Evie Gomez finally has it all: a sweet boyfriend, two mejor amigas, and an upcoming sixteeñera that's the talk of the school. Qué cool, no?
Too bad reality has a way of ruining things. When her grades start to slip, Evie's parents threaten to cancel her party. The good news? All she has to do is volunteer in the community to raise her grades. The bad news? Since it's the middle of the semester, the best remaining option is working at the Southern California Horse Reserve. Then again...ranchero life? Charros? Maybe things will work out after all.
Or maybe not. Things with boyfriend Alex start to fizzle, party-girl palRaquel slides down a spiral of boys and booze, Dee Dee who only recently re-entered Evie's life considers moving back to Mexico City, and to top it all off, Evie's flirting with someone she never expected to like ranch hand Arturo (even with his que fugly cowboy boots).
Things can't get más complicated...can they?
About the Author
Michele Serros was hailed as one of Newsweek's "Women to
Watch for the New Century." She is also the author of Honey Blonde
Chica, Chicana Falsa, and How to Be a Chicana Role Model.
Michele was a featured contributor for the Los Angeles Times
children's fiction section and was a writer for The George Lopez
Show. She is from Oxnard, California. Visit her at www.muchamichele.com.
Visit Evie at www.myspace.com/riochica805.
Read an Excerpt
"I don't know, Evelina...." Lindsay, the Gomez' housekeeper, shook her head as she stepped down into the den. "Your mother said you have to be with a driver. A licensed driver."
Evie was just five weeks away from taking her driving test, but she had yet to master the challenge of three-point turns, confront the perils of parallel parking, and how the hell, she wondered, could she check her blind spot if it was blind? In short, Evie was desperate. She had a ways to go before the state of California would ever issue her a driver's license and had no choice but to ask okay beg Lindsay to let her borrow her car. With no Sirius, DVD player, or heated seats, Lindsay's ten-year-old sedan was far from a G-ride, but lowly beggars can't all be big-time players, right?
"Come on, Linds." Evie exhaled impatiently. "I'm just gonna be practicing on the street, in front of the house. Nothing's gonna happen. It's Saturday everyone's washing their cars in their driveways, not out driving them in the street. It's, like, the best time for me to practice."
Actually, what really made it the best time for an afternoon practice session was the sole fact that Evie's parents were away on a mission the never-ending search for the perfect shade of green place mats to match the deck furniture's green cushions. Adults could be so controlling, and Evie's parents were no exception. Whenever she practiced driving with them, they spent the entire time pointing out everything that she was doing wrong. Wasn't the whole point of being in the driver's seat to savor the taste of freedom and independent thinking?
"I don't think so...." Lindsay shook her head slowly. The latest installment of La Cueva Sucia, her favorite soap opera, was just starting, and she was not going to miss it. She clicked on the Gomezes' plasma.
"Lind-say." Evie followed her down the two steps that led into the den. As any questioning teen knows, an adult's reluctant "I don't think so" is as good as a semisoft maybe, which could easily progress into a firm yes. "We live on a cul-de-sac. It's not like cars go speeding by all the time. It'll be totally safe. And the more I practice," she continued, "the better I'll be for my test. Then you won't be having to cart me around anymore. Don't you want a break from being a chauffeur?"
She cocked her head forward and to the right, a gesture copied from her best friend, Dee Dee de LaFuente, who probably lifted it from Gwen Stefani in an old No Doubt video. Whenever Dee Dee let the right side of her head tip to the side, she got her way. Sure, Dee Dee had angelic long bleached-blond hair, delicate features, and those hypnotizing blue contact lenses, but couldn't a brunette with medium-length hair and brown eyes get the same outcome?
"Well." Lindsay looked at Evie. "I guess...maybe...it would be okay."
"Get the spare keys," she told Evie as she pushed Meho, Evie's gray tabby, aside and made room for herself on the den's smooth leather sofa. Lindsay had already been lured into her habitual trance by La Cueva's tall, dark, and handsome leading man, Ronald Joseph Vega. "And stay in front of the house. Do not leave Camino del Rio."
