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By Wendy Lawton
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2004 Wendy Lawton
All rights reserved.
It's time for Changing Faces, Olivia. Turn on the TV; I'm on my way." Click.
Olivia O'Donnell didn't even have time to answer before Jane hung up. She knew that her best friend was probably already backing her Jetta down her driveway. Olivia looked at her watch—four minutes flat, she guessed. Jane lived about a half mile away. OK, I have just enough time to rout Sherman out of the family room.
"Tank," she yelled, pulling off one earpiece of his headphones, "I'm on Dad's TV chart for this hour—Changing Faces."
"I'm almost to the next level, Olivia."
Though only twelve, her brother Sherman managed to take up the whole couch when he spread out. At five feet ten and nearing 150 pounds, he was hard to ignore. Dad joked that they named him after Mom's side of the family—the Shermans—not after the famous tank.
"Please. Just a few more minutes?"
"Good try, Tank, but you know how Mom is." She adopted her best mom look, placing her hands on her hips and using that slow exasperated voice Mom always used when dealing with disagreements. "We negotiated this schedule, and we all agreed to stick to it."
"Rats. Why can't we be like other families? All my friends have their own TVs and get to keep their gaming stuff in their bedroom." He picked up his deck and the equipment spread out over the coffee table, stuffing it into the basket in the entertainment center. Every bit of his twelve-year-old angst showed in his parting comment, "It would be so nice to live in a normal family."
Olivia ignored him as he trudged upstairs. Neither one of them liked the media restrictions. It took all the spontaneity out of television and video. And Tank never even attempted to compete with his friends on Internet games. He'd barely get a team put together and he'd have to log off. Of course, as much as it irritated her, Olivia understood the reason why her parents were so tight about TV, gaming, movies, and the like. Some of her friends watched two or three hours of television a day—even more in the summer. As Mom said, it could eat up hours. Olivia knew that part of the reason she was almost certain to be named valedictorian was because, much of the time, homework was the most exciting thing to do in her house.
"... And he swerved and I just missed him, but I'm here." Jane opened the door midsentence. "I cannot believe I'm late. Turn on the TV, for goodness' sake." Jane never stopped talking. She bubbled with enthusiasm, and it just sort of spilled out of her mouth. Today her blonde hair was scrunched into a clip. Olivia loved the way Jane had natural highlights. Most girls had to resort to peroxide to get what Jane had naturally. When they first met, Jane barely had a freckleless spot on her face, but now she had only a sprinkle of light freckles across her nose—just enough to make her look outdoorsy. She could cover them completely if she wanted, with a light dusting of powder.
"I had to kick Tank off the tube first. Here." The television clicked on with a whirring sound. Olivia already had her channel programmed into the favorites. Click.
"... another exciting episode of Changing Faces." The theme music faded as the announcer's intro ended.
"Yikes! I can't believe what Kinni is wearing today. My mom would kill me. Besides, don't you think it makes her hips look wide?" Jane always commented throughout the entire show.
Good thing I'm a multitasker. Olivia looked at her friend as she talked. I wonder if I like Changing Faces for itself or if it's the combination of Changing Faces and Jane Broga?
"Those rhinestone flip-flops would sure get noticed here, wouldn't they?" Jane said. "I can just see them!" Jane giggled. They both grew up in Bay Vista, a suburb located to the east of San Francisco Bay. In the nineties, the famed Silicon Valley crept north to include their once-quiet community.
"I know. They'd get noticed here." Olivia muted the commercial. "When online friends hear I live in California, they always picture Hollywood or Southern California—definitely the rhinestone flip-flop portion of the state." She laughed. "Bay Vista's more like the Birkenstock part of the state."
"Sad but true." Jane probably would have liked to try rhinestone flip-flops. It didn't take people long to find out that she was certainly no plain Jane.
Jane had talked her way into Olivia's life in kindergarten, and they'd been friends ever since. There was nothing like a friend who remembered watching you hanging on the chain-link fence, crying for your mommy. It sure kept one from reinventing oneself with any conviction.
