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Copyright © 2010 Jane Startz Productions and Nuyorican Productions
All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.
For my chambelán, Jason
To my wonderful family—Peter, Jesse, Kate, and Zoë, who are always my inspiration. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by such a wise, funny, and caring group of friends and loved ones.
ALICIA CRUZ, one of the founding members of Amigas Incorporated, giggled nervously as she boarded a boat moored to one of the more exclusive docks in Miami. Following close behind were her two best friends, Carmen Ramirez-Ruben and Jamie Sosa. They quickly mimicked her unusually high-pitched laugh. Shooting them a disapproving look, Alicia tried to regain her composure. After all, this wasn’t just an ordinary hanging-out-with-her-friends kind of Saturday; they had a business to run.
It was the past summer when Alicia, Carmen, Jamie, and Alicia’s boyfriend, Gaz, had started a business planning quinceañeras, or Sweet Fifteen parties. And even though the friends were only teenagers themselves, they’d quickly become the hottest game in town.
They knew how to make a celebration that was modern but respectful of tradition; innovative; and, most important, not corny. A quince was like a wedding, debutante ball, and graduation all rolled into one, and Amigas Inc. had perfected the art of making their quinces rock. Still, no matter how many they planned, there were bound to be surprises. And certainly, when they had woken up that morning, none of them had imagined that they’d be taking a private ferry to the Mortimer family estate.
Growing up in Miami pretty much provided assurance that by the time you reached high school you’d have been on or around every type of boat, pontoon, and Jet Ski there was. What made the Mortimers’ boat—the Santa Maria was the name scrawled across the side—different was that literally everything on it smelled of money, from the polished oak floors to the shiny brass flagpole to the gold-stitched, monogrammed life jackets. Coral Gables had its share of rich kids, including Alicia Cruz. But Binky Mortimer and her golf-champ brother, Dash, were on a whole other level. And everything about the family ferry, which in any other part of the world would have been called a yacht, confirmed the fact that this was not the kind of wealth you encountered every day. Nor, Alicia suspected, was their destination the kind you encountered every day.
Miami was surrounded by dozens of small islands. The most famous of these was Fisher Island, where Oprah Winfrey had a house. But even Oprah lived on an island with other people. The Mortimers, as far as the girls knew, were the only family in Miami to live on their own island.
Knowing all that (from living in Miami and reading the daily gossip blogs), it was not a stretch to say that Alicia had been surprised—no, make that floored—when she received an e-mail from the Binky Mortimer early in the morning saying that she wanted to hire Amigas for her quinceañera. It had read:
Yo-delay-lihoo. I’m having a quince, and it’s going to be hotter than the three-pepper special at Taco Bell. I hear Amigas Inc. is the only gig in town that can pull this throwdown off. So, as Donald Trump would say, “You’re hired.” Come to my island at 3 p.m. for a meeting. XO, XO, Binky.
Alicia knew that saying no was out of the question. She had quickly told the rest of the group and asked if they were up for a meeting after school. Their reactions had varied. Carmen had flipped at the idea. Jamie had rolled her eyes and said something about “another snobby sitch in the making.” And Gaz? Well, he had just asked, “Who?” Apparently, he did not read the Miami social pages, and perhaps, Alicia had joked, he lived under a rock.
Now, standing on the deck of the Mortimers’ private ferry, the conversation returned to the most popular topic since they had agreed to meet Binky. Alicia and her girls were of decidedly different minds about whether a non-Latin girl could or should have a quince. Carmen, who’d just thrown an “Hola, Shalom!” quince that celebrated her Latino heritage and Jewish religion, was all for it.
“Being Latin is all about being inclusive,” Carmen said. “Our people represent practically every skin color and dozens of nationalities. We’re a global culture.”
Carmen was nearly six feet tall and had flawless café con leche–colored skin. Her dark hair fell in waves down her shoulders. She looked like a model, but designing clothes was her passion. She was dressed for the Mortimer meeting in a Carmen original, a hot pink one-shouldered blouse with a pair of wide-legged khaki pants.
Alicia nodded in agreement. But her mind was more on the money than on the culture. “Do you know how much we could make planning a Mortimer party? Money is no object for Binky Mortimer, people. This will take Amigas Incorporated to the next level.”
