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Tales from a not so tale.., p.6
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       Tales From a Not-So-Talented Pop Star, p.6

           Rachel Renée Russell
 
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  I quickly slipped between two vending machines and prayed no one had spotted me. And from there I watched them practice.

  I had to admit, MacKenzie and her group were really good. Especially Chloe and Zoey. As I had predicted, they were the best dancers by far.

  That’s when I realized my situation was hopeless. There was NO WAY I could win against her group.

  As the song ended MacKenzie smiled at her dancers like a proud mother hen.

  “Okay, everyone! That was FABULOUS! Let’s take a ten-minute break.”

  Before I knew what was happening, the entire room came rushing in my direction.

  Talk about CRAPPY luck!

  There I was, trapped in a room with a bunch of hot, thirsty dancers.

  And WHERE was I hiding? With the ice-cold sodas, juices, and bottled water, of course.

  I was like, Way to go, Nikki!! My stupidity never ceases to amaze me!

  I turned and tried to make a dash for the door. Only I forgot about TWO little things.

  Well, actually … TWO very BIG things….

  THE GARBAGE CANS!

  I accidentally BUMPED into the first one and then TRIPPED and FELL over the second one.

  And YES! Unfortunately for me, the garbage cans were still filled to the brim with very nasty, slimy stuff that students had either refused to eat for lunch or tossed.

  And it smelled really, really … BAD!

  Like slightly ROTTING … I don’t even KNOW!

  I hit the floor with a THUD and lay there stunned, covered from head to foot with disgusting garbage.

  I felt like such a KLUTZ.

  I didn’t know which was more painfully bruised, my BUTT or my EGO.

  But the worst part was that I had an audience.

  Namely, EVERY CCP in the entire school! And of course, MacKenzie was in rare form.

  “OMG, Nikki! WHAT are you doing in that garbage?! Scavenging for DINNER?”

  Everyone was laughing so hard, they could barely breathe.

  Well, everyone EXCEPT Chloe and Zoey.

  “NIKKI! What happened?” Chloe gasped.

  “OMG! Are you okay?!” Zoey asked frantically.

  My two best friends each grabbed an arm and helped me to my feet. They were being SO sweet and kind to me, it almost made me cry!

  MacKenzie reached into her pocket, unfolded a piece of paper, and waved it in front of my face tauntingly. It was one of my audition flyers.

  “Sooo, how did your little auditions for the talent show go?! I see you chickened out and CANCELED it at the last minute,” she said.

  I couldn’t believe she actually said that to me. I just stood there glaring at her as I pondered which was the fouler piece of garbage, MacKenzie or the reeking banana peel that was sliding down my forehead.

  I was about to answer when both Chloe and Zoey turned and stared at me with surprised looks on their faces.

  “Wait a minute. YOU’RE going to be in the talent show?!” Chloe asked, obviously shocked.

  “I thought you said you didn’t have time because of your classes and homework load?!” Zoey added. “Or is it that you just didn’t want to be in the talent show with US?”

  “OBVIOUSLY!” MacKenzie hissed, and handed them my audition flyer. “Looks to me like she’d rather hang out with whoever wandered into her auditions than you two.”

  Chloe and Zoey looked very hurt.

  I tried desperately to think up something to say to my BFFs.

  “Actually, I, um … decided at the last minute and …”

  MacKenzie quickly sized up the situation and went in for the KILL.

  “Well, Chloe and Zoey, now you know what kind of BFF you have. As in, Best Fake Friend. Nikki OBVIOUSLY wanted nothing to do with you two. She doesn’t deserve your friendship.”

  If there was an Academy Award for Best Actress in a BFF Breakup Scene, MacKenzie would have won.

  “OMG! I feel so SORRY for you two …!” She sniffed and blinked away phony tears. Then she hugged them both like their puppy had just died.

  “Chloe! Zoey! Please, please don’t believe MacKenzie. I really wanted to be in the talent show with you guys. But a lot of stuff happened.”

  I couldn’t believe how upset they were. They looked like they were going to cry.

