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Natalie Standiford

  Copyright © 2006 by Parachute Publishing, L.L.C. All right reserved.

  First eBook Edition: February 2006

  Little, Brown and Company

  Hachette Book Group

  237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

  Visit our Web site at

  The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

  The Little, Brown and Company name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.



  Copyright Page

  1: Radio Stars

  2: Demon Ex

  3: The Rod Squad

  4: An Awakening

  5: Rob’s Sister Who’s Not Self-Centered at All

  6: Is He Blowing You Off?

  7: Rod Goes Godzilla

  8: As Usual, Eavesdropping Proves Useful

  9: A Member of the Clan

  10: Going Underground

  11: Elvira

  12: Strike!

  13: In like Flynn

  14: Mads in Exile

  15: The Bride Who Wouldn’t Die

  16: Elvira Confesses

  17: The Mystery of 1972

  18: Are You a Pushover?

  19: Kissing Is Good

  20: Breaking and Entering

  21: Pea-Green Wedding Cake

  22: Most Likely to Meddle

  23: Big Polka-dotted Surprise

  24: Moonshot

  25: Backne Check

  Speed Dating

  For Julie B. and Beth Z.


  Radio Stars

  To: mad4u

  From: your daily horoscope

  HERE IS TODAY’S HOROSCOPE: VIRGO: The success you deserve finally arrives! Then it spins out of control and crushes you like a tick.

  I’m so nervous,” Mads said. “What’s that word for when your heart is racing so fast, your breath can’t keep up with it and your stomach spazzes out?”

  “I don’t think there is a word for that,” Holly said.

  “Spatz-mania?” Lina tried. “Spazzo-nervitis?”

  “It feels more like nauseo-spazzmosis,” Mads said.

  She and Lina and Holly were sitting in a radio studio, about to be interviewed live. They were waiting for Mary Dando, the host of the show, to give them their cue.

  “There’s nothing to be nervous about,” Mary said. “Just be yourselves. You’ll be charming.”

  “You don’t know us very well,” Mads said.

  Mary had heard about the girls’ blog, the Dating Game, from her assistant, whose cousin went to their school. She called the school and set up an interview with the girls, and the next thing they knew, they were in the studio with giant padded headphones on their ears.

  “Everybody at school will be listening,” Mads said. “There was that notice in the school paper. And our announcement on the blog.”

  “Everybody in town, too,” Holly said. “My mother told all her friends.”

  “So did mine,” Mads said.

  “Basically everybody we know will hear this interview,” Lina said.

  “That was so stupid of us,” Mads said. “Why didn’t we keep this a secret? I think the nauseo-spazzmosis is infecting my tongue. What if I can’t speak?”

  “Okay, girls,” Mary said. “Ready? You’re on in five, four, three …”

  “Please don’t let us sound dopey,” Mads prayed.

  Mary Dando: We’re back with American Living on the National Radio Network. I’m Mary Dando, and today we’re talking to the Dating Game Girls. Madison Markowitz, Holly Anderson, and Lina Ozu are tenth graders at the Rosewood School for Alternative Gifted Education in Carlton Bay, California, and they started a fascinating and very popular Web log on their school site called the Dating Game. Hi, girls. Welcome.

  Mads, Holly, Lina: Hi, Mary.

  Holly: Thank you for having us.

  Mary Dando: You started this site as a project for a sex education class, is that right?

  Lina: It’s actually called “Interpersonal Human Development.”

  Mads: But that’s just a euphemism for sex ed.

  Holly: Our school is heavily into educational jargon.

  Mads: We wanted to find out who was more sex-crazed, boys or girls. So we put quizzes and questionnaires on the site, but we didn’t get enough answers from boys. That’s when we decided to lure them with sex.

  Lina: In the form of matchmaking.

  Mary: So the students fill out a questionnaire about their preferences and you match them with another student for a date?

  Holly: Exactly. They can also submit personal ads. But we’re really good at making matches.

