Follow the yellow brick road

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Follow the yellow brick road

Tuesday, June 3, day 3

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

—Psalm 27:10

Sunlight streamed in through the balcony window. I thought that was why I felt so hot. But then I realized I was lying under a four-hundred-pound dog.

“Ugh! Zac, get off of me!” He kept snoring. “Zac! Get OFF!”

“Zac!” Monica called from downstairs. “Breakfast!”

Zac’s head shot up, and he bolted out of my room.

While I was changing, I caught a glimpse of the French doors leading to the balcony. Water streamed down in torrents, from the overflowing eaves. But it was going around one particular spot in the glass, which looked odd. My breath caught in my throat. The spot was in the shape of a hand. And in that moment, I realized that I really had known what I had seen last night. It had been a face.

I knew I should be afraid. I guess, in some aspect, I was. But only in hindsight, because I knew how to be afraid of unseen enemies. You just wait for them to show themselves, which is almost as bad as knowing that they won’t.

Downstairs, Zac noisily munched his dog food and Monica was leaning on the counter in a pressed pink tank top and yellow shorts. “Good morning,” she said.

I didn’t say anything. I was searching the room for empty bottles but I didn’t find any. I looked at her suspiciously.

She stared at me. “You’re going shopping in that?”

I looked at her coolly. “Who said anything about shopping,” was the only thing I had to say. what a nice surprise. My lips twisted into a sneer.

The phone rang. Monica automatically reached for her pocket, but then she moved to pick up the house phone that looked like it was hardly ever used. “Hello?”

I could hear my father’s booming voice, even from all the way over here. “Hello, Princess.”

Monica listened for a bit, and then nodded, to whom I didn’t know. “She’s right here.” She held the phone out to me.

“Hi, honey! How was your first night?”

I scowled at her exuberance. “It was great, Mom. My room has a balcony on it.”

“That’s good, that’s good! So what are you two doing today?”

“Actually, we were just leaving to go shopping. It’s going to be great.

“Oh. Well, then! I’ll leave you to it. Love you Hon, bye.” Beep.

“Yeah, mom. Love you too. Bye.”

The yellow walls lit up in the sun and added life to the wood cabinets. The wooden table was practically glowing. It was so contrary to my mood that it made it worse. When I imagined Monica’s house, I was thinking of a crypt-type place with shutters and electricity problems.

Monica led me through the third story of the mall until we reached a humongous store with flashing strobes and funky colours. while Monica tore through the racks. Finally she emerged holding a baby blue halter top with scarf straps. I eyed it warily, but she pushed me into the changing room anyway.

The top fit, which was undeniable. But it didn’t really go with my red shorts. I told Monica this, and three seconds later she handed me super-short denim shorts over the top of the change room door.

“Brilliant!” she exclaimed when I walked out and modeled for her. people stared. “And I have the perfect hair style to go with that!”

We went on and bought me five more tops and six bottoms, and Monica even bought me this shimmering gold dress just because it looked nice.

This was going to be harder than I thought. How was I supposed to go through with my brat plan if she treated me like that? I stared at the ground in miserable frustration. I had to do Iris. That was not an option. But did Monica, my sister the alcoholic wannabe, have to act like she was actually human?

We stopped a random wanderer in the mall and paid him a hundred bucks to drag our stuff to the mall. Since I was feeling so lousy, I gave him a fifty dollar tip. Before Monica could put her key into the ignition, there was a tap on her window. “Monica? Monica Fei-Ling? Is that you?” The shrill voice made me look up. An old woman in a flowery blue dress was peering in, as Monica rolled down the window.

“Oh, hello, Mrs. McPherson! Long time no see!” she jumped out of the car and embraced the woman.

The old woman laughed. “How have you been, Monica? Is Mary well?”

Did I know this woman? I looked at her harder. I didn’t recognize her. Maybe it was a different Mary.

“Yes, in fact, she’s right there. Come and say hi to Mrs. McPherson, Mary.”

Confused, I got out and stood beside Monica. “Hello,” I said pleasantly.

Mrs. McPherson stepped forward and wrapped me in her thin arms. Surprised, I endured it stiffly. “Hello, Mary! I’ll bet you don’t remember me. of course you don’t, you were only what? Four? Well, I used to take Carol—that’s my niece—over and you two would play house ‘til the sun went down.” She chuckled. “Then we moved to Tianam and never saw you again. But now that you’re here! I am so pleased. Oh, speaking of Carol, it’s her birthday party tonight. You simply must come! No present necessary, of course. It has a Cookie Mountain theme.” here she winked at me. I was surprised she could stop talking to do even that. “You know where we live, Monica. Oh, and how are your parents?” it was almost an afterthought.

