Home > You Had Me at Hola

You Had Me at Hola
Author: Alexis Daria

 Chapter 1


The word glared at Jasmine in bright yellow letters, emblazoned directly beneath a picture of her own face. All caps, of course, and below it: Exclusive details from soap star Jasmine Lin’s humiliating breakup with rock star playboy McIntyre.

“Who put this here?” Jasmine demanded, slapping her hand over the words, as if that could make them disappear, as if the whole embarrassing ordeal could be concealed so easily.

Avoiding the tabloids with her face on them had been hard enough in places like Target and the airport, but she thought she’d be safe in her grandmother’s kitchen in the Bronx. But no, here was one of those blasted covers, stuck to the fridge with magnets shaped like a pan of paella and the Puerto Rican flag.

“We told Abuela to take it down, but she said it was a good picture of you,” her cousin Ava said from behind her.

“Porque it is a good picture!” Over by the sink, Abuela Esperanza’s voice spiked with indignation. She dried her hands on a dish towel and joined Jasmine at the fridge.

“A good picture?” Jasmine jabbed a finger at it. “I look like a deer in headlights watching a lifetime of breakups flash before its eyes.”

“¿Que qué? No . . . You look beautiful, although you really should moisturize more.” Abuela patted Jasmine’s cheek.

Jasmine ignored the dig about her skincare routine and peered more closely at the magazine cover. A paparazzo had snapped the photo on a rare rainy day in Los Angeles as Jasmine was leaving the salon where she got her eyebrows threaded. Pairing that headline—DUMPED!—with that photo—bleary-eyed and frizzy-haired—made it seem like McIntyre had left her because she looked a mess, or she looked a mess because McIntyre had left her. Either way, it was unflattering and incredibly rude.

And on newsstands and refrigerators everywhere, for all to see.

“Just be glad you have an up-to-date photo on the fridge,” her other cousin Michelle chimed in with an exaggerated shiver from over by the coffeepot. “My most recent is from sophomore year of high school when I still had braces and bangs.”

“That’s also a good picture,” Esperanza protested.

The fridge was littered with photos of Esperanza and Willie Rodriguez’s twelve grandchildren in various phases of childhood—never mind that all of them were adults now—held in place by a lifetime’s collection of magnets from around the world. All of the grandkids were biracial, and Jasmine had often thought the range of skin tones on the refrigerator could’ve been used as a makeup foundation palette.

Jasmine, Ava, and Michelle were all brunettes, but that was where the similarities ended. Michelle, whose father was Italian, had light brown eyes, a warm beige complexion, and straight hair. Jasmine had golden-brown skin, dark brown eyes, and thick wavy hair she usually straightened for roles. Ava, whose mother had been born in Barbados, was the tallest and naturally tan, with hazel eyes. Her dark curls fell to her shoulders, the result of a recent post-divorce chop.

But the surface differences didn’t matter. They were family.

Jasmine gave the magazine cover one last scathing look, but didn’t dare rip it down. Even at thirty, she still feared invoking her grandmother’s wrath.

“Forget about the picture. Ven acá, nena.” Abuela opened her arms and wrapped Jasmine in a hug.

Jasmine sank into the embrace, breathing in the sweet scents of vanilla and Esperanza’s face powder. It had been too long since she’d last visited, too long since she’d spent time with this woman who meant so much to her. The signs of Esperanza’s aging were clearer, although she still styled her now-gray hair in a short bob and wore red lipstick every day. If you’re not wearing lipstick and earrings, you might as well be naked, Esperanza used to say. It wasn’t until Jasmine was older that the true meaning sank in. Those things were armor against a world that had wanted to treat her grandmother as someone smaller and duller than the brilliant and beautiful woman she was. Looking after her appearance forced people to take her seriously.

Jasmine caught a glimpse of the magazine cover mocking her from over her grandmother’s shoulder.

Never again, she promised herself. Never again would her dating life give the national entertainment media machine a reason to shine a spotlight on her. Jasmine Lin Rodriguez was done with dating. She released her grandmother, who took Ava’s spot at the stove, and joined her cousins at the kitchen counter where Michelle passed around steaming mugs of coffee. After a deep inhale of Café Bustelo mixed with the house’s permanent scent of Sazón seasoning, Jasmine gulped the bitter black coffee, wishing it were a glass of wine.

