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Authors: Kelly Barson

Charlotte Cuts It Out

BOOK: Charlotte Cuts It Out
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An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

First published in the United States of America by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016

Copyright © 2016 by K. A. Barson

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

eBook ISBN 9780698151826


Names: Barson, K. A.

Title: Charlotte cuts it out / K.A. Barson.

Description: New York : Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016.

Summary: When cosmetology student Charlotte Pringle, who has always wanted to run a beauty salon, realizes that she cannot do everything herself, she learns to be less controlling and more relaxed.

Identifiers: LCCN 2015022509 | ISBN 9780451468932 (hardback)

Subjects: | CYAC: Beauty culture—Fiction. | Friendship—Fiction. | Self-perception—Fiction.BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Girls & Women. | JUVENILE FICTION / Family / Multigenerational. JUVENILE FICTION / Social Issues / Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance.

Classification: LCC PZ7.B28048 Ch 2016 | DDC [Fic]—dc23

LC record available at


For Sylvia

Charlotte and Lydia's Grand Plan

1. Win Winter Style Showcase. —> Earn stellar reps, bragging rights, and accolades.

2. Graduate high school with honors, college credits, and cosmetology licenses.

3. Get an apartment together and jobs in a top salon to pay for college.

4. Get associates degrees in business at Jackson College.

5. Build clientele. —> Earn enough money to open a salon together.

6. Be the bosses and live happily ever after.

 Bonus: Marry best friends. (At the very least, they will become best friends.)

Charlotte Pringle
Lydia Harris


39 days to the Winter Style Showcase

As I apply another layer of lip gloss and smooth my hair at the tiny mirror inside my locker, a deep voice whispers in my ear. “I don't mean to alarm you, but there's a severed hand sticking out of your backpack.”

My hand jerks; my lips are a mess. Furious, I spin around so fast my skirt slaps my knees. “What the—”

It's him! For the past few weeks, this adorable, blue-eyed guy has greeted me every morning with a flirty smile, nod, or the occasional “Hey.” Nothing more. In fact, I don't even know his name. So when I think of him (which is often) or speak of him (only to Lydia), I call him QT—shorthand for “cutie.”

He takes a step back. “Uh, sorry.”

“No, it's fine.” I flash a smile and nonchalantly wipe the smeared lip gloss with my finger. “You just startled me.”

He smiles back sheepishly, a blush creeping up his neck to his face, which makes his eyes look even bluer. “Can I walk you to class?”

“Sure.” I slam my locker. “But it's right down the hall.” I start to go, but I can't move.

My skirt is trapped in my locker door.

I try to pull it loose. I hear and feel a tiny rip. What if it tears away? What if I end up with half my skirt inside my locker, flashing my underwear in front of QT? That would be a nightmare, only worse, because I'm awake. I stop tugging and will myself to calmly open the door, holding my skirt slack so it doesn't tear more.

I quickly dial the combination, but in my panic-driven haste, I go too far on the second number.
“Uh, just a sec.” QT watches, clearly holding back a laugh. Now it's my turn to blush.

As I'm redialing, more slowly this time, he taps my backpack and asks, “So what's with the severed hand?”

The lock clicks open and I'm free. I turn and look up at him. He's got to be about six foot one, and he has the cutest little dent on the tip of his nose. “It's not exactly severed. It's from a mannequin. We're learning manicures this week.”

“Ah, the fine art of cosmetology.” He leans against the lockers. “I should've known.”

Should've known?
What does
mean? I raise my eyebrows and glare.

“Because your hair and makeup are always done, and you dress up pretty much every day. Around here, cos girls stand out.” That's true. The medical programs at the Arts and Trades Center require solid-colored scrubs. The girls in child development are always in jeans, usually smeared with baby puke or smashed bananas. Fashion design girls wear their own creations, and some of them are pretty out there.
Almost everyone throws their hair in ponytails like they just don't care, except for the dance girls, who have tight, slicked-back buns. Worst of all is culinary arts—they have to wear hairnets!

The cos girls at ATC dress up every day. Our nails are perfect, our hair is in the latest styles, and, of course, our makeup is impeccable. If you're going to make other people beautiful, you need to start with yourself.

I'm pretty sure I hear him mumble something about cos girls—or was it me?—being hot, but it's drowned out by the bell. I don't ask him to repeat himself because that would be awkward, as if I'm fishing for compliments. I close my locker and we walk toward the cos lab. Since the halls have thinned out, the
tap, tap, tap
of my high heels is louder than usual.

“How do you walk in those things?”

“Skill,” I say with a smirk.

“I bet you have—”

“Give it a rest, Reed.” Some guy walks by and slaps him on the shoulder, grabs his arm, and pulls. “Come on. You can't afford any more tardies.”

“Yeah,” he says, catching himself from stumbling. He turns back and smiles. “See you around, cos girl.”

I wave and strut into class. QT has a name, and it's Reed. I can't wait to tell Lydia.

Except Lydia isn't there. I check my phone. No missed calls or texts. Something must be wrong. Lydia's never late, and if
she wasn't coming, I'd know. What if she had a car accident? What if she's really sick? What if something's wrong with her dad again? I start to text, but Ms. Garrett interrupts. “Put it away, Charlotte.”

“But, Ms. Garrett, Lydia is MIA. I have to—”


I slip the phone into my purse and frown.

“Remember,” she says to everyone, “you only have until the end of the week to get your paperwork and payment in for the Chicago hair show. Even though it's months away, we need to register early to get special group pricing and to lock in our break-out session choices. I've only received about a dozen so far, and I'd hate for you to miss out.”

