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Author: Jen Malone



To Emma and Mary, the grandest of grands







































Excerpt from Map to the Stars

Chapter One

Chapter Two

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I’m wedged into the pantry, between forty-seven rolls of toilet paper and an industrial-sized box of Raisin Bran. Oh, and a chunk of my hair is hopelessly snagged in the joints of a metal shelving unit.


All I wanted was to grab a roll of paper towels for the inevitable moment beer pong went bad.

What I got was an epic fail.

Rule #1 of horror movies or Those of Us with Lives That Sometimes Resemble a Horror Movie: Always, always turn on the light. Never assume that just because you’ve been inside your own pantry eleventy billion times in the last seventeen years, you will therefore be able to navigate safely around your mom’s latest Costco finds.

Now I have a bump on my head that’s gonna look super-fantastic in all my graduation photos and there’s the chance this may not end well for my hair, which, my mother would say, serves me right for having it long enough to reach my elbows. Except she isn’t the one who had to endure seventh grade, when Brady Masterson said my bob reminded him of Edna in The Incredibles and got the entire class on board with the nickname. It took five years of growing my hair out to put that in my past, and I’m sure if I studied this year’s yearbook messages carefully I’d still find a mention or two.

Rule #2 of horror movies or Those of Us with Lives That Sometimes Resemble a Horror Movie: Don’t ever say, “I’ll be right back.” Those guys NEVER make it to the credits in one piece. And it’s exactly what I said to Madison before I made my paper towel run.

I stretch my arm toward the doorknob, but each time I pull away from the shelves, my scalp yelps. This is so not good. If I could reach the light, I could maybe see enough to untangle the stupid hair myself, but no such luck on that one either. At this point, it’s snarled in so many places, I’m worried all my efforts in the dark are making things ten times worse.

Yelling is an option, but my secret (from Mom and Dad at least; definitely not from anyone in the senior class) pre-graduation party—which was supposed to be six of my friends getting together for a night of tiki torches and margaritas by the pool and somehow turned into a raging kegger with half my grade in my living room—is in full swing. I already have sort of a reputation among my classmates for being . . . not always “pulled together.” No need to let the whole senior class in on yet another lovely episode worthy of rehashing at our ten-year reunion.

At some point someone has to come looking for me, right? I strain my ears and pick out voices coming closer. Oh thank God!

“Did you see the smoke show in the feminazi T-shirt?” Damn. It’s the class creeper, Matt Grafty-Hamm. I’d rather wither away to nothing in here than be rescued by Matt “Grabby Hands.” I smother my cry for help.

“‘Feminism is the radical notion that women are people,’” a mocking voice quotes. “Yeah, but did you see her rack in that shirt? Dude, she’s so hot.” Sounds like Brad Worthy, who, unlike Matt, in no way, shape, or form lives up to his last name. It’s really no wonder I’m single.

“Hells yeah she is. I think she’s Aubree Sadler’s sister.” I instantly snap to attention. My sister’s home? She isn’t supposed to get back from college for another four days.

Matt gets zero-point-zero points for class when he follows up with, “Total piece of ass if you can pry the stick out of it. That chick’s name was on every sample paper my English teacher handed out last year and she graduated forever ago.”

“Dude, but she’s hot and a college girl. Think I could hit that?”

Oh, ick! I throw up a little in my mouth as their voices fade away. That said, why am I not surprised to hear Elizabeth’s papers are still circulating as shining examples of perfection. “Shiny perfection” pretty much fits my sister to a T. We’re talking about a girl who made my entire extended family fill out evaluations of her third grade piano recital performance so she could “better identify her weak spots.”

Okay, this situation is now officially borderline pitiful. I’m gearing up to shout for help (even if it means suffering through Grabby’s attempts to cop a feel) when a bright light assaults my eyeballs.

“Aubree? Bree, are you in here?”

My sister.

“Hey.” I blink about a hundred times as my eyes adjust to the bulb. “What are you doing home?”

Elizabeth shuts the door behind her, closing us both into the tiny space.

“My last exam got canceled. I’m officially a college grad. I just bumped into Madison—she’s been searching all over for you and she’s freaking out. Which you should be too, incidentally. Mom and Dad are going to flip when they find out about this.”

I know my friends have probably helped themselves to a few beverages by this point, but really, how hard would it have been to think of opening a few doors and peeking inside? Elizabeth found me, no problem. Then again, she is Elizabeth. And Mom and Dad cannot know about this party. Ever. Period.

“Are you hiding from the guy in the ‘I’d Wrap That in Bacon’ hat? Because if so, permission to carry on,” she stage-whispers, reaching around my side for a twenty-pack of Purell. She unwraps a bottle and squirts a blob into her hand before offering it to me.

“Yeah, not hiding. I’m kinda, um, stuck.” I gesture to my hair and Elizabeth does a comical double take, then gasps. To her credit, she does not laugh, though I can see the effort that’s taking her.

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