Published by Owl Hollow Press
Total Recall meets Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies.
Sleep for three months and make your problems go away.
Ellie Savage is used to promises. Her dermatologist dad and her psychiatrist mom run the Narcosis Clinic, a medical facility famous for ultimate makeovers, where disturbing issues are resolved while patients are beautified. Clients like pop star Dean Mathews are grateful to narcosis for healing their deepest wounds. Ellie is her parents’ most ardent supporter until her dreams become a nightmare. Ellie discovers that her true self has been shredded to bits by the scalpel and the only way for Ellie to remember is to forget everything she thinks she knows.
“The relationship between Cole and Ellie is absorbing (it’s indisputably a mutual affection) while the twins’ dynamic–they’re supportive but playfully combative–is likewise effective. The plot eventually spins into thriller territory but shrewdly incorporates themes of parenting and self-confidence. Cypress’ prose throughout is colorful: a crowd getting into ‘a ginormous frenzy’ and Ellie walking ‘in a fog of convoluted memories and migraine medicine.’ Well-defined characters in a zigzagging medical tale rife with surprises.” —Kirkus
CHAPTER TWO: DEAN
3:09 p.m. | JUNE 3RD
I was bored brainless. I woke up in Boise, stopped for a mall appearance in Spokane, and was now inching toward Seattle. The tour bus smelled like armpit even though the backup dancers rode in the van. The bus was reserved for equipment, my stylist Maxine, my manager Gary, the bus driver, and me. Nobody climbed aboard unless they were trustworthy.
Not that Gary was loyal. If his 15 percent cut of my earnings wasn’t enough to keep him in toupees and Corvettes, he’d dump me. That’s why he’d followed me instead of Sam when the Heartacres had broken up. Sam last’s album had dropped like a turd, but I was in a new city every night selling out stadiums across America.
“Would you look at all those trees!” Maxine pressed her nose against the glass. Her hair was frosted pink this week, and she looked like an aged wood sprite. “Did you know they call Washington the Evergreen State?”
“Tho I’ve heard,” I lisped.
Maxine glanced up at me. Even sitting, my six-foot-two frame towered over her barely five foot one. I loved her like she was my grandma. Learning facts about each state we visited was one of Maxine’s favorite things about being on tour. She sent postcards to her grandkids from every town we stayed in. I taught her how to FaceTime them on her iPad too.
“I hope our hotel is by the Space Needle,” Maxine said. “I read that—”
My phone buzzed, interrupting Maxine’s latest bit of trivia. When I saw the notifications scroll across the screen, my heart dropped into my stomach.
Sam Anders and Pansy Williams elope. See pictures of their Vegas wedding.
What the heck were they doing getting married? Sure, Sam was twenty-one, but Pansy was the same age as me—nineteen. When we were together, she could barely commit to dinner reservations. Now she was all “’til death do us part”? Sam might have been in love, but Pansy was using him, just like she’d used me.
“Did you see the news?” Gary burst into our sitting area from the back of the bus.
“What news?” Maxine looked at me accusingly until I held out my phone so she could see. She slipped her rhinestone glasses onto her nose. “Oh. My. Gosh.”
Gary bounced on the balls of his feet like the bus floor was lava. “I can spin this to your advantage. If anyone asks, you’re focusing your angst into your solo career.”
“For sure,” I answered. Painting me as a lonely boy sold records. But the truth was, Pansy had done more than unleash a torrent of celebrity gossip. She’d shaken me up from the inside and done immeasurable damage. Case in point, my lisp had returned with a vengeance.
I’d met Pansy on the set of American Dance Party when I was sixteen. It had been love at first sight—at least for me. Sam had been there too, of course, flirting with every groupie he could. Six months later Pansy and I had still been going strong, until one day I’d boarded the tour bus and discovered her and Sam playing tongue hockey. Breaking up the Heartacres had been her ticket to fame. Now instead of Pansy begging for bit parts in movies of the week, Hollywood jumped at the chance to cast the girl who’d broken up the most popular boy band in decades. She’d left me with my heart ground to bits by the spike of her stiletto shoe.
