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The waiter came back. “I’ll have the house,” I told him.

“And for your main course?” he asked.

“Just the salad,” I explained. “You can bring it when he had his burrito.

“A house salad is really small,” Justin said. “Don’t you want anything else?”

“I like it.”

“Isn’t there
any
thing else on the menu you like? What about the chicken chocolate mole? They’re famous for that.”

Chicken and chocolate? Was he crazy?

Justin was annoyed at me, like I had spoiled his good time because I didn’t want to eat what he ordered me to eat. Since when is ordering a salad a crime? I was disappointed in Justin. I didn’t know he was such a control freak.

“We have a Caesar salad,” the waiter said. “That’s more a dinner size. How about that?”

To calm Justin down, I agreed to the Caesar salad. But he still wasn’t happy. As soon as the waiter left he made a comment about how Caesar salad was a weird thing to order in a Mexican restaurant. He added that it wasn’t like I had to be on a
diet
. He said

“diet” as if being on one were insane.

Justin drank his smoothie and ate chips, salsa, and guacamole. I ate a few chips so he would leave me alone. But he kept shoving guacamole in my face. I finally are a little on a chip. But only one.

I wish we hadn’t gone out to dinner. Justin was acting weird. This was
not
fun.

When my salad arrived it was dripping with dressing. Justin had made such a big fuss over my order that I had forgotten to ask for the dressing on the side.

He drove into his burrito and went on and on about how good it was, of course he wanted me to “at least taste it.”

I wouldn’t.

I poked through my salad. Parmesan cheese stuck to the greasy dressing that stuck to the lettuce. It might as well have been deep-fried.

“Don’t you like it?” Justin asked.

I took a bite. “It’s good,” I said.

I ate a few more bites while he continued to wolf down his meal. I made it though about a third of a salad, but I couldn’t eat anymore. Why should I stuff myself just because he does? Or course he had to notice that I had stopped eating.

“Are you sick or something?” he asked.

“I’m just not very hungry,” I said. “I don’t have a big appetite.”

“More like
no appetite
,” he mumbled under his breath. I ignored that. I could believe was getting upset because of what I did or did not eat.

“You should have told me you don’t like Mexican food,” he said.

“It’s not that. I’m just not very hungry tonight,” I said. “It’s no big deal. Stop making a big deal out of it.”

“Well, you should have told me,” he said again. He pushed away his plate with

the half-eater burrito. “It’s no fun to go to a restaurant with someone who doesn’t eat.”

He signalled to the waiter. “I supposed you don’t want dessert either.”

“No. I don’t. I never eat dessert.”

Justin passed on dessert too.

We didn’t say another thing to each other until we were outside

The blast of fresh air felt good. As we walked down the block I could feel the

waistband of my skirt shift from side to side. Three days ago it was snug and now it was loose. I felt thin and I knew I would be thinner. All it took was self-control.

I sighed.

I started to talk about the film again. But Justin didn’t seem very interested in the film...or in me. He brought me home.

I have a feeling tat our first date was also our last. Fine by me. I think Justin was looking for an excuse to pick a fight with me anyway. I’m too ugly for him.

Sunday 7/26

6:05 P.M.

Boring day. Slept till noon. Still tired.

Dad’s having a screening party here. I have to make an appearance. Hope I at

least like the movie.

Amalia phoned around noon and left a message. I was here but I didn’t pick up

and I didn’t call her back. She’d going to want to know all about the date and that is the last thing I want to talk about. Amalia was more excited about it than I was. Maybe
she
should go out with him. Amalia likes to eat. They can try out all the restaurants in Palo City. Then they can move to Anaheim.

Just left a message too. “Maggie. It’s Justin. About last night. “I’m sorry about what I said at the restaurant. it’s just that...you didn’t seem to be having a very good time...But, well, call me. Okay?”

Forget him.

Forget last night.

I have more important things to worry about.

There’s my phone again.

6:15 P.M.

I should have let Zeke leave a message too. It was a mistake to pick up the phone.

