Tuesday, January 15, 2013

News and an Excerpt

On sale now! There is No Easy Street is now available on the Nook and Kindle! 

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/There-No-Easy-Street-ebook/dp/B00B17T1ZG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358313771&sr=8-1&keywords=There+is+No+Easy+Street

Barnes and Noble link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/there-is-no-easy-street-michaela-armstrong-paul/1114137477?ean=2940015956733

And now an excerpt from There is No Easy Street


July 15-20th – Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL – 2000

It was the first real vacation the entire family had ever taken. It would be the first time Jett and Nanna Ophelia would leave New York City. Everyone in my family was going; Max, Tricky, Jett, Ophelia, Lauren, Ada, Vianne and Mr. Howard, even Albert and Arcadia and Oleander were coming to Orlando. They were all going to Disney World. Ada and I were so excited to be going.

Vianne and Mr. Howard paid for the whole clan to stay at the Grand Floridian Hotel and Resort for the week. Ada and I were so excited. We were going to get to stay in a big hotel room all by ourselves. Granted our room was connected by a door with our parents' room, but still for two nine year old girls it was a big deal. We were also plotting to throw a wedding for Tricky and Jett, who were celebrating their twentieth anniversary. Ada and I figured since we couldn't get our parents married, Tricky and Jett were the next best people.

Max and Lauren had moved their relationship from very good friends to dating in January of that year. Ada and I loved the fact that Max and Lauren were finally dating. We hoped the Orlando trip would finally make our crazy parents realize that they couldn't live without each other for a moment longer.

That January, prior to the trip to Orlando, Max had snuck off to Philadelphia without me. He arranged for Ada to stay with her grandparents for the weekend so he could get uninterrupted time with Lauren. Max was fresh off his latest tour and was planning on spending the next year with the family, recording and setting up his own label. He already had several artists in the works. He sent her to the Chanel boutique with his credit card and told her to buy whatever she wanted as long as it was formal. Lauren and Ada very rarely shopped anywhere fancier than JC Penney's. It was really hard for Lauren to go on a crazy shopping spree in Chanel.

Max then arranged for Lauren to be picked up in a limo from the shop and taken to a salon and spa for relaxation and more pampering. The ladies at the salon helped her get into her dress, a slinky, yet very tasteful black dress and a cream colored silk wrap. Her long red hair was twisted into an elegant updo. She couldn't figure out what Max had planned. She told me that she really thought my dad was going to propose. Which would have been crazy considering they hadn't even been on a real date.

A long black stretch limo pulled up in front of the salon. Max got out wearing a suit, a type of clothing he would rather not wear. He was holding a bouquet of red and white roses. In the language of flowers, Max was saying he loved Lauren and never wanted to be apart.

He took her to the best restaurant in Philadelphia. But even in the intimate setting, he couldn't keep the fans from coming up to him. The thing about Max Porter, he's not the most, what's the nice way to put it, the most articulate person on the planet. He can write some of the best songs in the world but when it comes to trying to talk to the woman of his dreams, he was all knees and elbows. He babbled about silly things I had done in the last few days. He reached for his water glass, got bumped by a passing busboy and spilled the water all over the floor. With the nervous tension dissipated, their date got back on track. Conversation moved from their kids to themselves.

After dinner the limo took them to a ballet. Max hated the ballet but he also knew it was something that Lauren loved dearly and didn't get the chance to attend very often. They had box seats and Lauren got to use the opera glasses.

"I feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman except for the whole prostitute part," Lauren whispered to Max as the lights for the ballet came up. It was all so magical.

After the show, Dad took Lauren backstage to meet all the dancers. He knew the stage manager from a concert he had put on there a few months prior. In some weird male bonding thing, that Max refuses to tell me about, the stage manager ended up owing Max a favor. I think copious amounts of alcohol were involved somehow. This was the payoff.

Just when Lauren though the night couldn't get any better, they took a late night stroll through the park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Snow was starting to fall. Lauren shivered slightly and Max shrugged off his heavier outer coat. He hadn't expected it to snow or get much colder. They walked up the Rocky Stairs and sat at a bench near the top.

