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Mind Over Matter

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On the most glorious of stages, a spotlight flickers on and idly shines down on the hardwood.

Suddenly, a cloud of smoke manifests.

POOF!

...

It dissipates to reveal none other than six year-old Lola Loud, who is smiling widely and holding a pink ribbon wand.

She begins twirling around the stage, and the audience gradually grows louder and louder until her ovation is almost deafening.

She finishes her act, and takes a bow as everyone continues revering her.

She looks back up to the judges. A silhouette is clapping, and slowly steps forward to reveal- Gasp!...

John Stamos…

Somehow, he looks just like he did when he was twenty, and he smiles that perfect smile, showing off his perfect white teeth.

All Lola can do is look on with wide, glossy eyes as she soaks up this wonderful, magical, fantastic, perfect-

“Lola!” a familiar raspy voice calls out to her.

“Of course…” Lola grumbles as she snaps back to the reality that is her bedroom.

Gone is the glorious stage with its splendorous lights and hardwood, in its place are drab wallpaper and cheap carpet. Gone are the audience of adoring fans clapping and whistling for her, in their place are several stuffed animals and dolls with blank, silent expressions.

And John Stamos? Well, he’s sort of here… If a cardboard cut-out propped up against a tea party table counts.

Lola grouchily slouches, and she hears it again.

“Lola!”

As well as Lola’s done to give this sorry excuse for a bedroom some class, a person can only do so much. The best make-up can’t save the ugliest girl, after all.

Sadly, her best efforts are quashed by the plungers, power tools, and tanks of creepy crawlies settled into the domicile. Those belong to her roommate of course… Her roommate…

“Lola!” Lana cries out a third time as she enters the bedroom, visibly excited.

Her twin sister groan-sighs. “What, Lana?”

Lana rushes over with a big smile, holding something tiny in her hand.

“You’ll never guess what I found while digging in the backyard! It’s so awesome!” the resident tomboy proclaims.

Lola just rolls her eyes.

“If this is a bug, I’m telling Dad you’ve been pooping in Cliff’s litter box again,” she states.

“No, it’s not a bug… And hey, I don’t have to wait in line to use the litter box…” Lana defends. “But that’s not the point!”

She extends her hand and opens it to reveal a small aquamarine marble.

She just keeps beaming from ear to ear, but Lola meets her with stubborn incertitude.

“What is that?” she bluntly asks.

“Uh, it’s our old pirate looking glass, duh?” Lana retorts. “Remember? We used to ride around in our wagon pretending it was a pirate ship, and we’d hold this up to our eyes like a looking glass to find treasure?”

Lola continues looking at her like she’s an idiot, but she does a 180 as she brightens up with a wide-eyed smile. “Oh yeah! We’d find colored rocks and give them to Mom!” she recalls.

“Argh, here be our booty, Captain Mommy!” Lana jokes with a pirate voice, closing one eye like she has an eye patch and gesturing her finger like a hook.

“Yeah! Haha!” Lola laughs, and Lana joins her.

Once they stop laughing, Lana nervously rubs the back of her neck, trying to keep cool with a smile.

“Yeah, good times... I wouldn’t wanna go play with it right now or anything?” she expresses.

“Good, because I’m busy,” Lola tartly responds, closing her eyes and turning away, failing to read the connotative meaning of her twin sister’s statement.

“Oh, right…” Lana says with a wince as she eyes the aquamarine marble. “I forgot you have that big pageant to get ready for.”

“Yep, the twenty-fourth annual Miss Cute and Mean Pageant!” Lola proudly declares. “I’ve been practicing for weeks, and I have to make sure everything is perfect for tonight! I have to win, I just have to! Especially since…”

“Oh no,” Lana utters as she realizes the tangent Lola is about to go on.

“Lindsey Sweetwater…” Lola finishes with a scowl.

“There was the time she brought her Shih Tzu to the show, and let the judges hold her during the show,” Lola recalls, visualizing the events of that day.

“Or the time she made everyone non-dairy ice cream. I didn't even know they made non-dairy ice cream!”

“And last year! When she dedicated her performance to the veterans at the start of the show! Of course she was gonna win after that!”

...

