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|Publisher:||Chicago Review Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Kathryn grew up in India, Syria, Europe, and Africa. Her love for experiencing new cultures runs deep, and she gives into it whenever she can. She has been an avid movie buff since childhood, and often sees the movie in her head before she writes the book.
Kathryn graduated from the University of California in Berkeley with a degree in English. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Read an Excerpt
(Once Upon A Time)
For one very long second, I wanted to believe this was someone else's life — anyone who wasn't named Beau LeFrancois. Anyone who wasn't me.
Pause ... Rewind ... Play ...
It'd been a long day at school, which was basically every day and any day. When I walked through the front door, my house was still the tiny, cramped, gloomy box it always was — no magical genie had transformed it into a palace while I was in class. Papa was sprawled out on the sofa like he always was, with one leg, plaster-casted from ankle to hip, resting on the sofa and the other leg slung over the side, foot planted firmly on the ground. Pillows propped behind his back and underneath his broken arm positioned him in a half-sitting, twisted pose that looked uncomfortable, but at least allowed him to watch TV.
"Beau, buddy," he said. "Didn't know if I was going to make it 'til you got home. Help me to the bathroom, would ya?"
"Papa, you can't hold it in all day, it's not healthy. That's what the bottle's for."
"Healthy shmealthy. I'm not peein' in that thing like some kinda animal."
"Animals don't pee in bottles." I shoved aside a pillow and sat my butt down on the couch, taking his healthy arm and pulling it across my shoulders. He still had a strong grip, and his fingers dug into me as he swung that massive cast off the couch where it landed with a hard thud on the floor.
"Garbage dump!" His lips went purple with pain, and the substitute curse words he used — required by my mom — did nothing to mask his frustration and anger at the pathetic situation. "Holy fried apple chicken!" The pain crept up his leg until it enveloped his entire face in a red cloud. "Give me a minute." He took a few jagged, stuttering breaths before regaining his usual composure.
"Did Angie call today?" I asked, hoping mention of my older sister would steer his mind away from the misery of shattered bones.
After a few seconds, his breathing returned to normal. "You betcha," he said, and he was Papa again. We heaved in unison to pull him up into a standing position — a move we were pretty good at after so much practice. "She doin' good but she started in again with that crazy talk about postponin' the wedding. I tole her not a chance. Tole her I'm gonna dance with the bride."
We thumped our way toward the tiny bathroom off the hallway that led to the kitchen — me, the human crutch.
"In five weeks? I don't think so, Papa. Maybe a spin around the dance floor in your wheelchair if you're lucky."
Which of course made me think again about the school dance this past weekend when Masie draped herself all over Ethan the Goose. And why should I care about that? But why didn't matter since I did, and I was thinking about it the moment the door burst open and the twins came in, fighting as usual over one of their mindlessly ridiculous and invented catastrophes.
"Poppy, Claude threw my math book in the bushes."
"Did not," Claude said. "Del spit water all over the back of my shirt." He peeled off his backpack, turning to display the wet evidence of Del's crime.
But even before I had a chance to yell at them, or Papa had a chance to empty his bladder, my mom walked through the door as white as a ghost in a snowstorm — not that I've ever seen a snowstorm or a ghost. I steered Papa to line him up with the toilet and then gave him a nudge into the bathroom while I waited outside. There was no way he could fall in there with the bathroom being so small and a wall on either side just a few feet away from the throne.
"Charles?" she called out in a voice so shaky I wondered if I was going to have to keep her from falling over too. "Something terrible has happened."
But Papa couldn't hear her over the urgent stream that wouldn't — couldn't — stop, and his pleasurable moans of release.
"What is it?" I asked, ignoring the twins who by then were bashing each other with pillows from the sofa. "Are you okay?" Freeze ... Rewind ... Stop ...
Could this be someone else's life? Please?CHAPTER 2
My mom sat down on the old wooden rocking chair we inherited after Grandpapa died. She leaned forward and dropped her head into her open palms. Even Claude and Del stopped fighting. Del flew to her side and began to stroke her hair. Claude watched warily from the safe distance of the sofa, wringing his hands in that anxious way of his — waiting for the bomb to drop. By then Papa had shaken, zipped, washed his hands, and was backing out of the bathroom. My heartbeat revved up in a bad way.
"Maman's home," Papa said, totally unaware of the unfolding tragedy. "Come here and give Papa some sugar." Which normally (yuck) would've led to the usual gross! from Del and sent Claude running out the front door. None of us moved a muscle.
"What's wrong, Maman?" I repeated. And then Papa finally got the idea that something was wrong.
When she looked up we could see her eyes, red-ringed from crying.
"Maman!" Papa lunged forward, and I had to hold tight to restrain that big old bald Cajun from doing a face-dive in his rush to get to his woman's side. Meanwhile, Del kneeled down at Maman's feet like he was about to propose marriage and took one of her trembling hands into both of his chubby paws.