"When I was a little kid, my dad and I used to run up these stairs just like Rocky. He would be Apollo and I'd be Rocky and we'd fake box on the stairs," Lauren said, watching the snow fall. "You've never mentioned your family. What are they like?"

"I wouldn't know," Max said, draping his arm over Lauren's shoulders. "I don't know where they are or really who they are."

"You don't know where your parents are?"

"My mother left me at a mall daycare when I was four. After that it was a string of crappy foster homes until I ran off on my own when I was fourteen." Max stops talking and looked out over the snow. Turning back to face Lauren, he took her hands in his. 
"I've always been alone. Until recently I've always thought it'd be like this all the time. Since I've met you, Lauren, I haven't felt that way. I love you."

"Max, I know," Lauren said, giving his hands a squeeze.

He leaned over and kissed her. As far as first dates go, Max and Lauren's first one was pretty much the tops. About a month later, we were all surprised again. Normally when Max goes to the Grammys I get to go with him. I get to get all dressed up and see all the musicians I love. But no, I have to stay home. To my surprise Ada got to spend the weekend. I think that was Max's way of making up for not getting to go to LA with him. Ada said that Lauren had a work thing that would take all weekend.

So there we were, watching the red carpet interviews hosted by Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart. She had just finished talking with Whitney Houston. You may remember the 2000 Grammys. It was the year of Jennifer Lopez's green Versace dress. Max was nominated for several categories. None of which we thought he could actually win. He was up against Carlos Santana.

"Welcome to the red carpet, Max Porter," Mary Hart said. "You always surprise me every year with your suits. Who are you wearing this year?"

"Armani and my watch was donated by Citizen," Max answered. Jett had made him memorize the designers before he left. The last thing Jett wanted was for Max to make a fashion faux pas and have it tarnish Jett's reputation.

"You have some tough competition this year, are you nervous at all?" Mary asked him.

"There is no competing with Carlos," Max answered. "I'm just happy to be here."

"You always bring your daughter to these events. She is always such a little doll."

"Ithaca's spending the weekend back home in New York."

"And who is this beautiful woman on your arm?"

A medium height woman with long red hair came into the frame. My mouth dropped open. I don't know what kind of faces the rest of them were making but I was in shock. I couldn't believe it.

"This is my girlfriend Lauren Stewart," Max said, taking her hand.

"You heard it here first ladies," Mary Hart teased. "Max Porter is officially off the market. So Lauren, I'm assuming this is the first red carpet you've been to?"

"Oh my God, you're Mary Hart. I watch you every day," Lauren said, the nerves and excitement bubbling over.

"Glad to know us reporters have our fans. So who are you wearing?"

Lauren was wearing a form fitting, floor length lavender gown with intricate beading all over. The lights of the cameras were making it glitter in all the right places. In her hair she was wearing a matching hat that had a peek-a-boo veil to it. She looked like she was stepping off the cover of a fashion magazine in the late 1920's.

"The dress is a custom Tricky Stavros, Chanel shoes and my hat was created by the fabulous Oleander Jane," Lauren said, a bright smile on her face.

"Very nice. Is there anyone you'd love to meet?"

"Oh, my God, was that Cher?" Lauren said, craning her neck over the reporters.

Max and Lauren walked away from Mary Hart, who just smiled and laughed, before moving on to the next celebrity.

"That girl has just inflated sales of Tricky Stavros Designs and Oleander Jane Creations by a factor of a thousand," Jett said, the look of utter shock on his face. He had been working on that gown for weeks and had no clue who the client was. Someone at the studio was going to lose their head. Had he known the dress was for Lauren, there were a thousand things he would have done differently.

Max and Lauren returned home the next evening and was bombarded with thousands of questions. When did they start dating? Why hadn't they told us? They said they didn't tell us because they wanted a month to themselves, to revel in their new relationship without having to answer tons of questions. Ada and I shared a wink, our dream of becoming sisters was getting closer to coming true. Two weeks later we began planning our biggest vacation ever with Nanna Vianne.

