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Authors: Annie Bryant

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BOOK: Fashion Frenzy
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CHAPTER
7
On the Road

I
sn’t this just a beautiful drive, girls?” Mr. Taylor asked happily. Actually, Maeve thought, it was a lovely way to travel to New York. A crisp breeze and blue sunny sky made for a perfect Thursday afternoon. The majestic maple trees gracefully arched over the Merritt Parkway. Their autumn leaves, brilliant in bold shades of red and gold, rustled gently in the wind.

Everything outside the car is so pretty, Katani thought. “Katani…listen to this,” Maeve said as she tugged on her arm. Maeve was in the middle of telling another story of a movie she’d seen at the Movie House, in between Sam spouting off World War II facts. Katani looked down at her sketchbook, hoping that Maeve would get the clue that she needed a little quiet time. No such luck. They were only an hour out of Brookline. One or all of the Kaplan-Taylors was always talking. The constant chatter was giving her a headache.

“Isn’t this route fantastic, girls? Just look at this
scenery!” Mr. Taylor marveled, interrupting his daughter in midsentence as she described in detail the final dance sequence in some Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie (she couldn’t remember which one). Finally, Katani, who had been doodling fashion designs in her sketchbook, began keeping a chart on the bottom of the page. She made a checkmark for every movie Maeve discussed, an X-mark for each of Sam’s war facts, and a little star for every time Mr. Taylor said how wonderful the drive was. Mr. Taylor was way in the lead with twelve.

He continued, “The Merritt Parkway is famous. Did you know that the Merritt has sixty-eight bridges? Each one is different, but they were all designed by the same person, George Dunkelberger. The Merritt Parkway is such a refreshing change from the new multilane interstates. Those roads have no character at all. Just big white concrete ribbons with ugly barriers. And they’re crowded, too. Full of people anxious to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Not like this old road, no—siree! Now, this is
driving
! By the time you get where you’re going, you feel truly alive! Why, I feel a song coming on! Come on! Everybody!
Ohhhh
what a beautiful morning…”

Katani glanced at Maeve who, stifling a giggle, mouthed back, “He’s not usually this bad.”

“Sing with me, guys. Maeve, I
know
you know this one.”

Maeve shrugged her shoulders, rolled her eyes at Katani, and said, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Katani was aghast. Maeve’s voice grew louder and was soon followed by Sam’s squeaky off-key squawk. Katani was
beginning to feel carsick. She had never seen Maeve’s father act like this before! But boy was it clear from where Maeve inherited all her dramatic qualities.

Something about this wide open space obviously brought out the kid in Mr. Taylor. Not only had he been extolling the joys of the Merritt all day, singing as though he were the leader of a band, he also mentioned wanting to stop and have dinner with a college friend in Westport, Connecticut. Katani normally wouldn’t mind, but she knew this addition to their itinerary would delay their arrival in New York by several hours, and she was eager to get to Michelle’s apartment in Greenwich Village and chill out. Maybe she could lock herself in the bathroom and take a ten-minute hot shower.

Katani remembered from math class that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. The old Merritt was far from straight, and it was narrow. The direct route was the interstate, which Mr. Taylor had already deemed abominable. So they were winding, looping, and zigzagging above, around, and under the direct route instead. They had been puttering in this manner for more than four hours, and if Katani was reading the road signs correctly, it was at least another fifty miles to Westport. Katani thought Connecticut was as small as Massachusetts, but this drive was taking forever!

When Mr. Taylor ended his song, Maeve resumed another movie commentary, completely unfazed. “So then the little boy—I think his name is Sam—no, wait, that’s Tom Hanks’ name in the movie—the son’s name is Josh—no, Jonah! That’s it, Jonah. Anyhow, Jonah writes a letter to
Meg Ryan
pretending to be the dad
and says he’d really like to meet her at the top of the Empire State Building, just like in
An Affair to Remember
!” Maeve sighed and clutched her heart. “It’s all dreadfully romantic.”

Katani wasn’t nearly as interested in romantic movies as she was in getting to Greenwich Village. She really wanted to get there at a decent hour because she and Maeve had to wake up super early in the morning to start working with Michelle. Oh well. There was nothing she could do about it now. She would just have to zen out. It was pretty obvious that Maeve and her dad were not going to stop talking any time soon, and Sam, who was only eight, was too excited to sit still. Katani had to admit Sam was pretty smart for his age. He piped in with the funniest things sometimes.

