One: Riley

So, my life has recently turned into a Katie Holmes movie (aside from The Gift, which is just disturbing). It's a little pathetic, really unrealistic, and alarmingly cliche.

I happen to be (guess from the title) a cross-dresser. I don't know how it happened, but it did . . . and now the world thinks that I'm a guy.

Life goal achieved.

It started with my best friend, Cracker, who had wanted to go shopping on that wintry summer day . . .

"Where's global warming when you need it?" I complained to Cracker, squinting up at the nonexistent sun. "It's summer, for heaven's sake. Would it really be that bad if the sun came out every once in a while?"

Cracker shrugged. "Dunno," she said, then squealed and pointed. "Ohmigod, ohmigod, it's my favorite band, Riley. Holy shit, holy shit, ohmigod!" Cracker dissolved into giggles like a madwoman.

"A poster?" I said. "You start hyperventilating when you see posters of Hotel? Cracker, tell me you're joking."

Cracker just giggled again.

To get things cleared up, Cracker isn't her real name. She was born Persephone Williams, but she hates the name and so does everyone under thirty. She got the nickname "Cracker" from me, because the first time I'd met her, I had though she was on, well, crack. And "Crack-cocaine" hadn't been a school-appropriate name, so we'd modified it to Cracker.

"Oh my god, I just love looking at their faces," sighed Cracker dreamily. She pointed a manicured finger at the poster. "And their name is so random and so weird, but I'm so into it."

"Probably because you want to do it with them in a hotel."

"Yeah." She sighed dreamily again. I forced myself to keep a straight face. "I need to have one of those posters. Like, I need to. Like, actually."

I stepped closer for further examination and turned around to smirk at her. "You want an audition poster? That's kind of rock-bottom, don't you think?"

"It is not." She smiled and pressed her nose against the glass to examine the advertisement. "Hmm. Brody looks really hot in this picture. It's a good angle." She smoothed her hair down. "God, just thinking about him gives me the chills. In a good way." To emphasize her point, Cracker shivered dramatically.

I rolled my eyes and read the fine print. "Huh, they want another band member. That's weird," I said. "But hey, if only it'd been an audition for 'fangirl.' You would've been perfect."

"'Requirements,'" Cracker read aloud. "'Good voice, dancing ability, and decent GPA." Her eyes twinkled as she turned to face me. "I might not be eligible, but you are."

I shot her a disbelieving look. "Right. Except for the inconsequential fact that this is a boy band, and that I'm not a boy. Unless you're insinuating something?"

Her eyes twinkled. "No, no, this would be the perfect chance to do something super exciting and super awesome. Riley, you could totally be a cross-dresser."

I choked.

So here I was, ten days later, at the audition site. Cracker had chopped my dark brown hair short and dressed me in a T-shirt two sizes too large (not that it was necessary—I had the chest of a twelve year-old boy), along with guys' skinny jeans. Which were super not-skinny.

Crack had gone for the latest Bieber haircut and erased my face completely of makeup. She had then given me a thumbs up and smiled, like she wasn't absolutely insane, and shoved me into a taxi without further ado. We had laughed our asses off when she practically shaved my head, and I'd been sure that I looked more like a lesbian than a man. I had not thought that she would actually make me audition.

"Name?" the man at the front of the line said.

"Riley Kim," I said. I tried to use a deep voice; I ended up sounding retarded. (But male.)

"You're number 364," he said, yawning. Clearly, he had found his passion in life. "Move up."

After what seemed like a decade, it was my turn. I shuffled up front in my oversized T-shirt, not-so-skinny skinny jeans, and Nike hi-tops and crooked the three boys sitting in chairs a half-smile. "Hey. My name is Riley."

"Hey, Riley," all three said in unison. My left eyebrow twitched, wanting to raise itself, but I forced it down.

I stuffed my hands in my pockets. "So, what d'you want me to do?"

The three boys exchanged looks, and I wondered if I'd said something wrong. They whispered among themselves, then seemed to come to a decision. One of them spoke up. "Sing 'Your Song,' please."

"Um," I said. "By Elton John?"

"Yeah, who else?" snapped a boy with maroon hair. I recalled Cracker talking about a band member who dyed his hair every month. Apparently it was maroon this month—I wondered what his normal hair was. He looked like a blonde.

It took me a few seconds to realize that the whole of the boy band was staring at me like I was an idiot. Which was what I felt like when I realized that I'd just been standing there. I sighed and pushed my newly cropped hair back. "Uh, sorry." I started singing "Your Song" by Elton John once I'd gotten the right pitch to start on. I was careful not to sound too much like a girl when I sang, but halfway into the song, I thought, Screw it, and focused on my voice. It wasn't like they could just come out and accuse me of having a uterus.

When I finished, the three boys sat back, saying nothing. Even the maroon-haired one had nothing to say.

I didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

What I did take a good sign was when the boys started clapping. The one that Cracker liked best—Brody, I think—started clapping first. Then came the unidentified boy that I hadn't thought up a nickname for. Then came Maroon Hair.

Why didn't it surprise me that Maroon Hair started clapping last and stopped clapping first?

No-Nickname-Yet Boy grinned at me. "I don't know if you'll make it through the cuts of next audition, but as of now, you're looking pretty good."

I looked down at my beat-up Nikes and grinned. "Thanks."

"One more thing," Maroon Hair interjected. "Two things, actually. The first thing is, can you perform a random dance routine for us? Doesn't matter which. I'll ask you the second later."

I gave him a thumbs up and flashed back to tenth grade. I'd been in a dance crew contest then, we'd done a routine to "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO. If only I could remember what it'd been . . .

Oh, right. Now it was coming back to me. I stood with my back to the band members of Hotel, imagining the beat of "Party Rock Anthem" in my head.

Thirty or so minutes later, Maroon Hair looked extremely annoyed. It was like he wanted me to be a heroin addict, and not a stand-up citizen.

"GPA?" he pressed.

"Three-point-eight," I said. He must really not want me on the band. Then: Or maybe he's just a dick.

Maroon Hair crossed his arms, glowering. "Instruments?"

I ticked the instruments I'd played/still played off on my fingers. "Guitar, drums, piano," I said, fighting a smile when I saw Maroon's disappointment. "And I quit violin after middle school."

"Wipe the smirk off your face!" Maroon Hair said sharply. I trembled with barely contained laughter and tried yet again to force my smirk into nonexistence. Once again, I failed.

I decided to resort to my fingers. I grabbed the edge of my mouth and pushed my quirked lips down. That was better.

The other two boys of the Hotel looked ready to die of laughter. They were already rolling in their seats, laughing so hard that you couldn't even hear them. They'd been doing that for the past twenty minutes, in which Maroon Hair had gone Spanish Inquisition on me, his questions ranging from "favorite kind of ice cream?" to "blondes or brunettes?"

The last question had been just a little uncomfortable, but I'd shrugged and said, "Asians are more my thing." Which was true. I liked hitting on Asian boys. Just not girls.

Maroon Hair sighed. "Ugh. I can't find anything wrong with him," he muttered to the other two band boys. "I think we're gonna have to let him into the next audition."

There was another audition?

Something hit Maroon Hair, and he grinned, turning to face me. "Name all of us in thirty seconds."

I said the first things that registered in my brain. Word barf was what Cracker called it. "Uh, Brody, Maroon Hair, and nnny-you," I blurted, then covered my mouth.

Nickname-less (i.e., "nnyou") and Brody cracked up again. Maroon Hair gave me an are-you-serious look. I gave him my a cheesy smile and held up two peace signs with my hands.

"Murder me now," muttered Maroon Hair.

"Gladly," I muttered right back.