Read an Excerpt
I felt sure that my life had changed for the better before we even landed in Los Angeles but then, everything seems better in first class.
I'd gotten bumped up from coach courtesy of my Aunt Laurel, who had called the airline and forked over some of her frequent flyer miles. "Evie, pet, I have five and a half billion extra miles the least I can do is get you out of steerage." That's what she'd said, and of course I'd gushed with gratitude.
But I don't think she really did it out of some belated sense of auntly adoration. I think she did it because she felt guilty about dumping me with my grandparents for the past fourteen years. And also because she didn't want me picking up any nasty colds or sore throats in economy class and getting her sick. "Don't forget your Emer'gen-C before takeoff," was how she'd closed every phone conversation for the past two weeks.
But whatever who cares why she did it because the bottom line is, first class rocks. I'd never been on the other side of the curtain on an airplane, and now I knew what I'd been missing all these years: Lemon-scented hot towels! A three-course meal with real silverware and linen napkins! Warm chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven! The flight attendants fawned all over me like I was Beyoncé and they were the entourage, despite the fact that I was wearing a ratty sweatshirt and comfy jeans that were a wee bit overdue for a wash. (However, they were shockingly stubborn in their refusal to dispense any of the complimentary champagne to passengers under twenty-one.)
If the suckers back in coach could see what was going on up in first class, there'd be a mutiny. But they couldn't, so I spent the five-hour flight reading magazines, watching the movie Orlando Bloom looks even better while you're eating a warm chocolate-chip cookie and imagining what my life would be like in Hollywood.
The fantasy went like this: My Aunt Laurel would meet me at the airport and a soft-focus tearjerker of a reunion would ensue. She'd instantly recognize my star potential and sign me up for the talent agency she runs. Of course, I'd have to pay my dues just like everyone else: a few casting agents would shake their heads slowly and say I just wasn't quite tall enough or busty enough or bimbonic enough for the part. But then a movie script starring a smart, sassy young woman would land on Laurel's desk and a few months later, I'd be wearing Dior at the film premiere. (The Dior would be free, of course I read Us Weekly, I know what's up.) And then the film offers and interview requests would start rolling in. The people who had spent the first half of senior year making my life a living hell (Brynn Kistler and Bryan Dufort, I'm looking at you) would all be sorry, but it would be that's right too late. I wouldn't deign to speak to Bryan or even Jeff, my so-called best friend. Because I'd already be dating somebody who really appreciated me: Orlando Bloom.
And then we touched down at LAX and the fantasy evaporated everything started to go wrong.
First, the airline lost my luggage. This had never happened to me before; maybe it was karmic compensation for flying first class. Then, while I was standing at the baggage claim, staring at the shiny metal chute and telling myself that there was still a chance my bags could materialize at any moment, despite the fact that all my fellow passengers had collected their suitcases and left twenty minutes ago, I heard a voice behind me say, "Eva?"
I turned around to greet my aunt, resisting the urge to wipe my suddenly sweaty palms on my jeans, and came face-to-face with...a total stranger. A thin, blond stranger who looked about five years older than me. She had a BlackBerry in one hand, a slouchy suede purse in the other, and an impatient scowl on her Mystic Tanned puss.
Now. I may not have grown up in the big city, but I'd sat through all the obligatory school assemblies on sex, drugs, and the rising incidence of adolescent abduction. I wasn't about to go strolling off with any random, shifty-eyed man who stalked me down after swim practice. But please. If I were going to get kidnapped, I highly doubted my captor would be a size-two, twenty-three-year-old ice queen with a French manicure and diamond earrings the size of peanut M&M's. You just don't see a lot of perps fitting that profile on CSI.
So I took a few steps toward her and said, "Yeah, I'm Eva."
"Good." The blonde nodded crisply. "I'm Harper Hollings, your aunt's assistant. She sent me to pick you up. You're late."
I tried to hide my disappointment. "She didn't come to pick me up herself?"
