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Royally Jacked

Royally Jacked

Chapter One

Exactly two weeks, one day, and ten hours ago, my mother completely ruined my life. She announced over her usual dinner of Kraft macaroni and cheese (with tomatoes and broccoli bits mixed in-her attempt at being healthy), that she no longer wished to remain married to my dad.

She planned to move in with her new girlfriend, Gabrielle.


She went on and on about how it had nothing to do with me, and nothing to do with Dad, so we shouldn't feel the least bit bad about it. She'd simply come to realize that she wasn't the same person on the inside she'd been showing everyone on the outside. Yeah, right.

Needless to say, I have not yet told my girlfriends, with whom I have a totally different relationship than my mother has with her girlfriend. Or partner. Whatever. I'm not exactly focused on how politically correct I am in describing my mom's bizarro crush. Especially since I can't describe Gabrielle to anyone yet.

My friends will freak.

Then they'll either treat me all nicey-nice, giving me those sad eyes that say, 'we're soooo sorry', when really they're thrilled to have something scandalous to gossip about while they're ignoring Mr. Davis's weekly lecture about how we're not keeping the lab area clean enough in Honors Chemistry.

Or they'll be so horrified by my mother's newly-found 'lifestyle' that they'll slowly start ignoring me. In tenth grade—at least in Vienna, Virginia—this is the kiss of death. Even worse than not being one of the cool crowd. Which is the type of person I currently am. Not quite cool, that is.

So tonight, I'm eating dinner at the table by myself, watching while my mom and dad stand in the kitchen and debate who's going to get the mahogany Henredon sleigh bed and who gets the twenty-year-old brass bed I refused to have in my room because it's going to need duct tape to hold it together if anyone decides to get a little action on it.

"Hey, Mom," I finally interrupt. "I know you want the Henredon, but when Gabrielle was here last week, she told me she thought the brass bed was wicked cool."

My mother shoots me the look of death. "Nice try, Valerie, but I don't believe Gabrielle's used the phrase 'wicked cool' in her life."

I deliberately roll my eyes. "She didn't say that exactly. Geez, Mom. I think she said it was..." I pretend to struggle for the right phrase, something that will convince her. Given Mom's behavior lately, I'm betting she'll do anything to make Gabrielle happy. "Shabby chic? Whatever that means. But it was obvious she really liked it."

I shrug, then look back down at the Thai stir fry my father made for me before my mom showed up at the door with her SUV full of empty boxes and a list of the furniture she wanted to take to her and Gabrielle's new place.

If I'd had to bet which of my parents had coming-out-of-the-closet potential, I'd have put my money—not that I have much—on Dad. Let me state up front that he's no wuss. He drinks beer and watches Vin Diesel and Keanu Reeves movies like a real guy. He goes to the gym every morning before work and has a smokin' set of biceps and pecs. And according to my friends, he's kind of hot. For a dad, at least.

It's just that for one, his name is Martin, which sounds pretty gay. There's a guy at school named Martin who's a total flamer. Not that there's anything wrong with that—I have no problem with people being gay. Really I don't. I'm a live-and-let-live type. But Martin's a friend, he's not my parent. That's where I have the problem.

Aside from the name thing pegging Dad as potential gay material, he's the chief of protocol at the White House, which means he reminds the President and his staff of things like, "Don't invite the Indian ambassador to a hamburger cookout." (The White House guys are always forgetting that one.) Dad can also describe the proper depth to bow to the Japanese Prime Minister and the trick to eating spaghetti or the oversized hunks of lettuce they always serve at state dinners without making a mess of yourself. He knows how to tie a bow tie without a mirror and can tell you what kind of jacket is appropriate for a morning wedding.

Believe it or not, these are marketable skills.

Oh, and my dad is an awesome cook. Unlike Mom. I'm guessing Gabrielle's going to be cooking for them.

Playing casual, I flick my gaze toward my mom. "I'm just saying that if Gabrielle really likes the brass bed, maybe you could surprise her with it. That's all."

Getting that crap bed would serve them right for what they did to my dad. And to me. Especially if it fell apart under them.

Ick. I do not even want to think about this.

© Niki Burnham