Today's Reading

"OMG spill it," says Jenna. She's standing under the basketball hoop with Kate.

"What?" I say, trying to be casual. "Just hanging with Leo and Naomi, whatever."

"Is he cute? Does he give you that look?" Kate asks.

"Yes and no. Absolutely cute and he's barely looked at me." 

"So, the hair's a waste?" Jenna's referring to the fact that I've blown out my hair.

"Yeah, that was a little overboard," I admit. "If you saw Naomi Sanchez in person you'd understand why he wasn't so focused on me."

"Hey, Nora." Molly Richter approaches us. "Looking good, nice hair." Molly's that classic bitch you knew in middle school who never snapped out of it. We have to be nice to her because she's head of the PTA and seems to have the authority to randomly assign volunteer positions. We steer clear of Molly Richter like people used to steer clear of the draft.

"I hear you're playing Hollywood this week," she goes on.

"I am." It's important when talking to Molly that you don't offer any additional information or ask any follow-up questions.

"Well, cute. Don't forget that Oliver Twist rehearsals are next Wednesday after school and you've signed up to watch the kids backstage."

"How could I forget? It's all Arthur talks about." And I've shown my hand. I should never have blown out my hair. Kate gasps, like I'm sinking into quicksand and she has no rope to throw me.

"Oh, is Arthur interested in a big part?" Molly doesn't give me a chance to respond. "That's great! Because I was going to name you play chairman, and if he's going to be so involved, you'll be there anyway. Perfect." She jots something down in her Columbo-style notebook as she turns on her heel and walks away.

Jenna is laughing. "You're so screwed."

"Yeah, I hate to say it, but you are," Kate says. "If you say no, not that she even gave you a chance, she'll make sure Arthur's a tree or a stone or something." Tryouts were today, so I'm hoping it's too late for Molly to wield her power and blackball my ten-year-old. Arthur is in the middle of another round of spring sports disasters, and this play is a lifeline.

"I know. And it's fine. If Arthur gets a part, I'll get people to help."

"No one wants to help," says Jenna.

"Then I'll do whatever it is. This is literally everything to Arthur. It's the first thing I've seen him excited about since Ben left."

I don't usually mention Ben. Not because it's too painful, but because I almost never think about him. I've created an awkward silence though, and it seems to work to my benefit.

"We'll help," they say.

"You guys are the best." The bell rings and dozens of children pour out of the school. Arthur runs over to us, dumps his backpack at my feet, and chases a bunch of kids to the jungle gym. I'm not sure what this means about how his audition went.

Bernadette, the eight-year-old boss of my family, barrels over to me and slams me with a hug. "Did he say anything about your hair?"

"He did not; I should have worn yours." I smooth my hands over Bernadette's brown curls. They seem straight out of The Little Rascals, like old-fashioned hair.

"Let's go," she commands. "They're leaving in three hours."

"They'll be back tomorrow," I say. Bernadette looks at me like I've lost my mind. "Okay, fine." I call to Arthur, and he drags his body across the blacktop.

"Seriously? It's only three-fifteen. Does weirdo need to get home to stare at the movie stars?" Arthur wiggles his fingers, failing to seem menacing.

"How was the audition?" I ask.

"I got it." Arthur gives me a half smile that tells me he doesn't want me to make a scene on the playground. 

I pick up his backpack. "Let's get out of here before I do something embarrassing."

* * *

Bernadette is out of her mind as we round the last curve of our driveway. Arthur is committed to trying to seem like he's too cool for the biggest stars in Hollywood. They'd be lucky to meet him, he seems to want us to think. He's got a major role in Oliver Twist after all. "Mom, she's so embarrassing. Everyone at recess and lunch was asking me about this movie. We're like freaks in town."

This excerpt ends on page 17 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book HOW TO STEAL A SCOUNDREL'S HEART by Vivienne Lorret.

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