In her high heels, short skirts, and purple eyeliner, Rickie is known as the wayward friend of good girls Anna and Chrissy. Her string of meaningless flings, happening parties, and more boys lining up to ask her out make her the envy of every teenage girl—till she sets her sights on a very bad idea: Anna's ex. Is Rickie headed for disaster? Or will she finally fall in love and get her very own happy ending?
"Rickie is such a lovable character! You'll laugh with her, get frustrated with her, but all in all, you'll cheer for her. A book you will want to read over and over again, Every Girl's Guide to Flings is addicting and refreshing at the same time."—Candy magazine
Rule number one: Know where to start.
Hi, I'm Ericka Barcelona. Some people know me as Rickie, the wayward friend of good girls Anna and Chrissy—the girl in short skirts and high heels, the girl who has a hip party to go to every Saturday night, the girl who, among all the high school seniors in St. Andrew's Academy, is Most Likely to be Sent to the Guidance Counselor's Office for Wearing Purple Eyeliner and Red Nail Polish to School...Again. Some people know me as the girl so-and-so dated, or the girl so-and-so had a summer fling with, and I can't really say I mind.
But most people know me as the sister of Alexa Barcelona, who came home from another one of her out-of-town shows last night. Lexi has been a theater actress since she was nine, and can play any character ranging from wicked witch to damsel in distress. She receives rave reviews for every role given to her, and has been called everything from "child prodigy" to "theater's next big thing" to "favorite teen leading lady," all of which translate to only one thing—superstar. Her talent comes naturally, which means she is one of those few people who seem to be able to do a million things at once: she juggles her daily rehearsals and weekly shows with maintaining her Dean's Lister-worthy grades (she's a candidate for cum laude when she graduates in March), while staying on top of her booming social life and even more happening love life. What's remarkable is that she cruises along through all of this without eye bags or missed deadlines or crankiness or any other sign of stress, making everything look so easy and making the rest of us normal folks wonder why we have it so difficult. To make her perfection even less human, she is the most gracious, charming, cheerful twenty-year-old you'll ever meet, gliding her way into the hearts of parents and teachers faster than you can say hello. And of course, she just happens to be gorgeous, and what gets to me the most is that she is the effortless kind of gorgeous, which is something I'll never be. She wakes up in the morning with shiny hair, healthy skin, and a smile bright enough to drag every Scrooge within a ten-kilometer radius out of bed. She can get ready in fifteen minutes flat, and steps out of the house with zero makeup, unstyled tresses, and a white button-down shirt and jeans—but still manages to get by on her glowing tan, bouncy locks, and petite frame that works for almost any outfit. She never has to spend half an hour doing her makeup, and another half hour blow-drying her hair to submission. She never has to stand in front of her closet for forty-five minutes trying to decide what to wear. She never has to try too hard. Actually, it seems to me like she never has to try at all.
So she came home last night in a good mood, as usual, telling our parents about the line she almost forgot but thankfully remembered at the last minute. She told them about how the director congratulated her for doing a wonderful job, and how the audience hung on to her performance. Of course, these were not her exact words, as she was being all modest and humble and trying to downplay how amazing everyone thought she was, as usual. My parents gave her their full attention, as usual, listening to her story like it was something new, like they were not yet used to their daughter being so extraordinary. They beamed at her proudly, as usual, like she had just discovered a ten-second cure to the common cold, or brought back Elvis Presley from the dead. I simultaneously tried to tune them out and keep my ears peeled for the point when they finished fawning over her, wondering why it's possible to de-friend a friend, but not to de-sister a sister. I sulked in a corner of the living room, flipping through a gossip magazine as I waited. As usual.
And then she said, "Mom, Dad, do you remember Timmy Fernandez?"
"Your Philosophy classmate?" Mom asked. Of course she remembered. Why wouldn't she? Lexi has had a crush on Timmy since heaven knows when. But then again, every other guy on the planet has a crush on Lexi, and maybe a mother with a very pretty child tends to lump together the guys her daughter likes with the guys who like her daughter, because there are just too many boys to keep track of. Timmy also happened to be Anna's older brother, but I guess my mom wouldn't remember him that way, since she's never even had a single decent conversation with any of my friends.
"Yeah," Lexi replied. "He's coming over in a while. We just need to discuss something for our group's Philo paper. We won't take too long, I promise."
"That's not a problem," Dad said. "But are you sure you have to do this tonight? Aren't you tired?"
"I'm fine, Daddy," she told him, smiling. "I'd have to get this done sooner or later. Might as well get a head start so things don't pile up." I thought, He's coming over for something school-related, and she's smiling like they're about to go out on a date. She knows he has a girlfriend. Pathetic.
"Okay." He yawned, standing up. "Well, good luck on the paper. Goodnight, munchkin." Yes, he calls her munchkin. Yes, even in public sometimes. And no, she totally doesn't mind. Eww.
Mom stood up to leave too, then noticed me in the corner. She asked, "Ericka, is that trashy magazine for school, or is there another good reason you're still up?"
