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"I am so not in the mood for school today," Riley Carlson declared to her twin sister, Chloe.
Chloe glanced at her across the kitchen table. "Why?" she asked. "You don't have any tests, do you? And you get to see Alex."
"True," Riley agreed, munching on a piece of toast. Alex Zimmer was her boyfriend. "Unfortunately, Willow will be there, too."
"Oh. Right," Chloe said. "Willow."
"Who is this Willow person?" Manuelo asked, turning from the stove where he was cracking eggs into a pan. Manuelo Del Valle had been the Carlsons' housekeeper/cook/nanny since the girls were babies. He liked to know everything that was going on.
"Willow Sweet," Chloe told him, sipping orange juice. "She's Alex's old girlfriend. Manuelo, you're not making those eggs for me, are you?" she added.
"No, Chloe. I know you don't care for a good, fortifying breakfast," he replied. He gestured toward the other end of kitchen, where Jake and Macy Carlson were leaning against a counter, looking at swatches of material. "I'm making them for your father. Your mother asked his advice about fabrics for her new line. He'll need his strength."
[Riley. Wait a sec. Maybe I should explain the parental living situation to you. It's like this: Mom and Dad are total opposites, and they separated a few months ago. Until then, they ran a fashion design company together, and they were always fighting. Dad wanted to get back to basics, so now he lives in a trailer on the beach and practices yoga a lot. Mom is still very driven and runs the business by herself. But, believe it or not, our parents actually get along now that they don't livetogether. The cool thing is that we are all still really close, and Riley and I get to see our dad a lot.]
"Now, back to this Willow person," Manuelo said as the eggs sizzled. "Riley?"
Riley sighed and slipped a piece of crust to Pepper, their black and white cocker spaniel, who had stationed herself under the table. "Chloe's right. Willow used to be Alex's girlfriend. Then her family moved to London for a while."
"But now she's back," Chloe said. "And she's after Alex. Tell him what happened, Riley."
"Hold on." Manuelo tilted the eggs onto a plate and ,set it in front of Jake Carlson. "You don't want to use linen," he said, pointing to a swatch of pale green. "Breathe on linen and it wrinkles."
"He's right," Jake said to Macy. "You're right, Manuelo. Thanks for the eggs, by the way."
"At your service." Manuelo turned back to Riley. "Now. Tell me what happened."
"I saw one of Willow's notebooks," Riley said. "I mean, it was a total accident. There was this backpack lying around, and I was trying to find out whose it was, so I looked inside."
"And she found Willow's notebook," Chloe went on. "Willow had written Alex's name all over it!"
"But that doesn't have to mean that Willow wants him back," Manuelo said. "She could have written his name for another reason."
[Riley: Can you think of another reason? Like maybe Willow was practicing her penmanship? Oh, sure. And after she wrote his name a thousand times, she drew pink hearts around them just for fun!]
"Chloe didn't tell you the best part. I mean, the worst," Riley said. She told Manuelo about the hearts.
"I see your point," Manuelo admitted.
"I still can't believe it," Riley declared. "All this time Willow has been pretending to be nice to me. And telling Alex that she justs want to be friends with him."
"But Alex doesn't like Willow that way anymore," Chloe reminded her. "He likes you."
Riley smiled. She and Alex did have a great thing going. They didn't have to do anything special, either. Walking on the beach, getting ice cream, sitting around talking -- just being together was enough.
And then there was the song. Riley's best friend, Sierra Pomeroy, had started a rock band called The Wave. Alex played guitar in it and also wrote songs. He'd actually written one especially for Riley, which was so cool.
"So what is the problem?" Manuelo asked. "If Alex likes you and not Willow, then everything is fine."
"No, it's not," Riley argued. "Alex thinks Willow is great -- he doesn't have a clue she wants him back. He says he's totally over her, but I'm still a little nervous. She's always hanging around him."
"Plus, she's gorgeous," Chloe added.
"Don't remind me." Riley groaned.
"You think Alex doesn't know his own mind?" Manuelo asked.
"Maybe he does now, but who knows what could happen?" Riley fed another piece of toast to Pepper. "Oh, well, at least it's Friday. I won't have to see her over the weekend."
Chloe finished her juice. "I hate to tell you, Riley, but it's only Thursday."
"It is? No!" Riley exclaimed.
"Check the newspaper," Chloe said, sliding it across the table.
Riley pulled the paper toward her. "Oh, no. It is Thursday!"
"It better be," Riley's mother said, glancing up from the counter. "I've got to get going on my new cruise wear line, and I'm still selecting the fabrics. I need every day I can get."So Little Time Number 4: Just Between Us. Copyright � by Mary-Kate & Ash Olsen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.