“Yeah, those pesky veterans,” Lana sarcastically says with a roll of the eyes.

Lola apparently doesn't notice though, because she just keeps getting worked up.

“Well, not this year!” she declares. “This year, I’ve perfected my act, and there's no way she can beat me! I swear on John Stamos!”

“Huah!” Lana gasps, “You can't be serious? You love John Stamos!”

Both girls look to cardboard John Stamos.

And “he” looks back with a wooden expression.

“Okay, that's too far… But you get what I mean,” Lola asserts.

“So, what are you doing for your act, anyway?” Lana asks now.

And Lola smiles. “Well, I'm very happy you ask, my dear Lana…” she tells her with a somewhat sweet, yet somehow condescending pat on the red hat she wears.

She rushes back to her rehearsal spot in front of all her “audience.”

“Okay, so the judges give each contestant three different scores for three different areas: Personality, poise, and talent,” she begins.

Lana just thoughtfully looks on. “Poise? Isn't that a place in Idaho?”

“Focus, Lana,” Lola scolds. “Personality is all about working up the judges. It's all about being as sweet and loveable as possible, but also having just the right amount of sass. It's Little Miss Cute and Mean after all…”

She paces over to Lana, wraps her arm around her shoulder, and maneuvers her over to her spot.

“So, at the beginning of the show, they conduct a short little interview. They'll ask who you are and why you compete and yada yada yada… That's where they really judge Personality.” Lola continues.

“Okay,” Lana simply responds to show she understands.

“Okay, so ask me something. Anything you want,” Lola instructs with a proud posture.

“Uhm, okay…” Lana says as she thinks it over.

And with an animated snap of the fingers, she smiles.

“Ooo! I know! What color are my underwear?!”

Lola scornfully frowns. “No, you turkey! I meant like a question about me!”

“Mmm, that attitude won't win over any Personality points,” Lori mocks with a smirk as she passes by their bedroom door.

...

“Nobody asked you!” Lola yells.

She looks to her John Stamos cut-out, whose face has unsurprisingly stayed exactly the same.

“I'm sorry you had to see that…” Lola apologizes to “him.”

“Uhm… so what about Poise? How do you get points for that?” Lana somewhat nervously asks, not at all trying to change the subject.

Fortunately, Lola is hook, line, and sinker.

“Ah, now Poise is the easy one,” she answers. “All you gotta do there is look good, which- aheh, I have no problem doing.”

All suddenly like, Lola starts flamboyantly posing like she's auditioning for a Zoolander movie, and, of course, she visualizes actual camera flashes as she does it.

Once she's done posing, she faces Lana with a proud smile, and Lana claps for her.

“Woo! Go Lola!” she cheers.

“Why thank you,” Lola says with a playful little curtsy. “Now. Let me show you something,” she instructs Lana, once again grabbing her and forcing her over to the closet.

Lola begins rummaging through it until she finds what she's looking for.

“Ah! There it is!” she announces as she pulls out a lovely white dress for her sister to see.

“Do you love it?” she asks Lana.

“Ehh, too clean,” Lana answers with a wince.

Lola just rolls her eyes as she puts it safely back in her wardrobe.

“That's the dress I'll be wearing for the Poise part of the competition. I had to pull a lot of Blue Bell duty to save up money for this baby,” Lola explains.

“Oh… Well I'm sure the judges will like it?” Lana insists with a nervous smile and shrug.

...

“Speaking of which; let's try this again. Why don't you ask me something along the lines of- oh, I don't know, ‘Where do you see yourself in ten years?’” Lola requests of Lana.

“Uhm… Alright. Where do you see yourself in ten years?” Lana asks.

“Well thank you for asking,” Lola sweetly begins. “In ten years, I see myself really making a difference in the world! I want to take time to help others, and be an inspiration to little girls everywhere!”

“That is such crud,” Lana bluntly states.

“Yeah, I know,” Lola says, dropping the act. “But as long as the judges don't know that, who does it hurt?”

Lana just shrugs. “Fair enough… So, you've got Personality and Boise-”

“Poise,” Lola corrects her.

“That thing,” Lana responds. “So what are you gonna do for Talent?”

