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Lucky Chica: A Novel

Lucky Chica: A Novel

by Berta Platas
Lucky Chica: A Novel

Lucky Chica: A Novel

by Berta Platas

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Overview

Rosie Caballero hates her nagging boss, her "ditch-me" dating history, her second-hand wardrobe and third-rate job--nothing is easy. She can't even afford to pay for her dog Tootie's food.

And then, Rosie wins the largest lottery jackpot ever: 600 million. Rosie can hardly believe her new life: she spends thousands on diamonds, makeup, clothes, and promises. Rosie parties like a celebrity—and even meets the hottest actor on the planet, Brad Merritt, who sweeps her off her feet and seems too good to be true. But he's not the only one in her dizzying world—former boyfriends, larcenous advisors, paparazzi all swarm around her, vying for her attention (and money).

In between shopping sprees and photo shoots, Rosie has to find out who she trusts—and what money can (and just can't) buy.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429994590
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/06/2009
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: eBook
Pages: 336
File size: 248 KB

About the Author

Cuban-born Berta Platas has been writing romantic comedies since the mid-1990's, when her Latina heritage collided with her brought-up-on-Monty-Python-and-SNL sense of humor. She is the author of several novels, including Cinderella Lopez. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and assorted kids, pets, and cute shoes.


Cuban-born BERTA PLATAS is the author of several novels, including All of Me and Miami Heat. She has been writing romantic comedies since the mid-1990's, when her Latina heritage collided with her brought-up-on-Monty-Python-and-SNL sense of humor. She lives in Atlanta.

Read an Excerpt

Lucky Chica


By Berta Platas

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2008 Berta Platas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9459-0


CHAPTER 1

Won the lottery? Don't quit your job! Plan before you stop that steady paycheck.

— The Instant Millionaire's Guide to Everything


Rosie Caballero rushed up the stairs of her apartment building, her heels echoing against the worn concrete risers, a tattered dog leash loose at her side. At its other end Tootie bunny-hopped up, poodle dreads bouncing, no doubt eager to get out of the cold that made her arthritic joints ache.

The little dog was probably nostalgic for the days when she'd been carried up and down the stairs by Rosie's mother.

Tough, Rosie thought. Tough on the dog and tough on her. Mami was gone and the two of them had to pull their own weight. She glanced at her watch.

Only fifteen minutes until Lana unlocked the front door at Cartwright Office Supply, and the knowledge made the key shake in Rosie's anxious fingers. If she was late to work it would be the third time this week and she would catch hell and get a letter in her file, so of course the decrepit lock was stuck.

Rosie jiggled the key, pulled on the door, then tugged up on the knob until she heard the click of the tumblers, a trick her father had shown her when she was just starting high school and was given a key of her own.

Before then her mother had been there to greet her after school, but at fourteen Rosie was considered old enough to stay by herself for a couple of hours in the late afternoon, and Mami had gotten a job with los chinos, what all of their Spanish-speaking neighbors called the Chinese-run dry cleaners' that had been a fixture on Buford Highway long before the rest of Asia and Latin America had discovered its cheap rents. The perfect place to start a business, a family, and a new life in America.

It had worked for her grandparents and their children, who had come in the mid-sixties and had become Americans as soon as possible, although they'd never let Rosie or her cousin Cheeto forget that they were from Cuba.

The minute Rosie unsnapped the dog's leash, Tootie ran inside, headed straight to the old bed pillow by the couch, and flopped over onto it, giving a good impression of a doggie faint. Rosie tossed the leash toward the dinette table, then glanced around at the empty apartment to make sure everything was as it should be. Too quiet, like the rest of her life.

She pictured her mother standing at the kitchen counter, chopping peppers in quick, precise strokes of the sharp knife, like the professional cook she'd always wanted to be, the smell of simmering onions and spices strong enough to make passing neighbors swoon from hunger.

"Like your Abuela taught me, when I was little in Ciego de Ávila," Mami would say, so that Rosie would remember, or maybe because she feared that she would forget her own birthplace.

