Note: I cannot for the life of me get the format of the book to translate to the website. So forgive the rather confusing layout in this excerpt.
YOU SENT AN INVITE TO DRU TO JOIN YACKAPP
EM Well, I’m here.
DRU HAS ACCEPTED YOUR CHAT INVITE
DRU Emily! There you are! Wait … what the hell is this? Why aren’t we using WhatsApp? Why can’t we use pictures?
EM I refer you to Brother.
DRU What’s he done now?
EM Allow me to tell you. Brace yourself, I’m using voice-to-text because my thumbs would drop off
if I tried to type this all out to you.
First of all, my room is haunted. And not just haunted by any old run-of-the-mill ghost—oh, no, my ghost is an underwear pervert.
DRU Wow. That’s … wow.
EM I know, right? Dru, Dru, dear, sweet Dru, I can’t begin to tell you just how awful my life is. Well, OK, I can, and since I’m having to suffer, you, as my bestie, are going to have to suffer with me. Even though you’re on the other side of the world. You’ll do that for me, won’t you? ’Cause I’d do it for you. I always get sympathy cramps for you, don’t I?
DRU You do, and you know that I would do the same for you. Besties, dude. Can I put an avatar on here?
DRU Why not?
EM This app is weird. It just does names. No pictures. No avatars. Nothing but text.
DRU Let me try. ER…how’s this?
EM There’re no avatars, Dru. I can’t see any picture you post here.
DRU Maybe this one?
EM Still nothing. No. Avatars.
DRU OK, this is a cute pic. How about if I try this one?
EM You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?
DRU Trying to drive you insane?
DRU No, but I’m so going to Google and see if there’s a way to hack this app so that we can use pics. Text is just so…texty.
EM Sheesh, girl! I’m trying to unload to you! Bare my inner soul! Share my burdens.
DRU Soz, go ahead. I’m good now.
EM Honestly, it’s like you aren’t even interested. Where was I?
DRU Haunted room. Cramps. Underwear pervert.
EM That’s right. Where should I start in the catalog of horror that is now my life? Well, first of all, as you can see by the fact that I’m texting you using a weirdo app, I didn’t talk Brother (the most eccentric father in the world) into getting us a UK cell phone plan that included free international time, or which was able to use common, ordinary apps. So I’m stuck with only e-mail and YackApp, which evidently is part of the phone package. How on earth am I supposed to exist without Snapchat and WhatsApp and Instagram? Sheesh! But you know how my father is—if there’s a buck to be saved, he’s dibsed it.
And it’s not even like I can use my phone a whole lot, since we have a limited family data plan that Brother watches like a hawk lest we dare use it like normal people.
“And if I hear any complaints,” the Ancient One said when I told him he was being archaic as hell, “I will simply take back the phone, cancel the tuition at the very prestigious college into which I managed to get you admitted, solely by dint of pulling many strings, and inform your mother that you will be making your own way home, the latter being an act that I suspect you’ll find difficult.”
“Oh!” I said, outraged that he’d pull out my current state of insolvency in the War of the Generations (as I like to think of our conversations). “That is just going to make me point out yet again that I wouldn’t be broke if I didn’t have to pay for that stupid company car out of my own pocket.”
“A company car which you totaled,” Brother pointed out in that maddening way he has.
“That wasn’t my fault!” I said, slapping my legs in frustration. Honestly, was any father ever so blind to reality? “I was trying to keep a latte from spilling on the carpet, which was a nice thing to do, especially considering that I wouldn’t even have been in the car if the Weasel hadn’t sent me out to get yet another latte because he’s addicted to Starbucks.”
“You ran into a parked police car, Emily,” the father unit said.
I sniffed, and decided to adopt a dignified stance, rather than continue to argue with him (besides, I have yet to find a comeback to the parked-cop-car comment). “Regardless of the failure of my ex-employer to realize what a quality employee he had in me,” I said, loftily waving away his argument, “not to mention the judge who garnished so much of my wages that I can’t possibly live on my own any longer and had to move back with you—”
I ignored him and continued, “As if that wasn’t enough, I already agreed to the infinitesimally small data plan although it’s utterly, utterly without reason.”
