As I mentioned in my first post this month about fathers in YA and MG novels, sometimes the father is not a part of the story, but there is a fatherly replacement. Author Laura Kennedy treats us today with a scene from her YA novel Double Take, where the fatherly role belongs to a very faithful butler to a rather eccentric older lady. I recently finished this novel, and if you’re a fan of classic movies, I recommend it. It’s like the film Sunset Boulevard updated and starring a teenage girl.
Below the excerpt, you’ll find links to where you can get yourself a copy. Also, feel free to scroll further down and read the excerpts from the other visiting authors and leave a comment.
When sixteen-year-old Brooke Bentley's green convertible and cell phone conk out during a tropical rainstorm, she believes it's just bad luck. But when she darts through the dark to a dilapidated Victorian she thinks is the home of a friend and is invited in by a butler wearing a faded black tux, Brooke knows it must be karma. Because how often do you meet a reclusive 1950's movie star who thinks she's actress Terry Moore? And how often does someone as charming as eighty-year-old Laura de France insist on turning you into a movie star, too?
In this conversation James, who is Miss de France’s loyal African-American butler, has a father-like talk with sixteen-year-old Brooke Bentley explaining the elderly actress’ fragile condition. Brooke already feels tremendously guilty since she is indirectly responsible for Miss de France’s heart attack.
James was waiting for me at the bottom of the staircase. I sat down beside him.
“It’s her heart, isn’t it?” I said, looking into his worried face.
He nodded. His voice was nice again. “I’m afraid her condition has worsened.”
I can’t take this. I have enough guilt in my life. “Worsened? Please don’t tell me they sent her home to die!”
“No, nothing like that. It just means she has to be more careful. She has something called an arrhythmia. Usually it’s not that serious, but I’m afraid the stress from last night…” His voice trailed.
“Pushed her into atrial fibrillation, which just means the electrical impulses in the heart are irregular, so it beats faster.”
“But she’s going to be okay, right?” I said, coaxing him along.
“She should be. She just needs to stay calm and happy.” James looked into my eyes.
“But what will make her happy?” I said, fearing the answer.
“Brooke, remember last night when you asked me if Madame had any family, and I told you she’d had a niece who died?”
“Her name was Stephanie, a beautiful girl with long blonde hair. Miss de France adored her. She gave her everything. On the morning of Steffie’s sixteenth birthday she surprised her with a pink Thunderbird convertible with white leather upholstery and a white top.”
I thought of my Grandma Donnie and how she’d given me the Green Lady on my birthday. “Miss de France must have loved her a lot.”
“Very much so.”
“Steffie was in an auto accident. Some of her friends on the beach arranged a birthday party for her, and on the way there she skidded off the causeway in the rain. She died instantly.”
“You mean she died the same day Miss de France gave her the car?”
“The very same day.”
I blinked back a tear. “I just can’t imagine.”
“Either could Madame. Steffie was her world and when she died, part of Miss de France died too.”
That’s why Miss de France looks so sad and lonely. Her heart is broken.
“You remind Madame of Steffie,” James went on. “And when you appeared on our doorstep that night, dripping wet . . . Well, your resemblance was uncanny.”
I tried to imagine the Green Lady skidding into the bay and dying. I looked down at the black and white entry tiles, not wanting to meet James’ eyes.
“She needs you,” he said. “I can count on you to be there for her, can’t I?” It didn’t sound like a question.
I raised my head. “Yes, you can.”
His face softened. “I knew you would. You’re a good girl.” Pulling himself up on the banister, he got to his feet.
“I have to go,” I said. “I haven’t even told my parents what happened.”
He shadowed me to the front door. “So, what time will you be here tomorrow?”
What time will you be here? Panic washed over me. Miss de France expected me tomorrow and probably for every tomorrow the rest of her life. For all I knew she’d live to be a hundred. I imagined myself twenty years from now, a middle-aged wreck of thirty-six. My life would never be the same. I was Miss de France’s slave.
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LAURA KENNEDY lives in Tarpon Springs, a Greek sponge fishing town on the West Coast of Florida. She grew up in Minneapolis where her mother was a romance writer who helped her father support the family. By the time she was twenty-two, she lived in Southern California, was married, had a baby, and was broke, the perfect Petri dish for the beginning of a writing career. Encouraged by her mother's writing success, Laura borrowed her mother's portable typewriter on which she concocted her first story that sold for the staggering sum of $225.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.