from Chapter 5 of Freaky in Fresno:
I crank the gearshift into park as the dust settles, and Lana and I simultaneously turn in our seats to face each other. Our eyes lock and the two of us embark on the most intense stare down of our lives.
“Terrific car,” Jake says, reminding me he’s here. I just nod slowly in response without breaking eye contact with Lana. We stay focused on our no-blinking stare for so long that I can feel the lipstick on my cheek begin to melt and run liquid down my face.
Eventually Jake mumbles some excuse about checking on Gwen and Brad and says, “A dark screen tomorrow night will mean everything we’ve worked for has been in vain.”
I nod again, feeling like I’m already throwing everything away. But my deep anger toward Lana keeps me glued in place. Locked into our stare.
Once Jake’s gone, I swear I hear a low growl emitting from my cousin’s throat.
But I’m still the one in the driver’s seat.
Cherishing the control I wield, I narrow my eyes at Lana and dance my fingers mockingly across the top of the steering wheel. I’m surprised to find it’s covered with a fine layer of powder. Rubbing my fingers together, I feel the abrasion of grit and break eye contact to look around the inside of the car.
Not only is the entire interior of the car covered with drive-in dust, I realize Lana and I are both blanketed in a thin layer of the shining powder. Tiny silver particles gleam in the sunshine. It’s as if the Starlight Drive-in is laying claim to the vintage car. I’m emboldened by the thought.
“I’m not moving,” I say. “I’ll just hold the car hostage here until tomorrow night.”
Lana says, “My mom already texted me back and this convertible is now a crucial part of my epic appearance at Digifest tomorrow night. There’s no way you will deny me this.”
“Your fans are not going to remember you a year from now. Or even six months!” I say. “They’re like goldfish with tiny little attention spans. What are you going to do to keep them clicking, Lana? How do you plan to keep gaining more and more followers?”
Apparently, I’ve made a direct hit on a nerve because Lana’s left eye twitches as she springs across the seat, lunging at me with both hands. Before I can react, she’s grabbed both my wrists and is trying to wrestle my grip off the steering wheel.
I’m impressed by her strength, but I refuse to let go.
Lana shoves her small body against me so hard, the two of us are both in the driver’s seat. All four of our fists clutch the thin steering wheel as we sit tightly together as one. Lana digs the spike of her high heel into the top of my foot, making the engine rev loudly.
If I popped the gear from park to drive right now the Skylark would speed straight for the playground, launch off the slide, and send Lana and me flying right through the towering white movie screen.
In frustration, I start honking the horn with my elbow. Jake comes running out of the projector room, followed by Gwen and Brad in their overalls. They all watch us, trying to figure out what on earth is going on between the two of us in the front seat of this convertible.
“I am keeping this car for our Friday night reopening!” I screech at Lana. “This drive-in means everything to me and it is so much more important than some stupid Digiwidgifestivalcon.”
“You know it’s Digifest,” Lana screams back. “And my whole future is hinging on attracting more followers tomorrow! This car is perfectly on-brand for me!”
“You think your fleeting fame is all that matters,” I say. “This amazing drive-in could close down forever.”
At the exact same time, we both yell at each other, “You are so selfish!”
Ahead of us, the giant movie screen spontaneously flashes to life.
A bright light projects onto the screen and begins to strobe, while Brad releases a Wilhelm scream to our left.
Jake puts a protective arm around both him and Gwen while Lana and I continue wrestling for the Skylark’s steering wheel, using our elbow bones as weapons.
Suddenly, it’s as if the steering wheel gives us both a huge electric shock. With a loud crackle, the convertible fires off tiny sparks in every direction.
Lana and I both shriek in pain and surprise, but neither one of us lets go of the wheel. In fact, I squeeze my fists around it even tighter.
The movie screen in front of us continues flashing and snippets of short movie clips begin to play. Despite the sunlight making it difficult to recognize the picture, I swear I see the image of a grown woman wearing bell-bottoms and riding a skateboard as she blows a giant bubblegum bubble.
Lana and I finally stop elbowing each other and stare straight ahead as the screen flashes with a spiky-haired Jamie Lee Curtis confidently walking toward us in heels and an amazing black dress. I can’t help but feel soothed by her image.
“JLC,” I say out loud.
“What?” Lana says.
“The ultimate scream queen.” I gesture to the screen, but it’s now showing Lindsay Lohan yelling at a little kid. “Not her,” I say. “Jamie Lee.”
The heavy metal music that was playing earlier begins to speed up and get louder. It almost sounds like we’re on a carnival ride, and I instinctively let go of the steering wheel and grab for the door handle. But when I pull on it nothing happens.
My stomach gives a lurch and I feel an inexplicable panic rising in my throat. “My door’s locked.”
Lana leans over and pulls on the passenger-side handle. “Mine too!”
“What’s going on?” I say. “It’s like the car is going all ‘Stephen King Christine’ out of nowhere.”
“It looks like the movie projector is possessed too.” Lana points to the kaleidoscope of twisting colors now dancing onscreen. “It’s making me dizzy!”
I shake my head but can’t look away. “I guess the new equipment must be malfunctioning.”
