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From the Hardcover edition.
Dear ED (electronic diary),
Happy New Year.
I’m sorry I haven’t written lately. I’ve been crazy busy. Okay, I am so completely lying right now. I haven’t done much of anything these past two weeks. Unless you consider staring at my split ends, ignoring my mother, watching my alltime favorite teenage drama, Minors in Malibu, and waiting for school to start as doing something.
I so need this winter break to be over.
Surprisingly, not doing much of anything has been emotionally exhausting.
There’s no such thing as privacy in my house. Having “alone time” is not an option when the Queen is around.
Which is why I haven’t logged on ED, my dear electronic diary.
In only 16 hours, 27 minutes, and 45 seconds – not that I’m counting or anything – I’ll be back at Cactus High. You know me, ED – I’m not some freak of nature who gets off on the scent of textbooks or sucking up to teachers or anything like that.
I just cannot stand to be under the same roof as my mother, for more than, um, five minutes.
I know, I know. How can this be, right? My mother is, after all, Dr. Bee Bee Berg! The one and only Dr. Bee Bee Berg! Cheers all around!
I’m well aware that my mother’s diehard followers, who plop on their couches every weekday at 5 p.m. to listen to the good old-fashioned relationship wisdom spewing from my mother’s mouth during her syndicated talk show, Queen of Hearts with Dr. Bee Bee Berg, would cut off their right arm to have the Queen hovering around them 24/7.
The millions of viewers who watch her show religiously would just love, love, LOVE to have Dr. Bee Bee Berg worm her way into their brains by asking them a thousand times a day how they’re “feeling” and if they’d like her “advice.”
I am NOT one of those people.
Trust me, being interrogated about how you’re feeling 24/7 is about as much fun as waking up to a huge whitehead pimple . . . in the center of your nose.
It’s been just my luck my mother’s talk show happens to be in repeats during my winter break. In televisionland, they call this a “hiatus.” What it really means is that she’s been at home, every single minute of every single day, treating me like one of her television guests – guests who are only too willing and eager to answer personal questions about the most intimate details of their relationships – in front of millions of viewers AND a studio audience. I know, right, ED? How personal is that?
My mother has spent the last two weeks wanting to talk, talk, talk, talk. I keep reminding her that, at home, she’s not on television, that no one is watching her, and that I’m not heading to my room to pout because all my best friends are away.
I just want at least a little peace and QUIET!
She should know I am the Sponge. Have I told you, ED, that’s what my best friends, Happy and Brooklyn, have always called me? I soak up all my feelings and keep everything inside. You’d literally have to wring my neck and pull out my fingernails one by one to get me to talk about anything personal.
And what’s so wrong with that, ED? When did keeping things to yourself and being a private person become such a bad thing? Not everyone in the world needs advice or needs to share every feeling that passes through their head.
Not that I have any major relationship problems I’d need advice about anyway. Not everyone in the world has relationship issues. Take Zen. Zen has never known about my crush on him. Good thing, too, because who knows if I’ll ever see him again. Sigh. He has spent the last half year in Australia, being homeschooled by his parents, but I’m sure he’s spent most of his time surfing and meeting new friends. Why would he ever want to come back from living like that? I may NEVER see him again. Unlike some people, I don’t think that every thought that passes through my head or every feeling in my heart needs to be discussed to death. And really, if I could just forget about him altogether, I would. I haven’t even told Happy or Brooklyn about my crush on him.
Speaking of my best friends, I’m heading off to meet them at Gossip Spa. Finally I’ll get away from Dr. Bee Bee Berg, who is yelling at me right now from somewhere downstairs – “Are you okay up there? What are you doing? You need advice on what to wear?”
I know, ED, I know. Welcome to my life.
Shoot me now, Apple thought. Put me out of my misery. Just shoot me now!
“You want my advice?” Dr. Bee Bee Berg called out, just as Apple managed to get one foot out the front door. Dr. Bee Bee Berg – my mother! – had appeared out of nowhere, and now she was standing with one hand holding the door open so Apple couldn’t shut it behind herself.