  Mads: Especially Holly.

  Mary: And what was your conclusion? Who’s more sex-crazed?

  Holly: The results were inconclusive.

  Mads: But we know the truth. Girls are definitely more sex-crazed.

  Mary: Girls? Really?

  Mads: Sure. Girls talk about sex all the time. We read about it in magazines. We’re always trying to figure out what boys are thinking.

  Lina: And gossiping about who did it with who …

  Mads: …and who’s still a virgin and who’s not, and who’s lying about it.

  Mary: And you don’t think boys are doing the same thing?

  Holly: Not as obsessively. They don’t think—they just jump in.

  Mads: Yeah. Sex isn’t on their minds—it’s somewhere else on their bodies. [laughter]

  Mary: Tell me about the quizzes. What’s a typical subject?

  Mads: We just posted a new quiz called “What’s Your Dating Style?” It helps you figure out if you’re more of a hunter or a prey. Some people think they’re a hunter, but when you look at their behavior, they’re total roadkill.

  Holly: And we just started a new feature called “X-Rating.”

  Mads: Lina came up with the idea when a friend of hers tried to fix her up with one of her exes.

  Lina: Only I wasn’t interested.

  Mary: How does it work?

  Holly: It’s part of the matchmaking system. Say you’re still friends with your ex-boyfriend and you think he’d be great for some girl—

  Lina: Just not you—

  Mads: For whatever reason, like maybe you’re a vegetarian and he’s not, but you still think he’s a good person, for a carnivore.

  Holly: You can write a profile of him, vouching for him, saying what he’s like as a boyfriend, what his good points are and what kind of girl you think would be good for him.

  Mads: That way, when a new girl goes out with him, it’s like he has a seal of approval—from his ex-girlfriend.

  Holly: At least you know he’s not a complete jerk.

  Lina: Unless he is. You can use “X-Rating” to warn people about someone, too.

  Mads: But we try to keep it positive, so it won’t turn into a venge-fest.

  Mary: It sounds like you’ve learned a lot about teens and sex from your blog. What’s the most shocking thing you’ve learned?

  Lina: Tough one.

  Mads: I was shocked at first by how many non-virgins there are in our school. And how young so many kids are the first time they have sex.

  Mary: How young are they?

  Lina: Some kids said thirteen or fourteen. And they say they did all kinds of wild things.

  Holly: But I think a lot of them were exaggerating. Especially the boys.

  Mads: Then I got used to the idea, and it stopped shocking me. I’m unshockable now.

  Holly: Sure you are, Mads.

  Lina: I’m still surprised by how mean some people can be.

  Mads: Yeah, like how some boys just want to hook up but they don’t really car
e about you as a person.

  Mary: What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done? [the girls laugh]

  Holly: I don’t know if we should say it on the air.

  Mads: People think of us as good girls, but if only they knew!

  Lina: Mads! Our parents are listening!

  Mads: But it’s true! Like that time at Sean’s party—

  Holly: Mads, don’t say it! You’ll be sorry later.

  Mary: Come on, you can tell me.

  Holly: Let’s just say that that night got out of control.

  Mads: And Lina—I mean, she seems so sweet, but she’s done some of the craziest stuff—

  Lina: Mads, stop it!

  Mads: No one will know what I’m talking about. I won’t name names, but one time she liked this guy so much, she hid in his bedroom closet [sound muffled because Lina has clapped her hand over Mads’ mouth]—

  Mary: What about you, Holly?

  Mads: She pretends to be sensible, but she’s done some wild things—

  Holly: Mads, you’re the craziest one of us all, so you’d better stop talking or we’ll tell all your secrets.

  Lina: Your parents will lock you in your room until you’re thirty.

  Mads: It’s true, I like to live on the edge.

  Mary: Thank you, girls. This has been fun. We’ll have to have you back again to give us more insights into the sex lives of America’s teens.

  Holly: We’d love to come back anytime.

