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"Selena! Time to wake up, mi amor!"
My mother waltzed into my room, snapped up the shades and flicked on the overhead light. Despite the contrast between her morning-person energy and my night-owl sleepiness, the day started out friendly enough, even though I'd stayed up way too late watching movies on TV while texting my bfs.
"Mami, it's vacation, remember? I get to sleep late today!" I grumbled. Then I rolled over and tugged the covers over everything but my ear, because I was hoping to hear profuse apologies and the sound of the shades rolling back down.
But who was I kidding? Apologies and rolled-down shades might have come from someone else's mom, but not mine. (Note to self: buy one of those eye-masks like the old time movie stars wore.)
My mother moved around my room, efficiently snapping shut the tubes of beauty products on my dresser, rattling the hangers as she re-hung clothes in my closet, dropping my pens into my pen cup with a sharp tap, tap, tap! It was a symphony of "Wake up!" noises with a melody of "You're messy!" floating on top like an accusation.
"Selena, come! There's no time for late sleeping today. We have only a little while this morning to get organized before I have to work. Get up, get up! And ay, this room! It's a pigsty! It's hurting my eyes!" I like things a little messy because it makes my room feel cozy and lived in, while my parents' room is so clean, I bet you could perform surgery in there and not need to sterilize it first.
"Mami, leave it! You don't have to clean all the time. You're not at work yet!"
Uh-oh. Did I just say that out loud? I pulled the pillow over my ear at last, knowing what was coming next.
"Selena Diaz! How can you be so spoiled? I wish I didn't have to clean all the time, especially at home. But do you think you would remember that when you're throwing your things everywhere? No!" And on and on she went.
Whenever my family fights, we fight in English. My mom and dad are all Spanishy when they're happy — all their endearments and praise filter through the sweet and gentle words of my early childhood in El Salvador. Amor. Tesoro. Milagro. Corazon.
But when they're mad, they're American.
I lifted the pillow off my ear so I could gauge where she was in her rant.
"... and find you a job!"
"A job!" That wasn't part of the usual rant! I ditched my covers and sat upright in my bed. "What do you mean? I already have the Junior Lifeguards thing in the afternoons that Papi's making me do, plus the extra swim class they say I have to take, and I'm getting tutored for math, which I'm dreading. Now I need to get a job, too?" One day out of school and this was already the worst summer of my life. And we were in Cape Cod — summer vacation paradise! Ha!
"Yes. Of course," she persisted. "Now that you are thirteen you can earn a little of your pocket money, no? I got your working papers already from the school, so let's look at the classified ads, because you can't just sit around during your free time this summer like last year. You know, when I was your age ..."
"Ack!" That was all it took. Every time she launched into how hard it was for her growing up in El Salvador, and how easy we American kids had it, I had to escape. I jumped out of bed without even checking my new phone (a reconditioned iPhone I got for my birthday a few weeks ago), and ran into the bathroom to take my shower. Even with the door closed and the water running I could still hear her ranting on, all in English, about how spoiled American kids are, with our Instagram and lattes and the Mashpee Commons mall.
In the hot shower, I rested my head against the tile and took a deep breath. It's not like we asked to move to America.
I still remember when I was really little, back in El Salvador. I'd loved it. We'd lived on a big ranch with all my cousins and aunts and my abuela and abuelo; all the dads were already in the U.S., making money. It was so peaceful and fun; there had always been someone around to braid my hair or slip me sweets or watch the elaborate plays and performances that we'd put on all the time. No one pressured us: there hadn't been all this talk of grades and careers. Everyone had looked like me, and my mom had been softer, more relaxed, more patient. But here ... well. It's all about success and goals. Every night when I go to kiss my mom goodnight, she is either studying for her accounting exam, ironing a mountain of laundry with starch (some ours and some from the big house), or reading a self-improvement book (thinking of more ways to torture me, I'm sure).