  “… I was going to tell you about the band too. I just hadn’t gotten the chance … yet!” I muttered.

  “I’ve heard enough! Nikki is treating you like dirt. Come on, girls. We have a talent show to win!” MacKenzie grabbed Chloe and Zoey by their shoulders and led them away.

  But before MacKenzie disappeared into the girls’ bathroom, she flashed me an evil grin over her shoulder and mouthed …

  LOO-ZER!

  And right now I’m feeling like one. Because thanks to MacKenzie, my life has been totally

  TRASHED!

  No pun intended ☹!!

  WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20

  I’ve pretty much given up all hope of being in the talent show.

  And I still don’t have the slightest idea how I’m going to continue attending WCD.

  When I saw Chloe and Zoey in gym today, I really wanted to apologize and try to explain everything before MacKenzie completely brainwashes them into believing all her lies.

  But I never got a chance to talk to them because our gym teacher announced that we were going to be playing basketball.

  Then she selected four captains to pick teams.

  Unfortunately, I’m a very crummy basketball player and have NEVER made a basket in my entire life.

  So I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I was the very last person to be picked out of the entire class.

  OMG! Talk about HUMILIATING ☹!!

  And as if being the last person wasn’t BAD enough, the four team captains got into a heated argument over who was going to get “stuck” with me on their team.

  It’s no wonder I struggle with low self-esteem!

  I was hoping that Chloe, Zoey, and I would end up on the same team, but no such luck.

  Anyway, the winning teams were going to earn an A while the losing teams had to take showers. This made me supernervous because I HATE showering at school.

  I never knew that playing basketball could be so …

  PAINFUL!

  And when I asked my gym teacher if I could wear a helmet, shoulder pads, and shin guards, she got an attitude about the whole thing and told me I just needed to hustle more and be a team player.

  But what I really wanted to know was, HOW was I supposed to spend quality time writing in my diary when I was getting clobbered by that basketball every three seconds?!

  By the end of the game I was sick of that ball. So when someone passed it to me, I just whipped it right over my shoulder without looking. I wanted to get rid of it so I could write in my diary.

  But get this! I made the winning basket with only two seconds left in the game.

  Then everyone came running up to congratulate me! And my teammates hoisted me up on their shoulders like I was a hero and we had just won the state championship or something.

  I had NEVER in my entire life seen people SO happy about NOT having to take a SHOWER!

  While we were in the locker room, I was hoping to try to talk to Chloe and Zoey again.

  But since their team had lost, they were stuck taking showers.

  I quickly decided it would be more prudent to have a heart-to-heart with them at another time.

  Besides, I just don’t know what to say right now.

  Other than the truth.

  Which at this point is NOT an option.

  THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21

  OMG! I could NOT believe what happened in social studies today!!

  The cruddy thing about being so depressed is that I hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to my homework assignment.

  I mean, HOW can you study when your entire world as you know it is crumbling around you?

  To make matters worse, class participation is an entire third of our grade.
>
  So you CAN’T just sit in the back of the room texting all your friends about how the class is SO boring you’re sitting in the back of the room texting all your friends.

  Since I wanted to improve my grade, whenever there was a question I knew the answer to, I tried FRANTICALLY to get the teacher’s attention.

  TEACHER: “Is it really warm and stuffy in the classroom today, or is it just me?!”

  Hey! It was a QUESTION and I actually knew the ANSWER!

  Of course, my teacher totally IGNORED me.

  Like he always does when I know the answer.

  Then we started discussing that social studies reading assignment that I’d barely read quickly skimmed.

  TEACHER: “So, who can tell me how a democracy, a republic, a federal republic, and a parliament are different from one another, AND name a specific country as an example of each. Okay! Let’s see …”

  I tried to avoid eye contact and hide behind my book while chanting over and over in my head …

  But did it work?! NUH-UH!

  TEACHER: “How about … Miss Maxwell?”

  Of course I looked like a total IDIOT because I didn’t know the answers to his seventeen-part question ☹!!

