Authors: Rebecca Serle
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction / Girls & Women, #Juvenile Fiction / Love & Romance, #Juvenile Fiction / Performing Arts / Film
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For HBG, who first said I could, believed it possible, and never let me go it alone.
In dreams begin responsibilities.
I’ll tell you what it’s like to be with him. How he kisses me. How he touches my cheek. I’ll tell you what he whispers to me before we go out and meet those screaming crowds. How he holds my pinkie, just slightly, so the cameras won’t catch us touching. I’ll tell you our signals. How blinking once means
it’s okay; I’m here
, and how blinking twice means
don’t answer that
. I’ll tell you everything, but you have to promise never to write it down or repeat it. You have to promise it will be our secret.
Sometimes, during an interview, I’m caught with this intense desire to tell the truth. We’ll be right there in the middle of talking about my favorite brand of jeans or something, and I’ll want to slip out of my chair onto the
floor, sit cross-legged, and just spill. It’s my nature. I’ve always been someone who’s quick to trust. I told Holly Anderson freshman year that my sister was pregnant, and by lunchtime the entire class knew. I don’t know why I expected her to keep that secret for me, since we weren’t even friends, but something inside me was compelled to let her in. I like to let people in. Which is why it’s so ridiculous that it’s the one thing I absolutely, positively cannot do anymore. These questions have already been answered. The publicist stands by with a clipboard, toeing the carpet and checking her watch manically, like the minute hand is a slow toddler she’s trying to hurry up.
“Seven,” I say, nodding, because we’re working on an endorsement deal with them. I haven’t been allowed to wear a single other brand of jeans for the last six months.
“I like them, too,” the interviewer says. She winks at me, like we’re in on something together, and I suddenly realize I’ve forgotten her name. I’m not sure I’ve ever learned it, actually. The only name that matters is mine.
We leave and I round the corner, and then he’s there, walking toward me. He’s flanked on either side by people—Wyatt and Sandy and two girls I don’t recognize—but he sees me, and our eyes lock for a moment. I can’t touch him. The only thing I want to do is run to him and have him put his arms around me, to take me someplace that isn’t here. Someplace it’s just the two of
us and none of this matters. But I can’t do that because no one knows. Not Wyatt and not Sandy, not even Cassandra. They think we’re just friends—that I belong to someone else. They don’t know that I’ve made a huge mistake. They don’t know that, like August, I chose wrong.
“You’re famous, Patrick.”
Jake winks at me, and I roll my eyes. It’s this running joke we’ve had since fifth grade, when I was in a production of
The Three Stooges
our school put on. I played the little boy, and for the rest of the year everyone referred to me as Patrick, which honestly isn’t even that close to Paige, but whatever. Most people in my class weren’t that creative.
I follow it up the same way I always have: “Hey, at least I’m known for something.”
The truth is I’ve always been a little bit different. Like the button on a coat that doesn’t line up with its hole. The youngest of four children, a native Portlander with serious seasonal affective disorder, I just… don’t fit. Not in my family and not with my hometown. Sometimes not even
with Jake, who for the last twenty minutes has been lecturing me about the serious health ramifications of consuming dairy. He’s stopped only because there is a poster for my latest stage play up in the entryway of Powell’s. We put it there last month. I’m surprised they haven’t taken it down yet.
Jake and I have been superclose since we were in diapers, but we’re polar opposites. He’s quiet and intellectual and a real wizard—he’s going to change the world someday. I am pretty talkative and do well in school, but I have to work hard at it. I’ve never had the natural talent Jake has for biology or chemistry. Or, to be fair, any other subject.
“Why do you still not have a proper head shot?” Cassandra says. She pulls on one of her pigtails and raises her eyebrows at me. She’s tiny, but her personality is massive, as is her hair—a gigantic mess of blond curls that never seems to stay just on her head. It makes no sense that she’s not the actress of our dynamic trio. She acts like she’s constantly onstage. She did even when we were five years old, which is how long I’ve known her. But she wants to be a marine biologist.
“Jake said he’d take them,” I say, staring at the flyer. There is no photo by my name, only a blank space. Paige
Who. I asked Jake to take the pictures at least a month ago, but he’s had sit-ins almost every weekend.
Jake is always protesting stuff. Plastic, buildings, the cutting down of trees, popcorn. The stuff at the movie theater is genetically engineered. We lost a week of our lives to those kernels.
Cassandra gives Jake a pitying look and turns to me. “If your career is in his hands, you’re going to end up in waste management.” Jake tries to interrupt, but Cassandra keeps talking. “The point is, I’ll do them.” She swings her purse around and takes something out. “I got a new camera.”
