SAMPLE CHAPTER 4 of 7
The week between me and Addy getting our disguises at Treggie’s and our departure for Anadale flew by. Even after everything that we’d already figured out, there was still so much to do.
I spent a bulk of the week in the studio, cramming a month’s worth of work into seven days. With the few hours I had left, we pre-filmed videos in a plethora of different outfits for announcements to my fans, and the rest of the time, I attempted to sleep. The countless times at night when I was alone in my room that I nearly had another breakdown made it more than apparent I was doing the right thing in taking time off.
I still didn’t feel settled though, despite the fact we’d successfully avoided paparazzi by flying out of San Diego and managed to find a secluded bathroom to get changed into our covers after we went through security. Everything was going smoothly, yet I still felt paranoid.
We’d been on the plane to Connecticut for what felt like days. Being stuck in such a confined space and with only a small TV screen to distract myself made it hard to keep from thinking too much. I felt terrible for Addy—or rather, Reagan—as I continuously bumped into her because I couldn’t sit still.
I must’ve looked a little worse for wear because she looped her arm around mine. I was thankful to have at least one of my sisters to get me through this.
I closed my eyes just in time for the seatbelt light to click on. The dinging sound that signaled we’d be landing soon sounded like a bell tolling the onset of a new reality. A reality that could either make or break me.
The airport was surprisingly crowded when Addy and I exited the terminal. It took all my agility to avoid getting knocked over by a running businessman trailing a suitcase behind him. All of this hustle and bustle reminded me of LAX, sending a twinge of homesickness through me.
I felt a tug on my arm and looked at Addison. She pointed out into the sea of people. “How are we supposed to get to Aunt Mil’s? Did you call her like Mom said?”
I tensed when I realized that I hadn’t. “Yeah—uh—about that. . .”
She stared at me in disbelief. “You forgot to call?” When I didn’t respond, she slapped her forehead. “Evie, please tell me you’re joking! We’re at least an hour or two from Aunt Mil’s. What happened?”
“I—I don’t know. I just. . . forgot?”
"Forgot? You never forget anything!”
I breathed deeply before running a hand through my wig and grasping the roots. “I’m just off, okay. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but this is the farthest thing from normal in the universe.” I started sorting through my purse for my phone. “I’ll just call her now.”
“So, we’re basically stuck here for two hours?”
“Well, Mom said she has this weird thing against Ubers and taxis, so yeah, I guess so.” I grumbled under my breath, dialed my aunt’s number, then placed the phone to my ear. “Who knows, maybe Mom told her we took off, and she’s been tracking the flight.”
Turns out, she hadn’t been.
After the call with Aunt Mil ended, I felt winded and on-edge. There was just something about her that sucked the energy out of you. She was a fast talker—loud too—and she never stopped. Ever. And you never knew what she would say, or even do, next.
When I had turned eight, she’d gifted me a set of kitchen knives, and when I was eleven, she’d given me the talk in front of my entire family, Adam’s too.
“What did she say?” Addison got off the bag she was sitting on and stood up. “Is she coming to get us?”
“Well, the plants on her patio are doing well,” I told her, recounting the first thing Aunt Mil had gone on a tangent about. ”She’s busy doing something, heaven knows what, but I think she said she’s sending over her neighbor. I didn’t catch his name.”
A smile flashed across Addy’s face, then fell away. “So, we’re stuck here until then?”
“Yeah, I guess.” I leaned down and picked up our duffle bag. “Let’s go pick up our bags at baggage claim then grab something to eat. That’ll kill some time.”
She pulled one of her platinum locks behind her ear with her bottom lip jutted out in a pout. “I just want to go home. I have a headache.”
I felt myself soften in the presence of “The Addison Effect”. There was no possible way that anyone could resist it—not even my mother at her most ruthless. I felt like I’d just kicked a puppy, and it dawned on me that without our mom, dad, or even Cassidy, I was the next in line to look after Addison. I didn’t know how her and Aunt Mil would get along.
