You are on page 1of 46

Map to the Stars

Jen Malone

IMPULSE

An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 1

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Copyright © 2015 by Jen Malone
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright
Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the
non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book
on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded,
decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information
storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic
or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written
permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
EPub Edition © 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-239863-5
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
FIRST EDITION

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 2

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Chapter One
I never dreamed my first encounter with an A-list movie star would
involve hairy feet and a bowl full of tiny fish.
Mom and I stood a safe distance from the upholstered chair of
People magazine’s Most Beautiful Man of 1990-something in the
living room of an opulent Hollywood Hills mansion. His in-need-ofsome-manscaping feet were stuck in a mini-aquarium of hundreds of
swarming fish and he jumped every time one took a nibble at a callus.
“How is this a thing?” I whispered to my mother. I hoped the chatter from the gossiping Ladies Who Lunch (plus a few men who looked
even more groomed than their female counterparts) filling the room
would be enough to drown out my question.
Mom shrugged, attempting to compose her face into something
resembling a California-cool “been there, seen that” look. She didn’t
come close. Where we were from, people hosted home Tupperware
parties, not home Botox-and-spa-treatments parties.
“Mr. Glick, would you like a pomegranate spritzer?” the beautician
1

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 1

5/21/15 2:53 PM

working on the big-shot movie star asked, motioning to me as she
lifted one foot out of the mini-aquarium and placed it on her knee so
she could use a block of wood wrapped in sandpaper to scrub away the
last of the dead skin the fish hadn’t snacked on.
So. Gross.
I sucked in a breath and crossed the room, balancing my tray of
mocktails in one hand. Apparently, alcohol and needles to the forehead don’t play nice together. After spending half my waking hours
at my grandmother’s hair salon, I wasn’t afraid of hard work, but I’d
never waitressed a day in my life. Me plus a tray filled with deep red
juice plus a room decorated entirely in white, PLUS intimidating Hollywood types, equaled certain impending disaster.
I exhaled carefully and used my free hand to grasp the stem of the
martini glass. Mr. Movie Star grabbed it from me and took a sip. He
made a face and handed it back. “What say we see about making this
pack a little more punch?”
I didn’t follow much celeb gossip, but my best friend, Wynn, was
addicted to it and thus I knew a thing or two about Billy Glick’s fondness for beverages with “a punch.” I swallowed a snarky comment and
instead managed, “Um, sorry, sir. I’m, uh, I’m only seventeen so I’m
not allowed to handle alcohol. The catering company said—”
Another waitress, who looked like she’d been plucked from the
audition line for America’s Next Top Model, stepped in and whisked the
glass from me. “I’ll see what we can find you, Mr. Glick.”
I turned back toward my mom, who was now applying fake eyelashes to a woman cradling a tiny dog wearing a satin suit. Mom could
2

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 2

5/21/15 2:53 PM

apply fake eyelashes in her sleep after decades at the salon back home,
but I don’t think she ever had a designer puppy audience while she
did it. Never had I felt so far away from sleepy Shelbyville, Georgia,
home of the World Famous (well, relatively speaking) Pecan Festival.
Before I could escape back into the kitchen, a group clustered in the
corner called me over.
“Do you know how many calories are in these lettuce wraps?” one
asked, motioning at the tiny plate she held.
“Um, hello. It’s lettuce,” I wanted to reply, but I bit my tongue. I
always have a whole host of perfect retorts that never make it past my
throat. I’m basically the least confrontational person you’ll ever meet,
turning into a garden gnome anytime things get prickly. Stupid grin
on my face, concrete legs.
When I hesitated, the women closest to me waved her hand in a
dismissive motion. “Not to worry. We actually called you over for
something else.” The man and woman next to her giggled and leaned
in. “Okay, sweetheart, you’ve got us completely stumped and that
doesn’t happen often. We’ve got a thousand bucks riding on your
answer. I say down your pants and my friend Ella here says bra.
Which is it?”
I nearly dropped my tray. “Ex-excuse me?” I stuttered.
“Your spec script. Where’ve you hidden it? Your cater-waiter uniform doesn’t leave many places, and we’re baffled.”
I stared slack-jawed at them. “I’m sorry. I don’t . . . spec what?” I’d
been told in training to avoid eye contact with the guests and definitely
not to speak to them unless to answer them about which vintage pinot
3

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 3

5/21/15 2:53 PM

noir had been used in the cranberry meatballs, so I kept my voice low
and glanced around the room.
The trio in front of me burst out laughing and the first woman
said, “Oh, honey, you are just too cute for words. When did you get
here? Yesterday?”
I couldn’t tell if this was a rhetorical question or not, so I answered
her honestly. “Um, five days ago.”
More laughter. The one named Ella elbowed the guy next to her.
“We should go easy on this one. She’s just a baby.” She turned to me.
“Allow us to enlighten you. Spec script: a script written on speculation, i.e., not under contract with any production company or major
studio. As in, one of two things every single one of your cohorts here
has tucked on—or in—their person. The other option being a headshot, if they’re of the struggling actor variety, versus the struggling
screenwriter variety. Exhibit A. See the manicurist over there?”
I followed her head jerk to the corner of the room, where a small
table was set up in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows that showcased the valley below.
“Stack of papers rolled up between the OPI bottles and the gel
dryer? Script. Now . . . waitress to the left of her. See the corner of
her headshot peeking out from the top of those knee-high boots she’s
rocking? One quick unzip and that sucker’s in the hands of the casting
director she’s passing a canapé to. That’s how this town rolls, sweetie.
Are you saying you really don’t have either?”
I shook my head slowly. What planet had I landed on?
“Damn,” said the guy as Ella adjusted her short skirt so it rode
4

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 4

5/21/15 2:53 PM

even higher on her thighs.
“Who wins this bet?” she asked.
The man shrugged and pulled out a wallet from the pocket of his
fluffy robe. “You’ll find a way to swindle me out of this somehow
anyway. Might as well act preemptively.”
With a good-natured grin he counted out ten hundred-dollar bills
into her palm while I tried not to ogle them. Nothing in my smalltown-Georgia life had prepared me for any of this. The house, the
people, and definitely not the hundred-dollar bills changing hands
like they were sticks of gum.
“Um, could you excuse me, please? I need to refill my tray.”
I wove through the various spa stations set up around the room,
beelining it to my mom so I could let her Southern drawl take me
home for a minute or two. I found her in the kitchen, microwaving
towels to warm the massage table.
“How’s it going? Worth it to see the house?” she asked.
Mom knows how much I love anything and everything to do
with architecture and, even if we hadn’t been so desperate to make
money—any money—she figured the chance to get inside a Robert
Addison–designed house would be all the encouragement I’d need to
don a waitress uniform.
“It’s, um, different,” I managed. I didn’t mean the house. That
was awesome, with its futuristic look and floor-to-ceiling sheets
of glass where any normal house would have walls. No chance any
place in Shelbyville would ever have the high-tech NanaWall systems
built into the folding doors leading from the kitchen to a back deck.
5