Lola grins from ear to ear. “What's that old saying? Actions speak louder than words?” she says as she picks her ribbon wand up from her tea party table.

“Heh, I know an old saying,” Lana chimes in. “There was a man from Nantucket, who-”

...

“I told you not to repeat that to anyone! Especially other children!” Luan scolds as she passes by their room.

“She's been teaching me rhymes,” Lana simply tells Lola, who just cringes.

“Whatever! Are you gonna watch me ribbon dance or not?” she barks.

“Fine… Do your thing… But it's a little crowded in here, don’t you think?” Lana comments.

Lola ignores her though, and proceeds to dancing just as she did before being rudely interrupted.

She's actually very good too, but Lana can't help but think she does look a little silly as she makes funny noises jumping around waving these twirly, girly ribbons all over the place.

Even so, she becomes worried as Lola apparently loses her ability to judge distance with other things… and people.

“Uhm, Lola… Maybe you should- Lola!” she cries as her twin sister accidentally tumbles into her.

“Ahhh!” they both shout as they crash to the floor.

They recover and sit up to look at one another.

“You okay?” Lola asks.

“Yeah, I’m-” Lana begins before her eyes widen all panickingly like. “Uh oh…”

“What?” Lola worriedly asks.

“Our looking glass! I dropped it!” Lana cries.

She hurriedly stands up, and begins scurrying to find it.

...

Lola slowly gets to her feet, and starts scanning the floor as well.

Through Lana’s annoying repetition of “Come on, come on!”, Lola is able to spot the aquamarine marble on the floor.

She picks it up, and even wipes it on her dress to get the hair off it.

“Chill out… I found it,” she gruffly says.

Lana smiles wide, and practically snatches it from her hand.

“Oh man… Phew… I don't think I could go through losing this. Not after- *sniffle* Not after what happened to SpongeBob…”

She recalls the time she accidentally flushed her favorite SpongeBob SquarePants figurine down the toilet. The poor guy let out one last of his signature laughs as he was whisked away into a porcelain tomb.

Lola dons a look of concern as she rests a hand on Lana’s shoulder.

“Hey, don’t worry. Even if you would've lost it- or flushed it; we would always have the memories of playing with it together.”

Lana smiles, “You mean that?”

And Lola smiles back.

“Yar!” she confirms all pirate like.

They just smile at one another for a moment before Lana shifts her focus to her marble. She decides to tuck it safely inside her front pocket.

“Well, I guess I'll leave you alone now,” she bemoans.

Lola contemplates her words with an air of anxiousness.

As Lana begins heading for the door…

“Wait!”

Lana turns back.

“How would like to come with me today? To the competition I mean?” Lola asks.

“Really? But I thought you didn't like anyone coming to your shows? Especially after what me and Lincoln did that one time…”

“Ehh, I'm not worried about it. Besides… Someone should be there to witness my ten foot leap,” she says in a manner that's supposed to make it seem like a big deal.

“Ten foot leap?” Lana confusingly asks.

Lola proudly, almost deviously smiles.

“Oh yes… My ten foot leap.”

“Why do you keep saying it like that?” Lana asks.

And Lola totally disregards her.

“See, ribbon dancing happens quite a bit in these things. I once went to a show where every contestant did it as part of their act.”

Lana thoughtfully nods. “Okay. So why are you doing it, then?”

“Because it's become so trendy, that it's at the point people realize it's trendy, so no one will want to do it anymore. Plus… I plan on being the first Little Miss Cute and Mean to break the ten foot jump record,” Lola happily explains.

Lana uses her fingers to start counting, but becomes flustered upon remembering she only has eight fingers.

“Uhm, ten feet. That's not a lot, really,” she thinks aloud.

“Maybe not for tall people, but you try jumping ten feet,” Lola challenges.

“Alright,” Lana simply says with a shrug, and she steps out into the hallway where she can get enough distance.

Lola just watches on, snidely crossing her arms with a matching expression.

Lana preps herself, then goes for her jump.

She gets... maybe four feet, and becomes winded just by that much.

“Phew… I am out of shape for six years-old,” she comments as she catches her breath.

