What else could go wrong for 29-year-old ESL teacher and single mom Isa Avellan after she's been voted the un-sexiest woman alive by the entire student body?
Well . . .
She could be knocked unconscious by a well-kicked soccer ball and wind up saddled with a guardian angel who looks and sounds a lot like Joan Collins.
She could have to endure the on-air ravings of her flojo ex-husband as he reveals every intimate, humiliating detail of their sex life to an infamous shock-jock . . . on national radio!
Or she could take matters into her own hands and submit to a total makeover, from lipstick to toenail polish to lacy lingerie. And with the help of some well-meaning (if slightly loca) tías, she could become L.A.'s most ravishing reborn sex goddess, say adios to the past, and see about capturing the attention of a hot new man. But the new Isa is about to find out that it's not so easy juggling motherhood, career, and sex-symbol status. It could, however, turn out to be a whole lot of fun.
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About the Author
Mary Castillo attenteded the University of Southern California, where she majored in History. During that time she went on medical missions to Mexico (where she helped deliver a baby), and interned at L.A. County Hospital. But when it was time to choose a career, Mary went back to her original love of storytelling and began writing screenplays and novels. She has worked in public relations, advertising, and as a reporter for the L.A. Times Community News. She lives in Orange County, California, with her family.
Read an Excerpt
In Between Men
By Mary Castillo
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Mary Castillo
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIsa Avellan's Horoscope for September 7
What's happening here? Appreciate this
as a transformative experience and remember that
someday soon you'll even be able to laugh about it.
Isa demanded a recount.
Rereading the poorly photocopied "Sex Savvy Senior Survey," she felt something break off inside her and land with a thump.
The last thing she expected to learn that Tuesday afternoon at the emergency staff meeting was that the student body of Isa's alma mater and current employer had voted her the unsexiest teacher alive.
Actually the survey was a little more specific: the most unfuckable teacher alive in big bold letters next to her admittedly unfuckable staff photo.
Intellectually she knew better than to care about a high school prank. And Isa damn well knew if she put her mind to it, she'd be a helluva good lay.
She conceded that four years was a long time between men. Well, maybe it was longer than that, but this was ridiculous. She was a modern twenty-nine-year-old woman whose ESL students had the highest GPA in the entire district.
No, this wasn't just ridiculous. This was insulting. Especially considering the competition she had in the category: Myrtle the ancient librarian, Celeste the bearded lunch lady, and Bill Weisshaar, the twitchy biology teacher the kids called Bildo.
Damn right she deserved a recount. This was a matter of principle.
"I wanted everyone to know about this little survey our students circulated," Principal Quilley said as the shock settled among the crowded lounge. "We confiscated it when Carrie Barcus and Addison Pinchly were smoking behind the bleachers."
Isa turned when she heard a woman's voice catch. Myrtle, who happened to be a delightful and intelligent woman, held a shivering hand to her candy-pink lips.
"I . . . I never thought . . ." Myrtle sobbed. "This is . . . oh this is just . . ."
"Nice to know some of us are so highly regarded," Stan Fields boasted.
Outrage boiled up Isa's throat, tasting nasty and metallically sweet. She could barely breathe while the others -- mainly the athletics department -- chortled. With his one-size-too-small shorts and carefully styled white-boy do, Stan had been voted the sexiest in the male category.
Of course that pinche reina enjoyed this. Isa's hand itched to deliver an Alexis Carrington-style slap across his smug face. Stan might be a former all-star athlete and head of the PE department, but that mama's boy made Steven Cojocaru look straighter than Trent Lott.
"Quite." Principal Quilley clipped off the laughter in his Shakespearean voice. "I spoke with their parents and they will be composing a letter of apology to the staff here at the school."
"That's it?" Isa's question killed what was left of everyone's amusement. "I'm sure Carrie and Addison didn't have the only copy," she added. Did she really have to say the obvious? "Do we want our students circulating this around about us?"
"They will also be suspended from school for one week," he answered, his eyes dark with compassion. "Anyone who is caught with a copy will be given a week of detention."
Isa glanced at Myrtle, who now cried quietly into her hankie, and at Bildo -- Mr. Weisshaar -- who stared wide-eyed at the table. The three of them would have to face the students every day for the rest of the year, knowing how they looked at them, judged them. At least Celeste had the power to spit in their food.
No punishment would be good enough. Isa's inner Alexis Carrington insisted she speak the hell up. Like the episode when she wrested Denver Carrington from Blake and threatened the board of directors with dismissal if they crossed her. And girlfriend did it in a fabulously massive shoulder-padded suit. If Isa had a little less Krystle Carrington and more Alexis in her, she'd get her recount. Stacking her hands on top of the other and pulling her unpadded shoulders back, Isa did her best.
"I think this is indicative of the general lack of respect we have from the students," she heard herself saying out loud. "I think we should use a class period to have an open discussion of respect not only for men, but women as well."
A tide of outrage and complaints drowned Isa's voice.
We don't have time to discuss this on class time with the state exams next month.
We shouldn't be perpetuating this behavior by addressing it in the classroom; let their punishment speak for itself.
"Ms. Avellan, remember you have students who also rely on you," Principal Quilley said gravely when the clamor ebbed away. He had been her favorite teacher when she was in this high school, he encouraged her to take a full AP load, and then helped her find scholarships for college. He knew her better than her own father did and in spite of all her personal failures, Dr. Quilley's respect never faltered.
"Frankly, I feel any further discussion will only make it worse," he continued. Why, she asked silently, why would he not take her side? "Better to let this little incident die down and focus on education.
"Don't you think?" he asked, looking up at Isa like a patient father ministering to his complaining teenager.
"No," she spat, shoving her chair back. "I really don't."
"Girl, I thought you were going to castrate him with your eyes, I swear you were," June declared. The school secretary's stiletto boots clattered to keep up with Isa's red Keds.
Isa could almost hear the creaking hinges as she forced her lips into a grin. She was almost angry enough to say something against Dr. Quilley. But not quite. "You made out well."
The approving glow in June's eyes dimmed. "I'm a married gal," she countered. "Ted will really appreciate that high school guys jerk off to thoughts of me."
Maybe they wouldn't if June started dressing like an adult. Then again, part of Isa envied June for just letting it all hang out there in clothes that inspired cattiness.
Excerpted from In Between Men by Mary Castillo Copyright © 2006 by Mary Castillo. Excerpted by permission.
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