Her eyes sparkled as the headlines and gossip-blog postings flashed through her mind. Alicia’s drive for success was hereditary. She was the daughter of Marisol and Enrique Cruz, who made up one of Miami’s power couples. Her mom was a judge, and her dad was the deputy mayor. Alicia had an engaging smile, cascading curls, and a flair for vintage style, aided by the fact that her mom had one of those huge walk-in closets like Carrie Bradshaw’s in Sex and the City. Today she was dressed in an original DVF leopard-print wrap dress and a pair of Forever 21 pumps. Her goal? To look like the head chica in charge.
Though Carmen and Alicia had been pals since elementary school, Jamie had only joined the posse at the end of junior high. Her skin was naturally bronze, with a tan that was the envy of South Beach, and she had dark, stick-straight hair. Jamie had the graceful build of a dancer and the don’t-mess-with-me attitude of a prizefighter. It was an unusual combination, but on Jamie, it worked. She was from the Bronx, and while her attempts to “keep it real” could sometimes be a real pain in the butt, Jamie succeeded at them. She was the third Musketeer. Without her, they would just have been your run-of-the-mill “besties.”
The sole male member of Amigas Inc. was Gaz (short for Gaspar) Colón. Gaz was a promising musician and an all-around great guy. Gaz’s father had died when he was young. To help supplement the modest income his mother made as a cleaning woman, Gaz worked part-time, after school and on weekends, at the Gap. This added responsibility made the amount of time he could spend with Amigas Inc. somewhat limited. But he did what he could.
He and Alicia had met in the sixth grade, when Alicia had enlisted him to play in her newly formed ska band. The band was short-lived, but their friendship was not. After many years of being buddies, followed by a brief “flirtationship,” they finally admitted that their feelings had blossomed into something greater, more akin to love. Now they were officially together, and Alicia felt a familiar fluttery feeling as she thought about him. She just wished he could be there now, and not at the Gap, so that he could experience all of this with her and the rest of the group.
Suddenly a crew member in a crisp white shirt and black bow tie approached, cutting into Alicia’s thoughts and interrupting the quince-or-not-to-quince debate. In a faint British accent, he offered them “a refreshment,” and held up a silver tray with three sodas, three glasses of ice, a dish of lemon wedges, and a small silver bowl of bananas.
“Wow, thanks,” Alicia said, taking the glass that was handed to her and resisting the urge to call the man Jeeves.
“This is nuts,” Carmen whispered. “It’s a fifteen-minute boat ride and they offer snacks.” Jamie either was unimpressed or didn’t care about the serious fabulosity of their boat ride. She had resumed her monologue outlining her issues with the idea of Binky’s quince. “You let white guys rap and you end up with more Vanilla Ices than Eminems. You let gringas have quinces and next thing you know, Miley Cyrus will be recording in Spanish and winning all the Latin Grammys. Algunas cosas deben pertenecer sólo a nosotras. Some things should be just for us.”
Alicia and Carmen stifled giggles. They had been hearing this nonstop since they’d made their decision to meet with the client. But they were now on the boat, and nothing could be done to avoid the meeting. “Let’s hold off on the judging till we actually meet Binky, ’kay, Jamie?” Alicia said, a teasing tone in her voice.
Jamie shrugged. “Fine, whatever. I’m just saying.”
“We know, we know. Just for us. Got it,” Carmen said, laughing.
The waves parted as the ferry slowed on its approach to the Mortimers’ home. The girls stopped debating for a moment to take in the turquoise blue waters, the lush green landscape of palm trees that shimmered before them, and…the two cute boys in kayaks who paddled past them.
“Hola, beautiful ladies!” one of the guys called out, causing the girls to blush. His T-shirt said UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI. Even though Carmen and Alicia had boyfriends, they both smiled and waved.
“Which one of you lovely ladies is single?” the second boy in the kayak called out. He had curly blond hair, and he, too, was wearing a U. of Miami T-shirt.
“She is!” Alicia and Carmen called out in unison, pointing to Jamie and cracking up.
