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Take ChargeFaithgirlz! / Girls of 622 Harbor View
By Melody Carlson
ZondervanCopyright © 2012 Melody Carlson
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I can't hang with you guys today." Carlie kicked a rock with the toe of her sandal and frowned.
"Why not?" asked Morgan as she unlocked the door to the Rainbow Bus, the girls' clubhouse. "Did you forget that I was going to teach you how to do beads today?"
"No." Carlie rolled her eyes. "But Tia Maria is making me go to work with her today."
"Huh?" Emily peered curiously at Carlie. "Don't they have child labor laws in this state?"
"Yeah," said Amy. "First they make you babysit all the time and now they have you cleaning houses too? What's up with that?"
"I don't babysit all the time," Carlie corrected her. "Besides, I sometimes get paid for it when I do."
"Why do you have to go and help your aunt with housecleaning today?" asked Morgan.
"That's not what I'll be doing," Carlie explained. "I'm going with Tia Maria because she's working for this new family that moved to town last week. They have a girl who's the same grade as us, and she's all bummed about having to move here and not knowing anyone. And it doesn't help that school starts in a couple of weeks."
"So they're going to force you to become her friend?" questioned Amy. "Isn't that a little weird?"
Carlie nodded. "Yep. And that's exactly what I told Tia Maria too, but she won't take no for an answer. She's certain that I'm going to like this new girl."
"What if you don't?" asked Morgan.
Carlie shrugged. "Nothing I can do about that. But I got to thinking ... I mean, I remember how it felt to be new in town last spring ... and maybe I should try to make her feel welcome. Her name's Chelsea Landers. And, who knows, maybe she's nice."
"Well, if she is nice, maybe we should all get to know her," suggested Morgan. "Maybe she'll even want to join our club."
"I don't know," said Amy. "I mean, we've never talked about getting new members before. Do you guys really think it's a good idea?"
"I'm not so sure," admitted Emily. "The bus isn't really that big. With all four of us it can get kinda crowded."
"Well, there'll only be three of us today," Morgan pointed out. "Sorry you can't stay." Morgan smiled at Carlie. "But maybe I can show you how to do beads some other time."
"Yeah," said Carlie. "I hope so."
"Well, have fun," called Emily.
Carlie tried to hide her disappointment as she waved. "See ya guys later."
The other girls called out good-bye and Carlie slowly walked back toward her house. This really didn't seem fair. She'd already missed out on a lot of fun this summer because of babysitting her little brothers so much. Plus, she'd been looking forward to learning how to do beads for weeks now. But she had to be a "play date" for someone she didn't even know. She was tempted to tell Tia Maria to forget it, but Tia Maria was her favorite aunt and really cared about Carlie. So maybe she should just bite the bullet, put a smile on her face, and go.
"Hey, Carlie," called Tia Maria. She was standing by her little red car and waving. "I've been waiting for you."
"I'm coming," said Carlie. "I just had to tell my friends that I wouldn't be around today."
"I hope you don't mind too much," said Tia Maria.
Carlie shrugged as she got into the car. "It's okay. I mean, I do remember how lonely I felt when we first moved here."
"And then you made friends with the girls from the trailer court," Tia Maria reminded her. "And you've been happy as a clam ever since."
Carlie forced a smile. "Yeah, it's great having good friends." But she thought it would be even better if she actually got to hang with them sometimes!
"Especially when you're in middle school," Tia Maria pointed out. "I still remember how hard it was going to seventh grade. My best friend had moved away that summer and I felt like I didn't know a soul. I was so scared."
"Do you think that's how Chelsea feels?" asked Carlie.
Tia Maria nodded. "Yeah. She's a gloomy girl."
Carlie sat up straighter now. "Well, I'll do my best to try and cheer her up. I just hope she's nice." The truth was, ever since moving to Boscoe Bay last spring, Carlie had been wishing for a best friend for herself. It seemed like Emily and Morgan had become best friends during the summer, and even though there was still Amy ... well, Carlie just wasn't too sure. She and Amy were so completely different.
"Speaking of nice," said Tia Maria. "You look very pretty today."
Carlie frowned down at the flowery sundress. "Mom made me wear this. She wanted me to look like a lady." She groaned. "It's been so great getting to wear just shorts and T-shirts this summer. I was hoping that Mom would lighten up, you know, before school starts. But now I'm getting all worried again."
Tia Maria laughed. "My sister Lena can be a little old-fashioned."
"Tell me about it."
"Maybe I can talk to her for you, Carlie."
"Would you?" Carlie looked eagerly at her aunt. "She might actually listen to you!"
"Sure. I'd be happy too. It'll be my way of thanking you for coming with me today. Okay?"
