Chapter 1 – Losing My Background

I, Lanilei Maylinda Tostita, will not, I repeat, not fire my dad's rifle out of anger. I mean, there's no reason to. Will I fire it just because I'm having a bad day? Oh, no. I'm going to look over to the bright side.

What I'm seeing is so surprisingly funny because it shouldn't even exert a few laughs out of me. But I guess it does. On the "bright side" there are so many branchy and leaf-less trees stretching over a burnt horizon. I'm not wrong, this is a bright side. I can see tiny rays of the sun which are mostly covered by clouds. And if you try to look at the land from a distance, you can tell that it's a foggy day, even with all that sunlight.

At least it's brighter over there where I am over here. I mean, over here, it's midnight. The nighttime sky is cloudy, rain is pouring. So, from that, you don't see any stars or the moon, let alone the sun. Oh, but there's lightning. So much, in fact, that it's starting to make me go blind every time I go look out my window to try to help my sullen mood.

I think I won't ever see the light of day again. Not literally, well, maybe. Things happen, don't they?

My oh-so wonderful parents, Mr. Diego and Mrs. Marghenna Tostita, decided that it was time for a change, that a beautiful country life-style theme would suit the family well, would give us a nice up-bringing, especially if we started to work on a . . . farm.

Okay, it's not a farm, but as the realtor put it, it was a "rural agriculture" type of thing. I went with my parents to see the house and, well, it's huge, and has this nice woodsy, forest-y landscape. But it's not gorgeous – like having a huge grassy yard that usually will imply you would be loaded with money. This yard was mess-sy. But my dad saw potential in this one. He wants to raise horses in the enclosed fence. He wants goats. He wants chickens.

Help me! I do not, I repeat, do not want to turn into some Hicksville hillbilly. Over my dead body was that going to happen.

I'm a teensy bit happy about it, though, even if I don't want to admit such "blasphemous" words, as I would've said if anyone asked me if I was happy about it.

I am opting for a new life, strange as it may seem. It's not like I have anything exciting going on for me here in Marisport located in the very own Flowergrove County of New York.

Well, I do have things going on for me, with the exception of me being a sort of social outcast, which I can't help being. I'm not that smart, but I get by with my First Honors award – especially when you're going to Urselyn and taking the highest math class for your grade. My best friend, Valerie, was the salutatorian of my old eighth grade class from two years ago. I admit, being a salutatorian or valedictorian of your eighth grade class in a Catholic school might not seem like anything, and . . . well, I guess it wasn't anything but a friendly competition among students who've practically known each other for all of their lives.

But those high academic awards everyone is always pining for is just out of my reach. Too high. What's really been going for me here, is that I star in my school's play, and am really good at fashion. They clash well – I help design the play's wardrobe. But just because I'm good at that, it's not to say that I really have a high fashion sense. No, I don't dress according to the latest trends, but I may sometimes.

And guys? Well . . . there is one special guy out there – Jeremy Walters. He's been my friend since the beginning of high school, and, well, I just grew up on him. And I sort of developed a crush for him during the beginning of this school year, in September. But it wasn't that I had any special feelings for him – nothing out-of-the-ordinary.

And any other guys, well . . . yeah, I like some of them, but they would only think of me as my friend. That's all – a friend, and I don't think that I would want to admit anything like liking them any time soon.

And I guess that's all that's really special to me here. That, and the fact that I've been living here for the past fifteen years of my life! How could my parents just expect me to be happy that I'm going to go live with them in Montagino (affectionately called Montfakeo by me), Ogre County (that's seriously what it's called!) New York?!

Well, that's exactly what. I guess my parents don't mind doing that to me. I mean, I am a spoiled kid, not to mention reckless. I can't help it! I'm accident-prone to things like this. Every time I hear my mami on the phone when I'm around, she says things like, "Oh, my baby's here, Nina." Then she laughs. "Yeah, my bad-ass ruin-all-my-things-chika is here." Maybe I'm on the other receiving end of karma because of what I've done in my past life.

Okay, so I'm not exactly accident-prone. I bring some things onto myself. Like the time I went over my Aunt Peruvia's, her antiqued lamp got busted for some inexplicable reason. I mean, she went on and practically yelled my head off complaining about how quiet I am and how unintelligible I make myself seem. She told me that I needed an extra boost of self-esteem and self-confidence. Yeah, right, Big Bird. Now, you may think that I threw the lamp right on the floor, or unscrewed the bulb and messed up the wires a bit. But I didn't. I accidentally knocked into it when I was slowly walking into my room she saves me at her place.