Just then Sam popped around his seat and turned to look at the girls in the back. “You know,” he said gravely, “we could be going at light speed on a real highway! I think this curvy road is MALARKY.” Katani couldn’t help but giggle. Where did that boy come up with these things? “They’re so much more fun to drive. Pleeeeease! It’s not too late, Dad,” he begged.

“What’s the rush, Sam?” his father asked, smiling. “I’m sure Katani and Maeve would like to get to Greenwich Village, and I want to have that dinner with my friend in Westport. You have absolutely nothing to worry about. We’re just going to stay on the good old Merritt, and we’ll get to New York in plenty of time!”

Take a deep breath
, Katani told herself, then added silently,
Okay, I’m not going to stress out any more. I am just
going to think about New York
. She closed her eyes for a moment.

“Hey!” Maeve nudged her and held up a plastic bag full of apple slices. Yuri, the man who ran the market not too far from school, had given them to her that morning. Maeve announced that free apples were definitely a good omen for the trip. When she wasn’t talking, she was crunching. “Try one, they’re really delicious…get it…delicious apple!” Maeve handed Katani a slice, then laughed at her play on words.

Katani tried to smile as she took a bite. “Mmm! They are good.” It not only tasted sweet, juicy, and crisp, but it made her feel a little better.

This wasn’t so bad. Surely she could put up with a little extra chatter. After all, if it hadn’t been for Maeve, she never would have been on this trip in the first place. If I can handle a fashion show, I can certainly handle this, Katani thought. Maybe it was just being in such tight quarters. Yes, that must be it, reasoned Katani. Kelley was a chatter-box too. She would just have to relax. And she really didn’t want to seem ungrateful.

Just then the car hit a pothole and lurched to the side. “Uh-oh!” Mr. Taylor exclaimed.

“Uh-oh? What’s ‘Uh-oh?’” Maeve asked.

Katani could feel her heart pounding. Relaxing would just have to wait.

Mr. Taylor pulled hard on the steering wheel and frowned. “This is not good.”

“What’s wrong?” Katani gulped. Mr. Taylor was slowing down and pulling over to an upcoming exit. He
stopped alongside a two-lane country road that made the Merritt look like an eight-lane superhighway.
Now I know what they mean by the middle of nowhere
, thought Katani.

Mr. Taylor got out of the station wagon and inspected the car on all sides. Suddenly his face appeared tap-tap-tapping at Maeve’s window. Maeve cranked it open and her father announced, “Just as I thought, girls. We have a flat.”

Katani couldn’t believe it. Would they ever get to Greenwich Village?

“It’s like the Wicked Witch of the West is following us all the way to Oz,” Maeve commented in a low voice. Katani couldn’t help laughing. It did feel like there was some force out there making sure they would be late.

Mr. Taylor popped open the trunk. “What’s he doing?” Katani asked.

Maeve shrugged. “Changing the tire, I guess.” She sighed. “Too bad he doesn’t have the other car. This is our old car. The tools are kind of old-fashioned. My mom got the nice car so she could drive to Vermont to visit her old roommate—my father didn’t want her to worry about anything happening…” Her voice trailed off.

Katani wasn’t sure what to say, so she touched Maeve’s shoulder. She knew Maeve still felt terrible about her parents’ separation and she wished she could do something to make her feel better.

Sam got out of the car to watch his father work on the tire and Katani and Maeve followed suit. Mr. Taylor reached into the trunk, shuffled some things around, and wrapped his arms around the tire. But as he started to lift it, he staggered a little and grabbed his back. The big
round tire thudded back into the trunk, as Mr. Taylor sank to ground moaning.

Sam ran over and knelt beside him. “Dad? Hey, Dad, are you okay?!”

With a moan, Mr. Taylor pointed to his lower back.

“Oh, no!” Maeve cried. “He must have pulled a muscle! He has trouble with his back.”

“Oh brother!” Sam squeaked worriedly.

“Is he going to be okay?” Katani asked. She wanted to bury her head in her arms and cry, but she knew that it certainly wouldn’t help the situation.

Mr. Taylor was lying on the ground. He had one hand pressed into his back, and his face was contorted in a pained grimace. “Okay, Dad, don’t move,” Maeve said quickly. She looked helplessly at Katani, who always seemed to know what to do in a crisis.

Katani, however, just shook her head. “I don’t know how to change a tire!” she said.

