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Tales from a not so tale.., p.4
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       Tales From a Not-So-Talented Pop Star, p.4

           Rachel Renée Russell
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  But their occasionally weird antics are the reason they are so much fun to hang out with.

  I took a deep breath and tried my best to break it to them gently.

  “Actually, I think it’s a really cute idea. But I have a bit of bad news. As much as I was looking forward to it, I’ve decided not to participate in the talent show this year. I’m trying to … um, spend more time on, um … schoolwork and stuff.”

  “Nikki! It’s not going to be fun unless all three of us do this together!” Chloe groaned as her smile quickly faded.

  Zoey looked disappointed too. “Well, if YOU’RE not going to be in the talent show, then I don’t want to be in it!”

  “Me neither!” Chloe said grimly.

  “Come on, guys! You can be break-dancing bookworms TOGETHER. It’ll STILL be fun!” I said, trying to sound upbeat.

  But I couldn’t get them to change their minds.

  The three of us just sat there not saying anything for what seemed like FOREVER.

  To make matters worse, I was starting to feel guilty about letting them down.

  Finally Zoey broke the silence. “Nikki, are you mad at us or something?”

  “WHAT are you talking about? Of course not!” I answered. “If anything, you two should be mad at me!”

  “You’ve been kind of quiet lately. Is anything wrong?” Chloe asked, staring at me intently.

  For a split second I thought about just pouring my heart out to them both.

  About MacKenzie, Queasy Cheesy, the talent show, my dad, my scholarship …


  But instead, I shook my head vigorously and tried to muster a big smile.

  “NO! Nothing’s wrong! I just feel terrible that you guys have decided not to be in the talent show. I know you were really looking forward to it.”

  Chloe shrugged and looked out the window.

  Zoey bit her lip and stared at the floor.

  I reminded myself I was doing all this for their own good. The last thing I wanted was for THEM to be a casualty in MacKenzie’s war against ME.

  Finally the bell rang, ending fifth hour.

  Chloe and Zoey looked sad and flustered. I think they knew I was hiding something.

  And I felt just … AWFUL!

  I sighed and tried to apologize. “Listen, I’m REALLY, REALLY sorry, okay?”

  As Chloe and Zoey got up to leave, they both sadly muttered the exact same thing at the exact same time.

  Then they turned and walked away ☹.


  I think I’ve finally figured out the source of the bug problem at our school!

  I’m no expert (unlike my dad!), but it was kind of strange to see so many different bugs just randomly crawling around like that.

  But here’s the crazy part!

  I accidentally left my French homework in my locker, and my teacher let me leave class to go get it. While I was at my locker, the halls were empty and totally quiet.

  I could have sworn I heard CRICKETS CHIRPING!

  And the sound was coming from


  I was like, What the …!!

  I stood on my tippy toes and tried to peek through the slot thingy at the top of MacKenzie’s locker.

  I thought I saw the silver lid of a jar or something, but her big leather purse was in the way.

  That’s when I got the brilliant idea to stick my ruler through the slot thingy to move stuff around and get a better look inside.

  After a few tries I was able to push MacKenzie’s purse out of the way.

  And sure enough, right behind it was a glass jar. But I couldn’t quite see if anything was inside it.

  Using the ruler, I tried to scoot the jar toward the front so I could get a closer look.

  But I somehow accidentally knocked it over, and it hit the locker door with a KLUNK and rolled on top of the purse.

  That’s when I noticed that the lid must not have been on very tight or something because it flipped right off.

  I was like, OOPSIE! Time to get back to class!

  But the longer I stood there thinking about it, the ANGRIER I got.

  Mainly because it looked to me like MacKenzie had been secretly planting bugs all over the school.

  She KNEW that sooner or later the school was going to call my dad to exterminate the place. And when it did, I was going to have a complete MELTDOWN.

  There was NO WAY I was letting my dad come to my school.

  I mean, what if he saw ME in the hallway between classes?!!

  He might say something SUPERembarrassing to me like, “Hi there, Nikki …!”

  Then, OMG!! I’d just keel over and … DIE!!!

  And from that day forward, I’d be known as the daughter of that crazy disco-dancing exterminator.

  Kids would whisper stuff about me behind my back and call me a FREAK!

  And not just a regular FREAK, but a half-BUG, half-DORK FREAK! Which is, like, ten times WORSE!!!


  My life would be TOTALLY RUINED!! And it would all be MACKENZIE’S FAULT ☹!!

  Unlike that talent show fiasco that involved my BFFs, this problem was just between ME and MACKENZIE. Which meant I could deal with HER on my OWN terms.

  I marched straight down to Principal Winston’s office to have a nice little chat with him about this bug issue.

  Only, I didn’t RAT out MacKenzie! YES, I know! I probably SHOULD have.

  But I already knew from experience she was just going to bat her eyelashes all innocentlike and LIE THROUGH HER TEETH!