"I promise!" Evie sprinted as fast as her metallic gold flip-flops could carry her toward the kitchen. When she saw the keys hanging from the key rack, she didn't know which were the spare keys Lindsay had been talking about, but no worries. She snatched both rings off the kitchen's metal key holder, grabbed her iPod (with more than 1,100 downloads) and her wallet (containing a freshly issued driver's permit), and skipped out of the house.
But once Evie got out to the driveway, her honest-to-goodness plans of taking Lindsay's sedan immediately fell by the wayside. There, parked to the left of Lindsay's car, was Evie's mother's brand-new Mercedes. Actually, not brand new, but definitely new to her mother, Vicki Gomez. The Mercedes was a good thirty years old, a classic by anyone's standards, and with its high-gloss burgundy paint job and supreme detailing by West Coast Designs, the Benz was stunning beyond words. But the cali de la cali? A fuel conversion by LoveCraft's BioFuel in Los Angeles. Yes, the Mercedes had been converted to run on vegetable oil rather than on diesel. Gas was so passé, and fuel conversions were the thing done to cars in SoCal. The Benz, of course, was the talk of Rio Estates, and Vicki Gomez just loved, loved the attention.
Evie looked at the gleaming Mercedes and then at Lindsay's nondescript four-door sedan, which suddenly seemed dull and lifeless. Was there really a question of which ride she should choose for her practice spin?
She opened the driver's-side door of the Mercedes and got in. Evie inhaled the aroma of the vintage white leather and looked at herself in the side mirror. She had clearly made the right choice. She took out her cell from the front pocket of her gray-and-red Señor Lopez pullover and immediately speed-dialed her boyfriend, Alex Perez. How cool would it be to swing by his house and, for once, offer to drive him somewhere? Evie listened to the phone ring a few times. And then, alas, the dreaded voice mail greeting: "Duuude...Make it brief. Not a bio."
Evie remembered that Alex had gone to Sea Street with Mondo that morning, and she felt slightly disappointed. It was almost 1 p.m., and he still wasn't back from the beach? At the end of last semester, the Flojos (which had consisted of herself, Alex, Mondo, Raquel, and Raquel's former boy, Jose) had pretty much disbanded. But Alex still surfed at Sea Street, and Mondo still tagged along with him. While they all still wore flojos (flip-flops), Evie didn't so much have the same flojo ("lazy") mind-set as she had the semester before. Now she went surfing and was learning how to drive. This semester, she was less Gomezzzzz and more Go-mas.
When Alex's brusque-sounding message finished, Evie decided to leave neither a brief message nor her autobiography, thank you. She hung up and speed-dialed her ADA, Raquel Diaz. The literal Spanish translation for ADA was amiga del alma, a "friend of the soul," a soul sister, really. ADAs were tighter than mere BFFs, and as everyone who was anyone knew, a sister was much more íntima than a simple friend.
After a few rings, Evie was met with Raquel's infamous Bullwinkle yawn on the other end. "What up?" Raquel answered sleepily.
"Not you, obviously." Evie switched from her mother's favorite old-school station, Hot 92 Jamz, to Dios (Malos). Nothing like brown-boy emo bumping the speakers to calm one's novice nerves. The melodic undertones quickly relaxed Evie.
"Hey, I'm coming to pick you up," she announced to Raquel. "Let's cruise the Shores."
Raquel lived next door to Evie, a mere eight hundred yards away, and really didn't need to be picked up to go anywhere. But still, just saying "I'm coming to pick you up" made Evie feel mature, adultlike. Unlike Raquel and their other ADA, Dee Dee, Evie didn't have her own car and had to shotgun it everywhere. From parties in Spanish Hills to surfing at Sea Street, the high school production of Driving Miss Evie was outgrowing its rehearsal space. She needed to showcase her driving talent to a wider audience.
"You ain't picking me up to go anywhere." Raquel's voice was throaty and harsh. "I ain't even awake."
"Well, get up," Evie ordered. "I got my mother's car."
