Authors: Kristina Springer
My heart sinks. Milan is totally blowing in his ear.
Neither of us says anything for a moment. Not that we need to. We're both thinking the same thing.
“Seriously, Jamie,” Sara finally says. “I don't think she's Danny's type. Don't worry.”
I appreciate Sara's effort to make me feel better, but I'm having a hard time seeing Danny turning Milan down if she is in fact throwing herself at him. “Just, keep an eye on them, okay? And let me know if she's hitting on him.”
“All right, I will. But I really do think it's no big deal,” Sara adds.
“Thanks,” I say, and we hang up.
The rest of the afternoon goes by slowly and I race for my car after the final bell rings. Ever since I hung up with Sara I've been getting these horrible visions of Danny and Milan sneaking off behind one of the barns to make out. I have to get back to the Patch and see for myself what's going on.
When I get home I change into my overalls at warp speed, throw my hair into two braids, and get out to the Patch. I walk from booth to booth, acting like I'm looking for something, but actually I'm trying to find Milan. I finally spot her in the face-painting booth, surrounded by a bunch of preteens, and I breathe a sigh of relief. At least Danny's not with her. I hang back for a moment, studying her. She's smiling and looks like she's having a good time talking to the group of girls. One of them turns around to shout something to her mother and I see exactly what kind of face painting Milan has been doing.
I'm at Milan's side in ten fast steps. “Excuse me,” I say to the group of girls, and give Milan's arm a tug.
Milan throws me an annoyed look and snaps her arm free from my grasp. “What?”
I motion to the back of the booth with my head. “Can I talk to you for a moment? Over there.”
Milan lets out a loud, dramatic sigh and slowly stands. “I'll be back in a sec,” she says to the girls, and they nod eagerly. She drops the makeup tubes and brushes onto the table with a thud.
I wait in the back of the booth and Milan steps in front of me, arms crossed. “What did I do now? Is my outfit offending you today?” she asks.
I briefly glance at her outfit. True, while it's short, tight, and skimpy, at least she's not flashing anything. I shake my head. “No. That's not it. It's only, did anyone tell you how to do the face painting?”
Milan turns her head and looks at the group of girls smiling at her and then returns her gaze to me. “They look good. What's there to tell me?”
“Well.” I lower my voice. “You have them done up like Bratz dolls with those big magenta eyelids and lips. And that heavy eyelinerÂ â¦ I mean, you're supposed to draw things on their cheeks. You know, like pumpkins and hearts and smiley faces. Haven't you ever had your face painted as a kid?”
Milan looks at me like I'm about the stupidest person to walk the face of the earth. She rubs her lips together and says, “Listen, when you start wearing makeup then maybe I'll consider your advice as to how to apply it. But right now, I don't need any help from
.” With that, she turns and heads for the waiting girls. “Okay, ladies, where'd we leave off?”
I stare at Milan's back, stunned. I totally
wear makeup. I just don't cake it on like Milan does and I certainly don't wear it for work. And the way she said “you” like I'm the worst person ever or something.
I glance around the face-painting booth and see that I've been dismissed by both Milan and the group of girls she's entertaining. And I'm not going to lie, my feelings are hurt. I was only trying to be helpful. She
doing it wrong.
I slink out of the booth and walk down the path to the storybook barn. It was always one of my favorite places as a kid. The outside of the barn is painted in a cheery yellow and the inside is full of large panels with various storybook and nursery rhyme scenes painted on them. There's Humpty-Dumpty on one and Little Red Riding Hood on another. Jack and Jill running up the hill, the kid in the corner with the pie, and Mary and her lamb play out across more panels. There is a large bookcase full of children's books, and teeny tiny tables and chairs for the kids to sit and color at if they want while they're listening to the stories. Or they can sit on the big cushy circle carpet. And there is a giant Mother Goose in the middle of the barn that the kids love to climb on and mothers love to snap their pictures with. Maybe I'll find a comfy beanbag and read to some of the little kids for a while. Or hide out.
