The Double-Crossed Girls

by Kristen Bealer

"...and that's why I took pity on you and your little school dance and told the guys they should, like, make an appearance," Sandi explained to Quinn as she led the rest of the Fashion Club down the school hallway. "It's just too, too bad you couldn't make it to my party. It was very cool."

"Coooool," Tiffany chimed in with an odd look on her face.

Stacy began shivering uncontrollably until Sandi shot her an angry look.

"Well, I'm just glad everything worked out--"

Quinn was interrupted by Mr. O'Neill, who came out of nowhere to exclaim, "Quinn! You'll never guess who's waiting by the phone to hear from you!"

After a brief moment of shock, Quinn recovered. "Like, only every guy in Lawndale?"

"No, it's...oh, my gosh!" O'Neill covered his mouth with both hands. "This is much too public. Sorry, girls," he told the rest of the Fashion Club, "but I'm sworn to secrecy."

Quinn found herself dragged into the teacher's lounge, where O'Neill practically squealed with glee. "Okay, I'll tell you who we're calling," he said. "It's Val! You know, the Val."

She gasped. "As in, Val?"

O'Neill was speaking into a phone, but nodded excitedly in response. "Val, please," he said into the receiver. "This is Timothy O'Neill, Quinn Morgendorffer's writing mentor. Of course I'll hold." He turned back to Quinn. "Val is coming to Lawndale High to spend a whole day with you! Isn't that--"

Whatever he was going to say after that was drowned out by Quinn's joyful shriek. "ValasinValiscomingtoseeme?" she cried in a pitch normally reserved for dog whistles.

"Yes! She loved your essay," O'Neill explained.

Quinn's excitement abated slightly in favor of curiosity. "Essay? What essay?"

"'Academic Imprisonment.' Remember? You wrote it last year for my class. I sent it in and it won the 'Spend a Day with Val' contest!"

He turned back to the phone at that point, talking to someone else, and Quinn found herself swinging wildly between excitement and terror. She was thrilled about Val's impending visit, but the last thing she wanted was for that essay to make a reappearance and mess everything up for her and the Fashion Club again. Before she could think about it any further, a phone was thrust into her hand and O'Neill was urging her to say hello to Val.

"Hello?" she said as years of habit brought the perkiness back into her voice. "Hiiii, Val! Oh, I'm totally excited! It's gonna be awesome, right? Okay, I'll see you then. Bye!"

"Remember," O'Neill said urgently, "we have to keep this a secret. Val wants to come to Lawndale incognito."

Quinn's brow furrowed. Keep it secret? From the Fashion Club? No freaking way.

"We won, Quinn. We won!" O'Neill cried, derailing her thoughts once again.

He pounced on her with a bear hug, to which Quinn responded, "Ewwwwww!"

O'Neill immediately sprang back and apologized, and Quinn headed off to class with the wheels of a plan already beginning to turn in her mind.

"Val?" Sandi asked incredulously.

"As in Val," Quinn confirmed with a proud smile.

"Why?" Sandi asked bluntly, and Quinn could see the naked envy written plain across her face.

"Saaaandi," Quinn drawled condescendingly. She was enjoying every delicious moment of this. "I did tell you about my close relationship with Val before, remember?"

"Yeah, but I figured you were full of--" Sandi stopped herself, thought for a moment, and then continued, "--dates in your schedule and, uh, unable to accommodate a visit of such, er, importance."

Quinn shook her head. "For someone like Val? Of course I could make the time. Besides, just think of the possibilities for the Fashion Club!"

Sandi's envy visibly receded and was replaced by ambition. "Good thinking, Quinn," she said as the first period bell rang. "We must capitalize on this opportunity. I'm calling an emergency Fashion Club meeting during lunch today to plan ways to ensure that I--we!-- we have as much media exposure as possible."

Quinn's only response was a slightly raised eyebrow, to which Sandi replied with a barely-perceptible smirk. The challenge had been made and accepted.

A few hours later, the Fashion Club gathered in the cafeteria to discuss strategy. "Maybe we could offer to write a guest column for Val?" Stacy suggested timidly.

"Staaaaaacy!" Sandi cut her off with an eyeroll. "Are you suggesting that we write essays? Did you, like, suddenly become a teacher and assign us homework?"

