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Likely Story: All That Glitters
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Likely Story: All That Glitters

Written by David Van EttenAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by David Van Etten

· Knopf Books for Young Readers
· eBook · October 14, 2008 · $9.99 · 978-0-375-89147-2 (0-375-89147-1)

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I have a confession to make: My life is not nearly as glamorous as it might seem. Or as easy.

If I say, "I'm a sixteen-year-old girl who gets to run her own soap opera on network TV," it should mean big parties, great shoes, famous friends, and cash coming out of fountains.

The reality? TV seems a whole lot different when you're up at the crack of dawn making it. Famous doesn't look so sexy at 6 a.m.

Do you know what the world record for thinking "I have no idea what I'm doing" is? I think it's two million times in a single day. Which was pretty much a typical day for me as my show, Likely Story, came to life.

My skin tone had turned mortician-ready from all the time I spent untanning under fluorescent lights. Southern California living usually allows for plenty of sun; it gives the city populace its opulent glow. But the only color I had came from the sequoia-worthy rings under my eyes. I should have been able to deal with it. After all, I'd grown up on a soap opera set, the daughter of a Daytime Star. But it's one thing to be the little girl making lipstick drawings on the makeup table while her mother is twenty feet away, bitch-slapping a nun for stealing her husband. It's quite another thing to be the one responsible for every bitch slap, betrayal, and love quadrangle.
I needed a break from all the drama.

Finally I finagled a night off, despite my executive producer Richard's objections that there was still work to be done. One thing I'd learned quickly was that there was always work to be done, and if I wanted time off, I had to demand it. Or I had to sneak away.

There was no question about who I'd spend my freedom with. For reasons that weren't entirely clear, my ridiculously understanding boyfriend, Keith, had stuck with me even though I now spent much more time alone in my room writing about kissing than I did . . . well . . . kissing. So a big date was long overdue. While most guys would have used this as an opportunity to make a reservation at the closest cozy couch, Keith was taking me out for a special night at the movies. One of my favorite classics--Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starring Liz Taylor and Paul Newman as a Southern couple whose marriage is slowly eaten away by the secret that they harbor. (One of them is in love with another man. Guess which.) My mother had gotten me hooked on the movie years ago, while she was researching her role as Liz Taylor in the Lifetime Original Movie A Diamond Cuts Both Ways: The Nine Lives and Seven Loves of Elizabeth Taylor. It was not a memorable MOW (that's Movie of the Week in biz speak) and did not serve as the launching pad to the greater cable success my mother had been hoping for. It had, however, instilled in me an early love for the weepy but wonderful women drawn by that maestro of melodrama, Tennessee Williams. I had been looking forward to the movie all week. There was only one problem: As much as I loved Tennessee Williams and Liz Taylor and Keith and the idea of going out on a date, I loved sleep even more. And as much as I'd been neglecting Keith, I'd been neglecting sleep even more.

My eyes started to close as soon as the opening credits began to roll.

The next thing I knew, Keith was whispering, "Mallory. Mallory! Wake up!"

"Huh?" I asked groggily, taking in his rough-boy-makes-nice features. "Is something on fire?"

"Erika is here."

I bolted awake. Erika was his ex-girlfriend--the one he'd been dating when he'd started seeing me. When he'd finally broken up with her, she'd threatened to kill herself, kill him, and kill me. Not necessarily in that order.

So--not a fire, but definitely a five-alarm emergency.

"She's here?!" I asked, just to make certain.

"Uh-huh. Two rows in front of us, four seats over."

"Why couldn't the cat have stayed on the damn tin roof?"
Keith gave me a withering glance and I knew I shouldn't have said that. I absolutely respected the fact that he still cared about Erika's well-being. I just didn't particularly want to see it.

"Do you mind if we sneak out before she sees us?" he asked. "You know how fragile she is. I don't want her to see us together."

"But I love this movie," I said. What I meant was, I thought the fact that you broke up with her and started dating me full-time meant we didn't have to sneak around anymore.

"You were out cold."

Keith's eyes were pleading now. I couldn't say no to that.

"Let's go, Brick," I said.

"Thanks, Maggie. I owe you one."

We exited the theater as lo-pro as possible. At the back of the theater I stopped for just a moment to enjoy my favorite line from the whole movie. Liz Taylor, dressed only in a white slip (tres scandalous in the fifties), is clawing the back of the settee, screeching at her husband, Brick, "Skipper is dead! I'm alive! Maggie the Cat is ALIVE!" That's the right attitude, Liz. Fight for what you want.

"Sorry about falling asleep on you," I said when we got outside.

"That's cool. I know you're totally exhausted."

Totally exhausted didn't even begin to cover it. I was getting three, maybe four hours of sleep every night, juggling scripts and set questions and casting issues and meeting after meeting with the networks, the staff, the stars, and the sponsors. Oh, and I had to do schoolwork, too. It felt like the only time I had to think was when I was alone in an elevator.

"I didn't realize how much it was going to kill me," I admitted. "Once we get on the air, it will mellow out . . . I think."

"You think?" Keith asked doubtfully.

"A girl can dream, can't she?"

Keith smiled and pulled me close to him. "How 'bout a trip to Canter's to make up for the ex-girlfriend drama? I think some latkes and applesauce is just what you need."
This is why we go through all the confusion and pain and compromise to be in a couple, isn't it? Just to have someone say, This is what you need, and to have it be true. If he'd asked me what I needed at that moment, I never would have been able to say it. I would have just stared at him blankly, not knowing. But instead, he gave it to me. He knew, even if I didn't.

I kissed him quickly. Not just for knowing me, but for wanting to.

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from Likely Story: All That Glitters by David Van Etten Copyright © 2008 by David Van Etten. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.