“They’re fine,” Monica said. “They are back in Yalshe. Mary is visiting for the summer.”

“Good. That’s very good. Well, gotta run. I have a workout, you see. Glad I ran into you. See you at nine!”

“Well, wasn’t that nice!” Monica gushed as we sped down the highway after she ran in to get the gift. “I didn’t even remember that she existed. Carol was such a sweet little girl. I can’t believe she’s grown up now!” geez, she sounded as old as Mrs. McPherson. I wonder what she looks like. Oh, Mary, I have the perfect outfit for you to wear to the party! That white shirt with the gold heart and the brown skirt. Oh, and I know just what to do with your hair. This is going to be great!”

“Whatever.” I studied my fingernails. The bright turquoise polish I had applied a few days earlier had begun to chip.

“Oh come on, Mary. Don’t start that. It’s going to be fun.”

“Teenager’s birthday parties are not fun.”

“I’ll remember that on your next birthday. And by the way, she’s turning nineteen.”

“And she still wants to have birthday parties?”

“Stop being cynical.”

“Get a new definition of the word fun.”

There was no fire in my words or hers; it was just old arguments with different words. I had other things to occupy my thoughts. I couldn’t get the print on the window out of my mind. As I watched, it disappeared, washed away by the rain. I wondered how he had gotten up on the balcony. I couldn’t see how they could’ve slipped past unnoticed. But of course, they had also left no trace when they had gotten Adam.

I took a quick look at my balcony from outside when we got back. The wall was flat, with painted wooden boards that glistened. The only things that protruded were windows, and the closest one was six feet off the ground and almost seven feet from the bottom of my balcony. I could get up there, no problem, but the print on the window had been small, just a little bigger than my hand without the fingers. So either my visitor had abnormally small hands and was as tall as I was, or we had a world-class jumper. Or they had been in the house.

Finally, I felt fear for the first time in three years.

I really couldn’t believe I had to do this, but I couldn’t see another way out. Evela opened the door for me and I lifted the hem of the gold dress as I got into the limo. The only alternative was to stay home or wander the streets while Monica went out. The latter option only enforced my decision: I was going to Carol’s party.

As grateful as I was for the escape, I couldn’t be happy about having to spend the night with my sister. Given, I probably wouldn’t have to spend it with her, but the implication was the same. I was here with my sister, and I was going to have to leave with her, too. I wondered how long this stupid nightmare was going to last. I was ready to leave the moment I got here.

I just hoped the paparazzi wouldn’t find me. I was mortified enough without having to let the world know that I was there.

I heard the party before I saw it. The beat of the music rocked the road beneath us. When we pulled up, the house almost bobbed to the beat.

The party itself did have a distinct Cookie Mountain theme. My father would’ve loved it. We made our way up the steps. The lights were white on a standard, two-story gingerbread house a with gables. I wondered what the interior looked like. Monica rang the doorbell.

Mrs. McPherson answered, beaming like a harp-string. Monica handed her the present, which made her smile even wider.  “Why, hello, Monica and Mary! So glad you could make it. Come in, come in. party is in the back.” She ushered us in.

She led us through a museum-like house to a deck with a sliding glass door. Outside, I could see the source of the music was a live band, Love Cabbage by Em-Sem, E-Cole, and Onom. More Cookie Mountain-type things. There was a pool surrounded by rainbow-lights with steam rising out of it and a silky brown carpet leading from the deck-steps to it. Almost everyone was dressed in white and varying shades of brown or gold. I was glad for the outfit Monica had chosen for me.

But perhaps the most themed thing of all was the girl sitting on a big marshmallow chair on the deck, surrounded by a whole pack of girls. She looked exactly as I would have imagined Morgan Roscoe to look, with light brown hair and blue eyes and a slinking, velvety brown dress. I felt a little déja vu. So maybe we might have been friends, once upon a time. But I still didn’t want to be here. This was so not my scene.

But I did envy her, slightly, at the same time I was disgusted with her. If I was nineteen, I would be living anywhere but with my parents.

Mrs. McPherson motioned at the girl. “Carol! Come here.”

The girl turned her head. Seeing us, she came over, the dress swishing against her exposed thighs.

Monica stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Carol. “Hi, Carol. It’s good to see you again.”

