Chapter 7.8

James

Little Cheyenne meant the world to me. And when the school called me on the set of my newest film, I didn’t hesitate. Nothing could keep me away.

After the meeting in the camp director’s office, Cheyenne, in tears, told me she had to clean the cafeteria after the students ate. I felt helpless.

But one thing I’d learned in the industry was that rubbing elbows always helped.

So here I sat with the camp director herself. I guessed the counselors grabbed a bite after the kids were finished.

“Thanks again for coming today, Mr. Sanderson. Just having you here, supporting our camp is pretty surreal,” Mrs. Martin said, almost bursting. At least it seemed she was a fan. That might help me in getting Cheyenne some brownie points.

What she didn’t know was my ex was one of her camp counselors. That was how I’d found out about the camp in the first place and passed it on to Liam who’d told Chey.

Putting on the charm, I responded, “Of course. Your camp is world renown. I’d wished I’d attended back in the day.”

“Well, we do have history. Did you know Swish Hemswort went here? He credits the camp for his success.”

Swish was one of my co-stars in the Vindicator series. Younger than me and way more handsome, that little factoid did nothing to appease me. Although according to Sims STAR Magazine, my star had more power than his, I could feel it waning by the second.

“So, I’m honestly not believing my little darling Cheyenne would have the moxy to hit another child. Are you sure you have it correct? She says she only pushed the girl out of frustration.” Nothing like cutting to the chase.

“Honestly, Ms. Christianson witnessed the fight. You’re welcome to talk to her about it.”

Figured. Annabeth Christianson was my ex. God, I’d thought we’d work out but she didn’t like that I wanted to keep our relationship a secret. My fame ruined things with Lex, I sure as hell didn’t want it to hurt Annabeth. But since I wouldn’t tell my family about her, she’d had enough and split up a few months ago.

Maybe she was getting back at me out of spite? Would she really do that?

Heading into her office without knocking, I spotted her on her computer. As usual. Nothing had changed. Except she’d played her card against my darling granddaughter. No way in hell was I going to stand for that.

“So…beating up little children is still your pastime, I see.”

Sighing, not even starting at my intrusion, she answered, “Cheyenne got into the fight, James. I had to report it.” The fire she’d had for me was still in those eyes. Oh how I’d missed her. We’d met at the studio. She was doing some voiceovers for a bit part in a kids cartoon. She had the voice of an angel.

“You couldn’t cut her a break. Just this once? She lost her lead in the play.”

“Take off those damned glasses and maybe I’ll talk to you about it.”

Shit. I’d forgotton I was wearing them. Annabeth hated me always having to hide who I was in public. But could I help that I’d succeeded where she failed? I tried to get her a leg up with my agency, but she didn’t like to schmooze and that was all part of how things worked.

Pulling my glasses off, I said, “Okay. They’re off. Now start telling me why you’d take out your vengeance toward me on my beautiful granddaughter. There’s no way she’d actually punch anyone.”

“Is that what Mrs. Martin said? I didn’t tell her that. Only that she’d gotten into a fight.”

Shaking my head, I answered, “She says Cheyenne punched the girl and that’s an unforgiveable offense. But now you’re saying you didn’t report that?”

“No. I wouldn’t lie. Honest, James. And Cheyenne shouldn’t lose her part in the play. God, I’m sorry that’s what happened.”

Arching an eyebrow, I said, “So what are you going to do about it? Cheyenne is really upset and Mrs. Martin says it’s up to you.”

“Fine. I’ll talk to her. Don’t worry about it.” Annabeth went back to her work on the computer.

She was so cute when she was flustered. I shook my head. Why was I so terrible with women? Maybe she’d give me one more chance. I had to take this opportunity.

“Thanks…hey…would you like to go out with me tonight? There’s a horrible grade B movie at the Twilight Hills at nine. I know you love to critique bad flicks.”

Annabeth shook her head. “I…I don’t know…”

Aha…she didn’t say no. That meant yes…well, for Annabeth, at least.

Wrapping my arms around her and lifting her chin toward me, I whispered, “I’ve missed you, Beth. Tell me you’ll go.”