"What do you mean, you got your mother's car?" Raquel asked. "Ol' Vicki Gomez must be out of the country, 'cause you know there's no way you'd risk taking her precious veggie grease-mobile out if she was even near the 805."
"Not quite out of the country," Evie mused. "But the next best thing. She's at the factory outlets with my dad. They'll be gone all day."
"And la Lindsay?" Raquel inquired.
"Oh, she's far away in novela-vela land." Evie adjusted the seat so it was closer to the gas pedal and positioned the rearview mirror so she could see all things slow and less important behind her. She turned the key in the ignition. "Come on, the day's almost over."
The day was actually far from being over. It was barely one o'clock in the afternoon. To a party puta like Raquel, the day was practically just starting.
"And," Evie started to explain, "you know I need a licensed driver to really go anywhere."
"Nuh-uh," Raquel said quickly. "No friggin' way. Don't you know the leading cause of teen fatality is teaching a newbie to drive? You best find yourself another tutor, Eves. I'm outs."
"Raq, come on," Evie pleaded. "It'll be fun."
"And who says I ain't already having fun?" Raquel let out a low, muffled laugh. Evie heard another voice in the background, a male voice. She suddenly felt the effects of third-party damage.
"Who's that?" she asked.
"I can tell you who it ain't." Raquel laughed softly again. "It's ain't Jose, that's for sure."
Ever since Raquel had caught Jose sneaking around with Alejandra de los Santos last semester, her Buddy List of bad boys was being utilized to the max. It didn't help Raquel's ego that Alejandra de los Santos headed the Sangros, a foursome of fresas ricas from Mexico City whose big designer boots and even bigger attitudes clashed with the Flojos' designer flip-flops and laid-back outlook. Of course, Raquel had felt completely humiliated and betrayed when she discovered that her boy had cross-pollinated with one of them. Evie and Dee Dee had actually been foolish enough to become sorta friends with Alejandra last semester. But that was when they were just fresh-off-the-boat freshmen and didn't know any better. Not only was Alejandra a sangrona, plain and simple, but she also pimped the scarlet letter S proudly on her chest.
"O-kay, Raquel." Evie struggled to shift from reverse to first gear. "I'll let you go do whatever, with whomever. Just call me later."
"Yeah, yeah," Raquel said before hanging up.
Evie looked at the clock on the dashboard of her mother's Mercedes. La Cueva Sucia was a one-hour program, which meant she had only forty-eight minutes to roll. She speed-dialed Dee Dee's number next.
"Hi, Evie!" Dee Dee practically chirped on the other end.
Evie smiled to herself. Dee Dee was the yang to Raquel's yin. Little Miss Sunny Delight to Raquel's Little Miss Understood, Dark and...Delight-less. Dee Dee would definitely be up for a drive.
"You're in a good mood," Evie said.
"I just got off the phone with Rocio." Dee Dee's voice got dreamy. "Oh, Evie, I love him so much."
Rocio was Dee Dee's long-lost boyfriend she'd had to leave behind in Mexico City when she and her father returned to California. Dee Dee had moved to Mexico from Rio Estates with her father four years earlier, soon after her mother died. Their new home was still in Rio Estates, just a few blocks away from Evie's and Raquel's houses, and included a larger pool, a yoga-and-workout center, and, imported directly from Mexico, a new stepmother for Dee Dee, Graciela Rodríguez Von Simon, a former soap opera actress.
"Hey, so I've got the Benz," Evie bragged as she slowly entered Camino del Rio and cautiously looked down the street in both directions. "I thought I could come over and pick you up."
"Right now?" Dee Dee asked. "I can't. I have a meeting with Eileen Cervantes."
"Eileen? Who's that?"
"She's connected with Las Hermanas," Dee Dee explained. "And I'm meeting with her at four."
"At four?" Evie rechecked the time on the dashboard. "Dee Dee, it's barely one o'clock."
"I know. I'm totally running late. I'm so nervous. I've already smoked three Caribbean Chills this morning."
"No," Evie started. "I mean, why are you getting ready now?"