“Oh, my gosh,” she said, grabbing my hands and completely ignoring Monica.  “I can’t believe you’re like, actually here. I am such a fan of your father’s books! You like what I did here? And look at me!” she twirled around. “Morgan Roscoe!”

My father’s books? Like, hello, supermodel-on-the-rise standing right here. I wasn’t seeking spotlight, I just didn’t want my father stealing the only spotlight I might get. He wrote books! Books, the ancient ancestors of television and the Internet.

While Carol talked we walked, and people stared. I held my head high and strutted like Joe taught me to. Guys who stared after me a little too long got disapproving looks from their dates. The girls didn’t seem to know whether to be annoyed or star struck. I smiled at them too.

I didn’t realize we were heading toward the stage until we were already there. I shot Monica a quizzical look as Carol jumped up.

“Stay right there.” Then she put her lips to the mike. “Excuse me! May I have your attention please? Thank you. Now, I’m sure you have noticed the theme of this party,” she twirled a little and the crowd laughed, “and you have figured out that I really love Cookie Mountain. And the last touch has arrived! I really didn’t know these guys were coming, but they did because they are old friends of mine, so without further ado I would like to present Hanuara and Monica Fei-Ling!”

Thrilled,  I vaulted up to the stage and took Carol’s microphone. “Hey, everybody! Thanks for being here tonight to celebrate Carol’s nineteenth! I’m glad to be here representing my father, so thank you for having me!” I waited for the applause to fade, hoping the lie wasn’t too clear on my face, and then pushed the mic into Monica’s hands. With a wicked grin I walked off the stage.

Monica smiled tensely at the waiting crowd and cleared her throat. “Um, well, thank you for having us, Carol. We are glad to be here. And on behalf of our father, um, Vernon Fei-Ling, we would like to say that it’s great to know that we have so many fans. Um, we love Cookie Mountain!” The crowd converged on us.

The ones out of Carol’s circle of friends screamed in that quiet, teenage-girl way, and crowded around me and bombarded me with questions that I didn’t have to answer because they never paused to let me. The grown adults behaved pretty much the same way. It was like I was actually my father. I hadn’t been so bored in my life.

“Okay, everybody! Let’s get this party started!” This was met by a unanimous cheer. Em-Sem, E-Cole, and Onom struck up a new, funky song. I couldn’t help but move to the beat of the music. I grabbed a random partner, some guy with a purple Mohawk. He looked up at me from about my ear.

“So what are you really doing here?” the boy asked, his hands tight on my waist.

“Visiting my friend Carol.”

“Carol never told me she was friends with a beautiful model.” he gave me a fractured smile.

“Are you friends?”

“I guess. We went out for a couple years.”

“That’s probably why. We were kinda young when we met, and then I moved here, and we sort of forgot about each other.”

The boy looked at me sort of strangely. “Is that why—”

Somebody tapped his shoulder. He turned around, cut off mid-sentence. “Cutting in,” said a young man with broad shoulders and the arms of a body builder. The person I was dancing with stared up and up, and like a dog with his tail behind his legs backed away and was lost in the churning crowd. The other man stepped in. “Hey, I’m Luke. Friend of Carol’s.”

I gazed at him from under my eyelashes and smiled. “Hey.”

The next hour was like that. Dance, talk, switch, talk, dance, switch, talk. Once in a while a group of screaming girls ran up asking for my autograph or a picture or something. Camera’s flashed and people cheered when I offered my signature smile.

“We love you, Hanuara!” they shouted. This little shindig was out of my league, but it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be. It felt nice to be in control for once.

I was slow dancing with some guy in an out-of-date-tux when somebody asked to cut in again. I smiled apologetically at the man and turned around to face whoever wanted their turn.

It was a trio of people. Three boys. The one who had tapped me was fair with a three-foot Mohawk. One of them had curly red hair that fell in his eyes and the other had blond hair that was darker than the first one. I tried not to gape and stuttered until I finally got there names right, then flipped my hair over my shoulder and tried to act cool.

I hadn’t noticed that the slow song I had been swaying to with the guy in the tux was actually being sung by a women and somebody on a piano. I allowed myself an exuberant “Omigosh, hi!” But I did wonder why they didn’t crowd around these celebrities. Could it be because of the death looks E-Cole gave anyone who got too near?

“Hi to you too,” said Onom. “Big fan, big fan.” He smiled at me in a moody-poet sort of way. Em-Sem—the one with the Mohawk—stepped forward meekly.