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 5

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Probably no one there had even heard of NanaWalls, besides me with
my lifelong subscription to Architectural Digest.
Mom looked up from the stack of towels. “Well, it is Hollywood,
Annie. What’d you expect?”
I guess I expected I’d spend my senior year at Shelbyville High
and then head off for college, while still coming home every summer
to hang with her and Dad and help out with the women who’d come
from three counties over to have my mama “do them up good” at the
Curl Up and Dye, voted Best Beauty Salon in Shelbyville for six years
running.
Not this. Not moving cross-country and changing schools and
jobs, all to get some space from what my dad did to us.
And I definitely did not expect Hollywood, which would never
even have been on my mom’s radar had it not been for the movie
shooting in the next town over back home last spring and the promises her new producer friend Joe made about all the opportunities for
a makeup artist in La-La Land.
The door to the kitchen swung open and party sounds assaulted
us until it eased closed behind the spa company’s owner. She surveyed
the room and her eyes landed on my mom.
“I’m gonna pull you off that, honey. Billy Glick is complaining his
face is feeling tight after his nightingale-droppings facial and I need
someone to apply face cream.” She ducked her head into a bag and
rooted around.
“Um, I’m sorry. What is a nightingale-droppings facial? Droppings . . . as in . . . poop?” my mom asked, while I dropped the spoon
6

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 6

5/21/15 2:53 PM

I was holding.
“Oh, sweetheart, you have a lot to learn. We should do another
training session before I turn you loose. Nightingale droppings are
a secret of the Japanese geishas. They bleach the skin and exfoliate.”
I could never imagine my mother slapping bird crap on someone’s
cheeks. There were some women in Shelbyville who would do just
about anything to keep up the image of a Proper Southern Lady, but
that was one line even they wouldn’t cross. As for me, the only thing I
ever put on my face was Pond’s cream and strawberry lip gloss.
The owner dropped the bag onto the countertop. “Damn. I swore
the face cream was in here. He’s gonna freak if we keep him waiting.”
My mom took charge. “Annie, grab my purse from the back closet.
I’ve got some from my salon back home on me,” she told the ower.
“Made with real Georgia peaches—he’ll love it.”
She gave my mother a grateful look and nodded. A moment later,
Mom pushed back into the party and I followed behind with a replenished tray. I was just working up the nerve to interrupt a massage in
progress in the front hallway of the house when I heard the shout from
the corner of the living room.
“Are you insane, lady? Did you really just put cream on my face
that’s been tested ON ANIMALS?”
Mom looked more surprised than she had when I’d told her I
actually didn’t ever envision a time I’d want to get my ears pierced.
“I . . . I . . . I didn’t know,” she managed. She seemed pretty rattled.
As the daughter of the owner, no one ever crossed her at the salon. I
guess Mrs. Tipton thinking her hair wasn’t sufficiently hair-sprayed
7

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 7

5/21/15 2:53 PM

to heaven was a world away from pissing off Hollywood royalty. The
look Billy gave her was nothing short of venomous.
“Get out,” he spit.
“But, but . . . ,” she protested, while Billy stood and planted his feet,
pointing his newly manicured finger in the direction of the door. My
mother turned to the owner, who had reappeared from the kitchen.
She looked from Mr. Glick to Mom, pursed her lips nervously, and
turned her hands out in a helpless gesture.
Mom grabbed me by the arm and stormed past the owner and into
the kitchen. She snatched her purse off the counter and dropped the
face cream back inside. “Screw this! Annie, get your stuff.”
I glanced from the owner, who had followed us, to the America’s
Next Top Model waitress dispensing drinks from a cocktail shaker into
martini glasses. This could not be happening. We could not afford to
lose this job.
I opened my mouth to plead with the owner, to tell her how Mom
had left the only job she’d had since high school and the only town
either of us had known since birth. How we’d moved all the way
across the country. How I’d had to change schools going into my
senior year. Mom could NOT get fired for something so stupid. The
dude had had bird crap on his face minutes earlier. Where did he think
that came from? Poop fairies?
But once again, I couldn’t say anything. I just stood there with my
mouth opening and closing while Mom fished the keys to our Kia out
of her purse and rattled them at me. “Annie. Come on!”
I sighed and untied my half apron, dropping it on the counter. We
8

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 8

5/21/15 2:53 PM

were halfway across the marble floor when someone called after us.
A woman clicked toward us on towering heels. “Hold up, ladies.
Look. I’m Billy’s assistant. He’s under a lot of stress awaiting news
on the sale of his yacht. You understand. We wouldn’t want this, er,
incident to reach the tabloids. Here, I hope this makes up for things.”
She smiled at me as Mom reached for the paper in her hand. Mom
took a brief look and then passed it to me. It was an eight-by-ten
glossy Billy Glick headshot, signed, “Keep on keepin’ on. Luv, Billy.”
Sigh.
Welcome to LA.

9

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 9

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Chapter Two
“No way. You’re making this up. Please tell me you’re making this
up.” Wynn’s familiar freckled face—already sunburned and peeling
in June—stretched across my computer screen as she leaned in closer
to her webcam. After five days of hassling the building manager, our
wifi connection was finally working and I wasted no time in Skyping
my best friend back home.
I laughed. “I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.”
“No. No way. It’s too crazy. You wouldn’t tease me with this,
would you?”
I sniffed as if I was deeply offended she would question my sincerity, but Wynn only giggled.
“I swear on all that I hold sacred that this is the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth,” I told her.
Wynn rocked back in her chair. “Okay, that’s just bizarre. It’s like
you moved to the moon.”
“Seriously. That’s pretty much what it feels like.”
10

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 10

5/21/15 2:53 PM

“Still . . . Los Angeles . . . ,” said Wynn with a wistful sigh. She and
I both knew that if anyone belonged out here, it was Wynn. She was
the one with encyclopedic knowledge of every single celebrity right
down to their babies’ oddball names and astrological signs. Even the
parts of her room I could see behind her on the screen were a shrine to
glitz and glamour. Gray-bordering-on-silver walls and a (faux) crystal chandelier dangling over her bed. The bedspread had ruffled edges
and was shimmering silver too, except for the few remaining garnet
beads from an afternoon of BeDazzling eight years ago that went terribly wrong (in our defense, we think the BeDazzler had a defect that
probably had nothing to do with us not reading the instructions before
beginning).
The only relief from the silver was the chunk of wall behind her
bed covered in framed posters of old-time movies: Some Like It Hot,
Casablanca, Citizen Kane. Vintage glam all the way. Only a select few
people knew that on the inside of her closet door, she had one other,
far more current poster. That one was a life-size cutout of one Graham
Cabot, child sitcom star turned movie actor, current teen heartthrob,
and the object of Wynn’s unfaltering adoration (along with the majority of the world’s female population between the ages of six and
twenty-six). Sure, Wynn’s crush was about as teenybopper as they
come, but it was all part of her charm, as my mom liked to say.
Without even needing the video feed, I could perfectly picture the
shelves circling the top perimeter of the room that Wynn’s dad built
to house her out-of-control snow globe collection. I also didn’t need
the camera to show me the empty spot that, until last week, held her
11