"Eep! No, Sandi. I don't know what I was thinking!"

Trying to be diplomatic, Quinn offered, "Stacy might be on the right track, though. We could each do interviews with Val in order to showcase the best that Lawndale High has to offer."

Clinging desperately to this suggestion, Stacy eagerly added, "What about our volunteer work a few weeks ago? When we collected clothes for the homeless? That would probably look good in an interview."

"I'm not sure we should talk too much about that," Quinn said. "It...didn't go too well, remember?"


"Muumuuuuu," Tiffany said with a shudder.

Sandi stared into her salad as she considered this. "It could work. Although, as Fashion Club President, perhaps I should do the interview."

"But remember that Val's coming to Lawndale to see me," Quinn pointed out, placing just a little extra emphasis on the last word.

"Hmph." Just as Sandi was about to open her mouth again, the PA system crackled.

"Quinn Morgendorffer, please report to the principal's office for a routine, ordinary conference. Oh, this is so exciting!"

Thank God, Quinn thought as she hurried to her feet. "Oops, gotta go!" she chirped before making a fast escape.

"Ms. Morgendorffer," Ms. Li said as soon as Quinn sat down, "do you have any idea how big an honor this is?"

"Totally!" Quinn exclaimed. "I mean, I always knew I was super popular, but this is, like, huge! It's going to send my social status through the roof!"

"I meant an honor for Lawndale High," Li corrected quickly. "Quinn, think of a giant eyeball."


Li sighed. "I'm referring to the public eye. When the public eye is turned on our little corner of the universe, how do we want to look?"

"Fashionable and cute." The answer came almost as soon as Li had finished asking the question. Quinn gazed seriously at the principal.

"It sounds like you and I are...mostly...on the same page." Li smiled. "Now, I have a few ideas on how we can make Val's visit here a special one." She handed Quinn a sheet of paper.

"School Colors Day?" Quinn read from the page. She looked up at the principal in disgust. "You're kidding, right?"

"Ms. Morgendorffer, school spirit is no laughing matter!"

"If the whole school mixes primary colors during daylight hours, then Val will laugh all the way out of town!" Quinn was near-hysterical at the thought of someone as style-savvy as Val thinking her school was full of walking fashion don'ts. Which, she reflected, it was. But Val didn't have to know that.

Li's eyes widened. "Do you think she would...speak ill of the school in her article?"

Quinn crossed her arms. "If we're lucky, she'd just drop the article entirely and pretend we don't exist."

"This is unacceptable!" Li cried.

"I agree." Quinn looked back at the sheet of paper in her hand. "Okay. If you want to make a good impression on Val, here's what we'll need to do...."

A week later, Quinn walked into the kitchen to smell some unholy combination of chili, cheese puffs, and mint. "Da-aaaad!" she exclaimed. "Are you trying to poison Val?"

"We can only hope," Daria said from the living room, not looking up from the television.

"It's a recipe from her magazine!" Jake protested. "Some guy named Matt--"

"Ugh, that was last month's issue! Matt is out this month. Didn't you read Val's latest Hot vs. Not column?"

As Jake peered sadly into the pot, Helen walked into the room. "Girls, come help me set the table!"

Rolling her eyes, Daria turned off the television and came over. "We're eating in the dining room? We never eat in the dining room."

Quinn frowned, thinking about the bad impression her sister might leave on Val. "Does Daria have to be here?"

"For once I agree with Quinn," Daria chimed in. "Can I leave?"

"Just set the table," Helen replied wearily.

The doorbell rang, and Daria opened the door to find a middle-aged woman wearing an outfit that would have looked ridiculous on anyone over the age of thirteen.

"Oh, my God, it's perfect!" the woman rattled off before Daria could say a word. "It's so real. I am so jiggy with my idea of spending a day with a typical heartland teen." She finally turned a worried frown on the girl standing in front of her. "...Quinn?"

"Over here, Val!" Quinn pushed Daria aside to stand in front of Val.

"Whew!" Smile firmly back in place, Val stepped inside and was shown into the dining room. Daria looked longingly toward the stairs, but sighed and followed the others.

