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Authors: Melody Carlson

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BOOK: Premiere
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“Precisely.” Fran nods.

“And if a catfight breaks out?” I query.

Fran just laughs. “Then a catfight breaks out. That’s the nature of this beast. But the difference here is that Paige takes the high road. She plays the lady—she is simply expressing herself. She doesn’t pull hair or scratch. Right, Paige?”

“I certainly hope not.” Paige looks slightly worried now.

“And if she, say, manages to offend Mia?” I watch Fran consider my question.

“Then Paige simply makes light of it and moves on. It will be Mia who will end up looking silly for overreacting.”

I shake my head doubtfully. Something about this plan feels half-baked. But then I wonder if that’s how Fran wants it.

“Absolutely.” Paige continues talking to Fran. “If a person wants to be offended, that’s their choice. I will make it clear that I’m only doing my job. Just like any fashion critique, I just want to teach and make this world a more beautiful place. And, really, what’s wrong with that?” She giggles as if this is some game.

“And a fashion critique doesn’t get down and roll in the dirt,” Fran points out.

“Yeah…right.” I try not to imagine one of those Malibu Barbies, or perhaps several of them in combined force, grabbing my fashion-expert sister by the hair and dragging her into a big, ugly fight. And if that does happen, what am I supposed to do about it? Jump in and save her?

Chapter 8

“I think I might’ve fallen asleep while I was getting my hair done,” I confess to Paige as she drives us home.

“Hopefully you didn’t drool.” She glances at me as if to check. “Your makeup still seems to be intact.”

I shake my head. “I’m just not cut out for this kind of thing, Paige. I’m worried I’m going to ruin it for you.”

“You’ll be fine, Erin. You just need to relax.”

“According to Fran, I’m supposed to be myself,” I remind her. “And I have a feeling she thinks that’s an uptight, slightly neurotic worrywart.”

Paige laughs. “Might make for good TV.”

“Right…”

Fortunately, once we get home, we have enough time for a real nap. Even Paige thinks this is a good idea. “Just don’t mess up your hair and makeup,” she warns me. “Although I’m sure there will be stylists at the set—just not
our
stylists.”

“Meaning they might try to make us look bad?”

“You never know.” She waves her finger. “Reality television is kind of a cat-eat-cat world.”

“Clever.” I roll my eyes and head for my room.

But after what seems only a few minutes of sleep, someone is knocking on my door. “Hey, Erin,” says Mollie as she lets herself in. “Your mom said you might be asleep.”

“Yeah.” I nod and sit up. “I was.”

“Sorry.” She holds up her hands. “But I was lonely, okay?”

“It’s okay. But why are you lonely? No big plans for New Year’s Eve?”

“I thought Tony and I were going out tonight. But now that’s all changed.” She frowns. “And it’s partly your fault.”

“My fault?” I sit up straighter, putting pillows behind me.

“Yeah. We were going to double with you and Blake.”

“Me and Blake.” I frown at her. “What are you talking about?”

“Blake thought you were going to go out with him.” She sits down on my bed, releasing what seems a dismal sigh.

“But I told him—”

“I know, I know. But Blake is slightly delusional. Anyway, once he figured things out he pulled the plug on whatever it was he had planned for the four of us tonight.”

“Why don’t you and Tony do something anyway?” I suggest.

“Because now we don’t have reservations anywhere.”

“But still, you could—”

She waved her hand. “It’s okay. I’m over it.”

I shake my head and wonder if she came over here to make me feel guilty. And if so, why?

“But I must say, you
do
look glamorous.”

I look down at my T-shirt and jeans. “Huh?”

She points to my head. “Hairdo…makeup. Must be for the
Malibu Beach
party, huh?”

“How did you hear about
Malibu Beach
?”

“Paige’s Page.”

“Huh?”

“Facebook.”

“Oh…”

“She wrote about the party. In fact, that’s how Blake figured out that tonight was not going to work. I thought you already knew.”

“Not really. You know, we only heard about this party yesterday,” I tell Mollie.

“That’s what it said on Facebook.”

“So do you, like, check it out every day?” I ask.

“Not every day. But sometimes I get a tweet and then I go and check.”

Okay, I don’t even want to talk about Twitter. I’m so not into that. I mean, seriously, why is everyone out there blabbing about everything? Sometimes I wonder what would happen if all our cell phones, IMs, emails, and all that just vanished. Would everyone go nuts, or would we learn how to just have a normal conversation? Of course, I can’t say this to Mollie because she’s so into all that. Maybe I was just born into the wrong generation. Or I’m “conservative,” as Fran told me earlier today.

“And Paige is really getting a lot of fans too.”


