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I wore new chinos and a white T-shirt to work today. Piper said I was dressed way too fancy for working at the shelter. “Save your good pants and T-shirts. On this job we don’t care how you look. We care about what you do.”

Dad was always commenting on what I wore to his office. One say he’d say,

“Isn’t that a little preppy?” The next day it would be, “That’s too dressy for the office.”

How can a persona have so many clothes and not know what to wear? I don’t

have any style. Thank goodness Amalia is helping me pick out something to wear for my date with Justin.

Meanwhile, the police brought an injured dog to the shelter. She was hit by a car on the freeway. She’s a standard-poodle mix, but she didn’t have a collar. We named her Roxie.

Besides a broken leg, Roxie is undernourished and big patches of her fur are

missing. Piper said she was pretty sure that Roxie once had a owner but has probably been a stray for months. The vet set her leg and prescribed a special extra-nourishing diet.

Piper said that the collie I like so much, Laddie, looked that bad when he came in. Now Laddie looks great.

Laddie would be a good model for one of the posters for the benefit.

To do: Talk to Mom about finding a photographer to take pics of animals at

shelter.

THROWN-AWAY PET
Thrown-away pet

Wandering on

Crossing the highway

Horns honk

Cars swerve

Fear

Abandoned. Alone. And you left all alone

Are men’s heart’s made of stone?

Thrown -away pet

Running for safety

Car hits

Bones break

Pain

Abandoned. Alone.

Are men’s hearts made of stone?

Maggie Blume

Maybe those could be the lyrics of a song someday.

Maybe. It would make kind of a tragic song, though.

Mom and Dad both had dinner dates and it’s Pilar’s day off. Good. There’s no one here to bug me about eating. I’d rather eat along anyway.

But titmouse is SO big when you’re the only one in it. It can be creepy.

11:09 P.M.

I heard Mom come in a little while ago. I met her in the family room. She was

pouring herself a vodka and tonic (heavy on the vodka, light on the tonic). As I passed our crystal angel statue I touched her wing. I always that for good luck. The statue is on two figures—an angel protecting a child. I love that the angel’s wings are as big as the child and that the child looks up at the angel with total trust. The statue has been in the family room for as long as I can remember.

I took a live-it soda from the refrigerator under the bar and sat on a stool next to Mom.

“Well, that was the most boring meeting I’ve ever been to,” she mumbled.

“What meeting?” I asked.

“With my so-called committee. We are at the Tafts Hotel and tried out the meal

they planned for the benefit. Boring. Boring people. Really, I don’t know why I’m bothering with this auction.”

She had that faraway, unfocused look in her eyes. A knot of fear formed on my

stomach. How cam she put on the benefit if she starts drinking?

I reminded her that she accepted the chairperson’s job because HCA is an

important cause. I started to tell her about the dog they brought in today, but she interrupted me.

“Maggie, we have to do something with your hair. Before the benefit.” She looked at me as if I disgusted her. “And let’s give a little thought tow at you’re wearing. Not that I have time.” She sighed and took another slug of her drink.

“Did you complain to the people at the hotel abut the menu for the banquet?” I

asked.

“Why bother? Besides, most people don’t care about the food as long as we serve a salad. Everyone in Hollywood is on a diet.”

“Did you find more things to auction off?” I asked.

“Not enough. They can’t call me in to be chairperson at the last minute and expect me to perform miracles.”

I wanted to get away from Mom. I hate her attitude when she’s drinking. But I

was worried that the auction would be a failure. Then what would happen to the shelter?

“Did you tell your committee about the animal photo idea?” I asked.

“What photo idea?”

The knot in my stomach was tightening. I reminded her about my idea to have big photos of animals from the shelter posted at the benefit.

“Oh, that,” she said. “It can be your project. I don’t have time.” She went behind the bar and poured herself another drink.

Mom is falling into her usual trap. I know she’s drinking because she’s afraid the benefit will be a failure. But if she’s drinking instead of working on the benefit it
will
be a failure. What a mess.