“I think you should get out of those ripped jeans you’ve been living in for the past two weeks and put on something a little nicer. Honestly, I’m surprised nothing is growing on those things. You will feel better on the inside if you dress nicely on the outside.”
Of course, her mother would say that. Dr. Bee Bee Berg, even when she wasn’t on air, was always impeccably groomed. Today she was wearing a white cashmere sweater, white slacks, and opentoed sandals, which featured her Frenchmanicured toes. Every strand of her hair, as always, was perfectly in place.
“Mom, I didn’t ask for your advice. And I’m fifteen! I think I can dress myself!” Apple responded, trying to remain calm.
Apple would have made it out the door, too, if only she hadn’t been wearing her kittenheeled ankle boots, which had clicked on the marbletiled floors in the long hallway and had given her away.
Because of the high ceilings, every tiny sound in their house echoed. It was like living in a shower stall or the Grand Canyon.
“Will you at least take my advice and put on something a little warmer? It’s pretty chilly out there today,” Dr. Bee Bee Berg told her daughter, wrapping her arms around herself and rubbing them for emphasis. “You don’t want to get sick before school starts.”
Cold outside? That was taking it a bit far, Apple thought. Sure, technically it was January, but it had to be 65 degrees at least.
Apple sighed loudly, stepped back inside the house, and closed the door.
“Excuse me,” she said to her mother, stepping around her and opening the hall closet. She was already wearing a thin baby blue sweater over a Vneck Tshirt. But she grabbed a jean jacket from a hanger in the front closet and slid her arms into it.
“Okay now?” she asked her mother. “I’m going to be late for my appointment at Gossip.”
Sometimes it was easier just to do what the Queen suggested than to argue with her.
“What are you getting done today at Gossip?” her mother asked. Apple couldn’t believe it. Had she not just said, two seconds earlier, that she was going to be late? Her mother always picked the most inappropriate times to want to chat.
“You know,” she went on, “when I was a teenager growing up in Buffalo, there was nothing like spas for teenagers around. Not really even for adults. If I had told my mother that I wanted to go for a facial when I was your age, she would have said, ‘Aging is a natural process. Don’t fight it!’ Are you getting a manicure? I always advise women, and men too, that personal upkeep is very important. After all, if you can’t even take care of your nails, what does that say about what else you can’t take care of? I should really book some spa treatments myself – it’s been ages since I’ve been pampered.”
Apple thought, Well, why don’t you just do it then, instead of telling me about it? But what she said was, “Mom, really, I’m running late. Your questions are making me late. You’re making me late!” She just couldn’t keep the annoyance from dripping off her tongue, thick as honey.
“Apple, all I asked was what you were getting done at Gossip. It’s a simple question,” her mother answered, sounding perplexed at her daughter’s tone. “It would take only two seconds to answer.”
“I’m going to get my eyebrows done, okay?” Apple answered, through gritted teeth.
“Okay. Are you meeting Happy and Brooklyn there?” Dr. Bee Bee Berg asked next. “I can drive you, you know. You don’t have to walk. I’m more than happy to drive you, if you’re running that much behind.”
Apple liked to walk. She could walk for hours, taking in the peaceful scenery. She enjoyed the solitude of walking. She enjoyed the silence. That’s all Apple ever wanted: silence.
And Gossip was only a twentyminute walk from her home – if she could ever get out of the house.
“Yes, Mom. I’m meeting Happy and Brooklyn there. And I want to walk. I really have to go now.” Apple opened the door for the second time.
“Well, ask them how their vacations went,” her mother said. “I know seeing them will cheer you up. I can tell that you’ve been down ever since school break started, so you must be pretty excited to have them back. I just wish you’d talk to me more about your feelings about it all. You know, five million people would love to talk to me about their feelings,” Dr. Bee Bee Berg reminded her.
Her mother was unbelievable. She could not, would not, take the hint.
