Jasmine Green is the daughter of a major Hollywood studio head. She lives the kind of life that makes people salivate (while hating her): bottomless bank account, vintage car, mansion, and birthday parties that end up splashed across the pages of People magazine.
But even fabulously wealthy girls (and their family and friends) have skeletons in their walk-in closets. Just to clear her head, Jasmine anonymously writes a thinly veiled exposè about her life in the form of a screenplay. But when the script is bought by her own father's studio, suddenly this juicy read is the talk of the town, and on the fast track to being green-lit.
Jasmine knows she has to do whatever it takes to stop her family's dirty laundry from becoming the next box-office smash. But she's up against one persistent tabloid reporter who's making it very, very difficult to keep her secrets....
|Simon & Schuster
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Austin Cooper is dead and it's all my fault.
That was the first thought that came to mind when Violet embraced me. My second was this: For someone so small and frail looking, her hug was intense. One of her bony shoulders dug into my neck, so it was hard to breathe. Caught by surprise, I wanted to shake her off, and only resisted because it would have looked bad. We were at Austin's memorial service. Practically everyone the Coopers knew was packed into this airless room. I didn't want to make things any worse.
Not that they could get much worse.
"It's still so hard, isn't it?" Violet gushed when she finally let go, her glassy eyes blinking.
"Hard" didn't cover my excruciating, soul-crushing agony.
It's been more than two months since Austin died, but I still feel as if it happened ten minutes ago. They found him on the sidewalk in front of Club Moomba, on Sunset Boulevard. He'd had a heart attack and died before the ambulance even made it to the hospital. I didn't sell him the Ecstasy or serve him the nine Red Bull and vodkas, or even strong-arm him into consuming so much toxic crap at once. To be honest, I wasn't even there when he OD'd. But I did see him earlier that night. Austin's time of death was 2:12 A.M., less than four hours after he'd left my place. He'd wanted to stay over, but I'd sent him away.
Since I couldn't admit this to anyone -- especially not Violet, who'd been going out with Austin at the time -- I didn't know what to say.
Turns out this didn't matter, because Violet kept right on talking. "A bunch of us are going to Chin Chin after the ceremony. It was Austin's favorite restaurant and -- "
"I know what Austin's favorite restaurant was."
I didn't mean to snap, but I couldn't help it. Austin was my boyfriend first and I'd known him longer. Today would have been his twentieth birthday. I remember celebrating last year, when everything was good between us. Cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down and the music blaring. It was The Clash's "London Calling" -- his choice but one of my favorites, too. At the beach we hung out on a deserted lifeguard station and watched the sun set over the Pacific. Austin had his guitar with him, and once it was dark, he played me a few of his new songs.
Back then he was too shy to perform in the light, even for an audience of one.
Back then he'd dedicated most of his songs to me.
Things changed, but none of that was Violet's fault. I wasn't even mad that she had started seeing Austin when he and I were -- at least technically -- still a couple. How can I be upset with her when I'm guilty of so much worse?
It's just, what I can't stop wondering about is how he could have been attracted to us both, when we could not be more different. Violet is tiny, with blond hair and blue eyes and when she's not grieving over her dead boyfriend, she's way too perky. She's the type of girl who bakes cupcakes topped with heart-shaped sprinkles, and makes her own greeting cards out of construction paper and glitter. Even though she's in college, her pens still bleed pink and purple ink. And me? Well, I'm everything that Violet is not, and a high school junior, to boot.
"So if you want to come with, you really should," Violet continued.
I hadn't even realized she was still talking.
Before I came up with an answer, someone else yelled, "Jasmine Green! There you are!"
Hearing my name, I turned around to find Lubna heading toward us. She's one of my best friends and ever since she left me here in L.A. to go to college up in Berkeley, I'd missed her like crazy.
Violet stepped back as Lubna swept in and gave me a hug -- less bone-crushing and much needed.
"I'm so glad you're here," I cried, squeezing my eyes shut to keep my tears from falling.
"I wouldn't miss this," she said.
Letting go, she glared at Violet, who cowered. "Who are you?" Lubna asked.
Violet extended her hand warily. "I'm Violet," she said, as if that would explain everything.
Lubna ignored her hand and played dumb. "Violet?" she asked. "I don't think I've ever heard of you. How did you know Austin?" Even though Lubna moved here from Pakistan when she was seven, she still had a slight accent, which was cool because she could deliver insults in a way that made them sound like polite flattery.
I was used to it, but Violet seemed confused. "I'm, I mean, well, I was..." she paused, considering. "I was a friend of Austin's from UCLA. We lived in the same dorm."
"Oh," said Lubna, who knew exactly who Violet was.
"Well, I was just telling Jasmine that a bunch of us are going out to Chin Chin after the service," said Violet, bouncing back into cheerleader mode too quickly. "You guys should join us."