Olivia wished she could be more spontaneous and as much fun as her friend, but she was the one always described as a good student. When she read the comments people wrote in last year's yearbook, she counted no less than twenty "nice" and "sweet" descriptions of her. Boring.
"Do you want something to drink?" Olivia jumped up to take advantage of the last minutes of the commercial break before the next segment of the show.
"Got any of those juice-y things your mom buys?"
"Sure." She unscrewed the lids in the kitchen and debated only a minute about whether to pour the drinks into glasses. Why dirty glasses when you could just as easily drink straight from the bottle?
"... And they are making over a teacher? Eeeuuuwww. I can't believe school starts on Monday. I can guarantee none of our teachers will be sporting a makeover. Where did summer—"
"Here comes the part when they show the secret camera footage." Olivia always cringed in sympathy for the embarrassed guest. The host, Kinni McKay, did a voice-over as the screen flashed with the before-shots of the guest. Luckily, Changing Faces was not like some of the reality TV shows that actually put a hidden camera on the trail of the person. Changing Faces used still photography collected secretly by the guest's friends—or rather, so-called friends.
"I'd love to be on the show." Jane took a long slurp of her drink. "But I'd die if you submitted ugly snapshots. I wonder if you could use semi-good photos...."
"The fun is contrasting the woof-woofness of the initial photos against the glam shots at the end." Olivia loved the idea of makeover—why was that? "Gross! Look at that orangey lipstick."
"She's actually not bad for a teacher," Jane said as the before-shots faded out. "They should have gotten Harvey." Jane shook her head and sighed. "Now that would be some makeover!"
"You're bad." Olivia enjoyed Jane's outrageous comments, knowing she never meant harm. "Ms. Harvey probably spends so much time on her lesson plans that she barely finds time to run a comb through her hair."
"And obviously no time to apply makeup."
"But, admit it," Olivia said, using her no-nonsense look that drove Jane mad. "You could sit through three solid hours of her class and never once look at your watch."
"OK, I'll admit it, but if you didn't get so caught up in her teaching, she'd be hard to look at day after day." Jane pointed to the screen. "Look at the outfit she's trying on. Can you imagine a teacher wearing a suede blazer with cool pants like that?"
"I wonder if she'll choose that one?"
The premise of the show was simple—Kinni McKay introduced the makeover subject by showing the before-photos submitted by friends. Then Kinni would show up at the guest's workplace and somehow surprise her with a huge check for clothing and tickets to Hollywood, inviting her to "change faces." Of course, the show involved more than a cosmetic makeover. Fashion, posture, hair, accessories—all came under scrutiny.
"Can you imagine? A shopping spree in L.A.?" Jane always talked through this part. Of course, she talked through all the parts. "I'd choose Rodeo Drive, at least for one tiny accessory, just to say I'd shopped there."
"Not me. I'd pick the secondhand shops on Melrose Avenue."
"Do you think they'd let you keep your vintage look? I'll bet they'd take your hair and razor-cut it in spiky sections. And the hair colorist would say, 'That brown is positively mousy."
"So now it comes out. You think my hair is mousy, don't you?" Olivia was teasing, although Jane often unwittingly let her feelings escape in the sheer mass of words.
"No." Jane stopped looking at the television. "No, I was just repeating what they would say. I like your mousy brown hair, girlfriend."
Olivia hit her with one of the floor pillows. "Spoken by a blonde! My hair happens to be a sophisticated ash brown. Very chic. Very understated."
"Look." Jane smiled her I-told-you-so smile as she watched the Changing Faces hairstylist hand the teacher over to the colorist.
"Can't you do something with this mousy brown hair?" The stylist flipped a piece of the hair with apparent disdain.
"Ouch." Olivia laughed and hit Jane with another pillow. "That's too cruel."
"The hairstylist said it; I didn't."
