Michelle Painchaud Pretending to Be Erica

ISBN 13: 9780670014972

Pretending to Be Erica

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9780670014972: Pretending to Be Erica

We Were Liars meets Heist Society in a riveting debut!

Seventeen-year-old Violet’s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again. Violet’s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans’ lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she “reappears”—Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle. But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor’s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut.

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About the Author:

Michelle Painchaud was born in Seattle, but grew up gate-crashing parties in sugar cane fields in Hawaii. Cats and anime take up what little part of her brain isn't harassed by stories of teenagers kicking ass. This is her first novel.
     She lives in San Diego, California and you can find her at http://michellepainchaud.tumblr.com and on Twitter: @michelleiswordy

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1: Fake It

I still haven’t gotten used to writing my new name.

It’ll get easier with time. Most things do. But for now the word Erica is strange and unfamiliar as it bleeds from my pen and onto the corner of my math worksheet. It’s a pretty name, a sweet name. Doesn’t suit me.

“Erica?” Mr. Roth, the grandpa-sweater-wearing math teacher, smiles. “Would you like to introduce yourself to the class?”

No. I would rather puke all over your floor.

“Sure.” I stand and walk to the front. The whiteboard is blank, an intimidating ghost. I don’t want to turn. I don’t want to face the class. I pivot.

“Hi. My name is Erica Silverman.”

A murmured hush runs through the crowd of faces staring. They’ve heard of me. A black-haired girl in the front glares, but I avoid eye contact. I avoid eye contact with everyone—Erica is still a little tender from the betrayal. Roth clears his throat.

“That will be sufficient. Perhaps it’s best you don’t share personal facts with us, Erica.” He turns to the class. “Please treat her with respect, as you would any other student, and keep in mind, talking to the reporters outside about Erica will be grounds for detention. The sooner we ignore them, the sooner they’ll leave.”

A grumbled agreement goes around the room. I settle into my seat. The window’s to my right, and I can see the front lawn. The reporters pace the fence, snap pictures. More have joined them since this morning—two news vans are parked outside too. They’re here for me. The cameras are easy to act in front of. It’s the high school kids who are hard. I don’t want to admit I’m nervous beneath it all. Performance anxiety is for greenhorns.

“Vultures.”

The voice comes from my left, low and gravelly. A tall boy sits next to me, slouched in his seat. He looks like he just woke up—wavy longish blond hair sticking at odd angles, and his blue eyes heavy lidded. He’s not remarkably handsome, but his face is symmetrical and pleasant and entirely forgettable.

“Vultures? Who, me?” I whisper.

He winces. “No. Them. Paparazzi assholes.”

Assholes. I savor the word. I haven’t heard someone swear in a month—it’s all been polite speech I’ve imitated. I glance out the window and contrive a soft smile.

“I’m starting to get used to it. This week’s been nothing but cameras and police. I’ll need a Seeing Eye dog if I get another flash in my face.”

It’s supposed to be a lighthearted joke, but he frowns. “You can just tell them to piss off.”

I wanted to. Trust me, guy, I wanted to say a hundred nasty things to them as they bum-rushed the car when I got out this morning. But I can’t say that. I try to look startled, like wounded Erica might. “I don’t know if I’d be that rude.”

He puts his head on his arms. “Kidnapper parents taught you to be doormat nice, huh?”

I darken my expression. Any mention of my parents gets a glower. “It’s not like I don’t want to be rude to them; I just don’t know if they’re worth speaking to at all.”

He smirks. “That’s a better answer.”

The PA system blares with morning prayers, and we bow our heads. This is a private Christian school. The shadow of the cross on the roof stretches over the lawn. The blond boy doesn’t bow his head. The black-haired girl glares at the floor. Some kids in the class look straight ahead. Everyone prays in their own way. I clasp my hands and put them to my forehead, careful not to touch the tender parts of my face. My plastic surgery bruises have faded, but I can still feel the phantom ache in my muscles.

Dear God, forgive me for my sins. I’m pretending to be a girl who went missing thirteen years ago. A girl who’s rich.

A girl who’s dead.

At the age of four, Erica Silverman was a very charming little girl—pale blonde hair, deep brown eyes with long lashes, and a smile full of baby teeth. She was the pride and joy of the Silverman family—Mr. Silverman, an aerospace engineer, and his wife, a lovely southern socialite who came from Georgia money. They settled in Seven Hills, where the savage desert of Las Vegas relented to artificially green slopes and magnificent adobe near-mansions. Erica loved to play Princess and Dragon, and she had a thing for glassy-eyed porcelain dolls.

One day, after kindergarten, Erica wasn’t there when her mother came to pick her up. School security had looked away for a mere thirty seconds. That was all it took for someone to snatch her from the curb.