The Florida trip was supposed to be Stacey free. When I asked her in April if she would like to come she said she didn't think she'd be able to get time off from work. She had just been promoted and didn't want to make them think she was flaky. Great priorities there, Mom. So I had made other plans. Then Stacey found out that Lauren was coming. Which was stupid because Stacey had known for months that Max and Lauren were together. They made the pages of almost every celebrity magazine all the time. When Stacey discovered that Lauren was coming too, she rearranged everything and was able to come, ruining what was going to be a great vacation.

Convinced that she could win Max back from Lauren, Stacey tried every trick she had learned from the two bit actresses on City Lights. She would purposefully walk in between them while walking through the airport, the hotel and the park. She would interject herself in their conversations. Stacey was being a true pain in the ass.

Despite all the drama my mother was causing, Ada and I had other plans that had to be addressed. Tricky and Jett were celebrating their twentieth anniversary that October and Ada and I wanted to do something special for them. We pestered them endlessly asking all sorts of questions. What song makes you think of Tricky? What's Jett's favorite kind of cake? Besides coming here, what kind of trip would you like to take? We complied all the information and took them to our adult partners in crime, Nannas Vianne and Ophelia and Oleander. Together we gathered with the concierge of the Grand Floridian to plan the perfect wedding for Tricky and Jett.

"Good afternoon ladies," the concierge said, when we came up to his desk. "How may we serve you today?"

"We would like to rent the yacht for tomorrow night," I said. "My dads are celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year and we want to do something special for them."

"I see. And how many guests are you having at this party?" he asked, taking notes.

"Twelve," I said.

"Don't forget about Stacey," Ada said.

"I didn't. Trust me, it's only twelve," I said.

"We would also like a cake," Ada said. "Shaped like a top hat with a pink glass slipper on top. Uncle Tricky's a magician and Uncle Jett's a designer. The whole thing needs to be fabulous."

"Will you be requiring a butler for the yacht?" the concierge asked. The question confused Ada and I. Nanna Vianne took the lead.

"Yes sir," Nanna Vianne said. "I can assume that there will be a full staff for the dinner?"

"Of course ma'am," he replied. "Is there any food restrictions?"

"No, sir."

The grown ups discussed boring things while Ada and I watched more people milling about the lobby of the grand hotel. With everything squared away and charged to Papa Howard's American Express Black Card, the five of us walked back to our rooms. What we didn't know was that we were walking into a gale force storm.

"Stacey, I don't know what your problem is but it needs to stop and stop now," Max shouted. "You are upsetting Ithaca."

"She's so busy with the rest of you that she doesn't even know I'm here," Stacey retorted. 
"If I had known I was going to get ignored the whole time, I wouldn't have come."

"Then why the hell did you? You told Ithaca back in April when we were planning this if you wanted to come and you told her no," Max shouted.

"Things changed at work and I had the time off. I wanted to spend time with my daughter. But I can't do that when she won't talk to me."

"Maybe this wasn't the best idea," Lauren said, trying to diffuse the situation. "Maybe next time you think of something that the two of you can do on your own? Ithaca thinks you don't want to spend time with her."

"Who the hell are you to tell me how to spend time with my kid, Lauren? You know nothing about my relationship with Ithaca."

"I know more about that little girl than you do."

"This is none of your business! This is between Max and me. No one wants your opinion. So just shut the hell up."

"Don't talk to her like that," Max snapped.

"I'm not going to get into this with you Stacey. It is only out of the sheer generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Howard that we're standing here. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever been able to afford such a lavish vacation. So excuse me for not wanting to join the Stacey Mark Pity Party. In fact, we're all a little sick of hearing your poor, poor me sob story."

I think if Ada hadn't have sneezed in that moment, the war would have raged on. Nanna Vianne looked from Stacey and back to Max and Lauren. Her face was expressionless. I took Ada's hand and we slipped into our room to change our clothes for dinner at Cinderella's Castle. From our cracked door, I could hear them starting up again.

"Stacey," Max said, his voice calming down. "Please, for once in your life think of your daughter and what she wants."

"How about we all quit fighting and go have our dinner at Cinderella's castle?" Tricky suggested. "Ada, Ith, you two ready?"

