Reality Check (Charly's Epic Fiascos Series #2)by Kelli London
Charly St. James knows drama. Her home lifewretched. Her trip from Chicago to New Yorkdisastrous. But she's about to put all that behind her. . . .
Charly's been waiting forever to put her acting skills to work, and now she's been cast on the reality show The Extreme Dream Team. In each episode, the show makes over some lucky person's life. Charly's… See more details below
Charly St. James knows drama. Her home lifewretched. Her trip from Chicago to New Yorkdisastrous. But she's about to put all that behind her. . . .
Charly's been waiting forever to put her acting skills to work, and now she's been cast on the reality show The Extreme Dream Team. In each episode, the show makes over some lucky person's life. Charly's feeling pretty lucky alreadyshe's to play the sidekick to kind-hearted Annison, a former child star; gets to work with Liam, a delicious cutie who performs double duty as male co-star and eye candy; and Mason is finally her boyfriend for real. Then Annison gets sick and Charly has to step up. Suddenly she's TV's fave new It-girl and she's on fire. But behind the scenes, someone is set on changing Charly's lifeand not for the better. . .
"Kelli's stories are edgy and addictive. You won't want the story to end." RM Johnson, author of Stacie & Cole
Praise For Kelli London
"An amazing tale that is sure to delight, teach, and intrigue teens everywhere!" Ni-Ni Simone on Boyfriend Season
"Kelli reinvents the urban heroineshe's cuter, smarter, fearless. Excellent read." Travis Hunter, author of On the Come Up
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By KELLI LONDON
DAFINA KTEEN BOOKSCopyright © 2013 Kelli London
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAttitudes were flaring, and the pressure was on. Time was ticking, and every minute cost thousands of dollars. "Move it! Move it! We're behind schedule, people!" a production assistant boomed, her hand waving to and fro. Costumers shuttled rolling wardrobes across the floor. Cameramen yelled, some cursing. Extras huddled together, inching forward toward the set, though they'd been told not to. Charly stood to the side, watching and holding Marlow. It was a mess. A certifiable yet beautiful disaster was unfolding in front of her, but she didn't care. Mr. Day hadn't told on her weeks ago like he'd threatened to. He hadn't said one word to her father. Instead, today he'd sent a car to retrieve her and Marlow so she could familiarize herself with the set and production crew, and so Marlow could get used to all the busyness. He had promised her "big things," so she knew it was only a matter of time before the disorder was fine-tuned into something fit for television. Now she was just waiting for it all to develop, so she could see what Mr. Day had in store for her with some new upcoming reality series he'd been so hush-hush about and, more importantly, so she could hurry afterward to the airport to meet Mason's plane, which was due in just after two o'clock. She smiled, calming and reminding herself why she was here and how much she'd gone through to make it. She'd traveled from the Midwest to New York, pit-stopping in what she'd come to refer to as levels of purgatory, to capture an opportunity such as this, and now that it had presented itself, she was going to own it. No matter what.
"What are you standing there for, man? We got work to do," a guy with a producer badge around his neck asked flippantly, clipboard in his hands. "Let's go!" Charly strained to see the object of the producer's wrath, feeling sorry for whomever he was talking to. She was glad he wasn't snapping at her, because for the life of her, she didn't know how she'd have responded to such a bullying tone. But she knew it wouldn't have been nice.
"Did you hear me, man? I. Said. We. Have. Work. To. Do. Now, c'mon!" he urged, waving the clipboard. "Okay. It's not gonna be my butt on the line ..." He trailed off with an unspoken threat.
Charly looked left and right, hoping that whoever would hurry up. The producer's impatience was making her uncomfortable.
"He seems upset, doesn't he?" a male voice asked from behind, startling her and tickling her eardrums with an English accent.
Charly glanced over her shoulder and nodded to the guy's shadow behind her. Too entertained by the producer to divert her attention all the way, she didn't see his face. "Yeah. But I think that's an understatement," she agreed, quickly turning her glance back to the angry producer, who was reddening by the second. She was sure that in less than a minute the man was going to drag whoever he was yelling at across the floor to wherever he wanted him.