"...And then I said, 'Do you think it's easy being a wunderkind?' and Leo was like, 'Yeah, I know,' and we just sort of soul-bonded and head-clicked right away, and I gave Fiona my lyrics and she was like, 'Val, you are so wise. I am so glad to know you,' and Nonie and Drew said, 'The magazine has to be you so everyone can know you like we do,' and that's how I started Val. We're young, but wise; edgy, but full of me, Val!" Val had been talking non-stop for nearly three straight minutes. She had dropped at least a dozen names throughout her monologue, but none had even close to the prominence she gave her own. The Morgendorffers had heard the word "Val" so often, it had lost all meaning.

"That is fascinating!" Helen was finally able to interject a comment into the discussion, although Val didn't appear to notice.

Quinn seized her chance. "Speaking of 'edgy,' Val, I think you'll like some of the ideas I've come up with for tomorrow. Maybe we can talk about them--"

"'Edgy....'" Jake was staring blankly into space. "I keep hearing that word from my clients. Everyone wants 'edgy.' What is it?"

"Da-aaaad!" Quinn rolled her eyes. "Val doesn't have time to answer a bunch of silly questions. She and I have important work to do!"

"Yes," Daria's voice broke in, startling everyone, who had forgotten she was there. "Those articles about overpriced clothes and dating for fun and profit aren't going to write themselves."

Val peered at the girl. "Who are you again?"

"Don't mind her." Quinn waved at Daria to hush. "She's just my, uh..." She paused to glance at her parents before continuing, "'snotimportant."

"How do you like the chili, Val?" Helen was quick to turn the conversation in another direction.

"It rocks!" Val accepted the topic change without missing a beat. "Are these cheese puffs?"

Jake was thrilled at the compliment. "I got the recipe from your magazine." He lowered his gaze sheepishly and nodded toward Quinn. "I guess it's not edgy, though."

"We only do edgy!" Val replied. "Right, Quinn?"

Quinn raised her eyebrows. "Well...the recipe came from Matt, remember?"

Val nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, Matt's awesome! Great guy."

"But, Val--" Quinn thought for a moment and shook her head. "Never mind. So, about those articles we're going to co-write...."

A couple hours later, Val was out the door, leaving behind only the echoes of her chatter and the scent of her candy apple-scented perfume. Crappy knock-off perfume, Quinn suspected. Several things didn't add up about Val, most notably the obvious discrepancy between her age and...well, everything else about her.

Quinn shrugged it off as she prepared for bed. Maybe Val's having an off day, she told herself. It doesn't matter, anyway. All that matters is that she's going to make the Fashion Club--and me--famous.

Val arrived back at the house the next morning, chattering like a squirrel and dressed like a seventh-grader. Quinn bit her tongue and escorted Val to Lawndale High School. The media circus camped outside the school was visible from several blocks away.

"Oh, no!" Val's tone reminded Quinn of her own whenever guys started fighting over her. "Do you think all those people are there to see me?"

"And me, I'm sure," Quinn added as she prepared her very best smile for the cameras. She had convinced Ms. Li to contact the media, and clearly it had paid off.

As they approached the reporters, the two were joined by Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany. Sandi looked at the cameras with satisfaction. Stacy looked at them with apprehension. Tiffany looked at nothing at all.

"Good morning, Quinn. You'll introduce us to your new friend, of course." Sandi was speaking to Quinn, but her eyes stayed on Val.

"Val!" One of the reporters rushed over. "Meg Rosata, Channel 4 News. Mind if we follow you around for a while?"

"I'm sorry, but today I'm just a regular Lawndale High student." Val shook her head, looking not in the slightest bit upset. "I don't know how you found out about this, but please, no cameras."

"But we were informed by multiple sources that you'd be here!"

"Darn it! My office must have misunderstood my 'no publicity' edict. That is so whack! I'm sure you're more interested in my student escort."

Quinn turned toward the camera and gave her hair a strategic toss. "Hiiiii!"

Gliding smoothly, Sandi maneuvered herself between Quinn and the nearest camera. "As President of the Fashion Club, I--Sandi Griffin--would like to welcome Val to Lawndale."

"Weeeeeelcooooooome." Tiffany still wasn't focused on anything in particular.

"I--we--it's--Val--" Stacy gave up trying to form a coherent sentence in front of the cameras and bent over, hands on her knees, as she gasped for air.