Fans?
” I try to wrap my head around how Paige can possibly have
fans
when she doesn’t even have a show yet.

“Fans, friends, whatever. I think she has about five thousand on Facebook now.”

“You’re kidding!”

“The Wonderland spot was one of the most-watched You-Tube videos.”

“It’s on YouTube?”

“Do you like live under a rock, Erin?”

I scowl at her. “I have other interests.”

Mollie frowns. “Don’t you ever check these sites out?”

I just shrug. “Not really.”

“And you should probably get your own page too, Erin.”

I get out of bed now. I look at myself in the mirror, trying to estimate how much damage I may have done to my makeup and hair. It actually looks pretty much the same as it did earlier, and I’m sure Paige can fix whatever doesn’t.

“Is that what you’re wearing tonight?” Mollie is looking at the garment bag hanging on my closet door.

“Yeah, it’s called meow meow or something like that.”

“What?” Mollie gives me a weird look. “Can I see it?”

“Sure. Go ahead.”

While she’s unzipping the bag I make a trip to the bathroom. It’s already after seven and the limo is supposed to get us at seven thirty. Okay, this is so surreal that I can’t even wrap my head around it. How weird is it that I’m going to a
Malibu Beach
party, dressed to the nines, and riding in a limo?

“Are you getting ready?” Paige calls from the kitchen where she’s getting herself a soda.

“I guess.”

“I already touched up my makeup and hair,” she says. “I’ll come in and look at yours in a few minutes.”

When I return to my room, Mollie is standing in front of my mirror, holding the black dress up like she’s wearing it.

“Kind of boring, isn’t it?” I say as I close the door.

“Boring?” She turns and gives me an are-you-crazy look.

“I mean, the dress isn’t that interesting. But it’s what fit me.”

“It’s pretty. And it’s not a meow meow. It’s a Miu Miu.”

“Isn’t that what I said?” I say with a smile. I start removing my clothes, trying not to mess my hair, thinking about what the hair guy said about wearing a button-up shirt next time.

“I’m trying really hard not to be jealous.” Mollie hands me the dress with a sad little smile.

“Hey, if there was a way I could trade places, I would.”

She nods. “Yeah…you probably would.” Now she brightens. “And maybe if Paige’s show is a big hit, you’ll be able to invite some of your friends to join you sometimes. You think?”

“I don’t see why not.” Even as I say this, I have no idea. Still, I hate to see Mollie feeling bad. “Hey, how did the commercial go?”

“I don’t know. They used several girls for it. I might end up on the cutting-room floor.”

“You and me both,” I tell her as she zips up my dress.

“I doubt that.”

Then Mollie sits down and watches as Paige comes in, all dressed and looking like absolute perfection. Naturally, Mollie makes a big deal about this. Paige then repairs the damage I apparently did to my hair, and finally hands me a small purse. “I equipped it with lip gloss and powder just in case the
Malibu Beach
stylists are too busy to help us.”

And before long, Mom is calling us to say that the limo has arrived. Then, as if we’re going to the prom, she insists on taking our pictures before we leave. I’m actually a little surprised that she didn’t want to come with us, but since she’s dressed up too, I’m guessing she has other plans.

“Have fun on your big date,” Paige says to Mom as we’re heading out with Mollie trailing us like a lost puppy.

“Big date?” I echo, but Paige ignores me.

Mom calls out thanks as we traipse down the stairs, and
reminds us that she’s got her cell phone in case we need to call. “It’ll be on,” she says, as if she might be worried about us being on our own for New Year’s. Or maybe she thinks we’re worried about her.

“Mom’s going on a date?” I ask my sister after I’ve said good-bye to Mollie. Paige and I are sitting in back of the limo now, which is really just a town car, but kind of fun just the same. “A real date with a real guy?”

Paige simply nods as she rechecks herself in the mirror of her compact. Like she’s not perfect?

I simply cannot believe my mom is going out with someone. This is a first and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Not that anyone seems to care about my opinion lately.

“Who with?” I try to sound casual as I ask.

“A guy at work. She said it’s not really a date—but I’m not so sure.”

“Have you met this guy?”

“No. But I think his name is Tom. Or Tim. Or maybe it’s Jim.”

“Right…” I try not to worry about my mom being on a date, or the fact that our big debut could easily blow up in our faces if my sister offends one of the Malibu Barbies.
Don’t worry…just pray
, I remind myself.

And before I know it, the car is passing through the security gate, and there are tents and camera crews around. I feel like my stomach is tying itself into knots.
Malibu Beach
is supposed to be the edgiest reality show for teens yet. Besides the casual use of alcohol (don’t let those plastic red cups fool you), there are rumors that some of the cast are experimenting with drugs and who knows what else. I’m
so
not ready for this. Then the town car stops and, although it seems too soon
to be in Malibu, the door opens, but instead of us getting out, it’s Fran getting in.

