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Tales from a not so tale.., p.9
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       Tales From a Not-So-Talented Pop Star, p.9

           Rachel Renée Russell
 
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  I do NOT deserve friends like these!

  I could hear them laughing and joking as they headed out the front door.

  I found a pay phone and called home for a ride. As I sat at the front door waiting for my mom to arrive, I started to feel even worse.

  Winning a talent show scholarship was my only hope for staying at WCD.

  And now even that is gone.

  I buried my face in my knees and cried.

  Suddenly I heard footsteps approaching.

  I quickly brushed away my tears and wiped my runny nose on my sleeve.

  “Nikki, you look horrible!” MacKenzie said, sneering. “OMG! What kind of lip gloss are you wearing? Oh, that’s not lip gloss … it’s SNOT!”

  I was like, JUST GREAT! I rolled my eyes at her.

  “I heard Dorkalicious got disqualified. Too bad! Thank goodness Jessica has office duty during fourth hour and was able to check your entry form to make sure you weren’t cheating.”

  “MacKenzie, I wasn’t trying to cheat. We just hadn’t selected a name yet….”

  “Well, look at the good side! At least now you won’t have to get up onstage and publicly humiliate yourself. AGAIN! And with both Dorkalicious AND SuperFreaks out of the way, it will be an easy win for me and my dancers!”

  “MacKenzie, you are a dismally vain, self-absorbed blond abyss of seething wretchedness!” I blurted out.

  She smiled at me wickedly. “You say that like it’s a BAD thing!”

  Then she took out her lip gloss and slathered on a fresh layer.

  “Anyway, I didn’t come out here to talk to YOU. Now that Brandon is no longer in the talent show, Sasha needs him to handle the photography.”

  “Unfortunately, he left a few minutes ago.”

  MacKenzie eyed me carefully, trying to figure out if I was lying or not.

  “Well, if you see him, please give him the message that Sasha and I need to talk to him.”

  “Since when am I your personal secretary? If you have a message for Brandon, you can tell him yourself.”

  MacKenzie placed her hands on her hips and flashed another evil smile. “Crush much? Get a clue, hon. You want Brandon? Dial 1-800-YOU-WISH!!” Then she spun around and sashayed down the hall.

  I just HATE it when MacKenzie sashays.

  Just then my mom pulled up, and I dragged myself out to the car.

  “So, practice got out early?” she asked.

  “Yeah, something like that,” I mumbled.

  As soon as I got home, I rushed up to my room and collapsed on my bed.

  I just lay there in the darkness, pondering my massively cruddy situation.

  I am SUCH a LOSER!

  And a PATHETIC friend!

  I want to believe that things are so bad, they can’t get any worse.

  But I already know it’s going to get worse.

  A LOT worse!

  Tomorrow morning I am going to have to tell my parents the truth about EVERYTHING! ☹!!

  SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 30

  When I finally woke up, it was almost noon.

  Knowing that I was going to have to face my parents made me feel a little nauseated.

  On top of that, the sun was shining in my eyes and I had a splitting headache.

  I was surprised to see that I still had on my clothes from last night. I grabbed my pillow, groaned, and buried my head under it.

  Suddenly there was a knock on my door. But I ignored it.

  Most Saturday mornings, Brianna and Miss Penelope wake me up. But today was my lucky day.

  Before I could yell “GO AWAY!” Brianna, Miss Penelope, AND my grandma all barged in.

  A TRIPLE dose of INSANITY could easily destroy the very weak grip I held on my pathetic reality.

  It was enough to make me want to jump out of my bedroom window screaming.

  “Wake up! Wake up!” Brianna screamed. “Me, Grandma, and Miss Penelope need you to help us make some homemade ice cream!”

  My grandma sat next to me on the bed and tickled me. “Time to get up, Miss Lazy Bones!”

  “Please, Grandma. Stop! I don’t feel so good! And I’m exhausted!”

  “Well, no wonder. How can you get a good night’s sleep with all this junk on your bed? Backpack, book, sneakers, and …?”

  She picked up a crumpled piece of paper that had fallen out of my pocket.