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 11

5/21/15 2:53 PM

very first one: Clara and her Nutcracker Prince ice-skating around
on a small circle of mirrored paper. On my side of the country, I gave
the scene a shake and watched a thin layer of flaky snow settle over
Clara’s ivory nightgown.
Wynn noticed. “Hey, my snow globe made it in one piece.”
“Yup.”
“Did you find a good spot for it yet? Turn your laptop around so I
can see what your room looks like.”
“Pretty standard,” I said, complying. I held the laptop over my
head and turned in a slow circle. The angle didn’t matter much, as the
view was mostly the same, 360 degrees. White walls, white drafting
table in the corner with a black swivel stool tucked under it, and a
black bedspread with a cityscape of buildings marching across it in
chalky-white outlines.
“Jeez, Ans, it looks like a carbon copy of your old room. Need me
to send you some links to decorating blogs?”
“Yeah, well, I’m still going for the clean, modern look.”
“But you’re in the land of movie stars and magic. Have fun with it!
Set up a lava lamp and buy a puppy that will fit in your purse. Actually, you should probably buy a new purse first.”
“Oh yeah, I can just see that now. How very ‘me.’ Besides, this
move isn’t exactly all about fun.”
“Well, you’re there now. You might as well embrace it.”
I snorted. “I’m trying. Hey, but I did sign up for an event next
week at SCI-Arc.”
“SCI-Arc? Is that a new nightclub?”
12

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 12

5/21/15 2:53 PM

“Southern California Institute of Architecture,” I told her. “They
have this really cool lecture series and there’s one next week where
all the graduate students present their theses. Plus, there’s an exhibit
on—”
I stopped speaking when Wynn put her head in her hands and
pretended to snore. When she heard my silence, she looked up and
smiled. “Are you done yet? Forget columns and arches and . . . okay,
I don’t actually know any other architecture terms, but forget them all
and get your scrawny ass down to Laguna Beach so you can send me
videos of hot surfers doing their thing.”
“I know, but—”
Wynn plowed on. “Better yet, take some surfing lessons of your
own. Once you get a tan, you could totally pass for a surfer babe with
that beachy-wavy thing your hair does. You know I’ve known you forever and ever and I have no choice but to love you exactly as you are,
but really, Ans, you’re gonna have to stop acting like my grandmother
if you want to make new friends out there. And you better appreciate
how bitter it makes me to coach you on finding my replacement.”
As if I could replace Wynn. It didn’t even warrant a comment.
Instead I answered, “Sorry if I can’t make myself get all worked up
over the latest kiwi-seed diet or a seven-hundred-dollar cell phone
case.”
“Wasted. That place is totally wasted on you,” Wynn said with a
grin. Then her expression turned more somber. “Seriously, though,
what do you think this means? Your mom getting fired so fast? Think
you’ll pack up and move back?” Her voice went up a little at the end,
13

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 13

5/21/15 2:53 PM

like she couldn’t quite hide the glimmer of hope.
“I really don’t know. I doubt it, though. With things the way
they are with Dad, I think she’d rather have more than just a country
between them, and so would I.”
Wynn gave me a look of sympathy that made me bite down hard
on my lip to keep tears from spilling over. Then she said, “I saw him
the other day, ya know. He looked terrible. He was at Mac’s buying
mulch and when he saw me it seemed like he wanted to cry. I’m not
sure if you want to hear this but, um, he told me to tell you how much
he loves you.”
“You’re right, I don’t want to hear it.”
Wynn dropped her eyes to her desk and quickly changed the subject. “Well, I give your mom credit. Imagine living somewhere your
whole life where you were the total bomb and giving it all up for a
chance at a brand-new life.”
The living somewhere my whole life part I could definitely relate
to. Being “the bomb”? Not so much.
I answered Wynn. “Yeah, well, her bravado’s gone missing. You
should see her now. She’s been on a tear ever since she recovered from
her mini-meltdown. Three guesses what she’s doing now?”
“Uh-oh. Does it involve an apron with our kindergarten handprints on it?”
“Yup.”
“Oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip?”
“Oatmeal raisin. Joe’s on his way over and they’re his favorite. She
called him freaking out on our drive back down from the Hollywood
14

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 14

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Hills.”
“Hollywood Hills . . . ,” Wynn breathed in awe. “Whatever you
do, you have to figure out a way to stay there through Thanksgiving.
My plane ticket’s nonrefundable.”
“Ha! That’s like a lifetime from now.”
Wynn looked over her shoulder. I couldn’t see who was standing in her doorway but I assumed it was her little brother from the
face Wynn made. Confirmation came when Wynn said, “Tell her I’ll
set the table in five minutes. What? Just tell her, Toe Cheese!” She
tossed something balled up in the direction of the door, then returned
her attention to me. “Sorry, gotta go. Hang in there, okay? Text me
tomorrow and let me know what’s happening.”
I nodded, waved good-bye, and clicked end on the session. Despite
all we’d talked about after, the part of the conversation that lingered
was Wynn’s comment about my dad, and I sat for a moment, trying to
push my feelings to a far corner of my head. I was usually pretty good
at that. I needed to get my emotions under control before I saw Mom
or we’d just loop right back into the way things had been at home
before the move. Before the move, but after we found out what my dad
had been up to. Even though things weren’t exactly going according
to plan out here, I knew how much Mom needed this fresh start, and I
didn’t want to be the one dragging her back into all the drama.
The timer buzzed in the kitchen and brought me out of my fog. I
took a few steadying breaths before venturing out to see how many
racks of cookies were cooling, which was sure to give me some indication of Mom’s mood.
15

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 15

5/21/15 2:53 PM

It was worse than I’d thought. There must have been four dozen
cookies, maybe more, spread out on every surface of the tiny kitchen
and spilling over onto the table in the living room. I was just yelling
for Mom about the buzzer when there was a knock and a head poked
around the front door and into our apartment.
“Ya know, this isn’t Shelbyville, ladies. You might want to get in
the habit of locking your front door.”
The disembodied head waited patiently until I offered, “Come on
in, Joe.”
Then the rest of film producer extraordinaire (to hear him tell it,
anyway) Joe Ribinowitz strode into the room. His eyes lit up when he
spied the bounty of Mom’s afternoon bakefest. He paused to inhale the
smell of warm oatmeal and vanilla. I slid the next batch out of the oven
and switched off the buzzer.
“Your assistant said this was a safe neighborhood,” I accused.
“Well, of course it is. By Hollywood standards. But this complex
is mostly people in the industry and you have no idea what desperate
people starved for a role—and probably even regular starved from
dieting for that role—are capable of. There are some kooks out here
looking to land their shot at fame. And never, ever underestimate those
stage moms. The things they’ll do to get Junior a speaking line . . .”
Joe gave a whole-body shudder that culminated with him subtly
snatching a cookie off the cooling rack on the counter. “Where’s your
mom?”
“Not sure,” I was answering, just as Mom appeared in the doorway
to her bedroom at the far end of the hall.
16

