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New York Debut
By Melody Carlson
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Chapter One NEW YORK DEBUT
"WHERE IS OUR TAYLOR?" asked Grandmother pleasantly. She kept her eyes focused on the road as she navigated her Mercedes through the heavy traffic exiting the air terminal.
DJ hadn't told Grandmother the whole story yet. In fact, she hadn't said much of anything to her this past week, except to leave a brief message explaining that she'd changed her return flight from Vegas, and that she planned to be home two days earlier than expected. Obviously, Grandmother had assumed that Taylor had changed her plans too and was returning with DJ.
"So ... is Taylor on a later flight?" Grandmother persisted.
DJ was tempted to say, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." But she knew Grandmother wouldn't buy that.
"Desiree?" Grandmother glanced at her curiously.
"Taylor is in LA." DJ said the words slowly, wishing she could add something more to her answer, something that would deflect any further questioning ... or blame. But what?
"Visiting her father?"
"Touring with Eva?"
"What then?" Grandmother's voice grew slightly irritated as she entered the busy expressway, cutting directly in front of a semi without even using her turn signal. The trucker leaned into his horn, but Grandmother seemed oblivious. "Where is the girl, Desiree? Why isn't Taylor with you? Speak up, please!"
"Taylor is in rehab." DJ sucked in a quick breath, preparing herself for her grandmother's reaction.
"Rehab?" Grandmother turned to stare at DJ with widened eyes. "Whatever for?"
"For alcohol treatment." DJ pointed ahead at the crowded road now. "Watch out!" she cried as the Mercedes wandered over the line and into the center lane.
Grandmother returned her attention to driving, her lips pressed tightly together. Hopefully she was stunned into speechlessness, although DJ knew it wouldn't last long. DJ looked out the window, staring at the stone gray skyline as she twisted the handle of her Gucci bag. Taylor had forced the purse on her right before she went into the rehab facility.
"You keep it," Taylor had told DJ after she'd emptied some personal items into another bag. They were sitting in Taylor's mom's luxurious tour bus that was parked outside of the rehab center. The Gucci bag was on the small dining table, with Taylor and DJ sitting across from each other.
"I can't keep your purse," DJ had told Taylor. "It's way too expensive. Besides, I know how much you love this bag."
"It'll make me feel better to know it's on the outside." Taylor was joking, but DJ could see the tears in her eyes. "For all I know someone in that place might try to steal it from me anyway."
Then they'd just sat there in silence for a few minutes. DJ had worried that this was all a huge mistake ... and that it was all DJ's fault for confronting Taylor in the first place. Not that DJ didn't want Taylor to get help with her alcohol problem. She most definitely did. But, really, what did they know about this place? And what about the people who ran it? Wouldn't it be better for Taylor to get treatment back in Connecticut? Back where she'd have friends to support her?
"Let's go." Taylor had stood with a determined expression. The driver, who'd been patiently waiting outside for them, now opened the door and smiled uncertainly, asking Taylor if she was ready. She had just nodded solemnly, waiting as he gathered up her designer bags and led the way.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" DJ had asked as they followed him to the main entrance of the facility. But Taylor said nothing. Instead, she'd held her head high, in that haughty Taylor fashion, tossing DJ a narrow-eyed glance. DJ had known immediately what the look meant. It was a warning - keep your mouth shut before I let you have it. And that's just what DJ had done.
Grandmother made a hissing sound through her lips, but continued to drive without speaking. This was a relief since DJ didn't really want to discuss Taylor right now. She was still trying to grasp this strange turn of events herself. It felt surreal. Just a week ago, she'd been so angry at Taylor (and Eliza too). They'd both been totally exasperating in Vegas - drinking, partying, and pretending to be adults, but acting more like spoiled children. Then Eliza left - just as quickly as she'd come. That's when DJ had confronted Taylor, and that's when Taylor had decided to get help. After that, DJ had been mostly on her own, counting the days and hours until she could fly out of there. No matter what others said about the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, to DJ it would always be lonely and depressing. She was thankful to be back in Connecticut again. Even if it was starting to rain.
DJ had expected to feel relieved after she'd left Taylor at the rehab facility. Really, shouldn't she be thankful that Taylor was finally safe? Instead, DJ felt sad and worried and somewhat responsible. The hardest part was discovering that Taylor wasn't allowed any communication from the outside.
DJ didn't get that. What was the point of cutting Taylor off from everyone? No cell phone calls, email, or anything. It seemed weird - and slightly suspicious. Oh, sure, the rehab place had looked pretty swanky with its beachside location near Malibu. It had manicured grounds, elegant palm trees, and pretty stucco buildings with red tiled roofs. But what if it was some kind of a cult where they brainwashed their patients and promised to fly them off to Jupiter? DJ had seen a movie like that once.
Naturally, DJ was praying for her missing roommate, but she still felt concerned. What if they were mean to Taylor? What if something bad had already happened and Taylor was unable to call for help? What if Taylor never came back? Not only would DJ blame herself, she figured everyone else would too.
