Roadside Assistanceby Amy Clipston
A very bumpy ride. Emily Curtis is used to dealing with her problems while under the hood of an old Chevy, but when her mom dies, Emily’s world seems shaken beyond repair. Driven from home by hospital bills they can’t pay, Emily and her dad move in with his wealthy sister, who intends to make her niece more feminine—in other words, just like
A very bumpy ride. Emily Curtis is used to dealing with her problems while under the hood of an old Chevy, but when her mom dies, Emily’s world seems shaken beyond repair. Driven from home by hospital bills they can’t pay, Emily and her dad move in with his wealthy sister, who intends to make her niece more feminine—in other words, just like Whitney, Emily’s perfect cousin. But when Emily hears the engine of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, and sees the cute gearhead, Zander, next door, things seem to be looking up. But even working alongside Zander can’t completely fix the hole in Emily’s life. Ever since her mom died, Emily hasn’t been able to pray, and no one—not even Zander—seems to understand. But sometimes the help you need can come from the person you least expect.
In this Christian chick-lit effort, car repair paves the way to emotional healing. High-school junior Emily and her father have just moved in with her wealthy aunt and uncle and their two children. Several months previously, Emily's mother died of cancer, and hospital bills have pushed them to the brink: Emily's father has lost his car-repair business and their home. Emily, given to dramatic sighs, unexpected tears and prickly angst, has not been able to talk to God since her mother died, her emotional distress amplified by being recently dumped by her boyfriend. While she enthusiastically rejects nearly every kind overture offered to her, next-door-hunk Zander easily breaks through her barriers, since the two of them share an intense interest in auto repair. This activity provides Emily with solace but horrifies her critical, fashion-focused aunt. While cheerleader cousin Whitney is initially portrayed as shallow, she tries hard to relieve Emily's suffering, as do the minister and youth-group leader at their church. Emily's egocentric, first-person narration sharply limits the focus, leaving other characters little room to develop. A lack of suspense, a predictable outcome, a nondescript setting and a surfeit of soul-searching on Emily's part, as she writes long letters to her mother in her journal, all contribute to a largely vanilla-flavored tale of loss and, not surprisingly, redemption.(Christian chick-lit. 10 & up)
- Publication date:
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
- Age Range:
- 13 - 16 Years
Read an Excerpt
By Amy Clipston
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2011 Amy Clipston
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy dad's twelve-year-old, burgundy Chevrolet Suburban roared down the winding streets, pulling a U-Haul packed with our remaining belongings past sprawling brick McMansions with perfect, manicured yards. The humid August air whipped wisps of my curly brown hair across my face, tangling the long strands that had escaped the ponytail I'd stuck through the back of a ball cap.
Frowning, I yanked off the hat and tried in vain to capture the offending strands and wind the rubber band around my thick mane. "I wish you'd just fix the air-conditioning so we could close the windows," I bellowed to Dad over the classic rock blaring through the speakers. "How much does Freon cost?"
While singing off-key to Aerosmith's "Angel," my dad winked at me. After the song ended, he said, "You know it'll take more than Freon to fix this ol' hunk-a-junk, and we can't afford the parts I'd need. I'm just happy it still runs with all the miles on it." He tapped the dashboard and shook his head. "She got us here safe and sound at least."
I adjusted my cap and settled back in the seat, peeling my sweaty legs from the faded tan leather. Our rebuilt Suburban looked like a junk pile reject in comparison to the shiny European SUVs lining the concrete driveways surrounding us. My dad maneuvered around the corner, passing more oversized brick colonials. I had to hold back a groan. Our tiny three-bedroom ranch could've fit in the downstairs of any of those homes.
"This neighborhood is still classy. Looks the same as it did seven years ago." He turned to me. "Do you remember coming down here for Christmas when you were ten?"
I shrugged. "I remember bits and pieces. I had fun, right?"
"Oh yeah." He nodded, a smile cutting across his face, weathered by long days spent in the sun working on cars. "You and Whitney always had fun together as kids, the few times you saw each other. I always wished we could spend more time with my sister and her family, and I guess now that wish is coming true." He got quiet for a second and then added, "Isn't it funny how life works?"
Yeah, real funny.