"Evie, it's for Las Hermanas," Dee Dee said, as if Evie were crazy for asking. "I have to make the right impression. Eileen is the first cousin of the former director's wife, and she's going to give me some hints that are going to help me."
"Oh," Evie said sarcastically. "I didn't realize what a great contact you had."
"Evie, don't make fun." Dee Dee sulked for a few moments. "This is the final year before I can be nominated so I can be an Hermana by junior year. You know Las Hermanas has been my dream since, like, forever."
It was true. Ever since Dee Dee was a little girl, she had always talked about being a Las Hermanas debutante. Her mother was one, her grandmother was one, so, of course, Dee Dee not only wanted to be one, she had to be one. Las Hermanas was the oldest and most respected debutante society in the county. It was started by the wives of the early Southern California landowners, many of them Hispanic and all of them wealthy. Dee Dee's father didn't have such regal connections with early Ventura County, but Dee Dee's mother, the late Margaret de LaFuente, sure did. Her family had owned multiple ranches in the area long ago, when the area was still a part of Mexico. You couldn't get more regally connected than that.
What with Dee Dee's calculated attempts to obtain a key to the city, Raquel jonesing for a key to the nearest minibar, and she herself most desirous of the keys to any available automobile, Evie sometimes wondered how all three girls could each be so unique and remain ADAs. But then again, no matter what kinds of keys they longed for, the three of them had the sort of friendship history that you just don't find on MySpace.
"Of course I know how important Las Hermanas is to you," Evie told Dee Dee as she struggled with the Mercedes' gears. "I just need someone to help me with my driving.
"Por fa," Dee Dee answered. "You don't need anyone to help you drive. You're already good. Really."
"If I'm such a good driver" Evie was not buying Dee Dee's flattery "then why don't you ever let me drive Jumile?"
Sailors christened boats, socialites attached pretentious tags on pet Chihuahuas, but in SoCal, it was in proper order to conjure up a cutesy name for one's car. To own a nameless vehicle? Unthinkable. Jumile (V-plates: jumile) was the name of Dee Dee's lime green VW Beetle, and she was very protective of him. She never let anyone including Evie drive him, not even once.
Dee Dee had gotten her VW's name from the particular tree beetles found in the hills of Taxco, Mexico. Every year, the first Monday after El Día de los Muertos, the locals would hike into the hills of Taxco and gather up the little green beetles, otherwise known as jumiles. Later the locals would roast and grind up the bugs, celebrating the new seasonal harvest with salsa insecto.
"'Sta loco, no?" Dee Dee had smugly stated after she'd bragged about the fact that she had been adventurous enough to partake in the beetle eats, as if to prove that under her pricey Michael Kelley-styled hair and M.A.C.-made-up face, she could be loca in her own right.
Raquel's parents had just bought her a Beetle a month ago for Christmas, and naturally Evie wanted a Beetle too. She wanted hers to be red, cherry red with the V-plates of chrybmb, as in Cherry Bomb, the name she'd picked for her Beetle. She also wanted a sunroof, Bose speakers, fresh-cut hibiscus flowers in the bud vase, and the quintessential decal that identified Evie to the hilt: an outlined pair of white flip-flops, stuck smack center of her back window. She had already purchased the decal months ago at the Walden Surf Shop, and now all she needed was a brand-new car to attach it to. Simple enough, no?
"Well," Evie started as she headed south, down the eucalyptus-lined street of Calle Bonita toward the main gate of Rio Estates. She was ready to gun the engine and make a run for it. A cruise by the Shores was calling. "I guess I'll just take a drive by myself."
"Why don't you take Alejandro or Raquel?" Dee Dee asked.
"Alex is out at Sea Street," Evie said.
"Uh-huh." Evie turned up Dios (Malos). "I'm gonna hook up with him tomorrow. We might take the boards to Santa Barbara."
"Mmm-hmm. No offense," Dee Dee started slowly as though she was applying mascara. "But don't...you...ever...get tired that...all...you do with Alex is...surf?"
