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Authors: Allison Rushby

The Seven Month Itch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allison Rushby’s childhood dream was to be a ballerina with pierced ears. She forgot to study ballet past the age of six, but got the pierced ears and instead began a writing career as a journalism student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. Within a few months she had slunk sideways into studying Russian. By the end of her degree she had learnt two very important things: she didn’t want to be a journalist and … well, okay, maybe just one important thing. (Maths was never her strong point.)

A number of years spent writing for wedding magazines almost sent her crazy. After much whingeing about how hard it would be, she began her first novel. That is, her boyfriend told her to shut up, sit down and get writing. It worked, because Allison has since had six novels published (but sadly, that boyfriend now thinks he knows what he’s talking about all the time).

These days Allison writes full-time, mostly with her Devon Rex cats, Vi and Flo, purring contentedly on her lap. (Okay, not quite true – they’re usually on the floor trying to gouge each other’s eyes out.)

You can read more about Allison, her freaky cats and smarty-pants partner at
http://www.allisonrushby.com.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

The Seven Month Itch

9781742754659

Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney, NSW 2060
http://www.randomhouse.com.au

Sydney New York Toronto
London Auckland Johannesburg

First published by Random House Australia 2006
Copyright © Allison Rushby 2006

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry:

Rushby, Allison.
The seven month itch.

For children aged 12 and over.
ISBN 978 1 74166 163 7.
ISBN 1 74166 163 3.

I. Title

A823.4

Cover photograph courtesy of Getty Images
Cover and internal design by Ellie Exarchos

Look out for other books in the Living Blonde series:
Diamonds are a Teen’s Best Friend
, the hilarious prequel to
The Seven Month Itch
, and
How to Date a Millionaire
.

 

‘Hey, Vera!’ I scramble off my seat at the breakfast bar as soon as I hear the elevator ping.

Even before the doors slide fully open, the heavily accented voice starts in on me. ‘Hay, it is what the horses eat,
young lady
.’

Halfway across the parquetry floor, I stop in my tracks. Young lady? That’s a new one. Vera has obviously been spending
way
too much time hanging around my dad. I shrug, then keep heading in the direction of the very solid form that’s now thumping towards me across the impressively large hallway. ‘Can I give you a hand?’ I go over to take some of the grocery bags Vera’s clutching under each arm.

‘No, no, no,’ she clucks in her now-familiar ‘Me, portly
Russian housekeeper; you, child to be overfed’ way, and lurches past me into the kitchen. She dumps the bags unceremoniously on the counter with a huff. ‘Now,’ she says, turning back around. ‘What you want for the breakfast?’

Down to Vera business.

I shrug again. ‘I’ve already got some juice, and cereal’s fine. I was just about to get myself a bowl.’ I start back towards the kitchen.

Within seconds, Vera has cut me off at the pass.

‘No, no, no,’ the clucking starts up once more. ‘You too skinny, Va-nessa. So skinny. You need to eat. No cereal. Is all sugar. You need the protein. Too skinny. So skinny!’

I look down at my summer pyjama-clad stomach, to see if I’ve magically lost weight overnight. Nope. And I don’t think that bulge of stomach there, blocking out a gorgeous view of my feet, is bloating brought on by a severe case of malnutrition.

‘See?’ she says, and before I can either a) look up, orb) stop her, Vera’s pudgy hand has darted out and grabbed my hip-bone. ‘Nothing!’ She gives my hip, and its ample padding, a good squeeze. ‘Need to eat! Too skinny. So skinny! Boys like the girl with something to hold on to.’

I shrug for a third time. Can’t argue with that, I guess. ‘How about waffles?’ I suggest. Never mind the boys, you have to keep your housekeeper happy, right? As Holly’s always telling me, it’s hard to get good help in Manhattan, especially downtown. Waffles are the least I can do. And if waffles keep the boys interested, well, so be it. We’ll call it a welcome side effect.

