Charisma by Jeanne Ryan

Book: Charisma by Jeanne Ryan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jeanne Ryan
someone’s dad getting Botox and another girl’s sister who got a boob job for her eighteenth birthday.
    Zoe, an artsy girl who’s more Evie’s friend than mine, shakes her head. “I’d never want to be so fake.”
    The guy next to her glances at her healthy chest. “Easy for you to say.”
    She slaps his arm. “We should accept who we are. Anything else is phony.”
    The others nod.
    I straighten my shoulders. “People should make their own choices. As long as they aren’t going nuts with a bunch of surgeries, it’s their decision. Just like dyeing your hair or going on a diet. Who are we to judge?”
    Everyone stares in silence. Evie squints intensely at me.
    Zoe tugs at a multi-pierced earlobe. “All those air-brushed ads make people feel horrible about themselves if they don’t measure up. I refuse to buy into it.”
    I say, “We don’t have to hold ourselves to Hollywood’s impossible ideals. But most of us alter ourselves every day to be more attractive. If you wanted to be one hundred percent natural, you wouldn’t wear deodorant or style your hair.”
    Jack’s shocked expression is almost comical, but he’s able to sputter, “Yeah, I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and can’t do. I can say no to the stupid stuff.”
    Evie doesn’t stop staring at me.
    Jack motions toward the kitchen. “You want something to drink?”
    I have a quick flashback to Drew’s party. “Maybe a soda?”
    Jack smiles and heads off. The kids around me transition from plastic surgery gossip to a new all-ages club downtown.
    The guy next to Zoe says, “They had some nasty E there last week. Tory Simmons had to get her stomach pumped.”
    Zoe sighs dramatically. “Damn, if people aren’t re- molding themselves physically, they’re doing it mentally.”
    I point to her cup. “Like with beer?”
    Everyone laughs, even Zoe, who’s smart enough not to argue the point. Persuading others to see things my way is potent, filling me with energy and giddiness.
    Evie yanks my elbow. “Got a sec?”
    She leads me into an empty garage that smells of turpentine. The door has barely closed when she whips around. “What the hell is going on?”
    â€œWhat do you mean?”
    She counts on her fingers. “You texted Jack. You
went out
with him. You came to a party without me begging or you puking. And now you’re the center of attention. Basking in it, even. After last weekend, I can’t believe this is possible.”
    I try to contain my grin. “You’re the one who’s always claimed that exposure therapy is the be-all, end-all. Maybe it finally kicked in.”
    â€œExposure therapy gave you a major meltdown at Drew’s party.”
    â€œSo, what else could explain it?” I’ll admit, I’m having fun with this.
    She crosses her arms and paces. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just the one freaking out now because you’re so not the Aislyn I’m used to.” Her jaw is set tight.
    It seems cruel not to let my best friend in on the news. Besides, she already knows something’s up, and I’ll implode if I try to keep it from her any longer.
    Taking a deep breath, I lean toward her. “If I tell you something, would you promise never ever to tell anyone else?”
    She rocks on the balls of her feet. “You’re okay, right? This isn’t going to be something horrible?”
    I smile. “Not a bit. Promise not to say a word?”
    â€œOf course. Now tell me.”
    I brace my shoulders and swallow. “Okay. There’s a doctor at Nova Genetics who’s working on a gene therapy to make people more sociable. And on Sunday I got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try it.” Oh, God, sharing my secret is the hugest rush.
    Evie cocks her head. “How? Like Prozac? Or more

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