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 16

5/21/15 2:53 PM

“Hey, did you get the cookies out? Oh, Joe! Thank God. Finally
a friendly face. How on earth did I let y’all talk me into this move?”
I had to admit, when Joe first started hanging around Grandma
Madge’s salon last winter as he recruited extra stylists for his production and, a few weeks later, landed at our kitchen table, I was pretty
sure he was putting the moves on my mother right under Dad’s nose.
If anyone in pinprick, dusty Shelbyville was going to catch the eye of a
visiting film crew, it would be Mom, with her glossy honey-butter hair
and her chirpy “Hey, y’all”s. People told her all the time that she was
the very definition of a Southern belle, and she had the Miss Georgia
Peach sash to prove it.
My mom’s sweet as a peach too—she’d probably never even see
the seduction coming. But it hadn’t been like that at all. Joe was every
bit as friendly with Dad and he’d been a really good friend to Mom
when everything went down. He was the one who made the move out
here happen.
Oh, and plus Joe was gay. Kinda missed that important detail.
So now I’d finally begun to take him at his word; he was in it for
the oatmeal raisin.
He answered Mom. “I’ll tell you how the hell you let yourself get
talked into it. Because I didn’t get where I am in this godforsaken
industry without learning how to get anyone to do anything.” Joe polished off a second cookie and reached for a third. “Plus, you’re far too
talented for a town so small it doesn’t even have a Starbucks. Who
knew places like that still even existed? Criminal. You belong in the
big time. The city of angels will open her gates for you two celestial
17

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 17

5/21/15 2:53 PM

beings.” Joe ended with a typically dramatic flourish that would usually have Mom in giggles.
Instead she snorted ruefully. “I don’t know about that. I can’t even
stay employed for an entire hour.”
“Well, what did I tell you about those A-listers?”
“You said stars are just shinier versions of regular people.”
“I did?” asked Joe. “Huh. I think I must have meant douchier versions, not shinier.”
My mom shook her head, a small smile fighting to break free. Joe
saw it too and went in for the kill. “Anyway, you, my sweet, are on to
bigger and better. I had my assistant’s assistant make some calls and,
as they say in the biz, everything’s coming up roses.”
“Really?” Mom asked as she drizzled cream into Joe’s coffee. I
scooted my chair in and propped my elbows on the table.
“Well. It’s not ideal. For me, at least. I’m gonna have to dive back
into my freezer supply of oatmeal raisin. Though these batches will
hold me over for a bit. I can have them, right?” he asked.
Mom waved her hand over them, eager to move past talk of cookies. “They’re yours. Now, back to the job, please.”
“By any chance do you ladies have passports?”
My mom and I exchanged a puzzled look. “No. Neither of us had
ever left Georgia before last week, much less the country.”
“Okay, no worries. We can get a rush job on a couple in two, three
days tops. First stop is New York anyway, and you should be there
through . . . wait, today’s Tuesday, so Wednesday, Thursday . . .”
He ticked days off on his hand until my mother and I both screamed
18

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 18

5/21/15 2:53 PM

“Joe!” at the same time.
Joe looked startled. “What?”
“Are you fixin’ to tell us what the job is?” my mom asked with
exaggerated patience.
“Oh, right. Sorry. Guess I should have led with that.”
He leaned in and smiled.
“Do you two happen to know who Graham Cabot is?”

19

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 19

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Chapter Three
Dear Wynn,
Like the Statue of Liberty on the front of this postcard? That’s
about how close Mom and I got to it from the Staten Island Ferry
yesterday! This city is amazing. I haven’t slept at all since we’ve
been here. Keep an eye out for a package. One genuine NYC snow
globe on its way. Miss you!
Love to Shelbyville,
Me
P.S. Tomorrow Mom and I start our new jobs with Graham
Cabot . . .
I slapped the stamp onto the corner of the postcard and set the
alarm on my phone for 2:07 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Shelbyville’s
only mailman, Michael, timed his route to the minute and I knew
exactly what time my postcard would flutter through the slot in
Wynn’s kitchen door. I wanted to see if I could hear her scream eight
20

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 20

5/21/15 2:53 PM

states away. I was betting on yes.
It had been hard enough for me to keep it secret for the past few
days.
Graham Cabot.
When Joe spilled the news that he found Mom (and, by extension,
me) a gig replacing Graham’s hair and makeup artist for the press tour
of his new movie, Triton, I nearly snorted cookie crumbs out my nose.
We were talking Graham Cabot, keeper of an entire generation of
young girls’ hearts. Not mine, of course. But still.
I mean, to be honest, I’ve never really been one for the whole
unrequited crush thing. I’m fairly certain I was the only girl in Miss
McConnell’s fourth-grade class not carting my crustless PB&J
around in a Zac Efron lunch box (Wynn had three different ones, so
she could alternate designs depending on her mood).
The idea that any of my friends tucked away in single-stoplight
Shelbyville would even encounter, much less seduce and happily-everafter with any of High School Musical’s East High Wildcats was too
preposterous to even consider. So why waste all that energy on . . .
yearning. I mean, really, what was the point?
The funny thing was that, when I first broke the news to Wynn
about our move out west, she was totally convinced I was going to
step off the plane and into the waiting arms of a swoon-worthy movie
star. Even after I reminded her we’d be driving.
“You know what I mean,” she’d insisted.
Only I hadn’t. I knew Mom was going to work in showbiz but
I didn’t really think it would be a big part of my life. I was mostly
21

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 21

5/21/15 2:53 PM

hoping to survive transferring schools before my senior year. Now at
least I knew I’d have a killer topic for my “What I did on my summer
vacation” essay.
Apparently a lot of people in Hollywood owed Joe favors and he’d
worked me in on the gig too, as Mom’s assistant. When I protested I
didn’t know the first thing about hair (other than how to shampoo it
and sweep it off the floor of a salon) and knew even less about makeup,
he’d promised it was just a glorified title. He’d further insisted every
studio-funded promotional tour was chock full of people who didn’t
actually need to be there. (“If stars can bring their Scientology gurus
on the road with them, you’d better believe the studio will fund your
trip. Plus, they owe me,” Joe had laughed.)
Our job with Graham was slated to be six weeks of travel that
included stints in New York (Triton US press junket), London and
Paris (Triton promotional appearances), Barcelona (Triton opens film
festival), and Venice (where else would you hold a premiere for a movie
that revolved around water?). Which, for me, translated to: Chrysler
Building/Empire State, Big Ben/St. Paul’s Cathedral, the pyramid at
the Louvre, every Gaudí building ever built, and Palladio’s Church of
the Redeemer. Architectural tour of a lifetime. I couldn’t wait and I
really didn’t care whose nose I’d have to powder to go!
So far it had not disappointed.
Even the place where the studio put us up in New York had me
mega geeking out. The Carlton Hotel, designed by famous architect
David Rockwell at the pinnacle of the art deco era, was literally in
the shadow of the Empire State Building. Granted, our room on the
22