“Hi, Hanuara,” he said nervously. “Look, this is going to sound kind of cheesy, and I feel kind of stupid but like Onom said we’re big fans, and—”

I cut him off with a wave of my hand. I was amused that these famously renowned world-wide rock stars actually seemed nervous of me. “What is it?”

He motioned to E-Cole who handed him a pen and a book. “Can we have your autograph?”

I beamed at him. “Only if I can have yours.”

I gazed at the cover of the book. No One But the Milkman. I thought that was a strange choice. I didn’t even know people like them could read. Especially not books.

My dad didn’t really listen to modern music—he preferred artists like Tchaikovsky, Bach and Beethoven. But these guys were world renowned. How could you beat that? With a flourish I wrote “Thanks for reading! We’re big fans too” and then I signed both mine and my father’s names with my special curly writing.

“Do you want to walk around with us a bit? We don’t have to be back on the stage for a while yet.” Onom, with his dark eyes and red hair, looked like he had just lost his best friend. Twice over. It was that starving artist look that made girls faint when they caught sight of his picture on their walls. It was impossible to say no.

“So what are you doing here in Tianam? My sister Kaylie was watching the Years Gone By show this morning and they announced that you couldn’t make it because of some personal business?” E-Cole looked at me curiously.

Em-Sem punched him in the arm. “Dude! Personal business!”

I made a face. “It’s fine. My mom just thinks I’m not living a balanced life so she shipped me here to stay with my sister.”

“‘A balanced life’? That sounds like something off of a breakfast commercial.”

“Totally. And it’s not even my fault. My agent takes every gig he can get. I’m like, double booked seven days a week.”

“We totally get that. When we first started out, that’s what our manager did too. He thought that the more we did, the closer we would get to the top.”

“That’s what Joe told me once!”

“We didn’t even have much time to practice or write new songs.”

“One time I fainted I was so tired.”

“Right. Who cares if you’re dead on your feet? Smile like you actually want to be here!”

Our laughter brought about the stares and head shaking of prissy old women who must have been friends with Mrs. McPherson. The younger people looked like they wondered what was so funny.

A little girl stepped in front of me. She barely came up to my waist. “Excuse me,” she said in a confident soprano voice. “I’m Carol’s sister and I was just wondering if I can have an autograph.” She smiled at me shyly. Any other day I probably would have walked away with some excuse, but the boys were looking at the girl as though she was the cutest thing in the world.

“Sure. What’s your name?”

“Genny.”

Dear Genny, thanks for reading. You rock! Hearts from: Hanuara M Fei-Ling and Vernon

“There you go, honey.”

“You seem pretty balanced to me,” E-Cole commented.

“Yeah, that’s why—”

But I didn’t get to finish my sentence. Monica staggered up to us. Her face looked sallow, and she swayed on her feet. She had a dopey smile on her face, and her glass of beer shook in her hand. She wasn’t looking at me, of course. She gaped at the boys, practically hyperventilating. “It’s—you. It’s—you.” She wheezed drunkenly. Her eyes bugged.

Onom smiled at her uncertainly. I swallowed. Monica was one of their biggest fans. When Em-Sem nodded and extended his hand toward her, she crumpled to the ground. Her beer glass fell and a long crack formed.

Not knowing what else to do, I screamed. People crowded around. Em-Sem dropped to the ground next to Monica. E-Cole tossed him smelling salts. Onom growled at the people to get back. “What happened to her?” I shrieked theatrically to Em-Sem, who had Monica stretched out and was waving the salt under her nose.

Em-Sem looked bored. “She’ll be fine. This happens all the time, see. Look. She’s already awake.” Sure enough, her eyelids were fluttering, and she took a shuddering breath that filled her nostrils with the smell of the salts. Her eyes rolled around before focusing on me. Someone clapped.

“Mary?” she asked.

“I’m here.” Though I was wishing with all my being that I didn’t have to be.

She caught sight of Em-Sem, leaning over her. Her reaction was a complete replay of what had happened before. I could tell she was going to faint again so I slapped her across the face, then pulled her to her feet and wrapped an arm around her little waist. I could’ve picked her up and tossed her over my shoulder, but I decided against that. Em-Sem frowned at me, but stood up, too.

“Are you okay?” Carol was suddenly there, smiling strained reassurances.

“Ungh,” Monica groaned.

“No, she’s not,” I told Carol.

Carol’s brow furrowed, but before she could say anything her aunt came up to us. “Oh, dear, oh, dear,” she fretted, fluttering around. “This won’t do, this won’t do at all.”

“Ooooohhhhh,” Monica said.