“Hmph. Now watch this,” Lola snootily tells her as she makes way to the very end of the hall, her back nearly touching the wall.

She takes a deep breath, and then with the grace of a gazelle, darts into the air.

And, she really gets some air.

She lands in the middle of the hallway, and coolly fixes her posture.

Lana just stares with her jaw dropped for a moment before pulling out a measuring tape, and checking to see just how far her sister actually leaped.

She gets to Lola’s spot with the tape, and it reads just a few sixteenths over ten feet.

She just looks to Lola with her mouth agape as her measuring tape whisks back to her.

And Lola just smiles, relishing in the knowledge that she's right about something, as usual.

“That was awesome!” Lana finally remarks.

“I know,” Lola haughtily replies as she makes her way back into the bedroom.

Lana follows her, and Lola perks up upon seeing what time it is on their clock.

“Holy Foley! It's almost 4:30?! The pageant starts at 5:00!” she exclaims.

“Dang. I guess we better get going then, huh?” Lana simply states.

“You're darn right we do!” Lola agrees. “Oh, let's see… I have to get my dress!” Lola remembers as she hurries into the closet to collect it.

“I have to make sure I didn't put on too much contour,” she says as she checks herself in her vanity.

“Are my teeth white enough? Is my hair frizzy? Did I pluck my unibrow? Should I-”

“Lola,” Lana calmly interjects, resting a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Lola just looks to her.

“Relax… You said yourself you’ve been practicing all week. If you’ve been working as hard as you say- no, as I know you have… Then Lindsey Sweetwater better have some tissues handy for when they announce you as the new Miss Cute and Mean,” Lana tells her.

Lola smiles an endearing smile. “That- that would be- the most wonderful thing ever!” she proclaims.

She then giddily takes her sister by the hands.

“Alright, come on! We’ve gotta go show all those other girls just what makes Lola Loud so cute… and mean,” she declares with a sinister, but somehow sweet, smile.

She lets go of Lana to make her way to cardboard John Stamos, who has the emotional range of a… well, a piece of cardboard.

“I’ll see you when I get home, handsome,” she says as she caresses his two-dimensional forehead.

She then makes her way out the door with her ribbon wand and white dress, but realizes Lana hasn’t moved.

She turns to face her with a look of impatience. “Come on, Lana! We have to make Daddy drive us there!” she commands before continuing out into the hall.

Lana heavily sighs as she pulls her marble out of her pocket and studies it in her hand.

“Aye aye, captain,” she sorrowfully utters before finally following her outside.

 

Chapter Text

 

Royal Woods Elementary School, Sunset.

Lynn Loud Sr. pulls into the parking lot of the establishment, and parks Vanzilla before turning his attention to his passengers: wife Rita, and daughters Lola and Lana.

“Okay, girls. Here we are,” he says to the twins.

“You two be sure to have fun in there,” Rita adds with a smile.

“Wait? You guys aren’t watching the pageant?” Lana asks.

“Well, we would like to,” Rita answers while glaring at Lola, “But a certain someone insists that we’re ‘annoying’,” she explains with air-quotes.

“Ah, come on, Lola. They can’t be that bad?” Lana defends.

“Ahem, yes they are!” Lola retorts.

She remembers the last time her parents spectated one of her pageants, and ruined what was supposed to be her lovely run on the catwalk by hooting and hollering very obnoxiously, much to the chagrin of their daughter and all the other patrons.

Lola firmly fixes her own glare at Lana, who meets her with a wide-eyed expression.

Lynn and Rita frown.

“Hmph. Excuse us for wanting to show our support for you,” Lynn pouts. “Especially considering how much dough we shell out for these things,” he mumbles to himself.

“And you do show your support by driving me here, Daddy,” Lola sweetly states, but she picks the ‘tude right back up. “Now hurry up, Lana. We gotta get inside so I can show you all these other-”

“Watch it,” Rita simply tells her before she can finish saying whatever derogatory term she had in mind for her fellow pageant contestants.

“…Girls. I was gonna say girls,” Lola fibs, and she just keeps wearing a hokey smile as she exits the van with her twin sister.

“We love you honey! Show ‘em who’s the cutest!” Rita encourages.

“And meanest!” her husband adds.