The reporter started to turn back toward her original target, but Quinn threw her arm around Val and flashed a brilliant grin at everyone. "Isn't Val the best?" she asked. "We've totally, uh, soul-clicked or head-bonded or whatever already!"

"--wheezegaspwheezewheezegaspwheeze--" Stacy continued to quietly hyperventilate.

Sandi cleared her throat. "Yes, and the Fashion Club, with me as their president, will be working closely with them to--"

"--wheezewheezewheezegaspwheezeACK!" Stacy finally keeled over in a faint.

At last, Tiffany took notice of her surroundings. "Staaaacy?"

A few cameras turned Stacy's direction, but for the most part the media had lost interest, having given up on trying to get an interview with Val. Quinn and Sandi gathered up their fallen friend and led Val into the school with Tiffany trailing behind.

"Being famous can be such a spiraling-down drag." Val sighed melodramatically. "I never wanted to give up my privacy, you know?"

"Totally," Quinn replied, one eye on a slowly recovering Stacy. "It's like how sometimes I wish I had more time to myself so I can stay in and try out different make-up/fashion combinations, but I have to keep up with my dating obligations so I hardly ever get the chance!"

"Uh huh." Val was busy checking her outfit for pieces of lint. "So, I think our strategy should be we basically just hang, and I'll come up with some ear candy, and you'll write about your day with me, Val, and I'll write about Val's day with you, and we'll really get at the hidden heart of high school. Are you with?"

"That sounds completely, um, jiggy! But don't forget about all the other stuff we're going to work on for the magazine."

Val tilted her head, puzzled, but was interrupted before she could reply. "Oh, there's Quinn!" Brittany hurried over, dragging Kevin behind her. "Let's say hi to our buddy, Quinn!"

Kevin leered. "Heeeey, Quinn. How's it going?"

After a suspicious glare, Brittany elbowed him into silence. "Hi, Quinn, it's me! Your good friend, Brittany!" She looked pointedly at Val. "Aren't you going to introduce us to your new friend?"

Val shrugged, smiling broadly. "Oh, we might as well--"

"No." Sandi moved to stand in front of Val. Stacy, now leaning against a set of lockers and beginning to breathe normally, froze in fear at Sandi's dangerous tone.

"But--" Brittany gave Sandi her best puppy-dog eyes.

In return, Sandi gave Brittany her best "I will tear your pigtails right out of your scalp" glare. "Get. Lost."

Brittany hurried away, still dragging Kevin behind. God, I hope she doesn't really get lost this time, Quinn thought. Val looked confused, but they were fortunately spared any questions by the bell ringing.

Quinn's first class of the day was science with Barch. "Class," the instructor said, somehow managing to speak coherently while grinding her teeth at the same time. "Today we have some guest speakers to give a presentation called..." She closed her eyes and gripped the edge of her desk with both hands. "...'The Science of Fashion.'"

The Fashion Club approached the front of the classroom with charts and other visual aids in hand. Val perched on the side of the teacher's desk, preening happily in front of the students. Barch tried very hard to make Val spontaneously combust using the power of her mind.

Quinn wondered briefly just what Li had had to do in order to get Barch to agree to this demonstration, but decided it was probably better not to know. "People say that looking good is an art," she began. "But we're here today to show you that if you know what you're doing, it's really a science."

She nodded to Stacy, who had just finished arranging a stack of poster boards on an easel. Stacy removed the top one, which was blank. Underneath was a poster displaying a set of four glamour shots--one of each member of the Fashion Club.

"We'll begin with--" Quinn caught Sandi's raised eyebrow and sighed. "--with Sandi." She pointed to Sandi's photo. "Notice the tailored fit of the slacks and the all-natural material. No knock-offs here; designer labels all the way...."

Quinn managed to get about five minutes into her presentation before Val stifled a yawn and hopped off Barch's desk. "Hey, guys!" She grinned widely, and even more lines appeared on her face. "Who wants to hear the latest, juiciest celebrity gossip?"

The rest of the class, most of whom had glazed over long before, perked up slightly.