“Hrmph,” he said, and marched off to go unpack yet another box that Mom had shipped over here.
Great, now I’ve digressed to the point where I can’t remember what I was going to … oh, yes. So here I am in England, horrified to be stuck only with some weirdo third-world-esque phone, with no future.
DRU Em, you’re in England. For a year. Free! Lots of people would be thrilled to be there.
EM Lots of people are idiots, too.
DRU You have me there.
EM Let’s just take a good look at why I’m miserable, shall we?
Why I Am Miserable: A List
• Lost lease on cute little studio apartment when owner sold out to new company who jacked rent up almost double
• Lost job due to slight accident with the Weasel boss’s car
• Had no insurance because insurance peeps stopped autopay without telling me. (Isn’t that illegal? It should be!)
• In debt for approximately two hundred years according to a (clearly dirty) judge who took the side of the Weasel’s insurance company re liability, and thus ordered wages garnished
• Plan for student loan bailout canceled because student loan people say they won’t give money while the judgment is active
• Likewise, free ride through local university was ground to dust when Brother said getting kicked out of college after two semesters was sign I wasn’t serious. Then added something about education being a privilege, not a right. Fwah, say I.
• Daniel, formerly adored boyfriend and currently asshat heartbreaker, dumps me—cruelly, and maliciously—after almost two years because he is, and I quote, “tired of waiting for [expletive deleted].” The fact that we did everything but have actual sex seems to have escaped him.
In short, my dumpling, I have no job, no cute apartment with access to a pool, no money, no boyfriend, and no hope for my future at all.
DRU I admit, you’ve had a rough time of it lately.
EM Don’t be surprised if you get a letter from Brother or my mom saying I died. My obituary will read: “Emily Williams, slightly fluffy twenty-year-old, died Tuesday night of broken spirits and lost convictions after being fired from her job, sued for reimbursement of damages that the car insurance wouldn’t cover, and forced to move back home with her parents, an act so appalling that she willingly took up residence in Jolly Olde England simply to try to forget her woes.” Or something like that.
DRU You’re not slightly fluffy; you’re curvy. That’s super trendy now what with all the fat-shamers being roasted on Insta, and stuff.
EM And this is why I love you. Mwah. Although “fat” is very non-PC. Fluffy is in.
DRU Mwahback, and gotcha. Fluffy.
EM Dammit, I lost my place again. … Oh, yes, so here I am, but all is not lost, because holy hellballs, Dru, there are some seriously sexy-sounding men in this country, and I’m determined to spring back from Asshat Daniel. I learned my lesson there, yes sir! No longer will I be Emily the Introspective. Gone is Emily the Woman Who Wants a Meaningful Relationship Before Sex. Vanished into nothing is Hesitant Emily. I’m on the prowl now, babe. The first guy I see who I want to hook up with is going to be pounced on.
DRU You go, girl!
EM And there’s a lot of such men around, let me tell you! Although all I’ve really seen so far are the guys who hang around historic sights, since that’s all Brother has allowed us to see.
It’s “Oh, look at that, Emily, that building is five hundred years old” this, and “That piece of Stonehenge has been standing in that spot for fifty gazillion years” that. Well, duh, it’s a rock. It’s not like it’s going to sprout legs, buy a thong, and go to Tahiti for a windsurfing vacation, now, is it?
That was Brother who said the bit about the rock, BTW (the first bit, not the thong part). You know him—the man lives for old stuff like that. Pro tip from me to you: If you ever have to move back with your parents (something I do not recommend), and they take you to another country, do not, under any circumstances, agree to go sightseeing with them. Especially if your dad is a medieval scholar like Brother, ’cause I’m here to tell you that you’ll end up looking at nothing but old buildings that should be plowed under to make room for more malls. Needless to say, he’s in seventh heaven, and plans on writing some book about his historical studies during the year we’re here.
