Famous for a Week

Chapter 1: Fame is Blind, Deaf, and Missing a Leg

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The definition of an idol is any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion. In the case of Jake McLaughlin, it was almost certainly blind. And deaf. And missing a Leg.

At least that's my opinion. Not that anyone cares.

Jacob "Jake" McLaughlin, singer-slash-model-slash-actor, is the offspring of the late fashion-model, Aimee Benetta, and the owner of a prestigious music label, Henry McLaughlin (McLaughlin Records). I guess his success seems a bit doubtful, being that his dad owns his record company and all.

You've probably seen him — he's been on the cover of several magazines, not to mention a few guest appearances in some of those daytime Disney dramas — and his band's (Rebel's) new CD "Darkest Desire" is available in most record stores. If they aren't sold out, that is.

I don't even think the band is even that good. They're way too derivative, for one thing. I mean, they call themselves Rebel, for God's sake! Is it possible to be any more obvious? They tried to gain some points back in their favor by changing the way it's pronounced (Ray-Belle), but it totally is not happening. It looks like a desperate attempt to score some class, which it is.

Other people (meaning fifteen year-old girls like me) don't seem to think so — but then again, do they ever? Think, I mean. Obviously, if they can stand to listen to "Darkest Desire" for all seventeen tortuous minutes, they don't. (The lyrics go something like, I saw you in Hot Topic wearing Converse/It's a bad curse/I can't be with you/But I sure as hell cannot forget you)

But here's where Jake pulls his trump card in the scene: he happens to be pretty good-looking. Okay; really, really ridiculously good-looking, in that "I spend all my free time brooding about the futility of my life on the high road" kind of way. I mean, have you seen some of those scene rockers? Stick a guitar in Chewbacca's claws and you've pretty much got Iron & Wine.

Jake, on the other hand, has black (dyed) hair with blue highlights that you can't see, except in direct light. This is in direct contrast to his skin which has an unhealthy, vampire-like pallor — the kind that results from too much partying of the late-night variety. His eyes are a shade of brown many girls delight in calling "warm," which is the same color and consistency as a turd, in case they haven't noticed. But I really don't think they have, because in spite of his turd-brown eyes, there is no end to the fluff-filled fan clubs in circulation, full of singing praise and frantic pining for his sexy bad-boy self.

And you might think, who am I to judge? I'm not famous (obviously), and must have no life if I have all this time to obsess over this guy I've never met, and probably never will. What makes his chosen career path my business?

Here's why. It is 8:37. I am two minutes late for school. Since we are too young to drive, we have to walk to school — and my friends are stalled, drooling at his 2D visage. Their breath is fogging up the glossy 14 x 8 paper they used to print it out. I don't know why the poster guy chose the exact moment we were walking by to paste HIS likeness to the wall of the civic center. But I hate him for it.

At 8:40 I tuck my cell phone in my pocket. "Um. We should probably get going, guys. We're really late. For school. Haven't you had your eye-full, yet?"

Lizzie pulls her eyes away from the poster long enough to check her watch. Then she double-takes. "Oh my god. It's that late already? I completely lost track of time. He's just so . . ." She breaks off, shaking her head and sighs. My other friend, April, seems to agree because she sighs as well, but obediently turns away from the poster.

"I could gaze at him forever."

"There's posters of him all over town," I point out, "You have pictures of him in your binder. So why do we have to stop in the middle of the sidewalk and gaze at him some more?"

"Because he's there," Lizzie states.

"So is that stick," I say, pointing, "So is that dog turd – but we don't stand around gazing at those."

"You are not comparing Jake McLaughlin to a dog turd." Lizzie gives me a very dark look. If only she knew. I quickly decide that she probably shouldn't.

"Well, if you ogle him any harder, that poster is going to burst into flame," I say. "Give him a rest."

"Come on you guys," April says, quickly stepping between us, nearly knocking me out with the key-chain cluster on her backpack. "We are late. Can we argue later?"

We were late ten minutes ago. Now, if we do not get our butts into our respective classes in twenty minutes, we will all receive cuts. If an argument breaks out, there is no doubt in my mind that that will happen and I really don't need that phone call. Things are a little sketchy at home right now because my geek twin brother threw a party for all his little geek friends when he knew mom and dad would be out. And I got stuck with some of the blame. Not fair.

So I knew what his intentions were and all. And I honestly intended to tell mom and dad about it as soon as I heard the news. I mean, I don't want his geek friends hanging around the house any more than they do. Believe me. But then he said that if I revealed his plot, he'd tell my ex, Michael, exactly what I thought of him.

Which doesn't sound that bad. But I said some pretty mean things about him; like how I thought he was a greasy creep (which he is), and that I broke up with him because I couldn't imagine myself spending another moment around him — let alone kissing him. And despite being the truth, when you word it in those shocking terms, there isn't a lot you can say . . . except "party on".

But I don't think there's going to be any parties at the Parks' place for a long time. Because Robert and I are both on serious probation. Code Red.

