|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets Married.||Book 8, Part 3|
Rowena was just putting away the last of the laundry when the phone rang.
“Rowena!” cried her sister. “Chester was looking at some other girl's Web site!”
“Well . . . men are like that,” Rowena said cautiously. “It doesn't mean—”
“But it was some other girl! And she was—”
“Maralynne, Chester couldn't—you're his dream girl. He can't—”
“Oh, I know that,” Maralynne said. “He was only doing research.”
Rowena's train of thought ground to a halt. “Research?” she managed to say, and immediately realized that she didn't really want to know.
“He was checking other people's Web sites for, like, ideas and stuff. How to fix up the GlamCam. They keep getting these new ways of doing stuff and . . . He has to, what does he call it . . . ‘keep raisin.’”
“Oh. Um . . . ‘Stay current.’ It's a pun.”
“Oh.” Rowena had a feeling she was going to need a cup of tea. She eyed the teakettle, which of course was out of reach. “Well, if he was just doing research . . .”
“But it was Debbie! And she's doing better than me!”
Now Rowena knew she was going to need some tea. “Debbie?” she asked.
“You know. Debbie. Debbie the Bimbo. Debbie the Tart. Debbie the Man-Stealer. Debbie the—”
“Oh,” said Rowena. “Debbie.” A rival of Maralynne's in high school, which to Rowena felt, at the moment, like a million years ago. She took a deep breath. “Maralynne, I wouldn't worry—”
“She's doing better than me! Her site has more people looking than the GlamCam! She came up sooner than me on a search Chester did for ‘sexy poses!’ And she's using my trademark! Is Sammy there? I want him to sue her.”
Rowena was going to need more than a cup of tea. “Maralynne,” she said, “calm down. What trademark?”
“My teddy! She's wearing my teddy! My special one! Can I talk to Sammy? I'm gonna sue!”
“See!” demanded Maralynne, still outraged. She and Rowena stood on either side of Sammy's chair, looking at his computer. The top page of Debbie's Web site was displayed on the screen, complete with smiling Debbie. Sammy considered the image very seriously.
“I really don't think you have a case here, Maralynne,” he said.
“What? Look at that teddy she's got on!”
“Did you make it? Design it? Register a trademark on it?”
“No, but . . . it's mine! It's my . . . my thing!”
“I understand,” Sammy said, “but legally you can't stop her from using it. That's not the way the law works.”
“But . . .”
“I'm sorry,” Sammy said. Maralynne stood with her arms folded, glaring at the screen.
“She's using pink!” she said. “My GlamCam has pink.”
“You can't stop people from using pink,” Sammy said. “Just imagine what a mess things would be if you could.”
“And you think this isn't a mess?”
“Maralynne,” said Rowena, “there are only so many colors. Anyway, what if somebody else had used pink on a Web site before you started? And then they tried to sue you? And you maybe hadn't even known they existed?”
Maralynne shifted uncomfortably, but went on glaring. “It's my teddy!” she said. “It's my pink!”
“Maralynne—” Rowena began.
“And anyway she did too know about me! She did!”
“Do you have any proof?” Rowena asked.
“Unless there was an actual infringement of copyright,” Sammy put in quickly, “it doesn't matter.”
“She did too know I existed! She knew me in high school!”
“Maralynne,” Rowena said, “this isn't going anywhere. You heard what Sammy said. You—”
“She stole Pierre from me!”
A boy Maralynne had liked but had not actually managed to date. “That was a fair fight,” Rowena said.
“And you didn't help any!”
“Help? How was I supposed to—”
“You can't sue her for that, either,” Sammy said. “Maralynne, you don't have a case.”
“But—my GlamCam—and she comes along—and Chester finds her there—”
Sammy regarded Debbie, with her raven tresses and realistically-sized breasts and her friendly, sunny smile. “I really don't think she's Chester's type,” he said.
“I don't either,” Rowena said, privately thinking Debbie very pretty.
“She's not!” Maralynne said. “But she's doing better than me!” Maralynne was working herself into a frenzy. “She's got more clicks than me and she's higher on the list and she stole Pierre and—and she's got more clicks than me and she isn't even blonde!” Maralynne spun away as though she couldn't bear to look at Debbie, or at Sammy or Rowena, a moment longer. “She isn't even blonde and she doesn't even have—what I have, and it isn't fair!”
“Well,” suggested Sammy slowly, his voice even more gentle than it had been, “maybe there's something about the site design, or it's been up longer, or she's advertising, or . . . something like that.”
“Advertising! I'll say she's advertising! Just look at that!”
“I think Sammy means taking out actual advertisements,” Rowena said. “Maybe even paid advertisements.”
“Paid advertisements? Like on TV?”