"Coming, Tricky!" we called. We stepped back into our parents' hotel room dressed in matching yellow sundresses.

"I like the sound of that," Albert Arvine answered, offering his arm to his wife.

Tricky offered his arm to his mother and Papa Howard offered his to Ophelia. Max wrapped his arm around Lauren, leading her out of the room. Oleander held her hands out for Ada and I. We took them gladly joining the procession out in the hallway. That left Jett and Stacey alone in the room. Stacey stood with her back to Jett, staring at the open door that joined our room to Max and Lauren's.

"Stacey, a word?" Jett said. Stacey turned to look at Jett, her least favorite person in the world.

"Can't it wait, Jett? We're going to be late for dinner," Stacey sighed.

"No it can't," Jett said, strongly, crossing his arms over his chest. "What the hell are you doing?"

"I'm not doing anything," Stacey argued.

"A blind man can see what you're doing, Stacey. Pushing between them in lines? Butting into conversations? Following them along like a lost puppy? The others may be too nice to trample on poor delicate Stacey, but not me. I will be the honest one here. I was glad you chose your job over Ithaca. You only changed your tune when you found out that Lauren was coming. You can't stand to see Max happy and not still pining away for you. Well that's something you're just going to have to get the hell over because Lauren's here to stay. She's stable and there for Ithaca, no matter what."

"Jett, don't you think it's time we put aside the animosity?"

"Not a chance. You may have Max fooled but you can't fool me. The Porter, Howard, 
Stavros Hotel is now closed. You'll not be staying with us anymore. I don't know why you can't keep a roommate but we're not your landing pad anymore."

"You can't make that decision without talking to Tricky and Max," Stacey argued. "You three never do anything unless you all agree."

"When we get back from this trip you have a week to find a new place. After that I will throw all your shit out the fire escape. And don't think I won't. Why don't you just stay with Beckett Tyler. We all know you're already sleeping with him."
Stacey glared at the little Greek man in front of her. "There is nothing going on with Beckett and I. I am just his assistant."

"Then leave Max and Lauren alone. Let him and Ithaca be happy."

"I still love him," Stacey sighed.

"Well, he doesn't love you, Stacey. He hasn't for a very long time."

Jett left the hotel room and caught up with the rest of the family at the elevator. Stacey didn't join us for dinner that night nor did we see her again until we got back to New York four days later.

The next afternoon, July 18th, Operation Tricky and Jett's Wedding was well underway. Ada and I joined Nanna Vianne with the concierge to go over any last minute details. Because Tricky and Jett were spending so much time by the pool it was easy for Ada and I to make off with their gold rings. We had the concierge send them to a jeweler to have them cleaned and polished. Ada and I left notes in all our family's rooms to meet us at the dock at seven sharp and to wear the ultra nice clothes Nanna Vianne insisted on being brought. Max and Lauren were the first to arrive at the dock. The look on Lauren Stewart's face was that of pure joy. Ada had never seen her mother so happy. We looked at each other in confusion trying to guess what had happened.

"What's going on Dad?" I questioned.

"Yeah Mom. What's going on?" Ada echoed.

"We're going to have to tell them eventually," Max smiled. "You want to tell them?"

"Nah," Lauren smiled. "You tell them."

"Tell us what?!" me and Ada demanded.

"How would you like to be best friends who are also sisters?" Max asked, kneeling down in front of the two girls.

Ada and I were quiet for a moment and then they started screaming and tackled their father. We almost went off the dock into the Seven Seas Lagoon. We hugged and kissed him and then went to hug Lauren. We were jumping up and down screaming and hugging each other. You would think we just found out we were really related.

"Don't look now Max, but I think they're happy about this," Lauren laughed.

"Happy about what?" Arcadia asked, arriving at the dock.

"Mom and Max are getting married!" Ada exclaimed.

"Well it's about damn time!" Albert laughed.

Arcadia hugged Lauren tightly and gushed over her ring. "So how did he ask? Was it on a carriage ride around Magic Kingdom?"