  “… assorted litter. Is this any good, or can I throw it away?” she said, opening it up and reading it. She slid her glasses down her nose a bit and squinted.

  “Oh, THAT thing. It’s nothing. Just toss it!” I muttered.

  I shoved my head back under the pillow, hoping Grandma and Brianna would take the hint and get lost.

  “Are you sure, honey? This looks like it might be important. Hmmm? WCD Talent Showcase Entry Form. So, the name of your band is Actually, I’m Not Really Sure Yet. Now, that’s a bit odd, don’t cha think?”

  “Miss Penelope says she’s looking for chocolate cupcakes. Any cupcakes in here, Nikki?!” Brianna said as she rummaged through my sock drawer.

  That’s when I peeked out from under my pillow.

  “NO, Brianna! There are no cupcakes inside my sock drawer. And Grandma, NO! That’s NOT the name of my band! Like, how totally STUPID would that—”

  I stopped midsentence.

  Inside my head, my brain was screaming, “OMG! OMG! THAT’S IT!!”

  I’d just gotten the most FANTASTIC idea!

  Maybe there was still hope for our band after all.

  I was so happy, I hugged Grandma.

  “I LOVE YOU, GRANDMA!” I giggled as I jumped up and down on my bed.

  She climbed up and joined me. “I love you, too, sweetheart! I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

  “Hey! What about MEEEEEE?!” Brianna screeched. “And Miss Penelope. We wanna jump too!”

  All four of us held hands and jumped on my bed like it was a trampoline or something.

  I promised to help make the ice cream as soon as I’d made a few phone calls.

  So Grandma and Brianna rushed downstairs singing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” at the top of their lungs and really off-key.

  I could hardly wait to call Chloe and Zoey.

  When I told them my idea for getting us back into the talent show, they thought it was brilliant.

  Next we called Violet, Brandon, Theodore, and Marcus and made plans to meet with Sasha to update her about our new status.

  My final task was to make some major design adjustments to our band T-shirts.

  Later that evening everything went as planned and we cornered Sasha backstage.

  I smoothed out our crumpled entry form as best I could and handed it back to her.

  However, before Sasha could read it, MacKenzie came rushing over. “Nikki Maxwell, WHAT are you doing here? Sasha has already told you Dorkalicious is disqualified!”

  “MacKenzie, we’re not entering the talent show as Dorkalicious,” I said happily. “Our entry form is correct.”

  MacKenzie looked totally confused. “WHAT?! If you’re not Dorkalicious, then who are you?!”

  She obviously didn’t have a clue.

  Sasha read over our entry form and slowly nodded. “Yeah, it makes sense. If that’s the name of your band, I guess you guys are back in the show….”

  “WHAT! How can they be back in the show? Nikki, you can’t get away with this!” MacKenzie screamed, stomping her foot like a toddler having a temper tantrum or something. “It’s not FAIR!!”

  “Later, MacKenzie!” I said. “Break a leg!”

  Only I REALLY meant it.

  Well, okay. I meant it just a little.

  The word got around quickly that we were back in and that the competition was going to be brutal.

  After the show started, we sat in a dressing room watching all the other acts on a television monitor.

  There were magic acts, dance groups, bands, singers, and musicians, and most of them were really good.

  Winning the talent
show was NOT going to be easy.

  After about an hour and a half the assistant stage manager finally took us backstage and told us to wait in the wings since we were going next.

  MacKenzie’s dance group was performing, and I had to admit they were awesome.

  They wore sequined jumpsuits and pretty much danced their butts off to a medley of the latest pop tunes.

  The crowd went wild.

  Since our band was added to the lineup at the last minute, we were the last act to go.

  Violet and the guys were entering from stage left, and Chloe, Zoey, and I were entering from stage right.

  While we were waiting to go on, suddenly my stomach started doing double somersaults.

  I must have been having a panic attack or something because my brain was screaming stuff like, “WHAT are YOU doing?! You CAN’T go out there and sing in front of all those people! What if you MESS UP?! Your life will be RUINED!!”