  Mary: This is Mary Dando for American Living. Join us tomorrow when we talk to the author of Elderlove about the sex lives of the nation’s nursing home residents.

  • • •

  “Was it bad? Did I say anything embarrassing?” Mads asked. She and Lina and Holly got into Holly’s car and drove out of San Francisco. Their town, Carlton Bay, was about an hour north of the city. “I can’t remember anything that happened in there. It’s all a blur.”

  “Don’t worry,” Lina said. “Ramona said she’d tape it. She was hoping to catch us saying something super-dumb on live radio.”

  “I think she’ll be disappointed,” Holly said. “I don’t think we said anything super-dumb.”

  “No, maybe just normal-dumb,” Lina said.

  “Normal-dumb,” Mads said. “I guess I can live with that.”

  “You were great today, honey,” Mads’ father said when she returned home.

  Russell Markowitz rubbed his messy Brillo pad of gray hair in a way that told Mads “great” wasn’t the whole story. She looked at her mother, M.C., whose smile was wide but tight. M.C., a pet-psychiatrist/playwright, was eccentric and creative and earthy but had the fierce maternal instincts of a she-wolf. Russell, a labor lawyer, was liberal and protective at the same time. It caused some tension in the house. Mads’ parents wanted to allow and prohibit everything at once.

  “Mmm-hmm,” M.C. said. “You all sounded very articulate, and, um, lively—”

  “Like you were really having a good time in the studio,” Russell said.

  “Thanks,” Mads said. “It was fun. But I was so nervous.”

  “You sounded like sluts,” Audrey, Mads’ eleven-year-old sister, said.

  “Audrey!” M.C. scolded.

  “That’s what you said!” Audrey cried. M.C. turned red.

  “I didn’t mean it,” M.C. said. “It’s just—I didn’t realize—”

  “We’re proud of you,” Russell said. “We’re glad you have an outlet for your feelings. We think you should be free to express yourself any way you like. It’s just—”

  “If only it weren’t so—so—” M.C. fumbled for the right word. “So public.”

  “She means embarrassing,” Audrey said.

  Mads couldn’t believe this. “Embarrassing! Mom, you’re the one who wrote a whole play about how you got ESP! That was embarrassing.”

  “The Crier didn’t think so,” Audrey said. “They said it was ‘thought-provoking.’ And they loved my acting in it. They said I was—”

  “‘A twinkling little star in the making,’” Mads finished. She’d heard that quote from the local paper’s review of M.C.’s play, Touched, about a hundred times too many already. It was taped to Audrey’s bedroom door.

  “Honey, don’t take this the wrong way.” M.C. put her arm around Mads. “We’re proud of you. We just didn’t realize your Web site was so … sexy.”

  “Well, what do you think we learn about in IHD?” Mads said. “Microwave Cookery?”

  “Don’t worry, honey,” Russell said. “We just have to get used to thinking of you as a—”

  “A sexual being,” M.C. finished.

  “Mom! Gross!” Audrey said.

  “I was going to say ‘growing young lady,’” Russell said. “But your mother is right. No reason to tiptoe around it.”

  “Maybe we just shouldn’t talk about it at all,” Mads said. “How does that sound?” She went up to her room.

  “We really do think you did a great job, though!” M.C. called up after her.

  Mads slammed her bedroom door and flopped onto her bed. Her nauseo-spazzmosis was back with a vengeance.

  Stupid parents, she thought. What do they know?

  I bet everybody at school thought the interview was excellent. Better than excellent. The greatest thing ever! Well, maybe not that great. But good.

  Still, her mother’s words echoed in her mind. Or rather, Audrey’s version of her mother’s words: “You sounded like sluts.” Did they? Did everybody in town think so, too? Or was her mother being overly sensitive, as usual?

  Overly sensitive, Mads decided. It was the obvious choice. The only choice that left her dignity intact.

  She logged onto the Dating Game and checked the inbox for new mail. Nothing.