"No that would have been romantic," Lauren stated, glaring over at Max. "We're on Splash Mountain, going up for the last drop. He looks over at me and says with a straight face 'We should get married, don't you think?' I'm confused for a minute then we go down the hill. The boat turns into the Laughing Place and Max reaches into his pocket and hands me a blue Tiffany's box. Over the music of Brer Rabbit he asks a little better. Rock stars. What do you expect?"

"Oh my God, Lauren! I am so happy for you!" Arcadia gushed.

Soon Ada and I calmed down long enough to explain why they had everyone gathered at the dock of the Seven Seas Lagoon dressed in their nice clothes and why everyone but Tricky and Jett were there.

"As you know," I explained. "This year Tricky and Jett are celebrating their twentieth anniversary. To help them celebrate, Ada and I planned a surprise wedding for them, on that boat." I point to the yacht docked just feet down.

"Ithaca Vianne Porter!" Max laughed. "You crafty little sneak!"

"I know. I know. I'm good. But I need to get everyone in place because they are going to be here soon. Daddy I need you to stand on the left side where Jett is going to stand. Papa Howard you stand on the right where Tricky will be." I started pulling her father and grandfather to their proper places. Ada walked with the Nannas to the edge of the dock to watch for Tricky and Jett. "Auntie Oleander, you'll stand in the center."

The servers set the cake out on a covered table. It looked better than the drawing the pastry chef had made for us the day before. The black top hat even had an edible feather sticking out of its' brim. There was a magic wand and even a string of pearls coming out of the hat. The bright pink shoe was the crown of the whole thing. I almost didn't want to have to hack into it.

Ada ran back to the boat, signaling me to start the music. Abba's Dancing Queen started playing. Tricky and Jett were coming to the yacht under the assumption that we were having an intimate dinner on the yacht. They had no idea what was really going on. They each help their mothers onto the yacht. For the first time they catch sight of the cake and the music sets in. They see Oleander, sans her drag look, dressed in a suit standing between Papa Howard and Max.

"So, uh, what's going on?" Tricky asked.

"Nothing. Just a family event," I said.

"You're getting married!" Ada exclaimed, unable to keep the secret any longer. I stomped on her foot. "Ow. That hurt!"

Jett gasped and covered his mouth. He and Tricky were so touched that we would think of something so wonderful they could barely speak. He knelt down and embraced his girls tightly.

"Thank you girls," Jett said, trying not to cry and failing miserably. "Such a wonderful, thoughtful idea."

Tricky and Jett walked down the aisle of their friends and family towards Max and Mr. Howard. On Jett's side of the ceremony stood Ophelia, Arcadia, Albert and me. On Tricky's side was Lauren, Ada, and Vianne.

"I had something witty I was going to say to start but now I've got nothing," Oleander said. "It is my great pleasure to be able to be the one to preside over this event. I have known Jett as long as he's known Tricky. In a very unforgiving society, they have managed to stay together. I cannot wait for the day when this union will be respected by the entire country and not just by our family. With that said, let's kick this baby off." 
Oleander took out a set of note cards out of his suit pocket. "Tricky repeat after me. Jett, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy and in sorrow. To honor and revere you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to fall in love with you a little more each day. For where you go, I will go and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people. I will always be honest, kind, patient, and forgiving. I promise to cherish and respect you, to care for and protect you, to comfort and encourage you, and stay with you through whatever life may bring us."

Tricky repeated the words she had said, tears he never shed, slipping from his eyes, squeezing Jett's hand tightly. The sun was setting behind them giving a soft glow about them. Flashes from the hotel photographers punctuated the moment.

"Jett, repeat after me. I take you, Tricky, my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and revere you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I promise to cherish and respect you, to care for and protect you, to comfort and encourage you, and stay with you through whatever life may bring us."

Jett could barely say what was being fed to him. Everything he was saying he had felt for Tricky since the day they had met. He was crying more than Tricky was. And Tricky never cried.

"Do we have rings?"

Glancing over at their little sneak thieves, Tricky answered, "We did once."