The hunt lasted for years, until the police force could no longer sustain an intensive search. No ransom demand came through. No trace was left. The private detectives came and went in succession, each failing where the others had—when an actual sign of the girl was needed to continue. The most they could guess was that she’d been taken out of state, possibly over the border. After the seven-year mark, Mr. Silverman broke the way parents break when their children die—frantically, messily, irreparably. One Tuesday morning, he smashed every piece of furniture in his fifteenth-floor office. Then he smashed his office window. They caught him climbing out. His psychotic break landed him in the best mental hospital Mrs. Silverman could afford. She was left in charge of everything—to suffer and wait alone.

The story branches here.

The truth: Erica is dead. She was killed forty-eight hours after being kidnapped by Gerald Brando—a thirty-six-year-old computer salesman from Boulder City who’d seen her in a newspaper article on the family and had become infatuated. He stalked her for a year, watching her schedule, learning her quirks. When he took her, his sheer amount of preparation rendered escape or recovery futile. He had a quiet IQ of 120 with no overblown pride to muck it up. My father—Sal—met him in jail, where Gerald had been arrested for a different child murder. Gerald never told the police about Erica, but he told Sal every last detail during exercise in the yard.

The lie: a couple kidnapped Erica and raised her as their own. The couple, friends of Sal, are promised a cut from the con. They’re currently fleeing the country, leaving the now-seventeen-year-old Erica—me—to the police.

Sal is a con man. I am his daughter. This is our sting.

Before today I’d never been to high school. Or middle school. Or any school, for that matter. School wasn’t possible when you moved around as much as we did. Sal homeschooled me. I’d covered calculus, the classics, and Sal’s personal favorite, tactical military philosophy, a year ago. The classes I’m taking now are too easy. I’d covered this stuff years ago, but I don’t say anything. I don’t raise my hand to offer answers, and I purposely leave some questions wrong. Just a few. Erica is going to be a smart, but not too smart, girl. Too smart makes people uncomfortable. I want everyone to be comfortable around me. Comfortable people rarely hide things.

My free period is quickly becoming my favorite part of the day. No sitting straight and pretending to pay attention. Freedom. Freedom to wander the halls and scope out the land and the people. I get furtive glances from the hallway crowd. I’ve been on the news all month. They know exactly who I am but are acting like it’s nothing. Groups of girls watch me, glances skittering over my face and uniform before turning back like they couldn’t care less. But their whispers are insistent, and their giggles, loud. They’re definitely talking about me, right? I take a deep breath, trying to breathe the confusion away. Remember Sal’s words. His lessons. The number-one rule of a con artist: even if you have no confidence, act like you do.

Make them believe in your make-believe.

I square my shoulders and flip my hair. Confidence. My stride is long and my steps are even. I flash smiles at the groups that stare too long, and they look away abruptly. Confidence. Make them believe in everything and anything. Make them believe in you.

The girls’ bathroom—a sanctuary against the stares. I thought being the center of attention would be easier, less stressful. The moment the door closes behind me, I feel a weight lift from my chest. The mirrors are clean; the barest graffiti scrawls down the stall doors. My new face in the mirror still stops my heart and snap-freezes my blood. I have to look at it. A normal girl doesn’t avoid mirrors—they’re her best friend, worst enemy, and mild obsession all at once. I stare into it and mouth my real name, like the mirror will keep the secret in its silvery depths.

Violet.

My real name is Violet.

My hair isn’t as blonde as it should be, but we decided to keep it my dishwater color. Highlighting would make it unnatural-looking, too desperate to mimic a little girl’s hair color. Blonde fades with age sometimes, so the color can be justified. My cheekbones are now more defined. They couldn’t put in implants, since those would show up on X-rays, but they did shave the bone down to imitate the look. My eyes are bigger, rounder. They’d slit those open on the sides (like peeling grape skins, the doctor said). My nose is upturned slightly, no longer hooked (shave the cartilage down, the doctor said). Three surgeries over five years. I look beautiful, but I don’t feel pride. I just feel lost, small, eaten. Erica’s swallowed me whole. The more I throw myself into her life, the more convincing I’ll be. I have to be on my toes, keep aware of my surroundings like Sal taught me. I can’t ruin the con that’ll get us enough money to retire from petty crime. From all crime. Enough money to buy anything we want—houses, cars, small islands. Sixty million dollars is not chump change. It’s not easy-won change either. In the Vegas underworld, the Silverman painting is whispered about in the darkest corners, a holy grail for every security hacker and seedy lockpick expert. It’s the con no one thinks can be done—an Olympic feat. Sal’s people use it in conversation—“If you can outdrink me, buddy, I’ll steal the Silverman painting.” “Talking to the boss is harder than filching the Silverman painting.” It’s Mount Everest for climbers, the Marianas Trench for divers, and the Super Bowl for football teams.

And I’m going to steal it single-handedly.

All my training and all Sal’s resources have culminated here today. This moment.