As we watch, Jamie Lee Curtis reappears to rock out on an electric guitar for just a blip before the screen switches back to strobing colors. Next, we see a clip of a teenaged Jodie Foster riding on the top of a waterskiing pyramid. Or rather, a very obvious green screen shot of Jodie Foster pretending to water-ski. That image switches to Lindsay Lohan angry-kissing a guy and shoving him behind a tree before the skateboard mom reappears, now dealing with a washing machine overflowing with a giant heap of bubbles.
The images begin to flip by faster and faster until a flash of pink light and a blast of music explodes so bright and so loud that Lana covers her face and I squeeze my eyes shut.
My scream is loud enough that I can barely hear Lana’s scream beside me. But when I stop she continues her unrestrained shriek for a full thirty seconds. Finally, she gives a few stammering, “What the—what the—what the—?” and I hear her dissolve into a long, high-pitched whine.
I keep my eyes squeezed shut as I try to catch my breath. Everything goes quiet.
When I dare to look again I see that the screen in front of us has stopped flashing and both Gwen and Brad are clinging to Jake. Brad’s blond head is tucked tightly into Jake’s armpit and Gwen announces at the top of her lungs, “This drive-in has a poltergeist!”
“Are you girls okay?” Jake calls. “It looked like the convertible was covered in static electricity just now.”
Brad yells out from his position in Jake’s armpit. “How did movie clips play without the projector hooked up?”
Gwen wails, “It’s not even plugged in!”
I lean back and rest my hands on the steering wheel, and Lana slides along the bench seat away from me. When I look over, I can feel the shock on my face mirroring hers. For a moment, I’m just happy to be okay and I’m glad that Lana seems to be fine too.
I ask loudly, “Are you all right?”
“My ears are ringing,” Lana yells, covering her ears with her manicured hands.
“Mine too,” I call. “Guess you wish you’d captured that on your phone, huh?”
Lana drops her hands from her ears and I can see by the set of her mouth that the shock is already wearing off. Her eyes dart around, as if she’s scheming how she can get me out of the driver’s seat and claim the convertible as her own.
As if to confirm my thoughts, she reaches over, turns off the ignition, and takes the key.
Cupping her small hands together to hide the car’s pom-pom key chain inside, she says, “I don’t know how you did that, Ricki, but nice try. This car is mine.”
“I didn’t do anything,” I say loudly. “I don’t even know what just happened.”
Lana says, “Okay, cuz, but answer me this: What are you going to do with no key?”
I sigh. “Well, cuz, I could just unhook the battery and leave the car parked exactly where it is until tomorrow night.”
Lana looks perplexed, like she hadn’t thought of this possibility.
“But I don’t really feel like camping in a convertible overnight just because you are the most stubborn and selfish person on the planet.” I give up.
“I am not the most . . . But wait, does this mean I win? I get the car for tomorrow night?”
To answer her, I reach around to pull up the lock. I swipe at the lipstick on my face as I open the door and climb out of the pink Skylark.
“We’ve wasted enough time,” I say and then call out to Jake, “Let’s get to work on that old popcorn machine.”
I don’t even look back when I hear Lana restart the car.
She lets the engine idle a few moments before putting the Skylark in gear, but I just keep walking and don’t turn around to watch her pull out. By the time she zooms past I’ve reached Jake and the others.
“You guys okay?” I ask.
“Girls should not fight like that,” Gwen says. She pulls a hankie from the bib of her overalls and wipes the side of my face. “Not to be sexist or anything, but that was incredibly unladylike.”
From the corner of my eye, I watch the convertible disappear down the road. “My cousin and I have never been accused of acting ladylike when we’re together. Even when we used to get along.”
“Hard to believe you two ever got along,” Jake says.
“Yes, it is, Jake.” I feel wrung out. “Yes, it is.”
With that, the four of us follow each other through the arched front doorway of the concession shack, while my ears continue ringing from the . . . well . . . whatever the heck just happened.
(C) Laurie Boyle Crompton, Blink, 2020. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Ricki has one goal: save the Starlight Drive-in movie theater from going dark forever. Okay, make that two goals … she may also want a first kiss from her cinema-rescuing partner and major crush, Jake. Lana definitely has only one goal: grow her online makeup channel to keep her momager off her back, even if the posts attract ugly internet trolls.
The two cousins couldn’t be more different, but their opposite personalities come crashing to a head when their aunt gifts the girls a vintage cotton-candy-pink convertible. To share. Ricki wants the convertible for the drive-in’s grand reopening, but it’s the same day as Digifest, a huge event where Lana needs to shine. After a major fight and a minor electric shock while wrestling over the wheel, Ricki wakes up as Lana, and Lana wakes up as Ricki.
Ricki and Lana have only a day to un-Freaky Friday themselves, a task made even more difficult as they try to keep up appearances on Lana’s channel and with Ricki’s hopefully-soon-to-be-kissed crush. But it turns out experiencing a day as each other—with a mini road trip in the Skylark and the Chihuahua wrangling it entails—may be the one thing that help the cousins see each other and themselves more clearly.
About Laurie Boyle Crompton
Laurie Boyle Crompton is the author of several YA books, including Pretty in Punxsutawney, Adrenaline Crush and Love and Vandalism. Laurie graduated first in her class from St. John’s University with a BA in English and Journalism. She has written for national magazines like Allure, survived a teaching stint at an all-boy’s high school, and appeared on Good Day New York several times as a toy expert. And yes, “toy expert” is an actual profession. She grew up in a small town in western PA and now lives near NYC with her family and three fuzzy “dog toy experts.”