16. A Fake Tiara for the Understudy

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My excuse for avoiding playing Wii with Riley Sunday afternoon was the lamest ever: "Dad says I can't have friends over today. Another time?" Which was a lie. But I was so completely desperate, I had to do something.

Now, it was Tuesday afternoon, and I had Sleeping Beauty rehearsals with him plus my two least favorite people: Paige and Carter. And even though I knew Riley wouldn't be upset about our Wii plans being sabatoged, I was dreading the time when he decided to ask about hanging out again. Or worse, pull something like he had on Sunday.

It wasn't that I directly disliked what he had done. I didn't mind him hanging out with me, or pulling out my chair for me, or touching my hair. Actually, I sort of liked it. And that was the problem: he was confusing me. Everything I had worked so hard to convince myself about--the fact that I didn't like him and that we were better as just friends--had flown out the door when I stared into his beautiful brown eyes Sunday afternoon.

Now, I had to work all over again to reset my brain, and it wouldn't be easy if he tried to flirt with me again.

Becca didn't have a rehearsal today, so I was alone as I walked into the studio. Paige, who I knew would be furious at me, was inside the dressing room getting ready. She'd been silently irate the entire duration of the Monday night class, and hadn't even said a word to me. That was how mad she was. Unfortunately, I had a feeling that today she would have cooled off only enough to have a few things to say to me. One would probably be on the topic of me sparking the rebellion to ruin her little initiation.

"Hey Paige!" I exclaimed, deciding to try friendliness and see where that got me. After all, Becca, who was usually so cheerful it wasn't even funny, rarely if ever got in a fight with the Drama Queen. She wouldn't mind if I stole her tactics.

But Paige slowly turned around to face my, her dark eyes narrowed until they were nothing but slits. "You, Ever Avery," she hissed so furiously I could barely understand what she was saying, "Are so in for it."

Biting my lip, I hurried past her to put my bag in a locker, abandoning Mission Friendly. This definitely required an in-depth conversation with Becca to develop a plan of action. Normally, I would run to Zoe and we would discuss what to do over homework or painting nails, but lately she hadn't really seemed to care what was going on in my life. All she ever noticed these days was Ben, her friends from school, and how many texts she had on her cell phone.

I kicked off my sneakers, avoiding Paige's eyes which I knew for a fact were boring a hole in the fact of my head, and unzipped my dance bag. I had to get out of here as quickly as possible or the room would burst from all the tension.

"Ever, Paige, hey!"

Riley's voice bounced off the walls in the nearly-empty dressing room. He was clearly trying the same thing I'd tried, and if we had similar results, it would get him nowhere.

"Don't 'hey' me." Paige was clearly in her most sour mood possible. "I don't need your 'hey's. Go get ready and meet me in Studio B to practice, already." She stood up, shooting one final glare at me, and then stomped out of the dressing room. The nickname 'Drama Queen' had never applied to her better.

"Ouch." Riley turned to me and sat down on the bench, taking out his ballet shoes. "What's up with her? She's acting like she's a princess or something."

I rolled my eyes crankily. "She is the princess. She's Aurora in Sleeping Beauty and somehow that magically gives her all these rights." After I pulled out my pointe shoes, I tossed my bag back in the locker and slammed it shut, trying not to think about all the names I wanted to call Paige right now.

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