Rowena and Sammy looked at each other. It seemed to Rowena that it was Chester who ought to be explaining all this, not them. Why wasn't he doing his job?
“Probably not on TV,” Sammy said. “Probably on the Web itself. If—”
“I'd rather have ads on TV.”
“They're awfully expensive,” Rowena said. “Look, why don't you just ask Chester—”
“She's not gonna beat me!” Maralynne said. “That—that Debbie is not gonna win!”
And she spun back around and glared at all three of them—at Rowena, at Sammy, and most especially at Debbie.
Apparently Chester spent the next few days doing a lot of research—studying Debbie's site, running searches, and testing things. Maralynne, for once respecting someone's request for peace and time in which to work, dutifully took her many complaints to her sister instead.
“She's cheating!” Maralynne said. “She says she does it all herself. She says she sells housewares stuff to stores and she knows how to do computer things.”
“Well . . .” Rowena wasn't sure whether she was supposed to see some kind of connection there.
“She doesn't even have a boyfriend!” Maralynne said. “At least—” and even over the phone Rowena could hear her shove her nose into the air, “—not a boyfriend who's a computer genius like Chester.”
“You see?” Rowena said. “She isn't—”
“But she's not even sexy! She's got—her hair—and her, you know—and her legs are too long!”
Rowena, after a brief struggle, managed to say, “Uh-huh.” And, once Maralynne had finished unloading on her and hung up to go check on Chester (she was doing a good job of leaving him alone, but not a perfect one), she herself went and complained to Sammy.
“There, there,” Sammy said.
“I don't know that I've ever seen her like this before. Well—not quite this bad. I don't think. Anyway, she's going completely nuts with envy or jealousy or both—just nuts.”
“Her Career isn't going so well,” Sammy reminded her. “And she was jealous of this Debbie person to begin with.”
“I know, but . . .”
“Sweetheart,” Sammy said, “your sister has always been crazy. Right?”
“Well, yeah, but . . . Have you heard those remarks she makes about Debbie's looks? Do you think she believes that stuff?”
He shook his head. “No telling.”
Rowena said, “It sounds as if she's her own yardstick. Maralynne. Don't you think Debbie's a lot prettier?”
“Prettier than Maralynne,” Sammy said, and gave her a kiss.
“Sammy, are you doing the same thing? With me?”
Sammy grinned at her. “(a) Of course not; (b) Wouldn't I actually believe it was true even if it weren't; (c) Would I admit it if I were aware of it, and (d) What difference would it make? On top of which, (e) If you don't believe me, ask Leslie Campbell.”
Rowena laughed. “You're hopeless. You and Leslie both.” At least she had a fair idea what Sammy saw in her; why Leslie chased after her she'd never known, and never would know.
She might never manage to understand her sister, either.
All she could do now, she thought, was sympathize.
That, and hope that Chester came up with something.
Maralynne called at least once a day to rant and wail and, on at least one occasion, demand that Sammy change the copyright and trademark laws for her. Rowena explained very patiently that Sammy was not actually a lawyer and that lawyers don't change laws anyway; and then she put Sammy on the phone so that he could explain it. Maralynne ended that call by denouncing, in effect, Sammy, lawyers, judges, legislators, and basically the entire system of government. The next day, she called him at work and demanded to speak to his boss, to verify what he had said. Sammy tried to give her some references so that she could check for herself, but Maralynne held firm. There was no telling, Sammy reported to Rowena that night, how long this might have gone on if his boss hadn't overheard some of this and asked Sammy for the phone. He did his very best to straighten Maralynne out, and after an extremely patient (at least on his end) conversation he hung up and turned to Sammy with a quizzical look.
“That was your fiancée's sister?” he asked. “And you're going through with the marriage?”
“Rowena's nothing like that at all,” Sammy told him. “She's the white sheep of the family.” His boss shook his head.
“Well,” he said, giving Sammy an appraising look, “if you're sure you know what you're doing.”
Rowena, hearing all this, wasn't sure whether to laugh or groan. “I don't know how much more of this I can take,” she said.
“You weren't even there,” Sammy said. “Actually, if you had been you could have spared me some funny looks.”
“I bet,” Rowena said. “Everyone would have been staring at me instead.”
She also heard, during this time, about the evils of Debbie. She was sneaky, devious, underhanded, and untrustworthy, and she never let Maralynne copy her homework. She had not only stolen Pierre, but she had smiled at and on occasion even spoken to one of Maralynne's official boyfriends. And on the cheerleading squad she could jump higher and do better splits than Maralynne, just because she'd unfairly joined the gymnastics team as well. The list went on and on.
Then, just about as Rowena was bracing herself to try to put a stop to all this, the calls changed. Suddenly Maralynne was excited about some sort of progress that Chester had made. Unfortunately, her explanations of his discoveries were not very easy to understand.
