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Authors: Marlene Perez

Tags: #Fiction

The Comeback

BOOK: The Comeback
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tall, thin girl with blonde hair made what can only be described as an Entrance. Conversation ceased.

“Who is that?” someone whispered as the girl strode confidently up the aisle.

She paused midway. “Is this where tryouts for
The Taming of the Shrew
are being held?” She strode onto the stage. “I'm Angie Vogel,” she said. “And I'm auditioning for Katharina.”

She finished her audition to a roar of applause, entirely from the guys in the audience, I noticed, and floated down off the stage.

As she walked by with her nose in the air, she said, “Try to top that.” I don't know how or why, but I was sure she was talking to me. Maybe it was because she was staring straight at me.

The Comeback



Thanks to Amanda Maciel, super-editor, who made Sophie shine. And to Stephen Barbara, super-agent, and most of all, to my family, who are super-patient.

To the Mini-Ms.

Chapter 1

hadn't asked to be popular. In the beginning, I hadn't even thought about it. The only thing I'd thought about was the cute boy with the brown eyes and floppy blond hair. He wasn't afraid to admit he liked chocolate chip cookies, Monty Python movies, and me. Only later did that boy turn into Connor, the most popular guy in the junior class. But when we were freshmen, he was just Connor, who loved cookies, and I was just Sophie, who thought she could love Connor.

We were happy. But then we became popular, and it happened so gradually that I hadn't noticed that, pretty soon, popularity was what our entire relationship was about.

Connor and I first met at the country club where our fathers played golf. My parents had just gotten a divorce and it was my dad's idea of father-daughter
time to take me to the country club and then dump me at the pool while he hit the links.

So, I spent my days hanging out there with Monet. Back then, she'd just started calling herself that.

My best friend had interesting theories, one of which was that she had been given the wrong name. We'd agreed that since we'd both be starting high school in the fall, we would reinvent ourselves. To that end, I wasn't allowed to breathe a word of her real name to anybody.

Even back then, Monet and I had big plans. We were going to move to Los Angeles and become famous. She was going to rock the art world with her moody abstract paintings and I was going to become a film star. I was sure Monet was going to make it. She had the talent and drive to make it happen.

It was a little more complicated for me. You could look like a troll and be a character actor (in fact, sometimes troll looks were a plus), but a film star had to be beautiful. I was determined to have a physical metamorphosis and turn my plain old caterpillar self into a butterfly.

Back then, I'd just started to work out on a regular basis and was actually wearing a bikini to the pool for the first time. My braces were off and my hair was behaving. I remember thinking that I might actually be getting pretty. My transformation was well on its way.

Monet's older brother, Dev, was there, too. He splashed around the pool, showing off for a couple of girls in his sophomore class. They ignored him and so did we.

He hauled himself out of the pool to come bug us. “Imogene, can I borrow a dollar? I want something from the vending machine.”

She ignored him.

“Imogene,” Dev said.

“Don't you dare call me that in public,” Monet hissed.

“It's your name,” he pointed out.

“It's my
name,” she replied, “but I've told you, from now on I'm Monet, like the painter. And just for that, no, you
borrow money.”

Dev shrugged and dove cleanly into the water.

“He's a good swimmer,” I commented.

Monet said, “He made the varsity swim team and it's totally gone to his head.”

“He's on the
swim team?”

I made conversation, but I wasn't really paying attention. I was busy looking for someone. I'd had my eye on a gorgeous blond guy, Connor, who was on the swim team, too. We'd joked and flirted, but he hadn't asked me out yet.

“Well, it's the
swim team at Kennedy,” Monet replied. Kennedy High School was an arts magnet
school, mostly known for its drama and music departments.

We giggled. I finally saw Connor as he entered the pool area, and my heart sped up. Would he come over and talk to me? We'd met formally a few weeks before. Some loser guy had hassled me in the parking lot and Connor had gotten rid of him for me. But we'd been noticing each other since the beginning of that summer.

He took a seat next to his friend Chase. There were a couple of girls nearby, but Connor didn't pay any attention to them.

I kept my eyes on him, willing him to look up and acknowledge my presence, but he was absorbed in his conversation.

A few minutes later, Dev came out of the water and flopped down beside me.

“Dev, you're dripping water all over,” I scolded, but I didn't take my eyes off Connor.

