Publication date: April 4th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult
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Fresh off the success of her teen drama TV series Carolina, California, movie executives want her to headline their blockbusters, and record executives are vying for the chance to release her first solo studio album.
When Mia turns eighteen, she spreads her wings–and makes more mistakes than she can count. What the world doesn’t know is that her mother is much worse than any drug she could shoot into her veins, and despite her best efforts, Mia can’t quiet the screech of her past nor the cacophony of fame.
Until she meets him.
Liam Walker knows all too well what it’s like to fall from grace. A soulful rocker with a one-hit wonder under his belt, he believes in love–and he believes in Mia. He doesn’t know how to save what’s left of his career, but he knows that they belong together. He breathes for her.
If only she would let him in…
The sun shone through sheer curtains, making Jenna’s hair glitter. Her blonde hair was messy, golden strands sticking out every which way. When she smiled at me before scrambling to find her shoe, my heart swelled in my chest.
Jenna stood tall before me in her mix-matched sandals, dirty Outer Banks t-shirt, and flowered leggings. I was sure my heart would burst from my ribcage. She didn’t care about any of the things Mom forced down our throats. I smiled down at her, wanting to remember her this way. Before she cared about stuff like shoes or makeup or hair or what other people thought of her. Before she became me.
I pulled her in for a hug, pressing a kiss on top of her greasy, unwashed head. I didn’t even mind.
She peered up at me strangely and I covered the tender moment with a cough. “Ready to go? I want to--”
Mom’s voice sawed through the moment, but I struggled to ignore her. We were home now. Here, I was just Mia. I wasn’t struggling actress Mia. Or the next big thing (according to my mother) Mia.
She’d been parading me from casting call to casting call, stretching from our house in Eastern North Carolina to Los Angeles. If I had to grin as she loudly proclaimed that I was the most talented one in the room, then proceeded to lose her shit when I wasn’t chosen, I would lose my shit. I just wanted to be a kid. I just wanted to hang out with the little sister I’d hardly seen in the past few months.
Most of my friends could barely tolerate their younger siblings, but I loved Jenna. She marched to the beat of her own drum and looked at the world in such a beautiful, innocent way. There weren’t any kids in our neighborhood, so it was just the two of us and we spent the lazy summer afternoons exploring the woods behind our house. Jenna’s imagination built castles with moats and fire breathing dragons; we accepted top secret spy missions from some faraway Queen. Sometimes we even went on an African safari. Jenna was four years younger but when we played, I shed my eleven year old self. I went to a place where there were no tables lined with people staring at me; staring right through me as they abruptly called for the next girl. A place where I didn’t have to watch my mother’s face go from animated and excited to crestfallen and devastated.
“Mia!” Mom’s voice was louder now. Approaching pissed off.
I hated how Jenna flinched, her bright blue eyes going round. “We don’t have to go, Mia.”
I forced a smile. “Of course we do, silly! I’ve been looking forward to this.”
Almost on cue, the bedroom door swung open and all the happiness was ripped from the room. I turned toward my mother’s angry face. I’d seen pictures, so I knew that once upon a time she was pretty, but now she just looked irritated all the time. Her tanning bed orange skin was stretched over bone and when she smiled, it never reached her gray eyes.
“Mia, I’ve been calling you!” She didn’t even acknowledge Jenna, even though she’d barely said two words to her since we’d been home. “You know I don’t like to be ignored.”
Her skin was the color of tangerines, she had on so much makeup that it literally looked like she was wearing a mask, and she topped it off with a bright pink velour jumpsuit with the word ‘Juicy’ stamped on her butt. Coupled with her nasally voice and need to invade people’s personal space, you couldn’t ignore my mother if you tried.
I gave her a wilting glare. “What is it, Mom?”
Her icy eyes flashed, but she let it slide, clapping her hands together with glee. “I have the best news--we got a callback from Candy Cereals!”
We’d packed so many casting calls in our three day Hollywood trip that all the companies blurred into a technicolor ball of misery.
Mom raised her voice several octaves, mimicking the voice of a breathy little girl. “‘You can’t just have one bite’!”
I grimaced, remembering my least favorite audition. They made me wear a stupid dress and hat, and the man at the center of the table gave me the creeps. He couldn’t stop licking his lips as he watched me.
“So I got a callback? That’s good, right?” I asked, feigning naiveté.
“Good?” Mom frowned with disapproval. “It’s great, Mia! This is your big break!”
I knew I should have been happy. We’d been making these trips as far back as I could remember. But dread knotted my stomach. It was the same dread that gnawed at me while I sat in the waiting room, ticking off the seconds until my name was called for an audition.
This wasn’t my big break. This was going down a rabbit hole I’d never climb back out of.
I looked down at Jenna, unable to bear my mother’s joy for one more second. Jenna was beaming up at me. So proud.
Her big blue eyes cut over to Mom. I didn’t miss the fact that her smile dimmed slightly. “Can I go, Mama?”
Mom shifted her gaze to my sister with an eye roll. “Don’t be silly, Jenna. This is work, not a vacation.” Her lips curled into the snarl she wore if anyone stood in our way or threatened the big plans she had for me. “Besides,” she said after a moment, “You’re going on your own adventure.”
Jenna’s face brightened. “I am?”
“You’ll be spending your summer vacation at the Wells Home.”
I frowned. That name sounded familiar. I tried to place it, putting together pieces of memories. Glossy pamphlets rushed to mind and when it all clicked together, I saw red. “You’re not sending Jenna to fat camp!”
Jenna’s face fell and my heart splintered into a million tiny pieces.I’d give anything to take the F word back. Mom had all but said the word herself: soft, chunky, healthy, plump. The synonyms bounced off Jenna, but ‘fat’ pierced right through her childlike bubble. She knew what that word meant.
I kneeled down to Jenna’s level. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”
“Of course she does,” Mom scoffed like that was the most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard. She turned on her heels, refusing to entertain my insolence for one more second. “You’re not unpacked yet, are you? Be ready to go in ten minutes.”
I was fuming, glaring at the spot she had stood at long after she was gone. The idea of running away raced through my mind, but Jenna darting to her closet and lugging out her suitcase put an end to that train of thought. I’d never leave her.
I gave Dad a lackluster hug, then slid into the passenger seat of our beat up minivan. I inherited his olive skin and sky blue eyes, but that’s where our similarities ended. He let Mom walk all over him. He did her bidding without question. I wanted to shake him, tell him that Jenna was special; that she deserved to be a kid and not carted off to some stupid fat camp. But he just smiled, and robotically pecked my forehead with a kiss.
“Ready to go?” Mom asked rhetorically, starting the minivan. Ready or not, we were headed back on the road. Hurtling toward her destiny for me.
I cast a final look at Jenna’s room. Her face was pressed against the glass. Even smushed and distorted, I saw the spark in her eyes. Something innocent and precious that would be snuffed out the next time I saw her.
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