I bit my lower lip, wondering if Whitney and I could possibly have any fun together now. We had nothing in common, aside from being born less than a month apart. From the stories Grandma recounted during her tedious phone calls, Whitney ruled the high school with her court of perfect friends. She did everything—from cheerleading to church youth group to the honor society. Grandma's perfect little princess.
The latest visit with Grandma, as well as with Whitney, her parents, and her little brother, Logan, was a blur of raw emotions. Eight months ago, they'd come up north for my mom's funeral and stayed four days. And I'd counted the minutes until they went home.
My aunt Darlene, my dad's younger and only sibling, showed up and took over our house, coordinating the funeral and reception down to the color of the tablecloths. She also dictated what I would wear to the funeral, dragging me around the mall and insisting I try on dress after dress, probably two dozen total, before she declared the perfect fit. It was an uncomfortable, short dress, not my style at all.
But that was the root of the problem—Aunt Darlene didn't like my style. She didn't approve that I preferred to wear black pants and a nice blouse to the funeral instead of a dress. Darlene didn't approve of any of the clothes in my tiny closet, not even my jeans and T-shirts. In fact, she'd started in on me when she walked in the door of our house, chastising me for oil stains on my hands, insisting I was too pretty to be a grease monkey, and ordering me to pull my messy curls back from my face.
"Check that out," my dad gushed, pointing at a restored 1966 Mustang sitting in the driveway of another huge house. "That's what I had when I started dating your mom. She loved that car. In fact, she said she used me just to get to ride in that car." He chuckled and glanced at me. "Maybe you and I can build one of those someday."
"Yeah, sure, Dad," I said, staring out the window at another enormous home as we drove by.
I had a feeling I wouldn't be working on vintage cars anytime soon. The minute we arrived, Darlene would probably stick me right back into her Boot Camp for Beauty Delinquents. The morning of the funeral, Darlene insisted I get my hair and makeup done, subjecting me to three hours at the salon, including having a woman wash and straighten my hair, a painful and tedious process. After the hair-straightening torture, another woman plucked my eyebrows, painted my fingernails and toenails, applied lotions to my hands, and caked my face with makeup. Normally I would've protested, but I was too emotionally distraught after losing my sweet mother to fight with my drill sergeant aunt. Plus, when I'd expressed my resentment to my dad the night before, with a pained expression he'd told me to just go along with it.
When we arrived at the church for the service, I looked like a completely different person. If my mother had looked down from heaven that day, I doubt she would have recognized me. My best friend, Megan, and my boyfriend, Tyler, had both walked right past when they entered the church, and I had to wave them down, insisting I was Emily Curtis and not some cousin visiting from out of town. Megan was stunned by my appearance and said I looked like a movie star, but I felt more like a clown with all of the makeup and my hair full of spray. Tyler, on the other hand, was speechless when he saw me.
Since my cousin Whitney graduated from Darlene's beauty camp with honors, she wasn't much support either. Whitney hadn't said much to me at the funeral, except that I looked beautiful. Then she hugged me hard, making it difficult to breathe. I wasn't sure if her hug was sincere, but I didn't really care. I'd been too busy trying to figure out how I could possibly get through the next day without my mom. Other than the hug, Whitney had her eyes trained on her phone, texting friends constantly. I couldn't even imagine what she was telling them. Maybe she felt so uncomfortable with me she used her friends as a distraction.
After the funeral and torturous reception filled with more awkward hugs, as well as condolences from strangers and acquaintances, I'd bagged the black dress, shoving it to the back of my closet. I put on jeans and a sweatshirt and retreated to my dad's garage to drink Coke and talk cars with Tyler, Logan, and Megan. It was the most relaxed I'd been during the visit.
The Richards family went home after the funeral, to my relief. I was tired of being told what to wear, how to style my hair, and how to behave like a "nice young lady." My mother had never ordered me around that way, and I wasn't about to let Aunt Darlene do it. She just didn't get me. Aside from Megan and Tyler, Logan seemed to be the only one who understood me.
But then again, I doubted Tyler ever really "got" me. Two weeks ago, he'd broken off our relationship with two simple sentences: "You're really cool, Em, but I'm just not attracted to you that way. Let's be friends."
Thanks for the love, Ty.
But my failed relationship with Tyler was only a fraction of the train wreck that I now called my life. Since we'd lost Mom, my dad's business, Curtis Collision Center, had tanked; our house was ripped from us due to foreclosure; and we were left with only a rented trailer full of boxes and bags containing the remaining pieces of our former existence.