"It's okay, I'm alright. I'm just a little shaken up. I had a little accident on my way home," she said.
"Are you okay?" we all seemed to ask at the same time — except Claude, who had pulled one of Papa's pillows over his head to muffle any bad news coming his way.
"I was driving home from work and ... you know that place on Green Valley Road where the avocado grove is?"
I plunked Papa on the sofa where he sat staring at Maman like the rest of us, nobody wanting to say anything that would postpone the rest of the story a second longer. I sat next to him, squeezing Claude into the corner.
"Ya, ya, the Diaz Ranch," Papa said. "I know da place."
"Yes, the Diaz Ranch. Exactly. And as I was driving by, I'm ashamed to say that I saw the limb of one of the trees hanging so far over their fence it was nearly blocking that dirt pathway where people walk or ride their bikes. There was a huge avocado hanging from it where anyone could pick it, and I thought to myself, Someone's going to take that avocado if I don't."
A huge tear slid down her cheek and Del gently wiped it away with the tips of his fingers. "It's okay, Maman." He brought the back of her hand to his lips and planted a tender kiss.
"I know how hard Beau's been working, pitching in around the house and picking up the slack since your accident." Maman was only telling the story to Papa now, like he was the one who ultimately mattered, so why not leave out the middlemen — my brothers and me. "And I thought how nice it would be to make some guacamole tonight since it's Beau's favorite treat."
My heart sank, as if somehow my favorite treat was about to become a reason for this giant calamity.
"And what, Maman? Hurry up and tell us da bad part."
"And I stopped the car and put it in reverse to back up to the side of the road where I could get out and pick the avocado ... which I did. Then I got back in the car and was getting ready to pull out, so I put on my blinker and looked over my shoulder for oncoming traffic. I just didn't see the car coming out of the Diaz Ranch driveway." She looked down at the ground. "And I ran right into it."
"But no one was going fast, right? Nobody got hurt?" I asked more than said.
"Nobody got hurt but a girl got out of the other car, and it was very expensive ... one of those Range Rovers. I'd hit her front left bumper. She started yelling and screaming at me and told me that I was on their property and look what I'd done. She went on and on, and I've never been so humiliated. I couldn't argue because she was right, and it was my fault and I knew I had the avocado in the car right next to me. She took pictures of my license plate and the front part of her car. She even took a picture of me, as if I was a criminal. She asked for my name, address and phone number and then she told me to move so she could get out."
"Mean-o. I hate her," Del said with fury in his eyes. "You shoulda given her a fake name and number."
Wide-eyed, Claude had removed the pillow from his head. "Let's go TP her house, Beau!"
"You two jus' be quiet and mind you'se'f," Papa said. "In fact, go on. Get out. Go play or do your homework. We'll figure it out, don't you worry, Maman."
The twins tried to disappear by moving to a corner of the room. No way were they going to miss out on one second of this excitement.
"It's okay, Maman. At least you're not hurt — that's the important thing, right?" But what I was really thinking was, Why do all these bad things keep happening to us? And then Papa answered that unspoken question like he always does whenever something bad happens.
"Some folks got all the luck and some folks don't. We don't got any luck but we gotta lot of love so that's all that matters."
So, there you have it. We don't have any luck, the LeFrancois family. But we've got love so that's supposed to make up for all the other stuff.CHAPTER 3
"It's not so bad, Hon'," Papa said. "That's why we have insurance. Let me just give them a call right now and they'll take care of ever'thing."
"Charles." By this point Maman looked eerily other-worldly, unnaturally calm like she was talking from a million miles away, and with this glassy stare as if focusing her eyes was something she'd forgotten how to do. If you looked close enough, which I did, you could see her lower lip was trembling. "I ... I ... cancelled the policy last month."
Cue the da-da-dum music because I kind of heard it in my head.
"Golly dance!" Papa was rarely shaken but the news kept getting worse, and even his pessimistic view of the LeFrancois family luck was being pushed to the limits. "What a furifying mess!"
"We have to eat, don't we? Angie has to get married. Beau needs new clothes. The twins need to see the dentist. And you ..." She dropped her voice to barely audible. "You can't work for God knows how long."
"If God knows, he ain't shared with me," Papa muttered. "I'll be up before you know it. Back at work sooner than ...," he trailed off. He couldn't even convince himself, let alone the rest of us. Falling off the ladder while he was picking oranges did more than just physical damage, it made Papa feel for the first time in his life that he wasn't a contributor.
"At least we don't have to repair our car. It still runs okay, right?" I asked hopefully. After all, she'd gotten home somehow, hadn't she?
"I can't let the Ansaris see the damage." Maman was horrified, thinking of the family who employed her as a maid. "They'd think I was an unsafe driver. They'd think the car wasn't safe. They wouldn't let me drive Khalil to school in a car like that."
"I could teach you how to drive a stick. Then you could use Papa's truck for a while."
"Beau's got a good idea there." Papa nodded vigorously. "Then when I'm back on my feet we'll have the money to fix your car."
