It's 1971, and seventeen-year-old Chloe and her best friend MJ head to San Francisco to ring in the New Year. But Chloe has an ulterior motive—and a secret. She's pregnant and has devised a plan not to be. In San Francisco's flower-power heyday, it was (just about) legal to end her pregnancy.
But as soon as the girls cross the Golden Gate, the scheme starts to unravel amid the bellbottoms, love-beads, and bongs. Chloe's secrets escalate until she betrays everyone she cares about. MJ, who has grave doubts about Chloe's plan. Her groovy aunt Kiki, who's offered the girls a place to crash. Her self-absorbed mother meditating back in Phoenix. And maybe, especially, the boy she wishes she'd waited for.
In Susan Carlton's Love and Haight, Chloe discovers that easy love is anything but easy.
|Publisher:||Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)|
|File size:||407 KB|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Susan Carlton was born in San Francisco, although (regrettably) she did not come of age in the hippie era. The author of the teen novel Lobsterland and a writer for magazines including Self, Elle, and Mademoiselle, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband. Her college-aged daughters know all the lyrics to "Baba O'Riley."
Susan Carlton was born in San Francisco, although (regrettably) she did not come of age in the hippie era. The author of the teen novel Lobsterland and a writer for magazines including Self, Elle, and Mademoiselle, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband. Her college-aged daughters know all the lyrics to “Baba O’Riley.”
Read an Excerpt
Love and Haight
The view was wrong. That's what Chloe kept thinking. Where was the phantasmagoric bridge? Where was the Rice-A-Roni cable car?
She'd been waiting eleven hours for this moment. Eleven hours in the Lady Bug from Phoenix, bending north past Hollywood, then Santa Barbara, then Santa Cruz, then, finally, San Francisco. Eleven hours of loading up on Tab and pulling over to pee. Eleven hours of speculating about what trouble two girls could stir up on their pre-New Year's road trip. Every twenty minutes, MJ would come up with a cheer, a leftover habit from her majorette days. The punch line was always 1972. I'm gonna wanna screw ... in 1972. We'll party, woo-hoo-hoo ... in 1972. Let's all have cheese fondue ... in 1972.
And then ...
"There it is!" Chloe said, getting a far-off glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge busting into the sky.
MJ started the count. "And a five, six, seven, eight."
In unison they unlocked their respective sides of the Bug'sconvertible roof. MJ climbed into the back seat, yanking the canvas roof along with her, and snapped it into place.
The air was minty fresh from all the eucalyptus trees at the side of the road. Chloe breathed in deeply.
"No turning back now!" MJ took a fistful of Cracker Jack, of happy food, and threw it like confetti.
"Cut it out." Chloe batted away the sticky bits.
The bridge slipped from view, but there was no doubt they were hurtling ahead, top down, to spend Christmas break in the most grooved-out city on the planet.
MJ fiddled with the radio. Static / classical music, static/jingle bells, static / traffic report, static/sitar. Finally, she hit an FM station at the top of the dial and the Who came through. I said, now I've got my MAGIC Bus ... .
The road thrummed under the wheels.
"It's so huge!" MJ said, when the bridge emerged again.
"It's not even golden," Chloe said. "It's orange. A color called International Orange, not golden at all. That's what it said in the Triple-A guide."
The freeway zigzagged right, left, right, right, left, then straight to the bridge.
They'd gone twenty miles out of their way, looping north to go south just to enter the city via the bridge--but instead of gunning the engine, Chloe flicked on her turn signal.
"What are you doing?" MJ yelled over the Who. The Saint Christopher medal she'd hung from the rearview mirror swung to and fro.
MJ shot her a quick look. "Uh, we're halfway on a bridge."
"No, we're either on a bridge or we're not. And we're not."
So far, senior year was all either / or. Either a fox or a prude. Either a partier or a dud. Either a hippie or a conformist. Either on the magic bus or off it.
Chloe downshifted--fourth, then third, then second and stopped in the makeshift emergency shoulder just before the on-ramp.
