Signs Point to Yes
By Sandy Hall
Feiwel and Friends Copyright © 2015 Sandy Hall
All rights reserved.
Jane Connelly needed a job, and she needed it fast.
Her mother was knocking on her bedroom door, calling through it, to tell her about the "great" unpaid internship she'd found for Jane at the university where she was an adjunct.
"It's in the American Studies department. They need some help with filing. You'd get fantastic experience, Janie," she said through Jane's locked door. "You'll need that for your college applications."
"I know, Mom," Jane lied. She didn't know. She wasn't sure she even wanted to go to college, and she had no clue what American Studies really entailed. It sounded awfully broad.
"What are you doing in there?"
"I'm changing my shirt," she said, holding a pillow up to her face so her voice would be muffled. That was how much she didn't want to have to face her mother at the moment.
"Well, come downstairs and talk to me when you're done changing," her mom said. Jane heard footsteps retreating down the hall and then coming back seconds later. "Are you going somewhere? Is that why you're changing?"
"No, Mom," she said. There was a good chance that the combined sighs of mother and daughter could be heard around the world.
Jane bolted over to her computer, needing to find something, anything, to do with her summer. Her two best friends were going to be counselors at band camp, the sleepaway kind. They were leaving the next day for their ten-week stint. But seeing as how Jane wasn't actually in the band, nor did she play an instrument, a job as a band camp counselor wouldn't work for her.
A quick Google search brought her to an online job board. She clicked fast and furious, hunting for any jobs that might suit her, scrolling through the ads as if her life depended on it.
As if being friendless for the summer wasn't bad enough, spending all of break at her mother's university sounded like the opposite of anything she was interested in. It sounded soul sucking and mind numbing. So maybe, in a way, her life did depend on it.
* Telemarketer: part time, unlimited earning potential
* DO YOU LOVE DOGS?! Min. wage but get to play with puppies!
* Knives, Knives, Knives: excellent commission
* CASH FOR BILLS!
* Sperm donors needed
Each one was worse than the last.
Her parents would kill her if she got involved in a pyramid scheme; she knew that for a fact. Her older sister, Margo, had gotten involved in one a few years ago. She was trying to sell beach condos. In their beach-adjacent community. The worst part was that her parents never seemed to get mad at Margo for the pyramid scheme. They claimed the humiliation of losing her money was punishment enough. Jane disagreed, but no one ever asked her.
"Margo skipped a grade. Margo passed all the AP tests with the highest marks. Margo got a full-time internship at Princeton University this summer, and she doesn't even go there. Margo's going to be the first person on Uranus," Jane muttered under her breath. In a moment of desperation, she clicked on the link for Child Care. It was a last-ditch option, but that was where she was; that was what her life had come to.
Jane scanned the listings, knowing that she needed to avoid any and all situations that involved babies. Babies were terrifying, with their soft spots and their wobbly necks. Way too much responsibility for a girl like Jane.
* Mother's helper needed for newborn triplets.
* Child care in our home.
* Do you love babies?
* Babysitter needed.
She clicked on the last one because it was located in her town.
She skimmed it once and then slowed down to scan it more closely on the second read-through.
Four days a week, 9 to 5 ...
Eek. Nine a.m. was not her best time of day. But it was in town, so she wouldn't have to get up too early to make it there on time.
As long as it was within walking distance.
Jane's parents had given her a hand-me-down car for her seventeenth birthday, but of course Margo was using it to drive to Princeton every day. Margo's internship was far more important than Jane's technical ownership of the vehicle. Maybe if Margo had actually made some money in that pyramid scheme, she would have money to buy her own car.
What made the situation even more frustrating was that Jane could never even complain about it. Her parents would point out that Jane wasn't paying for the car herself, and therefore it was still theirs. But if Jane mentioned something along the lines of the fact that Margo had her own car in high school that she didn't have to share with anyone, she would be met with stony-faced silence. To Jane, it was the principle of the thing. It was a double standard.
She sighed and went back to reading the ad.
Three girls — a set of five-year-old twins and a seven-year-old ...
Sounded exhausting but also doable.
Fifteen dollars an hour ...
It might not be the easiest job on earth, but that was decent money. Even Jane's allergic-to-math brain told her it was close to five hundred dollars a week. Five hundred dollars a week was always better than zero dollars a week. And she wouldn't have to spend extra time with her mother.
There was no name with the advertisement, so Jane composed the e- mail "To whom it may concern." She stated her name, phone number, and babysitting experience — which was limited to watching her cousins during family events, but she could probably get her aunt to fudge their relationship if she needed references.
She held her breath, crossed her fingers, rubbed her lucky rabbit's foot, and hit Send.