Dev followed my gaze and snickered. “You like that poser?” he said.

“I don't know who you're talking about,” I said.

“Connor Davis,” he replied. “That's who.”

I flinched when I saw Connor raise his head and stare over at us. He'd heard us talking about him.

“Could you keep it down, Dev?” Monet said. She turned to me. “He is perfect for you. Cute but shallow.”

“Hey, wait a minute!” I said.

“You know what I mean,” she replied. “I'm not saying
shallow, but Connor has future prom king written all over him. Mark my words, he'll be one of the popular kids at school.” She said the word
the way other people might say
serial killer

I noticed Dev was listening to every word and gave Monet a nudge to shut her up.

“Hey, watch this!” Dev did a cannonball into the pool, soaking us in the process.

“Dev, you idiot!” I said. My hair was drenched. I was at the pool to be seen, not to actually get wet. Connor was walking toward us with his best friend, Chase, and a girl I didn't know. The frizzies were imminent.

“What am I going to do?” I wailed to Monet. “I'm going to have clown hair in about ten seconds.”

She surveyed me. “You look good, Sophie. Great, actually.”

“But my hair!” I said.

“I think it looks fine,” she said, “but if it bugs you, why don't you braid it?”

Genius. “Great idea,” I said. I rummaged through my beach bag and found a couple of rubber bands and quickly did my hair.

“How are you two gorgeous women doing today?” Connor said.

Monet stifled a snort and then said, “I'm going to swim laps. Later.” She got up and dove into the pool.

“This is Vanessa,” he said. Who was she? His girlfriend? Was this his way of letting me down easy?

Vanessa acknowledged me with a wave and said something to Chase. She examined her nail polish, clearly already bored with me.

“Do you want to get together and hang out tomorrow night?” Connor said.

“You mean with you?”

He smiled at me. “I mean
, with

“I'd love to,” I replied. “And maybe we can double with Chase and Tamara.”

Chase shook his head frantically.

Vanessa's head snapped up. “Who is Tamara?” she said, suddenly interested in the conversation.

“She's Chase's girlfriend,” I replied.

Vanessa shot Chase a look of pure fury and it dawned on me that perhaps I'd missed something.

“That's very interesting,” she said.

“Take it easy, Vanessa,” Connor said easily. “Tamara is my cousin. She and Chase are practically brother and sister. Sophie just saw him giving her a hug, right, Sophie?”

I wanted Connor's friends to like me. “R-right,” I said. I left out the part about Chase's hand on her ass.

Vanessa melted and launched herself at Chase. “Oh, baby, I'm so sorry I doubted you.”

“So we could go out with
and Chase,” Connor continued.

I smiled at Connor gratefully. He'd rescued me from myself. I didn't even notice, at least not then, that he'd lied with the smoothness that comes with years of practice. Maybe I didn't want to notice.

During that summer, we became inseparable, and my blissful ignorance continued until our junior year. When everything fell apart.

Chapter 2

he first day of my junior year was supposed to be a fabulous new beginning. Mr. Fanelli, the drama teacher, always held auditions the first week of school, but this year, auditions were after school on the very first day, which threw me off a little. Our high school drama department was putting on a production of
The Taming of the Shrew
and I was supposed to play Katharina to my boyfriend Connor's Petruchio. We were the It couple at Kennedy High and we were supposed to have starring roles to match.

I was certain I was going to get the lead. The only other serious contender, a senior named Alicia Grant, was modeling in Paris, which left the field wide open for me.

I hurried to Connor's locker. “C'mon, we're going to be late for the auditions.” He was a sure thing, too. He wasn't a great actor, but he remembered his lines and always
said them with enthusiasm. Plus, Fanelli was no fool. He knew that everyone at Kennedy would buy tickets just to see my gorgeous boyfriend onstage.

As Monet had predicted that summer day at the pool, Connor was, indeed, prom king material. And that's what I loved about him, because I had every intention of being prom queen. But before that, I needed to ace the audition.

“What's your hurry, babe?” he said.

“My hurry is that I want that part, Connor,” I said. “And you're going to help me get it. Now move!”

“Okay, okay,” he said. “Don't have a coronary.”

He walked to the auditorium at a snail's pace. I would have walked ahead of him, but I wanted to walk in on his arm.