‘Waffles! Yes! Good!’ Vera claps her hands together, now a very happy little housekeeper.

‘I can help …’ I take half a step closer into Vera’s kitchen. (When she’s here, you have to be very careful about entering. I swear I once heard her start growling when I went to get myself a glass of water.)

‘No, no, no. You sit. Drink the juice.’ And there’s the look. The Vera look. The ‘Back away from my kitchen’ look.

‘Okay,’ I squeak, and turn around to take my seat at the breakfast bar. ‘I’ll just, um, sit here and drink my juice.’ Who knew that fixing yourself breakfast in your own home could be so dangerous?

‘Yes. Good. Drink juice.’ Then, before I can even take a sip of my juice, the groceries have been put away and scary Vera has turned into happy waffle-making Vera.

I shake my head and check my stomach once more. Yep, still there. If she’s anything to go by, Russia must be full of very fat, over-waffled children.

‘Morning, Vera! Hey kiddo!’ My wicked (in the cool form of the word only) stepmother-to-be breezes into the kitchen.

‘Holly, please,’ I tut. ‘Hay’s what the horses eat.’ I shoot her a look. ‘Vera’s just been telling me so.’

Holly pauses, then laughs. ‘I wonder who passed that pearl on?’

‘Gee, I wonder,’ I say, rolling my eyes at her. ‘The professor, perchance?’ Ah yes, my dad, Professor William Mulholland, the most embarrassing man in the world. Aside from the usual father–daughter embarrassment, my father couldn’t manage to be a professor of something normal, like mathematics or classics, or something. No, my father is a professor of sociology. And his specialty? Human mating rituals. Just my luck.

Holly shakes her head. ‘Watch it, you. That’s my fiancé you’re talking about.’ She chucks me under the chin and laughs again.

Vera looks up from her waffle kingdom. ‘Ah, so
beautiful …’ She looks at Holly, sighs, and begins shaking her head sadly. ‘So beautiful.’

‘Oh, Vera, cut it out already.’ Holly waves a hand, blushing.

As for me, I try not to snort my juice out of my nose. This it’s-such-a-tragedy-to-be-so-good-looking thing totally cracks me up. I take a look at Holly myself now. The sad thing about it is Vera’s right. It really
is
wrong to be that good-looking before 8 am. All she’s wearing is jeans and a white T-shirt, with her long dark hair scraped back into a high ponytail, black sunglasses pushed back on her head, black slides on her feet, a touch of mascara and cherry-tinted lip gloss. She must have taken all of fifteen minutes to get ready, and that includes a shower. Honestly. Couldn’t Holly wait till at least 10 am to be beautiful?

‘So beautiful …’ Vera gives one last sigh before cracking. ‘Now. What you want for the breakfast? You too skinny! So skinny!’

‘Hey!’ Marc Harris, Holly’s nephew, enters the waffly scene like we’re all in some sort of sit-com. I wait for the applause to start … nothing. I guess that’s okay as long as it’s Marc entering and not me. (He was my one-time
dalliance, of course. Then we realised we were going to be kind of related and the ick factor settled in.)

‘You too skinny also! Everybody so skinny!’

‘Are they waffles?’ Marc asks, and fearlessly goes right on over to stand next to Vera. He scoops some batter up with his finger. ‘Yum!’

Vera nods hard at Marc. ‘Yes. Good boy!’ she says approvingly, before turning back to look at me. ‘See? He like the waffles.’

‘Hey! How come you’re allowed in the kitchen?’ I pipe up now.

Marc gives me a grin. ‘Because
I
eat like a horse. Whereas
you
only eat like a filly.’ Another scoop of waffle batter goes in his big mouth.

I sigh, then shrug what I hope is my final shrug of the morning. My shoulders are getting tired already. ‘Yeah, well, you’ve got a point. There’re only so many waffles a thoroughbred can take. Unlike old nags headed for the glue factory.’

‘He growing boy.’ Vera shakes her ladle at me. ‘Needs many waffles.’