Val put her hands on her hips. "Okay, so I was talking to Drew last week and she said that Nonie saw Leo and Neve clubbing together. Of course, I won't tell you all the steamy details here, because you'll be able to read about it in the upcoming issue of Val magazine. On sale at your local newsstand!" She winked. "And you girls will definitely want to see Skeet's underwear spread, too. We're talking--"

"Hrrrrrraaaaaaawwrrrr!" Barch, whose expression had been quietly running through several different varieties of rage, finally erupted in an inhuman screech. "Looking good for men. Gossiping about celebrities dating men. Magazines with photographs of men!" She stood up and advanced on Val, who shrank back in horror. "How dare you peddle your vapid filth in my classroom? Dressed like a tramp and acting like you're supposed to be a role model! Poisoning these young women's minds with sleaze and depravity and...and... MEN! " This last word was shrieked at such a pitch as to be virtually inaudible to human ears.

Despite her taller stature, Val cowered before the enraged woman before her. Then, gathering her courage, she took a deep breath. "I--"

"OUT! "

Val fled. Barch turned her glare on the Fashion Club, who quickly returned to their desks. Stacy, looking as though she was about to faint for the second time that day, gathered up the visual aids as she went.

Quinn dropped into her seat and stared at her desk, arms folded. I didn't even get to talk about me! After a moment, she looked toward the door. Huh. she going to come back or...?

Fortunately, Val found the Fashion Club in the hallway on their way to third period. She had inexplicably changed her outfit--Quinn suspected Barch's "tramp" comment had something to do with it--to a tangerine-colored sundress accompanied by an insane number of accessories. Although it was slightly more modest than the previous one, it was no less out of place for someone Val's age.

"Hi, girlfriends!" she chirped brightly. "Wasn't that class totally whack?"

"Uh, yeah." Quinn shrugged. "Look, Val. Ms. Barch is always like that, okay? You can't take it personally!"

"Oh, no big," Val reassured her. Then she closed her eyes and muttered something under her breath. Quinn caught the words " in Val..." as she opened her eyes again. "See? Fine."

Sandi sighed with relief. "Good. Because I would hate for color what would otherwise be a glowing article about the Fashion Club in your magazine, right?"

"The what club?" Val asked, checking her makeup in a compact mirror.

Sandi nearly choked. "The--the Fashion Club. The club of which all four of us are members. Which we've told you about. Several times." She sounded almost reproachful, but her expression stayed friendly--at least, friendly for Sandi.

Val hadn't looked up from her mirror. "Uh huh. Sounds fun."

The friendliness on Sandi's face vanished. "Excuse me--"

Quinn desperately tried to change the subject. "Did you guys see Brooke's hair today?"

Sandi only continued staring at Val, who finally closed the compact and looked up. "Val?" she asked icily. "Do you, or do you not, intend to feature the Fashion Club in your magazine?"

Val giggled. "Seriously? Val magazine is only about the edgiest, hottest trends. Some silly little club in a middle-of-nowhere town just doesn't cut it!"

Sandi's face went completely white for a few seconds before slowly turning redder and redder. Stacy began edging away. "Silly little...that's...I don't...." Sandi stopped and took a few deep breaths. "I would feel insulted," she said calmly. "But I don't generally pay attention to old people who wear gold jewelry with bright orange." She narrowed her eyes. "In fact, I don't pay attention to anyone who wears bright orange, period, unless they've recently escaped from prison."

Val let out a few unintelligible squeaks. "How dare you! This outfit is just too edgy for you to understand!"

"I may be President of a 'silly little club,' but at least I know the difference between edgy and tacky." She stalked away, followed by Tiffany and Stacy. After a few steps, she turned. "And I will be cancelling my subscription." With that, she continued on without looking back.

"Why, that little--" Val sputtered for awhile before stomping off in the opposite direction, leaving Quinn to sigh and continue on her way to class.

Val caught up to Quinn again on her way to lunch, sporting yet another new outfit. This one featured absolutely no trace of orange, but was no less age-inappropriate than the previous two. They sat down in the cafeteria with their lunches. Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany pointedly chose a separate table, and Quinn knew she had her work cut out for her in getting back on Sandi's good side.

