Authors: Tammara Webber
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
good for you
Good For You
Copyright © 2011
Al rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without express permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover Image Copyright Brandon Lyon, 2011
Dedicated to Tim
I miss you every day
My thoughts upon becoming ful y conscious: first,
I’m in the hospital again
, and second,
how bad is the
damage to my one-week-old Porsche?
“I see you’re awake.” That would be Dad, stating the obvious—a skil at which he excels.
“Oh, honey, I’m so glad you’re okay.” A warm hand grasps mine, and I turn towards Mom’s voice out of a natural inclination to ignore my father. Especial y to his face.
My satisfaction lurches to a stop when I see Mom’s eyes, swol en and red-rimmed, and her mouth, clamped tight in a failed attempt to restrict the trembling of her lower lip. Unfortunately, this isn’t an absurd maternal response. If memory serves, I had a little too much to drink and then crashed my car into a
. Not one of my more reassuring exploits.
In a futile effort to divert attention from the bodily-harm part of my vehicular mishap, I ask, “Um, how’s the car?”
? How’s the
?” Dad’s eyebrows almost meet his receding hairline. “That’s what you choose to inquire about first, after this debacle? Do you have any notion of the destruction of property you’ve caused, not to mention what you may have done to your career?” Would it have been that hard to just tel me the damned thing was totaled?
“Mark,” Mom’s lower lip quivers, “he’s
. Everything else can be fixed.”
I wonder if she means
, like the emergency appendectomy that landed me in the hospital last fal right in the middle of filming my last blockbuster, or
, like when I got busted a year ago at a party where everyone was smoking weed, but I got off for lack of evidence.
“Can it?” Dad shoots back, grabbing his jacket from the chair and heading for the door. “God
, Reid, I’m not sure if anything about you can be repaired. You’ve had a low regard for the needs of everyone else for some time—
and now you’ve extended that carelessness to your own life. I can’t imagine what you were thinking.” I don’t answer. I figure he doesn’t want to hear that
was sort of the point.
*** *** ***
I try to keep my voice encouraging, even though I’m yel ing at the top of my lungs. “Okay, guys, let’s take it from the top!”
That thing they say about herding cats? Try herding eighteen five-year-olds into practicing a vocal finale for Vacation Bible School Parent Night when they’re intent on the swimming pool time they’ve been promised for good behavior.
“Miss Dori?” I feel a tug on the side of my denim capris.
It’s Rosalinda, from whom I hear
at least a dozen times a day.
“Yes, Rosa?” I say, and before the words leave my mouth, seventeen five-year-olds are springing out of their seats and shouldering each other aside at the window to stare longingly at the pool shimmering just outside under a bril iant, haze-free June sky.
“I need to
? This kid has a bladder the size of a quarter.
“Can you hold it another minute, sweetie? We’re almost done—” A squeal sounds from across the room. Jonathan has scissors in one hand and Keisha’s braid in the other.
.” I bite my lip at the startled look on his face. Must not laugh. It’s not funny.
He blinks, eyes shifting from scissors to braid. “Which one?”
I narrow my eyes. “Let’s start with Keisha’s hair.” He releases the braid and she runs to her friends, who gather around her while glaring at him. I’ve never had a group of girlfriends like that—a protective clique, a guardian posse.
,” Rosa whines, tugging harder. I take her hand to keep her from pul ing my pants down. I’d
restore order if that were to happen.
“Just a minute, Rosa.” I squeeze her hand gently.
“Jonathan,” I say more sternly. “Bring me those scissors.” Eyes on his untied sneakers, he shuffles over as slowly as is humanly possible. “Where’d you get them?” He holds the scissors out with both hands as though presenting a gift to royalty. Not fal ing for his fake contrition, I arch an eyebrow.
He chances a peek at my face. “Mrs. K’s desk,” he mumbles, scowling at his feet again.
Our church secretary, Filomena Kowalczyk, speaks with a heavy Polish accent despite having immigrated to the US
about a hundred years ago. She keeps a huge jar of candy on her desk and wears creaky orthopedic shoes which have the same effect as a bel on a cat’s col ar. The kids hear her coming down the hal five minutes before she arrives. Judging by the smear of chocolate on Jonathan’s mouth, I’d say he sampled a Hershey Kiss or two before making off with her scissors.
“Do we take Mrs. K’s things without permission?” I fix a disappointed look on him.
He shakes his head.
“Is taking things that don’t belong to you what Pastor Doug means by good behavior?”
His wide, dark eyes snap up to mine. Bingo, kid. Pool time is in jeopardy.
“But Miss Dori!” he says. “I didn’t
“We aren’t talking about Keisha’s braid yet. We’re discussing you taking Mrs. K’s scissors—”
“I’l put them back!” Tears fil his eyes. “I’m s-s-sorry!”
“You’re sorry because you got caught,” I say, and he bursts into tears. Oh, dear Lord.
“Miss Dori!” Rosa wails, cupping herself, one leg raised and pressing against the other.
