SAMPLE CHAPTER 3 of 7
My name was going to be Brittany Marshall.
I was seventeen-years-old, a transfer student from Boston, and had one younger sister named Reagan.
In a little less than a week, my life was going to do another complete one-eighty. I’d be living in the center of a web of lies that I’d made up index cards to keep track of.
We had all our ducks in a row. Pam and Laura, our family assistant, were in charge of making sure that my social media pages were still up and running as if I was still living life as normal, any commitments that weren’t unavoidable were cancelled or pushed back, and anything that was completely necessary was arranged so that I had a flight home to be Evie Chase for a night or two.
The only thing missing was my grand disguise, and that’s how my mom and I found ourselves sitting in Treggie’s—the beauty shop owned by our favorite stylist/makeup artist duo, and close friends, Gregg and Tianee. They were famous for their work when it came to transforming stars for movies or giving anyone a new look, which was exactly what we needed.
I trailed my eyes along the walls of the backroom we were stuck in so no one would see us. Photos of models sporting all different kinds of wacky looks and hairstyles covered every nook and cranny of the walls, and it seemed every surface was made of stainless steel.
I grunted softly. I’d already had a headache, and now it was getting worse.
“Evie!” someone suddenly bellowed behind me, causing me to jump. Arms snaked around me in a death grip the second I spun around.
“Hey, Ti.” I awkwardly hugged the other girl. Due to our shared shortness, her multicolored, spiked locks were flying up my nose and poking me in the eye.
“Tianee, control yourself.”
I smiled as Gregg came into view. I’d had a tiny crush on him ever since we met him on the set of one of Cassidy’s movies, though it used to be much more intense than it was now.
It was a pretty bad habit of mine, seeing a cute guy who actually talked to me like a human, not some other-worldly entity (be it a celebrity or the school weirdo), and crushing on him really hard for a solid few weeks. Before it tapered off into nothing once rationality hit.
Deep in my heart, I was a hopeless romantic. I liked to think about it, fantasize about it, write about it, sing about it, but the real thing—real feelings, real love—it was unpredictable and exhausting. It scared the crap out of me.
Because romance involved trust. And I’d learned from my past mistakes.
Trusting someone with something as fragile as my heart was too much of a risk. It left me exposed and vulnerable, and there were too many other things happening in my life for me to even thinkabout relinquishing that much control.
I didn’t have the time, energy, or sanity to worry about to what degree someone would ultimately hurt me.
I slipped from Tianee’s hold. “Hey, Gregg!”
“What’s up, Sweets?” He shot me a grin.
I could’ve melted right there. I felt heat rush up to my cheeks.
Tianee smirked at me knowingly, earning a glare. She turned her attention to my mother. “So, what’s up for today? Evie here looks fabulous as always.”
I blushed harder. The combination of good stylists and puberty had treated me better than I could’ve ever hoped, but I still wasn’t used to praise for my looks. My academics, sure. Give me a math problem to solve, and tell me I’m a genius. My singing, also okay. I’d made a career out of it. It was one of the few things I felt completely confident doing. But the second someone told me I have pretty eyes, I turned into a turtle and yanked my head back in my shell.
“I know.” Mom looked proud, most likely taking the compliment for herself, since, well, it was partly her genes. “But that’s the thing. I need you to make her un-fabulous. She’s going back to school in her hometown with Addison—who should be here soon, by the way—and she can’t look like herself.”
Gregg looked dumbfounded. “Why would you do that?”
I felt nerves bubble in my stomach. I didn’t want to share the fact I’d had a major panic attack. It was nerve-wracking even to have Mom tell my dad, Aunt Mil, and my sisters it had happened to me again, and I wasn’t sure if I could handle her letting it slip to anyone else. Even if they were two of the few people I trusted in this business.
“Don’t question Hillary’s motives, Greggory,” Tianee placed a hand on my back. “I’m sure Evie will have fun.”
I narrowed my eyes at her once again, even though relief washed over me.
"Thank you, Tianee. She will have fun, and it will be nice for her to see all of her old friends again, even if they don’t know it’s her.” Mom stared pointedly at the both of them. “They can’t know it’s her. At all.”
Gregg started circling around me. “If this is your old hometown, I’m assuming they already know you well.”
I felt self-conscious under his intent gaze. “Well, I guess now they do. Not so much when I lived there though.” Well, until Grace read my most personal thoughts to the entire freshman class.
Tianee pointed at me. “If that’s the case, we’re lucky to have the beauty of adolescence on our side, and the fact you might look different on camera than in person.”
“We’ll still have our work cut out for us though,” Gregg commented, before coming in front of my face. “But we’ll make you a completely new person in no time.”
I wrinkled my nose. “I’m not putting a fake nose on every morning.”
Gregg chuckled. “When we’re done, you won’t need to.”
Then he and Tianee went into another room to grab some stuff.
Once left alone, I turned to my mother. She had a sly look on her face. “See, told you it would work.”
With a deep sigh, I ambled over to one of the chairs and sat down. “Don’t get too excited,” I called across the room, before looking up at the ceiling.