Sheepishly me and Ada pulled out the cleaned, polished and freshly engraved rings from our pockets. "We had them cleaned for you, Daddy," I explained.
Oleander laughed as I hand Tricky's ring to Jett and Jett's ring to Tricky. "It's not a Tricky and Jett event without someone in tears. Now together I want you to repeat this. With this ring, I thee wed and with it I bestow upon thee all the treasures of my heart, mind and hands."

"With this ring I thee wed and with it I bestow upon thee all the treasures of my heart, mind and hands," Tricky and Jett repeated.

"In the presence of these witnesses I pronounce you, Tricky and Jett, fierce, fabulous and complete. Never forget the way you feel right now."

Those gathered clapped as Tricky and Jett shared a kiss. Ada and I ran into their legs hugging them tightly. "Were you surprised?"

"Very much so," Tricky answered. "We can never thank you girls enough."

The family gathered around the top hat shaped cake and waited for Tricky and Jett to cut into it. The servers then lead us to the dining room of the yacht and serve Tricky and Jett's favorite meal of all time: Baked macaroni and cheese and ham.

"The first time I met Tricky Howard and Jett Stavros, it was a few weeks before Thanksgiving on what I call the coldest day of the year. I was twenty and had absolutely nothing to my name except my guitar and the clothes on my back," Max said. "I was taking shelter under the arch at Washington Square, playing my guitar and singing. Little did I know, I was encroaching on a certain magician's spot."

"Hey, at least I wasn't on fire," Tricky said pointing his fork at Max. "Most of the time when people meet me, I'm on fire or have set something on fire."

"Well anyway, it was a battle of the space for the first half hour or so. When the crowd left I introduced myself to this guy and we agreed to share the space and work together for the day. When Tricky found out I had nowhere to go that night he offered my ex-girlfriend and me a place to stay with him and his partner. That was thirteen years ago. You guys sick of me yet?"

"Just so you know Max, when you and Lauren get married you might want to consider moving to a bigger loft," Jett teased. "I'm serious. I want my sewing room back."

"Or we could just buy the empty apartment next door," Tricky said.

"Tricky and Jett have been the best friends I have ever had. They're more than friends they're my brothers. I don't know who else would have stepped up to help me raise my beautiful little girl."

The next day Ada and I were taking in one more day at Magic Kingdom with Tricky while the rest of the family spent the day elsewhere. Somewhere between the teacups and Space Mountain, Tricky misplaced us. He retraced his steps back to the teacups but didn't spot his pint-sized quarry. The next phone call to Max and Lauren was the worst phone call he had ever made.

"Hey-uh-Max," Tricky stammered. "I need you to be calm."

"Why do I need to be calm, Tricky?" Max demanded.

"We have a problem."

"What kind of problem, Tricky?" Max asked, losing his patience with his best friend.

"I swear they were right behind me," Tricky tried to explain.

"What kind of problem, Philip Howard?" Max said, exasperated.

"I misplaced Ithaca and Ada," Tricky stated, his voice flat and defeated.

"THEY ARE NINE YEARS OLD! HOW DO YOU LOSE TWO NINE YEAR OLD GIRLS!?" Max yelled through the phone, loudly enough that Tricky had to hold the phone away from his ear.

"See this is why I wanted you to be calm. Look, they couldn't have gotten far. I will find them."

"You better or you're going to be the magician formerly known as Tricky Howard!"
Tricky hung up the phone and started his search again. It didn't take him long to find the girls. We were right under his nose. He walked right past us twice at Storytime with Belle before he realized who we were!

"Ithaca Vianne Porter and Ada Nichelle Stewart!" Tricky yelled over the crowd. "Get your tails over here!"

Sheepishly Ada and I made our way over to Tricky. We hung our heads and waited for the lecture.

"For the record Tricky we did tell you we were going to Storytime with Belle but you just kept walking," I pointed out.

"So we weren't lost Uncle Tricky," Ada stated. "You were."

That was the story we told our parents when we returned to the hotel. Of course, we turned on the waterworks and got Tricky into more trouble than we had intended. We hugged Tricky tight after he was done being scolded.

"We're sorry you got lost," we said. "We didn't mean to get you in so much trouble with Mom and Dad."

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