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       Fairest, p.3

           Chanda Hahn
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  “Gosh, Mina,” Nan huffed out. “Want to make him run the other way fast? Just start talking like his ex-girlfriend.”

  “I wasn’t purposefully trying to.” Mina’s shoulders dropped in discouragement. “I was trying to channel someone fun and flirty/ and she was the first person to pop into my head.”

  “What! I wasn’t the first one you thought of? I’m offended. I’m way more fun and flirty than Savannah.”

  She had a point. Nan was one of the prettiest girls in the school and had a fun, flirty attitude. Everyone knew who Nan Taylor was; her divorced parents were lawyers and wealthy to boot.

  And if they didn’t personally know her, they probably followed her on twitter, or whatever the latest social media craze was. She could quite possibly be the most popular girl in school, if she ever tried. But Nan didn’t try; she didn’t try to fit in or be anything other than who she was, and for that Mina was grateful.

  A familiar tingling sensation began crawling up Mina’s spine, a warning that something Fae or magical was near. She turned around and looked for the source of her discomfort.

  Nan was still talking, as Mina bit her lip in worry. She scanned the students hanging around. There were a few underclassmen doing tricks on skateboards; and Principal Hame was sauntering over to begin yelling at them, Savannah and Pri were showing off a new cheer to a group of girls. Everything looked ordinary, even down to the small-boned, pale-skinned girl listening to her iPod near the fence. She was new, or at least Mina had never seen her before. She was beautiful in an intense sort of way. Her hair was short and, fashionably unruly. Her pleated skirt and vest resembled a private school uniform, except for the very loud shoes. A deliberate style choice, no doubt.

  Mina was about to ignore the feeling of power and trepidation when the girl looked up from her iPod and made eye contact with her. Barely contained loathing flickered across the girl’s face. Mina called Nan’s name and turned to ask her about the new student. But when they both looked back, the girl was gone.

  Chapter 3

  It was five o’clock and Mina still hadn’t found anything out of Nan’s closet to wear. Mainly because Nan was trying to dress Mina up like a doll. The other reason was that Nan’s room was more of a disaster zone than Mina’s. Mina’s room looked messy. Nan’s looked like a bomb went off in it.

  “Ooh, this one’s nice.” Nan pulled out a blue and white long shirt and held it up for her best friend’s inspection. “Paired with a gold belt and my brown boots, it would be to die for.”

  Mina nodded. “And with those jeans,” she said.

  Nan stared at Mina in disbelief. “You can’t wear pants with this! It’s a dress.” She pulled the dress shirt up to her own body and modeled it. “See, a dress.”

  Mina made a face. “No, that is half a dress!”

  Nan flounced around the room and pulled out three more dress shirts in similar fashion. “See, they are a shirt and a dress. It’s the latest fashion.” She pouted at Mina, and held them out to for her to pick one.

  “Fashion for a Barbie, maybe? I couldn’t possibly wear it.”

  “You never know until you try.” Nan rolled her eyes.

  “No, I know I will never try it on.” Mina chuckled good-naturedly.

  “Wilhelmina Grime, you go in there and try this on…NOW!” Nan tossed the dress at Mina and physically pushed her into her own en suite bathroom.

  “No, ack! No…stop,” Mina screamed and tried to argue, but couldn’t as Nan began to assault her with accessories and the other shirt dresses. Giving in, Mina took the clothes and retreated to the bathroom. Nan’s bathroom was larger than Mina’s small bedroom, with a garden-soaking tub, dual sinks, and a shower that had a waterfall feature.

  Mina sighed and laid the dresses across the cluttered counter, on an area that had less mess. Stripping down, she tried a long emerald green shirt and was impressed. It fell slightly above her knees, shorter than anything she owned. But it didn’t look inappropriate. She knew if she were any taller, it would show way too much leg. She added a gold belt, bangles and necklace and slipped on a pair of Steve Madden boots.

  Nan peeked her head in the bathroom. “Wow! You are definitely wearing that one.” She picked up a brush and began to braid Mina’s hair into a loose fishtail over one shoulder. Slightly pulling Mina’s hair away from her face, transformed her into a much older looking girl. A quick dab of blush, lip gloss and eye liner turned her into a young woman.

  Mina looked at herself in the mirror and couldn’t help but notice the beautiful girl staring back at her. She looked older, rich, and confident. But it was only because of Nan’s clothes, Nan’s makeup, and Nan’s jewelry. For once, Mina was a little jealous of Nan. Yes, Mina had always been in awe of Nan but she was so approachable, humble and giving that there was never any room for jealousy.

  But there was something more to it than money, Mina realized. She was jealous of Nan’s ignorance. She didn’t have a family curse hanging over her head threatening to take away her life. She reached over and turned the gold-plated faucet on, letting cold water run over her shaking hands. She got a drink and then splashed some on her face.

  “Come on, Mina, snap out of it,” she told herself over and over. Maybe it was just nerves about tonight’s concert and that Brody Carmichael was going to be there any minute.