Maeve looked petrified. “Well, I don’t know how either!”

Katani stared at her friend.
Be cool, Kgirl
, she reminded herself. She knelt down by Maeve’s dad. “Mr. Taylor, are you okay?” she asked.

He nodded. “My back. You bend the wrong way—and it’s all over!” He tried to laugh but it was just too painful.

Katani tried to stay calm. She didn’t have any special CPR or emergency training, but she knew in an emergency you had to stay calm. She continued, “What do you usually do for it?”

“A little aspirin usually does the trick…and some ice.”

“Do you know where the aspirin is?” Katani asked, preparing to break open suitcases to find it.

“I’ll look in the glove compartment,” volunteered Maeve.

He shook his head. “I don’t think I have any with me.”

Katani rolled her eyes. “Umm,” she said, wracking her brain. “Let’s call somebody! Yes, that’s it, we can call somebody! Where’s your cell phone?”

Sam looked at Maeve. Maeve looked at her father. Her father looked even more uncomfortable. “In my jacket, I think,” he told her.

Katani retrieved his jacket from the front seat. She checked the pockets and the inside flaps. Nothing.

“Try the pocket on my brown suitcase,” Mr. Taylor suggested weakly.

Katani quickly unzipped it. Lots of socks—no cell phone.

“Did I forget it?” he wondered. “
That
would have been a HUGE mistake.”

The girls warily looked at each other. “Never mind, Dad,” Maeve said. She tucked her dad’s jacket under his head so he could lie more comfortably on the ground. It was not likely that’s he’d be moving anytime soon. Every time he tried to get up he winced and had to lie back down.

Katani whipped out her business notebook and made a quick note:
Ask Mom and Dad to buy me a cell phone for emergency situations
. She wondered how long they’d have to wait there before Mr. Taylor would feel well enough to
sit up. And what if he didn’t feel well enough to drive? They could spend the whole weekend stuck out here in the middle of Nowheresville!

Sam seemed to be reading her mind. “Hey, no problem. I can change that tire in nothing flat,” he boasted. “The first thing I need is an assistant.” He looked at the girls and stuck out his hand. “WRENCH!” he called. Sam began to pry at the hubcap until his father noticed what was going on.

“Sam,” Mr. Taylor said sharply. “Sam, step away from the hubcap. Just give me a few minutes kids. I’ll be fine,” he said after seeing the worried looks on everyone’s faces.

Maeve and Katani looked at each other helplessly. “What do we know?” Maeve asked in a low voice.

Katani shook her head. “I don’t have a clue. We’ve only gotten a flat tire once, and when we did, my dad was there to fix it.”

“I can’t believe this!” Maeve said quietly to Katani. “I’m sorry this trip is taking so long. If I were you, I’d be really bummed out,” she added, looking genuinely miserable.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Katani said, trying to convince Maeve AND herself that it was. “These things happen, right?” She couldn’t help but wonder how they were going to get out of this mess. They had no phone, no idea where they were, no chance that another car would pass by, and the only adult in their group was lying on the ground in agony while his eight-year-old son tried to figure out how to change a tire.

Perfect.

“Wait a minute!” Mr. Taylor said suddenly. He tried to raise himself up, but that brought another groan. Still, he looked optimistic as he smacked his forehead. “Of course! I just remembered—I put the cell phone in the console underneath the arm rest!”

“Great!” Maeve clapped. She crawled into the front seat and popped open the middle arm rest to find everything—maps, a little flashlight, car registration, insurance information, and underneath the mass of paper—a small silver cell phone.

“Yes!” she breathed excitedly. She turned it on and handed it to her father. “Here you go!”

“Thanks, sweetheart.” Fortunately, he had programmed his auto club emergency number into the phone. In under a minute he was in touch with someone from the AAA hotline. When he hung up, he announced that they were sending out a truck with someone to change the tire in about twenty minutes.

Maeve and Katani smiled at each other. Things were definitely looking up.

After fifteen minutes, Katani shivered and noticed that she could not longer see the exit sign in the distance. On the horizon, the sun was casting its last glimmer of gold. And through the magenta clouds, the pale moon was beginning to peek out.

“Look!” Katani said, pointing at the beautiful country sunset. She couldn’t believe the day had ended so soon. They’d left Brookline in the early afternoon, and here it was already getting dark! “Where is daylight savings time when you really need it?” Katani whispered to Maeve.

BOOK: Fashion Frenzy
9.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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