The second Clutch’s green Crocs had gone around the corner, Becks groaned. She turned to her friends. “Did my dad just try to set me up with Austin?” She leaned into her hands.
Coco and Emily giggled.
Becks shook her head, like a dog shaking water off its fur. “I can’t take the embarrassment. There’s officially
I want to go to ExtravaBAMSa,” she said glumly, imagining Austin drooling over Ellie in her very own backyard.
“Tell me about it,” Emily sighed, playing with a button on her red pajama top. “Yesterday Señorita Lumley asked me if I wanted a recommendation for a good therapist.” She made a concerned face. “E-mee-lee-ah. We
need people to talk to.”
Becks smiled at her friend’s impression. “At least this will all be over in a week.”
“The end can’t come fast enough. Look at me!” Coco held out her hands to the group. They were so dry that they had scales and cracks. “The industrial soap is turning me into a reptile!” She stuck out her tongue like a lizard.
“Life sucks,” Becks said glumly, reaching for another cookie.
“You want to know how much my life sucks?” Coco stood up, fueled by the injustice. “Today at practice—yes, Haylie made us practice on the weekend—I was so bored that I wrote a freaking song about it.”
Coco cleared her throat and snapped her fingers three times, finding her note. Then she closed her eyes and started singing:
I’m a sad, sad water boy
Treat me like I’m a toy
That you throw away
It was part Jonas Brothers, part Ashlee Simpson, and it was
. Coco’s eyes were closed like she was performing to a sold-out Staples Center, her body swaying.
’Cause you don’t even care
Enough to say buh-bye—
She was midway through the very soulful
when Mac barged through the teak door with a huge smile on her face.
She paused for a second to observe Coco’s bizarre performance. “So sorry to interrupt,” Mac addressed the group. “Good news, bad news. What do you want first?”
“Bad news!” Coco sighed, facing Mac.
“Let’s get it over with,” Becks agreed.
“I didn’t think it could get worse,” Emily sighed, pulling her hoodie so far over her head that it practically covered her eyes.
“Ruby’s got zero intention of ending this charade.” Mac made the zero sign with her fingers. She pointed at Coco. “You’re going to be water boy forever. There’s no way she’s going to help us get our lives back.”
Emily and Coco looked at each other desperately.
“That’s not fair!” Becks cried. “A deal’s a deal!”
“Except when it’s not,” Coco said. “I actually had a feeling about this, after something Haylie said the other day.” She crossed her arms. “Mac, didn’t you get this in writing? Even I know that you have to get these things in writing!”
Mac looked down at the slate floor. “I seriously screwed up. When Ruby and I discussed the deal, I thought she’d be true to her word.”
“Ruby seriously needs a new hobby,” Becks said darkly, reaching for another cookie.
“Yes, she does.” Mac stuffed her hands into her Habitual jeans pockets. “Unfortunately, until she gets one, making our lives miserable is it.”
Emily looked from Becks to Mac to Coco, scanning their faces as if trying to make some sense of this. She looked as though she was about to cry.
“Wasn’t there good news?” Becks asked.
“Yes!” Mac said, her eyes lighting up as she sat down at the picnic table, tapping the corner of Chad’s Quiksilver business card on the wood. “The good news is, I know what we need to do.” Mac looked from girl to girl. They were each waiting for the plan. “Screw working our way up. We sabotage the Thinner Circle.”
“How?” Emily, Becks, and Coco asked in unison.
Mac smiled. “Well, we’re assistants. We’re so low on the totem pole that nobody even notices what we’re doing.”
Becks shrugged. “I don’t get it.”
“We use what we know to embarrass them at ExtravaBAMSa.” Mac made the Kimmie Tachman paw. “Think about it: Do you realize the kind of all-access pass we have to the Rubybots’ lives? They trust us with their most important stuff. I know where Ruby sleeps. Kimmie’s trusting Emily with her pride and joy, her play—Emily and
a live audience
. Ellie will believe anything Becks tells her about surfing. I mean, seriously, girls. Angelina didn’t ask Jen if she could have Brad. We just take what is ours. And fast.”