Olivia's dog, Puggles, started barking. The noise saved Jane from getting bashed a third time with the pillow. Puggles was a cross between a pug and a beagle. When he wagged his tail, it wagged his whole body. With his big eyes, loose skin, and attitude, he melted hearts—but his voice—he had the bell-like voice of a beagle. Both girls ended up covering their ears.
When things finally settled back down, the two friends watched the rest of the hour-long show, interspersing each segment with their own running commentary. The best part of the show for Olivia was the part when they showed snippets of the guest's life. Seeing the teacher in her classroom and at home, Olivia could see that, although today's guest did benefit from a makeover, she needed no polishing in the classroom. This footage, scattered throughout the show, made the viewers connect with the guest much deeper than skin, nails, hair, and clothes.
In one of the Changing Faces fanzines, Olivia had read that they call this in-depth footage the B-roll.
Jane turned to Olivia as the credits rolled. "Brilliant! Lit-rally brilliant." Ever since Jane started watching the BBC reality TV shows, she'd adopted two Brit phrases—"brilliant"—always said with that upper crust hard r sound. Her other favorite was "fantastic," which sounded more like "fintastic."
Olivia laughed. Was anyone more fun than Jane Broga?
"No, I mean it. What a great makeover. She looked so different, and yet they didn't make her into a glamour queen. Seeing her in the classroom made the woman seem almost human. That's saying a lot for a teacher."
"You're awful, Jane! Is that any attitude to have? Especially on the last Tuesday before we start our senior year."
But Olivia agreed with Jane. The B-roll stuff made the show. How sad is it that if I ever got a Changing Faces makeover, my B-roll footage would consist of watching me do homework, fighting with Tank, going to church, and doing the dinner dishes? Oh, yes, and slaving over my day planner to squeeze out just one more hour. Sheesh. What a life.
Olivia shook her head. Why am I scripting my B-roll? A guest on Changing Faces—how's that for an overactive imagination? If only ...CHAPTER 2
Moving the Goalposts
Did we ever luck out!" Jane leaned over and slapped a happy-face sticker on Olivia's notebook. "How long has it been since we sat together in homeroom?"
"What a cool way to end our school days," Olivia whispered back as the new teacher opened her laptop to take roll. "The very same way we began thirteen years ago."
"Yep, just like Aubrey still sits with all the guys." Jane nodded her head toward the back of the room and Olivia's lifelong nemesis.
"Some things never change." Aubrey's cubby in kindergarten had sat between Olivia's and Jane's. Even then, Aubrey's pale blonde hair and blue eyes seemed to make her a boy magnet. By second grade, she'd learned to effectively bat those eyelashes and wind a meandering finger through those curls. And it only got worse as she got older. The curls gave way to long straight razor-trimmed hair, and the blonde went even paler in streaks over dark blonde.
Strangely enough, with Aubrey there always somehow seemed to be a competition thing with Olivia. Whenever Olivia ventured into her line of vision, Aubrey would crank up the charm, and the guys around her didn't stand a chance. It frustrated Olivia. I'm not even into dating, let alone trophy dating. She'd decided during the summer that this year she would not play the Aubrey competition game. Why do I always let her set me off, anyway?
"Olivia O'Donnell?" The teacher looked up to find her.
"Here." Olivia smiled.
Aubrey leaned over to one of her admirers and spoke in a loud stage whisper, "Notice Olivia's initials —O. O. That's what everyone says when they see her coming. Uh-oh." Aubrey wiggled her fingers and smirked at Olivia.
Olivia rolled her eyes. That's the best she can do?
"Aubrey, right?" The teacher glanced down at her laptop. "Aubrey Ainsley, I'd appreciate it if you didn't speak out in class." She took her glasses off and focused on Aubrey. "I was speaking to Olivia. Your interruption constitutes what I consider rude behavior." She put her glasses back on and flipped over a couple of pages in the handout on her desk. "Turn to page three of your handout titled 'Class Guidelines.' It addresses your infraction."
