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Chapter One

Johnnie glanced in the rearview mirror and sighed as her battered convertible idled in the parking lot. Large, red zits were claiming real estate on her face that wasn't already occupied by fine lines, and her hair was staging a mutiny against the lousy, generic shampoo that smelled like strawberries and cream. She pushed her indignant, brown mane into a large clip and added Make a dermatology appointment with Dr. Zaks and Order a case of obscenely expensive shampoo to her mental list of things to do if she ever had money again.

After applying a few quick dabs of weapons-grade concealer, she silently acknowledged that, at this cash-strapped point in her life, nothing more could be done to salvage her appearance; it was yet another by-product of her idiotic choices, another piper paid. She shoved a pair of sunglasses onto her face, raised her chin to summon whatever determination she could, and set off toward the freeway.

Another sun-kissed morning on the 10. Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Cities in Dust" blared from the car radio as Johnnie navigated the congested California interstate. The song, played at full volume, penetrated her crusty outer layers and connected with a stronger, more vibrant version of herself—the Johnnie she was before—that still dwelled beneath. It lifted Johnnie out of her emotional smog and gave her the motivation she needed to tackle the day's numerous challenges: Made for TV, Sanjay, Kyle, Cat Circus, Makayla Thorndale, Dixon-Cooper, sobriety. She'd brought it all on herself and while none of it would be easy to resolve, she had to try; there was no other alternative. She was out of options.

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