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I don’t know if it was the whispers or the squeaking bedsprings, but something made me open my eyes at exactly 12:13 a.m. Staring at the red digits, I felt that where-am-I? you get when you wake up in the middle of the night in a bed that isn’t yours in a place that doesn’t smell like home. Musty, with a hint of ocean. Oh yeah. I remembered. Once I figured out where I was, I knew the voices and squeaks had to be coming from a certain bed across the room.

Or maybe what woke me up was my little sister Emmy talking in her sleep. She does that a lot at home, too.

What she said, just as I was coming to, was “Paul,” which was weird, because I was pretty sure that the person on the bed with the girl across the room—who could only be Beka because it was her bed—was a guy named Paul.

After Emmy said that, they got quiet for what seemed like forever. Then Emmy said something all mumbly, but with a very clear “fried clams” in the middle, which I thought was pretty funny, and which let them know she was dreaming. Slowly the bed springs started up again. The two people across the room resumed their activity without realizing that they had, indeed, been discovered, not by Emmy but by me.

I wasn’t sure what I had discovered though, because I couldn’t see them from the position I lay in, and if I rolled over, my cot would squeak too and they’d surely look my way and I didn’t know if I could pull off the fake sleep thing. So all I had to go on was what I could hear.

He said: “Here?"

She said: “Yeah."

Then quiet.

He said: “Mmm. Cool.”

She said: “How about this?”

Quiet.

He said, “That’s great.”

She said: “Shhh!” And giggled.

Paul works here, at Farnsworth House, the place my father calls The Hippie Hotel because it’s run by Paul’s mother Sharon, a tie-dye-and-Birkenstock-wearing woman whose gray hair is so long it almost reaches her butt. Dad took us—me, Emmy, and our brother Chris—on this weird vacation. It’s called “Together Time.” The website promises  “Single parents and their children an old-fashioned family vacation among other families in a historic, rambling cottage-by-the-sea.”
I think the idea is that if you get divorced kids together with other divorced kids, they won’t feel so bad about being divorced.

So far it hasn’t worked.

You should see the other “families” here. Aside from Sharon and Paul, and my Dad and us, there’s just one right now, made up of Loraine Panetta, who talks and smokes all the time, her fifteen year-old daughter Beka—the one on the bed with Paul—and her six year-old twins Sammi (a girl) and Sean (a boy).

Since Beka and I are so close in age, you might think, as I thought before I met her, that there would be some friend potential. But there isn’t. We’re different. Way different.

First of all, she lives in New York and goes to private school. I live in the suburbs and go to a big public high school. Those two facts in and of themselves should tell you a lot.

Beka is one of those New York private school girls who’s taken so many ballet lessons that she stands and walks with her feet permanently turned out in second position. She’s punk, though, not princess. She’s got the all-black wardrobe, the eyeliner, the jet-black dyed hair. She smokes too, which every New York private school girl—punk or princess—does, and which probably helps her stay as skinny as she is. She hates her mother, and flirts with all the guys in the house, including my brother and my father, as well as Paul, even though Paul’s the only one she really wants.

Beka, Emmy, Sammi and I had been sleeping in the “girls’ dormitory”—Sharon’s fancy name for an attic room with a bunch of mismatched twin beds, futons and squeaky cots—for three nights, but all Beka had said to me was stuff like, “There’s no eating allowed up here, you know.” As if she was the big rule follower. And, “Excuse me, excuse me, can I get by?” In a way that implied I was too big to walk around, which, while I admit to putting on a few pounds lately, is still a huge, mean exaggeration. And, “Brett Smith? You still listen to Brett Smith?” when she flipped through my CD carrier the first night without asking.

Okay. As you’ve probably gathered, I am not skinny. Aside from that, I can’t dance. I don’t smoke. I can’t even talk to—never mind flirt with—boys my age. And yes, I listen to Brett Smith.

I listen to Brett Smith even though she is now one of the top-selling recording artists of all time. Even though some of her fans are as young as eleven. Even though you can’t go for a twenty-minute car ride without hearing her on the radio, or watch TRL without seeing her latest video. I listened to her before any of this happened, back when I was twelve and my Uncle Steve bought me her debut CD to encourage me with my piano. And I’m not going to stop listening to her now, just because all these other people know how good she is, now that she’s no longer got the cult thing going on, and now that she’s rich. Besides, I happen to know that she gives a lot of her money away to shelters for runaway girls and arts programs in inner-city schools.

Beka prefers cutting-edge punk bands with cult followings. She’s always trying to get my brother, Chris, to listen to some CD or other of a band she knows from “The Village” or heard about through her punk connections on the Internet.

I don’t smoke. Not that I’m such a goody-good or anything. It’s just that it makes me sick, literally. The first time I tried—at the beginning of eighth grade—I almost threw up, and the second time I tried—at the end of eighth grade—I did throw up. And so I haven’t tried since.

Dancing I wish I could do, but I can’t. This is not a low self-esteem thing. I really cannot dance. To begin with, I don’t have a dancer’s body. At least not a skinny ballerina dancer’s body like Beka’s. I’m not exactly fat. Though I’ve been close over the last year or so. Anyway it’s not just about size. My friend Zann dragged me to one of her hip-hop classes, where there were lots of unskinny girls who could really move. I just can’t get the music to come out my legs and feet.

What's New?

| Hippie Hotel Home | Main House | Girls' Attic | Where the Boys Are | Parlor | Food | Send a Postcard | Meet Rosemary | Contact Rosemary | Read an Excerpt | Buy the Book | Credits |