“You girls ready to rock and roll?” she asks as she opens a bag and starts removing what I can tell is sound equipment. “We wanted to get you wired up with mics before you arrive at the scene. It makes it easier for the guys to just start shooting, getting your natural reactions and all that.”

As we fumble with the wires and small microphones, trying to conceal them beneath our dresses—which is no small feat—Fran continues to brief us about the evening.

“Now remember, although our own camera crew is there on the grounds, they won’t be allowed into the actual party because that’s where the
Malibu Beach
crew is already set up to film, and there’s only so much room. The truth is they can get kind of territorial. So you girls have to make the most of it before we go onto the actual party. My guess is that some of the
Malibu Beach
cast will want some camera time with you girls and our crew too, hoping that they can get seen on your show. Remember these girls are opportunistic. Just make the most of it, okay?”

“No problem,” Paige says with confidence.

“Right.” I bite my lip and prepare myself for the worst.

“And don’t be nervous,” Fran tells me as we pass through some security gates, and the driver slows then finally parks. “I’ll be around if you need anything. Act like yourselves, like you’re guests at a party.”

Then someone is opening the car door, and I watch as Paige slowly extends a long leg out, just in time for a camera to catch her emerging from the car like a star. In comparison, I feel like a klutz, and as I catch my heel and nearly fall on my face, I hear trickles of laughter from what I can only assume
are cast members…people in formal clothes, clustered here and there as if trying not to appear too obvious as they watch us.

“Hey there, little sister.” Paige reaches for my hand to steady me, using a voice that I can tell is for the cameras. “I guess we should’ve cut you off sooner. But then it is New Year’s Eve…time to party.” This is followed by more laughter. At my expense, I’m sure. Hopefully none of this camera footage will make it into the actual show. I glare at my “big” sister and try to remember that she’s probably hamming it up for the sake of our TV show. But what if she pushes it too far? How much will be too much? And am I supposed to challenge her?

“The Forrester sisters,” says a very pretty blonde that I’m guessing is Mia Renwick, but since I don’t watch the show, I could be wrong. Ironically, she too has on a red dress. Two diva-type blondes wearing two similar dresses. Not good. And, although I’m not a fashion expert, I can tell that Mia doesn’t look nearly as hot as Paige. I suspect Paige is thinking the same thing.

Paige just smiles and goes directly to the girl. “Hey, Mia,” she says like they’re old friends.

“Paige,” Mia says as she takes her hand and they exchange air kisses. I try not to laugh at how ridiculous that looks.

“And this is my little sister, Erin.”

Mia barely looks at me, but nods as if to say, “it’s okay, she can come too.” Then she leads Paige over to meet some of her friends. Naturally, the cameras stick with this group—the A list. I should be relieved for this little break, but instead, feeling like a party crasher or maybe just a misfit, I follow behind and watch from a safe distance. The girls seem to assess Paige with a sort of bored interest, but I suspect it’s only an act.
I suspect they’re thinking, like I am, that she is outshining Mia Renwick. Then again, they might simply be planning how to get their own moment with Paige. Like Fran said,
Malibu Beach
won’t last forever.

“Hi,” a petite brunette says to me quietly. “You must be the sister.”

“I feel like the ugly stepsister,” I admit, then glance over my shoulder to be sure we’re not on camera.

She laughs. “I feel like that sometimes too. You probably know that I’m Avery Stratton. I’m pretty much used to living in Mia’s shadow on this show.”

“I’m Erin Forrester,” I tell her.

“The funny thing is that Mia and I actually
really
were friends before the show began. Best friends, if you can believe it.”

“So did the show mess that up?”

Avery nods sadly. “That and so much more.”

“Oh.”

“And being that you’re a sensible girl—that’s what I’ve heard anyway—you probably wonder why I stuck with the show, right?”

“Sort of.”

“I’ll give you one guess.”

“Money?”

Avery laughs. “Well, you may not be a star, but you are a smart girl.”

“You know what they say, follow the money. My next guess would’ve been boys.”

“Another good guess. And, like everyone else, you’ve probably heard that Mia thinks Benjamin and I are sneaking around.”

“Are you?”

Avery gives me a sly look, then glances around to make sure we’re not being filmed, which doesn’t appear to be the case since both crews are still glued to Paige and Mia, the stars. “We try to give the viewers what they want.” She casually waves to a guy who’s just coming out of one of the tents. “You will too.”

BOOK: Premiere
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