I make a smile in the mirror. It looks so warm, so genuine. So practiced. I pull the corners of my lips down a little. There. Less artificial. More honest—whatever that is. I can’t be honest anymore. Honesty died a month ago when I stepped out of that cop car and into this world of private schools and fancy uniforms.

Sal took me to study normal high schoolers before I went undercover. We parked across from a school and watched them flit amongst each other, laughing and glaring and kissing. They were honest. I lived and worked around people who lied with their whole bodies. I tricked those people with deceptive body language of my own. I can read people well, but there was no need to read those kids. They were open books of hundreds of mishmashed emotions—flickering to love, hate, and everything in between with the speed of an impatient child with a TV remote.

Sal looked at me and smiled. “See? It’s easy to pretend to be normal. You just gotta not pretend at all.”

I want to call him. I want to hear his voice and his laugh and ask him for advice. But I can’t. This is the most delicate time. I have to convince everyone I’m Erica. Every phone call, every eyelash batting, every smile and wave. It’s the acting role of my life.

The bathroom door swings open. The black-haired girl who glared at me walks in. We lock eyes, hers a deep brown with a ring of heavy eyeliner, making her gaze almost feral. She breaks the contact and leans against a sink to smoke a cigarette. I push into the stall and do my business, suddenly nervous about how loud my pee sounds. When I get out, she’s still there, and she doesn’t budge when I use the sink behind her. Her eyes burn into me. Her smoke clouds are in my face. I dry my hands. She might scare other people, but I’ve seen her type before. Acting tough to hide some vulnerability. We’re both acting.

“I’m on to you.” She coughs.

I put on my practiced poker face, laced with a hint of insecurity to lure her into thinking she has the upper hand. “I’m sure you are.”

She stubs her cigarette out on the enamel and laughs. “You’re not the first to do this whole song and dance. Two girls have tried to pull it off before you. They’ll weed you out like all the others.”

She’s not lying—I’d read up on the two girls, three years ago and eight years ago, who tried and failed to be Erica. They wanted the comfy lifestyle—but that was their downfall. Wanting so much for so long is impossible when you’re faking. You just keep your eyes on the prize, grab it, and get out before someone blows your cover. Their prize was a whole life of luxury. Mine is simpler, cleaner, and much more profitable—the Silverman painting.

The other girls got caught. But they weren’t me. I have DNA—a lock of the real Erica’s hair Gerald kept for himself in jail and Sal swiped. I have the lab assistant who marked it as a fresh sample when Sal hung something—blackmail, I suppose—over his head. I have an identical break in my right fibula, inflicted by Sal’s doctor. The break healed in the same place, at the same angle as the fracture Erica had gotten falling down some stairs.

I have Sal on my side.

Nearly a month ago, “Erica” found out her parents weren’t her real ones. She found out she was kidnapped. Erica might be wounded, a little soft, but she’s not a doormat. She’s frustrated and angry—every police officer and reporter who visited the house has accused her of being fake in the last month. She’s had it up to her pretty brown eyes with being accused.

“You’re not the first to doubt me.” I glower. “And you won’t be the last.”

She laughs, a hyena chuckle. “Like I haven’t heard that before.”

The heavy thunk of the door as she leaves punches a hole in my chest. It’s my first day of school, and I’ve already got someone on my scent. Fantastic. But she’s only human.

Me, I’ve been in training all my life.

That girl’s intimidating presence was probably enough to break the previous “Ericas.” I’m different. Sal chose me from the foster system because I looked like her. He raised me to be her; he knew one day I could become her, fall into her easily, like a hand slipping into a glove.

Erica was part of me before I even knew her name.

I make my way to the cafeteria and choose a sandwich from the hot bar. I hand my lunch card to the student operating the register. The buttons look worn, old. The register is on its last legs. The student taps the Open button, and the tray pans out and pulls a memory from me.

At five years old, Violet is the perfect distraction.

The smell of gasoline clogs her nose. Cigarette smoke makes her eyes water. Neon beer brands in the window blind her. She waddles up to the counter and musters the fattest tears she can, which, in a strange gas station store with scary people staring at her, is easy to do. The cashier looks around, hoping someone will claim the wailer, but no one does. He doubles around the counter and asks questions—par...

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Painchaud, Michelle
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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. We Were Liars meets Heist Society in a riveting debut! Seventeen-year-old Violet s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again. Violet s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she reappears Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle. But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780670014972

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. We Were Liars meets Heist Society in a riveting debut! Seventeen-year-old Violet s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again. Violet s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she reappears Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle. But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780670014972

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. We Were Liars meets Heist Society in a riveting debut! Seventeen-year-old Violet s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again. Violet s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she reappears Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle. But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut. Nº de ref. de la librería BZV9780670014972

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Descripción Viking Juvenile. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Hardcover. 288 pages. We Were Liars meets Heist Society in a riveting debut! Seventeen-year-old Violets entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again. Violets father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she reappearsErica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle. But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razors edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Nº de ref. de la librería 9780670014972

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