"Check out that brand-new Lamborghini," Dad said, pointing to a canary yellow car in a driveway. "Wow. That's what money looks like, Baby Doll."
Crossing my arms, I stared at the cracked and faded tan vinyl dashboard and frowned. We'll never fit in here.
"Well, this is the place," my dad said, steering into a horseshoe driveway winding in front of a huge, two-story, dark-red brick colonial.
Although I'd been here seven years ago, I was still taken aback. The house featured huge windows, an attached three-car garage, and a wraparound porch. As our truck crept around the curve in the driveway, I noticed that the concrete snaked to the back of the house, where I caught glimpses of a cabana, a wrought iron fence surrounding the Olympic-size in-ground pool, and a detached three-car garage.
I took my first thought back — our house could've been someone's garage.
I looked over at my dad. His dream, aside from his collision repair business, had always been to have a huge garage to tinker in at home. Chuck had two garages—a total of six bays counting the one attached to the house—but I doubted he even knew how to change the oil, let alone build a car.
Two shiny Mercedes M-Class SUVs sat next to each other in the concrete driveway like a his and hers set. Were they issued upon entrance to the neighborhood? Both were new models, and both vehicles were also evidence Uncle Chuck was still raking in the dough with his high-powered job at the bank. My fingers itched for a chance to look under the hood of those two machines, to see what made them tick. Maybe my dad and I could take them out to the interstate and blow the cobwebs out of the engines to see just how quickly we could get from zero to seventy. But I doubted Chuck would let me get behind the wheel. Based on how clean the cars were, I wondered if he ever pushed them beyond forty miles per hour.
Behind the SUVs was an older-model Honda Accord SE with a faded red paint job, which had to belong to Whitney. Maybe the Suburban wouldn't be so out of place ... I briefly wondered how Miss Perfect dealt with driving such an old car and parking it next to the SUVs.
My dad brought the truck to a complete stop, and the U-Haul groaned in response. Turning to me, his lips formed a reluctant smile as he patted my leg. "Well, Baby Doll, we're here. Time to begin fresh."
Before I could respond, a voice rang out behind us.
"Welcome!" Aunt Darlene yelled, trotting down the steep front steps. "We're so glad y'all made it here safe."
Pushing the door open, I slid from the seat and leaned back against the truck.
"Hey, little sister!" My dad rushed from the driver's seat, slamming the door and enveloping my tall, slender aunt in one of his famous bear hugs.
Darlene laughed and smacked his arm before stepping back and assessing him with her big, brown eyes. Her platinum blonde bob was perfectly manicured, much like the lush, green landscaping. While her style was impeccable, my stare was drawn to the hint of her black roots.
Dressed in white shorts and a collared shirt, she looked like she'd just returned from playing tennis at the country club. "You're looking well, Brad," she said. "It's so good to see you. I hope you'll be comfortable here and stay as long as you need."
He smiled. "Thank you." He then made a sweeping gesture with his arm and motioned for me to join him at his side. "Get over here, Emmy."
Taking a deep breath, I stepped over to him and forced a smile. "Hi, Aunt Darlene." I held out my hand for her to shake.
"Oh my!" Aunt Darlene tugged me into a tight hug. "You're still pretty as a picture, despite that messy hair. I can't believe how much you've grown up in the past year."
I gasped for air and tried in vain to escape her crushing embrace.
"Let me look at you." She pushed me back, her hands still gripping my shoulders like vices. "My goodness. You look just like your mama." Her smile turned to a grimace, and she quickly added, "Lord rest her soul." Studying me, her eyes filled with concern. "You must miss her so. How are you doing, Emily?"
I shrugged. "I'm fine." I was not going to open up to her. She'd never understand how I felt.
She frowned, her eyes moving down to my hands, streaked with grease stains from last-minute fixes on the Suburban this morning.
Oh no. Here come the lectures. Why didn't I scrub my hands with Gojo before we left? I swallowed a sigh.
Darlene clicked her tongue. "You got yourself back into that grease again?"
I leveled my glance, not backing down. "Dad needed some help with the truck this morning, so I pitched in."
She took her hand in mine, running her fingers over my dry skin. "You know it's not very ladylike to play with engines. Boys tend to like girls who dress and act like girls."
I swallowed a gasp. The words stung almost as much as when Tyler broke up with me.