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 22

5/21/15 2:53 PM

fourth floor had an unremarkable view of the office building on the
other side of Madison Avenue, but the view from Graham Cabot’s
suite on the twelfth floor, where Mom and I were setting up a makeup
bonanza, was an entirely different story (no pun intended).
Perfectly framed in the center of the bedroom’s arched window
was the Empire State Building in all her gleaming glory. If it was possible to be smitten with a hunk of metal, I was totally there.
“Hey, are you going to earn your keep on this trip or what? Quit
it with the googly eyes and grab me that bottle of hair gel, would you
please?” Mom’s voice cut through my reverie.
Turning my back on the postcard view, I squeezed through the
pocket doors separating the bedroom from the living space and
trudged over to the glass dining room table that Mom had commandeered as her workspace. Yes, dining room table. In a hotel room.
“Just give me a hand here,” Mom said. “This is the first chance
I’ve had to unpack this stuff and I want to make sure it all got here in
one piece, so I can get it organized and at least mostly packed back up
before Graham arrives. I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate us taking over
all his space.”
I glanced around a room that would likely echo several times over.
“Um, I think he could probably find somewhere to squeeze in.”
“Not the point. After the whole incident with Billy Glick, the last
thing I want to do is start off on the wrong foot. I want to be as professional as possible.”
“Prick,” I mumbled.
“Excuse me, young lady?”
23

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 23

5/21/15 2:53 PM

“Oh, I was just saying Billy ‘Prick,’ not Billy Glick. It’s my new
pet name for him.”
Mom gave an appreciative smile as she stacked eye shadows into
a small tower, then dove back into her bag. “Oh hells bells!” she
exclaimed, with her arm elbow deep.
“What’s wrong?”
“One of the foundation jars cracked and the whole bottom of this
bag and all the makeup brushes in it are covered in beige goop. Shit!”
“Mom, relax. We’re in New York City. We’ve seen more Duane
Reade drugstores than yellow taxicabs.”
“Yes, but these are professional makeup brushes. I won’t be able to
find anything like them at a corner pharmacy.”
Oh. Just another reason why there were likely about eleventy
billion people on the planet more qualified to be an assistant makeup
artist than someone like me.
Only in Hollywood can you get paid a salary and sent on a European adventure to NOT work. That said, I wanted to help my mom
just because she was my mom and I hated seeing her stressed like this.
God knows she’s had enough of that already this year.
“Okay, okay. But all those runway models have to shop for beauty
supplies somewhere, don’t they?” I asked.
Mom took a deep breath and exhaled. “You’re right. I’m just so
nervous I can’t think straight. I’m going to call the front desk.”
A few minutes later she had a pad of paper covered in scribbles.
“Okay, the concierge gave me a bunch of addresses for supply stores
and there’s one that’s in the Garment District, not all that far from
24

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 24

5/21/15 2:53 PM

here. Graham’s schedule doesn’t show his plane landing for another
three hours, so we have some time. Damn, but one of us should stay
here and get this stuff in order. Do you mind?”
I didn’t mind, though I wondered how Mom was going to handle
the big city on her own. Our drive out west was the only time either
of us had ever had a need for our phones’ GPS, and we hadn’t exactly
mastered the NYC subway during our sightseeing ventures. But at the
moment she was all hectic energy and didn’t seem concerned about it.
She bustled around the room, grabbing at bags and peeking inside for
damage.
“I really have to figure out some other carry-on options so I don’t
have to check this stuff next time.”
I shrugged. “Aren’t we flying to London with Graham’s whole
group? I’m guessing maybe a private plane doesn’t have overhead
compartment limitations.”
Mom straightened up and swiped a piece of hair out of her eyes.
She looked at me for a second and then burst into laughter. It was nice
to see the shadows in her eyes receding.
“Oh, my sweet girl. How did this get to be our life?”
I grinned in return and listened carefully to her instructions, then
pushed her out the door with promises that I would call housekeeping
for Windex and get everything else arranged into a lovely display for
the one and only Graham Cabot.
After forty minutes or so, I had all the tubes and jars sorted and
the items I thought we’d need neatly stacked on the mirrored sidebar.
I’d managed to track down glass cleaner, and the table and sidebar
25

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 25

5/21/15 2:53 PM

twinkled in the sunlight. I’d even walked the dirty paper towels to
the trash bin outside of the elevator so they wouldn’t mar the cans in
the room.
When I returned, I ventured back into the bedroom to stare transfixed again at William Lamb’s masterpiece. Seriously. How does
someone design a building as amazing as the Empire State Building?
If I peered closely, I could make out ant-size people movements at
the top, where the observation tower was. I remembered thinking the
same about the size of the people below when I’d been up there myself
the day before.
After a few minutes, the sightseeing of the day before started to
catch up with my legs. I parked my butt, somewhat guiltily, on the
very edge of the bed. The room had the muffled hush of a funeral parlor. Which was weird, because our room eight floors below was full
of the sounds of the city outside. Maybe Fortress of Silence was on the
amenities list up here. Wouldn’t surprise me.
It really was especially quiet, which gave me the courage I needed
to scoot back a little farther onto the bed. And then convinced me that
no harm could come from me lying down on the far edge of the bed.
I placed my feet above the folded duvet at the base so as to not leave
any evidence of my indiscretion and to give myself a fighting chance
of springing up when I heard Mom’s key card. After a few minutes I
stretched out a teensy bit more and nudged my head onto the pillow.
How was it that even the pillows were so much better up here? Ours
were deluxe, but these were goose-feathery amazing.
I lay on the bed, squinting at indistinct movements on the
26

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 26

5/21/15 2:53 PM

observation deck and trying to figure out how someone could pull
such an elegant design out of their head. When I felt my eyes closing,
I gave in, figuring Mom couldn’t really get that pissed. Everything in
the living room looked perfect and with one quick snap of the duvet
and a fluff of the pillows no one would even know I was ever here. . . .
“You have GOT to be kidding me! AGAIN?”
I jerked upright and peered through sleep-heavy lids at five
strangers standing over me. The voice was one I’d grown accustomed
to hearing coming from Wynn’s television set at every one of our
sleepovers.
Graham Cabot.
“Let me through. I’ll handle this.” A man roughly the size of a
Transformer and missing any hint of a neck pushed past Graham with
a speed that was alarming for such a beefy physique.
He plucked me from the bed and deposited me on my feet, exerting
as much effort as if I were one of the downy pillows and not actualgirl-sized. I was too disoriented to speak. I blinked a few times in utter
confusion while my brain slowly computed that this was not a dream.
It was, in fact, a nightmare.
Graham squared his shoulders and looked at me—well, really
more like through me—like I was a mosquito on his camping trip. I’d
had the chance to study, really study, the golden flecks in his hazel
eyes every time I’d sprawled across Wynn’s bed and stared up at her
ceiling (back in the day, Wynn hadn’t been so shy about her crush,
and a younger life-size Graham had had a far more prominent spot
27

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 27

5/21/15 2:53 PM

than the current one on the back of her closet door), but in the airbrushed version they didn’t flash with anger the way they did now. I
mean, sure, they were fairly delicious either way, but I was a little too
freaked out to take too much notice of that. Or the fact that neither of
Wynn’s life-size posters were exactly accurate. Actual life-size Graham was way taller. And pissed. Clearly, clearly pissed.
He practically spit his words out. “Look, I can’t even begin to tell
you how messed up this is. Where do you get off breaking into my
room? What did you think exactly? That I’d walk in and find you on
my bed and decide, ‘Well, sure! I mean she’s already here, so . . . Why
not have my way with her, make her my girlfriend, marry her even!
Hey, I know, let’s start a family.’ Is that how the scenario played out in
your mind? Because let me tell you, the only one you might be starting a family with is the guard in juvie, which is where you’re headed.
If they don’t decide you’re better served in a mental hospital.”
He turned his attention to his entourage, specifically the beefy
bodyguard. “Roddy, can you call the front desk?”
The other three adults were busy looking everywhere but in my
direction, as Roddy grunted, “I’m on it” and reached across Graham
for the phone.
That was enough to snap me fully awake. “Wait, I can explain . . . ,”
I murmured. Granted, I should have shouted this, but c’mon, this was
me we were talking about.
Graham snorted. “Look, I don’t want to know how you bribed the
guy behind the front desk or flashed him your ass or whatever you had
to do to get the key to this room. I’m not interested in the strawberries
28