All she did was nod and that melted my heart. Maybe she would give me a second chance after all.

*****

Cheyenne

It was great to see Grandpa even though it was for a horrible reason. But I got over not getting to be in that play. I was going to be in this cool band for the talent show. Jake invited me. I was going to play the piano and he would play the violin. (He was pretty good at it too!)

We were about to do some ad-lib stuff today when Mr. Graf burst into the room.

“I want to make an announcement about the play. It seems there was a misunderstanding about Phoebe and Cheyenne’s little…er…disagreement.”

My stomach did a huge drop. How embarrassing! Why would he announce that out to everyone like that? I wanted to literally DIE!

He lifted his arm in the air. “Like any dramatic persons, there will be tussles but as they say in the industry, the show must go on!

“Therefore, I expect everyone in their spots after dinner. And I need you to emote, emote, EMOTE!”

What? Me and Phoebe are off the hook? YES! Way to go, Mr. Graf, for putting his foot down with Mrs. Martin. I beamed, “Looks like we’re in the play after all, Phoebe!”

Smiling, Phoebe gushed, “Wow. I never thought I’d be this happy to play that wicked step sister in my whole life, but I am!”

Kristie gave me a wink. Now I didn’t have to worry about spending so much time away from her!

At practice, Jake and I finally got to the scene where I was supposed to kiss Momeo. Ugh. Like how was I supposed to act something like that without laughing???

Jake tried to help me out by putting his forehead on mine, but it didn’t work.

Giggles bubbled up anyway and I broke the scene.

“Cheyenne. What’s the matter with you? This is a beautiful moment between two lovesick teenagers. Not a clown factory. Now try it again. Please.”

But no matter how many tries, I just couldn’t do it. “Like could we do something that isn’t so…personal?” I asked.

“Cheyenne, think of it not as a kiss but as art. This is YOUR art piece. You are not kissing a boy, you are creating a moment! Understand?”

When he put it that way, it did help.

So I tried to imagine kissing Jack Rackham instead. They sort of kind of looked alike although honestly, Jack was TOOOOOOTALLY better looking but I couldn’t blame Jake for being a counterfeit.

After practice, I got superdeduper angry. Like I was with Jake a lot because my BFF in the whole wide world left me in the dust for HIS BFF. And Jake didn’t really like to hang out with anyone else so I got stuck with him.

Glaring, I said, “Can’t they get a room or something? Like who kisses in front of everyone like that?”

“We kissed in front of everyone,” Jake countered.

“I did NOT kiss you. I was creating art. That’s different. And God, now they’re just being gross.”

Hunter was practically swallowing Kristie’s face whole!

Jake said to follow him, so we hung out on the merry go round. At least I didn’t have to watch them mate anymore.

“Want to spin us, Cameron?” Jake asked. We were taking turns to see who could spin someone off.

“And Cam, wait until I’m totally on this time!” Phoebe demanded.

“All right, babe. Like I said I was sorry last time.”

Phoebe was not very nice to her boyfriend. Pretty bossy if you ask me, but he, for some reason, was okay with it.

In the end, Cameron didn’t wait on her and totally flew it before she got on.

“CAAAAAAM!” she cried.

Even though she was mad at him, she got over it pretty quickly. I figured he just wanted to tease her.

I breathed in as I laid down. Things were turning out way different than I could have imagined even a week ago. Here I was not hanging with my BFF but with the people I couldn’t stand even a few days ago. But Phoebe was a cool person if you ignored some of her princess tendencies and Jake was actually being decent to me. Guessed he couldn’t insult me if he wanted to hang out. And Cam? Well, he was tolerable in an annoying way but I was dealing with it.

“Hey, guys, want to watch Superkids: Cortex Catastroph?” Cameron asked. “It’s out now.”

“Want to, Red? I’m down if you are.”

And that’s how we ended the night. Without my BFF. Too bad the movie was a total bust and I’d fallen asleep.