"I was just about to go to bed," I said. I brushed past them, made my way upstairs, and locked my bedroom door behind me. After ten minutes, I heard Timmy talking and Lexi giggling. Schoolwork, my ass. I buried my head under my pillow and forced myself to go to sleep.
So, yes, I'm Rickie—Anna and Chrissy's wayward friend, the girl this and that guy dated, and Lexi's not-so-perfect younger sister. I'd like to be able to say that this is really all there is to me, that what you see is what you get: skimpy outfits, layers of makeup, hot boyfriends and sort-of boyfriends.
But here's the deal: give me a chance and I promise I'll give you a whole new perspective on who I am. Whether it's for the better or for the worse, well, that you'll just have to decide for yourself.
I catch a knowing look pass between Anna and Chrissy as I stomp to our spot in the school canteen and slam my tray down on the table. They think I don't notice, but I do. I always do. I notice how they look at each other whenever I mention a new guy I'm dating, and when, three weeks later, it all ends abruptly. I notice how they look at each other whenever I tell them about Lexi's latest success story, or my most recent fight with my parents. I notice how they look at each other whenever I talk about myself, a quiet look that loudly says, God, she's talking about herself again. I notice it every single time, but I have never once called them on it. The way I choose to see it, their exasperation with me is of the amused, almost accepting kind, not the mean, judgmental one. And I figure if they genuinely hate me, they wouldn't waste time hanging out with me then plotting behind my back. They're just way too goody-goody for that. No offense to other goody-goodies, of course. I have nothing against you guys; I think you're admirable and all that, and props to you for being an inspiration.
"Hi, Ric," Chrissy chirps. Ever since we got back from summer break last month, she's been extra cheerful. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that her boyfriend Nathan joined her family on a week-long vacation to Palawan. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that on the first day of classes, she was pulled aside by our adviser and discreetly told that she was the frontrunner for valedictorian (no surprise there). Or maybe she's always been this cheerful, but I have just been more miserable than usual lately, further defining the contrast between the bright light perpetually emanating from within her and the dark cloud constantly brewing above my head.
"Hi," I say glumly. I sigh dramatically and rest my chin on both hands, like a kid in the "before" scenes in an advertisement for multivitamins, or fever medicine.
"Whoa, turn down the enthusiasm, Little Miss Sunshine," Anna says. Chrissy giggles. Anna always says pa-witty stuff like this, and Chrissy always finds her sarcasm and stoic delivery funny. Actually, most people find Anna hilarious, like her friend-turned-boyfriend Miguel, and even hot gay rockstar Gabriel, who actually referred to her in his album sleeve acknowledgements as "the fabulously benta girl I'll take along when I'm stranded on a desert island, so I can die laughing." Sometimes I can understand why she's such a hit, but sometimes (like right now), I simply can't. I roll my eyes at both of them and don't speak.
The Knowing Look passes between them again, but this time it says, Uh-oh, it's something serious. Because I am never silent and secretive. My frustration is usually all over the place, a public show that makes the audience think, I am so glad I'm not like that. When Chrissy speaks, she sounds apologetic. "What's wrong, Rickie?"
"This stupid, stupid Ted cheated on me. He flaked on our dinner plans the other night, then two hours later, I saw him holding hands with another girl.” I can't believe I'm actually bummed out about this—Ted was nothing special, and neither were the two weeks we spent dating. There was also that minor detail about the little deal we made when he first asked me out: no expectations, no commitment, no weird couple-y stuff. I make this little deal with almost every guy I date, and I don't understand why this bothers me now. Maybe I really liked him, or maybe I'm just used to being the dumper, and not the dumpee.
"But you guys agreed you weren't exclusive, right?" Anna asks. For a smart girl, she sure likes pointing out the obvious, and in the process, obviously missing the point. I wonder whether this is a rhetorical question, or if she actually wants me to affirm that she's right. She and Chrissy are both looking at me, so I just shrug and say, "Yeah, but whatever. The girl isn't even cute." This works for me every time; I think maybe if you become accustomed to not caring, it becomes your default solution to every problem and your default reaction to every situation. And maybe if people become accustomed to you not caring, they think you can just breeze through life and let things like these roll off your back. They both look relieved, and resume the conversation they were having before I so rudely interrupted with my trivial boy problem.
The now-soggy nachos on my tray beckon to me, and I take a forkful and shove it into my mouth.
Marla believes heartbreak always leads to bigger and better things, such as this book you're holding right now. She doesn't need much to be happy—just quiet weekends with her family, people who let her think she's funny even when she's not (which is most of the time), and friends who stay up all night with her during intense, slightly-panicked writing sessions.
She likes curling up with a David Levithan novel, typing the very last word to a story, and baby-sitting her two little boys, Macu and Cisco. She thinks being Candy Magazine's Assistant Lifestyle Editor is pretty cool, and loves the fact that she gets paid to watch chick flicks, listen to her fave bands, and stalk her celebrity crushes.
In the following Q & A, Marla tells us more about the Every Girl's Guide books. Read on to see how she, too, learned about these rules from her own experiences, and what advice she gives teenage girls who want to move on and look forward to better relationships.