The first Chinese fortune I collected the summer I hooked up with Paul-the guy some might consider my first-read:
“The smart thing is to prepare for the unexpected.”
I should have taken it more seriously. Fortunes can be like little instructions for life; they may not fit yours at that particular moment, after that particular meal of kung pao chicken, but eventually they will. Trust me on this.
My mother, Susan Sturtz Himmelfarb, could best be described as uptight, controlling, and ultraorganized, like an efficiency expert, which I think is actually a real job for some people. The Captain, my mother, prides herself on being able to complete tasks faster than anyone. I'm the total opposite-a march-to-the-beat-of-my-own-drum, at-my-own-pace type. The Captain says I'm impulsive and that I don't "do things the way the world does."
She has issues with the length of my "hour" showers, how I pull back my curtains or sleep on top of the duvet cover, put socks on before pants and makeup before shirt, how I tie my laces (still do the two-loop thing), open an envelope, hold a pencil, pour a drink, and blow my nose. Even how I spray on my perfume and brush my teeth is apparently "not how any other normal teenager in the universe would." My study habits, friends, grades (except English), and "sarcastic, fresh mouth" are also unacceptable to The Captain. Melody, my sister, is always acceptable, unless of course she's whining. At least I was under less scrutiny on vacation. One reason I wanted to get to Myrtle Beach.
But, more important, I couldn't wait to meet up with Paul. To have him hug me and make me forget about all the crap I had to deal with. He spent the entire summer in the oceanfront Grand Strand Condos; we went down to our condo only in August, renting it out the rest of the season. Last August I flirted with Paul whenever I got the chance, combing the beach looking to "coincidentally" walk by him. Then, on our last night, while my parents were out, I bumped into him at my neighbor's party. We talked for a long time. He told me he was seventeen and going into his senior year and that the following summer he would be lifeguarding again. I lied and said I was going to be a sophomore. We kissed and he felt me up over my shirt.
I spent ninth grade IM'ing and texting with Paul, and talking nonstop about him to my best friend, Paige. It got so bad that a few weeks before I was going to see Paul again, Paige joked that she was taking up a collection for me so I could fly there already, and she could finally stop hearing about him.
But we didn't fly the seven hundred miles, we drove.
And the car ride from Larchmont, New York, to Myrtle Beach showed signs of impending doom long before we reached our overnight stop.
It began with my dad popping in his traveling tunes CD and happily singing along in his own world. Dad, La-La Man, could care less that he sang the wrong words and was way off-key. The Captain abruptly ejected his CD after one song because she just couldn't "take the noise any longer." All I wanted to do was listen to my iPod and write in my journal, but my prissy, pimple-free little sister, Melody, had to be so annoying with her I'm so good, I'm so good, I'm so good, good, good dance, sticking her bony fingers up in the air as she listed in perfect order, every capital of every state starting with Washington and going around the country. When this agony ended, Loser Daughter (me) was forced to "stay focused" and answer trivia-card questions my mother rattled off, instead of zoning out.
Even worse was being trapped in my parents 'battlefield. They'd been bickering more than usual, ever since they started planning Melody's bat mitzvah. My dad wanted to cut costs, but my mother was letting Melody choose last minute extras with the party planner and the event, a month away, was turning into one of those huge, overdecorated, ten motivators with the DJ type thing. It didn't seem fair that The Captain was making such a big to-do. Mine had been a simple luncheon in the temple social hall.
Excerpted from Unraveling by Michelle Baldini and Lynn Biederman. Copyright © 2008 by Lynn Biederman. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.