"Hey, Day! Day! Mr. Day?" the producer guy yelled, almost throwing his clipboard in the air. "I thought you said we have a live one. Where is he?"
An irritating, mic-held-too-close-to-the-speakers sound fractured the air, making everyone wince and cover their ears. Suddenly it stopped, then was replaced by a crackling noise, followed by "Testing? One. Two. Testing?" blaring through a bullhorn.
"Charly? Charly?" Mr. Day's voice called from somewhere behind the cameras.
Charly perked up and stood on tiptoe, trying to see past the cameras and crew. She pointed to her chest like she'd forgotten her name. "Me?" she mouthed out of habit. Having what was considered a common male name, she'd learned long ago not to assume someone was talking to her.
"Yes, you, Charly," Mr. Day assured her. "I'm talking to you, and so is Ryan. The man in front of you with the clipboard. He's the producer."
Now her eyes really widened, then locked with the producer's. "Me?" she mouthed again, clutching Marlow in one arm and pointing to her chest again. She didn't understand. Why were they calling her? This time she'd come to watch, not participate. The last time she participated, Mr. Day had run her out and had threatened to tell her dad, and with good reason. She'd popped up and auditioned during a real taping.
The scrumptious male voice behind her laughed. "Oops. Guess you are the man who's pissed off Ryan. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes," he said, his off sounding like awff.
Ryan's eyes saucered wider than Charly's. "You?" he asked incredulously. "All this time I was looking for a he, not a her. And definitely not an it," he said, pointing at Marlow. "Well, same difference. Let's go!" he yelled, walking toward Charly and extending his arm. "Time is money, and we don't have either to waste. Hair and makeup. Wardrobe!" he called out, gently taking Charly by the hand.
She looked at his reddened face, and thought his gentle hold on her was so contradictory. "I don't understand," she said, clasping her hand with Ryan's like she was lost. "Mr. Day sent for me so I can watch. You know, learn? I've been banned ..." She glanced over her shoulder to where the delicious voice had come from, and her eyes took over. The guy with the accent was gorgeous. Handsome, beautiful, cute, and whatever other words could be used to describe a guy who was so fine, he was all of that. She blinked slowly, trying to pull her attention from him, but she couldn't. He was magnetic, attractive, model-tall, and had the perfect build. He was cut like a triathlete, and his muscular build was topped off with delectable biceps. "... and can only watch ... there's no getting in front of the camera for a while. I can only watch ... only watch," she stuttered, repeating her words. She didn't know what to say or do, not after looking at the guy.
"Uh-huh. Tell that to hair and makeup and wardrobe—aka the Gossip Trinity. They love to hear stories ... and spread them too. I, on the other hand, love to see stories. Action. I'm here to make it all happen." His voice was incredibly loud, as if she were across the room and not next to him. He looked at her and smirked. "I don't do excuses, babe. And I don't do dogs. I do production." He stood straight, looking around as if he hadn't been speaking to her. "Someone get this dog. Now!"
"Wait a second. Don't talk to me like that! And definitely don't call Marlow an it! She's a her. Do you hear me?" she began, but before Charly could finish instructing the producer, Ryan, on what he could kiss and how he could kiss it, he looked her up and down, taking her all in. "Suede boots and striped tights while it's warm—trendsetter, huh? Gutsy and edgy." He winked and nodded, in what seemed like approval. "Cute, confident, conflict-worthy, and cutting edge. Charly," he said at the top of his lungs, then handed her off to a group of stylists who she assumed were the Gossip Trinity. "Who knows, Day?" Ryan yelled to Mr. Day. "You may be on to something here with this Ms. Charly St. James. She's quite the character and very expressive too. She wears her feelings on her face—looked at me like You know where you can go! And trust me, the look wasn't directing me to heaven! Ha! Cameras may love her." He shrugged. "Then again, they may not," he said as if Charly weren't right there to hear him.
"What are you talking about?" she asked snidely. "Mr. Day!" she yelled. "Somebody better tell me what's up or I'm walking or swinging fists. The first person that touches me I'm touching back."
Mr. Day was in her face before she knew it. "Calm down, Charly. It was supposed to be a surprise, but I guess I might as well tell you. We're doing the show. You're doing the show," he said.