"Holy shit! You're crazy," MJ said, getting out the passenger door.
Chloe climbed over the gearshift and got out on the guardrail side, too. A pickup truck zoomed by, and the ground quivered.
The air, the realness, made her queasy. Chloe took the sunglasses from the top of her head and slid them over her eyes.
"I'm okay," MJ said. "Are you okay?"
They'd had to read the crappy self-help book I'm OK--You're OK in Girls' Health. It had become their inside joke. At a party one or the other of them would say, "I've had four beers. I'm okay ... are you okay?"
"I want to be," Chloe said. "I want to, you know, woo-hoo-hoo in 1972."
"We'll find plenty of time to woo-hoo. We're staying with Kiki, remember?" MJ fingered the little peace sign she always wore, twisting it around and around. "You want me to drive?"
"No." A shot of orange flew by Chloe's eye and she turned to see a blur of butterfly. "I don't want to get back in the car."
MJ raised an eyebrow.
Cars motored on--a pair of Mustangs, a station wagon with wood paneling, a souped-up something painted red--but no one stopped to ask if they needed help.
Chloe's Snoopy watch said three fifty. She was supposed to call Kiki at four.
MJ sat on the hood and cracked her knuckles. "Here's the deal I just made up," she announced.
"One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war. If I win, you get in the car, and I'll drive."
Sitting there on the hood, they waged five thumb wars. She and MJ had been battling since first grade. They were the queens of opposable thumbs.
Chloe let MJ win. Actually, MJ always won.
After a logging truck nearly sideswiped them, logs jostling for freedom from the chains, Chloe stood up."
MJ climbed in first, over the gearshift, to the driver's seat. She slid the seat back to make room for her basketball legs and readjusted the mirror. Before they took off, MJ unlooped the Saint Christopher and pressed it into Chloe's hand.
"He's the patron saint of long journeys," MJ said.
"Not for me," Chloe said, dropping the pendant in the ash-free ashtray.
"Well, it can't hurt."
MJ gunned it, and they were back on track. The bridge's cables loomed like double-Dutch jump ropes. Chloe had to pace herself, decide when to jump in. "I haven't told anyone else," she said. "Did I tell you that?"
MJ nodded. "Except Shep, the original dipstick."
"Not Kiki. And not Virginia either." Since the divorce, her motherhad wanted to be called Virginia. In her head Chloe added, And definitely not Teddy.
MJ's answer was to turn the radio up, loud. Elton John filled the silence. They loved this song--Hold me closer tiny dancer, count the headlights on the hiiiiighway--and they sang along.
As they waited in line to pay the toll, Chloe thought that driving across the Golden Gate was a little like sex. It was supposed to be this major mind-blowing experience but then it was over in three minutes, and it didn't really measure up to the hype.
On the other side of the bridge, MJ pulled over by the marina. Chloe fed the pay phone a dime and called Kiki. After ten rings, there was officially no answer.
She and MJ split a falafel from a little place on Chestnut Street.
Chloe called again. Then again.
They split another falafel, this one deluxe.
"I guess she's out," Chloe said. She remembered her aunt's old apartment was near strip clubs and fresh linguini, but Kiki had moved twice since then.
"We've got time to kill," MJ said. She flipped her head over and shook her hair, giving it more oomph. "How about a cocktail?"
Three blocks up, they passed a place called the Riff.
"Wait," Chloe said before they stepped inside. "What if we get carded?"
MJ wheeled around. "We'll figure it out."
Chloe had never been to a bar before, not even in Tempe, where the university frat boys partied.
Inside, Hendrix's "Wild Thing" thumped through the speakers. It took a minute for her eyes to adjust. Walls, ceiling, counter ... all orange. Even the lighting was an intense orange, like a delicious carrot.
Chloe pulled up a bar stool by the door in case she needed a quick escape from the wild things.
"Every single person here has long hair," Chloe said, swiveling around. Wavy or straight or parted in the middle, plus one guy with strands of sourgrass woven through his braids.
"Good--we belong," MJ said, flinging her hair around.