As I trailed my eyes around the light fixtures, my mind wandered. It went to Adam, it went to Grace, it went to Valerie, it went to my slightly terrifying, slightly embarrassing, very unfiltered Aunt Mil. It went to what my life was right before all of this—back to that day in the courtyard. Back to a time that I was certain I’d put behind me.
It was nauseating to think about how great I felt things were going before then. The unrequited love for my best friend might’ve sucked a little, so did being, well, nobody, but at least I felt like I could always count on Adam to be there for me.
Obviously, that wasn’t the case.
That day, when I learned how easily people I trusted could completely desert me, despite being so long ago, still haunted me. Something in me had snapped. And the money, fame, success—they weren’t enough to make me forget about the past. They obviously weren’t working to quell my anxiety. They didn’t suddenly make it easy for me to trust again.
And the fact that I felt like I was in this downward spiral and unsure if I would get back to that point again terrified me.
When Gregg first showed me a mannequin wearing the disguise I’d be donning throughout this adventure, I nearly choked, and now that I had it on, I almost wanted to scream.
I twisted around and checked my reflection. It felt like I was drowning in my sweatshirt that was nearly four sizes too big for me, and jeans that I would need to run through the dryer three times. My features were hidden under my platinum bob wig with bangs that covered my entire forehead and framed my face, dark, smoky makeup, and thick-rimmed glasses. The freckles that usually dusted my cheeks and over my nose were masked by a high-coverage foundation, and my normally hazel eyes shined a bright blue.
My head itched under my new hair. I wasn’t a big fan of the wig, but Tianee was insistent that I didn’t ruin my real hair with the intensive bleaching treatment and big chop necessary to achieve the same result. And when I did need to come back and take care of Evie Chase business, I could.
“I think we did pretty well.” Gregg stroked his chin with his finger. “Maybe we can add some heeled boots to play with your height a little. You usually look so small.”
“Well, I am only five-two.” I tugged at the hem of my sweatshirt.
“Yeah, I think heels would be good,” Tianee agreed. “You can just go buy some at any retailer. You don’t need any high-end things. The higher the heel, the better. Maybe some sneaker wedges.”
I scowled at the thought of having to wear heeled shoes every day and stepped away from the mirror.
My mom laughed. “You almost look like your father.”
I looked in the mirror again. She was kind of right.
When I was younger, kids in school used to ask me if my dad was really my dad. I may have had his hazel eyes and button nose—and all three of us girls got his Irish freckles—but none of us inherited his light blond hair or his fair skin. Now I had the blonde going on.
He always used to joke that my mother’s Filipino-Colombian blood was too strong for his, and I always believed his blood was actually having a constant, physical battle against hers within my veins to fight for my features—but then I turned eleven and learned dominant and recessive traits and the basics of genetics.
My mom started typing feverishly on her phone. “What’s up? Addy not coming?”
“No, she’s almost here.” Mom finished typing her message and turned her attention to me. “I just realized we should put some more work into the way you speak. Give you a little bit of an accent, changing your tone of voice. Maybe speaking a bit higher pitched and softer. Slower.Cassidy’s dialect coach just said she would be fine with helping you out.”
Her proposal sparked something in me. “Do I get to do a Boston accent?”
“You seem excited,” Tianee said.
“I love doing Boston accents. I’ve been practicing it since I was, like, thirteen. My friend was obsessed with The Joy of it All.” At the memory, my happiness waned.
“When did you watch The Joy of it All?” Mom asked in surprise.
The Joy of it All was an old R-rated movie set in the city of Boston, and four years ago, Adam, who loved the Boston Red Sox and used that to justify his love for the city, had been dying to watch it. We knew our parents would never let us, so when I was sleeping over one night, the two of us fake-slept on his living room couches and waited until past midnight when we knew his parents were asleep to watch the film on his dad’s laptop.
“Uh, when I slept over Adam’s.” I ignored the hollow feeling inside me. “It was like four years ago.”
“And Tricia let you?”
There was no reason to sell-out Adam’s mom just so my mom wouldn’t know we’d done something without permission. It wasn’t like she could ground me for it now. “She didn’t know.”
Tianee stepped in. “Okay, before we get started on that issue, can we just do a quick check? So you feel comfortable, think you can manage to do this little cover-up every day? Your face is so covered between the hair and glasses I think you’re good there. Your body’s swathed in fabric, and you’re going to be taller. Get that accent down, and I’d say you’re in perfect shape to be . . .”
“Brittany Marshall,” I filled in.
“Brittany Marshall.” She tested the way the name rolled off her tongue. “You look like a Brittany.”
“Well, that’s promising,” I said.
After I thanked the two of them, Mom got a text that Addy and Laura had made it to the shop. Gregg and Tianee scurried to the back again to get some stuff out for her, and I went over to the vanity to start deconstructing myself. As I slid the makeup wipe over my eyes, I tried my best to focus on the action and tune out my own thoughts.
I still wasn’t too keen on the idea of hiding out in Anadale, but the possibility of a break away from the spotlight helping me start my “road to recovery” was still enticing. If I didn’t begin finding that path soon, I’d surely never be able to mentally make it to or through my world tour next year. And with tickets already sold out, that wasn’t an option.
Ironically, the place that broke me was now my biggest hope.