“What’s your phone number, single girl?” the boy called out. “I’ve got a photographic memory.”
“It doesn’t take a photographic memory to memorize a seven-digit number,” Jamie called back. “Looks like you’re not smart enough to date me.”
The boy looked wounded and mimed being shot in the heart. His friend said something they couldn’t hear, and then the boys waved and paddled away.
“He was cute,” Carmen said, as the girls flopped down on the comfortable seats that lined the deck. “You should have given him your number. Like you gave Domingo mine.” She smiled as she thought about her supercute boyfriend, whom she’d met while planning her own quince in October. They’d been pretty much inseparable ever since, and she owed it all to Jamie, who had snuck him her number when she wasn’t looking.
As far as Carmen and Alicia knew, their friend had never had a serious boyfriend in Florida, which seemed nothing short of inconceivable, given the fact that Jamie was both sharp-witted and absolutely gorgeous. But she always compared the guys at Coral Gables High to the guys back in New York, and inevitably, the South Florida guys fell short. Jamie always said they were “corny” or “adolescent” or “sheltered.”
The guys in the kayak, however, as her friends would have pointed out, seemed anything but.
“You know what? I’m just going to scream out your phone number,” Alicia said, grabbing Jamie’s arm.
“Do it, Alicia!” Carmen urged. “Who knows, Jamie? She could be setting you up with the man of your dreams.”
“Yeah, picture me dating some guy I met as he paddled by me in a kayak,” Jamie said.
“Don’t girls date guys they meet on the subway in New York?” Alicia asked.
“All the time,” Jamie answered. “There are mad sexy boys on the six train. Holla.”
“So, it’s the same thing. In New York, you roll on subways. In Miami, we roll on boats,” Alicia observed.
“Point taken,” Jamie said, shrugging. “Still, I’ll pass.”
“Except for the fact that unless you count my parents’ broken-down rowboat, we don’t ‘roll’ on boats,” Carmen pointed out. “We don’t live La Vida Yacht Club.”
“We don’t,” Alicia said. “But she does.” The girls looked in the direction of Alicia’s gaze. They had arrived at the dock. And bouncing down the white wooden staircase towards the elaborate yellow and white dock (complete with latticework, gazebo, and orchid-festooned archway) was a girl who could only have been Binky Mortimer. She was tall—almost as tall as Carmen, which put her at a cool five feet eight inches at least. She had platinum blond hair that fell, Gwen Stefani style, in loose waves around her shoulders. Her dark blue eyes were framed in dark liner, and her lip gloss was a classic Palm Beach coral. Dressed in Pucci from head to toe, Binky was wearing a hot pink, black, and white halter dress, a matching turban, and sky-high hot pink heels. “Yoo-hoo, I’m here! I’m coming, ladies. Don’t fret!”
“Don’t fret?” Jamie repeated, rolling her eyes. “She’s acting like we just arrived in the hood at two a.m. during a blackout, instead of pulling up to Moneyville in broad daylight.”
“I’m on my way!” Binky called. In her excitement, she tripped on the last step and broke her heel.
“Stupid shoes,” she said, tossing them aside and continuing toward them barefoot.
“Did you see what she just did?” Jamie whispered to Carmen.
“Broke a heel?” Carmen asked.
“Broke a very expensive heel, more like it,” Alicia chimed in.
Jamie nodded. “Those were vintage Jimmy Choos, Resort Collection 2007.”
Jamie was the artist in the group, and one of her many projects was a collection of hand-painted graffiti sneakers that she sold online. Jamie knew everything there was to know about shoes, especially vintage. And while kicks were her specialty, she was also the resident expert on all things Manolo, Choo, and Louboutin.
“Only five hundred pairs of those shoes were made,” Jamie sighed. “Those go for about eighteen hundred dollars on eBay.”
“She probably took them out of her mom’s closet,” Alicia said, guessing from her own experience. As they made their way off the boat, she added in a whisper, “I bet she has no idea how much they cost.”
Oblivious of the scrutiny, Binky rushed up to the amigas and promptly gave them each a big hug. “I just know we’re going to be besties,” she said, grinning broadly.