And yet, I still remain number two on her "Favorite People" list. Number one would be my sweet darling cousin, Ermalinda Consuela, from my papi's side (he's Mexican and I'm half). She always gets the good grades and knows "how to talk", put in the words of my loving parents. She also is very pretty. Not hot or whatever because she doesn't have any "flava" as the white half of my cousins say. God, talk about unappreciative. She's pretty and she knows how to work that flirty charm of her's. Or any charm . . . I bet she sweet-talked Aunt Peruvia while bringing her favorite Mexican food – the taco, and not just from Taco Bell, either. She made it herself, and apparently, it came out delicioso.

Speaking of tacos and my recklessness, I remember a time when I wanted to cook tacos for my other aunt, Nani. I wanted to impress her so much because everyone looked down at me with disdain – mainly because they were jealous . . . I know that look. But my Nani admired me and praised me a lot, and she was mucho fun.

Anyway, the tacos that I made . . . bad idea. They came out all burnt and crisp, and, well, personally, I thought they were good (I like burnt food a lot). My mom told me that I had to get a move on it, and there was no time for a second batch. She also said that it was the thought that counted.

I arrived with the tacos and I guess Nani never counted the thought. Yeah, she hates burnt food – and I was trying to get my mom to realize why the second batch was so important. She looked at the tray while I got a good glimpse at her face. Yeah, not pleasant at all; her face was distorted and she wrinkled her nose in distaste.

She looked at my heart-broken and downcast face, and she held my chin up. She said, "Ay, my chika, fine. I'll eat one." She smiled at me, and then took one off the plate. Next, she gave the taco one more disgusted face and then slammed it into her mouth like there was no tomorrow.

It was a big mistake. The next thing I knew, she looked at the contents and gasped when she saw the red peppers. I only added them to add the authentic taste of spicy Spanish food. I thought it . . . made it all the more enticing. Not anymore, though. I'm sticking to the recipe.

Yeah, you can imagine her getting mad at me. She even expelled me from ever setting foot in her home again.

Basically, I'm mostly a hindrance to my dad's side of the family – there's worse that I've done to my other aunts and uncles (my cousins don't really have a problem with the "trouble-maker cuz"). Only me – my two brothers and my sister always get the praise for anything good that they do.

My aunts and uncles frequently remind me that I'm the "ugly duckling" of the family. Just because I went out on a limb and dyed my hair pink (that after two hours only came out to be magenta!) and putting some blue streaks on my layers. I thought that there was no harm in looking good, but apparently, my relatives (except the cousins – because some of them decided to be smart and copy me) thought that it was a disgrace.

They told me that I should be proud of my hair color – it was a deep blonde-tinted auburn. My abuelita – grandma – adored my hair, especially since it had a "beautiful" wave in it. I hated my hair, and since they tried to compliment me, I dyed it and had it permanently straightened.

Abuelita's never laid me any loving gazes anymore since then. But I know that deep down she loves me, her barbecue sauce – absurd, I know, but that's what she calls me. She still compliments me on my "perfect" body.

I don't think it's perfect – I'm short at five-foot-one-and-a-half. And I'm on the chubby side with me two pounds away from being labeled the one-forty-pounder. But, I mean, I do workouts, just so I'm able to stay healthy, at least, but I really do want to ease on the weight. And that is seriously what I look like – I am not lying when I say short or fat.

And then she goes even farther than that to say that I look pretty. My face is sort of wide, and when I smile, you can see portions of my skin – well, I don't really know how to elaborate on this. My nose is sort of flat, wide, and looks like a button. My dad said that he had a black uncle once. I called up my relatives to find him. And to my utter horror and disgust, he was only related to me by marriage of a brother of his.

But abuelita is my heroine, and she told me that I would make it out there. In her own words she told me on the phone yesterday, "Ay, poor baby! My Lani," she said. I could hear her tearing. Oh, no. She was going give me one of her "inspirational" speeches. "You know, when I was a small girl, I always had a home – it was right here. I never wanted to move. Branx is where us Latinos live. I was proud of that. But my mami and papi moved me to the subs. I thought nothing would happen to me, Lani. Like, Branx was the only place I belonged to. But then when I started living in my new place, honey, it was damn good. Everyone was . . . nice to each other – I had good looks where yours came from – and the guys were . . . woowhee! Lani, they were spicy!" I laughed when she said that. No grandmother should ever tell their grandchild that they think guys are spicy.