"Yeah, well, someone has to help him get the truck running, right, Dad?" I glanced at my dad, who grinned while nodding. "Besides, it's not very ladylike to be broken down at the side of the road with a packed U-Haul, right?"
"That's right," Dad chimed in.
Darlene frowned, her eyes focused on my hands. "I guess you're right. Why aren't you using that lotion I bought you? You've got some seriously dry skin, young lady. The goopy stuff is not very good for your hands."
So when did she become my mom? I bit my bottom lip, censoring my words. "I ran out." It wasn't exactly the truth, but Darlene wouldn't have been happy to hear I'd given the froufrou-smelling lotion to Megan a month ago. The scent of lilac didn't appeal to me.
"Well then," Darlene said with a smile. "We'll just have to take you out shopping and get you some more. Oh, and look at those nails." She clicked her tongue. "Emily Claire, we've got to get you back to the salon too."
"Absolutely," I muttered. "I can't wait."
My dad placed a hand on my shoulder. "I think the nail salon may have to wait until we're all moved in."
I breathed a sigh of relief when Uncle Chuck appeared on the stairs, taking the focus away from me.
"You made it!" he announced, taking the front steps two at a time. He definitely looked the rich banker part. His graying brown hair was cut short and his smile was bright against his tanned skin. I'd bet the tan was courtesy of the golf course.
My mom once called Darlene and Chuck "Barbie and Ken," and I could totally see that now. They were perfect standing in front of their "dream house" with their designer clothes and brown tans. All they needed was the pink Corvette. Maybe there was one in the back garage.
I suppressed a smile at the thought.
"Good to see you, Brad," Chuck said, shaking my dad's hand.
The backfire of a loud engine drowned out my dad's reply. I turned toward the street just as a dark-haired boy my age piloted a 1970 Dodge Challenger into the driveway next door, the motor ticking with an irregular sound. Obviously a project car, it was faded green and peppered with gray primer spots.
I could feel the thump of the engine reverberating a deep, low drone against my chest. I bit my lower lip, squelching the urge to run over to the garage and help him fix that tick. My interest and specialty had always been Chevrolets, an affection I'd inherited from my dad. But rebuilding a Dodge would be a fun challenge. One I could use right now.
My dad's brown eyes flashed with a question, waiting for me to diagnose the car's thumping problem as I always did when I helped out at his shop back home.
"I hear a bad tick," I said. "Bet he's got to tear it apart and rebuild the whole top end of the motor. Sounds like a big block."
He smacked my back. "Good girl."
I grinned with triumph. I still loved impressing my dad. Lately it seemed like cars were all we talked about. But at least we still talked.
As the thundering engine died in the distance, I turned toward the sound of the front door slamming shut. Tall, slender Whitney negotiated the front steps like a runway model. At five foot ten, she topped me by three inches. A faint hint of black roots lined the symmetrical part on her blonde head as well, and I wondered if she and her mother made a girls' day out of their salon appointments to take care of those pesky roots.
With a pink, sequined cell phone pressed to her ear, she spoke, gesturing with her hands. Her fingernails and toenails were painted a deep red, matching her lipstick. I wondered if Teen Vogue had ever considered her for one of their covers. Surely Grandma must've sent them at least one photograph.
"Exactly, Kristin," she was saying as she headed toward us, all business. "I'm having a small pool party at my house tonight. Come over around seven. Call the rest of the girls. This is our last chance for some fun before school starts Tuesday." She nodded, listening. "Okay. Gotta go. My cousin is here. Ciao."
Snapping the phone closed, a smile grew on her rosy lips. "Uncle Brad! Emily!" Arms extended, she pulled my dad and me into a hug, and I nearly choked at the stench of her flowery perfume, without a doubt the latest designer fragrance.
She stepped back and grinned. "It's so wonderful to see you again. You look great!"
"Thanks." I adjusted the baseball cap on my head. Whitney was a good liar, seeing as she'd nodded in agreement when her mother criticized my attire during their last visit.
Excerpted from roadside assistance by Amy Clipston Copyright © 2011 by Amy Clipston. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Amy Clipston is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery series. Her novels have hit multiple bestseller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. Amy holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and three spoiled rotten cats. Visit her online at amyclipston.com Facebook: AmyClipstonBooks Twitter: @AmyClipston
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