Kaira emerged from the bathroom thirty minutes later wearing a hotel robe. She called room service and ordered a glass of orange juice, pancakes, a cappuccino, and French fries. It would have to last her until the concert. If she tried to eat before the concert shed puke. After a concert she usually had a bowl of ice cream.
She got dressed, then stepped back out to the sitting area. Fred, her doofus bodyguard, was still there, going through her mail.
As soon as I turn eighteen, youre going to be the second person I fire.
Fred didnt even look up. It wasnt the first time hed heard it.
The television was on CNN. Kaira changed the station to the Cartoon Network.
The first person shed fire would be El Genius. He was her business manager and agent, and also happened to be married to her mother. They had gotten married shortly before the tour. His real name was Jerome Paisley, but he actually wanted people to call him El Genius. No matter how hard Kaira tried to sound sarcastic when she used that name, he always took it as a compliment.
Her father had been killed in Iraq. His name was John Spears. Kairas real name was Kathy Spears, but there was already a famous singer with that last name.
El Genius had come up with the name Kaira DeLeon.
You mean like Ponce de León? Kaira had asked him.
Kaira explained to the genius who Ponce de León was, which was why her first CD was titled The Fountain of Youth El Genius thought it looked classy for DeLeon to be spelled as one word, with a capital letter in the middle.
Kaira had learned all about Ponce de León when she was in fourth grade and living at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. She had to learn the history of Florida. By years end she was living at Fort Myer, where theyd been studying the history of Virginia all year. She had never spent an entire school year in the same place.
So, anything from Billy Boy? she asked Fred.
Fred shook his head.
Aw, too bad, Kaira said. He writes such charming letters.
Its not funny, said Fred.
I think its hilarious, said Kaira. She sang, Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?
Billy Boy had sent her four letters so far. He told her he thought she was lovely, she sang like a bird, and someday he would kill her.
El Genius hired Fred after the first letter. Kaira wouldnt have been surprised if El Genius had actually written the letters, to scare her into staying confined to her hotel room. He was such a control freak. She was sure Fred told him everything she did.
You got another marriage proposal, Fred said.
White or black?
A photograph had been sent with the letter. Fred looked at it. White, he said.
What is it with you guys? asked Kaira.
It was her seventh proposal, and every one had been from a white man.
Fred carefully put the letter and the photograph in a plastic bag.
What are you doing that for?
He said he wanted to marry me, not kill me, Kaira pointed out.
For some people, its the same thing, said Fred.
Kaira glanced at him, surprised. The Doofus had actually said something kind of profound.
Let me see what he looks like?
Fred handed her the plastic bag.
Kaira laughed when she saw the picture. He looks like you! The photograph was that of a very muscular man wearing no shirt. The only difference between him and Fred was that his hair was long and wavy, while Fred had a buzz cut.
Excerpted from Small Steps by Louis Sachar Copyright © 2006 by Louis Sachar. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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