Whatever, say I. If it’ll keep him off the streets and out of my hair, I’m all for it.
DRU You have to admit, Brother is much more interesting than my dad. My dad is boring central.
EM There’s interesting, and then there’s downright eccentric.
DRU True dat.
EM “Can’t we go see Windsor Castle?” I asked at one point, thinking that some minor European prince might be hanging around waiting to meet a groovin’ American chick. A girl can dream, right?
“Maybe another day. Brother wants to see an old illuminated manuscript,” Mom said. “It’s very important to his research to see it in person.”
“How about the dungeon museum? I heard there’s one in London. That’s not only cool—it’s historical, too. Bet there’s medieval stuff there.”
“Another time, Em,” Brother said, and went off about how wonderful the library was that we were going to. I tell you, Dru, I was going crazy being trapped in the car with them, traveling from library to library having to look at a bunch of moldy old books, with nary a pounce-worthy Englishman in sight.
Not that I’m here just to find one (well, OK, it’s higher on my list of priorities than going to the college that Brother is teaching at for a year). It’s just that The Situation is beginning to wear on me.
I mean, who else do you know who is still (technically, albeit not physically) a virgin?
DRU Well …
EM No one, right? I must be the oldest living virgin in the world.
DRU Well …
EM Thank god for my purple hippopotamus.
DRU Yeah … but …
EM I’d go crazy without a battery-operated boyfriend.
DRU I don’t see how you can be a virgin if you’ve … you know … enjoyed your purple hippo.
EM It’s a state of mind. Sigh. Maybe Daniel had a point. I mean, we did everything else … but I just … every time I thought about having actual, real, parts-of-him-in-parts-of-me sex, it just got weird, and I ended up giving him a BJ so he’d let the idea go.
It’s me, isn’t it? Daniel is right and I’m the weird one. Well … to hell with all that! I’m an adult, I’m twenty, and I’m lookin’ for a man! The new game plan is sex-or-bust, with no more hesitations, no more introspection, and no more delay!
DRU I love it when you go all badass.
EM Enough sex talk. So, I survived the sightseeing and Brother’s driving on the wrong side of everything, and yesterday we arrived here at chez Williams aka the Haunted Mansion.
“What’s wrong, Brother?” I asked when he pulled up before a creepy, old, creepy, dirty (and did I say creepy?) house that looked like it should have been condemned. “Are we lost? Out of gas? Did the engine fall out?”
“Nope,” the man who spawned me answered in a cheerful I can’t wait to see this antiquity sort of way that for the last two days had made the flesh on my back crawl. “This is our home away from home for the next year. Isn’t it charming?”
Charming? The Amityville Horror looked more welcoming than the monstrosity that slouched at the end of the drive. Honest to Pete, Dru, it positively reeked of lecherous old men lurking in the garden trying to watch people undress at night!
EM “I am so not doing this,” I said, taking a stand.
“It certainly is different than anything we have at home,” Mom said, ignoring my stand-taking in that mom sort of way older women have. “When did Professor Carlson say it was built?”
“In 1588, by Dracula, no doubt,” I answered, gripping my purse firmly. If anything weird even thought about grabbing me, I’d nail it upside the head with twenty-two pounds of makeup.
“Now, Emily, you know that Vlad the Impaler was born in 1431. It would have been impossible for him to build this house in 1588,” Brother said. “Ten points if you can tell me during what empire Vlad ruled Walachia.”
I am warning you right here and now, Dru—if your father gives you even the slightest reason to think he’ll ever become a scholar, kill him. I know that seems harsh, but honestly, the historical pop quizzes alone are grounds for divorcing him as a parent.
DRU All my dad does is threaten to take me off his health insurance.
EM “Can we skip the crazy stuff and get right down to the exorcism?” I asked as the Parents hustled me toward the house. It’s huge—I mean really huge—and old, and black and moldy-looking, with all sorts of windows that poke out and glare down on you. “Do either of you have any holy water?”