“It's like, those busy streets she has, they're because of a motor people turn to look for things. Like me, only they get her instead. So anyway, if you have the right bait you can trap the machines. And then she can't steal them. So once you have all the machines you can make a list. And the more you get the more motors you have, and then they build some streets for you.”
Over sips of tea, Rowena repeated all this to Sammy as best she could. “Wow,” Sammy said.
“I may not have it word for word, but it was something like that. It's kind of hard to memorize gibberish.”
“I think I understand Maralynne's computer talk less than I do Chester's.”
“I know. Scary, isn't it?” Rowena took another sip. “The only thing I'm confident of is that she says that whatever Chester's doing, it's already helped. But as to what that might be . . .”
“Well,” Sammy said, “do you want to know what she's talking about?”
Rowena considered. “That always carries a risk, but I'm awfully curious.”
“Okay,” Sammy said. “There's only one thing to do, then: We'll have to ask Chester.”
Rowena smiled wryly into what was left of her tea. “That carries a risk too,” she said.
“Scientists and explorers,” Sammy told her, “have always taken risks in their quest for knowledge.”
“Yeah,” Rowena said, “but they also get a lot more glory than we will.”
They decided to ask Maralynne and Chester to dinner. Fortunately, Maralynne accepted the invitation in plain English, and everything was arranged.
“I just hope,” Rowena told Sammy, “that they don't compound each other and make it even more complicated.”
“Chester will always be Chester,” Sammy said, “and Maralynne will always be Maralynne. As I believe you have noted before, repeatedly.”
Perhaps, Rowena thought. But would she be able to understand either one of them?
When Maralynne and Chester arrived, they were a study in contrasts. Chester was his usual mild self but Maralynne was just about squirming with excitement. Watching her, Rowena was reminded of Christmases long past.
Not of naughty Web sites.
Maralynne managed to contain herself for several minutes before she interrupted one of her boyfriend's work stories. “Chester!” she said. “Tell Rowena and Sammy about my busy streets.”
Chester took a sip of the drink Rowena had handed him. “Your traffic,” he said, unperturbed.
“Tell them!” said Maralynne, apparently unaware she'd been corrected, as Rowena and Sammy exchanged a glance: At least that much is cleared up.
“Well,” Chester began, “I was doing some checking around on the Web and I found a site that had more traffic, according the the counter, than the GlamCam does even though the girl featured wasn't as sexy as Maralynne.” He stopped suddenly, shaking his head at the improbability of it all. Rowena waited for him to continue, but he went on musing. “Go on,” she said finally.
“Well, page counters are notoriously unreliable, but I did a little more checking and this site was also doing better in some of the search engine rankings.”
“So Chester's found out how to get me more motors too!”
“Search engine placement is, of course, crucial,” Chester said, ignoring the outburst. “So I have researched the following key words.” And he reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. Rowena and Sammy exchanged a look as Chester unfolded the paper and began reading the list . . . a rather long list of risqué key words, each followed by an explanation of its popularity and applicability to both Maralynne's site and to Debbie's. Rowena wondered whether she might sneak off to the kitchen to check the food without offending anyone; Chester struck her as pretty invulnerable in that way, but her sister could be a problem.
She sat and listened as Chester read off his list. Sammy, beside her, listened and nodded as though he appreciated the technical points Chester raised. As Chester's list wore on and on, the hand Sammy rested causally on the back of the couch began idly playing with Rowena's hair. She didn't try to stop him, though she couldn't help wondering whether their guests would notice this maneuver.
“I'm more ‘glam’ than she is,” Maralynne said.
“Well,” Rowena said, after their guests had left, “that was . . . educational.”
“There doesn't seem to be so much jargon in Web site promotion,” Sammy said. “Even Chester had to discuss it in English, mostly.”
“Mostly.” Rowena gathered up dessert plates, and Sammy followed her with coffee cups. “Let me see if I understand all that,” she said. “He's looking for better key words to use, and he's researching different search engines . . .”
“So far, so good,” Sammy said.
“And different issues concerning links, and so forth; and after trying unsuccessfully to explain to Maralynne that page counters are unreliable, he's ‘introduced an optimizing element’ into his statistics to ‘maximize client satisfaction’ for her.”
“Meaning he's inflating the numbers to keep Maralynne happy.”
“That's how I understood it.”
Rowena shook her head. “Don't worry about them,” Sammy said. “They'll just have to sort it all out themselves.”
“Well, yes, but . . .”
“Worrying,” said Sammy gravely, “is not very glam.”
“Neither, I suppose, is doing the dishes.”
“Not really,” Sammy admitted. “But you can take the curse off it by demonstrating some of those key words to me afterwards.”
Rowena laughed, and turned on the hot water. “You wanna wash or dry?” she asked.
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