“Yeah, guys.” I raise my voice. “I read that Tabatha from
Salon Takeover
will be there, and that guy from the Six-in-One shampoo infomercials, too!” Ms. Garrett shoots me a look, and Shelby Cox whispers something to one of the Emilys.

Shelby's mom is a cosmetologist, co-owner of a top salon in town, and high school friends with Ms. G—they were co-cheer captains, no less—so from Day One, Shelby's had the teacher's pet advantage over the rest of us, no matter that I'm just as good as she is at nails and updos. If Lydia were here, I wouldn't feel so uncomfortable.
Ignore them,
I tell myself.
Lydia will be here soon.

Ms. G drones on about things she announced yesterday. I don't know why she coddles everyone. Isn't it our responsibility to pay attention the first time? I watch out the window for Lydia's yellow Volkswagen. Nothing. Where is she?

“Finally, the moment you've all been waiting for . . .” Byron James simulates a drum roll on the desk in front of him. “As you know, we're gearing up for the winter style showcase, and the theme for this year is . . .” More drum rolls. Ms. G waits for everyone to stop. “‘Once Upon a Time in a Magical Fairy Tale.'”

We erupt in applause and cheers. A magical fairy tale theme is perfect! There are so many possibilities. My brain starts whirring—braided updos, tiaras, fancy nails, glittery fake eyelashes. For four Halloweens straight, Lydia and I have done each other's hair and makeup as Disney princesses. We're ready. We've got this.

Ms. G interrupts my pre-planning. “Remember that one-page bio you submitted the first week of school? Well, the catalogs are ready, and you'll get your copies tomorrow.”

I can hardly wait. Lydia and I should be listed together in the cosmetology section, since we're a team. We wrote our bios together, highlighting our stellar skills: updos, including braiding, twisting, and curling; nail art; false eyelashes; manis and pedis; and dramatic makeup, specializing in eyes. Then we topped it off with leadership, enthusiasm, and attention to detail. We're sure to garner tons of interest from the other programs!

Ms. G walks around her desk and sits on top of it. Even though she's at least thirty-five, her pores are flawless and she's in really good shape. She starts talking about the seasonal events. The fall wellness fair is where the child development, culinary arts, and health programs put on a health
fair for the community. The winter style showcase features cos and fashion design, and the spring recital is the music, dance, and theater extravaganza.

Since this means a lot of extra work on top of our classes, we “hire” each other and programs like building trades and graphic design for sets, signs, and brochures. Ms. G goes on about synergistic relationships between the programs and how we'll earn ATC bucks—the currency at Arts and Trades, which is really just credits—to trade goods and services with each other. We'll use the catalogs to shop for what we need. I doodle as I listen—high updos with strategically placed cascading curls, another design with braids and flowers—and take notes in the margins.

We'll need real money, too, for materials and supplies, so most programs will also have fund-raisers, where we offer our services to the community for nominal fees. In cos, we juniors will do manis and pedis, and the seniors will do hair services.

“You'll need to keep track of expenses and turn in reports. By the showcase at the end of the semester—which will be here faster than you think—your projects will be graded in English/communication, math/economics, civics/sociology, and computers, as well as for the cos program.”

Toby, the slacker in the back row, raises his hand. Ms. G anticipates his question, because he always asks the same thing. “Yes, Toby,” she says, “everyone
to do it.” He starts to ask something else, but she cuts him off. “And if you don't, you'll open up a spot for someone on the waiting list.” She
gives him a smile, and he sits back and folds his arms across his chest.

Why anyone would try so hard to avoid doing what we're here to do is beyond me. How did he pass the faculty and senior student interviews and basic skills tests to get in here anyway? I know of at least two girls—one from Jackson High and one from Hanover-Horton—who were wait-listed. I'm sure both of them are more motivated than Toby. Where is Lydia? Without her, my
look is totally pointless.

Ms. G exhales loudly, getting back on track after being so rudely interrupted. “Plus, the showcase will broadcast on JTV”—our local Jackson TV station—“and the winners will get a prize package of industry tools and a one-thousand-dollar college scholarship, and be interviewed on the Channel 6 news, JTV, and MLive. So you'll appear on cable TV, network TV, and pretty much every newspaper in mid-Michigan. This project is a big deal.”

TV interviews! What would I wear? Bright colors, of course. I look down at the tear in my flouncy chevron skirt. Prints are distracting on camera. I'll have to buy something new.

Shelby raises her hand and asks about the TV interviews. Even though I'd like to know more, too, Ms. G moves on. “There'll be plenty of time to discuss the details later. Starting today, every class will be about an element of the style showcase. You'll talk about ATC bucks, spreadsheets, and subcontracting in math and economics, for instance. For now, we need to get started on manicures. Everyone, get out
your mannequin hands and nail kits and turn to page 657 in your text. You'll want to take notes.”

We're almost up to Ms. G's demo when Lydia slips into her seat. I look at her in shock. No makeup, hair in a greasy ponytail. And she's wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

Are you okay?
I mouth.

She nods, but doesn't make eye contact. I don't believe her. If she were okay, she wouldn't come to school looking like that. She would look like Lydia—her blonde ringlets meticulously curled and accented with a bow or a flower or something that matched her outfit perfectly. And she'd be wearing her trademark shimmery copper eye shadow, plus mascara and lip gloss. She's almost unrecognizable—like a “Before” picture. But at least she's here. I'm so focused on Lyd that I only half hear the rest of Ms. G's mani instruction.

Thankfully, I'm super skilled at multi-tasking, so I'm poised and ready when she says, “Partner up and show me what you've got. I'll be around to watch and grade shortly.”

BOOK: Charlotte Cuts It Out
5.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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