My name is Pat Evans, though the world knows me as Patrick McGregor. I am sixteen years old, and have been acting since before I was born. I'm not kidding; my mother found out she was pregnant with me while she was filming Trouble with Tommy. My mother has been acting since she was three years old. By the time she was my age, she had stared in more films than she could count.
She's not the only celebrity in our family. Her father is a well-known Broadway producer with over ten Tony awards. My grandmother has several as well for her costume designs. Three of their six children work on Broadway, as well as a few of my older cousins. My mother's youngest brother plays bass guitar for the Grammy award-winning group CAVEmen, where my father is the lead guitarist.
With my family tree, it's no wonder I have spent my entire life in the spotlight. My older sister and I have starred in over twenty movies each. Last year, a national magazine voted me the Most Recognizable Face in Hollywood.
But, it isn't always easy being a celebrity. Sometimes, I just want to be a normal guy.
Chapter 1: Homesick
I couldn't help but admire the view as I drove through the Hartfield campus. The sights in Hawaii had been spectacular and vibrant, but they couldn't compare to autumn in Northern Connecticut. While I was away, the leaves on the trees had begun changing to brilliant reds and oranges, although there was still plenty of green mixed in.
Stopping at the intersection, I watched students wandering along the paths as they returned from Long Weekend. I longed to join them, swapping stories and just enjoying a normal life.
I sighed as I parked the car behind the dining hall. "Man, I missed this place."
"It's a school, Pat." I could hear the bitterness in my sister's voice as she opened her door.
"You don't miss it?"
"Homework? SATs? Dining hall food?" Meghan shook her head, her auburn braid dancing across her back. "Not at all. I'm enjoying being on my own. At least, I was," she muttered as she slammed the door.
My brother climbed out from the backseat. "Okay, I'm here. Can you guys please leave now?"
Meghan sighed in a tired tone. "Walter, we've been through this. We're having lunch with you before we leave."
"I just don't want anyone to see me with you." We knew. He had been whining about it ever since we left Granny and Pop-Pop's house over three hours ago.
I popped the trunk. "Do you want to bring your bags to your dorm? Or would you rather we help you?" It was an empty threat. I had no intention of lugging my brother's things when he was perfectly capable of carrying them himself.
He grumbled, grabbing his duffel and backpack. "I can do it myself. I'll meet up with you guys inside."
I watched Walter travel along the path towards the third-form boys' dorm. He wasn't so little anymore, I had to remind myself. He was a freshman now; this was his school, too. I just wished he'd grow up and stop being so embarrassed about being seen with us.
My sister and I headed towards the dining hall, where someone called my name from the doorway. "Pat Evans! Are you back, dude?"
"Hey, Jelani." We bumped fists. The guy had been in my chemistry class last year, but we weren't close friends. "Nah, I'm still filming. Hoping to be back by Halloween."
"Fantastic. Good to see you, Meghan." Jelani waved before disappearing to the dormitories upstairs.
"This place never changes." I looked around as we entered the dining hall. I couldn't quite explain it, but something about the dark wood and large fireplace gave the room an old-fashioned comfort that made this place feel like home. We crossed the senior section, still relatively empty, in silence.
When we entered the servery, Meghan stood almost frozen, looking at the different options. I walked up beside her, placing an arm around her shoulder. It was easy to do, since I had several inches on her. I squeezed her gently as I spoke in a low voice only she could hear.
"Shut up." She rolled her eyes and walked away testily.
"Hey, Pat. You back?"
I turned, smiling when I recognized who had called me. "Hey, Bethany. Not yet. Just visiting."
"Did you get my physics notes?"
"You are a lifesaver." I placed both my hands above my head and bowed. "I owe you big time. My on-set tutor is clueless and had no idea how to do any of the experiments."
"No problem. So, am I supposed to be sending you data all year, or…?"
I laughed. "Nah. I'm hoping to be back before the end of term."
Bethany returned my smile. "Just checking. Catch you later." She headed out of the dining hall while I went to get a cheeseburger.
Meghan and I sat in the somewhat isolated smaller section of the dining hall, Walter finding us easily. In his typical gluttonous fashion, he placed an overloaded tray on the table, then disappeared back into the servery. When he returned, there was a girl following him.
Ever since Walter returned to school last month, he and I had texted almost daily, video chatting at least once a week. Nearly every conversation since starting Hartfield had involved a friend named Melinda. Although he denied it adamantly, I suspected he might have a crush on her. While we were in Long Island this past weekend, he mentioned a girlfriend named Bella, but a guy can have more than one crush, right?
