Authors: Krista McGee
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Religious, #Christian, #General
“I love you, Uncle Mike.”
“I love you too, Addy-girl. Hang in there. I’m here whenever you need to talk.”
She hung up the phone and looked up into the cloudless sky. Uncle Mike was right. She
been getting too caught up in what was going on around her. She had been completely self-absorbed, too self-absorbed to even consider what God might want to accomplish through this whole mess.
She closed her eyes.
Lord, please forgive me for my behavior, my attitude, and my anger at the situation
. She asked God to help her remember that she was happiest when she was obeying God, as Uncle Mike always said. She had certainly experienced the reverse of that the last few days.
She entered her trailer and found two of her three roommates packing. They were throwing their belongings in their suitcases like boxers throwing punches.
Allison looked up. “What, have you come to gloat too?”
Addy looked over at Kara, who had also made it to the Top Thirty, and saw that roommate lift her arms in surrender.
“I’m not gloating,” Kara said, an edge to her voice. “I’m in my trailer.”
“Watching me and Lindsey pack to go home.”
“And now Addy is here too,” Lindsey said. “You don’t say a word to us all week, and now you want to be here?”
Kara stood from her bed. “Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean we have to be miserable.”
Lindsey faced her. “Just wait, Kara. Your turn is coming. I think Hank has already picked his favorites. So you’ll eventually be off too. Just like us.”
“We’re not gloating, Lindsey. Really.” Addy placed her hand on Lindsey’s shoulder. “You know, I’m pretty good at packing. Would you like a hand?”
Lindsey looked at Addy, and Addy could tell her roommate was wondering if she was being sarcastic or sincere. So Addy sat on the floor and began folding Lindsey’s shirts and helping her place them in her suitcase. “My best friend’s mom owns an upscale clothing store in Tampa. One time she showed me how they fold shirts for the displays.” She demonstrated. “See?”
Lindsey sat beside Addy and sighed. “Thanks. I’m sorry. I just really wanted to stay on, you know? Everybody back home expected me to make it. I’m so embarrassed.”
Addy handed her a pair of jeans and smiled. “You know what, we’ll all be off eventually. Even the winner. You just get a head start. You get to sleep in your own bed and go back to school with your friends.”
“But I go back a loser.”
“Did anyone else from your school get on this show?”
“Anyone from your city?”
Lindsey laughed. “No.”
“So you got an experience no one else around you has ever had. You’re going to go home a celebrity.”
Kara shut the door behind Lindsey and Allison as they left. “That was nice, roomie.”
“That, with those girls. They were all nasty and you calmed them down.” Kara placed her suitcase on the bunk that had been Allison’s. “I was ready to get into it with them.”
“They’re disappointed.” Addy shrugged.
“Not the word I would have used to describe them.” Kara laughed. “Anyway, enough about that. We’re in the Top Thirty and we get this whole trailer to ourselves now. Woo-hoo. I say we decorate it. I’m thinking sparkly beads hanging from the doors and maybe a disco ball.”
“Yes, that’s exactly what this trailer needs. Sparkle.” Addy rolled her eyes.
“I’ll make a star out of you yet, Miss Addy.”
So, Lila, why should you be chosen to be Jonathon Jackson’s prom date?
Well, I am the only island girl here. All these other girls are from the mainland. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you know. I like mainlanders. But we island girls are special. More relaxed. And I think Jonathon needs some relaxation in his life. He must be so stressed, being the son of the president and all. It must be so hard. I can help him enjoy life and ride the waves. I’m a lot of fun, so he’d never be bored. I can bring him home to meet my family, put him to work in the fields. We would have a special luau in his honor. I’ll bet he’s never experienced anything like an authentic Hawaiian luau. My parents are some of the best cooks on the island.
Tell us a little more about your family, Lila.
They are the greatest. My parents own a pineapple plantation on the island of Maui. The plantation has been in the family for four generations—I’m thinking of majoring in business so I can take over when my parents retire. But I have twin brothers—eleven years old—and they are so smart. If I choose to pursue a career in the arts, I’m sure they could run the business.
The arts, huh? Is that what you’d like to do?
I just don’t know. So many people back home expect me to continue to study dance and music. And I love both so much. I’d love to combine them both somehow and use those skills to help underprivileged children. You know, kids who would never be able to afford lessons on their own. So many people have helped mold me into the person I am today. I just want to give back, you know?
That’s great, Lila. Not many girls your age, with your talent and beauty, think of others. Good luck with all your plans. We look forward to seeing more of you on
The Book of Love
he crew had been given a day off, so Addy was enjoying what she hoped would be a relaxing, camera-free day. She had just opened her Bible when Hank’s voice came over the intercom.
“All right, girls.” He sounded put out to have to be talking to them. “Just because the crew has the day off doesn’t mean you do. Get dressed and get out here. You’ve got fifteen minutes.”
Dozens of comments flew into Addy’s brain—none of them kind. She looked down at her Bible, then looked up. “I know, I know. Love your enemies.”
“Who are you talking to?”
“Sorry, Kara.” She had thought her roommate was asleep.
Kara sat up and stretched her long arms.
She even stretches gracefully
, Addy mused.
“So what do you think about this Top Thirty?” Kara said.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you really think Jonathon chose us? Or were we chosen
Addy hadn’t mentioned her conversations with Hank to Kara. It seemed pointless. But Addy knew there was much more going on behind the scenes than just a teenage boy choosing his prom date.
“Addy, hello. Did you hear me?”
“Yes. Sorry, Kara. I was thinking.”
“And . . . ?”