The girls were a little surprised by the heavy-duty PDA from their newest client. Alicia and Carmen went with it, hugging Binky back. But Jamie remained reserved.
“Bummer about your shoe,” she said instead.
“No big whoop.” Binky shrugged. “I’ll just get another pair.”
Sensing that Jamie was about to lose it with their client, Alicia looped her arm through Jamie’s and led her toward the dock’s steps.
“Stay cool, Sosa,” Alicia whispered. “Remember, the client is always right.”
Jamie began to mutter in Spanglish. “Esta tipa rica makes me completamente nuts. La más abusadora de todas las abusadoras.”
Ignoring her friend, Alicia turned around to see that Carmen had calmly and deftly swooped the Choos out of the trash can where they’d been dumped.
“You know, chica, these can be fixed,” Carmen said to Binky. “Any good shoe-repair shop can make these just like new.”
“Really?” Binky said, as though this were the craziest thing she’d ever heard. “That’s a great idea. I’m always breaking a heel. I’m such a klutz. It never occurred to me to try to fix them. My stepmother told me to just throw them away. But I will fix those broken shoes, and then I will donate them to charity.”
“Or you could wear them again, after they are fixed,” Carmen pointed out. Recycling and resourcefulness were a necessary part of Carmen’s life. She had four sisters, a brother, a stepfather, and a stepmother who was a telenovela star. That meant a lot of personalities, a lot of clothes, a lot of sharing, and a lot of patience—all of which made Carmen a huge asset to Amigas Inc. and a great friend.
“Let’s not go crazy,” Binky said. “No need for me to wear broken shoes when I can use them to help save the world by giving them to poor people. Speaking of which, what size are you?”
“I’m a size seven,” Carmen said.
“Great! Me, too! If you can fix these, you can have them,” Binky said.
“Really?” Carmen asked. Unlike Jamie, she wasn’t easily offended. “I’d love them.”
“But only if you promise me that you won’t go to a bad neighborhood to get them repaired,” Binky added. “I wouldn’t want you risking your life over a pair of shoes. I can always make Manuel, the butler, do it. He was in the army in Nicaragua and has mad combat skills.”
“There’s a shoe-repair shop right down the street from my house,” Carmen said, trying not to burst out laughing at Binky’s warped perception of reality. “I think I’ll be fine.”
When the amigas and Binky reached the top of the dock stairs, the house still loomed ahead, a good five-minute walk from where they stood. No wonder Binky had broken a heel, Carmen thought. There was a lot of walking to do around here. The grounds were elaborately laid. From where they stood, they could make out a tennis court, fountains, and a pool, with what looked like marble steps.
“Let’s go to the north pool area,” Binky said. “Estrella will bring us lunch out there.”
“The north pool?” Alicia asked. “Is there a south pool as well?”
Binky nodded. “The north pool is saltwater, and the south pool is freshwater, of course,” she said.
“Of course,” Jamie muttered, rolling her eyes.
Alicia nudged her with her elbow and then, turning, followed Binky.
AT THE POOL, Binky turned and shot them all what they were quickly learning was her trademark megawatt smile. “I’m so happy you all decided to come and spend the day with me. We don’t get nearly enough visitors at Isla de la Luz.”
“Isla de la Luz?” Carmen asked. “Why do you call it that?”
“My father named it after my mother, Luz Yadira Camila Sanchez de la Vega,” Binky said. “She was from Venezuela and was the most beautiful woman in Miami. She died when I was just a baby. Breast cancer. Which just sucks. Orange is my favorite color, but I always wear something pink to honor her.”
“So, you’re half Latina?” Alicia asked, looking over at Jamie and raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, isn’t that cool?” Binky said. “My father’s family sailed over on the Mayflower. My mother’s family is still in Venezuela. Dash, my brother, and I go to visit them every summer. But he was older when my mother passed. She only spoke Spanish to him, so his accent is really, really good. My accent, not so much.”
“I’m mixed, too,” Carmen said. “My mother is from Mexico and my father is Jewish and Argentinean.”
“Oh, my gosh! We’re like sisters!” Binky cried, giving Carmen another big hug.