"What do you mean?" Evie asked as she shifted down to bring her mother's Mercedes (V-plates: go mez) to a stop. It stalled. Sheeyat. Evie started the Mercedes up again.
"Don't get me...wrong. I think it's cool that...you...two have something major in...common, but" Dee Dee finally put her vocal cords on the right rpm "it's just, I mean, in Mexico, boys take girls out on dates. You get to dress up and have a nice dinner, go dancing."
"Dee Dee." Evie rolled her eyes to the side. "I'm fine with the stuff we do. Alex is my bud and Sea Street is our place."
True, Sea Street had pretty much been deemed Evie and Alex's place, at least by Evie. Last semester, she used to kick it on the promenade wall with Raquel, Jose, and Mondo while watching Alex surf. Now that she was officially Alex's girlfriend and she officially surfed (not quite Blue Crush, but still), it was safe to say that Sea Street was their place.
"Your bud?" Dee Dee asked. "Oh, I thought he was your boyfriend."
Evie just knew that Dee Dee's blond-tinted eyebrows had risen in surprise.
"He is." Evie felt she had to defend his title. "But he's also my buddy, my friend. And that's very important in a relationship."
"Claro, of course it's important. I was just asking, that's all." Dee Dee paused. "So, what about Raquel? Did you call her to go driving?"
"I already did, but she's totally out of it."
"Out of it or hungover?" Dee Dee asked.
Evie was reluctant to go into the minuscule dish she had on Raquel. All three girls loved each other unconditionally, of course, and granted, all of them indulged in ad bevs, but Dee Dee tended to judge Raquel's recreational drinking more critically. Not that Evie could blame Dee Dee ever since her breakup with Jose, Raquel's party patterns had been a bit off the charts.
"So listen, just stay on the line with me," Evie suggested. "You can be, like, my virtual licensed driver. I guess a Mexico City license is better than nothing."
"Mande?" Dee Dee did not find Evie's jab funny. She was very protective of Mexico City, her beloved former home of four years.
"Nothing." Evie tried to backpedal. She knew better than to dis the almighty Mexico. Besides, she was now approaching Calle Agua Caliente and had to focus. The transmission of her mother's Mercedes revved hard as she fumbled into second gear. Damn. Could it be that her father had accidentally filled the fuel tank with vinegar instead of vegetable oil? Evie's efforts made her sound like an amateur barista-in-training, grinding espresso beans to a pulp. She reached the intersection just as a silver sports car pulled up, but she could not remember who was supposed to go first.
"Hey, maestra," Evie started. "I'm at a four-way stop and I forgot, who has the right of way?"
"The car on the right," Dee Dee said matter-of-factly.
"Uh " Evie looked over at the sports car. " she's not moving."
"Then just go, I guess," Dee Dee said.
A horn behind Evie honked. She looked in her rearview mirror: she'd been completely unaware that there was even a car behind her. She shifted from neutral to first gear and stepped lightly on the gas, but for some reason, her mother's Mercedes screeched backward. Sheeyat! She felt a solid thud from the back. Evie had mistakenly put the Mercedes into reverse and smacked...right into the car behind her.
"Oh, my God!" Evie screamed as she dropped her cell phone into her lap. She felt her throat plummet to the bottom of her stomach. Her chest grew numb. She did not just hit another car.
"Wha ? pened?" Dee Dee's phone connection cut in and out. "What ong?"
Evie picked up her cell. "Dee Dee!" she yelled into the mouthpiece, "I just hit a car! Oh my God, what do I do?"
"What? Oh my God. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I think so. I..." Evie checked the rearview mirror. The driver swung open his car door, and Evie could see that he was a young guy, short and stocky, with a shaved head. He was wearing a super-size football jersey throwback with the sleeves cut off, and he lifted his thick arms in a thuglike challenging What the ? stance as he went over to the front of his car. He was definitely someone you normally didn't see behind the cloistered wrought-iron gates of Rio Estates.
"If you weren't so busy yakking on that damn cell phone," he ranted toward Evie, "maybe you'd know how to drive. Pay attention, you pinche idiota!"