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 28

5/21/15 2:53 PM

and champagne on its way up here or the bubbles you brought for a
bath. Don’t you realize you’re the third girl this year, in as many cities,
to pull this exact same stunt?”
He paused and gave my bedhead ponytail, ratty jeans, and gray
Kansas State School of Architecture T-shirt a disdainful once-over.
“I’ll give you credit, at least you don’t look the part.”
Oddly, this was the thing that finally ticked me off. It was totally
out of character for me to not be tripping over my apologies right then
and I definitely started out feeling guilty about getting caught in his
bed, but c’mon! It was an innocent mistake. I certainly hadn’t had some
grand seduction scene planned out.
Except this guy was so full of himself that he wouldn’t even take
two minutes to listen to my side of the story (and okay, fine, it’s not
like I was offering it. Still). Misunderstanding or not, who the hell did
he think he was? Just because he was a Hollywood Heartthrob with a
capital H didn’t give him the right to talk to me like this. If he thought
I was going to be swayed by his swimmer’s build or the way his hair
picked up glints from the chandelier, he was deluded.
I glared at him, which was major progress for me. Gathering all
my inner reserves, I spit out, “Whatever. Just you wait until I find my
mom!”
His mouth formed a puzzled O shape.
Granted, that statement would have sounded a whole lot smoother
had the guy known where my mother fit into the scenario, but at that
moment I was beyond caring about saving face with Graham Cabot. I
stomped (sort of) to the door and placed my hands on my hips, waiting
29

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 29

5/21/15 2:53 PM

for Roddy to move his lumberjack frame out of the way.
Roddy peered easily over the top of my head at Graham, awaiting
permission to move. Graham must have made some motion because
Roddy stepped to the side and let me resume my march to the elevator.
The door to the suite clicked softly into place behind me.
As I jammed my finger repeatedly on the down button, the door
to Graham’s room clicked opened again and one of the other adults—
a tiny pixie woman with olive skin and thick black hair down to
her butt—slipped out, clutching a leather satchel half her size. She
sashayed over to me and placed her bag on the ground, bending over
to poke around inside it. She found what she needed and straightened
back up.
“Look, sorry about that scene in there. I mean, I’m sure we can
agree that what you did was slightly . . . inappropriate. But as Graham’s handler, I can assure you that he values each and every one of
his fans and I’d hate for him to lose even a crazy one. No offense. It’s
just that you whack jobs are the ones who sit through his movies ten
times in a row. Here, please—take this.”
My jaw hung open as she thrust something into my hand. The
elevator opened. I closed my fingers around the paper and stepped
inside, turning in time to watch her attempt to hoist her bag back onto
her arm, before the doors slid shut and left me in peace. I glanced
down at the paper in my hand, which turned out to be an eight-byten glossy photograph of Graham Cabot with his signature scrawled
across the bottom half.
There was nothing else to do but scream in frustration as I crumpled
30

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 30

5/21/15 2:53 PM

the picture in my fist. What WAS it with these people? Was a signed
headshot the Hollywood equivalent of a Hallmark apology card?
All of a sudden, I was beginning to question if even the chance to
see the glass pyramid at the Louvre in person was remotely worth a
summer in the company of these people.
And . . . welcome to New York.

31

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 31

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Chapter Four
The elevator doors slid open on the fourth floor to reveal my bagbundled mother.
“Hey, sweetie. I just stopped off in our room to drop some things.
Sorry that took so long. I ended up getting a tad bit lost, but I managed
to get everything. How’s it looking up there?” She used her foot to
prop open the elevator doors while she wrestled with a bag.
“How it’s looking is filled to capacity with one person’s ego, that’s
how it’s looking,” I said, still seething.
Mom cocked her head. She pulled her foot from the door and used a
free hand to jerk me out into the hallway. “I don’t understand. Whose
ego? Oh my God, wait . . . are you saying Graham’s here already?
He’s not due for another hour.” Her voice squeaked a little as she finished the sentence.
However, I was not at all ready to be done with my own tantrum.
Not by a long shot. I needed to vent and Mom had landed right in the
path of my hurricane. Something about knowing someone was bound
32

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 32

5/21/15 2:53 PM

by blood to love me made me a hundred percent less worked up over
my confrontation with them.
“Oh, more than likely he commands the tailwinds as well as everyone and everything else. Because he’s here all right. And he is not . . .”
I tossed about for a strong enough word but couldn’t find one acidic
enough to do my rant justice. I settled for: “. . . pleasant. To say the
least.”
Mom had a “don’t even tell me” look on her face. “Annabelle
Mae,” she said, with a warning note to her voice. “Pray tell, what
happened?”
“Why do you automatically assume I did something? I mean,
okay, fine, I was asleep in his bed. Whatever. The guy didn’t have to
automatically jump to his pervy conclusions. At least he could have
waited to hear my side of things instead of just assuming I was there
to seduce him. I mean, seriously? His ego is bigger than that building
out his window!”
Mom was clearly not compelled by my defense. Through clenched
teeth, she asked, “Are you saying Graham came into his hotel room
after a long day of traveling and discovered a perfect stranger asleep
in his bed?”
“Well, when you put it like that, I mean, yeah, but Mom, you
should have seen him completely fly off the handle. The guy was a
total creeper!”
“Who could blame him?” She put one hand on her hip and then the
other, a gesture I matched hand for hand. We stood staring each other
down in the paneled hallway. Finally Mom made a weird “Oomph”
33

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 33

5/21/15 2:53 PM

noise and pressed the button to summon the elevator again.
“You’re going to march straight up there and go whole hog on an
apology.”
Before I could even compose my rebuttal, she amended: “No,
scratch that. It’s probably better if you stay here until things have had
a chance to blow over a little. I’m going to go up there and see how
bad the damage is. Let’s find out if you’ve actually managed to beat
our record firing time.”
The elevator doors slid open with a tasteful ding and Mom fired
a disgusted look over her shoulder as she stepped on. For my part, I
stomped off to our room, maneuvering my way around suitcases and
plopping facedown on my bed. I focused on trying to identify the different city sounds outside my window, which helped me calm down
a little, but I was still way too steamed to consider resuming my nap.
Revenge. That’s what was on my mind.
I mean, fine, the guy held our paychecks and LA future in his
hands, so it’s not like I could actually carry out any of my fantasies,
not like I had it in me to seriously do anything anyway. But just daydreaming about sending room service doused in cayenne pepper to
His Highness made me feel a little better. Thinking about the inconveniences that would arise from tweeting his current location and the
name he booked his room under (Peter Parker? Really, dude?) to all
26,595,901 of his Twitter followers? Even better.
Mom was totally defrosted by the time she came back to the room
three hours (THREE FREAKING HOURS!) later. I’d had time to
34