‘I thought they were
my
waffles,’ I protest.

‘Now, now, you two. Play nicely.’ Holly tries on her best mother voice.

‘Sorry, Aunty Holly,’ Marc replies, playing the good nephew. He then turns to face me again, his mouth full of waffle batter. ‘Hey Nessa, what do you call a smart blonde?’

I groan. Marc hasn’t been able to stop with the dumb-blonde jokes ever since he learned a while back that I’m just a tad obsessed with Marilyn Monroe movies. ‘What?’ I ask in reply.

‘A golden retriever.’

‘Ha ha ha.’

Holly groans along with me. ‘When are you going to give up on those dumb-blonde jokes, Marc?’

Um, it’s looking like never, I think to myself. As if being blonde is funny, anyway. Ha ha. Yes, it’s hilarious. And another thing – liking Marilyn Monroe, I mean, what’s wrong with that? Who could
not
like her? That’s the real question.

Right. I guess I should explain … The thing is, and you might know this, or you might not, but I have a bit of a passion for the big double M. If you do know, sorry, but I’m going to have to explain anyway. I do love to explain.
(My family is always making me do it. I’m practically an expert in the field.) So, why do I have a thing for Marilyn Monroe? Well, because the woman is, was,
amazing
, of course! I’ve seen every one of her movies, including the last one that was never finished. And not just once, but about a million times over. Each. I just can’t get enough of Marilyn. Why again? Well, I can’t exactly explain it. It’s not one thing in particular I love about Marilyn, it’s just … oh, everything.

‘Right. You ready?’ I look up to see Holly glance at her watch and then back up at Marc again. ‘The car will be here any minute.’

Marc nods as he licks his fingers. ‘I’m ready, but my stomach …’ At this, he wheels back around to our Russian waffle maker. ‘Vera …’ he asks in what I like to think of as his growing-boy-pleading-with-housekeeper whine. ‘Can we get those waffles to go?’

‘Marc!’ Holly gives him a look. ‘Vera’s not your food slave. You can eat something on the plane.’

‘But Vera’s waffles are
so
good and I’m
so
hungry, and plane food is
so
bad and …’

I shake my head. Come on, Holly. As if Marc’s leaving
here without an extra suitcase full of waffles. Vera would rather die first.

Behind me, a breeze blows into the room and I vaguely realise it really feels like summer now. Summer. I can hardly believe it. I zone out as I start to think about what I was doing last summer. It’s so weird. This time last year I was living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with my dad all the way uptown on the Upper West Side. And now, a year later, well, let’s just say life is a little different. Now my dad is engaged to Holly Isles. Yes,
the
Holly Isles, one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses. And yes, that’s
my
dad – the professor. Mr ‘I actually wear those corduroy jackets with leather patches on the elbows’. (If I ever find out where he gets those from, I swear I’ll be partaking in a little exercise in arson.)

Sometimes it’s hard to get my head around how much has changed in twelve months. Some mornings I still have to pinch myself when I wake up, just to check that it’s all for real. I mean, Holly Isles and my dad? It’s like Julia Roberts marrying someone like … oh, she married Lyle Lovett, didn’t she? Hmmm. Bad example. Okay, then, it’s like Catherine Zeta-Jones marrying someone like … oh, bad
example again. Well, how about that? Maybe that explains it after all: maybe it’s a phase that actresses go through.

Still, phase or no phase, there’s no denying Holly and my dad’s story is pretty romantic. They were from different worlds – he was the geeky professor and she was the stunning actress. Their eyes met across the crowded deck of the cruise ship where she was honeymooning (without a husband, because her fiancé ditched her at the altar) and he was studying cruise-ship mating rituals. When they parted company in France, it was only to realise they couldn’t live without each other. Within months he had chucked in his work in Paris and she’d begged him to move himself and his ‘people’ (that’s me) into her Tribeca penthouse. Soon after, she asked him to marry her. (Pretty cool, huh?)

And so, now, here I am.