Drunk or not. What a mess.

Drunk or not, Mom was right about one thing. I LOOK AWFUL. I just tried on

about a thousand outfits and I look terrible in all of them.

FAT.
FAT.
FAT
.

Buying new clothes isn’t the answer. Losing weight is.

I’ve changed my goal. I’m going to lose
five
pounds by Saturday. I just won’t eat.

My body can eat its own fat.

I want to look like the actress Dad hired for his film. She’d look gorgeous in any of my clothes.

I hate my stomach. Five pounds won’t be enough. But it’s a start.

Tuesday 7.21

12:34 P.M.

Skipping lunch. At front desk while volunteer goes to lunch.

Piper was right about this job being hard work. I didn’t stop for five seconds all morning.

I talked to her about the animal photographs for the benefit. We decided we need a really good photographer if the blowups are going to look good. Piper said she doesn’t know any photographers. I said I’d ask my dad to give me names of people and I’d call them.

I was embarrassed that I asked Piper for help in the first place. She shouldn’t have to worry about the benefit. Called Dad, but he’s not in his office.

Email from Zeke:

Margaret Blume. Help! I am captive in outer space. Aliens in white shorts carrying strange weapons his yellow balls at me
all day long
. No fun. Dance lessons tonight. Save me. H-e-l-l-l-l-p-p-p-p! Big and superior powers to sent rescue troops to free me. Please.

Poor Zeke.

12:44 P.M.

A woman just called the shelter. She found a litter of abandoner kittens near a supermarket. She’s bringing them in. Have to go prepare a crate for them.

9:31 P.M.

Lost 1 pound, 4 more to go.

Busy, busy at work. The kittens are so cute. Five grey-and-white fluff balls. But they were taken from their mother too soon. The smallest one has to be bottle-fed. We named him Little Guy. Don’t know if he’ll make it.

Dad in. Mom out.

Mom left a note:
Went shopping for dress for the stupid benefit. Home for dinner.

She wasn’t home for dinner. She must have stopped for a drink...or two...or three on the way home. When things get bad, she likes to do that.

Pilar made dinner. Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, string beans, and salad. I skipped lunch and only ate a
little
supper. Ad kept nagging me to eat more.

I don’t understand my parents. They want me to look perfect. And then they try to keep me fat.

Mom’s phone ling rang five times during dinner. I answered it in case they were calls about the benefit. It was also a way to escape Pilar’s feed.

All the messages were people calling back about things they were asked to donate for the auction. Mom had left them messages to call her after seven when she’d been home—which she wasn’t.

I acted like Mom’s assistant and thanked them for returning her call. Between

phone calls I found the list of people she’d called and what she wanted them to volunteer.

I convinced the next called—the owner of a fancy bakery—to donate pastries for a dessert party for thirty people.

When I went back to the table, I told Dada bout my idea for big pictures of shelter animals at the benefit and asked him if he knew a photographer who might take pictures for free. He said he’s make a few calls after dinner. “It might help your mother,” he concluded.

I could tell he was discouraged about Mom, but he didn’t say anything more to

me about her.

Next, I told him about the email from Zeke. “He’s
not
coming home,” Dad said.

He looked at me over the rim of his coffee cup and raised an eyebrow. “I’m not raising my kids to be quitters.”

What he meant was, “
Quitters like you
.”

I decided it wasn’t the best time to remind Dad that I won’t be home tomorrow

night. That I had a Vanish rehearsal.

11:30 P.M.

Mom just came in. I can hear her and Dad arguing in the living room. I’m no

going to go downstairs. I’ll go over her messages with her in the morning. I hope she’s not too hung over to deal with it.

Wednesday 7/22

10:09 P.M.

Rehearsal was terrible. I mean,
I
was terrible. Everyone else played great, but my voice sounded weak and lifeless.

During the break, Rico took me aside and asked me to put more energy into my

singing.

After Rico talked to me, Amalia came over. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Sure,” I answered. “I know I’m not singing well tonight. The band is getting

better and better. I’m not. I’m the opposite.”