With that, the parents pull out of the lot and disappear from sight, leaving the twins to make their way into the school.

But rather than taking the road that would lead them back home, they pull alongside the curb and park.

“Got your disguise?” Lynn asks Rita as he begins shuffling through a brown paper bag.

“Sure do,” Rita answers as she pulls a floral hooded shawl and a pair of Leni’s white sunglasses out of her own bag. She puts them on, then looks over to Lynn to see what he’s decided on. She frowns upon doing so.

“What?” Lynn indifferently asks.

“Really?” Rita utters.

Without another word, she pulls the Deadpool mask off her balding husband.

“Yow!” he moans. “Come on! I spent like, eight bucks on that!” he complains.

“And I spent three bucks on this,” Rita rebuts as she reveals a fake moustache. She slaps it on his face, and he shuffles his lip to adjust the thing so that it’s on just right.

“Now come on, let’s get back to the school before the show starts,” Rita instructs him.

“Alright… But the mask would’ve been cooler, and nobody would’ve noticed!” he insists.

Rita just rolls her eyes, and the duo make their way back to the school with their new disguises.

-----------------------

Lola and Lana enter the school auditorium. Lola meets the festivities with her usual level of confidence, but Lana…

“Wow…” she utters upon seeing all the pomp and circumstance of a Little Miss Cute and Mean Pageant.

There are parents and students everywhere taking their seats, and even a TV crew from the local news station. There are all these fancy lights, and streamers, and just…

“Wow…”

Lola smiles at her. “Come on. Let’s get backstage so I can show you the other… girls…”

Lana obeys, and follows her sister up the stairs to the backstage area. Several other little girls just like Lola are making their rounds, each with the same extravagant clothes, hair, and make-up as her.

And, just from seeing them, Lana guesses they probably have the same attitude as well.

Lola tugs Lana by her shirt, pulling her into a safe little spot alongside the wall.

“Okay, that’s Gabriella,” she says, pointing to a girl with black hair and freckles in purple dress. “She acts all quiet and innocent, but she’s really a total brat. She’s always saying bad things about people, and literally does the same routine every year,” she explains to Lana.

“Okay?” Lana simply responds.

“That’s Ana,” Lola says, pointing out a dark complected girl in an orange dress. “She thinks she’s the best thing since sliced bread, but if you ask me, she’s just a fan girl who tries too hard to be like the rest of us.”

She then points to a somewhat portly girl in an indigo dress. “That’s Melody. She’s a total goody two-shoes who tattles on people and whines when they say anything mean about anybody.”

Lana looks to a… peculiar looking girl with short brown hair. She’s wearing a green dress that’s a size too small for her, and practically drooling.

“Who’s she?” Lana asks.

Lola cringes. “That’s Gretchen… We don’t talk about Gretchen…”

The girls shake off their despondence as Gretchen starts picking her ear, and they move on to the next girl.

“That’s Rebecca. She’s always commenting about-“

“We can all hear you, you know?” Rebecca, a taller girl in a grey dress, cattily informs Lola.

“I know!” Lola lets her know.

The other girls stop sourly glaring at her to go back to their business, except for Gretchen, who is now sniffing the finger she was using to pick her ear.

Lola just smiles at Lana. “See what I’m up against?”

“Uh… Yeah…” Lana utters, unsure how to react. “So… Where is-?”

Before she can finish asking her question, the loud sound of someone barging through a door becomes audible.

Everyone turns their attention to the sudden commotion, and a redheaded girl with a bow in her hair reveals herself.

She condescendingly sneers at all the other girls, and begins walking her way through with pompous posture.

“Let me guess. That’s-“

“Lindsey Sweetwater…” Lola finishes for Lana.

Lindsey walks up to the twins, and sizes them up.

“Hello Lola. I see you brought some moral support. I’m glad to see you’ve accepted the fact you’ll be losing this evening,” she mocks.

“Ha! Not this year, Sweetwater,” Lola retorts. “Lana’s just here to enjoy watching me cream you!”

“Hmm… She’s more likely to beat me this year than you are, Loud,” Lindsey attests. “See, I’ve been working on perfecting my routine for weeks now. I have to say, I’m quite proud with what I’ve come up with…’

She sinisterly smiles as she checks her fingernails.