I rubbed Addy’s back gently. “Me too, kid. But we just need to stick it out until then.”
So far, Connecticut wasn’t treating me the way I had hoped.
After getting our suitcases and putting them on a cart, Addy and I weren’t really in the mood for a big meal. We ended up buying two bags of chips, some drinks, and some cheap magazines that we’d always been advised never to read in case they’d written about us in a not-so-great way. It was a precaution Mom had instilled in us over the years as our names garnered more clout, but at this point, I think I’d gotten a tiny bit better at accepting the criticism. It also helped that I bent over backwards to avoid bad press.
Addison and I perched ourselves on top of our suitcases to wait for our ride. After a little while, Addy left me to go search for a bathroom, and I remembered that the luggage tags on our bags had our real names on them. It would be difficult to explain to whoever ended up picking us up why our suitcases belonged to Evelyn and Addison Chase. But tearing them off and throwing them away didn’t take nearly as much time as I hoped it would.
It felt like I’d aged fifteen years as I flipped through one of the magazines, searching for an interesting article. I jumped when my phone began to vibrate wildly in my pocket.
Call from: Aunt Mil
“Hello?” An ear-piercing squeak caused me to jerk the phone away, before gingerly putting it back. “Hello? Aunt Mil? You there?”
I plugged my other ear with my finger to block out the wails of the overdramatic girlfriend of some guy who was about to get on a plane.
“Yeah. Aunt Mil?” A sharp noise came out of the phone, followed by a buzz. “What is that?”
“Evelyn!” she repeated, before going off about some giant fan-slash-wind machine. Why she had one, I didn’t know. Nor did I care to know. Eventually she shouted, “Will’s there!”
Will? “Who’s Will? Is he the one picking us up?” I hoped that talking over her would get her to stop. But it didn’t. I was beginning to feel panicky as I tried speaking louder. “Aunt Millie! Who. Is. Will? Where. Is. Will?” It would’ve been ten times easier if she’d just given me Will’s number in the first place.
“Hey, excuse me.”
Just as I was about to lose it and get up to scream at the top of my lungs, a pair of legs appeared in front of me. I lifted my gaze up to their owner’s face and nearly dropped the phone. There was nothing better than being confronted by a cute guy while screaming into your cell phone like a wild banshee.
“Uh, hi.” I stood up straight, smoothing my T-shirt and sweatpants, suddenly feeling very self-conscious. “Can—can I help you with anything?”
“Actually, yes.” He pulled his phone from the pocket of his shorts before clicking some buttons and reading off a name. “Are you Brittany Marshall?” I felt my eyes widen, and an amused grin crossed his face. “I’ll take that as a yes.” His hand shot out. “I’m Will. Your aunt sent me to pick up you and your sister. I heard you screaming my name, so I figured you were the right girl.”
I reached out and grasped his hand, noticing how small mine were in comparison. “Oh, you—you heard that?” When he nodded, I let out an uneasy laugh before hanging up the call I’d forgotten I was having with Aunt Mil. “Oh, well, uh, yeah. I’m Brittany.”
“I know.” Gently, he pulled his hand from my grip, making me realize I was the one who wasn’t letting go.
My cheeks felt warm. “Oh yeah, sorry.”
“Hey, Evelyn, is our ride here yet?” At the sound of my name, I nearly jumped. I glared at the approaching Addison. Was she out of her mind?
When she reached me, her eyebrow rose. “What?” After a moment, she took in Will’s presence. “Oh! Uh, hi!”
“You know, you guys are pretty similar. Same nervous energy about you.” His confused look washed away for an entertained one. “It’s easy to tell that you’re sisters.”
I let out a quiet sigh of relief.
Addison fidgeted in place with a wry grin. She knew very well the mistake she’d just made and wasn’t sure if it would cost us. “Yeah, well, we are.” She faked excitement. “Good job observing, uh. . .”
“Will. Will Harper.” He stuck a hand out to her just as he had to me before. “I live next door to your aunt.”