“No way.” Jake bounces it out of her hands, and Cassandra squeals. “How did you pull this off?” he asks.
“Babysitting,” she says proudly.
“Nice. We should take some shots at the rally next week. I bet if we get good ones we could submit them to the paper.”
“Another rally?” I ask. I try to keep the disappointment out of my voice, but I’m not working that hard.
Jake looks at me with that somber expression I know too well. “They will stop when pollution stops, when animals are treated kindly. When human beings start taking responsibility for themselves and this planet.”
“Sorry,” I mumble.
I always feel bad about not supporting Jake in his latest
quest. I mean, I want the world to be a better place, too. It’s just that sometimes I also want to go to the movies.
Cassandra slides her arm around my shoulder and turns me back to the board. “Maybe the Aladdin is playing something good this weekend.”
We scan the flyers, but I’m only halfheartedly looking. I’m watching Jake fiddle with Cassandra’s camera. I haven’t seen him this excited about anything since Starbucks started using biodegradable materials.
“Oh my God!” Cassandra shrieks, and my hands fly to my ears. Jake almost drops the camera.
“What is with you?” he asks her.
“Look look look!” She’s pointing at the board. “Are you seeing this?”
I follow her finger. It’s a flyer for
, the book Cassandra is obsessed with. Well, three books, actually. It’s a trilogy, but only two have been released so far. They’re huge. Crazy, international best sellers. They’re written by a woman named Parker Witter, about this girl who lands on a magical deserted island after a plane crash. The boy who survives with her (who happens to be her boyfriend’s best friend) has some kind of supernatural connection to the island, and they fall in love. But she’s also still in love with her boyfriend, who she thinks is dead, since all three of them were on the plane together. I haven’t read the books yet, but I did do a little Googling
after Cassandra wouldn’t shut up about them. The stuff that exists online is intense. Hundreds of thousands of videos on YouTube, community boards, endless fan fiction. Noah and August are the new Romeo and Juliet, apparently. Cassandra waited in line at Barnes & Noble at midnight the day the second one went on sale. The third and final book is supposed to come out in November.
“They’re holding auditions
!” Cassandra squeals. She dances around on her tiptoes in a semicircle.
I squint at the flyer.
“Auditions for what?” Jake says, handing her back the camera.
My stomach does a little flip, in time with Cassandra’s feet, and I look up to see her smirking at me. “Interested now?”
Even though we’re in Portland, a city that draws a big artistic crowd, movies are rarely shot here, and casting directors never come looking for talent. Movie auditions are for people who live in Los Angeles—and I’ve never even been there.
I’ve begged my parents to let me go to California, but they always say it’s a distraction from my studies. What they really mean is that I’m the youngest of four and as far as they’re concerned a plane ticket without a direct link to a wedding or funeral just isn’t practical.
That doesn’t mean I don’t go on auditions here; I do, but it’s mostly for community theater stuff, like the non-head-shot poster we were looking at. But a real film? I’ve never had that opportunity before.
When I do get things—a play or a local commercial or something—I’m pretty much always cast as a child, even though I’m seventeen. I feel like I’ve been playing the same role for a decade. I’m barely five feet tall, which is short even for twelve-year-olds. I have long, true-red hair that is just a little bit wavy—not totally curly, not straight—and my face is spotted with freckles, which doesn’t exactly scream leading lady. But the rug rat younger sister? I have that one down. I wonder if there’s a sibling in
“Where is it?” I ask. I glance down to show that I don’t really care, but since it’s Jake and Cassandra, no one is buying the attempted nonchalance.
“Saturday at the Aladdin.” Jake rips the flyer down and hands it to me.
“Someone else might want to see that,” I say.
“So consider it lessening the competition.” Cassandra loops her arm through mine. “Promise you’ll think about it.”
She smiles at me, and I know she knows I’ll be there. But she’s also aware of my golden rule about auditions: I never tell anyone I’m going.
Maybe it’s something about being the youngest in a big
family, but I expect disappointment. The unspoken motto of our house: If you stay closer to the ground, you have less distance to fall. It worked for my parents, I guess. They’re both elementary school teachers, which is a great thing in and of itself, but I don’t think it’s what either of them actually wanted. My mom wanted to be an actress. She was in a few regional productions when she was younger, but nothing since my oldest brother was born. She never talks about it, but I know she has regrets. One time I was looking for a necklace in her jewelry box and came across this envelope filled with theater tickets. Plays and shows my mom had gone to. There were even ones from the seventies in there, back when my parents weren’t together yet. Maybe from things she was in. I’m not sure you would hold on to that stuff if you didn’t wish your life had turned out a little differently. And me? I don’t want a bunch of theater tickets stuffed into an envelope at the bottom of my jewelry box. I want framed posters with my name on them. Those are the kinds of reminders I want. The ones other people can see.