“What’s with all the hugging?” Jamie whispered to Alicia. “It makes me want to…”—she leaned over and mimed throwing up near a bush of brightly colored plumeria. Alicia shot her a look. It was too late. Binky had clearly seen, and the sadness flashed across her face. Quickly, though, she was back to her cheerful self. “As I was saying, I’m really glad to have you guys here,” she went on. “My brother’s away a lot at golf tournaments, and my father’s always at work. If it weren’t for Estrella, our housekeeper, I’d be stranded on this island with just my stepmother all the time.”
“I take it that means the evil stepmother thing has some truth to it?” Alicia asked.
Binky shrugged. “I don’t know if evil is the word. It’s more like she’s very, very…cold. For example, she told my father she would prefer it if I didn’t hug her except on holidays and special occasions.”
The girls traded looks of disbelief.
“That’s nuts. It can’t be true,” Carmen said.
Binky looked as if she’d revealed too much and changed the subject. “Do you guys want to have our big planning meeting in the Jacuzzi?”
“We didn’t bring our suits,” Jamie pointed out.
“No problema, amigas,” Binky said, in what was possibly the worst Spanish accent the friends had ever heard. “There are tons of suits in the changing rooms.” She pointed across the pool. At every corner there was a blue-and-white-striped cabana, like a small circus tent.
“I’m down,” Alicia said, taking off for a changing room. “I love a Jacuzzi.”
“Me, too,” said Carmen. “I’ll come with you.”
Jamie looked at her friends, who were smiling just a little wickedly at her obvious misery. This simply solidified in her mind why they shouldn’t have been there.
“Fine,” Jamie groaned. “Fine.”
“Great,” Binky said. “Meet you back here in ten!”
The tres amigas piled into a cabana together. As each of them looked around, it was hard not to be impressed. This was no simple changing room. It had a full-length mirror in an elaborate gold frame, a rack of bathing suits for men and women, a chaise longue covered in the same striped fabric as had been used on the cabana, and a small refrigerator with sodas and minibottles of champagne.
“Since when do we do business meetings in a Jacuzzi?” Jamie asked, grumpily. “It’s totally unprofessional.”
“Maybe,” Alicia said. “But I have a feeling that this isn’t going to be our run-of-the-mill quinceañera.”
“You can say that again. Nothing about Binky Mortimer is run-of-the-mill,” Carmen agreed. “Hey, check this out. All of the suits are brand-new. They still have their tags on them.”
“Oooh, I like this one!” Alicia exclaimed, grabbing a white suit with side cutouts.
“So, Binky’s mom is Latina,” Carmen said, stepping behind a curtain and pulling on a simple two-piece. “Who knew she was a secret Latina at large?”
“It takes more than having a Latin mom to be a true Latina,” Jamie said, grabbing the nearest swimsuit and pulling it on in a huff.
“Really? What does it take?” Carmen asked, needling her friend.
“It takes flava,” Jamie said defiantly.
Alicia and Carmen guffawed.
“You mean those dollar-ninety-nine packets of flava?” Alicia asked.
“I mean the born-in-the-barrio, money-can’t-buy-it flava,” Jamie tossed over her shoulder as she made her way back out into the sunshine.
As they walked to the Jacuzzi, Carmen asked Alicia, “Were you born in the barrio?”
“Nope,” Alicia answered, smiling.
“Me, neither,” Carmen said. “So, where’d we get our flava?”
“I think Queen Jamie anointed us with it,” Alicia whispered.
“That must be it. I hereby pronounce you Lady Alicia of the Barrio, numero uno Cubana Americana business mogul of the kingdom,” Carmen declared, pantomiming tapping Alicia on the shoulder with a scepter.
“And I hereby pronounce you Dame Carmen, cultural beacon of Latina fashion and design,” Alicia replied. Carmen bowed slightly.
Jamie, who had been pretending to ignore them, laughed in spite of herself. “You know I can hear you, right?” she said.
“We were just making a point. Be nice to our new friend,” Alicia said. “She seems like a sweet girl.”
“New client, not new friend,” Jamie said. “Big difference. And sweet? Well, so is a piece of sour candy—until you bite into it.”
- On Sale
- Oct 7, 2011
- Page Count
- 272 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers