AN: Big thanks to my reviewers. Your comments make my day. To let all of you know, I had such a good response after the last chapter that I will be sticking to my original plan of showing Veronica's thoughts on being on the show and Logan's thoughts while watching the show.
Veronica tried to get the kinks out of her neck as the car drove further into Los Angeles. She was regretting falling asleep on her Dad on the lounge now. She was so stiff and sore. The car ride from Neptune to L.A. had not helped.
The car had turned up to pick her up at 8am in the morning. She wasn't sure if she was happy that the driver was rude and impatient, or annoyed. She was happy because it meant that her and Keith hadn't had time to get teary about leaving each other for the next few weeks, but unhappy because it meant that her father had only been able to pull her into a hug, kiss the top of her head and remind her to "play nicely with the other girls". The driver had not replied to any of her questions or small talk, instead had turned up the radio to drown out her voice. Veronica had taken the hint and had spent the rest of the trip in silence, looking out of the window as the driver drove at high speed.
"Gosh, I am bored." Lilly complained. Veronica ignores her.
As the miles to Los Angeles started to count down on the signs they passed, Veronica started to get nervous. Would her new friends still want to talk to her? She kept imagining walking in to the mansion and having Mac, Macy and Krystal, turn their backs on her and talk behind their hands. Was it going to be just like going back to school after her Dad lost his job?
"I never stopped talking to you." Lilly reminded her. "Real friends are your friends forever."
The car pulled up at a television studio and drove past the security gate. After taking numerous turns it parked beside a large hanger like building. The driver didn't say anything to Veronica, just got out, moved to the trunk and pulled her suitcases out. Veronica decided that this must be her destination, so grabbed her handbag and got out. She stood on the pavement in the morning sun, wishing she knew what was going on. There was no one else in sight.
The car engine starting again startled her. She whipped her head around to see the driver drive off with a roar of the engine. She looked around for a sign of what to do next. All she could see was 3 other large factory like studios and one small brick building. She wondered if this was a prank. She whirled around expecting Logan and Dick to come out and yell "You have been punked!"
When that didn't happen, she sighed and heaved her suitcases up and started towards the brick building. She wondered what was going on. Where was the 'Model Mansion'?
When she reached the building she noticed the lettering across the door 'G&CC Productions'. With more confidence she pushed the door open. She knew G&CC Productions was the name of Caroline Conner's production company. When she walked in she entered a scene of bedlam. Men and women were running around, grabbing papers off photocopiers, stapling them together and affixing them to clip boards. A group of people in one corner are trying to untangle a mess of cables.
"Can I help you?" A tall skinny woman asks Veronica. She seems slightly familiar.
"Ummm, I am Veronica Mars, the driver left me here?" Veronica answers nervously.
"Oh, that would be Bruno." The woman huffed. "Trust him to speed and drop a girl off early. Well Veronica, the other girls are not due for another 20 minutes at least. You will then be all travelling to the mansion together. I can get you a coffee will you wait?" As she said this, Veronica recognised her. It was the woman who she had met in front of the elevator on the way to the gym.
"That would be wonderful..?" she trails off as she racks her brains, trying to remember her name.
"Jessica. They didn't bother introducing us before, but I will be one of the chaperones for you girls." Jessica says as she leads Veronica to a small room which contains a battered fridge, a long table surrounded with some plastic chairs and a coffee machine that splurts and splutters as Jessica starts brewing.
Veronica smiles as Jessica hands her a cup of coffee.
"Thanks. I need this. So we have more than one Chaperone?"
"Yes, there are four of us who will be in the house and with you at all challenges. Because there are so many of you who are under age, there will be at least two of us working each shift. I will be working with Ellie, Alex and Beth." Jessica settles into one of the horrible plastic orange chairs. She is quite happy to have the excuse to escape the bedlam outside, and relinquishes the chance to have a good old gossip. She waits until Veronica has sat down opposite her.
"Beth has been chaperoning kids on the sets of movies and T.V shows for over 40 years. She is the one who will make sure you eat, demand that you clean up after yourself, make sure you make curfew and make sure you prepare for all challenges. She doesn't like people who expect that in this industry, both modelling or television, they don't have to work hard, that things should just be handed to them." Jessica notices that Veronica looks worried. "She is not mean or anything. She will be like your mother reminding you to go to bed early because you have a big day, and then not being sympathetic if you ignore her advice and are tired the next day."
Veronica laughs, but inside she is sad. It had been awhile since her mother had done something like that.
"Ellie is really into all that new age stuff. So expect lots of herbal teas, crystals and astrology. But her heart is in the right place. If your muscles are aching from a big day, I suggest you go to her. Her massage oils, which she makes herself, are incredible. She also has a whole lot of remedies if you react to any of the makeup used during the show."
Veronica stores this information as important.
"Alex is the one who I suggest you go to when you are having a bad day. Most people will assume because of the way Beth looks, that she would be the one, but Alex is the 'comforter'. She has a background in counselling and loves to comfort people. She will be the chaperone who will listen for hours to any girl who is upset. She carries tissues and chocolate ready to comfort."
"And who are you?" Veronica asks with a cheeky grin.
Jessica laughs. "I am the one who is not really a chaperone. I am usually deciding what footage is going to be used. The other chaperone quit last night and Caroline wants someone who she trusts to look after you and the other girls."
Veronica lifts one eyebrow. "Should we be worried?"
"It was between me and Juanita." Jessica answers with a grimace.
Veronica just stares at Jessica in horror as she tries to imagine having Juanita around her all the time.
Jessica laughs. "So you are not a fan either. She..."
A guy sticks his head around the door, interrupting. "Jessica, another girl has arrived." He heads off without waiting for an answer.
Jessica sighs. "Come on Veronica, now the fun starts." She leads Veronica out of the room. Veronica starts to get nervous, but seeing the similarly nervous face of Mac makes her smile.
"Veronica! I am so glad to see you. I am so nervous."
"Hi Mac, so am I." Veronica goes to hug her but Mac pulls away awkwardly. Veronica blushes in embarrassment.
"Welcome Mac, I am Jessica, one of your chaperones for the competition. The other girls have now been collected from the airport and are on their way here. We expect them in about 10 minutes and then we will be off to the house." Jessica says.
Mac spends the 10 minutes wait detailing Madison's temper tantrum at Mac making it into the Top 13. Veronica can't help but giggle at the images Mac describes. She can picture Madison's face going red and blotchy as she stamps her feet and demands that Mac pull out of the contest, a demand that neither the Sinclair or Mackenzie families agree with. They had decided that while Mac was competing in the contest over the summer, Madison needed to learn a few lessons and was therefore going to spend the summer working at a fast food joint on the outskirts of San Diego.
"The outfit is a very unflattering sack like dress, mustard yellow in colour with a bright red apron over the top." Mac describes. As Veronica continues to giggle, holding her stomach in pain, Mac continues, "But my favourite thing is the hat which looks like a cup of fries." This causes Veronica to laugh out loud, and she feels tears form in her eyes.
"Oh, you need to get a photo of that outfit Veronica Mars. Imagine the revenge you can get with that photo." Lilly cackles like a witch.
"Veronica! Mac!" Krystal runs into the building excitedly and grabs Veronica into a hug. Mac moves behind Veronica, trying to get out of reach of Krystal's arms, but it is a losing battle. The rest of the girls have followed Krystal inside and it is a hug fest. Veronica is pulled into hugs by girls she has never said two words to. She is relieved when Jessica captures their attention.
"Girls, welcome to the competition. My name is Jessica and I will be one of 4 chaperones who will be looking after you for the duration of the contest. In a minute you will be travelling to the Model Mansion where you will be staying. However, I would like to go through a few rules we have for the contest. Any girl who is underage and is found to be intoxicated will immediately be removed from the contest. The use of non-prescription drugs will also be a reason to expel you from the contest. Any violence against someone else, stealing others property and inappropriate relationships with a member of the crew will also cause you to leave the competition prematurely. Do you have any questions?" Jessica stares at them all sternly.
"Huh?" Veronica hears whispered behind her.
"Basically, don't drink if you're not 21, don't do drugs, don't hit someone, don't steal and don't fall in love with someone on a crew." Macy whispers back.
"OHHHH. OK." Veronica knows without looking that Macy is rolling her eyes.
"OK ladies, time to go to the Model Mansion."
Most of the girls squeal as they head out the door. Veronica follows them slightly more sedately, but still very excited. The car waiting for them was a bright pink stretch hummer. The girls squealed even louder. "It's like we are already supermodels" They piled in and in an instant they were off. Veronica looked around and was surprised to see Gwen and Lucy squeezed in the corner near the driver's end filming. She guessed she should get used to being filmed at all moments. She starts to feel nervous. For the first time she starts to understand that the next few weeks will be televised to the whole of America. She looks around the hummer. Most of the girls there just look excited, but a few, Mac and Ali Lee look as nervous as Veronica feels.
Macy and Jackie are leaning back, acting like they travel in luxury cars every week. Veronica knows that Macy probably does, but she is unsure about Jackie.
Krystal, Abrianna and Sandeep keep randomly squealing with excitement. While the others look excited, these three are looking like all their dreams have come true. Veronica shrugs to herself. They probably have come true for these three.
The hummer pulls up to a large sprawling mansion which reminds Veronica of the Kane house. All straight lines, like someone had decided that adding white boxes on top of each other counted as architecture. Her heart sinks as she stares up at it. If it is anything like the sterile environment of the Kane house she really doesn't want to go in. But of course she has no choice. She walks up the steps with the other girls, well Krystal basically bounds up the steps, and they open the door with excitement and trepidation.
The view that greets them makes them gasp as they walk in. The rooms are large and spacious. The walls are white and the floor is covered in white tiles. The furniture is black, which contrasts with the white walls and floor, and could have made the rooms look sterile and cold, but there are brightly coloured cushions on all the lounges and chairs, and vases of bright happy flowers on all the tables.
It reminds Veronica of the Echolls' house. While Lynn had used the same decorator as Celeste Kane, she had added her own touch, even if it was simply an interesting statue, or a brightly painted contemporary piece of artwork which had converted rooms that could have looked cold and sterile like the Kane's place into warm and interesting. The artwork here on the walls unlike the Echolls place, do not look like Kindergartens spent the afternoon finger painting, but are in fact beautiful pictures of shoes, handbags, lipsticks and colourful jewellery.
It all makes Veronica feel more excited to the fact that she will be spending the next few weeks (if she is lucky) here.
There is a spacious lounge room, but Veronica is interested to see that there is no television set. On the right the lounge room leads into a large kitchen, which opens onto a dining room and another sitting room. The other end of the kitchen opens up on a patio where there is an outdoor table and chairs as well as some lounges. If you follow the patio, it leads down to a pool and Jacuzzi nestled in a beautiful Japanese-styled garden.
The girls are ohing and ahhing at everything. They move back into the house and head to the left of the lounge room. Here are 3 large bedrooms and two large bathrooms. The bathrooms keep to the black and white theme, but the towels are an emerald green in one and royal blue in the other. The rooms all have a theme. The room with a purple feature wall is the 'Handbag room' with the artwork all being pictures of handbags. The red room is the 'Make-up room' with pictures of lipsticks and eye shadow palettes. The yellow room is the 'Shoe room' with different pictures of shoes.
The girls are herded back into the lounge room where Jessica was waiting with their luggage. She was standing with 3 other women and two more camera crews. Veronica instantly knew who the women were.
She guessed that the plumper, grandmother like one was Beth, the blond with the long hair, flower print dress and colourful crystal necklace was Ellie and the tall brunette who's green eyes looked like they were about to drip tears at any moment was Alex. She was really happy when Jessica confirmed this.
"If you need anything, don't be afraid to come to us. Now, it is time for you to choose your beds." Jessica says. Gwen and Lucy move towards the bedroom, as does another camera crew.
"Grab your luggage and ... go!"
Veronica grabs one of her suitcase and runs. She really just wants to get into a room with at least one of her friends. She follows closely behind Macy. Most of the girls head straight to the 'Makeup room' or 'Handbag room' as these two rooms are closer to the bathrooms and are more spacious as they only have four beds in them, but Macy heads straight to the shoe room. Veronica follows closely behind. Macy throws her suitcase on the larger bed and smiles delightfully at the camera crew which is filming them. Veronica chooses the bed nearest the window which has a view out onto the garden. Mac comes rushing into the room and looks relieved to see that there are beds still and Veronica and Macy are there.
"World War Three may have started. There are three suitcases on one of the beds in the Handbag room." She explains. The camera crew head off in excitement.
Macy shrugs and opens up her suitcase and pulls out a teddy bear wearing a pink shirt that has 'MACY' written out in sequins.
"There. The girls who miss out can now not try to take my bed." She says defiantly. She grabs a handful of underwear from her suitcase and starts filling the draws in the bedside table. Veronica and Mac follow her lead and start unpacking as well. They work in silence, shamelessly eavesdropping on the yelling going on next door. Ali Lee slides in quietly.
"What are you doing here Ali Lee?" Mac asks. "I am sure I saw you with a bed in the Handbag room?"
"I thought that if I gave it up, the fighting would stop." Ali Lee says in her quiet voice. She sighs heavily. "But they now are fighting over who should have that one too."
Ali Lee chooses a bed near Mac and starts unpacking.
Veronica is disturbed by a thought. "Who is fighting over the bed?" she asks. When the other three turn towards her she elaborates, "Well, whoever loses will be in here."
The girls look suitable horrified.
"It's actually Sadie, Jackie and Mallory." Ali Lee answers. "Krystal and Carmen are also in that room."
"So, in the Makeup room, it is Jazmin, Sandy, Abrianna and... Parker?" Veronica works out.
"And in the Handbag room is Carmen, Krystal and those two evil girls," Interrupts Sadie as she comes in the door. She throws her suitcase onto the remaining bed.
The other girls ignore her and keep unpacking. Veronica heads out the door to grab her other suitcase. When she returns, she sees that Macy and Mac are staring down Sadie while Ali Lee looks like she wants to be anywhere but there.
"What's going on?" Veronica asks.
"Someone thought that because she had a bed stolen from her, she could steal someone else's. But she has now realised that is not acceptable, haven't you Sadie?" Macy says, her expression shooting daggers at Sadie.
Sadie just nods her head. She doesn't say anything to anyone else while they unpack.
Alex enters the room. "Sadie, honey, are you OK? Do you want to talk to someone?" She asks Sadie in a comforting tone. Sadie nods despondently. Alex leads her out of the room.
"OMG! You would think her best friend had died or something, the way she is acting." Lilly tells Veronica.
The girls finish unpacking quickly and exit the room together. They meet up with the other girls in the kitchen where Ellie is cooking. "Girls, I will be cooking for you tonight, but this will not be a regular thing, so you need to make shopping lists of what foods you want. But now relax and enjoy yourself. I can tell you now that tomorrow will be a big day."
Mac talks to Ellie and is glad to hear there is a vegan option, especially since both Sadie and herself are vegans.
The girls over 21 open a bottle of wine and sip on it casually, acting like they drink it all the time, but Veronica notices that Sadie cringes slightly after each sip. The other girls sip on glasses of soft drink and water. It is pleasant and relaxing, but Veronica notices that Jackie, Sadie and Mallory avoid talking to each other.
Dinner is also a relaxed event. Dinner is lasagne (a separate one is provided for Mac and Sadie) and salad and the girls talk about themselves. Mallory and Jackie (who are still angry about their fight over the bed) start trying to one-up the other, both boasting about their various achievements. Macy listens in and eggs them on, giving them more topics to discuss. Mac and Sadie start a conversation about the benefits of veganism with Carmen and Abrianna. Mac accepts the fact that the girls are not convinced to give up meat in her normal easy going way, but Sadie and Abrianna get into a heated discussion with Abrianna declaring her right to make her own choices.
Krystal, Parker and Jazmin start a conversation about who they would like to meet while in the competition and what clothes they would like to have the chance to wear. Veronica and Ali Lee start a conversation about China as Ali Lee has visited family there often and Veronica has always wanted to go.
After dinner the girls form small groups all over the house as the girls who had made friends previously in the contest caught up with them in private. Krystal and Carmen joined Macy, Veronica, Mac and Ali Lee in the 'Shoe room' for a good gossip. By this time, they are starting to get used to the cameras, especially because it is Gwen and Lucy filming them.
Most of the girls head off to bed early as they have no idea of what will be occurring the next day, but a few stay up late talking on the patio. As Veronica drifts off to sleep, she can still hear their quiet murmurs.
"Sleep well, Veronica Mars." Lilly whispers in her ear as she drops off into dreamland.
Please Review. The next chapter is the first challenge, but I want to know who you want as the first girl out (Veronica is NOT an option - and neither is Mac), but everyone else is in the running. Let me know, especially as at the moment I am umming and ahhing between two of the girls.