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The Honey-Don't List
Author: Christina Lauren

Partial transcript of interview with

James McCann, July 14

Officer Martin: Can you state your name, date of birth, and occupation for the record?

James McCann: James Westman McCann, August 27, 1990. Director of engineering for Comb+Honey Renovations.

Officer Martin: I have a note here that you’re an assistant to Russell “Rusty” Tripp?

JM: I occasionally help with assistant duties when our workload is overwhelming, but I was hired by Mr. Tripp to be the primary consultant for engineering and structural design. Can you please write that part down?

Officer Martin: It will all go on record, don’t worry. And where were you on July 13?

JM: I was with Melissa and Rusty here in Laramie, Wyoming.

Officer Martin: You’re referring to Russell’s wife, Melissa?

JM: Correct.

Officer Martin: Was anyone else there?

JM: Melissa’s assistant, Carey Duncan.

Officer Martin: Did you have any sense, before the night in question, that things would get out of hand?

JM: I think we all knew that by this point their marriage was on a pretty shaky foundation—no pun intended—but none of us expected it to get this bad.

Partial transcript of interview with

Carey Duncan, July 14

Officer Ali: Can you state your full name, date of birth, and occupation for the record?

Carey Duncan: Like, full full name?

Officer Ali: Please.

CD: Fine. Carey Fern Duncan. March 1, 1994, executive assistant to Melissa Tripp.

Officer Ali: And where were you the night of July 13?

Carey: I was in Laramie, Wyoming, with the Tripps.

Officer Ali: Can you state for the record who the Tripps are?

CD: Sure. Melissa and Rusty Tripp are the co-owners of Comb+Honey. But most people know them from their books or TV.

Officer Ali: Rusty would be Russell Tripp?

CD: Yeah, sorry. Melly—Melissa—only calls him Russell when she’s pissed.

Officer Ali: Can you list who else was present at the scene?

CD: It was me, Rusty and Melly, obviously, and James McCann.

Officer Ali: Was James McCann also employed by the Tripps?

CD: Don’t you have all this information already?

Officer Ali: Please just answer the question, Ms. Duncan.

CD: Do I …? Do I need a lawyer?

Officer Ali: That depends. Have you done something that requires a lawyer?

CD: Ever?

Officer Ali: In relation to the events that occurred on July 13 of this year.

CD: Oh. No. I wasn’t—it wasn’t me. You all know that, right?

Officer Ali: This isn’t a courtroom and you aren’t under arrest, Ms. Duncan. You aren’t obligated to answer any of these questions. I’m just trying to get a sense of the night’s timeline.

CD: James, Rusty, and I had just gotten back from the Hotsy Totsy bar. James and I went to get Rusty. It was sort of a mess, and Melly was pissed, and—

Officer Ali: I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We need to go back a little further.

CD: How far back do you want me to go?

Officer Ali: How about the beginning?

CD: I started working for Melly when I was sixteen. I’m not sure you want me to go that far back.

Officer Ali: Let’s begin with the end of their first television show, New Spaces.

CD: Yeah. Okay. That’s a good place to start.

When I was little, my family had a hen named Dorothy. My dad called her Dotty for short. She was a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte—fairly fancy chicken for our neck of the woods. Her terra-cotta feathers were tipped with blue, and so unusual in color they didn’t look like they were real. Dorothy stood out against the dusty background of our small Wyoming farm and was always the center of attention in the yard. She was prettier than the other hens, she was definitely noisier, and despite lower-than-normal fertility rates among the breed, she laid twice as many eggs. It’s not that the other hens weren’t perfectly good chickens; it’s that Dorothy was that much better.

She was also sort of a bully.

I’m always reminded of Dorothy when I look at Melissa Tripp. I realize how that sounds—comparing my boss to a chicken—but it’s the image that pops into my head every time I see Melly holding court, like she is right now at the party. Dorothy would strut around the coop, head high, pecking at everything she could reach and daring the other hens to come at her. Like her, Melly sweeps around the room, comfortable knowing every eye is on her, daring someone else to take center stage.

“Can I have everyone’s attention, please?” The crowd quiets as Melissa holds a Waterford champagne flute aloft, her bright blue eyes glistening with unshed tears. Melly drinks only when there’s no getting around it, and most don’t realize that there’s sparkling cider in that glass, not champagne.

“Alcohol is nothing but empty calories and can make you messy,” she once told me. “I have zero time for either.” With a Tiffany bracelet dangling from her tiny wrist, she’d taken the glass of rosé from my hand and given me a judgmental once-over. “As long as you work for me, Carey, neither do you.”