"It's Wednesday afternoon and she has a meeting with Cameron Crowe today. She's not going to reschedule that to make an LAX run."
"Who's Cameron Crowe?"
Harper made a big show of rolling her eyes. "Hel-lo, he's a director and a genius and he and his producers are looking for a lead for their new movie."
"Yeah. And I'm covering the phones while Laurel's gone. So I don't have all day. Where's your stuff?"
I winced. "I think it's lost."
"Lost?" A dark look came over her face, the look of a Hilton sister watching someone ding her Bentley at the Neiman Marcus valet station. "You have got to be kidding me."
I could feel my dislike snowballing with every syllable out of her mouth. "Nope. I kid you not."
"What a pain in the ass." She drummed her fingers on the screen of her BlackBerry. "This is why I always fly into Burbank or Santa Monica. LAX is like that scene at the end of Titanic where all the plebs are trying to get off the boat at once."
"Well, Aunt Laurel made my travel arrangements, so take it up with her," I retorted. This shut her up for a few seconds. Then she stalked over to the airline's customer service desk, stomped her feet, waved her fists, and yes, busted out the phrase, "Do you know who I work for?" (They didn't, for the record.) Once she'd wrapped up the hissy fit, she marched back to me and said, "Let's go. We're going to put this on the roof for now and follow up tonight."
"Put it on the, uh, the roof?" I glanced up at the water-stained ceiling tiles.
"Yes. It's an expression I learned right after I graduated from Harvard and moved out here to break into the business. It means we're going to leave the problem alone for now, until we have more time and information."
"Okay." Why couldn't she just say that then? And I loved how she'd managed to name-drop her Ivy League pedigree in the first ten minutes of meeting me. Retch. "But when will I get my bags? I kind of need all my stuff."
"Oh my God. What did I just say? Yes, you'll get your stuff when we take it off the roof. Hold your damn horses."
What a freak. "Fine. Whatever."
Harper led the way through the sliding glass doors and across the street to a cavernous parking garage that smelled like old fast food and car exhaust. Although she had dressed appropriately for a blizzard (white cashmere turtleneck, black wool pants, patent leather high-heel boots, and a thick black coat with a fur collar), I couldn't help but notice it was about seventy degrees outside. And sunny.
"Wow." I peeled off my sweatshirt the moment I sat down in the passenger seat of her spotless white Infiniti coupe. "Is it always this warm in January?"
She blinked. "We're in a cold snap. Aren't you freezing?"
I shrugged. "I grew up in Massachusetts."
"Well, your blood hasn't thinned out yet. Give it a year or two. I remember how cold it used to get in the winter when I was at Harvard..."
And on and on. During the forty-minute drive to my aunt's agency, she managed to wedge the word "Harvard" into her monologue five more times. I counted.
We hit traffic on the freeway; eight-lane gridlock like I'd never seen. Cars were lined up for miles, sunlight glinting off the hoods. But when I remarked on this, she scoffed, "This? This is nothing. It's not even rush hour yet."
Evidently, she'd been born an expert on everything. But I tried to suck it up and be pleasant, for my aunt's sake, until Harper went on the offensive.
"Must be nice to be Laurel's niece. Lots of girls would give up their vital organs to have a connection at the Allora Agency."
I forced a smile. "And I didn't have to donate a single kidney. Guess I lucked out."
"It's the best teen agency in L.A. Laurel will discover the next Mischa Barton or Natalie Portman or whoever and all the casting directors know it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get your aunt to even consider a new client? How many résumés and desperate requests for meetings she gets every single day?"
"Of course you don't," she spat. "Because you just happened to be born with the right last name. But I'll let you in on a little secret: nepotism only gets you so far in Hollywood. Don't think you can just coast through with Laurel's connections and a pretty face because you can't!"
Whoa. Somebody had a few too many triple espressos today. "I'll keep that in mind."
"You do that. Anyway" she took a few calming breaths and fiddled with the radio knob "shouldn't you be in school?"