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Chapter 7.7

Cheyenne

My heart was racing with all sorts of sick feelings in my stomach. My grandpa had to come out and speak to the camp director! How embarrassing!

“Sorry about this, Grandpa,” I whispered. “I feel so bad.”

“Don’t worry yourself, Peanut. I know you probably had a good reason.” He winked.

Aww…Grandpa was the best! Thank God it was him here and not my dad! UGH! He would have blasted me with his scary eyes and disappointed face.

Phoebe’s mom eyed my grandpa like she knew him. Well, of course she knew him. Everyone in the world did since he was such a superstar. His bodyguards were waiting outside the camp. Kind of embarrassing, but he had some weird stalkers.

“So…you’re James Sa…?” the lady started.

“No. Just look like him,” Grandpa said, cutting her off. I had to squelch a laugh since I knew he had to dodge saying he was THE James Sanderson. The woman probably would want selfies, autographs, the works!

She sighed loudly, looking away. Then she hissed at her daughter, “I can’t believe you’d get yourself in such a mess, Phoebe Marie. It’s bad enough you did horribly in practice today, now you might be kicked out of the play entirely! How could you?”

Phoebe waved her arms. “I’m telling you, Mama, she started the fight! I just asked her to help me.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Help you? You shouldn’t need help. You should be doing your best. I’m shocked you weren’t chosen as the lead, but if you weren’t, you should make the wicked stepsister the most memorable of all. This situation is YOUR fault, and I’m thoroughly ashamed of you.”

Those words cut into Phoebe. It was written all over her sad face.

Wow. I couldn’t imagine having a mom say awful things like that to me. My second hand embarrassment just exploded. I really felt sorry for her.

After the camp director had a meeting with all of us, she then wanted to talk to me and Phoebe alone without the adults.

“You two realize my hands are tied. You will not be allowed to participate in the play. We have a zero tolerance policy with fighting. I have half a mind to kick you both out of the camp unless you can explain what happened in a satisfactory manner.”

I heard the clock tick tick ticking on the wall. Getting kicked out??? For pushing? I mean, it’s not like we punched each other like Jake did to Cameron. But Ms. Christianson didn’t see them fight so they were off the hook. Just stupid me shoving Pheobe and Phoebe trying to keep me from pulling out her hair. Ugh. Why didn’t I just ignore her?

She looked between the both of us. “Well…I’m waiting. Phoebe, what do you have to say?”

On the verge of tears, she just shook her head and shrugged. OMG! If no one said anything we WERE going to get tossed out!

Heart in my throat, I blurted, “Listen, Mrs. Martin, we’ve been under a lot of pressure with the play and all. Both of us kind of had a bad time at practice today and lost it. But I’m really sorry I snapped at Phoebe.

“It was mosly my fault and I won’t do that ever again. I’ll do anything to make things up! Honest! Just please don’t kick us out.”

She looked between the two of us. Oh why wasn’t Phoebe saying anything to back me up?

Finally, Mrs. Martin said, “Hmm…well…” she huff a little shaking her head. “Against my better judgement, I’ll let you off this one time but…you two had better start getting along. You’ll also need to work together to clean up the cafeteria. I think everyone is finishing dinner about now. Understand?”

We both nodded and shuffled out of there. I was thankful she gave us a break. Geeze. That was close!

Once we’d entered the cafeteria, the savory scent of turkey and stuffing dinner wafted over me. My stomach gurgled.

And the cafeteria was a huge mess. It was going to take us a long time to clean. We weren’t getting our supper anytime soon.

“Why don’t I mop while you clear the dishes. Okay?” I asked.

Phoebe just gave me a sad face and nodded.

I started on the floor. Who threw all this gunk around? It was like they had an art project explosion in here.

To be honest, I kind of had the easier job. Those messy plates looked disgusting. And Phoebe didn’t seem too happy smelling that gunk either.

I only needed to sponge off a few more spills and then we’d be finished.

Putting some leftovers in the refrigerator, I slammed its door. All done!

Turning to Phoebe I said, “Okay now we can get out of here and never have to look at each other ever again.”