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 34

5/21/15 2:53 PM

read my entire Illustrated Guide to London Art and Architecture, assuming with each passing minute that Mom had managed to defuse the
bomb and our trip to London was still on. After all, as we knew oh
so well, it didn’t take three hours to fire someone. However, I didn’t
expect her to be downright giddy when she tripped into the room,
chuckling at some private joke.
“You know, honey, I have to say, I think you got Graham pegged
all wrong. He was completely adorable with me. We all had a good
laugh once I was able to explain the whole situation. He wanted me to
assure you he has no hard feelings and he’s looking forward to meeting you properly.”
“You all had a good laugh? He has no hard feelings? Well, that’s
great, Mom. Just great. What about my hard feelings?”
“Babe, I really think you may be the one blowing this out of proportion. You have to put yourself in Graham’s shoes for a minute. Who
knows all the crackpots he must have to deal with. You’ve heard those
crazy stalker stories. Remember that group last year that got arrested
for breaking into movie stars’ houses as part of some pledging ritual?
I mean, imagine you’re minding your own business, not causing anyone any harm, and just because you happen to have a household name,
you get on a list like that.”
I was not swayed. “Poor baby movie star. It must be sooo rough
to be him. I’ll bet it just sucks so much when his chauffeur forgets to
pick up his nonfat, no foam, no water, six pump, extra hot chai latte.”
I placed my palm against my forehead and pretended to swoon, flopping onto my bed. “Oh, and can you even imagine how horrible it
35

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 35

5/21/15 2:53 PM

must be when the surround sound system breaks down and there’s no
way to watch the VMAs on the hundred-and-six-inch flat screen?”
“Sarcasm is very unbecoming, Annie,” said my mother with a
shrug, reaching across me for the TV remote. “To be honest, I’m a
little surprised at you. I don’t understand why you’re letting this perfect stranger get you so worked up.”
“Because, Mom. You should have seen the way he looked at me.
Like I was a piece of gum on the bottom of his shoe. He was so . . .
so . . . smug. I just don’t get why people in Hollywood think they’re so
much better than the rest of us mere mortals.”
“Mm-hm. And you’re basing this on the enormous number of,
what is it, three people you’ve met in the business? You’ll get zero
argument from me on Billy Glick, but wouldn’t you say Joe is a perfect
counterpoint? That man is a total doll and we owe an awful lot to him.
You might be lumping Graham in the negative column right now, but
I have to tell you, sweetie, from everything I observed of him tonight,
I’d pin him as one of the good guys.”
I wandered over to the window and pretended to be transfixed by
the view. Mom continued talking to my back.
“Sweetheart, you know what this job means for us, right? Your
dad’s, uh, situation, means I really can’t afford to lose this gig.” I felt
a twinge of guilt at her groan of frustration. “Plus,” she continued, “I
like this job. It’s exactly the kind of distraction I wanted for us when
we made the decision to move to LA. And I want it for you too. How
else would I ever have the means to share this big adventure with my
baby girl? It may have taken me forty-three years to leave home, but
36

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 36

5/21/15 2:53 PM

I knew from the moment I held you, you were going places much bigger than Shelbyville. I have to steal this time with you while I have it.
Look where we are, sweets. We’re in high cotton.”
Even with my back to her, I could picture her arms stretching wide
to cover the city outside our window (or at least the office building
and the half block of Madison Avenue visible from our window). Mom
may not have gotten the daughter who would giggle over shopping
trips and makeovers, but at least this trip was girl time we could share,
and I knew Mom was excited for that. Besides, it wasn’t her fault her
client was a major jerk. I turned to her and offered a shrug and a tiny
smile. She responded with a bigger one of her own and then disappeared into the bathroom to shower before dinner.
I focused on the street below and watched the sunshine-yellow
taxis maneuver across lanes. I was about to turn from the window to
scope out potential restaurants online when a bus crossed my line of
vision. Plastered across the entire side of it were the words triton:
splash down this summer. And underneath the slogan was a twicelife-size (which I could now vouch for firsthand), but very realistic
and very, very shirtless Graham Cabot.
Grinning wickedly right up at me.
I yanked the curtains closed so hard the rod shook.
I skipped the indignity of rehearsing the apology I’d be forced to
make in mere minutes. Instead, I yanked on what I hoped would pass
as a suitable Assistant to the Makeup Artist uniform. At least the ballet flats Mom insisted I swap my sneakers for, black leggings, and
37

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 37

5/21/15 2:53 PM

oversize white button-down were comfy enough for what promised
to be a very long day. Excluding time for mea culpas, the schedule
showed Graham’s interviews starting at eight a.m. and continuing
until six p.m., with only thirty minutes for lunch and three ten-minute
breaks spaced throughout. Fine, so maybe being a movie star wasn’t
all glamour all the time.
Mom was up and out of the room at six thirty, sneakily setting
my phone to sound an alarm at 7:05. Sadly for me, the six pillows I
dragged on top of my blaring phone while in a stupor did the job of
muffling the buzzing a little too well, which left me scrambling to
make it upstairs before Mom sent out a pitchfork-carting search party.
At least my work commute only involved an elevator.
When I reached the third floor, there were people with headsets
and walkie-talkies swarming the hallways. A woman in a business suit
spotted me stepping off the elevator and grabbed my elbow.
“Are you Annabelle?” she asked.
“Um, yeah. It’s Annie, though.”
“Sure, whatever. Okay, listen, we have a code red. We’re piggybacking with Warner’s and the field publicists they flew in ate the
oysters at the dive bar around the corner last night, so we had to offer
them some of our crew. Your mom volunteered you to help out with
distributing EPKs and working the stopwatch, okay?”
I had a perfectly blank expression. She tapped her foot impatiently,
waiting for the lingo to miraculously click. Yeah, not gonna happen.
“Um, I’m not exactly sure what a press junket even is, let alone an
EPK,” I offered.
38

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 38

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Her shoulders drooped in defeat and she mumbled something
under her breath. I’m fairly certain I caught the words “completely
hopeless,” but when I said, “Excuse me?” she pointed to her headset
and mimed that she was talking to someone on it.
“Okay, walk and talk,” she barked, and took off at full speed down
the hallway. I had to trot to keep up with her. “EPK is ‘electronic
press kit.’ Here’s some press junket 101. They usually take place over a
weekend and involve gathering all the stars of a film, the director, and
sometimes the producers, in one hotel for interviews. Reporters from
all over are flown in, except for the ones who are POW.”
I touched her arm to get her attention. “Um, why would prisoners
of war come to a press junket?”
She looked down at the carpet and mumbled something that
sounded suspiciously like, “Why, Lord, why me?” When I started to
protest, she pointed again to the headset. Yeah, right. I was onto her.
“Pay Own Ways,” she told me, using an “I’m talking to a threeyear-old” tone of voice. “Some of the major print publications think
it will compromise their journalistic integrity to have the studio fund
their trip, and by extension their interview. Of course the TV people
you’ll be working with today have no such ethics. We cover their trip
right down to a generous per diem. And let me tell you, some of them
do this every weekend, so you can imagine the vacations they can take
on frequent flyer miles and hotel points alone.” She ended on a snort
and we resumed speed-walking the corridor.
“Okay, so to save money, we split the cost with another studio.
It’s called piggybacking. For this movie, we’re piggying with Warner
39