Aubrey made a face. Josh Higbee, obviously smitten by Aubrey, snickered. Anything Aubrey said or did seemed to charm Josh, no matter how lame.
It starts all over again. What makes me the perfect foil for Aubrey? Why did she choose me? Olivia pulled herself up in her seat. Stop. Ignore her. You know she craves attention. Don't fall into that trap.
Olivia opened her day planner to the section marked "Goals" as the teacher finished the lengthy first-day roll call.
Her list was fresh. She'd worked hard on her goals this summer. Staying focused—that was her mission. She already excelled at it, but this was her last year before college. More than ever, she needed to stay on task. She knew that a million distractions could crop up in the senior year. She wanted to finish well. No, that's not true. I want to finish first.
She read her list:
1. Daily Quiet Time. Oops. Missed that this morning because of first-day craziness. Gotta get better.
2. Clinch Valedictorian Standing. Should be a piece of cake. Those two AP classes surely did the trick.
3. Do Not Overschedule. Well, so far, so good. She had school, church, youth group, music lessons, tennis team, choir, study group for the final SATs, and ...
"Don't forget to pencil me in." Jane leaned over and whispered with that evil grin of hers.
Olivia whacked her with a pencil. Jane always tortured Olivia about her day planner. Jane was a seat-of-the-pants-type girl. Olivia lived by systems. She could never accomplish half of what she accomplished if it weren't for her organizational skills.
As the teacher worked her way from R to S, Olivia took out her pencil and wrote: "4. Completely ignore Aubrey." Hmmmm. That would be some accomplishment after thirteen years. Olivia looked over at Aubrey. As usual, she had managed to seat herself in the middle of an adoring throng of guys. One, however, did not seem overly enthralled. In fact, he sat with his elbow on the desk and his head propped on his hand looking straight at Olivia.
Who is he? He must be new.
As if on cue, the teacher called, "Carter Wylie?"
He turned his attention away from Olivia and raised his hand.
"You transferred from ..."
Olivia could see Aubrey perk up. A new guy in town presented exactly the kind of challenge she loved. Oops. There I go again. I need to stop reacting to her nonverbal bait. He's all yours, Aubrey. I've got too much in my day planner already. She closed her planner as the teacher closed her laptop.
"I'm also new. My name is Mrs. Brenner. Thanks for your patience as I tried to connect faces with names." She looked around the room again as if mentally going over each student's name. "One last piece of business—I need to read the bulletin each Monday morning so we're all on the same page. Bear with me."
As she began to read some of the highlights, Olivia opened her day planner again to write down specific dates and events.
"Three-Way Tie for Valedictorian," Mrs. Brenner read.
Olivia's mouth went dry. What did it mean, "tie"? What about the AP classes?
"Despite the launch of AP classes last year, Bay Vista High still has three students vying for top spot." Mrs. Brenner looked around the room and connected with Olivia. "Congratulations, Olivia. I see you are one of the top three students."
Olivia tried to smile, but her mouth was so dry her lip caught on her teeth. It probably looked like a grimace. How could she have worked so hard and earned close to perfect grades and still be one of a pack of three?
"The announcement goes on to say that the panel may have to look to volunteer hours to break the tie." Mrs. Brenner put the bulletin down and picked up her class notes.
Just like that? Volunteerism? Olivia had spent the last three years slaving over her academics. Nobody had said a word about volunteer efforts. She looked down at her day planner. Where in the world was she supposed to fit in volunteer hours? There was nothing she hated more than someone changing the rules three-quarters into the game—it was like moving the goalposts.
"You OK?" Jane mouthed the words.
Olivia could only shake her head in exasperation as she drew a line through the center of goal number three: Do not overschedule. So much for good intentions. She was going to have to get herself a serious volunteer position to make up for three years of straight academics.
She struggled with focus the rest of the day—how could she work it all in and still have any kind of life?
Excerpted from Changing Faces by Wendy Lawton. Copyright © 2004 Wendy Lawton. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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