nostril looks larger than the right, but that may just be the way the light is casting a shadow. She takes a couple steps to the right, but it’s still hard to tell. Getting the details right matters. The straightness of this man’s nose. The roundness at the end. The way it seems to dominate his face. It all matters. If she gets the details just right, so that it can be nobody’s nose but his, it’s a way of showing respect. She will have truly seen him. This is it. This is what she’ll talk to the gallery owner about. This is why realism is still relevant in the age of Instagram. She writes down her thoughts on a blank page.
A couple in the corner is ready to leave. She takes their money and cleans up their glasses and the drips of martini on the table. The heavy man’s drink is empty, and he requests a beer.
“All of your concepts were brilliant,” Kara says to Ali, “but the third one nailed it. The client will love it.”
Sheila can’t make out Ali’s lower pitched response, but she knows how she feels. After their third date, Sheila brought Kara back to her dingy studio apartment to share her paintings. Kara paused at each and commented on the small details that gave the painting its character. “You transformed the person that nobody notices into the most interesting one in the scene,” she said. At those words, Sheila placed a hand on Kara’s bare shoulder and a pulse flared in her finger and shot up her arm and down her spine. Weeks and even months later, that night flashed through her body, breaking her concentration at the easel or forcing her to go back and ask a customer to repeat an order. She’s never quite sure if that evening has lodged itself so deeply in her brain because of the sex or the elation at having her art recognized, but within the year Sheila had moved into Kara’s apartment and turned her second bedroom into a studio.
She picks up her sketch pad again. Maybe it’s his mouth that makes him appear heavy? His lips are full but pursed as though he just ate something sour. He starts talking to the person sitting next to him. Something about working at a bar when he was in college. He laughs, and his face is transformed. He looks lighter, younger. Is this just a bad night? Has she misinterpreted aging for loneliness? Or maybe she’s misunderstood him entirely and he just has one of those faces that looks sad.
Neil looks over to see the bartender staring at him. Earlier he noticed her drawing, and he thinks now that she’s been sketching him. She shoves her notebook into her apron. And in that motion, his life is refracted through her eyes. He visualizes his sterile, glass and steel condo, its windows streaked with rain. He sees his gray office on the other side of Lake Washington, stripped of mementos or photos. Night after night he eats dinner alone, sitting at a computer tracking his investments. Once a year on Emily’s birthday—the day he lives for—he gives himself permission to break his rules and search for her on the internet. He imagines what she looks like. He wonders if she’s off drugs, and if so, why she never calls. Now he thinks of Jessica’s theory that Emily’s just decided to disappear and become someone else. And maybe it’s the alcohol or the energy-draining day, but at that moment his mind is drenched with the vision of a farmhouse. A lilac bush blooms. He can almost smell the heavy flowers. Kneeling near a small garden of lettuces is a woman, a few gray hairs scattered through her dark head. She stands and their eyes meet. One second. Two. Then he turns away.
“I think my son’s wife is pregnant,” Neil says to the woman next to him. The statement seems to come from nowhere, but as soon as he says it, he knows it’s true.
Sheila walks over to Kara and Ali. “Another round?”
“No.” Kara glances at her phone. “I need to get home and finalize my slides for tomorrow.” Then she looks up and smiles at Sheila. “You’re meeting with Mark tomorrow, aren’t you?”
“Yes, at ten.”
“You’ll do great.” Kara turns to Ali. “Mark is Chris Barnes’ uncle. He owns an art gallery a couple blocks from here.”
“He owes you after you saved his ass on that project,” says Ali.
Until now it hadn’t occurred to Sheila that the meeting might just be a favor for her girlfriend. She imagines Kara wheedling her co-worker until he reluctantly agrees to talk to his uncle, the uncle almost forgetting about the appointment, hoping it will go quickly so he can get back to his day. She thinks about the madcap musings she’d entertained just over an hour ago. How she’d almost convinced herself that the meeting tomorrow—the one she wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Kara—would spiral her out of this bar with its mopey drunks and into a breezier life that was under her command.
The heavy man calls Sheila over. She takes his cash, and he leaves before she can return the change. The tip is bigger than the bill.
She studies the sketch again. It’s off. In her quest to capture loneliness, she’s taken it too far. The heavy man’s a caricature of himself. He looks older than he really is. She grabs a rag to clear his space, and weighted down by his empty beer glass is a photograph. In it is a younger version of the man and a teenage girl. They are both laughing. She flips the photo over.
Startled, she drops the picture, as though the words forbid her to hold it, but then laughs at her reaction. She imagines the heavy man watching her—as she watched him—then jotting down this message. Let go. Be present. Follow instincts.
“Good luck at the gallery tomorrow,” says Ali.
“Bye, Sheils,” Kara calls, as she and Ali head to the door.
The electricity that sizzled in the air just a moment ago is replaced by something viscous that resists Sheila’s efforts to wipe down the counter where Kara and Ali were just sitting.
There was a time when she believed that the reason she wasn’t making it in the art world was L.A. itself. It was too expensive. Time moved too fast. She lived in a small studio in a run-down building with a landlord who disappeared whenever the toilet broke or there were ants in the kitchen. It was so small that the fumes from the turpentine, the linseed oil, and the oil paints themselves permeated the room until she could taste them in her food. She’d searched for other apartments, but it turned out she had a deal. During the day she researched towns in the southwest or the Rocky Mountains, comparing the costs of apartments, the hourly rate for bartenders, whether she knew anyone that lived there, but then she met Kara, and suddenly everything seemed possible.
She rereads the words on the back of the photo: Let go. Be present. Follow instincts. The words zip along her body, numbing each part they touch. A hand on bare skin. Legs entwined. Soft white sheets billowing in the breeze. No. She can’t think about that now. And yet she can feel it hovering on the periphery, loitering until she’s ready to acknowledge the thing she doesn’t want to know.
She flips the photo back to the image and studies the girl and the heavy man.
Who’s in charge?
Who’s left out?
She slips the photo in her apron pocket and finishes her shift.
Lisa Wessling was born in St. Louis, raised in Phoenix, and currently lives in Seattle. She loves cooking, running, cycling, and hiking, or anything that gets her outside. By day, she writes marketing copy for a technology company.