Jane checked the clock and knew she needed to talk to her mother. If she didn't go downstairs to talk to her mother, then she definitely needed to study for her finals. Her last two finals were the next day, and Jane needed to show her teachers the old razzle-dazzle if she wanted a grade higher than C in either of those classes.
She weighed her options, then decided on a third: none of the above.
Instead, she went back to reading the Doctor Who/Little Women fan fiction she'd started the previous evening.
The blossoming love between the Eleventh Doctor and Jo March was some of the most fascinating reading she'd ever done. Particularly because she could never deal with Jo marrying the German guy. How could she do that with Laurie right next door?
Jane was about to get to the good stuff when her cell phone rang. She considered ignoring it in favor of the good stuff, but it was an unknown number and her curiosity was piqued.
"Jane!" an unfamiliar voice said in a very familiar way.
"It's Connie Garcia-Buchanan." Once she heard the name, Jane realized that she should have immediately recognized the voice, with its slight Spanish accent and permanent smile.
"Hello," she said, still confused that Connie was calling on Jane's cell phone. "Do you want to talk to my mom?"
"No, sweetheart! I got your message about the babysitting job. I was very surprised to hear from you, but so happy."
"Oh," Jane said, still not quite catching on.
"The girls just adore you, and I think you would be great with them this summer."
"Oh! Oh my God," Jane said, slapping her forehead in shock. "I didn't realize. I just thought ... Well, I didn't think. I didn't put it together. It's an anonymous ad. ..." She stumbled and stammered, trying to grasp what was happening.
"I understand. I thought for sure you had put it together, what with the girls and their ages. And the job being here in town."
Jane laughed because she was uncomfortable, and that was what she did when she was uncomfortable. She also felt incredibly stupid. But that wasn't new for her.
"It would be nice to have someone so close by," Connie continued while Jane sat on her bed and chewed her nails down to the quick.
"Yes, that makes sense," she said.
"I'm getting my master's degree in social work — I don't know if your mom mentioned that to you. I decided to take three classes this summer, trying to get ahead of the game. Two of them are offered online, but I didn't realize what a beast it would be trying to entertain the girls while I did homework and studied for exams. Not fun."
"Not fun," Jane said, slightly dazed.
"When are you done with finals?"
"Tomorrow," Jane said. She tried to keep a smile in her voice even as the reality of the situation sank in.
"Can you come over around four o'clock? For an interview?"
"Um, yes. I guess so." Jane tried to ignore the thought gnawing at the edge of her brain.
"Good. I promised the girls they could help choose their babysitter. So while I don't feel like I need to interview you, they're still going to want to."
Connie laughed, so Jane did, too, but it sounded like "ha ha ha" rather than actual laughter sounds a normal person would make. She loved Connie and the three little girls. She even thought Connie's husband, Buck, wasn't too bad a guy.
"And I would only need you until the beginning of August. Classes end after that, so you would still have a few weeks off before school starts."
"That would be great," Jane said. She tried not to think about the real problem. But the more she tried not to think about it, the less she could ignore it.
"I'm so happy you're one of the applicants. The other ones were a little less than desirable. A few were downright creepy."
"I guess you never can tell who might crop up from an online ad."
"That's for sure," Connie said. "Well, this is great. So great. Thank you so much for applying, even if you didn't know it was me you were applying to."
"I'll see you tomorrow at four, then."
"See you then."
"Excellent. Say hi to your parents for me."
Connie paused before saying good-bye.
"And, Jane, I know you and Teo don't talk much anymore, but this will be so good for the girls. Don't let anything from the past stop you from making choices in the present."
There was a solid chance that Jane died of embarrassment right there on the phone. What were the odds that she accidentally, anonymously applied to babysit for Teo Garcia's younger half sisters?
Margo would know the odds, the little voice in the back of her brain said. She told it to shut up, but it never did.
When Jane regained her composure and came back from the dead, she said, "Thanks, Connie. I'll keep that in mind."
"Bye." Jane tapped the End button on her phone and flung herself back onto her bed, rolling around, trying to figure out what she had gotten herself into.
Connie had it wrong, though. Teo wasn't the problem. Teo was a nice guy, if not slightly boring. The problem was his constant shadow and Jane's eternal foe, Ravi Singh.
What Jane could never understand was why a guy like Teo Garcia had a best friend like Ravi Singh.
Only one thing would be able to soothe her at the moment. She picked up her trusty Magic 8 Ball and considered what question to ask.
"Is it a bad idea to take this babysitting job?" Jane asked the Magic 8.
Cannot predict now.
Definitely not the answer she was looking for.