Now Mami would never get old enough to forget, Rosie thought. She kissed two fingers and touched them to thebeautiful couple in her parents' wedding picture on the wall, careful not to touch the funeral card that was tucked into the frame.

Anamaría Suárez and José Antonio Caballero. Rosie had never read the back of the card, refused to. She'd stared at it blindly on the day it had been tucked into her nerveless fingers, just before they'd left for the church, and she'd put it in the wedding frame. Maybe it was superstitious not to remove it, but everyone had their little manías, as her Abuela always said.

Rosie pulled the door closed and rushed back down the stairs and across the faded, crumbling, age-pocked asphalt parking lot.

It hadn't looked this bad when her parents were alive.

Of course back then they considered the apartment a temporary stop on the road to home ownership. Papi had just been promoted to line manager at the General Motors plant and she and Mami had been busy planning her college wardrobe.

They'd been four weeks away from closing on their house, a sixty-year-old bungalow in Decatur, on the train line. Rosie would be able to get to Georgia State University in fifteen minutes, giving her time to have a part-time job at Cartwright Office Supply, too, even though Mami and Papi had objected, saying that she needed to concentrate on her schoolwork.

She stopped worrying about schoolwork the night a truck driver ran a red light while her parents' Subaru was in the intersection, killing Papi and seriously hurting her mother. Everyone had said that he'd died instantly, that it had been merciful.

Mami had lived another two weeks, although the doctors said that she was not really alive. At last Abuela had consented to have the machines disconnected, and Mami's breathing grew harsh, then wispy, then stopped.

The coma had eaten up all of Rosie's college money. Rosie had promised God that she didn't need college if she could have her mom, and then Mami had died anyway.

The only thing she had left of her parents was the apartment and the little rituals that she'd shared with them. Eating black beans and rice on Friday nights, getting her nails done with Mami at Mirta's apartment downstairs, walking Tootie in the mornings and buying lottery tickets with Papi.

After, she'd gotten a job and although she hated it, she endured it, remembering the times Mami had come home from the dry cleaners', her face burned and hair frizzy from the steam.

"Nena, they can take your dignity, but your heart is inside. No one can see it. No one can touch it, unless you let them." Mami had winked at her, a hint of the sassy girl she'd once been. "Los chinos work just as hard. They are not mean, it's just hard work."

Rosie heard her mother's voice repeat those words often, in her memory, and she used it to shield herself from pain. When the other girls at work all went to lunch together and didn't invite her, when her boss Lana yelled at her because she'd gotten some detail of a spreadsheet wrong, or passed a phone call to the wrong person, Mami's voice soothed and armored her.

She was going to need that strength this morning, because she was not going to postpone checking her weekly lottery ticket, especially after last night, when a five-dollar bill had magically blown onto her shoe just as she'd thought she'd hit the lowest point ever.

The sun had just topped the trees now, and their silhouetted branches were dotted with buds that would soon swell. Spring in Atlanta was lush and beautiful, but today's harsh wind made it seem far away.

She hunched her shoulders against the unusually bitter March cold and hurried along the uneven dirt path that bordered Buford Highway. The city's big push to build sidewalks hadn't reached here yet. On the opposite curb was her destination, Mr. Kim's bodega, open for business and already busy.

She waited to cross the street, picturing Mami beside her, holding her hand, making her feel safe, just as she'd done when she was a little girl. It had been two years since the accident, but sometimes it felt as if it had happened yesterday. Or worse, that it would happen tomorrow, and she wouldn't be able to stop it.

Rosie glanced at her watch. Eight twenty-five. Lana, her clock-watching boss at Cartwright Office Supply, would be standing in the reception area at eight thirty sharp, arms crossed over her skinny chest and eyes shifting from her wristwatch to the front door.

Lana's bad temper was legendary. Rosie would have to slink in, smile an apology, and slide into her chair. She had extra reason to suck up to Lana.