Turns out, she’s not wrong. With Melly and her husband Rusty’s current home renovation show, New Spaces, officially wrapping today, their newest book releasing in two days, and the super-secret, as-yet-unannounced new streaming show launching in a matter of days, I’ve hardly had time to sleep, let alone get my drink on. But for the love of God, a night with no work, my DVR, and a couple of beers would be divine.

Sadly, as you’ve probably guessed, there’s sparkling cider in my champagne flute, too.

Melly’s pink lips curve into a bittersweet smile as she surveys the quieting crowd now watching her expectantly. Hand pressed to her heart, she makes sure to look at each member of the television crew in turn. “Sixty-five episodes, three holiday specials, countless promo clips, and one very large going-away party. We couldn’t have done any of this without each and every one of you.”

Another round of solemn eye contact, a pause. A resigned nod that makes her sleek platinum hair fall gracefully around her shoulders.

“Five seasons!” When she thrusts her glass forward in the air in cheers, her wedding ring catches the overhead set lights and casts stars across the walls.

Hearing it really does blow my mind. We’re standing in the set where we’ve shot five seasons of the show, and it all went by in a blip—probably because I didn’t sleep for most of it—and now it’s ending. I met Melissa Tripp when I was sixteen, on the verge of dropping out of high school and needing to make some money because my parents didn’t have any to spare. The Tripps had recently opened their home décor store, Comb+Honey, in Jackson, Wyoming, and posted a HELP WANTED sign in the window. Although the local Hardee’s hired, on principle, any high schooler from our area who wanted a job, the idea of working as a fry cook between Mitch “Sticky Hands” Saxton and John “Toothless” McGinnis wasn’t tempting. So I walked inside the upscale store and applied.

I’m still not sure what I was thinking or what she saw in me. I was in my good cutoffs, and my fingers were still smudged with charcoal from sketching under the bleachers instead of attending my last two classes of the day. I smelled like sunblock and my hair was bleached to a fine, pale crisp, but I was hired.

For the first few months, I helped customers whenever Melly was busy, and eventually ran the register. Once I got that down, she let me start managing custom orders and invoices. When Melly learned more about my love for art, she pushed me to play around and dress up the window displays—on two conditions: it couldn’t interfere with my regular duties, and I had to finish high school.

Melissa and Rusty were sweet as pie back then: parents to two kids, struggling to get their business off the ground, and head over heels for each other. They treated me like their third kid, and celebrated my remaining high school victories when my own parents slacked on the job. Mom and Dad had always been better at yelling at me and my brothers for being ungrateful than they were at earning our respect. Suddenly the Tripps were there, showing up to my art shows, driving me to dentist appointments, and even helping me buy my first car. I would have happily given them my right arm if they asked for it.

But that was ten years and a lifetime ago. Comb+Honey isn’t just a home redesign store anymore; it’s a booming corporation with ten storefronts and a host of exclusive product lines with a dozen retail partnerships. The Tripp kids are in their twenties, and Melly has new boobs, lashes, and teeth. Rusty has been outfitted as the fashion icon carpenter dad in Dior jeans and Burberry blazers. The world knows them as affectionate, playful, cooperative, and innovative.

And fun: their seven million Instagram followers are treated less to glossy promotional shots and more to video clips of Rusty pulling pranks on the New Spaces cast and crew, Melly visiting an estate sale and happening upon the perfect addition to a remodel, and photos of Melly and Rusty being adorable or adorably exasperated with each other. Fan favorites are the GIFs of Rusty being Rusty: dropping a hammer on his foot, clumsily spilling a bottle of Coke onto one of Melly’s famous honey-do lists, messing up his intro again and again to the great amusement of the entire crew. People love Melly for being polished and patient. They love Rusty for being goofy and approachable. And they love them as a couple for being the two perfect halves of a whole.

You wouldn’t know from scrolling through their idyllic Instagram feed that Melly and Rusty aren’t quite as sweet on each other anymore. Looking back, I’m not really sure when they decided their marriage mattered less than their brand. It chipped away slowly. A bit of sarcasm here. An argument there. Slowly their worst sides seemed to take over: Melly is a neurotic perfectionist who never sleeps. Rusty is impulsive and easily distracted by whatever—or whoever—is around him. Luckily, only their inner circle sees this downward tilt because the Tripps still manage to put on an impressively convincing show for the public.

Like now. Rusty stands at her side, nodding and clapping at the more sentimental points in her toast. It’s an after-party, so the blazer is gone and he’s wearing one of his custom Broncos jerseys. He can let loose! He’s a fun dad and relatable!

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