Someone tapped on Teo's bedroom door so lightly that he barely even heard it. This usually signaled that his sisters were playing in the hallway. They had all sorts of games that Teo didn't know the rules for and they wouldn't explain to him.
A light tap on the door was always supposed to be met with him throwing the door open and yelling "boo" or growling or doing something to make them giggle.
Today he pulled the door open and yelled, "Gotcha."
Unfortunately, he found his stepfather, Buck, on the other side.
"Sorry," Teo said, straightening up. "I thought you were going to be Keegan."
"Oh, got it. Sure. Keegan's always up to something."
They stood there for a moment.
"Um, so did you need something?" Teo asked.
"Oh. Yeah. I was wondering. Well, your mother and I were wondering, if you wouldn't mind, maybe."
Teo bit his lip and fought the urge to close the door in Buck's face. He wouldn't go so far as to say that he didn't like Buck, because most of the time they got along okay. Things would be easier with Buck if he would just say things to Teo rather than beating around the bush so much.
"Is this about the lawn?" Teo asked.
"Yes," Buck said, visibly relaxing.
"Mom already talked to me. I'll mow it. She said I could do it this weekend after I was done with school." Teo gestured toward his bed, where all his AP chemistry notes were laid out. "My last final is tomorrow."
Buck looked into his room and let out a low whistle.
"Gotcha," he said. "Well, that's a good boy, then."
Buck patted him awkwardly on the back, but he didn't move to walk away.
Teo smiled, tight-lipped, and closed the door, just to have Buck tap on it again.
"I, uh, wanted you to know that I appreciate all your hard work, and I'll give you twenty bucks for a good job."
Teo paused. He was saving every last dime he could so he wouldn't have to live with his mom and Buck again after graduating from high school. But sometimes money from Buck felt tainted or as if he was bribing Teo. Still, money was money.
"Thanks, Buck," Teo said.
"You're welcome." He continued to stand in the doorway.
"I'm going to shut the door now, okay?"
"Oh, yeah, good luck with studying," Buck said, and then he finally, finally, walked away and Teo could get back to the solitude of his room.
Life would actually be easier if Buck lived up to some kind of evil-stepfather stereotype instead of being this squirming, wishy-washy people pleaser.
When Teo was younger, he thought Buck's issues were because Teo was Puerto Rican and Buck was white. But as the years passed, it became obvious to Teo that it had more to do with their age difference.
Buck was uncomfortable having a stepson only fifteen years younger than he was, and it wasn't Teo's job to make him feel okay about it. So now there were these big, gaping silences and a deep crevasse of awkwardness between them. The older Teo got, the weirder things were.
He shot his friend Ravi a whiny text about Buck, but Ravi didn't answer immediately, so Teo was going to have to find some other way to amuse himself. He stared at the notebooks on his bed and sighed. He had too much work to do for Buck to distract him this way.
Teo really had only one choice. In order to restore balance in his life, he did a quick Google search for Jose Rodriguez.
It was his favorite fantasy, meeting his father and his father's family. Anytime things got weird with Buck, Teo would start his search all over again. He had never met Jose, but that didn't keep his imagination from running wild.
The problem was, Teo didn't know much about his father besides his name and that he was Puerto Rican. Teo tried searching a couple of different combinations of his parents' names together and got tons of hits because their names were common, but nothing useful or concrete. He wasn't sure what he would do if he ever found his father. Mostly Teo wanted to know where his father was. Knowing that he was out there somewhere would be enough.
The doorbell rang downstairs, and Teo heard the murmur of voices filtering up through the air-conditioning vents. This must be another one of the potential babysitters, Teo thought. There had been a whole train of them in and out of the house all week.
He listened for a few more minutes to the muffled voices coming up from the living room. The more his sisters giggled, the more curious he became.
He checked his phone again — still nothing. Where the hell was Ravi? He almost always answered his texts within minutes.
Carefully, Teo cleared his search history and x-ed out the tabs. His nightmares often featured a scene where Keegan asked something along the lines of Who is Jose Rodriguez? during dinner. Teo was looking for him on the Internet, she would continue.
Then his mom, Buck, and all three sisters would stare at Teo until their eyes popped out onto the dinner table and rolled around. Nightmare Teo could speak only Spanish, and not even Nightmare Mom understood him. Not being understood was a theme in a lot of his recent nightmares.
Checking his phone one last time, Teo tiptoed out of his bedroom and sat at the top of the stairs to eavesdrop as his sisters interviewed the Potential Babysitter with a constant barrage of inane questions.
"Do you like brownies?" Piper asked.
"What kind of brownies?" Rory asked before the Potential Babysitter could even reply. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Signs Point to Yes by Sandy Hall. Copyright © 2015 Sandy Hall. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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