Today was payday, and Rosie was so broke that yesterday she hadn't thought she'd have enough money to pay for Tootie's dog food. Luckily, when she got off the number-30 bus in her little dance dress on her way home last night, a sudden gust had slapped a damp five-dollar bill around her ankle. It was a sign from God, she'd thought, and she'd raced into Mr. Kim's to buy a lottery ticket two minutes before the ten thirty P.M. cutoff.Afterward she'd regretted it, although she had enough left to get a couple more cans of discount dog food.

That she could afford to give Tootie a meager supper didn't offer her any consolation or make her feel better about the night's events. Her crush Rick had ditched her long before their date had ended, as if she'd been a casual pickup at the dance club and not someone he'd known for months.

She'd had a crush on Rick ever since she met him at the diner where her cousin Cheeto hung out with his landscaping coworkers. He always paid attention to her, looking right into her eyes when they talked. He was thrilling, five years older, already working at a job that paid a lot of money. A catch, she'd been told, although Cheeto warned her that he was a player. He couldn't be. He was handsome and classy, and very different from the other men she knew. Not rough like most of the other guys in the area. He was no mega-hot star Brad Merritt, either, but who could complain about that?

Cheeto laughed at her movie star obsession, but then, he laughed at everything, and Rosie had been the one smiling when Rick had finally asked her out. She'd totally forgotten her Brad Merritt craziness as she prepared for the date. Mami's friend Mirta had lent her a nice dress, and her high-heeled sandals from Payless were only three years old, and she'd coaxed her straight hair into a cute updo with Mirta's help.

Rick's eyes had been wide with surprise when she opened the door, and she'd felt confident that this would be a date to remember as she'd followed him down to his car. Two hours later, he'd spotted his old girlfriend, Nieves, on the dance floor, and he'd ditched Rosie. He'd turned away from her as if he didn't even know her, and when she'd followed him to ask why, he'd glared at her and told her to take the bus home.

She'd been too humiliated to tell anyone. She'd whispered Mami's words as she waited for the bus. More of her typical bad luck — get what you want, and lose it anyway.


She knew she should wait until noon to check her ticket, when she walked to Tower Liquors to cash her check as usual, then rush to el Value — the Big Value Supermarket — to pay her utility bills so that her power and phone wouldn't get cut off. She'd have just enough left to pay her overdue rent, and if she ate some meals at Abuela's house, she could make it to next week's paycheck.

She hesitated, stepping aside for a woman pushing a stroller over the rough ground to pass her, her baby bundled up in blankets. Rosie pulled her old quilted nylon coat closer to ward off the wind. What would it hurt to check it now? She was already late for work.

Music blasted through the bodega's glass door and front window, weird for this early in the morning. She knew the inside would be warm and steamy with the smell of nuked burritos, the favorite breakfast food of hurried workers, but usually Mr. Kim played the news.

Her mouth watered at the thought of a hot burrito, limp from the microwave and leaking orange grease, but until she cashed her check at lunchtime she had no money. She'd grab a cup of coffee at work and put extra creamer and sugar into it.

She pulled the little paper lottery square from her pocket and held it up to compare it to the winning numbers Mr. Kim had posted in his window.

This morning, Mr. Kim's big block letters read: 14-23-03-16-7 MEGA BALL 5. Below he'd scrawled, $600 MILLION! Six hundred million dollars, a ridiculous amount. Enough for six hundred people to be millionaires. The ticket fluttered in the wind and she grasped it more tightly and compared the numbers to Mr. Kim's impromptu poster.

It was a match.

She stared at it for a second, then checked the number again and again, holding the ticket with fingers that no longer trembled just from the cold.

"Let it be real," she whispered. Her shaking fingers smoothed the crumpled MegaBucks lottery ticket and held it higher. Had her eyesight gone blurry?

She glanced around. The neon signs of the liquor store on the opposite corner, dim now in daylight, were in sharp focus. So was the check-cashing store and the botánica next to it, the vacant discount shoe store and the cars pushed against the white crosswalk, edging forward, waiting for the light to change. There was nothing wrong with her eyesight.