We opened the door and were surrounded by a group of sophomores. I smiled at them regally before I shooed them away. Then Connor went over to talk to some of his buddies and I slid into an aisle seat next to Monet. She was the stage manager for this production.

A minute later, a tall, thin girl with blonde hair made what can only be described as an Entrance. Conversation ceased.

“Who is that?” someone whispered as the girl strode confidently up the aisle.

She paused midway. “Is this where tryouts for
The Taming of the Shrew
are being held?”

She stood close to where I was sitting so I got a good look at her. Flawless skin, perfect figure, fake eyelashes. I hated her on sight.

To top it off, she was dressed in a very expensive pseudomedieval dress.

“She looks like she just came back from the Renaissance Fair,” I muttered to Monet, but secretly I wished I'd thought of it.

Monet nodded. “She's gorgeous, too. And look at all the cleavage she's showing.”

“Fake boobs,” I assured her. I'd never do anything like that. Besides, Mom said not until I graduated from high school.

“I was told that the only other decent actress at this school is in Paris,” the blonde said in a carrying voice. She strode onto the stage. “I'm Angie Vogel,” she said. “And I'm auditioning for Katharina.”

I nudged Monet. “Hey, can she do that? Just butt ahead of the rest of us like that?”

“Apparently, she can,” she replied. She nodded at Mr. Fanelli, who was gushing so hard I thought his head was going to explode. “Angie, my dear, I've heard so much about you from your acting coach,” he said. “We'd love to see you as Katharina.”

Over my dead body.

I had to admit she did a decent reading, but there were no surprises, just a performance you could catch at any community theater in any town.

She finished her audition to a roar of applause, entirely from the guys in the audience, I noticed, and floated down off the stage.

As she walked by with her nose in the air, she said, “Try to top that.” I don't know how or why, but I was sure she was talking to me. Maybe it was because she was staring straight at me.

I couldn't resist the impulse. I put out my foot and tripped her.

She went down in a heap, but about ten guys, including Mr. Fanelli, rushed over to help her back up.

“Oops,” I said sweetly. “Better watch it. Where you're going, I mean.”

She glared at me as she stood up and I gave her a broad smile.

Was it my fault she wasn't paying attention to where she walked?

I didn't realize until much later that Connor was one of the guys who had rushed to her aid.

I didn't consider Angie Vogel to be much of a threat, but still, it wouldn't hurt to remind everyone who ruled the junior class. I nailed my audition and then cheered loudly from the audience when Connor did a decent job with his. Honestly, I hadn't been expecting much, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Afterward, I turned to Monet.

“That went well, I think.”

Monet frowned. “Not enough guys auditioned,” she said. “We need a Lucentio.”

“Fanelli will find someone,” I said airily. “He always does.”

“True,” she said. “But I hope this time, he finds someone who can actually memorize his role. I'm getting tired of feeding lines to some pretty boy.”

I wasn't paying attention. My mind was busy trying to figure out how to solve my own problem. I snapped my fingers.

“I'm having a party this weekend,” I announced.

“What brought that on?” She raised an eyebrow.

“I think it would be nice to get everyone together. A little back-to-school festivity.”

“And who do you plan to invite?” she said drily.

“Just the usual crowd,” I said. “Everyone who tried out.”

Even Angie Vogel?” Monet didn't even try to keep the disbelief from her voice.

“Everyone,” I said firmly.

Mom never had a problem with me having my friends over, but it was a busy time at the PR firm where she worked and she'd be out of town, which was convenient. I'd have to come up with refreshments on my own, though.

Friday night arrived so quickly that I didn't have time to order from our usual hangout, Wicked Jack's.
Who knew that catered orders required a forty-eight-hour notice?

So I ordered from a new place. I didn't know much about it, but the food was within my budget and they promised to deliver on time.

It was more important, though, that I look amazing. Angie Vogel was gorgeous, but not only that, she had this way of looking at a guy, like she wanted to tear off his clothes or something. I thought it was too obvious, but they seemed to like it.

It took a trip to the salon, a new dress, and some serious heels, but I looked fabulous. The food had been delivered on schedule and Monet and I were in my living room, waiting for people to arrive.

“Don't you think we should refrigerate some of the food?” Monet asked.

“It'll be fine,” I said dismissively. I didn't want to get anything on my dress.

“But the shrimp—”

The doorbell rang and I hurried to get it. There were about six drama kids standing in the door.

