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Authors: Juli Alexander

The Karma Beat (21 page)

BOOK: The Karma Beat
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Unless… “Dad and Diane probably won’t want me to live there. They don’t have a very big house. And Dad is gone so much. Diane won’t go along with this.”

Her hands flew to her hips and she harrumphed. “I knew you weren’t listening, Ally. I just told you that they’re looking forward to it. Your father thinks it’s a great way for you to get to know Diane better.”

Well, there goes that theory. The anger finally bubbled over. “Is there anyone who doesn’t know about this before I do?” I shouted. “Have you talked to everyone but me?”

“Ally, I had to make arrangements. I’m leaving in two weeks. It couldn’t all wait until the last minute—”

“I don’t want to hear it,” I said, jumping up and leaving the kitchen.

I ran up the stairs, waited for my dog to follow me into my room, slammed my door, locked it, and plopped down on my bed. I was literally seeing red. And it was only partly because my curtains and bedspread were red. Mostly, it was rage. With a little dread and fear thrown in. Luckily for me, the tears washed some of it away. Mojo jumped up and licked at my face, but I finally got him to settle down and lay down beside me. Mojo understood my pain. He was the best dog in the world. I’d found him at the pound three years earlier, and we’d been inseparable ever since.

After I’d soaked my pillow with various bodily fluids (Why does crying make your nose run, anyway?), I rolled over onto my back and called Madison on my candy apple red cell phone.

I folded the pillow in half, damp side down, and shoved it under my neck. “You won’t believe this,” I said, and I told her what was happening.

“Oh my God,” Madison said when I finished.

Her reaction confirmed just how horrible this was. Usually I couldn’t get her to shut up. Now she couldn’t think of anything to say. There was a really, really long pause. Then she said, “How could she do that to you?”

“I know!” I scratched behind Mojo’s ears and looked into his big, brown eyes. Poor homeless mutt. Poor abandoned me.

“Are you sure you aren’t being punk’d? I just can’t see your mother leaving you, um, I mean leaving here, to live on the other side of the country.”

Ouch. Leaving me. I could count on Madison to say it like it was. “Do you really think there’s a show where mean mothers make their daughters cry?”

“No.” She sounded disappointed as if she was hoping to meet Ashton. “I guess not. But your mom is usually so nice. She lets us sleepover all the time. She seems kind of sad sometimes, but not mean.”

Mom was definitely sad. Luckily, I was too angry to feel guilty about it.

“Maybe it will be cool to live with Caroline,” Madison said, taking a shot at lifting my spirits.

Madison admired my stepsister Caroline. Everyone did. Even I liked Caroline. I just didn’t like myself when I was around her. “I’m sure she’ll be just thrilled to have me dumped into her space all of a sudden.”

“It’s your space too. Your dad lives there.”

True, but he lived there because he’d moved away from me and my mom. That little tidbit didn’t increase my comfort level. “How about you and me just trade lives for four months?”

Madison laughed. “My life isn’t so great either. Even with soccer, my mom won’t let me quit choir this year. And you know I can’t sing.”

She really couldn’t. Our school let everybody in the choir. Madison just stood there moving her mouth. The few times she actually tried to sing, people around her thought a sheep was getting strangled. “Can your mom sing?”

“She thinks she can,” Madison said. “At mass it’s all I can do not to run screaming for the door.”

“You’re probably getting double credit for going then. I think I’ve got enough credits to stop going to mass until I’m thirty, so God will probably spot you another ten years for your suffering. It’s like you’ve got a bank full of prepaid penance.” I looked at Mojo and he panted in agreement.

“Do you think so?”

“I do. And besides, you only have two choir concerts a year.”

“I just hate being reminded of how pathetic I am at every practice.”

That was kind of why I didn’t like being around my stepsister. “You’re not pathetic,” I assured her. “Now your mother…”

Madison giggled. “I’m going to make you sit with us next time.”

