One minute, Virginia was among the queens of Pavo Real High School, basking in the praise and adoration of the masses. The next minute, she was shoved off of her throne.
“Of course they do,” said Elise’s twin sister, Erin. “That’s why she wears such fancy, expensive clothes!” The girls burst into giggles. Virginia’s face burned with shame as she looked down at her worn, faded clothes. For a moment, she wanted to cry. But she didn’t want to give the twins the satisfaction. Instead, she very slowly reached out and pretended to pick a bug out of Elise’s hair. Then she popped the invisible bug into her mouth and chewed.
“Ew! What are you doing?” Elise shrank back in disgust. “God, you are so weird.”
“Weird? I’ll show you weird,” said Virginia. She pulled her face into a hideous grimace, then crossed her eyes.
Elise shrieked and sprang away from Virginia. “Go home, you crazy freak!”
Home. Virginia shoved her hands in her pockets and headed out into the snow. If only they knew how much a freak she really was. If only they knew that she lived in a dirty tent in a homeless camp, and that three weeks ago, she had come home to find that her father and little brother and sister had gone away. She was all alone, and no one knew but Ivy.
“I’m worried about you,” said Ivy. “It’s not safe for you, being alone out here. Anything could happen.”
Virginia shrugged. “I’ll be fine.” But she was not fine. Not really. Ivy did not know about the strange panic attacks Virginia had been having, or the odd voices that kept whispering things to her, making her think that something terrible was going to happen. No, even Ivy could not know about that.
“I’ll be fine,” she told Ivy. “I have a plan that’s going to make me a lot of money.”
Virginia grinned. “You’ll see.” The plan was that Virginia was going to become a star. And the way to become a star, she had learned from a Cosmopolitan magazine, was to land an agent. If she could just convince an agent to represent her, then she would be well on her way toward stardom and riches.
So on Friday, she skipped school. She sneaked into the health club to take a hot shower, then pulled on a dress which she had “borrowed” from Elise and Erin when they were still friends. (She had always intended to give it back). Then she took the bus downtown, to the Jason Jones Talent Agency.
Her knees felt weak when it was finally her turn to meet with Jason Jones. This was it! The coolest man in Hiver Park was about to make her dreams come true. “I know that I’d be a great model,” Virginia told him, her eyes shining with excitement. “I can act, too. Last spring, I was in my high school play. And I can sing. Listen.” She began to belt out Stand by Me, which was maybe one of the greatest songs of all time.
Jason Jones held up a hand to stop her. “That won’t be necessary,” he said with a sigh. “Look, kid, I don’t want to waste your time. You just don’t have the kind of look I need right now.”
Virginia’s heart plummeted to her stomach. “But…I can look different!” she said. “Different makeup. And I can grow out my hair, and maybe dye it. And…” But Jason Jones was shaking his head. Virginia felt desperate. She wanted to drop to her knees and plead with him to give her a chance. “But Mr. Jones, sir…I really, really need this. I need the money.”
Mr. Jones scowled. “Do you have any idea how many young women come to see me because being a model is their deepest desire? Because they want to be rich and famous? You are not special. You’re not that pretty. You’re not that talented. And it is not my problem if you need money. Goodbye.”
Virginia choked back a sob and hurried out of Jason Jones’ office. She was not pretty. She was not talented. She was not good enough to become one of his models. She was only a scared, broke, and lonely high school girl in a stolen dress. And her world was crashing down around her shoulders.