"I couldn't possibly drive the truck. At my age, there's no way I'm going to learn to drive a stick shift overnight. I've tried it before, and it scares me to death."
"How bad is it, Maman?" I stood up and walked to the door with the twins following on my heels. They'd had enough of tragedy by that point and were ready to bounce back the way little kids do. Examining the right front fender of Maman's car would be their next adventure, but I could see the car from the door and didn't bother to go outside. "I could get rid of some of that paint from the other car with rubbing compound." As much as I tried to sound convincing, I knew it wasn't enough. "But I don't think I could do much to make that huge dent disappear."
I thought quickly. Khalil went to Castlegate High, the fancy school, while I went to plain old Bridgegate. It didn't take too long to drive from one to the other.
"Khalil has early period, so I can take Papa's truck and drop you off at work and take him to school on my way in. Then I can cut out a few minutes early to make sure I'm there to pick Khalil up when he gets out. Tell the Ansaris your car's getting serviced. The dent guy can come to our house — hopefully we can get him to do it tomorrow — at least to make it presentable, and then you could tell the Ansaris someone hit you in the parking lot or something."
"How we gonna pay?" Papa asked.
"We'll have to cut back on something," Maman said.
"I don't need new clothes." Once again, I thought about Masie at the school dance. Ethan the Goose might look like a tall duck, but his clothes were always nice, and his shoes were always new.
"Angie don't need fancy flowers at her wedding," Papa said. But when Maman looked up at him with those big blues that could always reduce him to a puddle, he lowered his voice and mumbled, "Well, maybe not so many, anyhow."
"So, the big question is —," I started.
"What about the Range Rover?" Maman finished my thought. "I already thought about that. I'm going to the Diaz Ranch tomorrow after work. I'm going to offer to pay in installments. Maybe I can work it off, cleaning or cooking for them on weekends."
"Those people probably got a whole stable of folks like us doing their cooking and cleaning and whatnot," Papa grumbled. This was harder on him than on Maman, I knew that. He was helpless, and Papa wasn't a man who was used to being helpless and standing by idly. Papa was a man of action.
"Maman, you work too hard as it is." I said. "You can't take on another job. I'll go over there tomorrow after I drop off Khalil and talk to them. Maybe they'll let me work it off. When I'm done talking to them, I'll come pick you up. I got this, okay?"
"You see, Hon'? Beau got this under control." I knew how grateful Papa was for me stepping up and taking over for him while he was down. "Now you get your sweet butt over here and give your ole man some sugar, gal."
Then it was my turn to groan, and I stepped outside to join the twins in surveying the damage.
It's nice to have parents who love each other, I thought. But really? A wrecked car is better than this.CHAPTER 4
The next morning, Masie was waiting at my locker. Well, not exactly waiting since her locker was right next to mine, but she could've been taking her time, hoping to run into me. Or she could've just been honestly getting her things together with no ulterior motive. I chose to believe the first.
"Hi, Beau," she purred, her voice so sweet and feline. In fact, it wasn't just her voice that was catlike; she reminded me of a kitten in every way, with those green sloping eyes and slinky moves. Even her short blond hair, all soft and spiky. "I saw you out in the parking lot. You drove today?"
I was hoping she'd see me. Normally, I rode my bike because gas was an expense we couldn't afford. In my mind, driving made me seem mature. Ethan the Goose didn't drive; he rode to school with his older sister, who also somewhat resembled a goose in my opinion, although it looked better on her. I thought about the term "gaggle of geese" and imagined Ethan's family all sitting around the dinner table, honking at each other.
"Yup." Why bore her with the details of shuttling a rich kid back and forth to school and then going to the Diaz Ranch to beg for financial forgiveness in the form of a work-exchange program? "Truck," I added pointlessly as if she didn't have eyes.
"We should hang out sometime after school," she said.
Lesson learned. I was much cooler with wheels.
"Sure, yeah, we should definitely do that sometime." I wasn't deliberately playing hard to get. I just didn't know what else to say.
"How about today?"
"Umm ... oh ... I ... uh." Right. First we'll pick up Khalil and deliver him to his million-dollar mansion where my mom works as a maid. Then we'll go to the Diaz Ranch and see if I can convince them not to call the cops on Maman.
"Unless you don't want to."
How do girls do this? How do they manage to pull out your guts with just a few meaningless words?
Having loaded up her backpack with books from her locker, she angled her skateboard to fit into the remaining space.
"No ... I mean, yes. I definitely want to."
The corners of her mouth lifted into a smile that revealed sharp little incisor teeth. Along with that button nose of hers, I got an image in my head — one of those white fluffy kittens, a Persian, I think they're called. A Persian cat didn't fit with a goose. It was so wrong. So, so wrong.
"I mean, I want to. But I can't."
"Okay, then. If you don't want to."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Beau & Bett"
Copyright © 2019 Kathryn Berla.
Excerpted by permission of Amberjack Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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