Authors: Amber Kizer
ALSO BY AMBER KIZER
One Butt Cheek at a Time
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2008 by Amber Kizer
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
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To Connie Wick, my justice-seeking, speak-her-mind, leave-the-world-a-better-place, bring-it-on grandmother.
Thank you for the love and lessons.
And to Dr. Joe Wick, the king of storytellers, who after hearing the title of book one told me he’d practice twitching his cheeks one at a time. How’s that technique coming in heaven, PawPaw? Got everyone trying it yet?
Thank you to Lynne Malecki, who asked the most important question. To the ladies of the book club, who are unceasingly enthusiastic and interested in every detail: Mary Bakeman, Judy Burnett, Chris Fitz, Kathy Hein, Rachel Kizer, Lynn James, Lynne Malecki, Miriam Raabe, Joyce Veatch, Sarah Diers, and Susan Kofkin. To Sarah LaMar for being the best intern ever! Katie Taylor for her joy and belief in me—BFF since five years old and until one hundred, I’m sure! Tara Kelly, the world’s most supportive friend, who understands when movies and vegetating may be the best my legs can offer. To Barney Wick for his unconditional love and support.
. To Judy B for her professional excellence. Brenda George for her amazing favors and willingness to share her expertise with me, thank you. To Rosemary Stimola, agent extraordinaire, who is right there every step and who gets me even when I boggle myself. To Stephanie Lane Elliott, crème de la crème of editors—I couldn’t ask for more. To Diane João, thank you for your work. To Noreen Marchisi and the fabulous PR department at Delacorte Press and Random House, thank you.
Oh, Holy-Mother-of-High-Heels-and-Dropping-Balls, what does a girl wear to a New Year’s Eve party?
Stephen and I have been dating for about eight weeks. We don’t really go anywhere. Mostly we talk on the phone, sit together at lunch and meet at the movies. I’m not supposed to drive boys and he rarely gets the car. Correction: according to my mom, who watches way too many judge shows, I’m not supposed to drive any life-forms, including amoebas, who might be endangered by my skills. Fab skills, if I do say so myself. But she sees lawsuits and cardboard boxes in her future with me behind the wheel.
They don’t believe me when I say the mailbox had it coming.
Back to Stephen: to hear him talk, our great-grandkids will be showing up soon. We’ve been dating eight weeks. Ish. Does that sound fast to anyone else? Seriously. That’s like two months. I don’t really know how it got to be eight weeks so fast. I mean, time flies when you’re dating. Or seeing a guy. Or hanging out. Or whatever we’re doing.
I. Have. Nothing. To. Wear. I move a pile of clothes off my bed so I can sit down and contemplate the disaster that is my closet.
Here’s the deal: he wants to go to this party, and I’m sure the guy is hoping to get me drunk and take full advantage of me. I saw that on an after-school special. Those boys are all CIA operatives when it comes to planting the flag on virgin earth.
And if he’s not planning on trying to get somewhere, I will be crushed. What’s not to love about me? I’d want to do me.
I tug on an off-the-shoulder old-school sweater. I look like my mother’s favorite throw pillow.
“Mom!” I scream out my bedroom door. I’m desperate. I need assistance.
She comes barreling up the stairs. “What? What happened? Are you bleeding?”
She presses her hand against her heart and glances around. “I told you not to light candles in your room. The curtains caught on fire, didn’t they? Where’s the fire extinguisher I put in here?” She pushes past me into my room. “Gert, what have you done?”
Why did I call for my mom? What demon possession caused that brief and deadly miscalculation? There’s nothing I can say that will get me out of a two-hour lecture about respecting my belongings and taking care of things that children all over the world, and down the street, would, and do, kill for.
“I don’t have anything—” I stop myself. Not a good idea to be honest. Really bad idea.
“What is it?” She turns and looks at me. “I like that sweater on you. It’s very grown-up and it reminds me of something.”
Your throw pillows?
I think fast. “Um, my period started and I don’t have enough stuff—”
“I’m going to the store in a few minutes, I can pick up whatever you need.”
“Thanks.” Crisis averted.
“But, Gertie, this is no way to treat things we’ve spent good money on.” She starts picking up and folding my clothes.