  But I wanted that scholarship so badly that I didn’t have a choice.

  Chloe and Zoey must have sensed my fear because they each took my hand and squeezed it and told me I was going to do fine.

  My knees still felt really wobbly. But it was great to know that if they actually gave out and I fell over, Chloe and Zoey would be there to drag me across the stage and stick the microphone in my hand.

  They are, like, the BEST friends EVER!

  I cannot begin to explain what it felt like to hear the crowd when the announcer introduced us….

  “And our next act is a band made up of Nikki, Chloe, Zoey, Brandon, Violet, Theodore, and Marcus. Please welcome to the stage …

  ACTUALLY, I’M NOT REALLY SURE YET!!”

  I really LOVED our new name! It sounded edgy and professional, just like those real bands on MTV!

  We quickly walked onstage and took our places.

  I nervously glanced out at the audience and squinted, trying to spot faces I knew. But due to the glare of the bright stage lights, the crowd was just a big massive blur of darkness, noise, and excitement.

  Which actually was a good thing, because not seeing a million people staring back at me made me feel less nervous.

  I looked over my shoulder, and Brandon gave me a huge smile and a thumbs-up.

  He then did four taps with his drumsticks, launching Violet, Theodore, and Marcus into the intro of the song.

  OMG! They sounded SO good! I had to remind myself it was my four friends playing that music live, and NOT a song blasting on my iPod.

  Chloe, Zoey, and I started our dance routine just the way we had practiced it.

  Then I smiled at my BFFs, took a deep breath, and sang the first note.

  At first it felt a little shocking to hear my own voice so loud and clear. But I just tried to relax and enjoy our performance.

  By the time we got to the chorus …

  “Dork, nerd, geek, freak

  Is all you see

  But just back off

  And let me be ME!”

  … I could see the first two rows had gotten up on their feet and were dancing along.

  When we finally finished our song, the crowd cheered like crazy and we got a standing ovation.

  They actually loved us!

  Chloe, Zoey, and I hugged one another as our musicians exchanged fist bumps and high fives.

  I was SO hoping we were going to win. We HAD to win!!

  All the acts quickly filed back onstage and lined up around us.

  As MacKenzie and her dance group crowded in right next to us, she smiled sweetly at Brandon. “You guys were awesome! Good luck!”

  “Thanks! Good luck to you, too!” he said politely.

  Then MacKenzie turned and looked at me like I was something she had scraped off the bottom of her shoe.

  Which didn’t surprise me one bit.

  As the judge, Mr. Trevor Chase, took the stage, the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

  “As you are aware, ALL the talent here was very, very good. I encourage each of you to continue to hone your craft. But tonight there can only be one winner. And the winner …”

  I held my breath and chanted inside my head, Please let it be us. Please let it be us. Please let it be us!

  “… of the tenth annual WCD Talent Showcase is … Mac’s Maniacs!”

  MacKenzie shrieked! Then she hugged Jessica as all her dancers crowded around hugging one another.

  I was SO disappointed, I felt like crying.

  It wasn’t the losing part that made me feel so bad, but the fact that I was going to have to leave WCD and my friends.

  I think the rest of my band was a bit surprised we lost, but they were being really good sports about it.

  After we left the stage, we all hugged one another too. And everyone told me I sang really well.

  “Nikki, this was SO fun!” Violet gushed. “We didn’t win. But, hey, that’s …”

  “SHOWBIZ!” all seven of us shouted, and then erupted into peals of laughter at our little joke.

  But deep down inside, I felt really horrible knowing I was going to have to say good-bye to everyone in a few days.

  My eyes started to tear up, but I didn’t want my friends to see me crying.

  “Um, my throat is a little dry. I’m gonna run out to the hall to get a drink. I’ll be right back, ’kay?” I announced, and took off before anyone had a chance to join me.

  I went straight to the girls’ bathroom and splashed water on my face. I cringed at the thought of having to tell my parents all the crazy stuff I’d done.

  Suddenly the bathroom door opened and MacKenzie rudely brushed past me in a hurry.