Her index finger was pointed to her chest again. "Me? What show?"
Mr. Day laughed. "Now you get it. Just get ready. I'll meet you in the dressing room to explain. But think Extreme Makeover: Home Edition meets something even more fantastic."
Fingers were in her long hair. A makeup color palette was held up to her face, and measuring tape encircled her waist while small hands tried to free Marlow from Charly's grasp. "Wait," Charly protested, stomping her foot, locking her limbs, and tightening her hold on Marlow. Everything and everyone was moving too fast, and she still didn't completely understand what was going on. She knew she was going to do a series, but was taken aback at the rush of it all. "Who are you and what are you trying to do with Marlow?" she asked a small woman who had her tiny hands around Marlow's body.
The lady smiled. "I'm the vet, Ms. St. James. We're just going to give her a quick checkup. Make sure she has all her shots so she can be on the set, then it's off for a shampoo and groom."
"Diva St. James, your dog's in better hands than anyone on the set, trust me," the guy with the tape measure around her waist assured her, looking up into her eyes. "Doc Peta here will take good care of him—"
"Her. Marlow's a her," Charly corrected, cutting him off.
"Well, Diva St. James, Doc Peta here—and yes, Peta is her name and, of course, her affiliation too."
"But that'd be in all caps, Ramone. The affiliation is in all caps. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would be capitalized," the girl with the color palette corrected. "Would that be considered a homonym then?" she asked no one. "You're a number thirty-five foundation, Ms. St. James."
"Anyway," Ramone said, shrugging off color-palette-girl's comment. "Like I was saying, Diva St. James, Marlow's in good hands."
Charly looked at the village who'd been sent to take care of her and Marlow. "Charly. Not Ms. St. James. Not Diva St. James. Everyone, call me Charly, please."
Ramone's eyebrows shot to the heavens, and the rest of the village gasped. "Oh ... kay. Charly? Really? Just Charly?" he asked, nodding, then smiled. The others followed suit, and Doc Peta pinched Charly's cheek like she was a baby.
Charly didn't know what the big deal was. Charly was her name, after all. "Yes. Really. Charly."
"My pleasure," he said, then stood and laced his arm through hers. "Well, Charly, now that you know Marlow's in good hands, come so we can work you over with our even better hands. With this thin waist, pretty face, and goo-gobs of hair you have, we'll make the cameras love you more than anyone else. Everyone else. Especially your costars, the guy and the girl. The guy you should watch out for. He's mean, and the girl ... well, she thinks she's a diva. But you'll be better. That's our mission. Trust me." He led her toward the back of the studio and outside, where the makeup and dressing trailers were. Charly wanted to ask him who and what he was talking about, but he just kept on talking and talking, and didn't give her time to inquire.
The Gossip Trinity had stuck Charly's head in a bowl, shampooed, then rolled and unrolled most of her hair, only to finger-roll the loose tendrils into pinwheel curls, which they coiled and pinned to her head with a mere, "We'll let it set, then style it after you're dressed." Ramone, the obvious leader of the trio, was the dresser and head stylist and he wrapped her in outfit after outfit until he found what he'd called "one worthy of wearing Charly," then instructed, "From here on out, you don't wear clothes. Your clothes wear you. Clothes are merely accessories, my dear. You are the wardrobe that the accessories complement." He looked around, ignoring Charly as if he hadn't just spoken to her. "Someone please put more rollers in her hair. And add some pieces too. Her natural hair's too heavy to hold curls, and it's too long for pins."
Charly now sat in a chair in front of the mirror, with her back turned on her reflection while someone wove in pieces of fake hair with her already long hair, then added more rollers. She was surrounded by the Gossip Trinity and other onlookers. Her face was turned left, then right while some people nodded yes and others no. Not seeing herself was killing her. Not knowing what was going on was making her want to kill someone. Losing control of herself and life and choices for the last two hours wasn't normal for her, but then again, her life had never known normal, especially since she'd ventured to capture her dream months ago.
Three slow, deliberate handclaps pulled her attention from her audience, shifting her focus to the door. Mr. Day walked toward her, nodding and smiling. "You are something else, Charly. Like Ryan said, the cameras are going to love you."