“You know,” Gary said. “This could be perfect. It’s a ready-made excuse for why you’ll be out of the spotlight all summer. Instead of that bit about the ashram in India, we’ll say you’re holed up in Bermuda writing songs about being dumped.”
I tapped my foot to a melody stuck in my head called “Soul Crusher” that I was still in the process of composing.
“Oh, honey.” Maxine’s pencil-thin eyebrows knitted together. “That girl was no good for you. I knew it the first time I met her. How she kept that little yippy dog in her purse and let it crap all over the place. It wasn’t right.” Maxine patted my hand. “Why don’t you call your mama? You know she’d love to hear from you. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she called you right now.”
As if on cue, my phone started ringing.
“No way.” I chuckled.
“See?” Maxine winked.
With a little wave to Max, I answered the phone and carefully walked to the rear of the tour bus. The blue curtains on each bunk bed swayed with the movement of traffic. I climbed into my berth just as Mom’s worried voice blasted my eardrums.
“I saw the news, honey. How are you holding up?” I could hear Mom’s concern all way from the big house in Toronto that I’d bought for her and my little sisters.
“I’m fine. And I told you not to call.”
“I wanted to hear the sound of your voice.”
“You heard it. I’m hanging up.” I swiped the screen closed and opened up my messages.
Much better, I texted.
This is ridiculous, replied Mom. Just take your time like you did when you were younger.
I’m not a kid anymore, I typed back. I need to handle my lisp my way.
By letting them cut you open?
Nobody’s cutting me open. I decided it was better not to tell her about the doctors removing those weird lumps on the bottom of my foot. I’ll listen to some tapes while I’m asleep for a few months. It’s called physic-driving.
I know what it is. I read People.
So why are you fighting this? You know it works!
But it doesn’t last, Mom texted.
It did for a year and a half, I answered. And this time the doctors hope it will be permanent.
Just tell the world the truth about who you are.
Put it in a song, Mom pressed. You never lisp while singing.
I’m turning off my phone. We’re done here.
Love you! Mom’s words flashed across the screen, and I waited longer than I probably should have before I replied.
Love you too.
Ten minutes later I was sitting in the styling chair as the bus lumbered past Walla Walla.
“About what Gary said,” Maxine began, waving her rat tail comb back and forth. “I don’t want you to let him bother you.” She pointed the comb at me. “You got lucky if you ask me.”
“I don’t think that’th what getting lucky meanth.”
Maxine harrumphed and grabbed my hair by the roots. I grimaced as she teased it into place. “High school romances never last.”
“I didn’t go to high thchool.”
“Don’t be smart.” Maxine teased my hair higher. “You know what I mean. You started dating that girl at sixteen and haven’t seen anyone else since she broke your heart.”
“Who am I going to date?”
“Anyone!” Maxine reached for some gel. “There are girls lined up outside of your hotel every night who’d be happy to spend time with you.”
I rolled my eyes. “You want me to have a meaningleth relationship?”
“I want you to have fun. I want you to enjoy being nineteen instead of being this mini-adult who takes care of everyone else.”
“I don’t take care of everyone. I bankroll them.”
“Same difference.” Maxine worked a dollop of gel through the back of my hair to achieve the fullness the audience expected. “Gary, the dancers, the tour company, me—we’re all living off of your talent. But what about you, Dean? Can you honestly say you’re living?”
I shrugged underneath the hairdressing apron.
“So mix it up,” Maxine coaxed. “Kiss a girl. Ride up to the top of the Space Needle. Go for a joyride. Be everything that you are: young, handsome, successful, and the kindest entertainer I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.”
First Mom and now Maxine. It was like they were tag-teaming me to tell me what to do.
Maxine whizzed the can of hairspray all around me in a cloud. Then she set it down with a definitive clink. “Be free, kiddo,” she told me. “You earned it.”
“No,” she insisted. “You deserve to start living right now.” Maxine set down the canister and spun the swivel chair so that I could face the mirror. Dean Mathews, pop star extraordinaire, stared back at me. And he looked miserable.
Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for The Everett Daily Herald. You can find Jennifer on her website: http://JenniferBardsley.net or on her Facebook page: The YA Gal. An alumna of Stanford University, Jennifer lives in Edmonds, WA with her husband and two children.
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