“It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it…”

Lana meets her statement with concern and confusion, but Lola just scowls at her.

“Yeah, you’re about to find that out when I wipe this floor with you,” she asserts.

“At least I’d be a clean wipe… I can’t say the same for you…” Lindsey responds.

Lindsey decides to leave with that last word, and Lola turns beat red as she clenches her fists.

“Hold me back,” she tells Lana, and her sister does just that.

“LET ME AT HER! LET ME AT HER!” Lola hollers as Lana restrains her. “JUST GIVE ME TEN SECONDS TO SHOW HER JUST HOW MEAN I CAN REALLY BE! LET ME TEAR HER HEAD OFF!!!”

Lana dons a thoughtful expression. “You know, that girl was pretty rude. And if this could be anything like that pro wrestling show me and Lynn were watching, I really don’t see why I’m holding you back. Maybe I should let you tear her head off?…”

Then, Lisa’s kindergarten teacher- and the pageant’s Master of Ceremonies, Ms. Shrinivas, makes her way to the backstage area through the curtain.

“Alright, girls. The show will begin very shortly. Everyone get in your places. Alphabetical order, first names,” she instructs them.

“Ooo!...” Lola growls as Lana lets her go.

“Easy there,” Lana tells her in a soothing tone. “We’ll show her who’s boss with the pageant. Then we’ll see who wipes what!”

Lola meets this statement with a surly look.

“Okay, just good luck,” Lana says now in an attempt at a smooth recovery.

“Ugh! Lana!” Lola groans.

“What?”

“You don’t tell a person ‘good luck,’ that’s bad luck!”

“Oh, well… Sorry?!...” Lana bemoans.

“Oh, never mind it… Just go hang out somewhere until intermission,” Lola orders.

Lana frowns, but does as she’s told and makes her way to the side stage.

All the contestants form a line along the stage, with Lindsey and Lola being stuck standing next to one another.

They put on the biggest smiles they possibly can as they await the drawing of the curtains.

“I hate you,” Lola mutters to Lindsey.

“Bite me,” Lindsey simply responds.

-----------------------

In the auditorium, Lynn and Rita sneak their way into their seats with their disguises.

“Excuse me, excuse us,” the two of them whisper as they scoot through some of the other parents in the row.

They sit down, and giddily smile to one another.

“I can’t believe we’re gonna pull this off!” Rita whispers.

“I know! Did you remember to turn your flash off?” Lynn reminds his wife as he pulls out his smartphone to take pictures and videos with.

“Totes,” Rita simply responds as she takes out her own.

Ms. Shrinivas makes her way through the curtains of the stage, and paces toward the microphone that’s been set up for her.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the twenty-fourth annual Little Miss Cute and Mean Pageant!” she announces.

Everyone applauds.

“Tonight’s show is brought to you by MTAP’s Royal Woods News Center, and the wonderful folks at Feinstein Dentistry,” Ms. Shrinivas informs the audience.

“Woo!” Rita blurts out regarding the plug to her workplace.

“Shhh-sh-shh!” Lynn shushes through snickering.

“I would like to ask you all to please be respectful and courteous to these young ladies tonight, and make them feel as special as they truly are,” Ms. Shrinivas continues. “And please, no flash photography.”

Lynn and Rita check their phones again, and nod as they realize they have turned off their flashes.

“Without much further ado, let us introduce tonight’s judges!” Ms. Shrinivas proceeds, and a spotlight shines down on a table just below the stage.

“First, she is a two-time Miss Cute and Mean winner… Please welcome, Carol Pingrey!” Ms. Shrinivas says, and Carol smiles and waves to all who can see her.

“Thank you, thank you,” she tells everyone with a smile.

“Next, she too is a former Miss Cute and Mean winner… Please welcome, Samantha Sharp!”

The girl with blue streak in her hair throws up the goats and proudly nods her head. “Let’s rock, dudes!”

“And last but not least; he is a former Mister Mrs. Royal Woods winner…” she reads off a card, squinting her eyes as it apparently becomes hard to read. “Uhm, the first name is kind of smudged out a bit… but… Mr. Sunderland!”

