Authors: Melody Mayer
With gratitude, for Wendy Loggia
always steady at the helm
The kind of person my great-grandfather
would have hired in a Hollywood second
Kiley McCann looked up at the giant
in the Hollywood sign, which loomed above her head. Instead of feeling thrilled, she just felt nervous.
“We shouldn't be doing this,” she muttered as a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter buzzed by in the distance, the
of its spinning blades cutting cleanly through the air as it sped west toward Beverly Hills. The “this” to which she referred was being inside the fenced area around the famous white letters, high in the Hollywood Hills, because being inside the fenced area was most definitely illegal.
Her friend Lydia Chandler smiled beatifically “We're doing it as we speak, sweet pea,” she drawled in her faint Texas accent. “Just relax. I know it's hard. High anxiety runs in your family.”
Esme Castaneda's dark hair brushed her shoulders as she looked around, cautious as always in an unfamiliar place. “Kiley's just being rational. If you don't want to get arrested, rationality is good. And I definitely don't want to get arrested,” she added.
“Y'all, life is too short to stress,” Lydia insisted as she spread her arms wide. “The City of Angels is at your feet. Just look at it!”
For a brief moment, Kiley took her friend's advice and gazed out from their perch above Los Angeles. It was a rare smog-free late-summer day in Tinseltown, thanks to a gusty onshore breeze; the view stretched from Alhambra in the east all the way to the Pacific Ocean in the west, with downtown L.A., Koreatown, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, and Santa Monica in between. Off in the distance were the oil refineries and bustling harbor of Long Beach. How clear was it? Kiley could make out the long line of passenger jets coming in over the city in preparation for their landing at LAX.
was on one of those planes
, she thought,
not that long ago
. She'd arrived with a tattered backpack, her neurotic mother, and a whole lot of dreams. And now, she lived here—as nanny to the children of a famous rock star. She had friends—Esme and Lydia, who were also nannies. And perhaps most unlikely of all for a pretty average girl from small-town Wisconsin—at least, that was how she saw it—she had a famous boyfriend, a model/actor about to shoot his second film.
Kiley would have taken a moment to relish all that, along with the spectacular view, except that said view was so very illegal. Well, not the view so much as the shady perch from
which they were taking it in. Lydia had coaxed them through a small hole in a protective fence topped with barbed wire, and dozens of large signs reminded them that what they were doing was against the law:
NO TRESPASSING! TRESPASSING IS A CRIME AND YOU WILL BE SUBJECT TO ARREST BY THE LAPD!
Kiley gulped, realizing that she and her friends were not the first people in Los Angeles to be tempted by this very place. The police probably had cameras set up in the hillside brush just to catch people like them, and were probably on their way right now. Great. She'd always wanted to see what a Los Angeles lockup was like from the inside.
“Just ten minutes,” Lydia was assuring her as Kiley looked cautiously at Esme. Esme had grown up in Echo Park, a tough, gang-riddled Latino neighborhood in East Los Angeles. She had more experience with the LAPD than anyone ought to have. Her ex-boyfriend, Junior, had been a gang member.
If it was okay with Esme, she'd stay. Otherwise, Kiley would obey her clutching stomach and be outta here. She cut her eyes at Esme. “Well?”
“Y'all aren't chicken, are you?” Lydia asked innocently.
, do not try to psych me out,” Esme snapped. She sighed, then added, “Ten minutes, it's fine. We're not a high police priority. But we shouldn't stay more than that.”
Lydia punched the air with happiness, and Kiley wondered if Lydia had, in fact, psyched Esme out. If there was one thing Esme wanted to be in this world, it was tough. Strong. Fierce. All this Kiley knew.
“So,” Lydia began, “let's review. A week ago, we said we'd
meet up here and talk, because we all had big things to decide. Now, here we are. Which means it's time to spill. Who wants to spill first?”
Kiley leaned back against one of the walls of the giant
and folded her arms, hoping that her body language said that she didn't want to talk first. Where would she even start? She was nothing more than a semi-cute girl from La Crosse, Wisconsin, one size bigger on the bottom than on the top, with auburn hair and a sprinkle of freckles across her nose. She'd come to L.A. to take part in a television reality show that would select the next nanny for the aging rock star Platinum and her three kids by different fathers (no one knew who those fathers were, and what with her being famous and rich, speculation about the baby daddies only increased Platinum's cachet). The TV show had tanked before it ever made it on air, but Kiley had been hired by Platinum anyway and installed in a gorgeous guesthouse behind Platinum's huge Bel Air mansion.