The crowd was staring at us. My face flushed with anger but it probably looked like I was blushing.  Mrs. McPherson took Monica on her other side and began leading us toward the house.

“This won’t do, this won’t do at all.” She kept on. I didn’t realize where she was taking us until we were all ready there. Mrs. McPherson pushed open the door to the huge bedroom and hauled Monica inside.

“Oh, no, Mrs. McPherson, this isn’t necessary. I’ll just call Evela, our chauffeur.”

“Shhh, you’ll wake her!” Mrs. McPherson chastised.

I gritted my teeth. “She isn’t—” But I looked down, and sure enough, she was asleep in our arms.

“Poor dear.” I almost gagged. She sunk into the oversized bed, snoring loudly. Drool got sucked in and blown out at the corner of her mouth at regular intervals.

“Mrs. McPherson, please, let me call our chauffeur.”

She took pause, staring at me as if I were an alien from space. Then, like pressing “play” on a Click remote, she sprang back into action again. “Bucket, a bucket, oh, we need a bucket…” her voice trailed off as she floated into the bathroom.

Monica’s  hair was stringy and tangled, and she still looked sallow. I shook my head and stepped over to the window, peering down. And she thought I was immature.

The party was back in full swing. The lawn was filled with dancing people. In the bandstand, I could see Em-Sem, E-Cole and Onom swaying to the love song they were performing. I wished I could have had just one more minute with them before Monica came and ruined everything.

I called Evela. It rang five times and then voice mail picked up. “This is Evela. Please leave a message.”

More attempts to convince Mrs. McPherson that Monica really didn’t need to sleep over fell flat. She told me that it was fine; she wanted to do it (which I didn’t doubt—I knew Carol would be thrilled and Mrs. McPherson would be hailed as a heroine). She encouraged me to return to the party while the night was still young, which I did, reluctantly. I manoeuvred my way to the snack table, where I got a few half-smiles from my father’s adoring fans. I gloomily munched on a cream-cheese cookie. I wanted to go home. Right now. I felt like a dork just standing here by myself. I could’ve joined the party, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I was cursing Evela silently when Onom said my name.

“Yeah?” I replied, trying to put some life back into my voice. I felt like hiding my face.

“Is your sister all right?” he asked, brows furrowed.

“No. my chauffeur decided to take a hike, so she’s pretty much stuck here.”

“No problem. Just take ours.” He motioned to the front yard, where I was assuming his chauffeur was waiting. Like Evela should’ve been waiting.

“That isn’t necessary.”

“So? It isn’t a problem, either.”

This night couldn’t get any worse, so I couldn’t imagine what harm accepting a little help from a famous band would do. At least it would get my sister off my back, and I might be able to enjoy the rest of the night.

One thing was for sure: she and Evela were really going to get it tomorrow.

I grabbed the first single man I saw. Love Cabbage was playing an angry pop song, to match my mood. With every sharp twist of our bodies, angry thoughts raged through my head. Of all the low-life, good for nothing people in the world, I had to get Monica Jane Fei-Ling as a sister.

With our dance over, I quickly sought out a new partner. My eyes zeroed in on a boy just a bit older than me, leaning on a wall with a glass of something. He was tall, with a muscular build—nothing like Luke’s, but still strong looking. He had sandy brown hair and a strong, masculine jaw. His eyes were the colour of emeralds. I approached him with impish grace. “Hey, You want to dance?” I slid one hand around his back and the other in his hand.

“Um, okay,” he stammered.

He was a better dancer than the others, by far. He almost reminded me of…but I refused to let my thoughts go that far. Not tonight. I enjoyed his hands on me more than anyone else’s. I allowed him to pull me very close. “What’s your name?” I whispered in his ear.

“David,” he murmured back. And that was all the talking we did.

When the song was over, he kissed my lips. I might have been imagining what it would be like more than I should’ve. I hadn’t kissed a guy since I had broken up with Mo, who I caught cheating on me. his touch wasn’t missed at all, but I had missed kisses in general. Especially kisses like this. I was turning to putty, melting, and when he let me go I would be left begging for more. My fingers twined in his sandy hair, and he ran his lips over my jaw before meeting mine again. My heart hammered in my chest like a caged macaw. This kiss became deeper, hotter.

And then it was over.

“Thanks for the dance,” he said, chuckling as he walked away.