“C'mon in,” I said. “The food is out by the pool.”

People streamed in and I turned on the stereo. An hour later, we had a full-fledged party on our hands. I checked my watch.

“Where's Connor?” I asked.

“He'll be here,” Monet said.

Angie Vogel walked in, and I swear the whole room went quiet. She had on well-worn jeans and an emerald-green halter top, along with impossibly tall high-heeled sandals that must have cost more than my monthly allowance. She made every girl in the room, including me, feel overdressed.

Conversation resumed as a couple of the guys in the room approached her. Some of the girls who liked girls were hanging on her every word as well.

Connor arrived a few minutes later, and I was relieved to see that he seemed to not even notice Angie as he walked straight over to me.

“It's about time you got here,” I said to him. I presented my cheek for his kiss, just to let him know I was miffed.

“I had something to do,” he mumbled, looking at the floor.

I decided he was sorry. “C'mon, let's dance,” I said. I pulled him out into the backyard, where people were dancing near the pool.

A slow song came on, but Connor seemed distracted. He kept scanning the crowd instead of holding me close.

“What's wrong with you tonight?” I said. “You're acting weird.”

“I was just—looking for Chase,” he said.

“He and Vanessa have been upstairs for almost an
hour,” I said drily. “Besides, since when do you need Chase with you all the time? You see him every day.”

“I see you every day, too,” he pointed out.

I pulled away from him to look him in the eye. “Yes, but I'm your girlfriend,” I said icily.

“Sorry, babe,” he said soothingly. “You're right. Let's get some food. You haven't eaten anything yet.”

Angie was standing at the buffet eating the shrimp with sensual abandon when we approached. She was using so much tongue that I wondered what she would do when faced with a real live boy instead of a member of the shellfish family.

I thought it was tacky, but Connor didn't seem to mind. He couldn't keep his eyes off her.

“How's the shrimp?” I said.

“Delicious,” she said. She licked her lips. “Great party.”

“I'm glad you could make it,” I said to her, a fake smile plastered on my face.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” she said.

I wanted to say something to give her the verbal smackdown she so richly deserved, but there was the sound of shattering glass coming from the kitchen. “Excuse me a moment,” I said. “It sounds as though I have some cleanup to attend to.”

Someone had broken two of my mother's crystal goblets. I didn't think she'd be too upset. She'd gotten
them in the divorce and had shattered a couple against the fireplace already.

I liked those goblets, though. We'd used them at every family holiday. I sighed and got out the broom.

After I'd cleaned up the mess and hidden the rest of the breakables, I went outside, but there was no sign of Connor. Or Angie.

The festivities petered out around one a.m. and I headed to bed.

I woke up the next morning to the sound of my cell ringing. Monet's number flashed on the screen. “Hello?”

“Oh, good. You're alive,” she said.

“Why wouldn't I be?”

“Haven't you heard?”

I peered blearily at the clock beside the bed. It was past noon. “Heard what?”

“Half the people at your party ended up in the emergency room last night,” she said.

“Hey, I didn't serve them.” It was true. I knew people probably brought alcohol, but I didn't approve of drinking. Besides, I couldn't get anyone to buy it for me.

“It wasn't booze,” she said impatiently. “It was the shrimp.”

“The shrimp?”

“Food poisoning. I told you to put it on ice. People
have been texting all morning. Everybody thinks you did it deliberately.”

“Why would they think that? I just forgot to keep it cold. That's not a crime.”

“Angie Vogel is one of the people who got sick, that's why. People are saying you served tainted food to take her out of the running.”

I was shocked. “I'd never do that! It was an accident. She was gobbling that shrimp like there was no tomorrow.”

“Well, you'd better send out an apology, and soon.”

“I will, I promise.” After I hung up, I drafted a quick apologetic text and sent it to everyone who'd come to the party. I felt horrible.

I felt much better a few hours later when I found out that most people hadn't eaten the shrimp. Monet was overreacting, but to keep goodwill intact, I used the credit card my dad had given me for emergencies to send flowers to everyone who'd ended up with food poisoning. It had turned out to be a very expensive party. I probably should have listened to Monet.

Yet somehow, I blamed it all on Angie. I couldn't get over the feeling that she'd gotten sick just to spite me. Drama queen.

BOOK: The Comeback
9.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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