I stay in the storybook barn for the rest of the afternoon, avoiding Milan. I read Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Shel Silverstein, and Kevin Henkes to the kids. And I do feel a bit better. You can't be in too foul a mood after reading
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
three times. When it's close to dinnertime I start walking toward the house and spot Milan talking to Danny, while he's unhitching the hay wagon from his tractor. I stop and watch them, which is probably not the best idea in the world. But I'm dying to know what they're talking about. Milan glances in my direction and then I see her point down at her feet and then point at the tractor. It looks like she's wearing heels. Really, really high heels. Like the kind women only put on to pose for a picture in a magazine and not to actually walk in. When did she even put those on? She wasn't wearing them in the face-painting booth. And who in her right mind wears heels to work in a pumpkin patch anyway? Danny shrugs and nods and next thing I know Milan is standing up on the back of his tractor, holding on to his shoulders. She smiles at me as they roll away.
I feel like someone punched me in the gut.
I gently push open the front door of the house, trying not to let it creak and alert the family that I'm home.
“Jamie, is that you?” Mom calls from the kitchen.
Darn it. Man, she's got good ears. I fling the door open the rest of the way and step inside. “Yeah,” I say reluctantly.
“Great. Can you set the table for dinner, please?”
I sigh. What, no “How was school today, Jamie? How did work go, Jamie? Anything new in your life, my dear sweet only child?” I trudge into the kitchen and fling open the cabinet door where the dishes are. I pull down four plates and reach for the silverware drawer with my free hand. Mom is rushing around the kitchen, pulling things out of drawers.
“Oh, hon,” Mom says, “grab an extra setting, would you? Milan invited a friend over for dinner.”
“What? She did? Who?” I fire off. Oh my God. Not Danny, not Danny, not Danny, I chant in my head. Anyone but Danny. If I have to sit here and witness a family dinner date between Milan and Danny I'll die.
“That nice girl Samantha from the Patch,” Mom says, wiping up a mess on the counter with a handful of paper towels.
“Sno-Cone Sammy?” I practically yell. My moment of enormous relief is quickly replaced by annoyance that I will soon be sitting across from one of Milan's drones. One that doesn't seem to exactly like me either.
“What did you call her?” Mom says, pulling a loaf of homemade Italian bread from the oven and setting it on the counter to cool. She looks at me quizzically, waiting for an answer.
I turn away, reaching up into the cabinet for another plate. “Um, nothing. I didn't realize that Milan was having a friend over or I would have asked Sara to come too.”
Mom crosses in front of me to the refrigerator and pulls out a couple of pears, a tub of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, and a bottle of cranberry vinaigrette. “Another time, Jamie,” she says, not looking at me. She places the ingredients on the counter next to a couple of heads of romaine lettuce and a bag of walnuts, and pulls down a large salad bowl from one of the cabinets.
I nod and start to leave the kitchen. Whatever is in the oven smells good. “What's for dinner anyway?” I ask Mom.
Mom's face lights up. “A vegetable frittata,” she replies. “You'll love it.”
“Oh.” I try to smile like this sounds like a good thing. I head for the dining room table and on the way out spot the empty white plastic bag on top of the garbage. Blech. More tofu.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
I stare at the two empty seats across from me at the dinner table. Mom clears her throat for the second time and Dad is sitting with his arms crossed, watching the food in the middle of the table get cold.
“Can I have a piece of bread?” I ask.
“In a minute,” Mom returns quickly. She twists the napkin in her hand over and over again. It looks like a fat white worm.
“Dinner looks wonderful, Aunt Julie.”
We all look up at the same time and see Milan and Sno-Cone Sammy have finally graced us with their presence.
“Thank you, Milan.” Mom has a huge smile on her face. “Come, sit down.” She drops the napkin and pats Milan's spot at the table.
I notice Milan and Sno-Cone Sammy are wearing similar plaid belted tops and dark leggings. Funny how Milan won't wear a plaid shirt out to the Patch to work, but she'll iron one, dress it up with chunky rings and bangles, and wear it to dinner.
“I hope we didn't take too long. We didn't want to come to dinner in our work clothes,” Milan says, taking her seat. The girls both laugh and Milan's eyes land squarely on me.