Eventually she kept going on about her speech – it was pretty long. But one part – the last part – really touched me, what she said. "Just know, that no matter what, barbecue sauce, that everything works out in the end. Your familia loves you and always will, hun'. And that no matter what else comes along the way, we always will. You don't always have friends to rely on, they're not too dependable. And, B-B-Q, boys are just a bunch of hijo de puta's – they never treat you right unless he's that spicy rib that's mixed in with the right amount of sweet." I could hear the smile in her voice.

"Now, Lani, I'm getting really old, and you know about my disease. I don't know how long I will live. But I will always be here and there to guide you, help you. You're my baby girl, my spicy chicken wing. Don't ever lose your flavor – for me, baby?. I hope I talk to you later. Bye-bye, barbecue sauce." Then I heard the phone click, but all I could do was hold the phone against my ear as the tears streamed down my face, just rolling down my cheeks.

My abuelita is really sweet, and uses weird food analogies, but I like that about her. Man, I wish she could live a little longer – I know she won't. The doctors my mami (because we're supposedly the richest family on my dad's side, and the family that abuelita particularly loves) hired explained to us that the longest she'd get would be until Christmas time – that only gives us two months to be with her. They said that her age, 82, and that disease is really cutting down her life meter.

My abuelito doesn't actually care. He's all, "Your abuela will live. Doctors are a bunch of stupids. They know nothing about old age." Well, I think my grandpapi does care. I think he loves my abuelita more than anyone in the world – especially now. I think he's just scared that my abuelita will leave him forever, and that he'd have to wait until it was his turn to go.

And my other grandparents? Well, my grandpa's dead, and my grandma has Alzheimer's disease. So I can't really visit them or spend any time with them, which I wish I could do.

I was brought up being closer to the Mexican side of my family because my mother's side sort of . . . shunned us when they found out she was being married to my dad. I don't get why they were so racist about it. I mean, Italy lies close to Spain which, if I am correct, colonized Mexico – but I really don't remember things in history class after I take a test or something, so I don't know if that's true.

Then again, I don't know if many things are true. I mean, what if this "moving" thing isn't true? That it's just a dream, or nightmare, or some cruel and unusual joke that my parents are deciding to play on me? Whatever this moving thing is, I'm not liking it at all.

Because I think that moving will take the Mexican chick I've always been brought up as away from the real part of me.

"Lei-lei!" shrieks my mom at me. "What the hell do you think you're doing with those boxes?!"

I shrug and looked her square in the eye – I am not afraid of her, which does make me rude and disrespectful, but I can't help being headstrong and stubborn. I am only sitting on the boxes and closing and re-opening the boxes. Can I help it if I am bored and don't really want to help out (because I am lazy)?

She looks at me incredulously, as if I was crazy because I shouldn't be able to hold such confidence and defiance. "What?" I ask in an irritated voice.

She clucks her tongue at me and tells me in a threatening voice that I should respect and obey her because I am her daughter and that she is right because she is my mom. I roll my eyes at that, and mumble, "You, sure aren't acting like a mom." Then I continue gathering stuff up to help pack up.

My mom spins on her heel, and let me tell you, when she's wearing heels, she can spin on them fast. "What did you say?" she asks in this voice that I know is her being annoyed and infuriated at the same time.

I look at her and say, "Nothing. What? I'm helping."

Then, we carefully handle the boxes into the moving truck, and I sit alongside my dad as he drives, and next to my mom. I am unwillingly squished into the middle seat. Lucky me.

My cell phone goes off and before I pick it up to answer, I look at who is calling. It's Havannah, my cousin that looks up to me so much because she just adores pink, even if my hair didn't come out looking like the box said it would be magenta.

I don't know why she's calling, though. She knows that I said I was sorry for calling Tahj Jones, rap-star extra ordinaire. Pshaw, I called him and asked him to rap for me – just to hear if he was as good as Havannah described it. He came up with some lame-ass rhyme about me being half-white, half-Spanish with a "be-you-tee-full" voice. And the racial comment – oh, yeah. That pissed me off.

I flip my phone open and say in a bored voice, "Pizza Hut, how may I serve you a booty-licious meal?"