  And Winston would totally believe her (and not me) because all adults think MacKenzie is a perfect little angel and INCAPABLE of lying.

  Besides, I was going to talk to Winston about something WAY more important than MacKenzie’s juvenile little pranks.

  Our meeting went just as I had planned.

  He told me he was happy I’d stopped by his office and asked how things were going as a new student.

  I took a deep breath and got right to the point.

  “Actually, Principal Winston, I’m doing fine considering the fact that I’m stuck with a locker right next to MacKenzie Hollister, and I’m totally lost in geometry. But I stopped by to let you know that since my dad is superbusy right now, you should just call in another exterminator. I’m really sure he appreciates your business and all, but there’s only so much work he can handle.”

  Principal Winston blinked. Then he took off his glasses, folded his arms across his chest, and slowly nodded.

  “Is that so? I was wondering why your dad missed our appointment on Friday. I thought maybe he didn’t get the message I left on your answering machine. Well, it’s quite a coincidence that you dropped by, Miss Maxwell, because I was planning to give him another call this afternoon.”

  “Well, if you want some advice, don’t bother! He’s so busy he hasn’t even … slept in like, um … three or five days. Plus, it would be healthier for his … you know … sick gallbladder and stuff, if you just got someone else.”

  Principal Winston sat there staring at me with this really perplexed look on his face. Then I saw him glance at the telephone on his desk.

  That’s when I stood up, plastered a fake smile on my face, and shook his hand real friendlylike.

  “Well, Principal Winston, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. I know you’re a busy man. Plus, I just heard the bell for lunch and I LOVE all the creative things your cooks do with mystery meat. I’m really, really glad we had this little chat.”

  “Thank you, Miss Maxwell. I’m glad we did too,” he said, and cleared his throat.

  Then I got the heck outta there!

  As I headed down the hall toward the cafeteria, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders.

  Winston was going to use another exterminator, and my secret would be safe again.

roblem solved!

  As I got to the door of the cafeteria, a dozen CCP girls rushed past me screaming.

  Inside, it was total


  I immediately spotted MacKenzie standing on top of a lunch table shrieking hysterically and pointing at something lying on the floor in front of the salad bar.

  My gut reaction was: Mouse?! Snake?!

  But seeing as it was MacKenzie, it also could have been something as mundanely horrifying as a pair of red polyester pants. I have to admit, I wasn’t all that surprised to see …


  That’s when I finally came to the conclusion that my earlier hunch was correct.

  I guess there really WERE crickets in that jar! ☺!!


  The only thing everyone is talking about these days is that stupid talent show.

  And it’s really starting to get on my nerves!

  People are practicing before school, after school, and even during lunch.

  I’ll be SO happy when all this is over!

  I’d been waiting for MacKenzie to ask Chloe and Zoey to join her dance squad, so I wasn’t surprised when she approached them about it after gym class today.

  However, I was shocked when Chloe and Zoey turned her down!

  They actually told her they didn’t want to be in the talent show unless I was in it too. I couldn’t believe my BFFs had basically told MacKenzie to take her little dance group and flush it ☺!!

  MacKenzie just stared at them with her mouth hanging open because she suddenly realized her plan to keep me out of the talent show had backfired.

  She must have seen the smirk on my face because she gave me this really dirty look, and I was like, “WHAT?!” and batted my eyes all innocentlike.

  I could NOT believe the disgusting, low-down, dirty thing MacKenzie did next.

  “Okay, Chloe and Zoey. I’ll be honest with you. Jason and Ryan have been BEGGING me to ask you to join. They’re DYING to be your dance partners. I promised I wouldn’t tell, but those guys have really big crushes on you two!” she gushed, and then winked.

  There was no doubt in my mind that MacKenzie was lying like a rug. She was only pretending to be Miss Matchmaker to trick Chloe and Zoey into joining.

  But they believed every word she said and totally lost it. They started jumping up and down and squealing!

  I didn’t have the heart to tell them MacKenzie was a pathological liar and Jason and Ryan were probably in on her little scheme.

  I shot MacKenzie a dirty look, and this time SHE batted her eyes at ME all innocentlike and said, “WHAT?!”

  I was so mad I could SPIT! I wanted to slap that girl into tomorrow for playing with my friends’ emotions like that.

  Those two guys had taken cheerleaders to the Halloween dance two weeks ago and practically broken Chloe’s and Zoey’s hearts.

  And NOW they were all going to be dance partners?!! I couldn’t believe MacKenzie was such a little MANIPULATIVE … beady-eyed … SNAKE!!

  What REALLY worried me, though, was the fact that neither Chloe nor Zoey had fully recovered from their totally debilitating case of …



  “Well, girls! From your test results, it appears your severe case of crush-itis can be cured with medication.”


  “Unfortunately, you won’t be able to sit down for a week. Now roll over, close your eyes, and count to ten.”