"Thank you," Ramone said, proudly taking credit. "We told her."
Mr. Day gave a dismissive nod to Ramone.
"Whatever ... Charly will be the hottest thing in front of the camera. Period," Ramone mumbled, loud enough for Charly to hear but low enough to escape Mr. Day's ears.
Charly's eyebrows drew together while she waited for the girl to finish rolling her hair. With all hands finally off her, she pushed her palms against the chair's armrests to stand up. "Mr. Day. Listen. Enough is enough is enough, already. You told me you'd fill me in. Now, fill me in. What's this show about?" she asked, exasperated. "And where is Marlow?"
Mr. Day smiled, then snapped his fingers. "What's wrong, Charly? Afraid of getting what you want?" he whispered, then smiled, turning away. "I'm ready for her. Please get her and send her in," he said to someone Charly couldn't see, who was standing in the trailer's three-step stairwell. He pointed to the style trio and their assistants. "Give us five."
"Get who? Tell me why I'm here again?" She felt as if she were parroting herself, but she had to know.
Charly watched as the small group, whom she referred to as her village, hustled out of the trailer with an "Oh! Excuse us," then mumbled, "This is going to be interesting. Clash of the divas."
Mr. Day adjusted his baseball cap over his electric grayish-white hair, then crossed his arms over his chest. A huge smile spread his lips. "Well, getting familiar with the set was the plan. But plans change ... and, fortunately for you, so do reality shows. This one is way better, and the studio is behind it. Big-time. In fact, there will be no pilot. This is the real deal and there are already sponsors. We're talking commercials, products, you name it, we got it. They're even beginning to market it." He nodded. "Yep. And we've also got big names attached to it too. A big one-named star who's getting ready to shine again. Some people just can't be held back."
Charly tilted her head, trying to grasp what he was saying. The show she'd been slated for had been cancelled, which had been a huge disappointment. They'd shot a pilot, even a commercial, but then, nothing. The network had changed their mind, and Charly was left waiting. And Mr. Day had kept hinting about another show, but never revealed anything. "Okay ...?" she began, then her jaw hit the floor as his words sunk in. Really?
"Yep," Mr. Day said as if reading her mind. "And since your contract has that option clause, your mother pretty much sealed the deal. By law—though it's not as simple as I'm going to make this sound—you owe the studio a show," he began, then filled Charly in on the show while they waited.
Charly was so excited. The show was going to be huge. She knew it because she felt it. "So I get to help teenagers? That's cool. But what do they have to do to qualify?"
Mr. Day looked her dead in the eyes. "Think of a great Samaritan—not a good one, but a great one. Think of someone who helps everyone else, is deserving of a good life but hasn't had a break. Well, that's what you'll be, Charly. You'll be the break they've been waiting for."
The beautiful girl Charly had grown up watching on television and on the big screen entered the trailer, interrupting Mr. Day, then walked over and stood in front of her. She wore jeans with stylish rips in them, courtesy of a high-end designer, a plain white baby tee with spaghetti straps and a long, red summer scarf that danced in the air. On her head was a pair of oversized sunglasses. Her hair was pulled back in a sloppy ponytail, and her face was minus makeup or expression. Seconds seemed like minutes as the girl stared at Charly, tapping a flip-flopped foot on the floor. She said not one word. Finally, she nodded.
"Annison," Charly whispered.
Mr. Day beamed, snaking his neck so he could see around Charly, who'd walked in front of him and was now blocking his view. "Yes? Is that a yes?"
Annison removed her sunglasses, then took Charly in, pressing her lips together in thought. She nodded. "She'll do." Then she smiled, big and wide and forcefully, like she'd been practicing it. Her eyes were void of feeling. "Yes, that's a yes."
Charly looked from the starlet to Mr. Day, then back to the girl. She wasn't just your normal, everyday girl. She was Annison. Annison had been like the Nikkis and Waynes of the world, then suddenly she seemed to disappear. Obviously she was back, and was just as beautiful and commanding of attention as ever. "Yes? Yes, what?" Charly asked Annison, turning to Mr. Day, then back to Annison.
Excerpted from Reality Check by KELLI LONDON Copyright © 2013 by Kelli London. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA KTEEN BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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