"Not really." I stared out the window at the scraggly palm trees by the exit signs. "I graduated a semester early, and I'm taking a few months off."
"You mean you dropped out."
"No, I mean I graduated," I said evenly. "As in finished. Got my diploma."
"But you're going to college in the fall?" she pressed.
I nibbled my lower lip. "No, I got in early admission at Leighton College, but I deferred."
"Why would you do that? Leighton's a really good school."
"Oh, no reason." No reason that I wanted to think about ever again. "I just, you know, wanted to see the world. That's the hot thing now taking a gap year. Like the British do."
" 'Like the British do?'" A tight little smirk played on her lips. "Uh-huh. I see."
"You see what?" I demanded.
"Nothing. It's cool." Her voice dripped condescension. "College isn't for everyone. And the corporate world wouldn't be able to function without fast-food workers and telemarketers."
My jaw hit the floor. Not only was she a freak, she was a status whore. "Listen. You don't know me, but I did get into college. I got a full scholarship, as a matter of fact."
The smirk got even smirkier. "Whatever you say."
Should I tell her about my formidable GPA? Should I tell her what my life had been like back in Massachusetts and why I had to leave? Should I tell her who my mother was?
No. I wasn't about to tell her any of that because she didn't deserve to know and she wouldn't care. She was the West Coast version of Brynn Kistler and I didn't have to justify myself to her.
So I simply said: "I'm planning to be a star."
She stopped gloating long enough to laugh out loud.
I slouched down into the car seat. "What?"
"You're planning to be a star. Poof! Just like that. That's priceless. And so original. Look out, Lindsay Lohan." She dismissed me with a wave of her hand and turned up the radio. "Planning to be a star. I can't wait to tell Laurel. She'll die laughing."
"Welcome to Los Angeles, pet. You ready to be a star?" Aunt Laurel hung up her phone and engulfed me in a giant hug the minute I set foot in her office. Over her shoulder, across the polished cherry furniture and sleek chrome accessories, I smiled sweetly at Harper. She just crossed her arms and seethed.
"How was your flight? Did you get any lunch? Did you remember to take your Emer'gen-C? What about those tablets I told my housekeeper to send you? Did you get those?"
While she peppered me with questions, a tiny black poodle yipped at me from a Louis Vuitton pet carrier under the desk.
"This is Rhett, my pride and joy." She hoisted the little dog right up to my face, where he snarled and snapped at my nose. "Don't worry, he hardly ever bites hard enough to break the skin."
I hadn't seen my aunt in nearly four years and I'd forgotten how much energy she had. When she really gets going, she's like the Road Runner or Speedy Gonzales in overdrive just a blur of dark hair and pale skin with a red slash of lipstick and a cellphone glued to her ear. "Oh, just look at you! You've grown up so gorgeous! Look at that skin. Look at that hair. And your bone structure to die for. I'll arrange for you to do some head shots ASAP" she said this as if it were one word instead of separate initials: asap "and we'll start sending you out on auditions. You look so much like your mother when she was young and famous, it's scary. Truly scary."
At this, Harper cleared her throat. "Who's your mother?"
My aunt and I exchanged a look. "Never mind," we said in unison.
Laurel snatched up the coffee cup resting on her desk and threw back the remaining dregs of java. "So! Darling! Let's go grab a bite to eat. Where's your luggage?"
"It's on the roof," I said with a nod toward Harper "the 'Har' is for Harvard" Hollings.
"Is it?" My aunt looked like she was trying to suppress a smile. "Well, I'm sure Harper will have it off the roof and in my possession by five P.M."
"Of course," Harper bit out, glaring at me when Laurel turned away.
I'd been in California for an hour and a half and already I'd met my new archenemy. A Hilary Duff to my Lindsay Lohan.
How very L.A. of me.
Now all I needed was the fame, fortune, and free Dior.
Copyright © 2006 by Beth Macias