“I know, Mom.” Inspiration strikes. “I’m cleaning out my closet for a fund-raiser.”
“Oh, that’s lovely. What’s the cause?” She beams at me, all expectant.
Cause? Crap. Think. Think. “Teen pregnancy.”
“Good for you. I like my girl interested in making the world a better place.”
“Yeah.” I should feel bad about lying.
“When is your young man’s father coming to pick you up? Should you nap before the party, dear?”
“I’ll be okay.”
She shuffles back down the stairs. We don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve in my family. My parents may have clinked glasses one time before 1960, but we go to bed early around here. Geriatric early. Then, religiously, they get up to watch the parade the next morning. They wake me up to see horses and flowers, and horses made out of flowers, at an ungodly hour. I’m told I love seeing it every year. That’s good to know, considering how much I love sleep.
I have no clothes. None. They are all wool, plaid, strangely middle-aged. What happened on the hangers between the store and my closet? They morphed. Sex kitten to roadkill.
Must call Adam. He’ll have an idea. Plus, he got a fun new cell
phone for Christmas. Of course, I’m not speed dial one. His boyfriend Tim is. That’s wrong. Really, really wrong. As the official best friend, I should be number one. Not two. Not six. One. Someday soon we’ll have to discuss my sucky speed-dial position. Now, must put clothes on for party so Stephen can drool and forget what we’re talking about.
“Yes, Gert?” Adam sounds like he has something more important to do.
“Why are you answering the phone like a snobby British receptionist?” He’s too cute for his own good.
“Because I knew it was you. I gave you a ring tone.”
Shakira? Rihanna? I won’t ask. I’ll be cool.
“ ‘Wild Thing.’ ” Adam barely gets the words out before cackling.
There’s a loud thump. I hope the roof caved in. I am not a “Wild Thing” ring tone. I will not dignify that with a response.
He huffs back into the phone. “Sorry, I fell off the couch.”
Break much? “Sure hope you didn’t get hurt.” I don’t even fool myself.
“What’s up, Gertie?”
“I said yes to the party.”
“Good, you only live once.”
“Oh, so you’re coming to make out with your boyfriend in public?” Two can play this Hallmark movie moment.
“Nope, staying here.” He doesn’t even sound insecure about his choice.
Hypocrite. “What do I wear?” Please, I don’t want to discuss Tim’s assets again. I really don’t want to have to—
“What do you want to say?” Adam must be doing crunches while we talk. There’s grunting in the background.
“I can converse just fine—help me with clothing.”
“Your clothes. What do you want them to say?” He acts like I’m the slow one.
“I am not writing on my clothes.”
He snorts. “Gert, hello, wake up, anyone home?”
If I wasn’t so desperate, I would hang up on his homo fashionista ass and pretend I’m starting a new fashion trend with whatever I pull out.
need not apply. “My clothes must make a statement?”
“Yeah. Sexy? Party girl? Crazed sociopath? Cute? ‘Do me’?”
“No sex tonight.” Even the thought of sex with Stephen starts me shaking. I’ve seen the guy handle a stick shift; he’s not a soft and gentle lover. I read that tip in
I consider. “Cute is fine.”
“Yes, and I found out about this great new thing called deodorant. I thought maybe I’d try that, too.”
“No need to get bitchy. Just trying to get your back.”
“Cute. Yes. Fine.” How hard does this have to be? Clothing. Put on. Go. Voilà!
“Pay attention. You might want to write this down.”
“I think I can manage.” He knows me too well. I have pen in hand with a stick-figure diagram, who looks nothing like me, drawn on a pink Post-it.
“The dark denim, the tank from the lime green sweater set and your black velvet bolero jacket. Bangles. Go big on the jewelry, and flashy.”
Not what I would have chosen in a million years.
“Oh, and the strappy heels you wore to homecoming.”
“With jeans?” Am I channeling mid-eighties Madonna?
Hmm … “Perhaps.” Need I point out I couldn’t dress myself? Obviously, I trust him.
“Go dark and smoky on the eyes. Gloss on lips.”
Who am I—New Year’s Eve Barbie? “Yes, makeup maven. Anything else, maven?”
“What are you doing with your hair?”
Shaving it? “Kate Beckinsale in her last movie.”
“Chase scene or the party scene?”