I missed the old days. I struck a tragic pose in the shower, like Katherine Langford in that Thirteen Reasons Why show that my parents won't let me watch, and I tried to really pay attention to my posture and how my body felt in that moment of grief. I made sure I'd be able to call on it for some future performance onstage. Then I rinsed out my conditioner and turned off the water.
Dwelling on the past wasn't going to get me anywhere; we weren't going back to El Salvador, at least for the foreseeable future. Anyway, I wasn't even sure I wanted to.
So for now, I had to get into character. Acting was what I loved and what I used to tackle life's dramas: in tough moments, I'd create a role in my mind and play it out.
Who knows? Maybe someday my acting skills would win me an Oscar and I could go back and buy my own ranch in El Salvador!
Costuming is very important in acting. Today I had decided to play the role of "responsible American teenage job-seeker" to calm my mother down a little. I slid into my seat at the breakfast table wearing a nice pair of long, plaid Bermuda shorts and a cute pink polo shirt with scalloped sleeves. I am pretty short, but well-proportioned, so I am choosy about what I wear and how well it fits me; my mom does a lot of alterations for me by hand.
My father was running out to a job site so he planted a kiss on my head and grabbed a cup of espresso my mother had brewed for him. "You look so bonita, mi amor," he said proudly. "Ready for summer."
"Thanks, Papi," I smiled.
My skin is kind of always tan and I love makeup and potions, but today I went bare-faced and wholesome (which my parents prefer). I have long dark hair that is thick and gets kind of reddish in the sun. I usually put it in rollers and make it huge and wavy, but today I was wearing it very flat and conservative, with a little barrette at the side. My mother looked at me approvingly as she set down my mug of horchata (a kind of Salvadoran Ovaltine she orders online) and handed me the Cape Cod Times and a highlighter.
"Selena, what time does Junior Lifeguards start? What do you need for the course? Where do you meet?" She peppered me with questions as she moved around the kitchen; she seemed to be assembling dinner ingredients.
I glanced at the newspaper but my fingers itched to pull out my phone so I could check in on all my feeds and see what my celebs and friends were up to, and let my public know what I was up to, even if it was not much.
Instead, I remained focused and in character.
"I don't know yet," I said. And then, "Oh, Mami! Are you making pupusas for us tonight for a treat?"
"No, mi amor. These are for the girls."
Of course. Anything for "the girls." I poured myself some cereal and began eating it grimly while half-studying the help wanted ads.
"The girls" are the Frankel sisters, Alessandra and Samantha, ages eleven and thirteen, who live in the mansion on the dunes, a few hundred yards from here. Their parents employ my mom and dad, as cook/head housekeeper and landscaper/property manager. The house we live in is the Frankels', too: it's the estate's caretaker's cottage. The Frankels live in London (Mr. Frankel is a rich Israeli business mogul and Mrs. Frankel is a glamorous African news reporter), so when they are not here on the Cape, which is usually fifty weeks of the year, we have the property all to ourselves: the beach access, the pool, the trampoline, the vegetable and flower gardens are all ours. It's amazing! I like to pretend I'm a movie star and lie on a float in their pool with a cold lemonade.
But this year, the Frankel girls came with their boy nanny Nigel for the whole summer, and everything is different. I'm losing my free run of the property. I won't be able to have my friends over because who wants to just sit in my tiny bedroom or on our little scrap of yard? And what if we run into Samantha while my friends are here, and she tries to boss me around? It gives me shivers just to think of it.
"And Selena, speaking of the girls, you must be kind to Samantha at your lifeguards training today. She won't know anyone so you include her, ok?"
"Ha!" I nearly choked on my cereal. Kind to Samantha? Me? "Mami, trust me. She doesn't want to be seen with me, the hired help." It was my mother's brilliant idea for Samantha Frankel to do Junior Lifeguards this summer. I was furious when I found out.
"Selena, for shame saying such things. Think of Eleanor Roosevelt!" scolded my mother. She likes to quote the former first lady, who supposedly said "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." I only half-understand what that means or even how it applies to me. And why should I have to be nice to the Frankels who have everything?
Here's the deal, the Frankel sisters, Samantha and her younger sister, Alessandra, say hi if we run into each other on the property when we're home, like when I dress up to help my mom serve at their parents' parties or when I'm bringing starched laundry up on hangers on the golf cart in the morning or whatever. They always remember my name (or someone reminds them of it before they get here). It's just that we all know it's like they are the masters and I am their servant and I only live here through the good graces of their parents and the hard work of mine. But we do not hang out or pal around off the property. Like, in summers past, if we were to see each other in town or at the movies, we would just look away. It's easier. We all understand the rules. I don't want them messing with my life and they don't need me in theirs.
That's why Samantha didn't acknowledge me at the Junior Lifeguards tryouts last week. To be honest, I didn't acknowledge her either. I'm sure she thinks I'm beneath her so she doesn't want to be seen speaking to me, and that works for me. I don't need any social overlap with Samantha Frankel. Only my best friends know my living situation and I'd rather keep it that way. I like it that people assume I live on Brookfield Lane because I'm rich. When I post pictures of myself floating in the Frankels' pool on a raft, I caption them #summer and #capecod, not #employerspool or #maidsdaughter. It's doesn't hurt anyone to let them think it is my house. And if people don't think I'm rich, well, at least I don't want them to think I'm someone's maid. The bottom line is this: the less my path crosses with Samantha Frankel's, the better.
"Now, mi amor, tell me what you see in the paper for jobs," said my mom, deftly patting down and flattening the pupusas without even having to look at them.
I sighed and took another bite of my cereal. Skimming the columns, I tried to see if there was anything that looked promising. "Driver needed, driver, delivery truck driver, bartender, road crew, hotel chambermaid ..."
"No!" said my mom definitively. "No cleaning."
"That's most of what's available for kids my age, Mami," I said. "Especially without a driver's license."
My mother tossed her bobbed hair. "We didn't move to America for you to be a maid! What else?"
I rolled my eyes. I wanted to say, "But you're a maid," but my mom would have bitten my head off. My parents' jobs are a means to an end, but their ambitions for me and my brother Hugo are massive, like, the American dream.
My dream is to be a major movie star, like Reese Witherspoon or Indigo Darling, and I work hard to build my brand by maintaining my social media accounts, blog and website, as well as keeping up my talents and my looks as much as possible. Junior Lifeguards wasn't something I wanted to do this summer, but since my parents are making me do it, I am looking on the bright side. It will get me in better shape and sharpen my swimming skills, which will just make me more employable in Hollywood later (I'm thinking roles in lifeguard movies, shipwreck movies, anything set on a beach ... ).
I skimmed the paper again. Plumber's Assistant, Dental Hygienist, IT Systems Manager, Chambermaid at Motel, Chambermaid at Hotel, Maid, Maid, Maid ...
Briskly, I folded the paper and pushed it away from me.
"Anything?" asked my mom hopefully.
"I'll find something," I said grimly. "Don't worry."
After I helped my mom fold the clean sheets and towels for the big house, I updated my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snap, and then rode my bike to the library. The morning was sunny but still chilly; typical June-in-Cape Cod weather and a preview of the beautiful days to come.
My bike tires were covered in sand after a few blocks, and it sprayed up on my legs as I rode, sticking to my ankles, but I didn't mind; it made me feel summery. Early dew-spangled roses climbed fences and trellises outside the neat little houses in town, and though I wanted to snap off one big bloom to put behind my ear, it didn't fit with my costuming choices for the day.
I parked my bike in the rack on the grass outside the library, and checked my phone one more time. There was a text in my group chat, BESTIES, which comprised me and my friends Jenna Bowers, Piper Janssens, and Ziggy Bloom.