“You’re just having an off night,” Amalia said. “You don’t seem to be

concentrating on the lyrics.”

“I know.”

I didn’t tell her that if I concentrated on some of the lyrics, like the ones for

“Fallen Angel,” I would burst into tears.

Amalia took the diet soda out of my hand and handed me one of the big chocolate chip cookies she’s made for rehearsal. “Eat this,” she ordered “And have a glass of milk.”

I put the cookie down. “I don’t like sweets,” I told her.

“What
do
you like to eat?” Amalia asked. “I never see you eating. The rest of us stuff our faces and you nibble on practically nothing. Maybe you don’t eat enough, you look awfully thin.”

“Me, thin?” I said. “That’s a joke.” I didn’t like the way I sounded when I said that. But Amalia irritated me.

Why can’t everyone just leave me alone?

“Let’s put in another hour,” called Rico. “And you’re all invited to stay for dinner.

Mom and I made Spanish rice, black beans, and dried bananas.”

Everyone cheered.

Everyone but me.

“His mother is the best cook,” Amalia whispered. “And Rico takes after her. This will be a feast!”

“I have to go home right after rehearsal,” I lied.

Amalie asked how I would get home.

“My dad or someone will pick me up,” I told her. “It’s not a problem.”

I was
really
annoyed with Amalia now. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS, is what

I wanted to say.

I didn’t sing any better after the break.

I couldn’t concentrate on the lyrics. Too many thoughts and questions were going through my head.

will Little Guy live?

Will the two photographers I called today call back? Will we have the posters
made in time for the benefit?

Is Zeke horribly homesick? I better send him an email tonight.

It my mother out drinking? I should have stayed home tonight and helped with the
auction.

Is Dad still angry with me for quitting my job? I have to make up with him.

Can I ever be good enough to place my father?

Why hadn’t Justin talked to me tonight? Is he sorry he asked me out on a “date”?

What can I wear for our so-called date so I don’t look like a big, fat slob?

Justin finally talked to me after rehearsal.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I was having an off night,” I told him. “I’m sorry.”

“I wasn’t talking about your singing,” he said. “You look pale.” He touched my cheek with his fingertips. “And you have big circles under your eyes.”

I told him that I’d been working hard and that I was going home early to help my mother with the benefit.

“You’re not staying for the Spanish rice?!” he exclaimed.

What is it with everybody and food? Not everyone likes rich, greasy Spanish rice.

“No,” I said. “I can’t.”

I went into Rico’s house to phone home for a ride. Mom answered the phone. Reg

was picking Dad up, but she said she’d come home to pick me up. She didn’t sound drunk.

Something was going right.

It’s a good thing I came home. I got Mom to do a little work on the auction. And both photographers called me back. One really loves animals and had a cat from one of the shelters. She said she’d come by the shelter tomorrow.

Midnight

Amalia called this evening to see how I was feeling, as if I were sick. I told her I was fine, that I just had a lot on my mind. “Like what?” she asked.

I told her about the benefit and added, “I’m worried about my date with Justin.”

She’s going shopping with me at the mall after work tomorrow. I’ll have my hair done at Hair Today, shop for an outfit, and buy some under eye cover makeup.

As soon as Amalia and I hung up, Justin called. I figured he called to break the date. But he only wondered if I was okay.

I told him I was fine.

Then he reminded me about our date. As if I needed a reminder. He told me he’s

pick me up at seven o’clock.

He actually called it a “date.” I’m more nervous than ever.

I lost another pound. Two more to go.

Thursday 7/23

9:16 A.M.

Little Guy died early this morning.

We’re sad at the shelter today.

10:45 P.M.

Zeke phoned me. He went on and on about how much he hates tennis campo. I

just listened.

Then he asked me about Mom and Dad.

I told him they were fine.

“Tell me everything,” he said. “What’s everyone doing?”

I told him a couple of things about the benefit. But I didn’t feel like talking to Zeke. Or anyone else.

I’m just so tired.

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