I sigh in defeat, giving up on the program rehearsal for today. “Al right, everyone line up for the bathroom!”
“Me first! Me
” Rosa says, keeping her death grip on my hand. As I walk to the head of the line, she hops lightly behind me on one foot.
“Jonathan, come stand by me.” Rubbing tears away with his fist, he takes my other hand, and I leave the classroom with eighteen ducklings trailing behind.
In a few weeks, I’l be on a mission trip to Ecuador. As exotic as that sounds, I’l be doing much the same thing I’m doing now—I’l just be doing it in Spanish.
I loosen the tie the second I turn to head out of the courtroom. The next thing to go wil be this crap in my hair that makes me look like one of my father’s fuckwit subordinates.
“Put that back on,” Dad barks, his shoulders rigid. He’s judged me guilty as charged even though the prosecution accepted our plea bargain—sort of.
I contemplate ignoring him for half a second, until my manager’s less dictatorial voice urges discretion. “Reid, there wil be press.
is out in theaters. This is no time to look like a rebel. We’ve already lost a couple of endorsements—your image is suffering enough without you giving the impression that you’re ungrateful to have gotten off easy for something that would land 99.9% of regular people in jail.”
“You cal that
?” I never snap at George, but I can’t agree with his assessment. The judge’s mandates for my plea bargain are beyond ridiculous.
“Yes—as would anyone with half a brain,” Dad butts in.
Subtlety has never been in my father’s nature. “Put the goddamned tie back on, Reid.”
My jaw works overtime as I refasten the top buttons of the white Armani dress shirt and loop the perfect half-Windsor knot back into the understated Hermes tie. By the time I’m thirty, I’l have worn my teeth down to nubs.
Friends ask why I don’t just ditch my dad. I’m nineteen, an adult in every legal sense of the word (except the ability to drink legal y, which is annoying as shit). I’m a legitimate Hol ywood star, with a manager, an agent, a PR guy, or woman, as the case may be—Dad may have fired Larry when he didn’t move fast enough to save those endorsements last week.
That’s the thing. My father takes care of
. He’s the CEO of my life, and I’m the product. He manages my career, my money, my legal issues… I don’t have to do jack shit but show up for auditions, movie tapings, premieres and occasional commercial endorsements. I can’t stand him any more than he can stand me, but I know he won’t screw me over.
My manager was right. The media is camped out on the courthouse steps, ready to take my statement. I had nothing to do with writing it. George handed it to me last night when Dad and my attorney—whose name I can’t recal because I couldn’t care less which junior kiss-ass partner wannabe Dad selected from his firm to represent me—were reviewing the bargaining strategy for this morning. Time for my Oscar-worthy performance of contrition.
Dad fades behind me as planned while I’m flanked by George and junior kiss-ass. I fix an appropriately repentant expression on my face. “I just want to apologize to my fans.
I’m so sorry to have let al of you down. I assure you that this incident was a momentary lapse in judgment, and it won’t be repeated.”
Someone shoves a mike in my face. “Wil you go into rehab?”
Cue the look of shame layered over remorse. “The judge didn’t believe that would be necessary at this time. But I intend to fol ow the terms of the court’s orders to the letter, and this occurrence wil
be repeated.” A guy from one of the local Hispanic stations looks like his bul shit detector is set on high. “What about the home you destroyed, and the family you displaced?” Come on, asshat. It was one room of a house, and no one was in it, so no one was hurt. “The home owners are being compensated,” I say. “The details are private, but the reparation has been agreed upon by al parties.”
“Your father’s paying them off, you mean.” The hel ? This guy is persistent. Maybe he’s related to them or something.
“No, sir.” I look him in the eye, al mano a mano. “I was responsible for the accident.
the one paying.”
“And you feel comfortable cal ing it an
when you, an underage boy, chose to drink yourself to more than double the limit for a
adult, and then drive a two-thousand pound vehicle through a residential area?”
“Wel , I—”
“The owner of the property is a real estate company.
What about the family living there, renting the home?
They’re hardworking people, but uninsured, and now they’ve lost belongings they can’t afford to replace, in
to the fact that they’re currently homeless. What about them?”
to be kidding me. I want to kick this guy’s ass so bad my fist is already knotted.
Junior kiss-ass decides this is the time to step in and earn that partnership. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen—
as Mr. Alexander’s legal counsel, I assure you that he takes ful responsibility for his actions and intends to repair
of the damage done, and then some.”
Isn’t that what I just
And what the hel does he mean by
and then some
*** *** ***
While Dad says grace, my mind wanders. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, and I always keep my eyes shut, but sometimes I have so much to keep track of that my brain is making lists and checking off details any time it perceives a calm moment to do so.
Parent Night rehearsals with the kids wil have to wait until next week. My Habitat for Humanity project has a more pressing deadline thanks to the self-centered, egocentric moron who drove his stupid sports car into the living room of our future family’s rental place. I don’t get people like him
—people who think of no one, ever, but themselves. They just take up space on the planet, never contributing anything worthwhile.