I turn slightly to look behind me as another breeze blows into the room. Yes. Here I am. In a Tribeca penthouse. Needless to say, it’s pretty much nothing like Dad and my apartment on the Upper West Side (unless you stand in the penthouse’s hall cupboard, in the dark, where there’s a faint musty old-shoe smell, and then it’s slightly similar). My eyes practically popped out of their sockets
when I realised this was going to be my new home and, for the first few weeks, I almost had to resort to taping them in to stop them from popping out ten times a day. Holly calls her penthouse apartment ‘the Chateau’, as a joke. She’s told me the story plenty of times. How she went Tribeca apartment shopping (as a girl does on a rainy Saturday) and the real estate agents kept showing her all these boring loft-style warehouse conversions. Then one of the agents took her up to this place, and she said it simply blew her mind.

She’s right. It
is
pretty strange. The rest of the building is quite plain, but, perched on top, is this miniature castle. Apparently it’s ‘French Provincial’ style, whatever that means. I think the best way to describe it is the way I first felt when I stood out on the huge balcony: with its gigantic, intricately carved white plaster pots and curly oversize plaster chairs and benches, the huge oval windows behind looming above me, I swore a gargoyle was going to fly in and carry me away at any moment. Dad says it’s like living at Versailles, but in the sky. I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never been to Versailles, but Dad showed me some pictures on the net and I reckon he’s pretty close. (I told him maybe
next visit to France he won’t have us flitting off out of Paris chasing after a woman, and I’ll get to see the real thing.) Inside the penthouse, thankfully, there’s no guillotine set up in the living room. There’re no chandeliers either. The inside is actually quite modern – lots of light blond wood, white furnishings and big gilt mirrors.

So, yes, as I was saying, this summer is shaping up to be … how should I put it? A little different? Just a tad. I take a thoughtful sip of my juice now. Still, it’s good different.
Really
good different. In fact, I have to say, everything is perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Dad is the happiest he’s been in a long, long time. Probably since Mum died. And Holly … well, there’s no denying she kind of has this glow when Dad’s around (despite him being the most embarrassing guy in the world). It’s nice.

I take another sip of juice, smell the waffles cooking in front of me and then pause as my gut gives a twinge. I move in my seat uncomfortably and frown. Nice … perfect … Hmmm. They’re words that have been coming up a bit lately. And when they come up that bit too much, I sort of start to worry. You know, worry that things are
too
nice.
Too
perfect. That everyone’s
too
happy. Sometimes
I worry that things can’t go on like this forever because, the thing is, I can’t actually remember being this happy before. Like I said, there was my mum dying (not exactly a fun-filled experience), then, after that, we moved around a lot because of Dad’s work at various colleges and universities. It was hard for me to make friends and it was hard for Dad to date. (One of the reasons we moved so much, I think, was that he wanted an excuse
not
to date.) Anyway, now … well, sometimes everything being so ‘right’ all of a sudden seems almost too good to be true. My gut gives another twinge with this thought and I remind myself that I’m not supposed to think like this.

I’ve been through similar patches before – where I slightly freak out about things – and so now I pause to remember something a kiddie psychiatrist spoke to me about a long time ago, after my mum died. I’d been really worried about my dad dying too, and I’d expected that the psychiatrist, like everyone else, would just tell me that my dad wasn’t going anywhere, that he’d be around forever and blah, blah, blah. (And he probably will be, but people telling me that all the time didn’t help any. I mean, I thought my mum would be around forever too, right?)
But no, what he’d said was totally different. He told me that nothing is certain in life and that I won’t be able to control a lot of things, however hard I try. So, there isn’t much use in worrying about what will, or won’t, happen tomorrow, or in trying to force things to be one way or another. I just have to ride the wave, enjoy the good times and believe in myself enough to know that I can deal with the bad times that also come my way. I kind of liked him saying that, because it made me feel like I had some control again, like I wasn’t just sitting around waiting for more bad things to happen to me.

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