“That what you were waiting for?”
    “Yup,” I said.
    She wished me luck and I sent luck to her son.
    So that was nice. I’d spent the week feeling kind of tense and prickly with both Jade and Roxie, but at least I was friends with Evangeline, the mail woman. I almost asked her in for a lemonade.
    Another weird but nice thing was that, as I discovered when I sliced open the envelope with a knife in the quiet kitchen, it wasn’t at all a misunderstanding. Zip magazine had actually chosen me as a semifinalist model.
    Allison Avery. (Okay, Alison Avery, but still.)
    The “interesting-looking” Avery girl. The one of me, Jade, and Serena who was most likely to wear the wrong thing, the worst makeup, the fewest hair products—and to care least about it.
    Zip magazine thought I was one of the twenty most gorgeous teens in America.
    And all I’d had to do was let my cell phone go a little wacky.
    Well, that realization whomped me right back down to earth. Obviously it wasn’t that I was actually gorgeous; I had cheated. I had sold my cell phone so that a few people would be conned into thinking I was gorgeous. By the devil.
    Not that I believed in him.
    But maybe I was starting to, because I had to believe either that the devil had magically appeared in my bedroom one night and traded me gorgeousness for my cell phone, or that people whose job it is to recognize gorgeousness chose me as one of the most gorgeous teens in the country.
    No contest.
    I was dashing up the stairs to hide in my room so I could reread the forms when, as if to emphasize which was real, my cell phone played a series of loud trumpet sounds, had a small seizure, and died.
    I scrunched down on the far side of my bed and studied the forms. Before I could compete in the semifinal round of twenty teens, I would need to get a parent to sign a paper filled with small print. The likelihood of that happening was somewhere between not and are you out of your mind . I read on anyway, just for kicks.
    If I won (ha ha ha ha ha), not only would I receive the honor of gracing (yes, “gracing”) the cover of the September issue of zip magazine, I would also get a boatload of beauty products (bringing up the irony of giving beauty products to the one person who evidently needs them least) and a free trip to the South of France for myself and one parent, for a weeklong photo shoot, and also $10,000.
    Not cash, though. A scholarship. That made me almost laugh out loud. If you’re gorgeous, you get not just stuff to make you even more stunning, but also a scholarship. Because stunning looks prove you are a real scholar, as everybody knows.
    A knock on my door made me jump. I was still shoving the papers into the envelope and the envelope under my bed when Dad loped into my room.
    “Hey, Lemon?”
    “What!?” I tried to wipe the guilty look off my face. Open eyes wide for an innocent look, I remembered reading in one of Phoebe’s dumb magazines. Oops, the one I might soon be gracing the cover of.
    “What’s up?” he asked, his eyes wide, too. Maybe he’d read the same article.
    Okay, the thought of Dad thumbing through zip was too weird even for me. “Nada,” I said slightly frantically. “Just hanging.”
    He nodded.
    I nodded.
    I am the child my father borrows books from the library about, searching for ways to not scream at me. Somehow he gets along easily with everybody except me. My mother screams at me, too, but she screams at everybody sometimes. (Well, not Phoebe. Nobody screams at Phoebe; she’s the baby and so sweet. ) But Dad, who is the most popular teacher at Willow Brook Elementary, reserves his short fuse only for me.
    So I braced myself. Obviously he had found out I’d cut school.
    I had no excuse, so I decided to just take whatever he had to dish out and try not to argue back. That’s what he had advised me to do the last time I got in huge trouble, for pushing Quinn down the stairs. I had thought it was a good idea to let him

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