Chapter One - Simone

I was sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of Fruit Loops when my mom walked into the room. She looked amazing for someone who had just dragged herself out of bed and into a shower. I could tell because she was dressed in her white terrycloth Calvin Klein bathrobe, her hair still dripping with water. The thing with my mom is, she manages to look gorgeous all of the time. I suppose that's a good thing, because you never know if there's a tabloid reporter lurking around our upscale Beverley Hills neighborhood, waiting to photograph my mom as she takes out the trash or something. Believe me, it could happen. I can just imagine a photo of my mom on the front page of the Sun, glancing around shiftily, lugging out a heavy black garbage bag (the contents of which resemble a human corpse).

Angela Sinclair: Angelic Actress, or Masochistic Murderer?

My mom sat down across from me, and took a deep breath. She looked slightly guilty.

"Simone, honey, we need to talk."

I knew instantly from the tone of her voice that I wasn't going to like what she was about to say. I looked up expectantly.

"I was thinking about how I just signed on to shoot 'Setting Sun' in Australia, and, well…" she trailed on, looking out the window.

"Yeah," I prodded, with a mouthful of Fruit Loops, thinking of how I'd already started planning my wardrobe for a six-month vacation in Australia. Though it wouldn't actually be a vacation because I'd still have to keep up with all the other seniors in the country by independent study. Still, I was looking forward to afternoons spent sunning myself at the beach, and evenings at the Sydney Opera House.

This was definitely one of the benefits of having a famous actress as your mother: she always takes you with her when she's filming, or attending a movie premiere. Well, at least my mom does, though I can't speak for Nicole Kidman.

"Well, I've been thinking… maybe it's not such a great idea to drag you all the way to Australia this year."

I stared at her in shock, a spoonful of fruit loops still in my mouth. I swallowed.

"Mom," I said, "it's okay. I really wouldn't mind. At all."

"Oh I know honey," my mom said dismissively, "but this is going to be your senior year. It's going to be possibly the most memorable year of your academic career – "

"But mom," I whined, "I can handle it! I mean, I've done it before, independent study is fine! I'll still get my diploma and go to university next year and all – "

"Yes," she interrupted, "I know that you'll get a perfectly alright education by teaching yourself, but the point is that you're going to miss out on all the other stuff. You know, homecoming… senior skip day… prom. The stuff that I missed out on."

Then I realized why she was so intent on me having a "normal" high school year for once. My mom became pregnant with me when she was only 16, and dropped out of high school near the end of junior year. So I guess she now resents the fact that when all her friends were busy attending homecomings and senior proms, she was in Los Angeles waitressing, and trying to feed her 1-year-old daughter.

"Okay," I said, "so you're planning to let me stay home alone, for six months, while you're on the other side of the world?"

My mom smiled sheepishly.

"Ah, yes," she said, "I was getting to that."

I crossed my arms, waiting for an explanation.

"I just got off the phone with your aunt Sarah, and she's very eagerly invited you to stay at her house for a year."

Aunt Sarah isn't really my aunt. In fact, she has no blood relation to me whatsoever. She's my mom's step-sister, and ten years older than my mom.

I felt as if a deadweight had just been dropped into my stomach. I've never met aunt Sarah, but from what I knew about her, she sounded boring. She's the exact opposite of my mother, and spends her days as an accountant living in suburbia. I remembered my mom mentioning how aunt Sarah is married to a banker, has 3 kids, and lives a perfectly respectable and tedious life in a Nowhere, Connecticut. In other words, aunt Sarah is my worst nightmare realized.

"You're sending me to live in some hick town on the east coast for a year?" I said, disbelievingly. "You've got to be kidding!"

"Simone, sweetie, it'll be a good experience for you. You'll finally see what a normal life is like, far away from all the superficiality of LA."

I stared at her, unable to say anything. I was still having trouble digesting everything she had said yesterday. I longed to be back in my bed, dreamily planning out my Australian wardrobe. Now everything had come crashing down. I couldn't believe that my mom really wanted me to live an entire year with a complete stranger, whom I had never even met. In fact, I would have to get along with Sarah's entire family! I pouted.

"Oh it's not so bad," said my mom, patting me on the back, "and Sarah's oldest son is your age. He'll show you around the town, and you can finally enjoy life as a normal teenager."