The former Royal Woods High journalism teacher smiles and waves. “Thanks for having me,” he simply says.

Then, he realizes Carol is scowling at him.

“I still haven’t forgiven you for throwing spaghetti at Luna…”

He just nervously, awkwardly smiles before guiltily turning away to ignore her.

 As they watch on, Rita and Lynn become inconvenienced by some groaning from the neighboring person. They look on to find that another group of people are making their way through the row to get to their seats.

“Excuse me, excuse us,” a middle-aged gentleman says, and it turns out to be Rita’s boss, Dr. Feinstein. He is joined by a tall man with black hair, a woman with brown hair, and a little girl.

They make it to their seats, the little girl getting seated closest to the Louds.

“Psst… Dr. Feinstein… Psst!” Rita pssts to her employer.

He looks around, and then focuses on Rita.

“Rita? Is that you?” he asks.

“Hi!” she quietly says in return as she momentarily removes her glasses.

He and his family collectively raise their brows.

“Why are you dressed like that?” he asks her regarding her shawl and glasses.

“Long story… What are you doing here?” she now asks as she puts them back on.

“My niece is in the show. What are you doing here? I thought Lola forbid you from coming to her shows?” he follows up.

“What she doesn’t know won't hurt her,” Rita states with a little wave of her hand.

Lynn and the little girl meet eyes by happenstance, and they each force little smiles.

“Why aren't you in the show?” he casually asks her.

“Ehh… Pageants aren’t my thing. I wanted to stay home and watch Cool House, actually,” the girl complains.

“Izzy!” the woman with brown hair, presumably her mother, scolds.

Her daughter just petulantly crosses her arms and pouts.

...

 “Alright, everyone. Let us officially begin the ceremonies!” Ms. Shrinivas declares, and then she steps to the side as the curtains are drawn open.

All the contestants, including Lola and Lindsey, smile and wave as the audience applauds.

“Oh, there's our sweet little girl!” Rita utters upon seeing her daughter.

“She looks so happy!” Lynn comments.

“Your eyes bug out of your head because your bow is on so tight,” Lola whispers to Lindsey through her big hokey smile.

“At least I don't have an enormous gap between my teeth. It’s almost as big as your fat butt,” Lindsey retorts as she does the same.

Lana just watches on from the side stage.

“You can do this, Lola. Kick her butt,” she thinks aloud.

“Let’s meet our contestants,” Ms. Shrinivas announces.

“First up, Ana!” she says as the dark complected girl in orange waves to the crowd.

 “Next, Gabriella!” she says as the girl with black hair and freckles does the same.

“Next, uhm… Gretchen!...” she says with less enthusiasm as Gretchen waves to the crowd with her bare foot.

...

“Uhm… Next, Lindsey!” she says, and Lindsey does a curtsy.

“Huah!” Lola mentally gasps. “I was gonna do a curtsy! That skunkbag!” she thinks.

“Next, Lola!” Ms. Shrinivas continues, and Lola comes to panic as she realizes she only has a very small window to do something cute before the next girl gets-

“Up next…”

“Dang it!” she mentally cusses as she realizes it’s too late. She then glowers at Lindsey, who just sneers back at her.

“Oh… It is on!” Lola thinks.

-----------------------

 At the judge’s table, Mr. Sunderland shuffles his scorecards. However, the unshakable feeling that someone is watching him refuses to go away.

He turns to his right, and while the rocker chick beside him is busy organizing her own scorecards, the girl at the far end of the table is glaring at him with dagger eyes.

He just does his best to ignore her and focus on the task at hand.

“Alright ladies and gentleman,” Ms. Shrinivas begins, “I’m going to turn things over to our judges to explain how our girls we be scored in tonight’s pageant. Mr. Sunderland, why don’t you start?”

He shakes off his anxiety and clears his throat. “Yes, ahem… Well, the participants will be judged based on three categories.”

“Personality,” Carol interrupts, “which will focus on how well the contestant does letting the audience get to know her…”

“Poise,” Sam continues, “which will focus on how well she carries herself on stage…”

“And talent, which will focus on what makes the contestant… herself,” Mr. Sunderland proudly finishes.