I wasn't sure why, but as I watched Walter approach the table, I began to hope this adorable girl was the mysterious friend. Her beautiful brown eyes were wide with shock and I knew instantly Walter had not prepared her for meeting us. Walter gestured absently in her ddirection, clearly oblivious to his friend's discomfort.
"This is Melinda. She's the one who makes me do my homework. Melinda, this is my brother, Pat, and my sister, Meghan."
"Nice to meet you." I braced myself for the inevitable scream.
"Um, hi." The girl didn't scream. She spoke quietly as she put her tray down near Walter's and busied herself with her sandwich, glancing surreptitiously at us, but obviously trying not to stare.
Okay. What was going on? That kind of behavior unnerved me. I took another bite of my cheeseburger as I tried to figure it out. Girls were supposed to be fawning all over me. At least until they got used to me. I'm not saying I wanted her to be a super annoying fan girl. But, it was really weird that she wasn't.
Melinda looked at Meghan. "So, are you feeling any better?"
Meghan glared at her. "Why? What'd you hear? I didn't try to kill myself."
I was about to chastise my sister for her rudeness, but Melinda responded before I could open my mouth.
"Oh, I know you didn't. It was your blood sugar, right? Walter tried to explain it to me, but I got confused. He was really worried about you, you know. Did you know he stopped by the church to pray for you on his way home?"
I turned to my brother. "Oh, wait. Is this the Weddas girl?" I already knew the answer, but I had this uncontrollable need to bring the attention back to myself. I wasn't sure why. Besides, I figured since Walter was turning red, he wouldn't mind me changing the subject.
Walter nodded, taking another large bite of his burger. "Buh, shh duh-in no bough a yeh."
I covered my eyes with one hand, shaking my head with a sigh. I know Walter said this girl was one of his best friends, but would it hurt him to use at least some manners?
"Walter!" Meghan sounded thoroughly grossed out. "Don't talk with your mouth full! It's rude and no one understands you."
Melinda smiled. "He said: But she doesn't know about it yet."
I laughed uproariously. Could this girl be any cuter? I thought I was the only one who understood Walter when he spoke with food in his mouth. When I finally caught my breath, I turned to Walter. "Can I tell her?"
He nodded and I turned to his girlfriend. "So, our parents made up this board game ages ago. It's great for vocabulary building. Walter mentioned you sometimes had trouble with new words, so he brought it back for you guys to play. Dorky, huh?"
Did I really just use the word dorky? No one says that anymore! What was I thinking? I saw Meghan raise an eyebrow at me as Walter took up the conversation. But then, Melinda was talking to me.
"So, are you back at school now? Walter said you wouldn't finish your movie until Halloween."
"Well, we're a little ahead of schedule, which is literally unheard of in the movie business, but yeah, I probably won't be back for another few weeks at least. We're flying out late tonight, but Meghan and I wanted to bring Walter back to campus, see if anything's changed since June."
Melinda smiled politely at me, then stood with her tray.
"Well, it was nice meeting you guys. Have a safe trip." I watched her head to the dish room before turning back to my brother.
Walter turned red. "We're just friends." Although he sounded insistant, I had seen him light up when he brought her to the table. She was so down to earth, I knew he had made a fantastic friend. I just hoped he didn't screw it up.
We bussed our trays and brought them to the dishroom. Walter's friend must have been walking slowly. We met up with her at the back stairs and she walked out of the building with us.
"I'll walk you guys to the car," Walter offered.
I waved him off. "Nah. We know the way."
Walter hugged Meghan and I could hear him whisper in her ear. "Take care of yourself."
He hugged me next. "Be safe."
Melinda waved at us as Walter joined her. "Nice to meet you."
As we walked towards the car, I looked over my shoulder to see my brother talking animatedly with his girlfriend as they headed towards the dorms. Part of me longed to join them.
The ride back to Long Island was relatively silent. I was pretty sure Meghan was dreading going back to her New York City apartment, where Mom was going to be her new roommate until Meghan learned to control her diabetes better. Meanwhile, I kept thinking about Walter's adorable little friend. She hadn't acted like a crazy fan. She had treated me like a normal person. Half my classmates still couldn't do that, and I was in my third year at the school. Well, I would be when I finished shooting the movie.
The flight to Hawaii was long. I slept most of the way. We left Connecticut around ten at night. We landed in Moloka'i twelve hours later at four am. I hated changing time zones.
During the flight, Dad talked about bringing the band to work on some new stuff. By the time we landed, most of the details had been worked out. Musicians tended to work best in the middle of the night. At least the ones in my family did.
There weren't a lot of houses to rent on the island, and the movie people had taken up most of a small hotel. So, Dad asked if I minded Uncle Vinny and his family staying with us. I told him I honestly didn't care. I spent most of my day on the set, anyway.