That's tomorrow's headache. Right now I need to strike while the curling iron is hot. Quinn saw that the Fashion Club had no future in Val, but she could still take center stage...if she handled this just right. "Val? Just so you know, I totally get where you were going with that outfit." She cringed inwardly at both the lie and the betrayal of her fashion instincts.

"Whatever," Val said with a shrug. "Some people just don't know anything about real style."

"Yeah," Quinn agreed after a moment of reflection. "Some people don't." Changing the subject, she asked, "Did you notice the posters?" Li, at Quinn's suggestion, had made up posters showcasing all of the athletic and extracurricular activities at Lawndale High. Quinn had seen to it that the Fashion Club was represented almost as prominently as the football team.

Val glanced around at them for a few moments before her eyes met Sandi's across the room. Sandi held up her dessert--a dish of bright orange Jell-O--and smirked. Val turned back to Quinn with thunderclouds in her eyes.

"Never mind," Quinn quickly said. "You know, we should really talk about the magazine article."

Val's face brightened immediately. "Oh, for sure! I was thinking we should go for a kind of role-model thing, like how I totally fit right in with high school life but everyone still looks up to me as an example. You know?"

"Okaaaaay." Quinn decided to try a less subtle tactic. "What are you going to say about me in your article? You know, I could even co-write it!"

"You?" Val blinked. "Well, I guess we could go with the angle of how my arrival brightened up your ho-hum life for one glorious day."

Quinn felt a very unfashionable frown creeping over her features. "That's not exactly what I--"

The PA system cut her off. "Quinn Morgendorffer, please report to the principal's office immediately. And if, um, you happen to have anyone with you--a guest or something--of course they're welcome to come, too."

"Jiggy!" Val exclaimed.

Quinn only sighed.

"I just wanted to make sure your visit to Lawndale High has been everything you hoped it would be," Ms. Li explained while Val autographed a copy of her magazine for her.

Val grinned without a trace of sincerity. "This place rocks!"

"Also, I was wondering...what's Garth Brooks really like?"

Quinn leaned forward. "Excuse me, Ms. Li, but don't you think this would be a good time to talk about the school and how great it is?" At this point we'll be lucky if Val even gets the name of the town right, she thought bitterly. But a deal's a deal.

"Oh!" Li sat up straighter and assumed a more dignified expression. "Thank you, Ms. Morgendorffer." She turned to Val. "As an experienced educator and respected leader at Laaaaawndale High, I believe that--"

Li had only just started gathering steam in her speech when she was interrupted by the ringing of a cell phone. Val answered it without hesitation. "Excuse me." She spoke into the phone, "Go ahead, you got Val...Oh, hey, Nonie, honey. What? What? He what? With Gwynnie? That slut! Are you sure? No, of course you had to tell me." She hit the "end" button, shaking from head to toe.

Quinn eyed Val worriedly. It wasn't hard to guess what had just happened. "Are you okay?"

Val had closed her eyes and started rubbing her temples vigorously. "I am Val, as in Val. I am Val, as in Val." She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. "Yes, I'm fine."

"As I was saying--" Li began before Quinn held up a hand to stop her.

"Val, let's go somewhere private to talk." Without waiting for a response, she grabbed Val's wrist and led the unresisting woman out of the office, mouthing "Sorry" behind her as she shut the door.

Seeing that the teacher's lounge was deserted, Quinn ushered Val inside and sat her down. Val had begun her mantra again: "I am Val, as in Val. I am Val, as in Val."

Quinn sat down in a chair opposite. This was a code red dating situation--dumped for your best friend. This was critical. Fortunately, more than a year of experience with Stacy had taught Quinn how to deal with it. "Val, look at me."

Val reached for her cell phone. "I need to--"

"Stop." Val looked up at the firmness in Quinn's voice. "You are not calling that guy. Do you understand?"


"I. Said. No." Quinn held Val's gaze until the other woman reluctantly put her phone away. "Good. Now, listen. You have the power right now. You know he's a jerk, but he doesn't know you know yet. So now you've got time to put together some great revenge that'll really make him suffer, and he won't even know it's coming. In the meantime, let's focus on something else." Quinn pretended to think about it. "I know! Let's talk about the article for Val magazine!"

Val took a few more deep breaths and nodded. "I am so jiggy with that! Let's head-click."