  That’s when I totally lost it and screamed, “Um, excuuuuusse ME, Mr. Teacher Guy! But can I ask YOU a little question?! Why do you ONLY call on me when I DON’T know the answer? It seems a little DYSFUNCTIONAL or something, if you ask me!”

  But I just said that inside my head, so no one else heard it but me.

  When class was finally over, I was putting my books in my backpack when the strangest thing happened.

  Violet came up and wanted to know if I was still going to put together a band for the talent show.

  I just stared at her with my mouth wide open.

  I could NOT believe she wanted to be in my band.

  “Um, sure! I’d LOVE to have you on keyboard!” I said happily.

  Violet smiled and gushed, “Thanks, Nikki. This is a dream come true!”

  That’s when Theodore turned around and gave me this really weird look.

  Although, to be honest, Theodore ALWAYS looks a little weird. By some fluke of nature, he could easily pass as SpongeBob’s human twin brother.

  “DUDE! You’re putting together a band?!” he asked excitedly.

  “Actually, YEAH! I am. But isn’t your band already signed up for the talent show?” I asked.

  Theodore’s band, SuperFreaks, had totally ROCKED our Halloween dance. And according to the latest gossip, they were an inside favorite to win the talent show.

  “Haven’t you heard? MacKenzie convinced most of my bandmates to quit and join her stupid dance group. She told them the cheerleaders had crushes on them and were dying to be their dance partners. Now there are only two SuperFreaks left—me and Marcus,” Theodore said sadly as his eyes filled with tears. “The rest of our guys have gone … to the, the … D-D-DARK SIDE!”

  He was so upset, I actually felt sorry for him. I gave him a tissue and he blew his nose.

  “I’m really sorry to hear that,” I said, trying to look very sympathetic that he’d lost the majority of his bandmates to the Dark Side.

  Boy, did THAT sound familiar!

  “So … um, do you guys need a bass and lead guitar player?” Theodore asked hopefully.

  “The jobs are YOURS!” I said happily.

  I explained to them both that I’d already made arrangements to use the band room for practices and that maybe we could have our first practice tomorrow morning.

  And since the deadline for entering the talent show was ALSO tomorrow, I’d sign us up first thing in the morning.

  “Cool!” said Violet.

  “Yes! VERY cool!” Theodore added.

  That’s when it finally occurred to me that we still had a major problem.

  “Um … the only remaining issue, guys, is that we need a drummer. We can’t do this unless we have a drummer.” I felt like a balloon that had just had all the air let out of it.

  Violet looked crushed. “You’re right! We won’t stand a chance! CRUD! My music career is over even before it got started!”

  Theodore squinted his eyes and tapped his chin like he was doing a really hard geometry problem in his head or something. “Well, like I said earlier, the SuperFreaks’ drummer has gone to the Dark Side.

  But I know another guy I could ask. He said he was too busy to be in our band, but I’m thinking he might be willing to hang out with us just for a week or two for the talent show. He’s really good, too.”

  “Really?!” I said, hopeful again. “Definitely ask him!”

  I started thinking this crazy plan might actually work.

  “Hey, we’re IN IT to WIN IT!” I said, giving Violet and Theodore a high five.

  “So, I’ll see you both tomorrow morning, then!” I said as I grabbed my backpack and calmly walked out of the room.

  But inside my head I was SO happy, I was doing my Snoopy “happy dance.”

  OMG! I could have boogied all the way to my next class!

  MacKenzie has convinced my best friends and Theodore’s bandmates to join her dance group by cleverly brainwashing them.

  And she has stolen my crush by flirting with him and pretending to be interested in photography.

  But now I am about to make a comeback.

  Starting today, I am going to put my time and energy into my new band.

  And we are going to be FIERCE!

  YEAH, BABY!!

  ☺!!

  FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22

  I was so excited about my first band rehearsal, I barely slept last night. I got up extra early, grabbed a granola bar for breakfast, and rushed right out the door.