When the movie began shooting back in August, Walter had been around to joke around with between takes, to hang out with at night. When he went back to school, I felt like I had lost my best friend. Visiting for his long weekend made returning to Hawaii even harder, since most of our brother bonding time had been spent in the hospital with Meghan. I hadn't realized how much I missed home until I was back on location.
The first few days back were rough. I had trouble remembering what day it was. I didn't even bother doing my schoolwork. I spent most of our school time reviewing my lines. The tutor didn't care. She was fresh out of college with a degree in early education. She told me on our first day that she didn't understand my course load and wouldn't be much help.
I didn't mind. I had been homeschooled for eight years. I knew how to work independently. I had my own room in the school trailer and just had to show my tutor my progress every so often. And take tests in front of her. It was a great arrangement. I really liked my independence.
Wednesday morning, when I was supposed to be doing schoolwork, I texted Walter good luck on your game. A few minutes later, his smiling face filled my screen.
"It's not even lunchtime."
"No, its five o' clock."
"Stupid time zones. How'd you do?"
"We won. My friend Larry scored a touchdown. I made some great tackles."
"Nice. I'm hoping I can get back before the season's over, see you play. How're things with your girlfriend?"
"Pretty good. We're going to the movies Sunday with some other friends. It's a group thing. Melinda's got a guy from town she wants to bring."
"You look angry."
"I'm not jealous!"
"I didn't say you were."
"No, Sarah did."
I raised my eyebrows. "Sarah?"
Walter shook his head. "Not important. I'm not jealous. It's just, she had such a bad time with the last guy. I feel like I have to look out for her, you know?"
"Like when Meghan dated Jarrod?"
I nodded. "So, did she like Weddas?"
"It'll grow on her," Walter smiled. We chatted for a few minutes before I was called to the set.
Thursday was a really long day. It was the day I had to kiss Hana. I was glad there were only three kissing scenes in the entire movie. This was the first we would film. The director had waited until the end of the shoot to film these scenes. He wanted us to get comfortable working with each other first.
I have always hated screen kisses. It's just so weird kissing while everyone's watching me. Then again, kissing's just weird period. Smushing my lips against hers? Chloe said I was supposed to feel something when I kiss a girl, but I never have. Just bored.
It took nearly twenty takes to get the scene right. The director kept saying we had no chemistry. Of course we didn't. Eventually, I realized the problem. I pulled my costar over between takes.
"Hana? Are you kissing Patrick or Kevin?"
"I'm kissing you, moron." She rolled her eyes, but I had no idea what she was trying to tell me.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. You need to be Akari. Get inside her head. Akari is kissing Kevin. Hana isn't kissing Pat."
Hana looked at me for a moment. "I've never done this before. Kissed on screen. It's so different!"
I nodded. Other than the audience, I wasn't sure what made it so different. By the time we finally finished the scene, I wanted to know why everyone was making such a big deal about kissing.
I sought out Frankie. He was Meghan's age, so I figured he would probably know something about the subject. I found him signing with the ASL interpreter on the set.
"Hey," I signed when he saw me. "Got a minute?"
He nodded and signed in return. "What's up?"
I inclined my head. "Come help me with my homework." He shrugged, but followed me to the school trailer. In my classroom, he collapsed on the couch and I straddled my chair facing him.
"I have a girl question," I signed. Frankie gestured that I should continue. "I just did a scene with Hana. I had to kiss her. You ever do a stage kiss?"
Frankie shook his head. "I never had lead roles in school plays. Spent most of my time backstage." That didn't surprise me. Frankie was more interested in directing than acting.
"So, kissing is weird. Okay. Last week, a friend of mine kissed me."
"Sorta. We were in New York City. Her place."
Frankie wiggled his eyebrows. "Alone?"
"She had stopped by the hospital to see Meghan. You saw the tabloids?"
Frankie nodded. "How's she doing?"
"She has…" I swore, both in English and ASL, then spelled out diabetes.
Frankie smiled and showed me the sign. I practiced it a few times until I knew it, then continued.
"Meghan has diabetes. She wasn't taking care of herself. She's better now, sorta. My mom's living with her for a few weeks. Anyway, our friend Chloe came to visit. I walked her home."
"Does it matter?"
Frankie shrugged. "Just trying to paint a picture."
I smiled. "She's gorgeous. Should be a supermodel. Anyway, she was feeling really down and lonely. Kissed me to see what happened."
"She said she didn't feel anything."
"That's just it. I didn't realize I was even supposed to feel something. Is that a girl thing?"