Addy took his hand. “So, we’re neighbors?” When he nodded, she beamed. Any type of nerves she’d looked to have had disappeared. “Great! I’m Reagan.”
While the two got themselves familiar with each other, I took the chance to fully take in Will’s appearance. He was definitely cute, in that nerdy-guy-who-works-at-a-coffee-shop way. Blue eyes covered by dark glasses, shaggy, dark blond hair, and, my favorite of his features: an irresistible smile.
Suddenly I realized he was staring at me, and his mouth was moving. Oh no, is he talking to me? I used the best save I could and laughed, agreeing with whatever he’d said. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing to do, since he seemed confused, and Addison looked like she was about to burst out laughing.
Will didn’t comment on my reddening face and tried to give me some relief by detouring from the subject. “So are you guys ready to go?”
“Are we ever!” Addy threw on her backpack and got behind the luggage cart. “Onward!”
Will joined Addison behind the cart, signaling that he would push it. He nodded his head towards me. “Ready to go?”
My reply was not as enthused as Addison’s. “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”
If there was one thing that I envied about my younger sister, it was her ability to make friends with just about anyone.
I always knew Addison was more personable than I was—hell, I thought she was even more personable than Cassidy. She just had this likable nature about her that everyone seemed drawn to and eased by.
I, on the other hand, was terrible when meeting new people. The only times I didn’t make things painfully awkward was when I was in meet and greets, interacting with an audience from stage, or anywhere that required me to talk about my music and only my music. There was something about existing in only that part of my life that made it easy for me to be sociable.
But right now, sitting next to Will in the front seat of his car, I was absolutely hopeless. Because I wasn’t Evie Chase the popstar who could talk about her music career, and my nerves were so shot from the flight, talking to Aunt Mil, and basically, the whole past three years in general. I could barely make conversation.
“So, where are you guys from again?” Will asked from the driver’s seat.
I had stopped chomping my gum the second the “Los” left Addy’s lips. As much as I didn’t want to, I felt like I needed to say something. “She means Boston.”
Addison looked at me in the side mirror with apologetic eyes and shut her mouth tightly. She obviously had not been studying her index cards.
“So, you’re from Boston, not Los Angeles?” Will sounded confused, which I understood. The two cities were on opposite coasts, and there was no reason for Addison to completely mess up where we lived.
I swallowed hard and tried to think of a reasonable explanation for the mention of both areas.
“We were just in L.A. visiting relatives this past week, but we’re from Boston.” I subtly glanced over my shoulder at Addy. “Reagan’s just suffering from jet lag and is a little confused.”
“Well, that was fast.” Will chuckled, and then thankfully took the answer. He looked at Addison in the rearview mirror. “Hopefully that’ll go away before you start at Roosevelt on Monday.”
“I’m actually going to Jefferson,” Addy said.
“Wait, seriously?” Will once again looked lost at the mention of our town’s middle school. “How old are you?”
“I just turned fourteen last month.”
“Just turned fourteen? So you’re only in eighth grade?” Will saw Addy nod. “Wow, you look a lotolder than my younger sister. She’s in Jefferson now. Maybe you guys could be friends or something.” He looked at me. ”You’re going to the high school, right? You’re not like secretly thirty?”
“No, I’m only seventeen, so I’ll be there,” I said.
“Senior?” I nodded, and Will put an arm around the back of my seat. “Awesome! I’ll see you around then. I’d offer to give you a tour, but I’ll be in late Monday.”
Part of his arm rested on my shoulder, and between that and his offer to show me around, I was starting to feel like he didn’t think I was crazy or antisocial. Feeling like I was earning an ally helped me relax.
But that all washed away when Addison’s phone started to ring. Of course, it was one of my songs.
Relax, Evie. It’s not like he can figure out anything just by hearing your music. Everyone’s heard your music.
“Oh! It’s Cass!” she shouted.
It took all my willpower to resist screaming at her not to answer it. She couldn’t be that dense, right? I mean, come on, you’d have to have the IQ of a peanut to answer a phone call from your extremely famous sister while trying to keep cover.