  Even though school didn’t start for another hour and fifteen minutes, the halls were already noisy with ongoing practice sessions.

  I was happy to see the main office was open, and I stopped in to fill out the paperwork to enter our band in the show.

  Just as I was about to finish up, the LAST person I wanted to see walked in. Okay, make that the SECOND to LAST person.

  With so much other stuff going on, I just didn’t have the energy to deal with him right then. I tried my best to hide behind my backpack so he wouldn’t see me.

  But it didn’t work.

  “Hey, you!” Brandon said with a big smile. He seemed pleasantly surprised to see me.

  “What’s up?” I answered, coolly nonchalant. Like I HADN’T just been trying to figure out how to crawl into my backpack and zip myself up.

  “Nothing much. I just stopped in to say hi to a friend,” he answered.

  I quickly glanced around the office. No students were in there except us.

  “Well, no one has come in since I’ve been here …,” I said, trying to sound like I didn’t care.

  “Hey! Aren’t YOU my friend?!” Brandon teased.

  “Oh! You meant ME?! Sorry! I just thought …”

  I bit my lip and blushed profusely as he stared at me with that look on his face. The one that can send me into a severe and debilitating case of RCS (Roller-Coaster Syndrome) in mere seconds.

  I was like, “WHEEEEEEEEE!!” But I just said that inside my head, so no one else heard it but me.

  I tried to regain my composure. “So, what are YOU doing here so early? Other than saying hi to a friend.”

  “Actually, I’m here for a talent show practice. I kind of got talked into it at the last minute.”

  I felt like someone had just dumped a gallon of ice water down my back.

  Brandon?! In the talent show …?!

  Suddenly it occurred to me that if MacKenzie needed a dance partner, HE’D definitely be her FIRST choice. I mean, why NOT?!

  But HOW could Brandon just let MacKenzie wrap him around her little finger like that?!

  “Oh, reeeally? How … quaint!” I said through my clenched teeth. “Sooo, I take it you’re dancing with your little … Picture Pal.”

  Brandon blinked and looked slightly confuse
d. “Picture Pal? I don’t have a … Oh! You mean MacKenzie?”

  DUH!!

  I gave my best fake smile. “Yeah, I just hope you survive your BIG MAC attack!”

  Then I very obviously rolled my eyes at the ceiling.

  Brandon laughed, leaned over, and playfully nudged me with his elbow. “Nikki, you KILL me! Big Mac attack?!”

  Personally, I didn’t see what was SO dang funny. “Yeah, you two have been inseparable lately. All that … PHOTO BONDING.”

  Brandon laughed even harder. WHY?! I was NOT trying to be funny!

  Finally he glanced at his watch. “Well, I better get going. See you … later.”

  I couldn’t control myself. It was like I had diarrhea of the mouth or something. “Good luck with your Camera Cutie. I hope you both … um … break a leg!”

  Brandon shook his head and gave me a weak smile. “Uh, thanks. I guess.”

  Then he turned and walked out of the office. I stared at him until he disappeared down the hall.

  I replayed our conversation in my head.

  Picture Pal? Big Mac attack? Photo bonding? Camera Cutie?

  I cringed at my words. WHY did I always act so CRAZY and IRRATIONAL around that guy?!

  No wonder he preferred hanging out with MacKenzie. He probably thought I was a NUT CASE!

  I tried to put the two of them out of my mind. I had more important things to worry about, like band practice. Which, BTW, was supposed to officially start in two minutes.

  I needed to finish the entry form and hand it in or we wouldn’t be able to perform.

  I had completed all the questions but one: NAME OF ACT?

  Hmmm. We still needed to come up with a slightly edgy, cool-sounding name.

  Something like … Purple … Poison … Fuzzballs … of … Doom? NOT!!

  Or maybe Hungry … Plastic … Screaming … Toenails? NOT!!

  So for the name of my band, I wrote in “Actually, I’m not really sure yet.”

  I handed the form to the secretary, grabbed my backpack, and rushed down the hall toward the band room.

  I had no idea what to expect.

 
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