Wincing, she said, “Hey, Cheyenne, I really want to talk to you, if that’s okay. Like somewhere private?”

Huh boy. Was she going to yell at me for getting her kicked out of the play? Well, I deserved it. I’d take her tantrum, say I was sorry, and leave.

Following her to her room, we both sat on the couch at opposite ends. Neither of us looked at the other. I mean, what was I supposed to say? I wasn’t the one who asked us to talk.

But after five minutes of no one saying anything, I couldn’t take it anymore. “Okay, Phoebe, out with it. Tell me what a creep I am for getting us kicked out. Honestly, I feel like total crap for losing my temper and I’m REALLY sorry for pushing you. I had no right and if you don’t forgive me, that’s fine. I get it. But I do promise that won’t happen again.”

“Actually…um…” Phoebe swallowed a few times then went on, “I know I’ve been acting meant to you lately…”

“Yeah, I don’t get that. What’d I ever do to you?”

“It’s not what you did to me…I don’t know why it happened but every time I looked at you, I got angry. Like why did you get everything in the world and I didn’t? You sing, play piano and guitar, and are both Ms. Eskildsen’s and Mr. Adam’s favorite. It’s like not fair! My mother found out you got the lead because of your singing even though Mr. Graf thought I did the best at the audition. So, I’ve been super upset about it, but…after what my mother said to me, I feel awful and I’m not going to blame you anymore. She’s right. I have to do these things on my own if I ever want to get good. So I’m really sorry for everything I’ve done to you. Okay?”

Wow. I never thought those words were going to come out of her mouth.

Sounded like we were mad at each other for silly reasons. I mean, yeah, she was mean but at least she figured it out. And I’d been jealous, too–I understood what that felt like. Plus I could tell her mom put tons of pressure on her to be that little Miss Perfect. At least Phoebe apologized. What more could I expect?

Awkward silence surrounded us again, so I decided to change the subject. “Hey, you want to do something really fun?”

She gave me a sideways glance. “What do you have in mind?”

I motioned for her to follow me and led her into Ms. Christianson’s room. Her couch was the most squishy, and I’d wondered throughout my time at camp what it would be like to jump on it.

To my amazement, it was EXTRA bouncy!

We both giggled and jumped and laughed and I almost forgot about how angry we’d been with each other.

Who knew I could have this much fun with Little Miss Princess Phoebe? Not me.

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Chapter 7.6

Cheyenne

It’d been a few weeks and the play was almost here! I couldn’t believe it. Paris and I had become really good friends. She was so sweet and easy to talk to. She was actually from Del Sol Valley and her parents worked in movies. Her mom was a sound editor and her dad was a boom operator so she pretty much got in free to any premier. She was soooo lucky! I had to wait until I could visit my grandpa to go to movies. My parents didn’t really like them too much.

After all of our classes for the day were over, we chilled in the rec room, playing foosball with Hudson and Kristie.

I got the feeling there was something going on between those two even though Kristie denied it. They were inseparable after last week’s practice when Hudson (who played Lord Sapulet) had a few lines with the nurse (Kristie’s part).

But I didn’t care. Hudson was a cutie! I told Kristie to go for it but she just rolled her eyes and said I was making things up.

“Darn! I missed!” Paris said after she flipped her rods in the game as the ball rolled by.

“Never fear, partner, I got ’em!” I said, flicking my foosball players and snapping the ball into the other team’s goal.

“Dang! She got us!” Kristie yelled.

“Well, we’ll just have to get them back!” Hudson cried, yanking on his bars like he was playing pinball. But it was too late.

I flicked the ball right back into their goal and won!

“YES!” Paris cried.

“Told ya!” I said, making a fist. She bumped me in celebration.

“Don’t worry, Kristie,” Hudson said, nudging her arm, “we’ll get ’em next game.”

Just then all my elation over winning deflated when I saw Miss Snooty-princess swish into the room.

She and Cameron were a thing since like five days ago and they were always rubbing it in everyone’s face, constantly clinging to each other like monkeys on a vine. Yuck.

