Someone To Love
“I watched a tutorial,” Sam says. “It can’t be that hard.”
We must look like a couple, but everyone knows we aren’t together. I love Sam. We always sit next to each other in classes because our names are so close. Sam Bailey. Olivia Blakely. He’s super smart and will probably do something exceptional someday, like work on a giant particle accelerator. He’s also the most loyal guy I know.
He’s had a crush on a few girls over the years, but neither of us has been that lucky in love.
“We better get going,” I say, continuing on my way. “I want to be early.”
I start thinking about Zach. Again.
If only he knew that I exist. And that I’m totally in love with him.
He’s always off and on with Cristina Rossi. God. That girl. Model gorgeous. And, since this is Los Angeles, she actually is a model. She even appeared half-naked for a Calvin Klein underwear campaign on a billboard next to the Chateau Marmont this summer. They both look like works of art. Ms. Day, my studio art teacher, might call them “aesthetically pleasing.” Well-proportioned. Shapely. Statuesque.
Sam pulls the tie out of his pocket. He tries to tie it as he walks. It’s as defiant as his unruly hair. He can’t manage a Windsor knot to save his life.
“How ’bout just ditch the tie?” I say.
“Help me out, Liv. You’ve known how to tie these since the fourth grade.”
Out of the corner of my eye I see a guy with brown, slicked-back hair and a gray suit striding across the quad like he owns the school. Jackson Conti. He’s a mass of muscle and has the confidence to match. We sat near each other in biology sophomore year, but I haven’t hung out with him outside of school or talked to him much since then. I hear he’s planning an event with Zach, who happens to be his best friend, in Marina del Rey on a 148-foot yacht that belongs to Sean Clark, an up-and-coming action movie star.
Did I mention that Zach is also an actor?
He played a minor part in one of Sean’s recent movies. Sean’s letting him borrow the yacht to throw a killer party for his friends and cast members while Sean’s out of town. It’s not the actors I’m interested in though—except Zach, of course. I overheard Cristina’s best friend, Felicity, whose father is a big art dealer, telling someone that Geoff LeFeber, a major contemporary artist, is supposed to be visiting from New York and might be going to the party. I guess one of the executive producers of the TV show Zach stars on knows him. It seems like a long shot that he’ll attend, but anything’s possible in Los Angeles. It’s a smaller place than people think.
I have to be there. LeFeber’s my favorite living artist. He puts together these insane installations that completely alter your perception of reality. I’ve never been to one in person, but I watched a YouTube video the Museum of Modern Art put out that took you through this massive open room filled with tunnels of tape attached to the beams of the roof and pillars. It looked like you were caught in a giant spider’s web from the perspective of the fly. Besides looking otherworldly, the installation was supposed to illustrate the dangerous intoxication of curiosity and wonder. I love how LeFeber can make simple shapes and materials seem dreamlike and surreal. I may be a painter instead of an installation artist, but I’d die to talk to someone like LeFeber.
My parents are well connected, but they’re not that interested in art. They’ve taken me—or have let me take myself—to a lot of museums, but never to gallery openings or lectures where the artist is actually present. There are so many questions I would ask him. How do you come up with your ideas? Did anyone believe in your work when you were young? When did you really know you were an artist?
I’m determined to get an invitation to the party.
A girl can hope.
I glance behind me. Sam has finally managed to finish tying his tie on his own. I’m glad I ran into him before photos. Being around him usually makes me less nervous.
Now that I know Sam looks put together, I have to drum up the courage to see what I can find out about that boat party.
“I’ll be right back. There’s someone I gotta talk to,” I say, leaving him so I can catch up to Jackson.
It’s not like people don’t know me. Dad’s position as the Speaker of the House is high profile, but his job also means that I’ve spent a lot of time on both coasts and helping out my parents with their projects—mostly Mom’s literacy campaign and whatever hot topic Dad happens to be dealing with at the moment—which means less time for making friends in LA.
After the Ollie incident, I’ve mostly been a loner the past couple of years. It’s not like I don’t have any friends, but I don’t put myself out there that much.
“Hey...Jackson,” I stutter.
My stomach instantly hurts.
“Olivia.” He smiles. Jackson’s all teeth and eyebrows. He talks to people like a salesman. Like they’ll all be potential clients someday. I’m not interested in him, but he’s the one hosting the party so I pretend to flirt. I have to be there.
“Is...that a new suit?” I ask. “You look great.”
God. I’m an idiot. What a suck-up.
“You do too,” he says. “That color is hot on you.”
Did he really just say that? I try to stifle a laugh, but this ugly, garbled half chuckle, half groan comes out of my mouth. Who takes sexy yearbook photos?
I can feel Sam following behind, so I grab Jackson by the elbow to get away. I haven’t told Sam about my plan yet. He would think I’m being stupid. Or shallow.
“Going inside?” I ask, propelling him forward. “I hate school photos but really love our photographer, don’t you?”
I don’t even know what I’m saying. I do this thing when I get nervous and start talking about anything to avoid an awkward silence.
“She’s all right,” he says without much enthusiasm. “Made my teeth look big.”
“No!” I say to Jackson. “I mean, not too big. Plus, big teeth are in these days. Don’t you watch Silver Lake?” The entire reality cast has giant teeth, like they’re a bunch of big-toothed piranhas about to attack the cameras and each other in every scene.
“No...” he says. “Should I?”
“They all have them,” I say. “That big teeth thing.”
He stops, runs his tongue across his top teeth. “They do?”
I turn around. The hall is filling up. Here comes Sam. And Zach. And Felicity Pace. She’s basically a teenage socialite, with her bouncy blond hair, which she swings back and forth as she walks down the hallway, linking arms with Cristina Rossi.
A massive crowd of students begins to descend on us like a horde of gorgeous, perfectly groomed, well-dressed zombies. No. No. No. I need to talk to Jackson alone. It’s the only way I’m going to get invited to that party. Maybe I’ll never have a chance with Zach, but I might still have one with LeFeber. I have to talk to him.
I grab his arm again. We head into the photo studio and join the queue.
“So that boat party,” I squeak. “The one in Marina del Rey?”
“What about it?” Jackson asks.
I don’t want to tell him I overheard Felicity. Embarrassing.
“Yeah?” he says. “Aren’t he and Sean pals?”
I nod. Ever since Sean Clark campaigned for my dad for the House, they’re tight. Dad totally went Hollywood.
My family is nearly perfect—at least to the public. There’s Mr. and Mrs. Blakely, the charming political power couple, Mason, who turned his life around after rehab and now works in venture capital in Silicon Valley, and Royce, who has already had an article published in the New York Times while in college.
Then there’s Olivia Blakely.
I’m just trying to survive my junior year of high school.