Her heart beat faster and her fingers trembled. She blinked and focused on the numbers in front of her again, holding the crumpled slip next to the posted winning numbers. She wasn't seeing things. Dios mío, it was true. Her mind raced with all of the ways her life would change. She wouldn't ever have to skip paying a bill, or sigh over clothes she couldn't afford.

She could tell Lana that she'd never answer the phone for her again. And her grandmother wouldn't have to be a hotel maid, and her cousin Cheeto could give up landscaping, working outdoors in all kinds of weather. She had to tell them. Joy turned to paranoia, and she snatched the ticket back down and looked around quickly.

None of the bored drivers in the city-bound morning logjam seemed to be looking at her.

Life seemed normal. Next door, a small knot of guys huddled together in the parking lot of the gas station, waiting for day jobs. On the opposite corner, Dog the crack dealer was lurking, sipping from a fast-food coffee cup, seemingly impervious to the chill wind. No one looked at her or the lottery ticket in her hand.

She hitched her tote bag higher on her shoulder and stuck her head in the bodega's door, and was immediately hit with the scent of spicy meat and corn tortillas from the corner microwave, and the blare of trumpet-heavy salsa. Mr. Kim was dancing with his wife, hands in the air. The narrow aisles of the store were crowded with well-wishers. Of course, she thought, the store that sold the ticket would receive a cash bonus.

"Mr. Kim, may I use your pen?" Rosie's voice had a little quaver, but not bad.

"What? I can't hear you. Come in. The burritos are on me this morning." Mr. Kim twirled his wife. "I sold the winning ticket, Rosie. Jenny and I are rich!"

Jenny Kim waved at her, grinning, still dancing her Charleston/salsa boogie.

"Congratulations." Rosie reached around the register for the blue ballpoint next to the "give a penny" tray. She turned the ticket over and signed the back, then tossed the pen onto the counter.

Her hand trembled as she refolded the ticket and shoved it back into her pocket, anxious to get away. She had to tell her grandmother and her cousin.

"Hey, that's the Fox News truck," someone behind her called out.

A camera crew? She pictured waves of people chasing her for her ticket and shuddered. She had to get out of here. She backed out of the door and pushed it closed before Mr. Kim could remember that he'd sold her a ticket late last night.

Should she go to work? Lana would yell at her, a good incentive to call in sick, but at the moment she was still broke, and she couldn't just abandon her job, especially on payday.

She'd work until lunch, collect her paycheck, then go to cash it and stop by Abuela's afterward to tell her the good news. This wasn't the kind of news you could tell someone over the phone.

It was her grandmother's day off from her hotel housekeeping job, and by noon her little apartment would be filled with her canasta buddies, but she could pull her aside to tell her she could quit her job. No more pushing the laundry cart, not ever again.

Rosie hurried down the street, the ticket seeming to burn in her pants pocket, her mind awhirl with plans.Sign, redeem, and disappear. That's the advice she'd heard in every TV interview she'd ever seen with lottery winners.

She needed a financial planner. And she needed to keep her mouth shut. Despite the cold, she felt sweaty, almost feverish. She glanced at her Timex. Eight forty. If she'd hung around the front of Kim's bodega a moment longer Dog would've thought that she was a competitor.

Doubt struck her. What if she'd imagined it? The light had changed, stopping traffic. She hurried across to the Quik Mart on the opposite corner. They sold lottery tickets, too. She'd double-check the numbers, just in case Mr. Kim had written them down wrong.

At the Quik Mart, she grabbed a preprinted lottery slip from the pile on the counter next to a display of the latest tabloid magazines. Brad Merritt, her favorite movie star, grinned at her from the cover, more luck. She knew everything about Brad, and it seemed he was smiling right at her.

"Hey, Rosie, heading to work?" Jorge Canoso's easy smile met her from above, where he was stocking the overhead cigarette rack. He climbed down from the ladder.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Lucky Chica by Berta Platas. Copyright © 2008 Berta Platas. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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