"Whoopee," I responded, dryly.
Though I had sworn to myself that over my dead body would I be flying to Connecticut, I somehow found myself unwillingly packing up my belongings that very same night. I was standing in the middle of my bedroom, with my biggest duffel bag open on my bed, feeling sad that I would be leaving my house for so long. I could hear my mom shuffling around in her room, no doubt packing too, though for an extended vacation in Australia. That was where I had thought I was going until this morning, when my heartless mother dropped The Bomb on my unsuspecting head.

I sighed, then walked across the room and stood examining my most prized possession: my bulletin board. Like any other teenage girl, I kept glossy pictures of numerous celebrities in my bedroom, all of which were displayed proudly on my board. However, unlike other teenage girls, I was actually in these photos, posing and smiling right along with the celebrities. No doubt about it, my mom has a lot of famous friends. A lot of famous friends who happen to have many other famous friends. I briefly considered taking all of these pictures off of the board and bringing them with me to Connecticut, but as I turned and looked at the duffel bag on my bed, I knew I couldn't: it was already overflowing with only my basic necessities. Still, I couldn't resist. I reached up and removed my favorite photo from the board. It had been taken during a movie premiere, and had my 15-year old self standing in the middle, smiling, with Brad Pitt on the left, my mom on the right. Both have their arms around me and are grinning happily into the camera. I, too, am grinning like an idiot into the camera, not only because I had a major crush on Brad Pitt, but also because I believed my love life was complete. I remember that day so well, because Jared Thompson had asked me out that very morning, and I had been literally on top of the world. Of course, I later discovered that although he was a senior who looked really good in his basketball jersey, he was also a complete jackass who only wanted to get into my pants.

I decided that I had to at least take this photo along. I kissed the Brad Pitt in the picture, then walked over to my bed and stashed the photo inside the front compartment of my duffel bag.

There was a knock at my door.

"Come in," I called. My mom first peeked her head in, then opened the door and walked in, a cordless phone in her hand.

"Simone, it's your aunt Sarah," she said, handing me the phone, "she wants to talk to you."

I took the phone, and my mom left the room. It was the first time I had ever spoken to my "aunt" Sarah. I suppose it's because my mom doesn't really talk with her all that much. I mean, there's always a phone call on Christmas, but that's basically it. I suppose her and my mom don't have that much in common anyway.

"Hello?" I said, walking to my dresser and opening it. I was determined to keep packing while I talked.

"Simone, it's so good to finally talk to you!" said the voice at the other end. Her voice was faint, probably due to a bad connection, but I was still surprised by how young she sounded.

"Hi aunt Sarah," I replied, removing a pile of socks with left hand, and tossing them into my duffel.

"Oh, just Sarah is fine," she said.

"Okay… Sarah." I replied. I really didn't know what to say to her, or why we were even talking on the phone.

She laughed. "Simone, I just wanted to let you know that we are all really excited to have you stay with us. My husband, the kids, and I are really looking forward to meeting you."

"Oh, yeah. Thanks for inviting me," I lied.

"It's my pleasure," she said, sounding genuinely happy, "what are you up to right now?"

"I'm packing," I responded, as I sorted through my bottom dresser drawer for good underwear.

"That's good to hear," she said, her voice suddenly becoming more serious and businesslike. "Listen, your mom just bought your plane ticket, and I want to go over what's going to happen, okay?"

I swear, she sounded like she was the leader of a mob or something.

"Sure, go ahead," I said.

"Ok, so your plane leaves tomorrow at 9:00 pm from LAX – "

"Tomorrow?" I asked, astonished, "what's with the rush? "

"Well, Simone, your mother and I think it's best if you arrive as soon as possible. That way you can adjust and settle in before school starts."

"Never mind, it's fine," I muttered. My mom clearly wanted to get rid of me quickly, whatever her reason. "Go ahead."

"You're plane leaves from L.A. tomorrow night, then sometime along the way you'll make a stop in Philadelphia, then arrive in New Haven the next morning at 10 am. We'll be waiting for you once you get off the plane."

"Sounds great," I said, rather unenthusiastically.

"Ok, excellent," she said, "I will see you on Sunday morning."