"Sounds like a deal." Carlie leaned back. Maybe this day would be worth it. Even if Chelsea turned out to be a beast, at least Tia Maria might talk Mom into letting Carlie dress like a normal girl when school started up again this fall. It was hard enough being the new girl last spring, but having to dress like Little Miss Muffet made things way worse. She still remembered the time that Morgan suggested they walk home together—the day the bullies picked on them—and how Morgan had been surprised to discover that Carlie wasn't a sissy after all. And that was when things had really started to change.
"Chelsea's dad moved to Boscoe Bay to run the new bank," said Tia Maria as she turned into Pacific Shores and pushed some buttons to open a big iron gate. This was a fancy subdivision that Carlie had only seen from the road. "And their house is pretty nice."
"Wow," said Carlie as she looked out the window. "They all look pretty nice. I'll bet they cost a bundle too."
"Depends on whether or not you think half a million is a bundle."
"Half a million?" Carlie blinked. "These people must be rich."
Tia Maria laughed as she turned onto a street called Sunset Lane. "Or over their heads in debt."
"Are you and Mom still thinking of starting your own business?" asked Carlie. "I mean, now that you took that bookkeeping class?"
"There's a lot to do first," said Tia Maria as she pulled into the driveway of a beautiful house with pale yellow stucco walls. "But we're working on it."
"Good," said Carlie as she looked up at the house. "Maybe you guys will get so rich that we'll end up living in this neighborhood someday."
"Well, don't hold your breath," Tia Maria laughed. "But miracles can happen."
"Want some help?" asked Carlie as her aunt opened the tiny trunk of her car.
"No. This is a one-woman show." She lifted out a crate of cleaning supplies. "Besides, you don't want to get anything on your pretty dress."
Suddenly Carlie felt nervous. What if this Chelsea chick is horrible? Or what if she doesn't like me? Or what if I do something totally lame? Something that embarrasses Tia Maria and makes her whole family look stupid. Oh, why did I agree to do this?
"You coming?" asked her aunt as she walked over to a side door that went through the triple-car garage.
"Yeah," said Carlie, slowly following her.
"Don't worry," said Tia Maria as she held the door open for Carlie. "It'll be fine. Just relax."
Carlie took in a deep breath as she walked into the big, clean garage. "Wow, those are nice cars."
Tia Maria nodded then spoke in a hushed voice. "Money isn't everything, Carlie."
"These are regular people ... just like us."
And the next thing Carlie knew they were in the house. Okay, it was only the laundry room, but it was the biggest, fanciest laundry room that Carlie had ever seen. The washer and dryer looked like they might be capable of flying to Mars or Venus.
"Hello?" called a woman's voice. "Is that you, Maria?"
"Yes." Tia Maria set her crate of cleaning supplies on a shiny countertop that looked like it was real stone. "And I've brought my niece with me."
"Oh, good." A tall, blonde woman came into the laundry room.
"This is Carlie Garcia," said Tia Maria. "And, Carlie, this is Mrs. Landers, Chelsea's mom."
They shook hands. "I'm so glad you could come, Carlie," said Mrs. Landers. "Poor Chelsea is really having a hard time adjusting to all this. She misses her old friends dearly."
"Well, I remember how hard it was when my family moved here last spring," said Carlie. "It's not easy making new friends."
"But Carlie's made some good ones," said Tia Maria.
"Well, come meet Chelsea," said Mrs. Landers. "Hopefully, you girls will become good friends too."
Carlie followed Mrs. Landers through the huge kitchen and family room. Carlie suspected it was as big as her whole house. Not only was it spacious, but everything in it looked brand-new and perfect—like something you'd see in a magazine. "Your house is really pretty," said Carlie.
"Thank you." Mrs. Landers smiled. "It's been a chore getting it all unpacked and set up. But it's slowly coming together. Your aunt has been a lifesaver."
Now they were going up a curving staircase that had a crystal chandelier suspended down the center of the open foyer. Carlie ran her hand along the polished wood banister and wondered if it would be good for sliding down on—not that she would do something like that. At least not if anyone was around to see her.
"Chelsea has a brother and a sister," explained Mrs. Landers. "But they're much older and don't live at home anymore. So I'm afraid she feels more lonely and isolated than ever."
"I can understand that."
Mrs. Landers paused by the closed door and knocked quietly. No one answered, and so she cracked open the door and called out, "Chelsea, I've got someone here who wants to meet you." Still no answer. She pushed the door fully open. "Chelsea?"
"Go away!" screamed a girl's voice. "Leave me alone! And take that freak with you!"
Carlie sucked in a quick breath. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. Maybe Chelsea really was a monster. Oh, why had she ever agreed to come here today? What a total mistake!
Excerpted from Take Charge by Melody Carlson Copyright © 2012 by Melody Carlson. 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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