My sister—the peanut.
I caught Will glancing over at me, before turning his eyes back to the road. “Who’s Cass?”
“Our, uh—our cousin.” I was happy to come out with an answer that made sense. “She’s our cousin.”
Will nodded understandably.
Addy continued to happily chat in the back seat. She was completely oblivious to the fact that speaking to Cassidy right now was just a bad idea. Maybe she really was suffering from jet lag this quickly?
I tensed up when I heard her utter something about Georgia—which is where I knew Cassidy was scouting filming locations with our father. Hastily, I reached forward and grasped the dial of the radio, turning it to its maximum volume. Everyone in the car flinched—including me. Turns out Will had a pretty nice stereo.
Addy placed a hand over the mouthpiece of her phone. “What are you doing? I can’t hear her!”
I feigned that I hadn’t heard. “What?”
“I can’t hear—” Addy began to yell back, but stopped when Cass must’ve said something. “What? Oh yeah. . . We’re in the car. . . No, with this guy Will. . . No, he doesn’t. . . Yeah, but. . . No. . . Hey! Stop with the mean words!”
I sighed in relief. Cassidy must’ve been filling Addy in on what a stupid mistake she’d made. Good. Maybe now she’d listen. If there was anyone Addison would really really listen to, it was Cassidy.
The two of them always had this extra special bond I could never comprehend. It had something to do with their eight-year age difference. Addy was Cassidy’s mini-me. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel left out at times.
I peeked over at Will, who seemed to look annoyed. Fearing it was because I’d just burst his ear drums and that he hated me now, I lowered the radio. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to break your hearing.”
As I leaned back in my seat, he said, “Don’t worry, you didn’t.” His arm descended from behind my back to his side. “I’m sick of hearing this song. I have to listen to this band all the time. My sister’s obsessed with them.”
That was easy to assume. Most girls were in love with District Five.
I jutted my finger back towards Addison. “So does she.”
“Guess we both have to deal with annoying little sisters, huh?”
His smile was infectious. I returned it. “She has her moments.”
Will turned his attention back to the road. Feeling like we were safe from suspicion, I tried to relax and listen to the last two bars of the song.
“And that was District Five with ‘In Case You Didn’t Hear’ at number two in your Weekend Hot Song Playlist.” An all too familiar bass line kicked in the background after the DJ’s voice. “Now, for our throwback of the day, this song spent nearly eight consecutive weeks at number one last summer. You know her. You love her. You’re impatiently waiting for her next album to drop. With ‘Forget About It’, here’s Evie Chase.”
My voice poured in with the song’s trademark runs, and I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. Addy squealed in delight, then hummed along to the introduction. Ironically, this was the song I’d written about leaving this place the first time.
Will nudged my shoulder. “Seems like she loves Evie Chase too. So does Morgan. . . and basically everyone else in this town.”
I did my best to play off my nerves. “Oh really?”
“Yeah, it seems like everyone’s obsessed with the whole family. They used to live here a while ago. Maybe two or three years? I don’t know, before we moved here at least. I mean, I get it, they’re successful and everything, but people just care way too much about what they’re up to. And I don’t like getting wrapped up in celebrity stuff. That whole scene. Everything having an angle, an ulterior motive. Nothing’s honest.” He looked back at the dancing Addison. “You into the Chase hype too?”
Even if the words ‘celebrity’ and ‘famous’ had always been off-putting to me, Will’s comments about celebrity culture left me feeling offended. Some things in this new world of mine were dishonest and shady and questionable, but so were a lot of other things in life.
It felt like he’d already written “real me” off before even knowing me.
I wanted to defend myself, but knew that would only get me into a hole I wasn’t sure I could get out of. “No, I’m not.”
Will grinned. “Well, it’s hard to go a day without hearing about Evie Chase in some way, so you’ll end up joining me as one of the odd one’s out at Roosevelt.”
If only I could tell him that wasn’t anything I wasn’t used to. I’d been the odd, quiet girl since first grade.