“I know, Mom. You don’t have to remind me. I’m well aware of what you do for a living,” Apple sighed, adding under her breath, “You never let me forget it.” Apple wondered how different her life would have turned out if her mother had been an accountant or a dentist, and not the third most famous relationship talk show host in the country.
“Apple, I’m worried about you. It’s not healthy to not talk about your feelings and problems,” Dr. Bee Bee Berg told her, for like the six millionth time in the last two weeks.
Apple rolled her eyes.
“Okay, Mom. I’m going now for real,” Apple said, and added, “I feel fine. Honestly, there’s nothing to talk about. I’m fine.”
“Apple, seriously, you want my advice about –”
Apple slammed the door before her mother could finish. She felt a pang of guilt hit her gut. She didn’t want to be rude to her mother, but at that moment, she felt she just had to get away or she would start screaming, “Can you please just shut up already? Shut up. Shut up. Shut up!”
Apple raced down the sidewalk, passing the large houses of her guardgated community, Silver Ranch. Her neck and shoulders were tense, as they always were when she was irritated. She wondered if maybe she should have booked herself a massage instead. She walked by the treelined streets and small parks, took in the Spanish-style homes, and tried to calm her breathing and stop thinking about Dr. Bee Bee Berg. Apple had once heard that if you counted to ten while breathing in and out slowly, it would make the lump in your throat go away and calm you down.
Her shoulders started to relax and her thoughts turned away from her mother’s questions and the guilt of slamming the door in her face to the excitement of soon seeing her two best friends.
Since Apple was an only child, Happy and Brooklyn were the closest she had to sisters – aside from Crazy Aunt Hazel, that is, but she was a whole other story. Apple couldn’t wait to get to Gossip, not only so she could finally get her eyebrows shaped, but also so she could complain to Happy and Brooklyn about Dr. Bee Bee Berg.
“You want my advice, girls?” Apple imagined herself saying, imitating her mother’s nononsense tone, to her friends as they were getting their treatments. “I think you should stop biting your nails, Brooklyn. And Happy? You want my advice? I think you should stop smiling so much. You’ll get lines.”
She knew her best friends would laugh, politely, at Apple’s impersonation of her mother.
But Apple also knew that, no matter how much Apple complained about her mother, her best friends believed that Dr. Bee Bee Berg was the coolest parent in the world. Nothing Apple could do – no impersonations, no amount of bitching – would ever change that, no matter how hard she tried.
Happy and Brooklyn thought Apple was truly lucky to be the only daughter of the one and only Dr. Bee Bee Berg. They often said how fortunate she was to always have a “professional” around to give her advice for free. And a famous one, too!
Happy’s parents, after all, paid Happy’s therapist $200 an hour, once a week, to listen to her and try to fix her problems, and her therapist wasn’t even on television and hadn’t written six advice and selfhelp books, like Dr. Bee Bee Berg had.
“How’s it going, Applesauce?” George, the day gateman, called out as she walked by.
Today even George’s friendly question annoyed Apple. And it annoyed Apple that it annoyed her. George was a nice man, and the only person she would let get away with calling her “Applesauce.”
She gave George a halfhearted smile.
“I’m good, George. How are you?” she asked.
“Great, Applesauce. I’m just great. How’s the Queen of Hearts?” he asked.
“Oh, she’s fine,” responded Apple. “Just enjoying her time off.”
“Well, you tell her to get back to work. It gets quite boring in this booth without having your mother’s show to look forward to,” George said, pointing to the mini television in his booth, as proud as if he were showing Apple a photograph of his own family.
“I’ll let her know. See you later, George,” said Apple with a polite smile.
“Later, Applesauce,” said George, tipping his hat. “You have yourself a good day.”
Apple flashed him another half smile. From the time she had been able to understand words, Apple had realized there would always be questions and “cute” comments about her name. Being named after a fruit kind of did that to your life. In fact, Apple often joked that her first name might as well have been “Conversation” and her last name “Starter,” because people were always asking if that was her real name and why in the world would her parents have named her that.
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted June 11, 2012