Jake slings his arm over my shoulder. “You’d be an amazing August,” he tells me.
“August?” I cock one eyebrow at him.
“What?” he says, his droopy smile growing. “I like to stay informed of pop culture.”
“You can’t even believe how good it is,” Cassandra
says, threading her fingers through one of her looped curls. “I have no idea how I’m waiting until November to find out how it all ends.”
“Seriously?” I say. “You two need to start a support group.”
“I’m already in one,” Cassandra says. “We meet on Sundays. Tuesdays if it’s been a particularly bad week of withdrawal.”
Jake laughs; I roll my eyes. “You’re crazy.”
“But you love me,” she coos, her nose pressed up against my cheek.
“In spite of,” I say.
“Hey,” she says, pulling back. “These are great pieces of literature.”
“That’s what you said about
. And those books were just about horny angels.”
angels,” Cassandra corrects, tossing a pigtail over her shoulder. “It’s not my fault you don’t appreciate great novels.”
“I appreciate them,” I say.
“Just because you’ve read
The Glass Menagerie
seventy-two times doesn’t make it a book. Sorry.” Cassandra wrinkles her nose at me.
“Yeah, but it’s still a great work of literature,” I snap back.
It’s not that I don’t read novels. I do, just not in the same way I read screenplays. I mean, I love Jane Austen and I’ve probably read
The Catcher in the Rye
about seven times since eighth grade, but most of what I read are scripts. I’ve read pretty much every one Powell’s has ever stocked, which is a lot. They have everything from
, and I like to sit there on rainy Sundays and pick up whatever shooting scripts they’ve just got in. Some of them I even know by heart, and folding the first page back is kind of like hearing the first few notes of your favorite song on the radio. The one you know all the words to. When I was younger I used to recite lines in front of my bedroom mirror. Scarlett O’Hara, Holly Golightly. I’d pretend I was Audrey Hepburn or Meryl Streep and I was making a movie the world would see.
Sometimes I still do.
“What do you guys want to do this afternoon?” Cassandra asks.
I glance at my watch, a gift from Jake for my fifteenth birthday. It has Mickey Mouse on the face, and his gloved hands mark the hour and minute. Jake had it engraved:
From the cat to the mouse
. They used to be our Halloween costumes every year. He’d dress up as a cat and I’d be a mouse, and he’d chase me all over the streets when we went out trick-or-treating. Sometimes I imagine us
getting together, later, and it taking on a new meaning. Him saying something like, “I chased you for years, and now you’re finally mine.” Silly, I know, but it would be a great story.
For the record, we’ve kissed twice but not since freshman year. Jake was my first kiss, actually, and the only guy I’ve ever touched lips to except for this one kid at summer camp. We’re not together, though. We never have been. I don’t think either one of us is willing to risk our friendship over it—and besides, the thought of actually making him my boyfriend feels like an equation that just doesn’t add up.
“I have to get to work,” I say. I’ve spent every summer since seventh grade working at Trinkets n’ Things, a boutique that sells all kinds of knickknacks and, like the rest of Portland, smells like patchouli. I come home reeking of incense, but it’s a good gig. The pay is decent, and it never gets too crowded.
“Any interest in seeing a movie?” Cassandra nudges Jake, and he drops his arm from around my shoulder.
“Just not that documentary about Buddhism again, okay? We’ve seen it three times now.”
“Whatever. You’re the one who wanted to see it the third time.” She blinks at me, and I know it’s supposed to be a wink. She can never figure out how to close one eye at a time. It’s one of the things I love most about her.
I mean, there are a lot of things I love. Like that she
doesn’t know how to hopscotch and her favorite colors are always ones she makes up: honeyberry, cricket green, clown-nose red. I love that she always used to tell me when I had something stuck in my braces. She’s honest. We have no secrets. We never have.
“Have fun, kids,” I say.
Jake gives me a little salute, Cassandra plants a wet kiss on my cheek, and the two of them dart toward the exit. I stare at the crumpled poster in my hand and then shove it into my pocket, following their trail outside and down to Trinkets n’ Things. I don’t need to look at the audition details; I’ve already memorized them. I also know I’ll make up an excuse to my boss, Laurie, and go on Saturday. The flyer says the auditions begin at three, but I’m certain people will be lining up hours before.
I know there’s no chance. I know that the odds of actually landing a role like this are one in a number I can’t even count to, but the same thing happens every time I go out for a part. I feel a little… hopeful. Like this time might be the time things change. Like after this weekend, everything might be different.