The girls stared at Mac in stunned silence. Emily twirled a strand of her cinnamon brown hair. Becks sipped her smoothie. All this talk of manipulation and strategy was making her feel numb. That wasn’t her style. “I don’t get what you want us to do,” Becks said finally.
“I don’t have a specific plan,” Mac said. “But I do know that Ruby leaves her phone in front of me all the time. Coco, you see the dance team
. Becks and Emily, I’m sure you know sides of Ellie and Kimmie that no one else gets to see. So even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, it’ll come to you. Trust me.”
Becks stared at the picnic table, thinking about the sides of Ellie she did get to see. She thought about how Ellie was pretending to like surfing just so that Austin would like her. She thought about how Ellie had lied to the Roxy rep and said that she was a surfer.
Before anyone could say anything, Clutch ambled back into the kitchen. “Hey, Miss Mac!” he said. “Just grabbin’ some dinner.” He opened the refrigerator and took out a pitcher filled with the cleanse. He pointed one of the drinks at Becks. “Kiddo, if you don’t want to do the surf thing, it’s no problemo.” He hip-closed the refrigerator.
Becks’s eyes twinkled wickedly. “No, Pops, you were right. I wouldn’t miss next weekend for the world.” Becks smiled. “And if it’s okay with you, I’m going to bring my new friend Ellie. She’s really excited.”
The other girls looked at her curiously, sly smiles appearing on everyone’s faces for the first time that night.
Clutch looked up from his glass. “I can’t keep up with you girls, but that sounds good to me.”
Becks smiled too, imagining Ellie embarrassing herself at ExtravaBAMSa, in front of everyone. Thanks to Mac, she knew exactly how to make that happen. For the first time in a while, Becks had hope. Poor little Ellie. She had no idea what she was in for.
Emily had no idea why she was sitting in the back of the Prius on a Sunday morning, driving down Melrose to Pinkberry. They passed the bright blue Pacific Design Center, and Urth Café, where Emily had had her first power meeting with Mac just two weeks ago, and Elixir, the fancy tea store where she’d rehearsed for her first movie role.
To Emily, Los Angeles still looked like a fantasy, with blue skies, palm trees, and shiny Mercedes-Benzes everywhere. It was hard to believe she lived here. Normally Emily loved looking out the window and seeing the Los Angeles she read about in
. Today she was just frustrated, feeling like Mac was kidnapping her for some mystery mission.
What she did know:
1. Mac had woken her up in Becks’s screening room with a piping hot cappuccino, a vegan blueberry muffin from Zen Bakery (courtesy of Clutch Becks), and the command “We gotta go. Now.”
2. Five minutes later, she, Mac, and Erin were in the car and driving to Pinkberry. Mac and Emily had left Becks’s house without even a goodbye, let alone a thank-you. Sure, Clutch probably wouldn’t care, but it was rude to leave that way. In Iowa, Emily
thanked friends’ parents for their hospitality after a sleepover.
3. She now officially hated Erin’s flute rock, which was blaring over the Prius speakers. It no longer sounded relaxing. It sounded like pain.
“This is going to be great,” Mac said without turning around from the front seat. She was swooshing her eyelashes with black Shu Uemura mascara.
What was going to be great? Pinkberry? The ride? Mac’s face with mascara? Emily rubbed her temples.
“Mac, I don’t understand what you’re doing,” Emily said calmly. She appreciated Mac’s zeal, but sometimes it was annoying to feel like she was just another one of Mac’s accessories.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” Mac said dismissively.
“I’m really not dressed to go anywhere in L.A. right now,” Emily said, remembering how paparazzi had popped up behind a parked car at Fred Segal and snapped her picture. Emily imagined getting photographed in her black and white Harajuku Lovers jammies and her camel-colored Uggs. Her friends from Iowa would pick up
, wondering if she’d pulled a Britney.
Mac ignored her and popped the tube of mascara into her black quilted Chanel makeup bag. “What you don’t realize is that Spazmo is the role of a lifetime.”
Emily cringed, wondering how her dreams had downgraded from movie star to Spazmo. Hollywood was quicksand for her self-respect. Plus, there was no way that a school play was the role of a lifetime. She thought back to all the times she’d gone to see her best friend, Paige, perform in school plays back in Cedartown and there were
twenty-five people in the audience, six of them from Paige’s family.