Michelle jerked her head toward the kitchen doorway. “Basement?”

“Basement,” Jasmine agreed. The three of them took their mugs and trooped downstairs.

The finished basement had long been their hideout, their refuge away from the rest of the family, where they could talk about their hopes, dreams, and dumb boys. McIntyre certainly fell into the latter category, although Jasmine had no interest in talking about him ever again. If she could erase him from her memory, she would. No, better yet, she’d erase him from everyone else’s memories. Then he’d no longer be famous and no one would care that she’d dated him.

“Remind me where you’re staying?” Michelle asked once they’d settled onto the old sofa. It had once lived upstairs under plastic, but after surviving twelve grandkids, the plastic had been removed and the couch relegated to the basement.

Jasmine sipped her coffee again. “ScreenFlix is putting me up at the Hutton Court. It’s one of those long-term-stay hotels.”

ScreenFlix, the number one streaming service in the country, had cast Jasmine in the starring role on the remake of La patrona Carmen, a Venezuelan telenovela from the 1990s. After the popularity of American remakes of telenovelas like Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin, and Queen of the South, ScreenFlix had seen the writing on the wall. Telenovelas were where it was at.

For Jasmine, who’d made a name for herself on English soap operas and received a Daytime Emmy nom, headlining a show on ScreenFlix had the potential to be her big break. If it did well, it could lead to more ScreenFlix projects, or maybe even a big-budget cable show or primetime network program.

Michelle raised her eyebrows. “Ooh, fancy.”

Jasmine shrugged. “Yeah, but it’s in Midtown.”

“East or West?” Ava asked.


Michelle wrinkled her nose. “Gross. There’s nothing over there.”

“Tell me about it. If it were any farther east, I’d be sleeping in the middle of the FDR Drive.” Jasmine couldn’t complain too much, though. ScreenFlix had a contract with the hotel company, and her agent had negotiated for her to stay in one of their one-bedroom units with views of the East River. And since it was an easy drive over the Queensboro Bridge to the ScreenFlix Studios production lot, the Hutton Court was where she’d be living for the next three months.

Ava and Michelle exchanged a look, making no move to hide it. Jasmine waited a beat, then caved. “What? What is it?”

“Jas.” Michelle leveled her with a direct stare. “Just move back.”

Jasmine slumped into the sofa. She’d known this was coming. Every time she returned to New York City for a visit or a gig, her cousins launched their campaign to persuade her to move back permanently. The three of them had been born just a few years apart and had been one another’s constant companions, as close as sisters. Certainly closer to Jasmine than her own sister, Jillian.

Jasmine sucked in a breath to argue, but Ava leaped in before she could utter a word.

“Hear us out. There are plenty of shows filming in New York City now, and you’ll be closer to us.”

“Along with everyone else in our family.” Jasmine shook her head. “No thanks.”

Michelle shrugged. “A minor technicality.”

“We’ve been over this. The remaining soaps film in Los Angeles, and there are tons of other opportunities there. I can’t leave.” As much as she might want to. “Anyway, I have a plan.”

Michelle’s eyebrows shot up. “Do tell.”

“I love a good plan.” Ava set down her mug. “Let’s hear it.”

“It’s my Leading Lady Plan.”

Michelle’s eyebrows drew together. “What’s that?”

“My roadmap for staying on track with my career goals.” Jasmine pointed a finger at the ceiling, referencing her picture on the fridge upstairs. “One: Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.”

“That’s just not true,” Michelle cut in. “Look at Jennifer Aniston. They put that poor lady on magazine covers for all sorts of made-up shit.”

That was a good point. Jasmine didn’t want to turn into the next tabloid favorite, although she’d happily follow in Ms. Aniston’s career footsteps.

“Can you give it a more positive spin?” Ava asked kindly. “Like saying what leading ladies do instead of what they don’t?”

It was such an Ava thing to say, but she was right. They both were.

“Fine.” Jasmine tore a sheet from the memo pad on the coffee table. The paper had beach details printed around the borders—sandals, an umbrella, a kid’s plastic shovel and pail—and said “Esperanza” on top in elaborate cursive. “What should I say instead?”

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