  It was too soon, she knew. The interview had only aired that day. But Mads couldn’t wait. She was dying to know. What did everybody think?


  Demon Ex

  To: hollygolitely

  From: your daily horoscope

  HERE IS TODAY’S HOROSCOPE: CAPRICORN: To your face, people praise your good work; but behind your back, all they talk about is your visible panty line.

  Holly sat in her room with Mads and Lina, staring at her laptop. X-Ratings had poured into the blog since the girls were on the radio, and the girls were busy sorting through them. Because Holly’s parents were the coolest about the Dating Game (and every-thing else), her house was chosen as X-Rating Central. It was Sunday, the day after the radio interview, and judging by the jump in traffic on the blog, a lot of kids had heard it.

  “Sylvia completely flipped out,” Lina said, referring to her mother. “Completely!”

  “I know,” Holly said. “She called my mother. She wanted the mothers to band together and do something about us troubled teens. My mother didn’t feel like it. Your mom happened to catch her at a bad moment: all out of Nicorette.”

  Unlike the Ozus and the Markowitzes, Holly’s parents had loved the interview. Holly’s openness reflected well on their groovy self-images.

  “She called my mother, too,” Mads said. “Like M.C. wasn’t freaking enough already.”

  “She kept saying, ‘I just hope your grandmother doesn’t hear about this,’” Lina said. “She still thinks you’re a nice girl. You’ll feel so guilty if she has a stroke!”

  “That’s harsh,” Mads said.

  “Yeah, I can’t believe somebody could have a stroke over anything on National Radio Network,” Holly said. “It’s so mellow.” She punched a few keys and pulled up the completed X-Rating forms on her computer screen. “We’d better get started—there are a lot of these.”

  Your name:Sage Bernstein

  Your grade:12th

  Your ex’s name:Holter Knapp

  Your ex’s grade:12th

  How do you know him/her?school

  How long were you together?a year

  Who dumped who?I dumped him.

  Why did you break up?He loved me too much.

  Are you friends
now?Yes—finally (it took him a long time to get over the breakup).

  What do you think of your ex as a friend?He’s excellent—he’s always calling me to see if I need anything or want a ride anywhere, and he brings me little presents like candy or flowers all the time.

  What do you think of your ex as a boyfriend/girlfriend? (What was good and bad about him or her? Vices? Habits? Hang-ups? Family problems?)He’s so thoughtful and sweet, but he can be suffocating. But some girls like that.

  What would a new person have to have (that you didn’t have) to make a relationship with your ex work?She’d have to be really insecure and need constant reassurance that he loves her—because she’ll get it whether she wants it or not. Also, I guess she can’t be the type who’d get jealous of my friendship with him. Like, if I call him because I need him to do an errand for me, she shouldn’t get upset.

  On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, rate your ex:6

  “Hmmm,” Mads said. “Who would be good with a guy like Holter?”

  Holly didn’t know Holter or Sage well, but she knew who they were. “It sounds to me like Holter still loves Sage and is going along with her ‘just friends’ thing so he can be around her all the time.”

  “And she’s letting him,” Lina said. “Because she can get him to do whatever she wants.”

  “And torture him,” Holly added.

  “But why would she want to fix him up with a new girl?” Mads asked.

  “Maybe so she can torture Holter and his new girlfriend,” Lina said.

  “Nobody could be that heinous,” Mads said.

  “Please, Mads,” Holly said. “You know better.”

  “Well, who could we match Holter with, then?” Mads asked.

  “Maybe Autumn, if she and Vince ever break up,” Lina said. “She and Sage could battle it out for control of Holter.”

  “Till then, let’s put him on hold,” Holly said. “Next.”

  Your name:Claire Kessler

  Your grade:10th

  Your ex’s name:Derek Scotto

  Your ex’s grade:10th

  How do you know him/her?school, plus our parents are friends

  How long were you together?a year and a half

  Who dumped who?It was mutual.