“I don’t know.”
“Want to know what I think?”
“That’s rhetorical, right?” Addy smiled.
“Ah, my friend, you’re learning.” Kara laughed and pulled her long legs up to her chest. “None of us are from the same state. All ethnicities are represented. All sizes. All hair colors.” She flipped her auburn mane. “Coincidence? I don’t think so. It’s way too politically correct for a seventeen-year-old boy. It’s all about audience. If the producers want all of America to watch
The Book of Love
, then all of America has to be represented.”
“So we’re just pawns in the hands of the producers, then?”
“Exactly,” Kara said, a triumphant look filling her face.
“And this is the life you have chosen for yourself?” Addy grinned.
Kara stood, clutching her heart. “Oh, you got me. But,” she began in a pseudo-Shakespearean accent, “I, my de-ah, am a true act-trees. Thy silly words may prick, but they do not pierce.” She walked around the trailer, long arms filling the space. “Nay, I say, nay. I wilt not succumb to thine attacks on my profession. I act, therefore I am.” With that, Kara made a deep bow, sending Addy into a standing ovation. Both girls were laughing when they heard a knock on the door.
“Let’s go, girls.”
“Seriously, though, Addy. This is like a game. There are rules, strategies. All we have to do is figure out what those are, and we’ll make it all the way to the Top Five.”
“Hold on there, Juliet,” Addy said as she changed into shorts and a T-shirt. “I have no interest in staying that long, remember?”
“Addy, you can’t leave me here.”
“And what makes you so sure
Kara replied with a swat from a pillow to Addy’s head.
The girls were still laughing as they walked around The Mansion to the spacious backyard. Hank was sitting on a director’s chair, sipping a huge iced coffee from a green straw.
Addy looked around and realized Kara was exactly right. There were brunettes, blondes, redheads, African Americans, Latinas, Asians, an American Indian, a Pacific Islander, three who looked like plus-sized models, and two who looked like negative-sized models. From their voices, she could tell they were a mixture of southern girls, New Englanders, at least three from the Midwest, and a sprinkling of others from around the country. They all had one thing in common, though. They were stunningly beautiful.
Addy suddenly felt like a weed in a rose garden.
“Addy, what’s wrong? Are you sick?” Kara asked.
“No.” She tried to smile. “I’m just feeling out of place.”
“Remember that song from
—‘One of these things is not like the others’?”
“I’m the thing that’s not like the others.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Kara, look around. All of you are beautiful. Then there’s me.”
“Addy Davidson.” Kara placed her hands on her hips. “You’re prettier than any of these girls. I’d give anything for that body. Not to mention your hair . . .”
“You don’t have to say that. I really don’t care what I look like—”
Addy was interrupted by Hank yelling for the girls to come closer. He must have been full from his iced coffee—it was too much for him to
to the girls. And his eyes looked more tired than normal.
“All right, ladies. Let’s hurry and do this. I was out in LA yesterday. Just flew back last night. I am tired and cranky, and I want to walk through this as quickly as possible so I can go back to my hotel and sleep. Okay?”
Addy was amazed at how self-important Hank could make himself sound in just thirty seconds.
“One of you will be Jonathon Jackson’s prom date,” he announced as the girls jumped and yelled. Hank motioned for them to be silent with a wave of his beverage. “But as you know, this isn’t your average reality TV dating show. Being pretty and charming isn’t enough. Jonathon’s date must be a well-rounded young woman. Beautiful, yes, but also smart, athletic, talented. He is the president’s son, after all. So you will be tested in several areas. We will have different competitions every week for the next five weeks. The night after each competition has been aired, Jonathon will choose five girls to leave.”
A collective groan came from the crowd. “Until the final week, when we are left with the Top Five. Believe me, you want to make it that far. That’s the week you get to go on a date with Jonathon Jackson. So work hard and listen to everything we have to say. This is a great opportunity for you girls. Take advantage of it. Also, from now on, each morning will begin with boot camp with Lacy.” He grinned. A beautiful and incredibly fit woman appeared at his side. “This doesn’t replace your schoolwork. It comes before it. You will be out here at 6:00 a.m. ready to work out. That will be your first activity tomorrow morning.”
Hank silenced the girls with a glare as Lacy jogged away. He reached into a leather satchel and pulled out a three-ring binder with the show’s logo on the front. He took his time flipping through to find the right page. Addy looked around and noted that all twenty-nine girls were quiet, too scared of Hank’s wrath to make another sound.
“The focus for
week will be the arts. Each of you will have a sixty-minute meeting with either a voice, piano, dance, or acting instructor. You choose whichever of those to which you are most inclined. The instructor will help you get started on a presentation, and you will give that presentation Thursday evening—on camera, in a theater downtown. Any questions?” Several girls raised their hands, and Hank took out his cell phone and pointed to one of the assistant directors standing nearby. Obviously, he was too busy to talk to any of the girls personally.
Addy bent over, head in her hands, fingers kneading her temples.
As if I don’t already feel ridiculously out of place—now I’m supposed to perform? What is he thinking? What kind of idiotic beauty pageant is this? And why am I stuck in it when I could be home, lying in my comfy bed, reading a book? In silence
“Addy.” Kara broke into Addy’s mental tantrum, grabbing her arm and pulling her toward The Mansion. “Come on, let’s go. We’ve got work to do. Music books, CDs, monologues . . . any of this getting through? We’re performing onstage at the end of the week. Let’s pick our pieces so we can work on them today and be ready for our lessons tomorrow.”
Addy glared at Kara, then stalked off, shaking her head and muttering to herself.