  Nan wore a pair of black skinny jeans, layered lace tank tops, and what couldn’t be less than ten bracelets on one arm. She took less time with her own hair and makeup. When they stood in front of the mirror, Mina was the obvious beauty that stood out, and shined like a star. It wasn’t until later that night that she realized that her best friend had purposefully dressed down.

  They walked into the open concept kitchen and raided the stainless-steel fridge looking for snacks to pass the time. The fridge was practically empty. A few bottles of water, ketchup, Greek yogurt and oranges looked lonely on the glass shelves. Normally, something like this would worry Mina. But she knew the Taylors hardly ever ate at home, and usually ordered in all of their food.

  Nan handed Mina a yogurt and bottled water as the elevator dinged, and two people stepped out into the living room. A high ringing laugh echoed around the condo as Mrs. Taylor sauntered into the room. Her blonde hair was bleached an unnatural shade of white blonde. Her expensive suit jacket was thrown over her purse; and her usual silk blouse was replaced by a lacey shirt obviously out of her daughter’s closet. All signs that pointed to a woman trying to act younger than she was. The reason was the tall, dark, and handsome man beside her who was adoringly hanging on every word she spoke. They embraced and kissed.

  Gagging sounds came from Nan’s direction and Mina turned to find her friend making grotesque faces at her mother and the good looking man, Robert Martin, who was to be her future stepfather. Mina had heard all of the stories.

  Apparently Nan’s mom, Veronica, had met him when they both accidentally jumped into the same cab. He was going to get out and let her have the cab, but then he offered to pay for both of their fares, if he were allowed to ride with her and enjoy her company. Of course, any single, hardworking woman, who had been without a beau for a long time, couldn’t refuse the offer. The rest was history. Two weeks later they were officially dating; two months later, engaged.

  Now they were planning a wedding so big it was going to blow Veronica’s first wedding to Nan’s father out of the water.

  Mina decided to ask Nan what she thought of her new future stepdad.

  She shrugged, “He’s fine, I guess. That is if you like them tall, dark and boring,” Nan muttered

  “What does he do again?” Mina asked taking a drink of her bottled water while eyeing the love-struck adults whispering to each other in the next room.

  “He’s a doctor for the new hospital. You know the one that is completely made of glass.”

  Mina did know which hospital Nan was referring to. It was just finished a few months ago and was state of the art in design and facilities.

That’s cool,” Mina countered, feeling somewhat at a loss. She wasn’t sure how to console her friend. Nan’s only complaint about her mom’s new boyfriend was usually stuff like ‘he is boring’, and ‘too perfect’ and obviously ‘not her dad’.

  Robert Martin gave Veronica a quick kiss on her cheek as she went down the hall and he headed toward the kitchen.

  “What’s up, Nan?” Robert asked.

  “The ceiling!” Nan retorted. Mina started laughing.

  Robert completely ignored Nan’s snide comment. “So have you considered what your mom said about Harvard?”

  Nan dug her spoon into her yogurt forcefully, stirring it with a vengeance. “Did she consider what I said about Julliard?”

  “Don’t worry about the argument with your mom the other night. We have some time. If that is where you would like to go after high school, I’ll make it happen.” He opened a cupboard and found some trail mix. He began popping the peanuts into his mouth, crunching them loudly.

  Nan became a little sullen. “Yeah, okay.” She didn’t look up at Robert when he offered her some trail mix. Undeterred, he swung the open bag toward Mina who took a handful.

  “So, I was thinking. I have a cabin up on Imperial Lake. Your mom and I can take my new boat up there and you can invite some of your friends for a lake party? How’s that sound?

  Nan’s mood immediately brightened. “I can invite whoever I want?”

  Robert shrugged his shoulders. “Sure, why not?’

  Nan tried, but couldn’t hide the enthusiasm from her face. “That sounds awesome! When?”

  “How about in two weeks?” Robert chuckled, raising his hands in surrender. He looked pleased with the sudden turnaround in Nan’s disposition.

  She jumped off of the stool she had been perched on, tossed her empty yogurt cup in the garbage, gave a little twirl, and pointed her little finger at Robert. “Pinky swear.”

  The tall dark-haired doctor gave in to Nan’s exuberance. He held out his pinky and they shook.

  “It’s a date, for me and my friends. No take-backs.” She scrunched up her face and challenged him to say otherwise.

  “No take-backs. I promise.” He smiled.

  The elevator dinged again and everyone’s head turned toward the doors expectantly. When they opened, Brody stepped out. Mina felt all of the oxygen get sucked from the room. Or that is what it felt like, since she’d forgotten to breathe. He wore simple jeans and a button-down white shirt, but the way he wore them made them seem extremely stylish. He looked around the expansive living room and took in all of the inhabitants in one quick motion. His face lit up when he saw them in the kitchen.

  “You ready?” Brody sauntered over to them with his hands in his jean pockets.

  Robert scowled at Brody. “Ready for what?”

  Brody looked somewhat taken aback by the attack, but he countered easily with a knock ‘em dead grin.

  “For the concert tonight. I’ve got backstage passes.” He held out his hand toward Robert and introduced himself.

