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The Count of Monte CristomeetsMean Girlsin this scandalicious, hilarious tale of friendship, betrayal, makeovers, and revenge.
I planned my move back to Terrace with the same level of care and detail employed by nations going to war. My parents, who never met a self-help book they didn’t like, were huge fans of goal setting and visualizing your perfect future. How would the universe send you your heart’s desire if you weren’t clear about what you wanted? I forget which book my mom had gotten it from, The Secret, or maybe Energy for Life, but she was big on writing down what you wanted. Somehow this was supposed to help the universe bring it to you. The universe apparently has short-term memory loss issues. It needs things written down. My mom was always saying, “The difference between wishing and goal setting is that goal setters have a plan.” I wasn’t sure I bought into the whole theory, but why take the chance? I thought about every facet of my plan very carefully. I made lists and diagrams. I kept a three-ring binder with all of my notes separated by color-coded tabs. On the first page of my binder I wrote my new mission statement in large block letters so that the universe would be sure to see it, even if the universe had bad eyesight:
GET REVENGE ON LAUREN WOOD
Revenge is a tricky thing. I wanted Lauren to pay, but pay in a very particular way. For example, it might be momentarily satisfying to do one of the following:
Push Lauren out in front of a speeding dump truck
Slather her with BBQ sauce and set a herd of hungry pit bulls on her
Pour honey in her hair and then tie her down on an anthill
Dress her in a bathing suit made out of herring and then push her into shark-infested water
However, all of these things would be over quickly. I’ll admit it doesn’t sound nice, but I wanted her to suffer a bit longer. I wanted her to know what it felt like to have everything taken away. Then there was the added factor that it would be difficult to make a bathing suit out of tiny stinky fish, and I was pretty sure you could do some heavy jail time for pushing people into shark-infested water or into the paths of speeding dump trucks. I wanted Lauren to pay, but I wasn’t looking to spend the next forty to life wearing an orange jumpsuit. Orange is so not my color. No, my revenge plan was going to have to be more creative. Plus, I wasn’t even sure where I could find a pack of hungry pit bulls.
I made a list of the things that were important to Lauren:
Getting the lead in the school play
Her status as a cheerleader
Once I had the list, the basics of the plan were already framed out. I had to become more popular than she was. I had to steal her boyfriend out from under her, ensure someone else took the lead in the play, and get her kicked off the cheerleading squad.
Now I just had to figure out how to make those things happen.
The popularity angle was going to be the easiest to tackle. High schools have a social structure more strict than a Hindu caste system. By the time you get to your senior year everyone knows exactly where he or she belongs compared to everyone else. You could try to change your status—you could get a new wardrobe or take up a new sport, for example—but it would only take a few days before everyone would shove you back into the place where they felt you belonged. There might be a few people who shifted ranks, but it was highly unusual. I would have the advantage of being a new kid. No one would know exactly where to put me, but they would be trying to sort it out from the first moment they met me. I had to stack the deck. I couldn’t become popular at Lincoln High. I had to be popular from the moment I walked through the front door. I spent hours thinking about what made one person more popular than another. When I was done I taped a list to the mirror in my bedroom so I could study it. It was a thing of beauty.
The Popularity Scale
Attractive: Assign yourself up to 10 points, depending on your level of hotness, zero points being seriously ugly and 10 points being supermodel hot. Bonus 2 points for being fit and in shape versus merely thin. An additional 2 points for hair that looks like a shampoo ad. Minus 1 point if you flip it around way too much. Bonus 3 points for big boobs. Minus 5 points for being attractive but too slutty. Plus 1 point for good use of makeup. Minus 2 points for mild disfigurement such as bad skin, crooked teeth, or bad breath.
Sporty: Assign yourself 5 points for general athletic ability as defined by ability to run without falling over and catching a ball without getting smacked in the face. 5 bonus points for being on key school teams such as football, cheerleading, basketball, or soccer. Minus 2 points for being on dorky teams such as archery or fencing. Bonus 2 points if you have a leadership position on a team. Minus 2 points if you never play and instead always sit on the sidelines.
Rich: Assign yourself 10 points for being filthy rich, 5 points for possessing mere wealth, zero points for being middle class, and minus 5 points for being poor. Bonus point for each item of designer clothing that you own or for accessories such as handbags that cost more than a small used car. Minus 5 points for purchasing your wardrobe at Wal-Mart. Give yourself 2 points if you shop at a funky vintage shop, minus 2 points if you buy your underwear at a thrift store. Some things should never be secondhand.
Cool: Award yourself up to 10 points for exotic factors such as being from a cool place (large city, anywhere in Europe or Hollywood), knowing famous people, having a good car, being in a band (but not the band—wearing a uniform that makes you look like a hotel bellman is never cool), or demonstrating artistic ability.
I was going back to Lincoln High, but not as Helen Worthington. I was going to be remade into the destined-to-be-popular Claire Dantes.
I was named Helen after my mom’s great aunt. Ever notice you don’t meet a lot of Helens these days? That’s because it’s an old lady name. Thankfully, my middle name is Claire. My mom’s maiden name was Dantes, and since I would be living with my grandma it made some sense to borrow it. My mom was ticked that I wanted to register for school under a different name. She said she didn’t feel it was necessary for me to hide myself like I was spending my senior year in the witness protection program, but I could tell she was just hurt that I didn’t want to use the name she had given me.
In the end my mom backed down. Either my grandma talked her into it or, more likely, the guilt of abandoning me kicked in. No matter the reason—I didn’t care—Helen Worthington ceased to exist. Claire Dantes officially registered at Lincoln High. Step one of the plan was in place.