I hear Havannah laugh, but my mom turns my head to me, glares and says, "Who are you talking to?"

I shrug and respond by saying, "Havannah, my chickadee."

Havannah actually called to tell me that she'd miss me and my crazy antics and behavior – especially my pink hair. She wants me to call her every time that I meet a hot boy or get a boyfriend – a new one. She's so boy-crazy. I'm a year older than her, and I don't even have as much desire that she has contained inside of her. She and I tell stories to each other on the phone of when we were little and the good times that we had, and of crazy things. Like abuelita – how special she was to us and how we were scared she was going to die too soon. Then I unwillingly tell her goodbye because my parents want to talk to me.

My mom speaks first. "It's not like you're moving a day away from Havannah, so there's no need to get all . . . weird and mushy like you did right now," she said, sneering. "Honey, it's not like you're moving across the world. You can visit each other."

Then, my dad tells me, "Yeah, baby-girl. You can always go visit your abuela every month. Me and your mami don't mind, right?"

She gets all huffy then says, "I mind. You might not, but I do. I don't want my daughter seeing any of those riff-raffs again. They were such bad influence on her. I mean, Diego! Look at your daughter's hair! It looks like a rainbow."

I turn my head to give her a glare – for heaven's sake! My hair's pink, not every color known to man! – and she just looks back at me with disdain. My mom and I never see eye-to-eye – I'm taller than she by two inches.

"I know," he says laughing. He picks up several strands and tells me, "Dios, oye mi canto! Green looks better." Then he bursts out laughing at his "funny" joke.

I huff, and cross my arms over my chest. This is going to be one long hell of a ride, I think to myself.

And it turns out, I was right.

"Margie!" My dad exclaims. He's been driving around for five hours, trying to find his way through all the streets and highways, and my mom claims that she is "helping" him. But, I really do think that she's helping him; my dad's just a little annoyed.

She screams back, "What, Diego?! We're not going in the right direction! The map and the directions told us to take a left turn thirty miles ago! Diego, are you listening to me?" Aw, crap. My parents are fighting in the moving truck.

And fighting in a moving van is clearly not a good idea – it's much more different than if you were riding in a car. Different? Why? Because, this one has one of those radio communication things installed for some reason. And I've been trying to get my mami or even my papi who is driving to pick it up and ask for directions instead of following a map or even your own common sense.

Thirty minutes later and they're still fighting. I think this will be the cause of the rift in their marriage, the cause of their divorce. Not like I want it to happen, or anything, but seriously they need to settle their differences if we're ever going to arrive in Montagino/Montfakeo.

Finally, I yell at the top of my lungs, "Look!" Then in a more calmed-down voice, "There's one of those communicator things," I say, pointing to it.

My mom takes a look at it and beams. "Our daughter is so smart! I didn't even notice that . . . thing."

Papi shrugs and goes, "That's our smart genes, for you, babe."

I turn to my mom and ask, "Well, aren't you going to try it out? They could probably help us get back on the right track." My suggestion is brilliant, and shouldn't be taken lightly, especially if my parents want to make it to the new house.

She frowns and says, "We don't know if it'll work, Lei-lei."

I roll my eyes, and sigh. "Can't you just try?" I question her in this exasperated voice.

She looks at me funny and sighs. She picks up the transmitter and reports, "Hello? Is anyone there? My family and I are stuck and we need directions. My husband's an egotistical ass . . ." My mom and I laugh at that, and then I suggest that she say over and out, but she glares at me when I told her to say it. My dad just laughs with me.

So, when we try again, there was this guy with a weird accent that answers. "Hello?" he says in a mid-Atlantic drawl. "How may I he-yelp ya, miss?"

Then, my mom starts telling him about everything that happened, including bits and pieces of our conversation. Honestly, all he probably wants are the details about where we are and what exits we've made.

But surprisingly, he adds in his comments about our conversations, and I'm starting to get suspicious, especially when my mom starts calling him "John" and the guy starts calling her "Margie". I can tell that papi is pissed. No one ever dares call my mom "Margie" except for him.

Me and my dad are still trying to find the road that we should be on while my mom is practically flirting with the guy on the receiver end. Wow, mom. Way to start off the big move.

I'm getting sick of this, so I grab the transmitter thing, and yell into it, "Would you just shut up, stop flirting with my mom and tell us already where we're supposed to go?"