  MacKenzie was recklessly exposing Chloe and Zoey to yet another dangerous case of CRUSH-ITIS, merely for selfish gain. That girl is HEARTLESS!

  So now they start dance practice tomorrow.

  I probably won’t be seeing much of my BFFs over the next two weeks because they’ll be hanging out with MacKenzie and the CCPs.

  But it’s not like I’m jealous or anything.

  I mean, how juvenile would THAT be?!




  I can’t believe the


  mess I’ve made!

  I had no idea things were going to turn out like this.

  WHAT am I going to do now?!

  I think I’m going to be


  Which is the reason I asked my geometry teacher, Mrs. Sprague, if I could be excused to go to the bathroom.


  Okay, this is what happened….

  When I got home from school yesterday, I stopped to get the mail.

  I saw an envelope from WCD that was addressed to both me and my parents and figured it was my report card or something.

  However, when I opened it, I had a heart attack right there on the spot because it was a TUITION BILL ☹!!

  How did I know?

  Mainly because it said in really big letters:


  And below that was a dollar amount so big, I almost thought my eyeballs were going to rupture just looking at it.

  I could try to pay it off with my teeny allowance. But that would take 1,829.7 years ☹!


  At first I thought it was some kind of mistake!!

  But the only logical explanation is that I had messed up big time by NOT giving my dad that phone message from Principal Winston.

  Then I had very STUPIDLY gone to Winston’s office and told him my dad was too busy to come in. And now my scholarship has been revoked!!

  WHAT was I thinking?!!! There’s just no way my parents can afford to pay that tuition bill!

  Suddenly it became very clear that MacKenzie had completely set me up!

  Her master plan WASN’T to embarrass me by having my dad come to the school to exterminate all the bugs she was letting loose.

  NUH-UH!! Her little brain was way more DEVIOUS than that!

  Her plan was for my dad NOT to come to the school to exterminate all the bugs she was letting loose.


  She knew I’d be FRANTIC and do everything within my power to keep him away.

  Basically, she TRICKED me into RUINING MY OWN LIFE ☹!!

  MacKenzie Hollister is an


  I had no scholarship and I had no money to pay the tuition.

  My situation was HOPELESS!

  As I sat there on that cold bathroom floor a thick cloud of anguish seemed to descend upon my stall like some kind of putrid smog, making it nearly impossible for me to breathe or think clearly.

  Overcome by gut-wrenching emotion (and overwhelmed by that awful school bathroom smell), I began to ponder the unthinkable.

  I wanted all my problems to go away.

  So I decided to just end it all right there, by …


  But unfortunately, I was WAY too big to fit down that little drain-hole thingy.

  That’s when I noticed a bright yellow talent show poster taped on the stall door.

  I’d seen them plastered around the school for days. But after all the drama with MacKenzie, I had never bothered to actually read one….

  I had to read that poster, like, three times before it finally sank in.

  WCD was actually giving away


  I know I swore off the talent show earlier, but now things have changed.

  I’m desperate.

  How desperate am I?!




  Just when I thought my life COULDN’T get any WORSE, IT DID!!

  I skipped lunch today because I wanted to talk to Brandon.

  I really felt the need to vent to someone about all the stuff that was going wrong in my life right now, like for example …


  Confiding in Chloe and Zoey was not an option since they were busy rehearsing with Jason and Ryan during lunch.

  I still considered Brandon a good friend even though he’s been so busy that we’ve barely spoken to each other since the dance two weeks ago.

  It always seemed like talking to him helped me think things through more logically.

  But most important, I wanted to tell him about my dad, my revoked scholarship, and that I might be leaving WCD very soon.

  I’m just really tired of pretending everything is fine when it isn’t!

  And I know at some point MacKenzie is going to blab all my business to the entire school anyway.

  Hey, world! My dad is a bug exterminator, and I attend WCD on a scholarship!

  Big deal! It’s WHO I really am!

  WHY should I be ashamed of it?!

  Even if MacKenzie has a problem with it, I don’t have to.

  Anyway, I rushed down to the newspaper office, since that’s where Brandon has been hanging out lately training some new photographer.

  Well, it looks like he’s been pretty busy, all right….


  I’ve always wondered if Brandon really likes me or not. Well, now I know.


  I think he’s just been using me all along to make MacKenzie jealous or something.

  I couldn’t stand to watch her gushing all over him like a lovesick puppy.

  “Oh, Braaaandon!” this and “Oh, Braaaaandon!” that.

  OMG! She sounded so DITZY, I thought her brains were going to ooze out of her ears like syrup and make a puddle right on the floor.

  She’s more CRAZY about him than EVER!

  And since WHEN has MacKenzie been into photography?!!

  Probably since landing BRANDON as her NEW TUTOR!

  And get this! She doesn’t even READ our school newspaper, because she says it doesn’t have a Fashion & Style section. And the Fashion & Style section is the ONLY thing she says is worth reading in ANY newspaper.

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