"Oh. My. God." Evie sank into the leather upholstery of the Mercedes' seat. She held her head and the "damn cell phone" down, away from his view. "Dee Dee," she whispered, her voice starting to crack, "he's totally raging at me."
"This guy. The guy whose car I hit." How could she have hit a car? And with her mother's prized Mercedes! If this guy didn't kill her, her mother certainly would.
"Dee Dee," Evie pleaded, "you gotta come. Now!"
"Oh my God!" Dee Dee was horrified. "Where are you?"
The guy was now on the other side of the driver's door. He tapped on the side of the window with the back of his hand and glared at Evie. "Hang up the damn phone, turn off the friggin' music, and get out here and deal. What, you want me to call the cops?"
The cops? Oh God, the situation was not getting any better.
"Dee Dee." Evie could still feel her throat in the pit of her stomach. "I...I have to go."
"Wait! Evie, where are ?"
But it was too late. Evie had already snapped her phone shut. She somehow managed to unplug her iPod, open the Mercedes' heavy door, and step out.
"I am so sorry!" She looked over at the guy's car. It was a lowered Honda or Toyota or something like that. "Did I ding it?"
"Uh, yeah," the guy remarked hostilely. "You jacked it up, all right."
He walked back to the front of his car, and Evie followed him. He crouched down to show her.
"Mira," he said. "Right there." He pointed to his bumper.
Evie looked. And looked. And looked. She strained to find something out of the ordinary, something concave or indented, but couldn't detect anything. Then finally she saw it. A small, deep nick, the size of a dime okay, maybe a quarter. "You mean that?" She ran her finger over it.
"Yeah, I mean that." The guy looked at her as though she were crazy.
Evie looked over his car's bumper and then at her mother's Mercedes. The Benz appeared flawless.
"I'm gonna need your license," the guy said. "And all your insurance info and shit."
"My license?" Evie's heart dropped.
"Yes." He looked at her as though she was some rookie student driver, which, of course, she was. "Your license."
"Um...right," was all Evie could say. She went back to her mother's car and stretched across the front seat to get her cell phone off the floor. She speed-dialed her home number.
One ring, two rings...
Come on, come on! Evie cried in her head. Come on, Linds! Answer the phone!
Three rings, four rings.
"Bueno? Gomez residence."
"Lindsay!" Evie sobbed into her cell. "I hit a car! I need help!"
"Ay, Dios mío!" Evie could hear the heels of Lindsay's Aerosoles already sprinting across the ceramic tile of the den. "Are you okay? I'm coming out."
"I'm not in front of the house. I'm "
"I'm over here," Evie said. "I'm on the corner of Calle Agua Caliente and Calle Soccoro."
"What?" Lindsay repeated. "Why are you way over there? I told you "
"Lindsay, I know, I know. Please, just come now." She looked back at the driver to make sure he couldn't hear her. "And " She hesitated. " and I'm in my mother's car."
"Lindsay, please, just come now. I'll explain later. Just come. Now!"
"Stay right there!" Lindsay told Evie.
Evie hung up and slowly got back out of her mother's Mercedes.
"Um," she started to tell the guy, "I forgot my wallet, so my housekeeper's coming to bring it. Right now."
"Like, right now?" He pulled out his cell phone and checked the time.
"Yeah, like right now. She should be here in a few minutes." Evie looked down the street. "We live just a few streets down, on Camino del Rio."
Camino del Rio. Why? Why hadn't she just stayed on her street like she was supposed to? Why hadn't she just practiced with Lindsay's car like she said she would?
Evie looked at the guy, who was now leaning against the front of his car. What if the cops did come? She had practically stolen her mother's car, and she didn't have insurance or even a license! Evie glanced over at the driver; his eyes were angry and impatient.
Evie looked up at the street signs of the intersection: Agua Caliente and Socorro. Yes, she was definitely in "hot water" and needed "help." Badly.
Copyright © 2007 by Alloy Entertainment and Michele Serros