Growing up BeautifilChapter 3


The screen door of a modest Canoga Park home creaked open.
         “You’re late.”
         Casey Townsend navigated her way around worn pieces of furniture to follow the aroma of seasoned hamburger that led into the kitchen. “You said I had to be back by five-thirty.”
         “It’s quarter to six.” Her mother turned off the gas burner under the frying pan. “I was getting worried about you.”
         “Why do you have to make such a big deal out of everything?”
         “A lot can happen in fifteen minutes. I saw a girl who looked like you on one of those missing person flyers I get in the mail.”
         “If I ever disappear, promise me you’ll use the headshot on my modeling composite for the handout. I love that photo.”
         “I’m serious, young lady.”
         “So am I, mom. I’m almost eighteen. I can take care of myself.”         
         Her mother walked over to the sink and thrust her hands into sudsy water. “Then why did I have to yell at you every night to do homework? Do you honestly think you would have graduated from high school if I hadn’t done that? And don’t get me started on your room. There are at least five lost house keys in there, a week’s worth of dirty dishes, and a carpet I can’t vacuum because it’s buried under a pile of clothes.”
         “Why are you freaking out on me like this? I’m home now.” Casey got up and searched the pantry shelves until she found a box of chocolate-chip cookies. “
         “Your ticket to Milan arrived today. I put it on top of your dresser.”        
         “Cool. I can’t wait.” The idea of getting on a plane in the morning and flying to a foreign country caused her stomach to cramp into a tight knot.
         “It’s not cool. You’re too young to be running around Italy on your own. You don’t know anything about checkbooks, or paying rent, or buying groceries.” Her mother dried her hands on a dishcloth and turned to lean against the counter. ”And now you’re eating again. Great. Who’s going to remind you about your weight over there? Who’s going to care if you balloon up like your Aunt Colleen? Nobody. That’s who. They’ll send you home wearing sweatpants and I’ll be stuck getting you back in shape.”
         Casey opened the cellophane wrapper and pulled out a cookie. “If my jeans get snug, I’ll start jogging or something.”
         “I think you should stay here where I can keep an eye on you.”
         “I have to go. There’s too much competition in L.A. for modeling jobs. My agent told me she'd drop me if I didn’t get some really great tear sheets to show clients, and the only way to get them fast is to fly to Italy.”
         “Does your agent send all her models six thousand miles away to get photographs?”
         “I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
         “Does she know you still live at home?”
         She shrugged.
         “Damn it. I don’t feel good about this.” Her mother turned back to the sink and washed a fistful of forks. “I wish your dad hadn’t encouraged you to go. He’s never been one to think things through. He’s always left that up to me.”
         Casey retrieved another cookie and popped it into her mouth. She thought about the last conversation with her dad. “He said he went to Europe right after high school and had a great time.”
         “Your father was lucky he didn’t get mugged or attacked.”
         “He told me he met lots of interesting people.”
         “He’s never been a good judge of character.”
         “He thinks I can do this.”
         Her mother shook her head before reaching into the water to scrub an aluminum saucepan with harsh, frantic jabs. “I don’t understand why you can’t get a normal job.”
         “Normal jobs aren’t fun.”
         “They’re not supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to pay bills.”
         “Models make a heck of a lot more money than cashiers or secretaries.”
         The scrubbing stopped. “If something happens to you, or you get yourself into trouble over there, I’ll be too far away to help you.”
         "Don't worry." Casey walked across the linoleum floor and paused in the doorway. “It’s only for two months." Her light green eyes narrowed in determination. "I’ll be fine. You’ll see.”


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