He’s the reverse of someone like my dad—Pastor Doug to the parishioners of our church and the surrounding neighborhood. Dad would tel me that God wouldn’t be pleased about my biases concerning Reid Alexander.
God has a purpose, even for him
, Dad would say.
, there I go again.
I’l be spending the next several days straight working on the Habitat house. Luckily, we have much of it done.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t include the A/C, and it’s already hot and hazy. Much of Los Angeles lives without central air; I shouldn’t complain. I have a comfortable home, even if it’s not chock-ful of luxury items like big-screen televisions and rooms of furniture where everything matches. Mom knows her way around with a paint brush, and she’s amazing at using saris bought at the bazaar as colorful window coverings and table cloths, or plants to cover a stain on the carpet or a crack in the plaster wal s.
I’ve got a few more things to get turned into UC Berkeley before I start next fal : AP exam results, graduation certificate, housing deposit. Almost everyone who knows me seems puzzled by the fact that I intend to pursue a degree in social work rather than music. I’m often told that I have a beautiful voice, but that would be an impractical career path. I’d rather
Dad’s the only one who real y gets that sentiment. He’s also where I get my voice. Mom and Deborah, my older sister, are absolutely tone-deaf, but they have useful natural sister, are absolutely tone-deaf, but they have useful natural and applied skil s. Mom’s an obstetrical nurse specializing in low-cost prenatal care, and Deb recently began her hospital residency in Indiana—she’s going to be a pediatrician. Dad and I just had to be more creative about finding our ways to contribute.
This summer, like the last several years, I’m working the summer program our church offers for the poverty-stricken neighborhoods nearby. The van picks the kids up in the morning, enabling their parents to go to work without worrying about what to do with them. The kids stay al day, which means we have to come up with lots of activities. The swimming pool was Mom’s idea. Some members of the church finance committee balked at instal ing something so lavish, but Mom convinced them we could use it for VBS, family days and monthly baptisms.
Dad says Mom could talk the Devil into baking Christmas cookies.
“…Amen,” Dad says, and I open my eyes, banishing thoughts of Satan wearing an apron and icing reindeer.
“Dori, your dad has some news that might interest you.” Mom hands me the bowl of mashed potatoes, and they’re both watching me closely. Weird.
Dad clears his throat. “You got a cal just before you got home. I guess Roberta doesn’t have your cel number.” Roberta, my project leader at Habitat, doesn’t get that people can be easily reached on the phone they carry around with them. Her cel phone is always in her bag and
, because she believes the battery wil run down if she leaves it on, and then it wouldn’t be at the ready in case she gets mugged and needs it. I’ve never asked her how she plans to hold the bad guy off while her phone boots up.
“There’s a new volunteer starting tomorrow, and she wants you to help him acclimate, show him the ropes.” My brow furrows. While we appreciate volunteers, this isn’t exactly huge or unusual news, plus my parents are being downright odd. “Okay. No problem.” Waiting for the punch line, I pass the potatoes to Dad. “Is it someone with electrical experience, I hope?”
“Er, I doubt that.”
When he doesn’t elaborate, I final y say, “Dad, spit it out.”
Dad isn’t meeting my eyes, unusual y cryptic. “Wel , this volunteer may be someone you know. Not
Good grief, I’m way too tired for this. “Am I supposed to guess who it is?” I sigh. “Is it someone from church?
Someone from school?”
“It’s Reid Alexander,” Mom blurts out, unable to contain herself any longer.
Dad tries the logical spin. “Apparently working to get the house ready sooner for the Diegos was part of his plea bargain.”
Oh, no. No, no, no. This is not happening. “Wait. So he’s not even actual y a volunteer, then—he’l be on site under court-ordered
?” They cannot expect me to babysit that self-absorbed, womanizing, probable alcoholic.
“Roberta said that since you’re about his age, she was hoping you could… er…”
“Babysit him.” I scowl. “Please tel me it’s only for a day or two.”
Dad shrugs and starts to eat. “You’l need to ask Roberta that. I’m just the messenger.”
I close my eyes for a moment, imagining the absurdity of Reid Alexander on site, the wasted time accumulating hourly. I’d planned to tile the master bath’s shower tomorrow. No way I could trust him to help with that—tiling is pretty much skil ed labor, and while I’ve done it enough to be proficient, he’s probably never touched a trowel in his life.
“Why me?” I hear his answer in my head before he says it.
“Don’t know, honey. But there’s a reason for everything.” Dad pats my hand. “We’l just have to wait patiently to see what it is.”
As I do every time he says that or something like this, I bite back what I’d say if I could reply honestly. I don’t believe there’s a reason for everything, and having faith doesn’t mean I’m blind. I believe people make poor choices. I believe bad things happen to good people. I believe there’s evil in the world that I wil never understand, but wil never stop fighting.
If I believed for two seconds that there was a reason behind some of the awful things that occur in this life, I wouldn’t be able to stand it.