"Last time I went to Chin Chin I found a cockroach in my sesame chicken," Lubna said before turning her back on Violet.
As Violet headed back to her friends, I laughed. "That was subtle."
"Hey, it worked, didn't it?" Lubna smirked. "God, is she annoying. I can't believe she thinks she can just talk to you like nothing ever happened."
"I don't care about Violet," I said.
"She carries a Hello Kitty backpack, and not ironically," Lubna reminded me.
"When did you see a cockroach at Chin Chin?" I asked.
"Technically, never." Lubna flipped her long dark hair over one shoulder. "But it could happen."
"Maybe we should go," I said.
"You're kidding, right? Even if I wanted to, I couldn't. I'm leaving for London tonight and I still have to pack."
"Wait, you leave tonight?" I asked. "For how long?"
"I have to stay through New Year's and then I'm heading right back to school from there."
"So you'll be gone for all of Christmas vacation?" I asked, too surprised to care that I was talking loud enough to draw stares.
"Believe me, I'd much rather stay here than go to my cousin's wedding and see a million family members I don't even know, but I have no choice in the matter. I'm just glad I could make it today." Looking around, Lubna asked, "So where's your brother?"
"Don't know. I tried calling his cell, but you know Jett...."
I didn't need to explain anything to Lubna. She'd dated my brother on and off back when they were in high school. She knew as well as I did that Jett lived in his own universe, where certain social norms -- like the concept of time -- just didn't apply and people loved him anyway. Grabbing my hand, she said, "Come on. Let's sit. It looks like the service is about to start."
There had to be more than two hundred people crammed into this too-small space, so Jett's lucky we were saving him a seat. Although "lucky" is a weird way to put it. No one ever hopes for great seats to their friend's memorial service.
It sucked to be here, and that was the biggest understatement of the day. The ceilings in this room were way too low and the lights too glaring. Some people talked in whispers, while others sat
quietly, hands folded in their laps. No one knew how to act today. Everyone was so awkward -- even Austin's former bandmates, Raven, T. J., and Scott, who were otherwise the epitome of cool.
All I wanted was for the service to start so that it would end and I could go home and forget all about the mess of the past six months. Put it behind me and try to get through Christmas vacation without completely losing my mind.
I trained my eyes on the door, itching to bolt, and that's when my brother cruised in. As soon as I saw him I stood up and waved. Jett is three years older than me, six feet tall and skinny. His coal-black hair hung messy over his forehead, not quite long enough to hide the piercing, dark intensity of his eyes. Even though he looked tired and troubled, practically every woman between the ages of fifteen and fifty was watching him. This was no surprise. As far back as I can remember, it's always been that way.
Looks-wise, Jett is a younger version of our dad. Both of them go through women like candy. Although so far only my dad has actually dated someone named Candy.
Personally, I don't see the attraction. But then again, I guess I'm not supposed to.
When Jett finally noticed us, he quickened his pace. "Hey, Lubna," he said, kissing her on the cheek.
"Where's Dad?" he asked after giving me a quick, one-armed hug. He smelled like the beach, and his hair was still damp from his post-surfing shower.
"He had a work thing," I said.
Jett grunted as he sat down next to me.
"The invite came last minute. He's going to that new director's house," I continued, feeling really bad, like it was somehow my fault. "Sophia Mancini is supposed to show, and he's trying to get her for his next movie, so he couldn't say no."
Jett was pissed, but he didn't say so. "As long as he has a good reason," he mumbled sarcastically. As if I were to blame for our dad's flakiness. Looking around, he asked, "How come we're sitting so far back?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. How close do you want to be?"
"Closer than this," Jett huffed.
Lubna leaned over me and poked Jett's knee, saying, "We're only back here because we were waiting for you outside. By the time we sat down, these were the only seats left."
There was another reason we weren't sitting closer, but I wasn't about to admit it. "I figured the front rows were reserved for family," I said instead.
"I've known Austin since kindergarten," Jett replied coldly. "That means we're family."
Lubna raised her eyebrows at me and I just shrugged.
My brother could be so self-righteous. Under any other circumstances it would be comical. He's the one who showed up late, so he had no right to complain. But it wasn't worth fighting about. Even if I'd wanted to, it was too late because Austin's dad was heading to the podium at the front of the room.
Dr. Cooper cleared his throat and said, "Hello and thank you all for being here to honor my son." His voice was slow and controlled, like he was struggling to hold back tears. Austin's dad is a strict, stodgy old Republican, and Austin couldn't stand him. But hearing him, just the tone of his voice, made me feel as if my whole body were caving inward.
Warm tears streamed down my face, but this time I didn't bother wiping them away. Hearing the sniffles of those around me, seeing so many squinty red eyes and crumpled tissues just made me cry harder.
Lubna grasped my hand, and even Jett put his arm around me.