Whatever. I've been coming to dinner in my work clothes ever since I first started working at the Patch. I reach out for the bread bowl and throw a couple of pieces on my plate. I scoop a massive hunk of spreadable butter out of the container to my right and smear it on one of my pieces of bread. I look right at Milan and take a big bite. It's like I'm saying “You may be fooling people with this act of yours, but I'm going to eat carbs
fat. So there.”
I chew. And chew. And you know, it's kind of a disgusting amount of butter for one bite. But I'm no quitter. I take another bite. Milan raises an eyebrow in my direction and drops some lettuce leaves onto her plate, careful to avoid any of the yummy stuff Mom put in the salad. Okay, so maybe my eating a scoop of butter with a smidge of bread isn't effective revenge on anyone but myself.
This is going to be a fun dinner, I can tell.
Milan and Sno-Cone Sammy are carrying the conversation, talking about how skinny Hollywood is these days and the unhealthy message it sends today's youth. Which is ironic since I've probably eaten more in one sitting than Milan has eaten since she moved in with us. Dad's keeping his gaze downward, concentrating heavily on his dinner. Mom keeps looking back and forth between everyone at the table, trying to gauge how we're enjoying the food. And I've got a huge, barely touched piece of vegetable frittata sitting on my plate. I can't eat it. Not because it's tofu. I'm too mad to eat. And, well, my stomach hurts a bit from all that butter I inhaled.
“It was such a fabulous idea bringing Milan to work here at the Patch, Mr. Edwards,” Sno-Cone says. She squeezes a piece of lemon into her iced tea and stirs it with a spoon.
Dad looks up at her and does this nod/grunt thing and then returns his gaze to his plate.
“Really,” she continues. “Milan has some fantastic ideas for the Patch. I think they can make you
At the word “money” Dad's ears perk up and he looks at Milan. “Really, Milan?” Dad says. He throws a napkin on his plate, giving up on the rest of his dinner. “Like what?”
“Well,” Milan begins. She sits up straighter in her seat, clearly happy to have attention on her. “For starters, I think we should sell a homemade pumpkin facial scrub in the gift shop. Pumpkin facials are all the rage back home. They're fantastic for your skinâespecially this time of the year, when people tend to have a lot of dead skin on their face.” She pauses and looks at me.
I touch my cheek with my hand. I so do not have dead skin! I scowl at Milan.
“Anyway,” she continues, “pumpkins have this enzyme in them that totally attacks the dead skin cells. Not to mention, there's loads of zinc and vitamins A and C that totally brighten the complexion. And the scrub smells amazing. Seriously, it'll fly off the shelves if we stock it.” She looks at my dad expectantly. She's so darn sure of herself.
My dad leans back in his chair, considering this. After a few seconds he looks at Milan and gives her a huge smile. And my mom smiles at my dad. Everyone looks happy. Except for me. I cross my arms and slump in my seat.
“Good thinking, Milan,” Dad says. “We can probably do that. What do you say, Julie?”
Mom's nodding. “It sounds like a great idea. I'm sure I can whip it up. And we can put it in tiny adorable jars. You'll help me make it, won't you, Milan?”
“Of course,” Milan agrees. “I'd love to!”
What? Are they joking? She's been here for all of a week and a half and now we're letting her develop products?
“It'll be a lot of fun,” Milan continues. “And Jamie can fetch us the pumpkins. Right, Jamie?”
Everyone looks at me. I give them a tight smile. Yay. I can be the pumpkin fetcher. Wonderful.
“Tell him your other idea, Milan,” Sno-Cone urges.
Oh God, there's more?
Mom and Dad look at Milan eagerly and Milan is grinning. “Okay. You know how you sell hot chocolate and hot apple cider at the concession stand?” she asks. “I think you need to sell something else for more”âshe waves a hand in the airâ“sophisticated tastes.”
Dad gives Mom a puzzled look. I know what he's thinking. Sophisticated and Average aren't exactly synonymous. “What do you suggest?” he asks.
“Pumpkin spice lattes,” she returns, clearly pleased with herself.
I'm secretly pleased tooâDad's going to shoot this idea down. He hates froufrou coffee drinks. Straight black coffee is all he sells at the concession stand.
Dad twists up his face. “Hmm. I'm not sure about that one, Milan. It sounds a littleÂ â¦ complicated.”