He left me breathless. Please, don’t go. Touching my flaming lips and hold his kiss there was my only desire at that moment, but people were staring and it was time to find a new partner. When I turned around I was face to face with a camera. Lila Benzik, the reporter for StarGazers celebrity smash-up show, couldn’t hold back a smile as she spoke into her microphone. “And we’re live, here in Tianam, and after just witnessing that shocking display of affection to Hanuara Fei-Ling, we’re going to ask her what she thinks about it.” she held the mic up to me. “What are your thoughts, Hanuara?”

My amazing kiss would not be put on display for the rest of the world to analyse. “No comment,” I said firmly.

“Is that the media? What are they doing here?”

“Are you kidding? Why wouldn’t they be here?”

I tried to get away from Lila. Even with my long legs and the camera crew trailing after her, she caught me.

Trying to cover my face with my hand, I motioned to Carol who was beside me. “This is her party. Talk to her. Leave me alone.”

“This is your party?” Carol nodded. “Well, that’s interesting. We’re here live, with…” she took pause. “I’m sorry, what’s your name?”

Carol blushed. “Carol Bassinette.”

Lila was racking her brain, trying to figure out if she knew that name or not. “So, what are you, like a pop singer on the rise looking for a mentor?” she motioned to Love Cabbage. Carol shook her head, confused. “A supermodel-on-the-rise like our girl Miss Hanuara here?” again Carol shook her head. “Then what do you do?” Lila struggled to keep her smile in place for the camera. She was losing her story faster than you could say Gotcha!

“I work at Geraldine’s Salon for Hair and Accessories.” Carol offered a big smile. I felt the beginnings of pity for the woman. She was the only one who hadn’t been hounding me all night for an autograph or a dance or for questions like “When’s your next show?” And now she was going to go through this. I tried to edge away and slip off unnoticed.

But Lila caught my sneaky attempt. She pointed the mic at me like it was a weapon. The camera turned from Carol’s face to mine. “So tell us, Hanuara, why are you here at Carol McPherson’s birthday party? She doesn’t seem famous enough to me.” She was probably remembering that time when I had turned her and her crew away from my celebrity bash on the pretence of “not being famous enough”. I regretted my words now when I saw tears pour down Carol’s cheeks as her friends lead her away, with glares in my direction.

“For your information, Lila,” I turned my sweetest smile to the camera. “Carol and I have been friends since I don’t know when. She invited me here, and I am glad to have come. And Lila, honey, get a new hairdo.” And with that I turned on my high-heals and stalked away.

Carol was sitting under the step alone. She had a box of tissues in her lap, and most of them were stained with her running mascara. For some reason I hesitated, afraid that she might not want to see me. But I sat down beside her. anyway.

“Hey.”

Carol turned away from me and blew her nose. “Carol I’m really, really sorry about what happened back there. That’s Lila Benzik, and she is the meanest reporter in the world. She was just getting payback at me for turning her away from my party one time.”

Finally she looked at me. “You turned her away?”

I nodded. “She should be fired. She twists and turns the truth, but people seem to like it. I told her that you and I have been friends for a long time and that’s why I came to your party.”

“You told her that?”

“I did. Now, come on, before the party’s over. We still haven’t opened presents yet.” I stood up and held my hand out to her.

We were at the snack bowl before she talked to me again. “By the way, thanks.”

The voice of Lila Bent-Stick floated to me from out of nowhere. “Tell us, Cody, where is the other sister, Monica Fei-Ling? Did our girl Miss Hanuara come here alone?”

A deep voice answered. “No, man, she went home drunk, I guess. She looked pretty wasted.”

“Drunk, you say?”

“Yeah, my buddy got a picture on my phone. See?”

In that moment, the only feeling in my heart were embarrassment and bitter, bitter resentment. I marched up to Lila, and shoved Cody out of the way. “Lila, no. you have to delete that. That cannot get out.” Monica’s dean at her college was already threatening expulsion. I didn’t care what happened to Monica, but it would ruin my parents, and start a media chain reaction that nobody would be able to stop. There would be nowhere to hide this time.

“Yes it can, that was live, remember?” Lila chirped as she motioned to the camera man to stop rolling.

“Lila, please. What do you want from me?”

“Absolutely nothing.” She patted the camera. I followed her out to the curb, where the StarGazers van was parked.  “You have given me everything I came here for.”

Did I have to get down on my knees? “Lila please don’t do this!”

“Sorry, Miss. Its just business.” She got into the van and was gone. The taillights winked at me as they disappeared around the corner. “Why, Lila?” I wanted to scream. I sank to the curb, not caring if my backside got dirty. “Why are you doing this to me?”

Thanks for Stopping by!

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13

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