I stared straight ahead. Dr. Cooper looked uncomfortable onstage, but then again, he was that type of guy -- rigid and formal. He still made me call him Dr. Cooper even though his wife, who's also an MD, insists that I call her Lori. "As you all know, Austin was intelligent and sensitive," Dr. Cooper went on. "He planned to dedicate his life to helping others, which is why he was premed at UCLA...."
Jett snorted and I elbowed him reflexively. Yes, we both knew that Austin was premed only because his parents had refused to pay for college otherwise, but this wasn't really the time. I shot him a look that said as much, but he just rolled his eyes and took his arm away.
Dr. Cooper went on. "Many of you have some thoughts to share, and a few of you will be performing songs, but before we begin, I have an announcement to make about an interesting new development. Is Marvin Green here?"
Jett glanced at me, confused. "What's this about?" he whispered.
Everyone looked around in anticipation. Most of them recognized our dad's name, which was no surprise, because he's kind of famous. As the president and head of production of EggBrite Studios, Dad has been linked to a lot of big movies and even bigger movie stars, so he gets a ton of work-related press. He's not the only one, actually. People write about my whole family, and I'm not saying that to brag. It's just a fact and, to be honest, most of the time it sucks.
People think they know me because they've read about me or my parents or they've seen my picture in some magazine and they love me or hate me for it, usually without ever actually having spoken to me.
The most annoying part about it is, it's only because of our "tragic life circumstances" that certain reporters won't leave us alone. I was two and Jett was five when our mom, Marguerite, died. Twenty years ago, she was a famous actress.
Mom was also our dad's first wife, and according to the papers, he's "raised us by himself" ever since. Of course, the papers have a very loose interpretation of the word "raised," considering how little time our dad actually spends with us. Not that it's his fault. Marrying and divorcing six more wives over the course of fourteen years is time-consuming. (And I'm not even including his marriage from two summers ago, which technically ended in an annulment since Dad hadn't realized that his previous marriage wasn't yet legally terminated.)
Currently he's on wife number eight. GiGi Sinclair is a starlet, and they look cute together in pictures. My dad actually cares about that sort of thing a lot. He kind of has to, because in his business, image is everything. This may sound crazy, but I really think that having a scandalous, highly publicized love life makes him a more successful film executive. Like the young actresses he's paired with are just social currency, which he can convert into actual power. It's really messed up when you think about it too much, so I try not to.
That said, if the press knew what really went on at our house, they'd flip. It's the kind of thing that, if exposed, would make my dad the laughingstock of Hollywood. And who knows? It could even ruin his career.
"Marvin, would you like to come up here to say a few words?" Dr. Cooper asked.
Jett looked at me, and I knew what he was thinking: Dad hardly knew Austin. What was he going to say? And how was he going to say it when he wasn't even here?
Lubna leaned closer and whispered, "One of you needs to say something."
Clearly my brother was making no effort to handle this, so I jumped out of my seat and did my best to keep things short and to the point. "Um, Marvin -- my dad, that is -- he couldn't be here. He sends his regrets, though." I sat back down before Dr. Cooper could ask me any questions. No way was I about to admit that my dad was skipping the service for some stupid cocktail party.
Dr. Cooper seemed a bit taken aback, but seeing as how there was a huge crowd of people staring at him, he recovered quickly. "Okay, Jasmine. Thanks for letting us know. Well, then, I guess I'll have to make this announcement myself. I thought I knew everything about my son -- a great athlete, who dreamed of becoming a doctor. But I didn't know that he was a writer, too. It wasn't until my wife and I were cleaning out Austin's dorm room at UCLA a few weeks ago that we learned he was working on a screenplay. We read it and were shocked, because even though it was unfinished, it was obviously something great. We sent it to our friend, who's an agent, and she sent it to the film studios, and to make a long story short, Austin's screenplay, Cold-Blooded, Two-Timing Rat, was just optioned by Marvin Green, the president and head of production at EggBrite Studios. Austin's work is going to be turned into a movie."
Piercing sirens went off in the room. That's what I thought, anyway. It took a few moments to realize that the noise was all in my head. Dr. Cooper was still talking -- or at least his lips were moving -- but I couldn't hear a thing. Nor could I move since my entire body felt numb. I was shocked, amazed, dumbfounded, and, most of all, utterly horrified.
This couldn't actually be happening. It had to be some sort of cruel and twisted joke.
Jett leaned over and whispered something in my ear.
"What?" I asked, not hearing a thing.
"Did you know anything about this?" he asked.
I tried to swallow the lump that was forming in my throat, but it kept on growing. Not that it mattered, because even if I'd wanted to, I couldn't answer Jett. Not honestly, anyway. I was too busy freaking out, because Austin wasn't a writer. Or at least, he didn't write Cold-Blooded, Two-Timing Rat.
I did. And it's not just a screenplay. It's the story of my life.
Copyright © 2007 by Leslie Margolis