"Great." She shoved a pen and an open notebook into Val's hands. "So how about this: you take getting dump--I mean, getting betrayed by your boyfriend and work it into the article. It'll show that even Val as in Val can go through rough times and then rise from the ashes like Venus or whatever!" She coughed and casually added, "You could also include something about how your new teen soul-mate helped you through such a major crisis...?"

Val made a sour face at the notebook and made no move to uncap the pen. Her phone rang. "Hang on," she said, answering it. "You got Val! Go! Oh, hey, helpmate." She paused to listen, then rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I'm still stuck in Loserville with the teen losers."

Quinn's mouth dropped open, but she kept quiet as she listened.

"Uh huh. Don't worry; I'll be back in New York by the end of the day. Plenty of time to crank out some bit on how what's-her-face and all her friends think I'm super-cool and totally one of them before I go out clubbing." She laughed. "Let those whack studio morons tell me I don't appeal to the teen demographic now, right? Okay, later." She ended the call and turned back to Quinn. "So, where were we?"

Quinn's shocked expression gradually shifted into a look of fury. "Val as in Val and whats-her-face were sitting in Loserville High School talking about an article that's going to have nothing to do with me." She glared. "Right?"

Val laughed. "Don't be silly. This whole day has been about you!"

"No, this whole day has been about you. About you and how you can use me to make yourself more famous. You aren't even going to mention me in the article at all, are you?"

"Of course I am!"

"Really?" She folded her arms. "What's my name?"

Val stammered for a moment, stalling.

"Right." Quinn stood up. "I guess I've been wasting my time. Besides, you've got a phone call to make, right?"

Val frowned, confused by Quinn's sudden lack of anger as much as by her words. "I do?"

"Yeah, that horrible ex-boyfriend of yours. You should call him and totally let him have it."

"But you said I should--"

"Never mind that. He dumped you, right?" Val's face hardened. "He just wanted to use you for his own gain, didn't he?" The woman's scowl deepened. "And then, once he'd gotten what he wanted, he treated you like garbage!" Now Val was seething. "So, call him. Tell him what a horrible person he is, and don't even think of holding anything back. Make sure he knows exactly what you think of him!"

Val already had her phone out and had begun dialing as Quinn turned to leave. "Hey, don't you want to stick around and cheer me on?"

"Oh, no. This is the kind of thing you should have privacy for. Besides, I have a ton of work to do." As she walked away, Quinn muttered, "I'm off to put together some great revenge that'll really make you suffer, and you won't even know it's coming."

Quinn headed down the hall to the payphone, where she stopped and fished a copy of Waif out of her backpack. She flipped through the pages until she found what she was looking for, and fed some change into the machine. After a few moments, the other end picked up. "Hi, Waif tip line? I just thought you should know that Val--yes, Val as in Val--just got dumped, big time. Uh-huh. Really messy. Huge embarrassment. That's right. You should probably call her ex right away and get his side of the story. I bet he'll have a lot of interesting stuff to say about Val."

In the distance, Quinn could hear Val's shrieks. "I made you, and I can unmake you! You are neither hot nor a hunk, you soon-to-be has-been!"

Smirking, Quinn said into the phone, "But you might want to wait a couple of minutes. The line might be busy."

The following week, Stacy ran to meet Quinn in the hall before class. "Ohmygod! Quinn! Have you seen the latest issue of Waif yet?"

Quinn had seen it, but she let Stacy continue. She was enjoying every second of this.

Stacy pulled out her copy of the magazine and opened it. She read out loud, "'Magazine editor Val is known for living life on the edge, but it looks like she's been pushed right over it...or should we say dumped? That's right! The self-proclaimed wunderkind is now a dateless wonder after her main squeeze tossed her aside for an up-and-coming actress (see article on page 27). When contacted, he shared a few juicy tidbits about Val, including--'" Stacy stopped and winced. "It gets a little ugly after that," she said.

"Poor, poor Val," Quinn said with a satisfied smirk. "I guess Sandi's not the only one who'll be cancelling her subscription to Val."

Stacy, who was still reading the article, gasped. "They put her real age in here! Did you know she's actually over sixty?"

Quinn giggled as she heard the final nail being driven into the coffin of Val's popularity. "That is so whack."

Thank you to RLobinske for beta-reading.