Read Flawless Online

Authors: Lara Chapman


BOOK: Flawless
8.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




Title Page


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one



For Caleb & Laney …

Love redefined

There is nothing so agonizing to the fine skin of vanity as the application of a rough truth.


Chapter One

I love the first day of school. There's nothing like a new start. New clothes, new classes, new goals. And maybe, just maybe, the possibility of meeting a new guy.

Especially when you're a senior in high school.

With a final glance at the ensemble I've put together for my last first day of high school and a mental kiss to the hair gods for my stunning naturally blond, wavy hair, I close my bedroom door, then dance downstairs.

Where I slam headfirst into reality.

Next to my “
You Are Special Today
” plate, a tradition my mother started on my first day of kindergarten, polished silverware sits on top of a rhinoplasty brochure.

No napkin. Just the brochure.

I ignore my mother's watchful eyes. “Real subtle, Mom.” I move the silverware, then flick the glossy trifold with the tip of my finger, scoring a beautiful two-pointer as it lands in the silver-and-black trash can.

I hate the word “rhinoplasty.” How can you not think of a disgusting two-ton mammal when you hear that word?

Just call it what it is—a nose job.

Spatula in one hand, Mom pops the other hand onto her hip. “Just a suggestion, Sarah.”

“Yet still offensive. Couldn't you have waited until, like, the
day of school to start in on me?” I stab the tasteless egg-white omelet on my plate, wishing there were some crispy strips of bacon sitting next to it. It's hard to believe I was actually born to this health-conscious, runway-worthy woman. Being a Burke can be a serious pain in the butt.

“I only want what's best for you. Now that you're a senior, you're old enough to make those changes we've always talked about.”

I drop the fork to my plate. “Not
, Mom.
. I don't recall asking for the privilege of having some wacko chop away at the nose
gave me. Just because you changed yours when you were eighteen doesn't mean I have to.”

The honest truth is that I never would have requested this particular nose, but I've spent seventeen years learning to accept it.

“Sarah …” Mom stares at me, the wheels of her brain churning at top speed while her own omelet sizzles in the abandoned skillet. She doesn't have to say what I know she's thinking.
How in the world will Beth Burke's daughter ever follow in her news-broadcasting footsteps with a honker the size of a Buick?

I nod at the smoking skillet. “You're burning.”

Cursing under her breath, she drops the tiny pan into the sink just as a car horn beeps from the curb, officially signaling the end to our fight like a bell at the end of a boxing match.

Thank God she's on time. For once.

“That's Kristen.” I swallow the last of my orange juice before leaning across the expansive polished granite counter that serves as our breakfast table to kiss Mom on the cheek. “Have a good day, Mom.”

“But you didn't eat anything.”

“No time. See you tonight.” Grabbing my backpack, I walk out the door with one final look back just in time to see her fishing out the brochure I'd tossed in the trash.

Mom and I moved to Houston when I was in third grade. When I was young and foolish and thought my face was “special.” When I thought it was cool to be different.

I met Kristen Gallagher on my first day of school. A boy named Beaver Collins called me Pinocchio and Kristen thumped him on the ear in my defense. We've been best friends ever since.

I slide into Kristen's bright yellow Mustang, Fergie blasting from the radio. A huge Walmart bag of school supplies and a zebra-striped backpack with the tags still attached are strewn over the backseat.

“You're killing me with this.” I reach in the back and grab her supplies, knowing that if I don't, she'll walk into school completely unorganized. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. And she knows it.

With one last smack of her freshly glossed lips, she closes the visor mirror, then turns and smiles, affording me the full view of her spectacular face, and for an instant, a moment, a nanosecond, I hate her. Every single feature on her face is the right shape and textbook proportionate.

“Now why should I bother with that? You're just going to tell me I did it wrong and redo it for me anyway.” She flashes her dimples—yet one more facial feature that adds to her good looks—and puts the car into drive.

The truth is she's right. Despite my tendency to be a tiny bit compulsive, especially when it comes to organization, she doesn't give me any grief. Instead, she takes it in stride, laughing at my insane need to control things. Not that she hasn't totally benefited from my downfall. I've been keeping her on track for as long as I've known her.

In return, she's my personal cheerleader. The one who keeps telling me my face has character. That I'm destined for greatness with a face like this. Although I doubt my face is going to make me famous. More like infamous.

“How's Mom this morning?” Kristen knows the tragic history of first-day events with my mom. Like the first day of my freshman year when she brought the news cameras to follow me around school, chronicling “The Life of Today's High School Student” for an in-depth news exposé. Not exactly the innocuous beginning I'd had planned for myself.

“For breakfast, she served me an egg-white omelet with a nose-job sales pitch.”

Kristen shakes her head. “I swear, they should make adults pass some sort of test before they're allowed to have children. I don't know why she even bothers. As far as I'm concerned, you're perfect just the way you are.”

“That's why I love you,” I tell her.

By the time we screech to a halt in front of Northwest High School, Kristen's supplies are organized and my ears are ringing, still echoing the Nickelback lyrics blessedly cut off when she yanked the key out of the ignition. Don't get me wrong, I love Nickelback as much as the next person, but not at a pulse-pounding volume at seven thirty in the morning.

