Acting Out

Zoe is back—but do her friends want her there?

“Okay, the dogs are all exercised and in their kennels. Let’s get to David’s!” Maggie says, flipping her ponytail behind her back. “His mom has lunch for all of us.”

“Yum, let’s go,” Brenna says.

We head across the street to David’s house. I’m glad my first day back is one with all the Vet Volunteers. Everyone seems excited to see me. But I sure do wish I knew whether Maggie was happy to have me back or not.

I take a hard look at my cousin to see if I can find the answer in her face, but she is busy twirling the cat toothbrush Gran sent along for David’s cat at Sunita. Josh, Jules, and Brenna are talking about some Stream Cleanup Day they did. And I just trail behind, wondering how I’ll fit back in—
if
I’ll fit back in—with this tight group of friends: the Vet Volunteers.

Collect All the Vet Volunteers Books

Fight for Life

Homeless

Trickster

Manatee Blues

Say Good-bye

Storm Rescue

Teacher’s Pet

Trapped

Fear of Falling

Time to Fly

Masks

End of the Race

New Beginnings

Acting Out

LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON

Acting Out

PUFFIN BOOKS

An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

PUFFIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

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First published in the United States of America by Puffin Books,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2012

1  3  5  7  9  10  8  6  4  2

Copyright © Laurie Halse Anderson, 2012

Title page photo copyright © Bob Krasner, 2011

All rights reserved

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA IS AVAILABLE

ISBN: 978-1-101-57186-6

Text set in Joanna MT

Printed in the United States of America

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

ALWAYS LEARNING

PEARSON

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

New Beginnings

Chapter One

Y
ou’re dumping me again, Mom.”

“Zoe, don’t be dramatic.”

Mom sits at Gran’s kitchen table and doesn’t take her eyes off me. I lean against the counter, cross my arms, and roll my eyes to the ceiling.

“Zoe, it would be different if we were filming this movie only during the summer. But it’s going to take months. You can’t be out of middle school that long. Once summer starts, you can visit me for a week or two on set in Vancouver.”

Visit
. What does that mean? I guess Mom expects to be in Canada through the summer, but how long after that? And why can’t I spend the whole summer with her?

Mom takes a tiny bite out of her Pop-Tart and washes it down with a gulp of coffee. She doesn’t usually eat sugary stuff like that, but here at Gran’s house there’s no organic yogurt in the fridge, and the bananas on her counter are rounding the corner from deep brown to black. Pop-Tarts for breakfast it is. I’m not even remotely hungry, though. Mom wrinkles her nose and takes another bite.

We just arrived late last night and Mom is already leaving again. She’s continuing on to New York City. We used to live there together. Then I moved to Ambler before joining Mom in California, and now it’s back to Ambler again—for me, at least. In New York, Mom is meeting once more with the movie’s costume designer and checking in with some of her old soap-opera friends. They’re my friends, too, and I don’t see why I can’t at least make the trip to New York before settling in to life in Ambler, Pennsylvania, again.

I try one more time. “Why can’t I just spend the weekend in New York with you before you fly to Vancouver? I can take the train back here by myself, you know I can.”

“We’ve gone over and over this. You know I promised your grandmother that I would deliver you here. New York will be much too hectic. I wouldn’t have time to have fun with you; I have
too much to fit in before we start shooting—”

“But it’s spring break here this week!” I say. “I wouldn’t even be missing school.”

“Which is why this is so perfect. You’ll have a little time to settle back in with Gran and Maggie before having to start school again.”

Mom gets up from the table and hugs me. A car horn blares out front.

“That’s my cab. Listen, Zoe, we’ll check in with each other every day or so. Once I’m on set it might be a little more time between calls or emails. But I promise we’ll stay in touch, okay? Of course we will.” Mom squeezes me hard and kisses my cheek. Her breath smells like strong coffee and even stronger peppermint. She gathers up her bags and sweeps toward the door.

“Tell my mother good-bye for me. I can’t wait around until she’s finished with whichever four-legged friend she’s tending to now!” She waves as she leaves.

“I love you,” I hear Mom sing out after the door has closed behind her.

I sigh. Stranded again. Left behind by Mom because she has bigger plans than me. I guess I might as well go back to bed. I’m still pretty tired from traveling, and I don’t exactly feel ready to face this new—er, old—life. I’m heading back to my
old bedroom when I hear my name. It’s my cousin Maggie. I can hear her talking to a boy and a girl whose voices I don’t recognize. I pause, standing behind the kitchen door separating Gran’s house from her vet clinic.

“Late,” Maggie says. “Really late. Gran picked up Zoe and Aunt Rose from the airport after midnight. Their plane was delayed. Gran let me stay up so I could say hi to them. I think Aunt Rose has already left. She had to be in New York City this morning.”

“Wow. It must be a big change, going from Hollywood back to living in Ambler. Does she seem different to you?” the girl asks.

“Zoe? Not much. Even jet-lagged Zoe is pretty dramatic.” The way Maggie says it I’m not sure if she means that in a good way or not. I love her, but Maggie and I haven’t always gotten along.

“But who knows. Gran pretty much sent us right to bed,” Maggie continues. “Then she and Aunt Rose stayed up talking. I think Zoe is still sleeping, but you’ll meet her at some point today.”

“Do you look alike?” the girl asks.

“They’re cousins, not twin sisters!” the boy says.

“We look nothing alike,” Maggie begins. “Well, she does have a little MacKenzie red in her long blond hair. But no freckles like me. And she dresses…she dresses…well, different. You’ll see.”

What does Maggie mean by “
different
”? I just look neat and tidy. Okay, and rather stylish. I think about the three extra suitcases I begged Mom to let me bring, brimming with new jeans, sparkly shirts, and an embarrassing number of shoes. Maggie, I am sure, must look like her usual red-headed, flannel shirt–wearing self. She could look so much better if she just took a minute with her hair or cared a tiny bit about her clothes—and not just about whether they were clean or not. But all Maggie cares about is basketball and animals. Which are both great, but maybe she’ll finally let me give her some style tips this time around. Maybe.

“How long will she be staying?” the girl asks.

“I have no idea,” Maggie says with a funny voice. I wish I had seen her face when she said that. “Maybe the rest of the school year and the whole summer? Her mom’s filming in Vancouver will probably take about that long,” she continues.

“I can’t believe her mom is a movie star,” the girl says.

“I don’t think you could call her a movie star, but she’s an actress, anyway.”

What?? I would definitely call my mother a movie star! Well, okay, maybe not yet. But she is a star of this movie, anyway.

“My aunt is really pretty,” Maggie adds. “Zoe is, too.”

Aw, that’s nice. I’m about to go show them what I look like when I hear the boy ask, “Are you happy she’s back? Will it be weird to share your grandmother again?”

Yeah, I sure do want to hear the answer to this one.

I listen closely. I hear only the metallic sound of cage doors opening and closing. The kids must have moved into the recovery room to clean cages. It’s Saturday morning, and I know that is on Gran’s Vet Volunteers to-do list.

I open the door a tiny bit to try to hear better. I know they can’t see me here, but their voices are still muffled.

“Are you coming in to help, or are you going to stand at the door all day?” The voice startles me. Standing behind me is Dr. J. J. MacKenzie, owner of Dr. Mac’s Place Veterinary Clinic to everybody here in Ambler, Pennsylvania. But to Maggie and me, she’s just Gran, wonder woman caretaker of orphaned granddaughters. Maggie, fulltime since her parents died in a car crash. And me, any time my mom’s acting career is more important than I am.

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