Over the course of the summer, she'd taken care of Platinum's kids, begun a romance with a gorgeous male model named Tom Chappelle—his near-naked torso adorned numerous city billboards in an advertisement for a famous brand of underwear—and been the star witness at Platinum's trial for reckless endangerment of her own children. That case had been tossed just before it went to the jury when the drugs and drug-taking paraphernalia that were key evidence disappeared from the evidence room at police headquarters. The judge had had no choice but to free the rock star, albeit with the pronouncement that in his humble opinion, she was incredibly guilty on every count.
Now Kiley was at the start of senior year at Bel Air High School, with the goal of applying that fall to be part of the freshman class at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography down near San Diego. Scripps was the real reason she'd even tried to become Platinum's nanny. With in-state tuition, going there was a possibility. As the out-of-state daughter of a Wisconsin brewery worker and his diner-waitress wife? Ha. She couldn't even afford books and supplies.
She had no doubt about the best part of her summer—aside from meeting Tom. It was having become best friends with Lydia and Esme. She knew they were an unlikely trio, though all three of them were nannies for rich and at least semi-famous Hollywood families.
Lydia worked for her aunt Kat Chandler, a former professional tennis player who until a week before had been the longtime lesbian lover of her then domestic partner and former tennis rival, Anya Kuriakova. They'd had two children via artificial insemination, Martina and Jimmy. Last week, Kat had discovered that Anya had been cheating on her … with a guy. That was the end of their relationship. It was a remarkable story, but even more remarkable was that Lydia herself had spent the last eight years in the Amazon rain forest, where her parents—former rich Texans—were medical missionaries in a small village of primitive Amarakaire tribesmen. Lydia was bilingual, in English and Ama. Of medium height, with choppy blond hair, petite features, and an enviable figure, Lydia dripped cool despite—or perhaps because of—her unconventional upbringing. She'd met a great guy over the summer, an aspiring scenic designer named Billy Martin. Lydia wanted nothing more than to continue to lead the Bel Air
lifestyle to which she was rapidly becoming accustomed. For now, she was a senior at Bel Air High School with Kiley.
As for Esme, the backstory was no less unlikely. A little taller than Kiley with thick, glossy dark hair, penetrating dark eyes, and lush curves, Esme was the daughter of a Mexican couple who had crossed into America without papers and were now the caretaker and housekeeper for famous Hollywood producer Steven Goldhagen and his second wife, Diane. Esme was a talented tattoo artist who'd recently opened her own studio in Century City. During the summer, she'd been hired to be the nanny for Steven and Diane's two newly adopted Colombian twins, Easton and Weston. That was fine, except she'd fallen in love with the Goldhagens' actor son, Jonathan. When Esme and Jonathan had a falling-out, Esme had resigned herself to focusing on her tattoo business. Her parents had wanted her to stay in school—she was supposed to start at Bel Air High School with Kiley and Lydia, and her mama and papa wanted nothing more than for her to be the first person in their family to go to college. But Kiley knew that Esme was now getting six, seven, eight hundred dollars, sometimes even more than that, for a freehand tattoo that she could do in two hours. When they were poolside at the country club, actresses and models approached her without being prompted, basically begging for a tattoo, willing to pay any price to be at the top of her list.
That had to be tempting, Kiley thought. As Hollywood nannies, they were all making five hundred a week, plus room, board, and a nice car to drive. (Except for Lydia, who didn't have a license. BMWs and Mercedeses weren't big in her part of the Amazon, and the only real road was the
piranha-infested Rio Negro.) To make fifteen hundred bucks in a night for doing body art? Kiley couldn't imagine.
“Come on, come on,” Lydia urged, pulling Kiley out of her musing. “Time's a-wasting. Who's going to be first? Kiley, you have to tell us what you've decided to do with Tom. He's supposed to go away to Russia to do this movie. Esme, are you going back to work for the Goldhagens?”
“What about you?” Esme shot back. She was wearing flip-flops, cut-off jeans, and a blue tank top. Her beautiful tawny skin glistened in the warm afternoon. “You met that guy Flipper last weekend, but I think you're still in love with Billy. What
going to do?”
“I'll go second,” Lydia pronounced. “Kiley?”
Kiley gulped. She hated being put on the spot. “I'll go third.”
“You guys are wusses,” Esme said. “It's not that big a deal. Okay. I wasn't sure until right now. But you've inspired me. I know I won't see you hardly at all if I live in the Echo and just go to my business. If I go back to the Goldhagens' to work, we can hang a lot more. So I think I'll go back.”