“Ready?” she asks, hand on the door handle.

“Born ready,” I say, repeating the same thing we've said to each other every day for the last four years.

The first day of school is really a double-edged sword for someone like me. Yes, I love “first days,” but it also means I have to meet a sea of new faces in the hallways, freshmen who've never seen me before.

Or more accurately, freshmen who've never seen my

Shoulder to shoulder, we hike the twenty-one steps that lead to the front doors of our high school, waving at friends, and handing out smiles and shout-outs like presidential candidates. If someone had a baby, we'd kiss it.

And then it happens. The inevitable. The one thing I dread on the first day of school. It starts with a whisper that becomes a giggle, then spreads into a small rumble of conversation. By the time we've reached the top of the stairs, my heart is thudding in my chest like a jackhammer.

“Here we go,” Kristen says with a conspiratorial wink. I follow her lead when she stops and turns to face the gawking students lining the stairs.

“Everyone take cover! She's gonna blow!” Kristen shouts, covering her head dramatically.

Immediately, every visible person drops to the ground, covering their heads. Everyone except Mr. McGinty, the school counselor who's been trying to be my best friend the entire time I've been a student at Northwest. I've always ignored him, convinced he's trying to use me as a case study for some psychology journal. But now he's standing at the base of the stairs, smiling up at me with a goofy thumbs-up held high above his head. I can't help but smile back.

Kristen lifts her hand and high-fives me.

“Kidding,” I sing out right on cue, then give a small wave to the shocked students. As we walk into the building, I hear the melody of students laughing and clapping behind us.

Kristen and I have only three classes together: journalism, choir, and gym. Despite my best efforts to prove to her the importance of advanced-placement courses on college acceptance, she's content with an average GPA. While I'm taking Advanced Physics this year, she'll be soaking up Intro to Geology. While I'm in a dual-credit economics course, she'll be manning the school store.

When I walk into journalism for third period, Kristen waves to me from our usual spot in the back right corner of the classroom. She's got her feet stretched out on the seat in front of her in an attempt to keep others out of her space. I love her, but she can be a snob like that.

I slip into my seat beside her, the cold, aged plastic scraping the back of my jeans. God, I hate school chairs. “How have your classes been?” I ask.

“Good, I guess. It's lining up to be an easy coast year.” Kristen slides her hand in a rolling-with-the-flow kind of motion.

“And you're okay with that?” I don't know why I even ask when I already know the answer.

“Are you kidding? It's what I've been praying for. This year is all about having some fun. When are you going to take a break and just let loose? Go a little crazy?”

“After college.” I have it all planned. After I graduate, land my dream job, and get an apartment in Dallas, I'll let loose, just be wild and crazy. But until then, I work my ass off.

At precisely that moment, the balance of my orderly life crumbles like a house of cards.

The once-buzzing classroom freezes. Standing in the doorway is the hottest guy I've ever laid eyes on. Golden brown hair cut just short enough to be stylish and a body I've only seen on television. Honest to God, the room has fallen dead silent while he looks at his schedule and compares it to the number on the door.

You can almost hear every girl's thoughts.

Please be in this class.

Please take me to the prom.

Please marry me.

And every guy's thoughts.

I hope he plays football.

I hope he plays baseball.

I hope he's got a girlfriend and leaves mine alone.

When he looks up and finds everyone staring, he glances behind himself to see what they're looking at. Realizing he's the center of attention, he smiles, upping the charm of his rugged good looks when his slightly imperfect teeth are revealed. I give an audible sigh of appreciation.

Kristen reaches out, grabs my hand, squeezes it, and whispers, “I'm in love.”

I know how she feels. It's the same thing every single girl in the class is feeling, including me.

Then all at once, the spell is broken and the class is back in action. A group of girls from the drill team wave to get his attention, but none of them stand a chance against Kristen.

Sliding from her seat, she stands, flicks her straightened blond hair over her shoulder, and walks her tan, long legs to the door. Without a word, they proceed, arm in arm like they've just been nominated homecoming king and queen, back to the vacant seat in front of her.

“Welcome to Northwest,” she purrs, her voice resonating with a hoarseness I've never heard. When'd she learn that? “I'm Kristen Gallagher, and this is my best friend, Sarah Burke.”

He nods back at Kristen, a smitten grin spread across his face. “Rockford Conway. Everyone calls me Rock.”

I instantaneously think how much I'd love to be stuck between Rock and a hard place when he turns to acknowledge me. His gaze stops at the most obvious spot on my face.

Not my killer blue eyes.

Not my pouty lips.

Not even my precious little chin.

His eyes lock dead center on my face.

On my nose.

As he studies me silently, fire burns its way up my cheeks. There can be no doubt he's taking in the beaklike quality I've learned to appreciate. Well, “appreciate” might be a stretch. You learn to appreciate fine art or classical music, and my nose is a long way from those things. I guess you could say I've learned to tolerate my nose.

BOOK: Flawless
8.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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