DJ jumped to hear Grandmother speaking to her again. "Desiree?" she said sharply. "Are you even listening to me?"
"Sorry ..." DJ turned to look at her. "What did you say?"
"I was simply inquiring as to whether you girls got into some kind of trouble out there in Las Vegas." Grandmother had exited from the expressway by now, and they were coming into the outskirts of Crescent Cove. DJ was surprised at how thankful she was to see this town - the same town she'd been so eager to escape before Christmas. Not only that, but she missed her friends. She would be happy to see the other Carter House girls again. Well, except for Eliza. DJ wasn't too excited about seeing her. Hopefully Eliza was still in France for a while longer.
"Now I expect you to be completely honest with me, Desiree. Did something happen to precipitate this rather shocking news ... this news that Taylor is being treated for ... for alcoholism?"
"The only thing that happened is that Taylor finally realized that she has a serious drinking problem. Remember, I tried to let you in on this 'shocking news' some time ago."
"Well, yes, I do recall the incident with the vodka bottle. I simply assumed it was a one-time occurrence."
"I told you it wasn't." DJ could hear the edginess in her own voice. But she didn't even care. Really, wasn't this partially her grandmother's fault? Why hadn't she taken DJ's warnings more seriously?
"I do know that girls will be girls, Desiree. You can't have spent as much time in the fashion industry as I have and not know this."
"Were you ever like that?" asked DJ suddenly. "I mean, that 'girls will be girls' bit? Did you do stuff like that? Did you do drugs or alcohol?"
Grandmother cleared her throat. "I certainly wasn't an angel, Desiree, if that's what you're hinting at. However, I did understand the need for manners and decorum. But that was a different era ... people behaved more properly then. Still, over the years, I have witnessed numerous young women whose lives have spun out of control. Beautiful or not, a model won't last long if she is unable to work."
"Isn't that true with everything?"
"Well, yes ... I suppose so."
DJ sighed and looked blankly out the window as Grandmother drove through the small seaside town. She wondered if Conner was back yet. It seemed like years since she'd spoken to him.
"So ... how long is Taylor going to be in ... this rehabilitation facility?"
"I don't know. You should probably call her mom."
"Oh, dear!" Grandmother shook her head as she turned down their street. "That's something else I hadn't considered. I certainly hope that Eva Perez doesn't blame me for her daughter's ... well, for Taylor's drinking problem. Do you think she does?"
"Eva is fully aware that Taylor had this 'drinking problem' long before she came to Carter House."
"Good." Grandmother sighed as she turned into the driveway. "I just hope Taylor's treatment won't prevent her from participating in Fashion Week. That would truly be a disaster."
"Seems like it would be a worse disaster if Taylor didn't get the help she needs."
"Yes, of course, that goes without saying. But I would think that a week or two should be sufficient treatment. Goodness, just how bad can a problem get when you're only seventeen?" Grandmother turned off the engine and looked at DJ curiously.
DJ shrugged, but didn't say anything. The truth was she thought it could get pretty bad, and in Taylor's case it had been scary bad. Plus, it could've gotten much worse. It was mind boggling to think that Taylor had been drinking daily and DJ never even knew it. Oh, she'd known about the binges. But, despite sharing a bedroom, DJ never suspected that Taylor drank every day.
"It's just as well you came home early, Desiree," said Grandmother as they walked into the house. "Already, Casey and Rhiannon are back. And Kriti is supposed to return tomorrow. Eliza will be back on New Year's Eve."
"I'm surprised she didn't want to stay in France for New Year's." DJ hadn't told Grandmother about Eliza's surprise appearance in Vegas. Or the role she had played in helping to derail Taylor.
"As am I. If I were over there, I'd certainly have booked a room in Paris for the big night. Nothing is more spectacular than fireworks over the River Seine. But apparently Eliza has plans with her boyfriend here in town. Imagine - giving up Paris for a teenage boy!"
Of course, DJ knew that Eliza's life of lavish luxury didn't mean all that much to her. Sure she was spoiled, but like a poor little rich girl, Eliza wanted a slice of "normal." Well, normal with a few little extras like good shoes, designer bags, and her pretty white Porsche - not to mention her obsessive need to be first and best at everything. DJ remembered Eliza's confession during their silly Truth or Dare game in Vegas. Although Eliza never would've admitted this if she hadn't been slightly inebriated at the time.
"It's good to be home," DJ proclaimed as her grandmother opened the door. DJ was struggling to drag her baggage up the porch stairs. Naturally, Grandmother didn't offer to help. DJ didn't expect it.
"It's nice to hear you say that, Desiree." Grandmother waited for DJ to come into the house. "And I'm glad to have you back as well." She frowned as she closed the door. "But I'd be disingenuous to say that I'm not severely disappointed that you left Taylor behind. I really didn't expect that from you."
DJ just sighed as she lugged her bags to the foot of the stairs. It figured that Grandmother had decided to blame DJ for Taylor's problems. Why should that even surprise her? Why had she expected anything more?
Excerpted from New York Debut by Melody Carlson Copyright © 2009 by Melody Carlson. Excerpted by permission.
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