Kiley McCann stood just outside the massive doors of the Bel Air High School gym in Los Angeles–a facility that rivaled the size of, say, Madison Square Garden–and scanned the monstrous crowd for her friends. Her heart beat a tattoo in her chest and she felt her stomach cramping; she had to keep reminding herself to breathe in, breathe out, as she clenched the manila “Welcome, New Student!” packet in her sweaty hands.
Nothing was physically wrong with her. It wasn’t even one of the panic attacks to which her mother was remarkably susceptible. Instead, this was an old-fashioned-if-massive case of nerves, brought on by orientation for senior year at the snootiest public school–Bel Air High–in the snootiest section of Los Angeles–Bel Air.
What, she had to ask herself, was an oh-so-average seventeen-year-old girl from La Crosse, Wisconsin, doing here?
As she unconsciously nibbled the inside of her lower lip, an annoying habit she’d had since before she could remember, and felt her Converse All Stars rooted to the tile floor, even she had to admit that the events that had brought her to this place at this moment were mind-boggling.
The audition in Milwaukee for a reality TV show, to be the nanny to the children of the rock star Platinum. The reality show getting canceled and her getting the gig anyway. Platinum getting arrested for child endangerment–could a rock star abusing drugs and alcohol in front of her children be any bigger of a cliché? And now, a chance to attend high school in California, and actually qualify for resident tuition to one of the California state universities, of which the Scripps Institution of Oceanography was by far her first choice for–
Lydia Chandler pushed her way through the masses of arriving students and threw her arms around Kiley. Suddenly, Kiley’s nerves dropped to a manageable level, and she felt her heart rate return almost to normal as she looked into her blond friend’s green eyes. They were shining. “Isn’t this exciting?”
“Exciting” wasn’t exactly the first adjective that came to Kiley’s mind. “Scary.” “Intimidating.” Yep. Those worked. Lydia, on the other hand, never seemed to be afraid of anything. But maybe that’s what growing up deep in the Amazon basin did for a girl. Kiley had met more than a few Bel Air rich girls over the summer, mostly at the tony Brentwood Hills Country Club. Lydia had told her that in Amazonia, she’d become quite accomplished with poison blow darts. Rich girls in L.A. didn’t have poison darts. They had poison barbs that left you feeling just as wounded, but at least they didn’t kill more than your spirit.
Like Kiley, Lydia was a nanny. Kiley knew that Lydia’s route out of Amazonia and its piranha-infested waters to Beverly Hills to work for her aunt, Kat Carpenter, and Kat’s lover, Anya Kuriakova, had been nearly as strange as her own. Kat was a former tennis pro turned TV sports commentator. She and Anya had had two children, Jimmy and Martina, by artificial insemination. Before she’d gone to the Amazon, Lydia had been a rich girl in Houston. She never tired of saying how the Beverly Hills life pleased her much more than life in the rain forest.
As students streamed past them into the gym, Kiley took in Lydia’s naturally platinum blond hair; immense, expressive eyes; and lithe, slender body. She was clad in a very short Nanette Lepore trapeze shift in black with white polka dots, pale pink Chanel ballet flats covering her tiny feet. Kiley had been there when Lydia found the outfit at Hot Threads, the new designer “preworn” clothing store on Melrose. It was amazing. Her friend had a fantastic knack for dressing rich on a nanny’s modest salary.Damn. If I looked like Lydia, maybe I wouldn’t feel so insecure
For this all-important day, Kiley had dressed in a variation on a theme in her usual carpenter pants and a navy T-shirt. Her chestnut-reddish hair was pulled back in a ponytail. It hadn’t occurred to her to do more for a school orientation. But as the people who would be her new classmates strode past her, she saw that Bel Air High girls had never met a fashion designer they couldn’t acquire. Her own outfit seemed downright janitorial by comparison.
“I am so danged jazzed, I could just give birth,” Lydia said. When she got excited, the Southern accent she’d acquired from living in Texas for the first several years of her life increased exponentially. That was back in the B.B., as Lydia called it–Before Banishment to a mud hut in a small hamlet of primitive Amarakaire tribesmen. How primitive? They hadn’t yet developed a written language.
“It’s just high school,” Kiley pointed out, knowing that Lydia hadn’t been in any kind of classroom other than home school since she was eight; her aunt had pulled some strings to get her into this one. Kiley, on the other hand, had spent ninth through eleventh grades at La Crosse High School, a low-slung redbrick architectural monstrosity a mile from the small house in which she’d been born and raised–with its ragged carpeting and a TV set that was broken half the time.
That her father worked for a brewery–Kiley had actually grown up in the shadow of the six-pack-painted water tower for that brewery–and her mother was a waitress at a diner did not make her stand out in any way at her old school. She knew a lot of kids who were in the same socioeconomic boat. Here at Bel Air, though, it didn’t take a National Merit Scholar to figure out that her modest working-class background would make her endangered-species-level odd among her classmates.
Excerpted from All Night Long: A Nannies Novel by Melody Mayer. Copyright © 2008 by Melody Mayer. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.