“It certainly does have atmosphere,” Mom said.
“How about a spare crucifix or two?”
“Emily … ,” Brother said warningly. He did something to the front door and it squeaked open. Inside was a whole lot of black. I swear you could hear the bats rubbing their little batty paws together and cackling at the fresh dinner walking in.
“A Bible? A ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ sticker?”
“Not now, Em,” Mom said, pulling me into the abyss. The door slammed shut behind us.
“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” I said in my best hollow voice while striking a pose on the staircase.
That was a mistake. The tall, dark-paneled hallway made everything sound even more hollow than normal hollow. Kind of überhollow. Downright gothapalooza hollow. Boy, if you say the word hollow enough, it starts to sound weird. Hollow. Hoooollooow. Where was I? Oh, yeah, the House of Doom.
Brother eyed me when I blew dust off the banister. “She didn’t get that smart mouth from my side of the family.”
Mom smiled and patted him on the arm. “It’s a defense mechanism, dear. Girls Emily’s age feel it’s a comedown in the world to have to return to the nest after flying from it prematurely.”
“One, I’m not a girl. I’m an adult. And two, it was not my fault the cop parked right where I was driving!” I said stiffly.
DRU It totally was the cop’s fault.
EM “They believe it’s vital to appear flip on the outside even though they’re riddled with insecurities on the inside,” Mom finished, ignoring me.
“I am not insecure. I’m far from it, in fact.” I rubbed my arms at the chill from the Gothic House of Horrors. “Although I would be happy to pretend I am if it got us out of here.”
“Are you sure she’s mine?” Brother asked Mom in what passes for Old-People humor. “Is it too late for a paternity test?”
I’ll save you from the hellish nightmare that was the grand tour, as the Sperm Donor called it. Let me just say that the house is one big creep fest. If there aren’t hockey-mask-wearing, homicidal, deranged ax-murdering child molesters living in the basement, you can paint my toenails and call me Sally.
DRU I gotta say, it sounds kind of fun.
EM You’re insane, but we know that about you.
DRU I repeat: You’re in England. For a year. For free, with nothing to do but go to school and meet dishy Englishmen.
EM If only it was that easy. Must go. Brother just bellowed upstairs that dinner is on, and it’ll probably take me at least a week to find my way down to the ground floor (that’s first floor to you and the rest of the world). I’ll tell you about the underwear ghost later. Oh! I picked up a magazine at the airport that said Chris Hemsworth was in England filming a new movie—can you believe that Brother had no idea who he was?
DRU OK, your dad is deranged.
EM Preach it!
“He’s only the star of the Thor and Avengers movies, some of the best man meat ever put on the screen for women to ogle,” I told him, then made him look at the Chris Hemsworth fan site just so he could see who I was drooling … er … talking about. Brother pretended to stagger away after he sat through the candid pics, Avengers stills, and of course the video of that Dutch girl doing the interpretive dance with her homemade full-size Chris Hemsworth cardboard cutout (I really need to get me one of those).
“And this is how you spend your time online?” the Old One asked, appalled. “I am quite right in keeping you off the social media, if this is what sorts of things people do in their spare time.”
I smiled my deep smile at him. “Turnabout is fair play, Brother.”
“You made me look at old books for two whole days, but man, do you squawk when all I ask you to do is listen to some blank verse poems written to Chris Hemsworth’s fabulousness.”
Oh, get this, you’re going to die—the studio that the Hems will be working at is only ten miles away. I think we can guess what American female of legal age and plentiful bosomage is going to find herself in that area, can’t we?
DRU Ya know, I thought it was going to be a horrible year with you in England and me here, but this is just like I was right there.
EM Right? Like I said, if I have to suffer, you have to suffer with me.
EM Hugs and kisses.
EM Oh, how’s the leg? Are you still playing Sims? What happened to your Sim Walking Dead family? Dammit. Missed you.