Even if I did have a boyfriend, I wouldn’t always hold hands and be all lovey dovey. That makes everything awkward for everyone! Puhleeeeze!

And then I remembered our awful session in play practice today.

Phoebe messed up her lines about ten times. I couldn’t believe it. How hard were they? She only had about twelve to learn. I had pages and pages!

“Pheobe, dear, it’s not ‘look what the cat dragged in’, it’s ’twas but soft as a cat and you are nary a one.’ Got it?”

Pheobe whined, “Mr. G, can’t we just amp up the lines? The originals are too hard to understaaaaand! And I can’t remember all those words.”

He crossed his arms. “Fitzy Fakespeare is a legend and we won’t revise his words no matter what millenia it is. Now say your lines correctly or I’ll find someone who can.”

Yikes. When Mr. Graf got angry, it was like a knife in the heart. I was so glad he wasn’t giving me that stone face.

“Yes, sir,” she moaned. I almost felt sorry for her.

Almost.

And then I noticed a woman with a pinched face glaring at her. Was that her mother? Sure looked like her. Wow. I was TOTALLY glad my grandfather wasn’t here eyeing my every move.

Next, I heard Jake’s voice, breaking me out of my thoughts. “Hey, Red, can I play?”

I figured Jake only wanted to join in the game because Hudson, his bff, was making goo goo eyes at Kristie and he was like joined to the hip with him. Jake honestly didn’t mix with any of the other boys which I thought was strange. And he always made fun of me–what I was wearing, how I said my lines, how my hair looked–pretty much whatever he could, he’d tease me. I wasn’t in the mood for it. Dealing with him in the play was bad enough, ESPECIALLY since I had to act like I was in love with him. HUGE EYEROLL! But that’s what ACTING was all about, I guessed.

I just gave him a “don’t mess with me” look.

“Please?” he asked. “I promise I won’t talk about how you must have gotten that t-shirt at a second hand store for old ladies.” He arched an eyebrow looking at my obvious terrible choice in fashion.

I squinted at him. “Nice. Well, I was just leaving anyway. Have at it.”

Some other kids were watching Moonlight Massacre and I’d rather watch zombies eating people than endure any more of his not funny jokes.

As I strode past the lovebirds (shocked they weren’t making out in front of everyone), Pheobe said, “Hey, Cheyenne, could I talk to you?”

I stopped and said, “Sure. What’s up?”

She shrugged and asked, “Could we like go over our lines? You really made me mess up today and I don’t want that to happen again.”

I made HER mess up? Unbe-freakin-lievable. “How exactly did I mess you up?”

Cameron’s face scrunched up. “Seriously? You have to ask? Just help her, will you? How selfish can you be?”

Phoebe put on some fake tears.

“Listen, if she wanted me to help, she should have asked like a normal person instead of blaming me for her screw ups. So no. I’m not going to help until she stops acting like a spoiled princess.”

Before I knew what happened, Cameron shouted, “You take that back!” and pushed me down.

I landed hard. I wasn’t hurt though. More like…shocked.

But the next second, I heard a pop and saw Jake smashing his fist in Cameron’s face!

OMG!!!!

Then Jake helped me up. “Are you okay?”

My face heated up a gazillion degrees being this close to him. “Um…yeah. I’m fine. Thanks.”

Phoebe fake cried even more. “Look what you’ve done!

“I can’t believe you’re being such a BITCH! All I asked was for a little help…”

I didn’t know what came over me. I guessed it was the combination of her tripping me and glaring and doing all sorts of mean things these past few weeks.

The only thing I heard was “BITCH” and I lost it. Running at her, I said, “I’m so tired of your queen bee act. Leave. Me. Alone. Got it?”

“Uh…guys?” Jake shouted. “Ms. Christianson is right outside the door. I think you better…”

“What’s going on here?” I heard Ms. Christianson hiss, but I was so mad, it didn’t even register.

“She’s being a bully!” Phoebe yelled as she pinched her fingers into my neck.

Even though I was probably up to my pigtails in trouble, I wasn’t going to let her get away with being brat. Not this time.

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