A college-age guy with a fringed jacket and banged-up cowboy boots sidled up.
"Hey, want to sign my petition?" he asked them, flicking his thumb and forefinger like a gun. It was a crappy line, but the guy was kind of a fox. His hair was wavy and it whooshed over his forehead like Jim Morrison before the OD.
MJ gave Chloe an exaggerated wink, as if to say, See? No reason to freak. She yelled over the bass, "Buy us a margarita, and now you're talking."
"I like your spirit," he said to MJ.
"I like your boots," MJ said back.
"I like your shininess." The guy plucked a strap of MJ's silver halter. She didn't flinch.
Chloe tried the pay phone again.
A pair of margaritas arrived in speckled glasses. Chloe let hers sit there.
MJ leaned into the guy. "We're ... we're, uh, twins. I'm Belinda, and this is Tralinda."
"Tralinda?" Chloe repeated.
"Tralinda is uptight," MJ said. She took the straw from her drink and traced t-i-g-h-t on the bar. "So, who are you?"
The guy tucked his hand into MJ's back pocket. "Me, I'm the guy your mother warned you about."
"Heard that before," she said. MJ was doing what she always did--flirting with any passing penis.
Chloe tried to find her groove, to lose the negative energy, as Virginia would say. She wound her hair into a loose bun, jabbing a cocktail spear into the center, trying to hold it all in place.
"Like your hair," boot man said to her.
"I'm cutting it," Chloe said. Pieces of hair fell to the front, and Chloe fingered the waves. She took an itty-bitty sip of the cocktail. It was vinegary.
MJ's glass was empty. "Whoa-no-no. Clo--uh, Melinda's--hair is her thing. She wouldn't get rid of it."
"I would," Chloe said.
"I thought she was Tralinda, but it's cool either way," boot man said. "Another round?"
Chloe excused herself to call again. She came back to the bar with a shrug.
"I wish my brother was still in Berkeley," MJ said to no one in particular, sucking down the dregs of Chloe's drink. "We could crash with him."
"Too bad," Chloe said. The fact that Teddy was spending the holidays in Sacramento with his roommate was one small piece of the week that was going Chloe's way.
"I'll put you up," boot guy said with a smile. "Or there's a hostel around the corner on Eddy Street."
"Actually, we have to go." Chloe stood and jiggled her jeans into place. "We've got a big day tomorrow."
MJ slammed the bar and her glass shuddered. "Some of us do. Some of us have big things to do."
"C'mon," Chloe said. "Let's split."
MJ hitchhiked her thumb to Chloe. "This one, she's getting the Big A."
"Acid?" boot man asked. "Oooh, I love the bad girls."
"No!" MJ swatted at his knee. "Sometimes the good girls are the bad girls and the bad girls ... Ah, shit, I don't know what I mean. Tralinda, the good girl here, she's getting the hanger."
"Sshhh!" MJ held her middle finger to her lips so she was simultaneously shushing and flipping the bird.
"Shut up!" Chloe yanked MJ by the elbow. "She talks shit when she's drunk."
"Whoa," boot man said. "You girls are cute but ... fuckin' strange ... ." He turned his back on them, moving in the direction of a girl with sleeves as wide as wings.
Outside, Chloe said, "What the hell were you doing in there? And, just so you know, there is no hanger."
"I know," MJ said.
"If you have a problem with my getting unpregnant ..." Chloe twisted her hair back into its bun, hard.
MJ held Chloe's shoulders, probably not as squarely as she wished. She was six inches taller than Chloe, and when she talked bitsof spit landed on Chloe's eyelashes. "What do you want, Clo? I'm here on your emergency vacation. I'm here."
"Here, badmouthing me to Monsieur Cowboy Boots."
MJ hiccupped quietly. "The Catholic girl guilt is getting to me. Maybe it's the margaritas talking."
Chloe's stomach knotted up. She didn't want to hear MJ's judgment, even if it was tequila judgment. "We're tired. Let's find the damn hostel."