“Can’t,” I said, searching for an excuse. “I have to sit in the back. I’ve got…” What was that commercial that was always on. Oh yeah. “I’ve got an overactive bladder.”

“Right,” she said obviously not buying it. “We can sit in the back too. We aren’t picky.”

Actually, Madison’s mother insisted on sitting near the front of the large cathedral every Sunday. I personally thought she liked to be seen in her expensive clothes. Unlike Madison, her mother was an attention seeker. And she spent big bucks on her wardrobe. My mom thought Elaine was insecure because her husband was a big-time heart surgeon. Lots of the kids at school were doctor’s kids, and Madison was the only one who was really cool.

“I’m being punished enough, Madison. Give me a break.”

She sighed. “You’re probably right.”



I added another entry in my journal of Brutal Teen Truths.
Do not teach your mother to use the Internet. No good can come of it
. This joined tidbits of painfully acquired information like:
You will always get a zit when you need to look good
, and
It’s very difficult for teens to hire a hit man

I’d started out with “One Million Reasons Divorce Sucks,” but after two years, it had fallen by the wayside. Just to be thorough, I added a few more to that list. I was up to seven hundred and ten. Then, I spent a few hours on the Internet, trying to distract myself. When it hit me that Mom’s new boyfriend probably had a site, I ran a search.

Donald Waller, Independent Insurance Agent. He had a site all right. I clicked the link and music blared from my speakers when the site loaded. It sounded like an action movie soundtrack, but as the intro started, I realized it must be some kind of superhero music. The intro showed a red cartoon car crashing into a blue one. Bam! The word was surrounded by that funny looking balloon, like in a comic book. Then an animated figure in a cape swooped in. His costume proclaimed him to be “Captain Coverage.”

The intro ended and a picture came up of Captain Coverage. Only this time, he had a cut-out real picture of his face photo-shopped over the cartoon. Donald Waller was a big-time, fifty-something geek.

The rest of the site looked pretty normal. Like an insurance website should, I guess.

I could probably live through Mom leaving me for four months a lot easer than I could do without her forever. This guy looked scary. Internet dating wasn’t safe, was it? And Seattle was forever away. A six-hour plane ride. A four-day drive. Two days by train. Okay, so I’d looked into it.

I shut down my laptop and went in to my mother’s room. She was asleep, and the digital clock next to the bed read 12:30.

“Mom,” I said, creeping around the oversized furniture in the room.

She jumped and opened her eyes. She’d always been a light sleeper. “What’s wrong? Are you sick?”

“No, but I need to talk to you.” She didn’t look so hot without her makeup.

She blinked. “Okay.”

“I just went to Donald’s website,” I said.

“Yes.” She sat up and tugged at the comforter.

“And, um, he doesn’t seem entirely normal.”

Mom nodded wearily. “You know, Ally. We all have our little quirks. He’s a huge comic book fan. He’s really a decent guy though.”

“What if he’s not? What if he’s a serial killer and he chops you into bits?”

Mom winced. “He’s not, Ally. I don’t take my safety lightly. Stacy Barnett was by the office the other day. She’s the private investigator the firm uses.”

I nodded.

The brown smudges under her eyes added years to her appearance. “I had her do a background check. Everything looks fine.”

I crossed my arms. “All that means is that he hasn’t murdered anybody yet.”

“Right. And that’s all he knows about me too. I know it’s rough right now, but it will be okay. We may not really hit it off, but he won’t hurt me.”

Not like my dad did when he cheated on her. She didn’t say it, but I knew she was thinking it. “I’m going to bed now.”

“Good night, Sweetie. I love you.” She held out her arms and I leaned in for a hug. She squeezed extra tight, and for a moment I felt like a well-protected little girl again.

“I love you too,” I said and ambled back to my room. Compared to a brutal murder, a short-term abandonment seemed do-able.


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen



My Life as the Ugly Stepsister

BOOK: The Karma Beat
7.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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