All he did was complain, complain, complain. I told him that if he stopped complaining and tried harder to have fun the time would go faster. He shut up with the complaints after that. But he hung on the line and told me it was my turn. That I should say something. “Like?” I asked.

“I don’t know like what did you do last night?”

I tried not to sigh too loudly.

“Nothing,” I said. “Nothing important. I have to go. Dad’s having this screening.”

“I wish I could go to the screening. What’s he showing?”

“I don’t know. Good-bye, Zeke.”

We hung up.

Zeke can really get on my nerve.

Monday 7.27

1:13 P.M.

Manning the front desk during lunch hour. Piper went out for lunch. Offered to

bring me back something. Told her I brought lunch from home and I’d eat it here. That’s not lying. It’s none of her business what I eat or don’t eat.

The people who volunteer here are always bringing in food for snacking—cakes,

cookies—all fattening. I guess Piper is another one of those lucky people who can eat all they want without being fat.

I’m beginning my diet. I feel clean, light, and in control.

I’m disgusted when I think of the mountains of cakes, cookies and ice cream I

used to eat.

1:30 P.M.

Phone call. I answered the way I usually do, “Palo City Animals Shelter. This is Maggie. Can I help you?”

“Well, that sounds very businesslike,” said the male voice on the other end. My father. “I thought your job was to take care of the animals. What are you doing answering the phone?”

I explained that I was working at the front desk while the volunteer went for

lunch.

“What about your lunch?” he asked.

I told him that I was eating at the desk and he make some lame joke about my

terrible working conditions.

I didn’t say anything and waited for him to tell me why he’d called.

“Your mother didn’t show up for a benefit committee meeting,” he said. “The

HCA office called to see if I know where she is.”

My heart sank. I didn’t know where Mom was either. Dad and I were both

thinking the same thing, but we didn’t say it. Mom was off somewhere drinking. Was she going to blow this chance to regain her place in Hollywood high society?

“Seems like your mother has lost interest in the benefit,” Dad said.

I agreed and told him that she also had a two o’clock meeting at HCA to go over the program for the auction one more time before it went to the printer.

Dad asked me if there was any way
I
could go over to the HCA office and cover for Mom.

“I’m working
here
,” I reminded him.

“Those shelter people will let you leave,” he said. “After all, the benefit is for them. They get the money.”

I said that I would tell Piper that Mom was shorthanded and needed my help. Dad said his car would pick me up in half an hour. He added that the success of the benefit is important to Mom. He said she’d been absent from the Hollywood social scene lately and that the benefit was her chance to return to it. “So do what you can, Maggie,” he told me.

“And let me know how I can help. We won’t make a big deal out of it, but let’s be there when your Mom needs us.”

“Okay, sure,” I agreed.

After I hung up I realised that nighter of us was surprised that Mom had

disappeared. We didn’t know where she was, but we new what she was doing. And we knew she sooner of later she’d be home—drunk.

10:14 P.M.

I hated to leave Piper with all of my work on top of her own. “Good thing I had a big lunch,” was her parting comment.

I told the committee that Mom was sick and that I was supposed to have called to tell them. I apologised and we got down to work.

Mom never showed up at the HCA office. She came home a little while ago and

went right to her room. I heard her mumbling to herself and then I heard ice clinking in her glass. I didn’t bother to say hi. I’m too disappointed and mad. And worried about the benefit.

The program is ready for the printer. It was a good thing we checked it. There

were a bunch of typing errors—like “Dinner for 40 at Top of the hart,” which was supposed to read Dinner for 4!

Two of the women on the committee, Janice and Lana, have known Mom for a

long time. I be they didn’t believe my explanation for Mom’s absence. Mom used to got o aerobics class with them. They were always doing things together. Once they went to this fancy health spa in the desert. Mom looked great when she came home. She had lost five pounds and looked really healthy.

Then she started drinking more and more and seeing her friends less and less.

Once I heard Dad ask Mom about Janice and Lana and she said they were goody-goodies who didn’t know how to have fun. Mom probably insulted them/. She can be mean when she’s been drinking.

