Read What You Always Wanted Online

Authors: Kristin Rae

What You Always Wanted

BOOK: What You Always Wanted
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The
line

Fool Me Twice

by Mandy Hubbard

Wish You Were Italian

by Kristin Rae

Not in the Script

by Amy Finnegan

Wild Hearts

by Jessica Burkhart

Red Girl, Blue Boy

by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Everything but the Truth

by Mandy Hubbard

Just Like the Movies

by Kelly Fiore

What You Always Wanted

by Kristin Rae

For Gene Kelly

CONTENTS

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

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Thank You

CHAPTER ONE

Contrary to popular belief, Texas is not all tumbleweeds, cacti, and horses. I haven't seen a desert yet, and the people in Houston mostly look the same as people from back home, but with the occasional set of cowboy boots. And the restaurants we've tried so far aren't too bad, though they cook everything in butter. Then cover it with gravy.

Apparently there's zero public transportation in my new north-side community except for some little trolley thing to take you between the mall, the grocery store, and the library. But it's more cute than useful, especially since I live down a dirt road even farther north from everything. People here seem to favor driving their own pickup trucks. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've ridden in a truck, but now I feel like I must have one too. Or at least something with four wheels. And soon.

We've lived here exactly six days. School starts in three. School, as in, my new school. As in, I get to start all over for my junior year, minus everyone I know. Minus every
thing
I know.

And it's hot here. The melt-your-face-off kind of hot. Our mailbox is way out at the street next to the driveway, not up by the door like I'm used to. So here I am in my new Southern life, forced to walk the acre-long driveway in the scorching August sun because the really good classic movies are only available to rent on disc. I shake my fist in the air at the hypothetical Netflix gods before opening the rusted contraption.

Perfect. Mail's not even here yet. I wouldn't mind so much if I didn't feel like I had to take a shower every time I came in from outside. I smell like a wet dog that just rolled in grass clippings.

I turn to head back to the house and hear gravel crunch under tires as a vehicle pulls out of the driveway across the street. It doesn't drive off, so I toss a curious glance at the cherry-red Tahoe. The window glides down, revealing a woman around my parents' age with highlighted hair in a wedge cut and a chunky turquoise necklace that might possibly be choking her.

“How's the move-in going?” she calls out to me.

I shrug and relax my eyes as a cloud passes over. If I told her the whole truth, I'd sound like a huge whiner. “We'll be living out of boxes for a while. The house needs to be fixed up. A
lot
.” I take a few steps closer as she cuts off the engine.

She nods and gives a little snicker. “Yeah, the last people that lived there were a little . . . grubby. I'm Sherri Morales,” she says. “Where did y'all move from?”

“Maddie Brooks. We're from Chicago.”

“Really? I'm from Michigan. Well, haven't lived there in twenty years, but I grew up there.” She glances at her fancy silver watch. “Are you starting school on Monday?”

“Yes,” I say through a frown. “I'll be a junior.”

“Aw, why the sour face? I'm sure you'll be just fine. My daughter Angela is a sophomore, but she'd love to show you the ropes. And I'll be there too since I'm the theatre teacher. I also help run the Fernwood Community Playhouse in town.”

My jaw drops. “You're kidding me. You're the theatre teacher? I'm signed up for your class, then!” I rush to her and grip the door at the window opening, putting us face-to-face. “What productions are we doing this year? Can you give me a heads-up?”

She doesn't look shocked by my burst of enthusiasm. “Oh, I'm still finalizing the calendar. Got the acting bug, do you?”

“More like a disease.”

She smiles, eyes wide. “Well, show me what you've got.”

Without missing a beat, I look her dead in the eye and recite one of my favorite bits from
Barefoot in the Park
.

I inwardly celebrate my delivery. I'd worked on memorizing the script last spring for an audition I missed because of the move. At least I'm getting some use out of it.

Mrs. Morales cocks her head to the side and surprises me with the next line of dialogue.

Boosted with confidence, I say what's next and we go back and forth in an impromptu performance in the middle of the street until she says, “If you always perform that well, you'll have no problem keeping up with my core team.”

“Thank you!” I resist the urge to jump up and down.

She gazes out the windshield. “I haven't thought about that play in a really long time. Most kids your age haven't even heard of it—the play or the movie.”

“Oh, I adore the movie,” I sigh, placing a hand over my heart. “Robert Redford. So hot.”

“Are you sure you're in high school?” Mrs. Morales rests her head against the seat back and laughs. “Well, I can't tell you how refreshing this conversation is, Maddie Brooks.” She checks her watch again and reaches for the keys in the ignition. “You don't happen to have plans tonight, do you?”

Thinking she's about to ask me to accompany her to a play or to dinner so we can discuss my future on Broadway, I shake my head. “No friends here yet.”

No friends anywhere.

“Would you mind watching my five-year-old, Elise, for a couple hours? Angela may not speak to me for a week if I make her stay home another Friday night.”

I deflate. That's nowhere near as fun. I've always avoided babysitting like the dentist. Snotty noses, whining, all the questions. Makes me shudder.

“I'll give you fifty bucks.”

On the other hand, babysitting can be quite lucrative. The little darling shall love me.

Around six o'clock, I start the marathon down their driveway. The house isn't visible from the road, so I have no idea what to expect—if it's small and rundown like my new house or . . . a freaking mansion.

The two-story stucco house spreads wide across the clearing of tall pines and oak trees. Obviously, the Morales family has a lot more land than we do.

A robin's-egg-blue Dodge truck that looks older than my parents' rests off to the side, next to a newer, bright yellow Beetle. I don't see Mrs. Morales's Tahoe anywhere.

I knock on the huge wooden door, and a few seconds later a girl near my age but a couple inches taller than me opens it. She looks exactly like her mother, but only in body frame and facial features—same green eyes and full lips. Her shoulder-length hair is almost black and she has that pretty olive skin tone that makes me jealous.

“Maddie, right?” she asks.

“Angela, right?”

“Come on in,” she says, turning and waddling back into the house, her shiny red toes separated with foam.

I follow her past a grand wooden staircase to the kitchen. She plops down at a round dining table and works on her fingernails. Her left hand looks pretty good, but the right is sloppy with paint all over her skin.

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