So, for those reasons, I swallow down the anti-Jake spiel and meekly follow my friends out of Main Street, towards Glendale Academy. Well those reasons, and also the fact that I'm slightly out of breath.

It's a long walk. And on this path, you can't even access it by car. After you get past the civic center the road disintegrates into dirt and you find yourself with a river on one side, and some small low-budget housing on the other.

I don't know why they made it so hard to get into. No roads. Twisty pathways. And the "entry only" front gate. You'd think Glendale was some kind of private estate. It's not even a private school. This is a common misconception due to the fact that a) we have to wear uniforms, b) the workload is hard (honestly, it's like they think we're Honors students or something), and c) there are on-campus security guards. Well, rent-a-cops, actually. But I'm pretty sure that they think they're security guards.

Principal Greaves says the guards (I mean cops) are there for our 'safety'. Because, apart from dying of boredom, our lives are so totally endangered at school, right? It's no secret that he's really concerned about gang activity, vandals, and freshmen hopping the wire fences at lunch time so they can go eat at Aloha Burger.

I suppose it would be pretty easy to pull the wool over some easily-believing parent's eyes. Especially with the weekly e-mails sent home informing parents of the lunches, important dates, and our grades. It says 'honesty'; We'll give you the lowdown on your kids, telling you everything they won't. Which is pretty unfortunate, if you ask me. No more shucking that report card into the recycle bin.

I can only imagine what it would be like if I was actually attending a public school. My dad would probably bust a capillary when he paid the tuition fee but, on the flip side, the kids would probably have enough pocket money that they'd be willing to buy my commissions.

I mean, it was bad enough that we had to buy the uniforms. The skirt looks vaguely like a mauve and green kilt, except ugly. The blouse is white, covered in winter by a thick gray blazer with mauve accents. Since it's spring, I can wear the shorter skirt without the blazer. Still, it is very hard to run in a skirt. Which is what I'm doing now because I'm really, really late for World History.

"I can see the school," Lizzie gasps, like this is something to be happy about.

"Can we make it in eight minutes?" April wheezes. She looks exhausted and I feel a little bad for her, because I know she's probably going to need to take a few hits on her inhaler after this. After running a few steps, her breathing gets as loud as an ironworks factory.

"It's seven minutes now," I say, checking my cell phone.

I really don't think I'll be able to make it to the second floor. But I also really don't want that cut. Although at this point it's pretty tempting to just head over to Seven-Eleven and buy an icee. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I manage a "maybe" and try to pick up speed.

One of the guards is trolling around the entry gate, but stops when she sees us. "You kids are late."

"We know," I say, before Lizzie can open her mouth. "We're sorry."

"Get to class," she says, "Before I give each of you a demerit."

"That was close," Aprils says. She looks freaked. This is about as close to juvenile delinquency as she has ever come.

"I wonder what they do for fun," Lizzie mutters, "I mean, they're out here all day."

I shrug, because I don't really care. And it is a little freaky to think about. I mean, no one wants to think that the oppressors of their freedom are actually just ordinary people who like to prop their feet up on the couch and watch TV. I suspect the guard who just intercepted us has a taste for Law and Order.

April peels off at the C block to her precal class (which resembles a foreign language more than it does actual math). I lose Lizzie on the first floor of B, to English.

I climb the stairs, bitterly resenting the architect that though it was a good idea to save space by stacking buildings on top of each other. The stairwell is completely empty, devoid of the usual chattering groups, and it's kind of nice not to worry about anyone looking up and seeing my underwear.

By the time I get to B-20, my class has finished with attendance and is now working on some kind of worksheet. Or at least, they were until I came in. Now they are all staring. At me.

Mr. Hartman looks up from his computer screen, just in time to see me sneaking to my seat. "Jessica. Thank you for deciding to join us." There are a few giggles, which he ignores. I can feel my face heating up. "Rather nice timing. Two more minutes, and you would have gotten a cut."

"I know . . ." Please, please just let me get to my seat and work. I'm still standing up and my book bag feels impossibly heavy. Gravity does weird things after you've run for half a mile and climbed up a whole flight of stairs, only to be stared at by sixty sets of eyes.

"Why are you so late, Jessica?"

Shudder. Icky full name.

"I—uh—" I pause, trying to think of an excuse. Doctor's appointment. No. The truth? Definitely not. Car trouble? For a minute I consider saying that Brittany (my older sister) drove me to school and her car broke down (and it would, because it's a scrapheap on wheels), but then I remember just in time that Brittany, unlike me, is never late. "I, uh, overslept."

The lameness of this is overwhelming. I might as well have said "the cat ate my excuse note."

"I see." Mr. Hartman's eyebrows knot together as he glances at the clock. They look like gray caterpillars crawling across his forehead. His eyebrows, I mean. "Well, you did make it before the cut mark . . . See me after class for a make-up assignment and in the future, please set your alarm clock."

And that is how Jake McLaughlin personally ruined my day.

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Author's Note: I don't own any brands you might recognize. And I mean no personal offense towards Samuel Beam. I think Iron & Wine is lovely. :)