I shove it back to my mom, who is annoyed and embarrassed at the same time. I don't get why she is annoyed, but I smile smugly back at her, and this time, her face turns all red. "What is my daughter's problem?"

My dad then starts biting her head off, telling her that she should have been getting directions from the moronic man on the phone, and shouldn't ever, ever say that in any way his daughter is demented.

I don't know where he picked demented up from, but I was happy to hear him defend me nonetheless. And, defend himself. My mom started arguing, saying that my papi shouldn't have been jealous – she was only "trying" to get the man to give her directions, but he started "talking" to her instead.

I sigh. Why can't things be easier in my life?

Author's Notes:

D'aw... isn't the grandma so adorable?! I wish my grandparental units were alive... AH! LOL Ooh! She's moving! (- we know that) Alright!

Em... okay. Marisport is set to resemble Port Chester (where I used to live... hm... I dunno. Should I be giving out my own personal information so freely? ESPECIALLY when there are pretty much insane psychotic stalkers EVERYWHERE?! Hm? I guess it's time to serve you some dinner Poop: ::pretending to be my imaginary friend:: I was dinner. Muahahaha! And the phrase is, "... time to serve you for dinner" in my book. Makes it sound more interesting if you're going to cook that person, NOT serve them something that you cooked.) and Flowergrove County is supposed to resemble Westchester County. Heehee... I gave it a purdy name. ;; And New York? ... - Do I have to give it a resembling name? Geez... I just didn't want to put the real Port Chester and Westchester County because you know... that disclaimer-ish thing. I dunno... forgot it. But... it's the thing where it says stuff telling you that there was in no way that some of these things could have actually happened. That if it did, then it's purely coincidental, jah? LOL. Alrighty... I dunno how to esplain ( – Funny when said) it. (Wow...! This paragraph is... long. It looks longer than my story. LOL. Just kidding... I hope.

And about Urselyn, LOL, it's supposed to resemble the all-powerful, all-smarts, all-11,000-dollar-tuition-ness Ursuline. Teeheehee.

Montagino – Montgomery

Ogre County – Orange County (heh... Ogre and Orange...)

New York – New York (you idiot. -u JUST KIDDING!)

Oh, and I'm going to make the distance time longer than it actually is – em... will four hours suffice? Yep, I think it will.

Em... yeah. LOL. Branx... stupid, right? Just replace the "A" with an "O". Hee – and anything having to do with an abuelita or the Bronx is strictly in my imagination – ALL my grandparents are dead. See? Not everything resembled my life.

NO, NO, NO! I am not racist! Please, please, please don't kill me! I was only trying to describe it, and I didn't want to say Asian because . . . well, I didn't really want to describe myself much. Pretty much everything that she looked like was sort of me, ESPECIALLY THE BODY! I AM EXACTLY WHAT SHE IS AND ONLY FOURTEEN! (JUST TURNED IT ON JULY 3, WHERE'S MY PRESENT?!) – minus the hair. My hair is black/dark brown. Until June. . . LOL I WANTED RED! The lady at the salon gave me BLONDE hair because she claimed that the blonde just decided to blend in instead of the red or whatever... so yeah. LOL It kinda grew out an inch.

So. . . this'll be a teensy bit like my real-life story, but I'm not going to make the main character me. I'm only wanting to start it off like my life – minus the rifle part. LOL. And no, I was really . . . depressed (?) when I first heard about us moving to Orange County. Not even a tiny bit ecstatic when I heard we were moving and I could start my new life there. VV ... I DON'T WANNA MOVE! ;;

Alrighty! That was a REALLY long Author's note, huh? Especially for a first chapter! #.# – I doubt that it's going to be long for the rest of the chapters. This was just fun to write!

Review to your heart's desire... LOL. nn And, uh . . . here's a question I'd like you to answer in your review - do you think this story has potential? I mean, I will include romance, but I don't want it to get over-indulged in the story. . . you know what I mean?

Oh, by the way... heh... TTu does anyone know Spanish? LOL. I'm only writing down Spanish words that I can vaguely connect to English ones... so... yeah. I mainly picked them up from Dora the Explorer... XD. Yeah, so, help? But I probably won't need it, anyway. LOL After all, she's moving and the only time she'd speak Spanish is if there's a phone call or something. U And give me a good disease old people get, please? It's for Lanilei's abuelita!

And this title is subject to change . . . I can't really establish a title if I haven't written the whole story, can I?