  Robert stared at Brody before finally giving in and shaking his hand. He turned toward Nan, and he began to lose his casual demeanor.

  “Concert. You didn’t mention anything about a concert tonight. Or that you would be going with boys.” He tried to sound neutral, but it came off as being overprotective.

  “Lay off, Robert,” Nan shot out. “I already cleared it with my MOM.” Her tone left no room for argument; it purposely reminded him that he wasn’t her father, at least not yet. Robert’s mouth opened and closed like a fish. Nan didn’t give anyone time to respond before she grabbed her purse and headed toward the elevator. Mina quickly followed and Brody tipped his head in farewell before trailing them.

  When the elevator closed and they began the twenty-three floor descent, Mina couldn’t help but feel claustrophobic being so close to Brody. Nan tapped her foot to the music of Seven String Quartet coming over the elevator speakers while pulling out her phone to text someone. Brody leaned against the wall looking them over.

  “You both look nice,” he spoke quietly. He looked at Nan and then Mina.

  Mina’s eyes lifted for a moment and caught his. Her cheeks burned and she could only whisper the word, “Thanks.”

  Where was her resolve to be charming and confident? It had disappeared the moment he walked into the room. She could smell his cologne and she had to concentrate just to breathe.

  Nan turned around, raised her eyebrows toward Brody, and gave Mina a knowing smile when he wasn’t looking. They left the lobby and walked out to Brody’s S.U.V. Nan immediately slid into the backseat, forcing Mina to take the front. The twenty minute drive to the concert was filled with Nan’s constant chatter about Dead Prince Society. How many tours they go on a year, which song is her favorite and Brody jumped in with all sorts of little known facts.

  Nan gushed about how cute Valdemar was, while leaning between the seats to put their CD into Brody’s stereo. They started to sing out the words to the song, ‘Beauty’s Dead’ and when their voices blended perfectly they laughed at each other and Nan hit his shoulder.

  Feeling somewhat pressured and left out, Mina blurted out the only thing she could think of, “Did you know that Valdemar isn’t his real name?”

  Brody laughed out loud, “Yeah, I called him Peter growing up.”

  “Oh right, I forgot, cousins and all.” Mina wanted to crawl into the cracks of the leather seat and disappear. Thankfully, Nan stepped in again and pulled the attention away from Mina.

  “Thank goodness! I don’t think Peter is a good name for the lead singer. Valdemar sounds much more mysterious.”

  She hung back and let Nan and Brody banter back and forth the rest of the car ride, which thankfully, was almost over. They were able to find a parking spot within a few blocks walk of the venue. Brody walked up to the will call booth and gave his name.

  An overly plump man in a black tank top with a dragon tattoo on his arm made a quick call on his phone. He nodded his head, and handed them three vinyl tags on lanyards. “Don’t lose these and don’t sell ‘em,” he grumbled.

  Brody handed out the backstage passes. Nan could barely contain her excitement as the man got off his worn stool in his small booth and led them to a metal side door. He knocked, and what looked like a bodyguard opened the door. The bodyguard and ticket attendant spoke in low tones before motioning them forward.

  Not really knowing what to expect, Mina stuck to Nan’s side like glue. They walked down a back hallway and were directed toward an elevator. Taking the elevator up, they walked out into a large open room filled with couches, food, makeup artists, photographers, and fans.

  “Where are we?” Mina asked in hushed tones.

  “The green room,” Nan said in awe.

  Mina looked at the floor and walls. “But it’s not green.”

  Nan’s neck snapped back and forth like a metronome as she took in the surroundings. “It’s just called that. It’s the hangout room for special guests and the rock stars before and after they perform. I can’t believe it.” She squeezed Mina’s hand in excitement and pointed when she caught sight of one of the band members.

  Naga was Japanese and wore head to toe black leather with matching boots. He even had a spiked Mohawk tipped with white. He was clearly upset about something and was visibly arguing with his hairstylist. Mina could only guess that it had something to do with the very skunk-like turn his hair was taking.

  Brody was talking to a young man with white blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, who was the epitome of a punked-out version of Lord of the Rings’ Legolas. Nan whispered Constantine’s name in awe to Mina. “After Valdemar, he is the second hottest Prince in the band. You do remember what I told you, right? That each of them chose their stage name after an actual dead prince?”

  The third band member was the largest and sat stuffing his face from the vast array of sandwiches, snacks and fruit on a table. It was interesting that all of the healthy food sat untouched while
the floor was littered with bags of the opened candy. Mina wished she had spent more time learning the names of the band members, or at least their stage names. For some reason she kept thinking his name was Magpie—no Martin—ah wait…Magnus. Too nervous to stare at the fiercely intimidating guy for any length of time, she kept glancing to the others in the room, trying to guess who the other member was.

  “Oh, I can’t believe this is happening! No one on earth is going to believe this. Here take my phone. Get a picture of me next to Valdemar,” Nan hissed.

  A solemn young man with golden hair down to his chin, wearing skin tight jeans and a black vest, sat on a red vinyl couch re-stringing his guitar. He appeared to be trying to ignore an over exuberant female fan with bright pink hair.

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