Frankie shook his head. "No."
"Well, what am I supposed to feel?"
Frankie stood up. "I can't describe it, man. You'll just know. I gotta get back. You good?"
I nodded and we bumped fists before he left. At least he had answered one of my questions. I was supposed to be feeling something. I just wished I knew what that was.
That night, I just wanted to chillax by the pool. Maybe swim some laps. Try to figure out this whole kissing thing. But my eleven-year-old cousin Julie kept following me around the house like a lost puppy, asking me questions. She had been to the set one day last week, and she wanted know when she could visit again.
Her father was a rock star, so I knew Julie could keep her cool around celebrities. I also knew I didn't want her visiting the set on a day I was filming a kissing scene. It was weird enough having Hana's mother on the set. My aunt and little cousin? Definitely not. I tried to get rid of her while I searched for a snack.
"I'm not sure, Jules. Can I get back to you on that?"
"Do all the actors go in every day? All the kids, I mean."
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Do you have a lot of scenes with Tommy?"
"Not too much. His scenes are pretty much with Hana and Matt."
I grabbed a soda. Did I want pineapple again or some banana chips? I could really go for pizza. Whose idea was it ot only buy local foods?
"Do you guys hang out? Like when you're not filming?"
"Kinda. Not really."
"Oh. I was kind of hoping I could come hang out with you guys."
"Don't you have schoolwork to do?"
"We're on vacation this week. So maybe I can come tomorrow?"
"Will Tommy be on set tomorrow?"
Click! She had a little crush. It was kind of cute. I had to help her. "Yeah. I'll introduce you."
"OMG! That would be so cool!"
Apparently, that was how to get her to leave me alone. Ifound some leftover manapua and threw it in the microwave. I sent some texts to Walter and Meghan knowing it was the middle of the night on the east coast. I just really missed my family. I took my food to my room to review my lines.
The next day, Julie was awake and dressed when I got in from my morning run. "When are we leaving?" she asked.
"I've got school in the morning. I'll tell your mom to bring you by around noon, okay?"
Julie bounced away as I dove into the pool. My morning run wasn't enough to clear my head lately. As I swam laps, I thought about today's scenes. I ran through my lines in my head. I knew most of them, although I would refresh my memory during makeup this morning.
Julie got to the set right after lunch. I was just starting a scene with Tommy. I hadn't seen him much that day. I had been working with Hana before homework time and he had been filming with her while I was studying.
We managed to shoot the scene in ten takes. The director gave us a quick break while he reviewed the film, and I went to visit my cousin and aunt.
"Hey," I greeted them with a smile. "Having fun?"
Aunt Margaret nodded, but Julie wasn't listening to me. She was looking past me to where Tommy was standing with his mother. A girl about Julie's age was standing with them. I saw Tommy take her hand and start leading her around the set.
I saw tears in Julie's eyes and tried to cheer her up. "Hey. Why don't we go for a walk on the beach? I need some new shells."
Tommy and his girlfriend ended up on the beach as well. Even though they were only eleven, the girl reminded me of one of my exes. She held his hand the entire time they were together. Any question I overheard was about filming the movie. I never once heard Tommy answering a personal question.
The director liked what he had seen and moved on to shoot a scene with Matt and Tommy. I was supposed to use my time to do my homework, but I was almost caught up, so I stayed with Julie and Aunt Margaret. I'd finish it tomorrow.
The scene took a long time. Tommy's mother kept correcting his Japanese pronunciation. Matt had to wait for the ASL interpreter to sign whatever the director was saying. While they were filming, Tommy's girlfriend tried to make friends with Julie.
"Hi! I'm Paige." She stuck out a hand.
My cousin shook it reluctantly, her voice like ice. "Julie."
"Tommy's my boyfriend. Who're you with?"
She pointed in my direction. "My cousin."
"OMG! Patrick McGregor!" Her shriek was loud enough to have the director turning in our direction.
"Patrick! Off the set!"
I nodded and led the way to the craft food tent. Unfortunately, the annoying little girlfriend wouldn't leave and she babbled the entire time.
"OMG. Can I have your autograph? Wait 'til everyone at school hears I met Patrick McGregor. Can I take a selfie with you? No one's gonna believe me."
I sighed. This was the kind of behavior I expected from girls. My mind drifted to Walter's friend, the one who had treated me differently. I wondered how she would react if she were here. I was willing to bet she would be looking at the amazing beach, the breathtaking flora. Maybe she would comment on the delicious food or the way people interacted with each other. I doubted she would be fawning over the celebrities. I resolved that if she and Walter were still friends the next time I filmed a movie, I would definitely invite her to the set.