"RISE AND SHINE! Ready to rock it today, girls? #brave #strong #wewillsaveyou." It was from Jenna, who basically made the rest of us try out for Junior Lifeguards.
I smiled. Even though I was nervous about the lifeguarding program, I was psyched to hang with my friends on the beach all summer. It was better than what my father had originally wanted, which was full-time summer school.
"CAN'T WAIT!" I lied. Then I silenced my phone and went inside.
The main room of the library was buzzing with activity this morning as usual; there was a line for check-outs already and adults on every computer in the lobby area. I was ten minutes early for my tutor orientation meeting, so I put my stuff down in a corner and went to the children's room to see if the library cat was around.
I would love to have my own cat like my friend Jenna does. I would have a fluffy golden one and I would name it Oscar (like the Academy Award) and it would sleep on my bed and wear a thin leather collar with a little bell on it. But my parents won't let me have one because our house is not really our house and they don't want some cat roaming the property and bothering the Frankels when they're here. We have lots of little restrictions like that, which are imposed only by my parents and not by the Frankels, but that doesn't make it any easier.
"Hello there!" the librarian greeted me. It was unusually quiet in the children's room today. The puzzles and toys were stowed neatly in their bins, the computers sat unused, and the only noises were the tick of the clock and the soothing burble of the huge fish tank.
"Hi," I smiled but I felt a little shy since I was the only one in there.
"I'd love to help you find anything you need," said the librarian, smiling warmly at me.
"Is the cat here?" I asked quietly.
She laughed. "That's an easy one! He's right here in his bed next to my desk." She waved me over to peek.
The library cat is orange-and-white striped, skinny and small, and super-mellow. He was curled into a ball with his chin on his paws, fast asleep in his little round bed.
"Cute!" I said softly. "Can I take his picture?" I asked, whipping out my phone. This would be a great meme — an "I hate Mondays" picture of a cat asleep.
"Sure!" said the librarian.
I snapped the shot, quickly posted it, and put away my phone. "Can I pet him? What's his name again?"
She smiled. "Harry Potter, of course!"
"Oh, that's right!" I laughed. I bent down and smoothed his head with my fingers. His eyelids fluttered but he stayed asleep. "Hi, Harry," I whispered.
"He loves kids," said the librarian.
"I guess he'd have to if he lives here. And books, too."
She smiled. "We just had a big group in for the early story hour and he was the star of the show, so now he's all tuckered out."
"Do they chase him around?" I giggled, picturing it.
She nodded. "It's kind of chaos. The idea is that parents or caregivers can drop the kids with me for an hour or two while they browse in the library or even run an errand or go to the gym or something, and then they come back and pick them up. Harry and I get a little overwhelmed some days, depending on who shows up."
"I think little kids are hilarious. How many come?"
"Hmmm, today there were five but I've had as many as ten. You never know, because it's just drop-in."
"Oh my gosh. Ten kids!"
She grimaced. "Rainy days in August are the craziest."
We both laughed at that. Cape Cod is summer vacation paradise, so when the weather is bad the visitors are desperate. Our town is crazy crowded on rainy days because all the people who would normally be at the beach descend on the two main streets, looking for things to do. Parking is nuts and the lines at the nearby movie theater and the deli and even the checkout counter at the library are insane.
Excerpted from "Junior Lifeguards, Book 2: Oscar Season"
Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Doyle Carey.
Excerpted by permission of Dunemere Books.
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.
Table of Contents
Chapter One Wake up!,
Chapter Two Action!,
Chapter Three First Encounters,
Chapter Four Maintenance,
Chapter Five Finding a Rhythm,
Chapter Six A Sinking Feeling,
Chapter Seven Buoyed Up,
Chapter Eight Recommitted,
Chapter Nine Oscar Night,
Chapter Ten On Duty,
Chapter Eleven Let It Go,
About the Author,
More Junior Lifeguards Books!,