“Hank Myler is going to be at that show,” Mac said matter-of-factly, referring to the famous director who was known for his quirky independent movies. “His daughter is Minka. Seventh grade. Braces. Freckles. Cute girl. Wears a lot of Anthropologie.” Mac rattled off the facts like an FBI agent reciting someone’s profile. “She’s in the A Capella Club; they’re going up before
Judgers & Haters
, so he’ll definitely stay for the show.” She reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a Red Bull.
“Anyway, Hank is currently attached to
If You Say So.
It’s a great script, a comedy about a girl who wakes up at Disneyland with no memory whatsoever. All she has is her cell phone, and she has to piece together her life through her text messages.” Mac smiled like that explained everything. “And the good news is that he’s really into casting kids from BAMS, ’cause he went here.”
Emily’s lips twitched. It had never occurred to her that there was anything good about being in
Judgers & Haters
. She’d been too busy
“So what you’re saying is that this can be a good role for me?” Emily spoke very slowly, making sure she and Mac were on the same page.
Mac nodded, just as slowly. “Yeah, Spazmo, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“But that doesn’t mean Hank is going to want to cast me,” Emily pointed out.
“Babe. Everyone who’s seen you act has loved you. There are casting directors in this town who you’ve never even
who have you on their radar.”
Emily looked out the window and realized they were passing Fred Segal, the most famous boutique in Los Angeles. She smiled, remembering the last time they’d gone on a shopping spree at that store. No such luck today.
Emily leaned back in her seat, feeling flattered. Sometimes she forgot Mac had real reasons for investing so much time in her acting career. Hearing that real Hollywood casting directors were tracking her made Emily feel proud and nervous at the same time.
“ ’Cause when Hank Myler sees you stealing the show—bravo!” Mac snapped her fingers and pointed at Emily. “You’ve just managed to give yourself what every actress in this town wants, and that’s a chance to audition for Hank Myler.”
“It’s true,” Erin said, speaking up for the first time that car ride. Erin angled the rearview mirror so that she could stare back at Emily. Emily had forgotten she was there. “I had a friend who switched agents just because the new one could get her an audition with Hank.”
“Yeah, but Kimmie already took the adorable role for herself,” Emily complained.
Mac turned around, leaning over the Prius seat. “That’s why I feel bad for Kimmie sometimes. She misses the obvious.” Mac snapped the mirror shut. “You’re going to
Emily thought about this, but she still wasn’t convinced. “Who’s going to want to cast a Spazmo when she’s standing next to—”
“Listen,” Mac interrupted, “you still have to knock it out of the park. But it’s a degree-of-difficulty thing. You’re doing a triple lutz and she’s just skating. You’re the Sasha Cohen here.” Emily looked out the car window as they passed a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. She was tired of Mac’s schemes and surprises. Then again, she couldn’t think of any better options. Besides moving home to Iowa.
“Think about it, Ems,” Mac began in a persuasive voice, reminding Emily of Adrienne. “How do pretty actresses get noticed?” Without waiting for Emily’s response, Mac answered her own question. “They make themselves really
“Jessica Alba’s never ugly,” Erin pointed out. “Neither are Jessica Biel or Drew—”
“Duh. I’m not talking about in real life,” Mac snapped. “I mean Oscar roles. Take Charlize Theron in
. Gaining twenty pounds—ew. Ugly makeup, double ew. But she got major Oscar buzz from the moment people saw her transformation. Nicole Kidman with the big fake nose and crazy behavior in
Until they went ugly, all those gals were just one bad review away from
Dancing with the Stars.
Emily nodded. She had seen all those movies, and remembered how the actors had transformed their looks. “But I’m not trying to win an Oscar!” Emily protested, throwing her hands in the air. “I’m just trying to break into the business.”
Mac looked at her seriously. “That’s exactly how you get into the business
Emily froze and she felt an insta-calm come over her, because she knew Mac was right. For the first time since she’d been sentenced to star in
Judgers & Haters
, there was something about Spazmo that seemed not
I want to cry
awful. As Emily spotted the familiar “Melrose” street sign out the window, she remembered she was in a car being driven on a mystery mission. “Okay. So what does all this have to do with Pinkberry?”