  “Excuse you!” she hissed as she whipped out her makeup. “I have a photo shoot to do.”

  I just rolled my eyes at her.

  “Too bad you lost! I tried to warn you not to waste your time. At least Jessica and I will FINALLY get to have lockers next to each other when YOU transfer to a public school! Ever since your dad got hired as the exterminator, our school has been overrun with bugs.

  “Besides, you’re way too poor to pay that tuition bill that you got in the mail last week, so you—” MacKenzie got this really funny look on her face and bit her lip. Then she took out her lip gloss and nervously slathered on a thick layer.

  I wanted to tell her to keep her nose out of my business and that she had no idea what she was talking about. Although, to be honest, she knew EXACTLY what she was talking about because there was no WAY we could pay that tuition bill and—

  Suddenly it hit me. MacKenzie did know EXACTLY what she was talking about, but HOW was that possible? How did she know about my bill, and why was she now squirming and avoiding eye contact?

  I put my hands on my hips and stared right into her beady little eyes. “So, MacKenzie … HOW did you know I got a tuition bill? Or did your BFF Jessica also send YOU a copy of the PHONY BILL that she sent ME?!”

  “Well, she’s just the fifth-hour office assistant. She would NEVER, like, mail out stuff to people, actually …” MacKenzie stumbled as her cheeks flushed.

  I could not believe my ears. For the past two weeks my life had pretty much been one gigantic, continuous nightmare as I desperately tried to figure out how to pay that tuition bill.

  Then I’d practically had a meltdown dealing with the mental anguish of a possible transfer to a new school.

  ONLY to FINALLY find out it was just another of MacKenzie’s cruel pranks??!!

  Right then I was SO angry I wanted to grab one of MacKenzie’s $495 suede Prada ballet flats and shove it right down her throat. I took a step toward her.

  “YOU and Jessica sent me a phony tuition bill?! I’ve been worried sick about how my parents were going to pay it. How could you do that?!”

  MacKenzie nervously batted her eyes at her perfect reflection in the mirror and then snapped the cap back on her lip gloss.

  “I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.”

  “MacKenzie, you are such a liar!”


  “And besides, even if we DID send you a phony tuition bill, you don’t have any proof! Do you? … LOSER!!”

  With that, she turned and sashayed out of the bathroom.

  I just HATE it when MacKenzie shashays!

  Although, to be honest, I was SUPERrelieved to find out that bill was from HER and NOT the school.

  I felt like I was finally waking up from a two-week-long nightmare.

  Well, I learned my lesson, that’s for sure!

  No more secrets! I was going to tell Chloe and Zoey about my dad and my scholarship the first chance I got.

  And once the entire school knew about it, I would no longer have to lie awake nights wondering if and when MacKenzie was going to drop the bomb.

  It was like a heavy weight was lifting off my shoulders even as I thought about it.

  Just then Chloe and Zoey rushed into the bathroom out of breath.

  “Oh, there you are! We’ve been looking everywhere for you!” Zoey panted. “MacKenzie told us you were in here.”

  “OMG! You are NOT going to believe what just happened!” Chloe’s eyes were huge!

  “After you left,” Zoey continued, “Trevor Chase came over and congratulated us. He said he wanted to let us know that 15 Minutes of Fame features unpolished amateurs going through boot camp to get better. He said we sounded really professional and were actually too good to be on his show. Can you believe THAT?! He said he won’t start filming the new season until next fall, and that’s when MacKenzie’s group will get to audition. But he wants to work with us RIGHT NOW! Nikki, he LOVED our song and wants us to release it ASAP!”

  “WHAT! Are you kidding?! NO WAY!” I sputtered.

  “Yep! He says he wants to meet with all of us and our parents after the holidays and that he’ll be in touch!” Chloe continued.

  The three of us started screaming and did a group hug!

  I could NOT believe that people all over the world might actually be able to hear OUR song!

  And if we made any money, I could use MY portion to FINALLY buy myself a CELL PHONE ☺!!

  Back in the auditorium, I was talking to my parents when Principal Winston came up and congratulated me.

 
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