They drove to Eddy Street in edgy silence. Chloe wasn't even sure what they were looking for. A hotel? A dorm? Down a few blocks they saw a timber-brown building with a carved wooden sign out front.
The place looked normal enough on the outside, except for a guy using his dog as a pillow by the doorway. Inside, the walls were painted a pulsating blue. A kid with a beard sat in the lotus position on one of those cable-spool coffee tables.
"Greetings," he said, not getting up. He gestured toward a poster that listed rates and rules.
Chloe handed over seven dollars. She had a sudden craving for Bugles, the cone-shaped chips, wanting to slip one on each finger and bite them off like she was four years old.
Upstairs, there were three large mattresses on the floor and no people. Two of the beds seemed reserved with backpacks and paperbacks, possibly in German. MJ and Chloe put their duffels on the available mattress propped up on cinder blocks. The grubby Navajo blanket made Chloe wish she'd brought a sleeping bag.
MJ jumped on the bed and did a decent cartwheel.
Chloe sat on the edge of the bed. "We haven't even said the word."
"You want me to say it?" MJ asked. "Abortion, abortion, abortion."
"Abortion, abortion, abortion." MJ paused. "Abor-shunn," she sang with a flourish. She dropped next to Chloe on the bed.
"Really? Because I don't even know what's going on tomorrow."
"Here's what I know," Chloe said. "I go to a clinic tomorrow. They give me the name of a doctor. I see that doctor. I see another doctor. And maybe another one, I'm not sure. And then, a week later, if nothing goes wrong, it's done."
MJ rolled her hands up in the bottom of her shirt, like it was a muff. "That's if everything goes right. That's if this is even the right thing."
"This is," Chloe said. She didn't mention that she'd taken to calling the lima, the lentil, the zygote, This. She liked that This suggested something but also nothing. This didn't grow or change. This didn't become that, it stayed This.
They sat there for a few minutes before MJ said, "You know why I'm a bitch? I'm starving."
"There's a vending machine in the lobby. Plain or peanut?"
In the lobby, a bunch of girls in gauzy skirts were ring-around-the-rosying, and it struck Chloe that not a single one of them was pregnant--probably not, anyway. She might be the unluckiest girl in a city filled with mythically beautiful, twirly girls. She got candy, then grabbed a makeshift ice bucket--a beer stein from a stack by thestairs. She pushed the bull's-eye button on the ice machine and watched the cubes slide down the chute.
The afternoon that began the This, Shep had dropped an ice cube down Chloe's shirt. She screamed and jumped around, trying to dance the cube out. He went looking for it, and she felt the ice sliding and Shep's hands sliding. And then he unlaced her lace-up shirt and they made out. And Neil Young was on. "Sugar Mountain"--a long song.
Ice in one hand, candy in the other, Chloe returned to find MJ jumping again. Chloe kicked off her clogs and joined in, trying to synchronize with MJ, but her rhythm was off. MJ's legs were longer, and she put that majorette thrust into each jump. The ice flew out of the beer stein and skipped over the bed.
"Give me the candy!" MJ said, not missing a beat. She opened the bag with her teeth and flipped a couple of M&M's in Chloe's direction.
Chloe missed once, then again and again, opening her mouth a beat after the candy hit the bed. All this jumping was making her stomach lurchy. She got off the bed and flipped on a little TV swinging from a macramé plant hanger, wanting to hear someone else's voice in the room. They watched a little Bonanza, then a year-end special on the best of Johnny Carson.
Mr. Late Night himself was in the middle of some skit, wearing a turban. "May a diseased yak befriend your sister," he said.
"To yaks!" MJ said, her ankles bobbling.
"Ja! To yaks!" the tall, presumably German, guys said from the doorway.
"To"--Chloe stopped. Her mouth filled with bile. She ran across the hall to the bathroom. The candy-coated M&M shells were still recognizable, bright fragments in the beige muck. She hugged the toilet, wishing for a minute that Virginia, or someone not really like Virginia, was there to hold her hair back.
Copyright © 2012 by Susan R. F. K. Carlton