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 39

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Brothers. The print interviews for their movie are today and their TV
ones will be tomorrow. We do TV today, print tomorrow. The reporters get interviews for two movies with one trip and we get to split costs
with Warner’s. Win-win. Got it?”
She didn’t bother waiting for my nod as she paused in front of
suite 212. Pivoting, she said, “Okay, gotta drop you here. No time to
explain more, but you’ll be fine. Just go with the flow. Good luck.”
Under her breath came, “You’ll need it,” and this time when I
raised my eyebrows in question and pointed to her headphones, she
smirked. “Nope. That one was for you.”
“Uh,” I began, but the snarky publicist lady was already halfway
up the hallway.
I turned to face the door and rapped lightly. A stocky man in giant
padded headphones yanked it open, glaring. “Are you an idiot? We’re
taping in here! Didn’t you see the sign?” I stood awkwardly in the
doorway as the occupants of the room swiveled to face me.
A woman with a stopwatch in her hand shot daggers at me, then
turned and said, “We’re going to have to start over. I’m so sorry, Graham, but this’ll cut five off your ten-minute break.”
Did she say Graham?
I stepped deeper into the suite and moved delicately around a black
felt backdrop to spot two hazel eyes appraising me with amusement.
Graham Cabot.
Well, shit.
For someone who just lost half of a precious break, he looked decidedly mischievous as he gave me a once-over. Smugly so, actually. I
40

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 40

5/21/15 2:53 PM

bristled inside, but did my best to keep my expression blandly apologetic as I made my way over to the far wall and tried to blend into it.
“Oh hell no,” said the same woman, gesturing me over to her side.
“I was just filling in until you got here. This sucker’s all yours.” She
smirked, handing over the stopwatch. “Hit start, then tell the reporter
each time a minute passes. Every interview is precisely five minutes.”
She gave extra emphasis to the “precisely” and paused to wait for my
nod. “Are you sure you can handle this?” she asked with a doubtful
expression. I nodded mutely. Was I going to be treated like an idiot all
summer? Because if so, I’d like off this ride, please.
Once the queen of punctual left, action in the room resumed and
no one glanced in my direction again. My surroundings were a surreal
mix of Movieland and posh hotel. Graham was seated facing another
man who I figured for the reporter, based on the inches of pancake
makeup plastering his face and his “this face can deliver breaking
news and you won’t even be scared” features. The black felt backdrop hung from the ceiling in a semicircle, enclosing Graham and
the reporter on three sides and obscuring the silk wallpaper and the
view of office buildings beyond. I knew just enough to recognize that
this was so the viewers at home would see Graham in his chair with
nothing distracting behind him, aside from the foam-mounted movie
poster advertising Triton propped up on an easel. Wynn kept Access
Hollywood on in the background while we did homework, so I’d seen
this celebrity-floating-in-black-space setup countless times.
I’d also seen Graham countless times, but in person there was
almost this energy shimmering around him or maybe even radiating
41

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 41

5/21/15 2:53 PM

from him. Obviously, I still thought he was a total asshat for the way
he’d treated me the day before, but I suddenly understood what people
meant when they referred to “star power.” Good thing I had enough
common sense not to get sucked into his force field. No matter how
well his shoulders filled out a waffle-weave henley.
I couldn’t interpret the look Graham sent my way (Annoyed?
Chagrined?), but it lasted only a second and then he adjusted himself
in his chair and flashed the reporter a smile that clearly conveyed,
“Sure, I could be your best friend.” If the reporter weren’t wearing so
much pancake on his face, I’m fairly sure his blush would have shown
through. Graham, on the other hand, seemed to need no makeup
whatsoever. He leaned back in his seat and threw an arm across the
back of it like he owned the place.
And then everyone was once AGAIN focused on me. I stared
back at them for a second before realizing they were waiting on my
go signal. “Oops, sorry. Go ahead.” I clicked the stopwatch. Nothing like being dropped into a foreign situation to make me feel totally
incompetent. Ugh! Where on earth is Mom anyway, I thought as the
dial swept its circle.
“Um, first minute,” I whispered sixty seconds later, waving a little
to get the reporter’s attention.
The camera operator threw up his hands and Graham giggled.
Giggled.
Then he said, “You can’t actually talk, or your voice will be on the
tape. You have to use hand signals. Hold up a finger for each minute.
Okay?” he said, demonstrating as if I might not know how to count to
42

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 42

5/21/15 2:53 PM

five on my fingers. Surprisingly, there was a note of something odd in
his voice. Sympathy? From the obnoxious Graham Cabot?
Then, even more amazingly, he added, “Hey, don’t worry about
it. You should have seen me on my first ever day of shooting. They
had to shut down the production because I kept forgetting to use my
‘inside voice’ and then, right in the middle of a scene, my mom’s cell
went off.”
The word cell was still hanging in the air when my own phone
exploded in a cacophony of alarm bells. I jumped up like fire ants were
attacking the seat of my pants. My snooze button was set to thirty
minutes and I must have hit it instead of turning the stupid thing off
before leaving my room. I was ready to run screaming from the room
when I heard a low rumble.
It grew.
Graham and the reporter had tears of laughter running down their
faces. Graham clutched his side. When he caught my eye, he winked.
That was so unexpected that, totally unwittingly, a giggle escaped my
own mouth. Before long, everyone else, whether of their own volition,
or maybe just to suck up to the movie star in the room, had joined in.
I wasn’t even sure why I was laughing, given how perturbed with
him I was, but there was just something about that wink that made
me feel like he’d invited me into his personal bubble. And something
about him that made me want to be there, despite every misgiving I
had.
Graham got up from his seat, carefully unclipping his mike from
the folds of his shirt, and crossed over to stand in front of me. My
43

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 43

5/21/15 2:53 PM

laughter turned to hiccups as I gulped for breath and tried to stand.
He stuck out a hand.
“Can we maybe start over here?” he asked. He seemed sincere,
but then again, he was an actor. I contemplated him for a moment. If
I said no, it would be awkward and maybe even confrontational, so a
big part of my brain was screaming, “Just say yes, so you can take the
easy out.” But another part was flashing back on that look he’d leveled
me with in his bedroom.
Sure, he seemed perfectly friendly now, but maybe it was because
there were people around. Then again, there had been people around
the day before too. My brain got all jumbled, the way it always did
when I was in a potentially ugly social situation, so I did the only
thing I could think to do in the moment. I hiccuped my assent and
placed my hand into his.
And tried to convince myself that the all-over shiver I felt when
our hands touched was just my achy-from-laughter rib cage protesting the vigorous shake.

44

MapStarsEPB_txt_ed4.indd 44

5/21/15 2:53 PM

Related Interests