She’s lost a lot of friends because of her problem. I hope she doesn’t lose more.

There’s a message from Amalia on my machine reminding me that there’s a

Vanish practice tomorrow night. There’s no way I can see Justin Randall. I left them a message saying that I can’t go. I used the benefit as my excuse.

Diet going
very
well. I love this empty feeling.

Tuesday 7/28

9:31 P.M.

Tired. Very busy at shelter today. Mom here when I cane home. Told her what we

did at meeting yesterday. She thanked me for my help. She said she’d been working on benefits all afternoon, but it was giving her a headache and she had to get out the house.

She told Pilar she didn’t want any dinner left

Dad still at work.

Pilar had cooked a big meal for us. When she saw that I was the only one home

she asked me where I wanted to eat. I told her that I ate before I came home.

Now she’s in a big snit about cooking for a family who never eats.

After she went to her room, I ate a small scoop of low-fat cottage cheese, a slice of cucumber, and one pretzel.

I lost another pound.

Working at the shelter is getting on my nerves. Te animals are okay, but Piper cam be really bossy.

Email from Zeke. He has
not
stopped kvetching. Not he’s complaining about the food at camp.

He wants me to email him back and tell him what Pilar’s been cooking for us.

FOOD. FOOD. FOOD.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH EVERYBODY?

CAN’T THEY THINK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE?

Wednesday 7/29

6:09 P.M.

Four messages on my machine when I came home:

1. Zeke saying I should check my email and answer him.

2. Justin saying he was sorry I wouldn’t be at rehearsal and would I please call him.

3. Amalia saying same as Justin.

4. Dawn calling from Stoneybrook. Said she misses me. Wondered how I was and what was going on in Palo City. She wants me to call her back too.

I don’t feel like talking to anybody. Think I’ll take a nap before dinner.

8:30 P.M.

Dinner started out on a bad note. Pilar was grumpy with me because I asked her

not to put dressing on my salad or sauce on my grilled fish. Mom was drinking her dinner. And Dad was grumpier than Pilar.

I told Mom that the hotel called with some questions abut the benefit dinner. Mom paid attention for a little while and I got the information I needed. I’ll pass it on to Janice tomorrow and hopefully she’ll take care of it.

I ate the salad and half the fish. For once, no one tired to make me eat more.

But Mom did notice how I looked. She scowled at me. “I thought we were going

to do something about that hair.”

“I got a haircut last week,” it old her. “You said you liked it.”

“Did I?” she asked. “Well, now it looks limp.”

She poured herself more wine. Dad winced.

“What are you wearing to the blasted dinner?” Mom asked me.

I’d been so busy that I’d forgotten about buying a dress. The last thing I wanted to do was go shopping with my mother. When she’s drinking, she can really embarrass me.

“I’ll wear the outfit I wore to Dad’s last premiere,” I said. “Okay?”

“Fine. I’ll just wear any old thing too.”

“Why don’t you two buy yourselves something special,” Dad said. “And, Eileen,

have a beauty day and the Hollywood Spa. It would e good for you.”

I knew Dad was suggesting the spa because it would be hard for Mom to drink

during a day of beauty treatments.

She glared at him. “How can I do that and manage the benefit? Sometimes you

are very dense, Hayden.”

My stomach churned. I wished I hadn’t eater the fish.

The front doorbell rang.

Pilar poked her head out from the kitchen. “Want me to get it?” she asked.

I jumped up and said I’d go.

Amalia was at the door.

I was surprised. She never just “dropped by” before. I gave her a big help. Amalia has the most beautiful smiling face. It glows.

My father yelled, “Who is it?”

I yelled back that it was someone to see me. He came into the hall, said hi to

Amalia, and told me that he was going back to the office. I asked him what Mom was doing and he said quietly, “She’s gone out. Bring Amalia to the dining room for something to eat before Pilar cleans up.” He smiled at Amalia. “Make Pilar’s day and eat something, will you?”

“I already ate, Mr. Blume.” she said. “But I might be able to help out in the

dessert department.”

BOOK: o 359b4f51a22759c4
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