“Just say talent. Don’t try being all artsy fartsy about it,” Carol scolds.

Sunderland furrows his brow at her remark, but sucks it up as he decides to let it be.

“We’ll start the competition with a catwalk show, and follow it up with one-on-one interviews with the contestants,” Sam happily explains. “We’ll then move on to the talent show portion of the contest, and after that, we will decide our winner.”

“Sounds excellent,” Ms. Shrinivas comments. “Well, let’s bring the girls back out here, and have them walk the runway!” she announces.

The crowd applauds at this, including Mr. and Mrs. Loud, as well as the little girl beside them named Izzy. During the clapping though, she makes a sickly grimace and holds her stomach, which Lynn can’t help but notice. Luckily, whatever troubles the youngster seems to pass, and he goes on like nothing happened.

Backstage…

“I don’t get it… Why didn’t you just change into the dress before we came here? And why did they have you guys go out just to make you come back here and go out again? And why did-” Lana begins questioning before getting cut off by Lola, who steps out from behind her dressing curtain now wearing her fancy white dress.

“Lana, stop asking so many questions,” she tartly says to her. “It’s a pageant. This is just how it works.”

Lana rolls her eyes. “Seems kind of stupid to me…”

“Oh, stop being like that. I brought you here so we could have some fun together,” Lola tells her.

Lana then nervously rubs the back of her neck as she eyes the floor. “Well… About that… Listen, there’s something I’ve been meaning to-”

“EEEEK!” Lola shouts out in a terror before Lana can finish.

Lana looks back up to her frightened face, and follows her gaze to see just what it is that has her twin so distraught.

Lo and behold, Lindsey Sweetwater steps out from behind her own dressing curtain to reveal that she’s wearing the exact same white dress as Lola.

Needless to say, Lola is stunned.

She just utters some incoherent babble to herself before finally managing to find some words.

“That… That dress…”

Lindsey walks by, and arrogantly sneers at her.

“Oh, this dress? Don’t you just love it?...”

Lola is still too flabbergasted to form a proper response.

And Lindsey makes it clear just how much she enjoys this by rubbing it in.

“Yeah, you wouldn't believe how much Blue Bell duty I had to put in to save up for this… But it was well worth it,” she says before making her way back on stage.

Lola just stands there, frozen, and Lana is quick to remind her of the current reality.

“Lola, what are you waiting for? You've gotta get ready to go on next!”

Finally, Lola comes to.

“She has the same dress! I can't believe it! And she goes on before me!... This is like, the worst thing that could ever happen!” she cries.

Back at the judges’ panel, the three judges watch Gretchen awkwardly make her way backstage, making way for Lindsey. The redhead struts her way onto the catwalk, smiling with a great deal of poise.

“Wow, that dress is awesome,” Sam whispers to Carol.

“I know. She must've sold like, a hundred boxes of Blue Bell snacks to pay for it,” Carol whispers back.

As Lynn and Rita watch on, the latter raises her brow.

“Honey, isn't that the same dress we bought Lola?” she thinks aloud.

He dons his own look of concern.

“Hmm… I think it is,” he agrees.

...

After making it to the end of the runway and taking a moment to soak up the love of her audience, Lindsey makes her way back through the curtain to join the others.

She wickedly smiles at Lola, who meets her rival with a cross expression.

“Beat that, Loud,” Lindsey taunts as she walks past her.

Lola just watches her disappear behind her dressing curtain, then growls to herself.

“Ooo! I should've torn her head off when I had the chance!”

Lana just shrugs. “I was gonna let you…”

Lola slouches and responds with an ambivalent look.

“You're not very good at this ‘holding me back’ thing…”

“Up next, Lola Loud!” Ms. Shrinivas announces from the stage.

Lana perks up. “Go!” she simply says as she pushes Lola through the curtain.

...

“Wait! I-” she tries to defend, but she's back in the spotlight before she knows it. She just kind of awkwardly stands at the end of the runway for a moment, giving everyone the chance to realize the horrible truth about her now tainted dress.

Everyone sickly winces upon realizing the dress dilemma, but the show has to resume. So, Lola perseveres, going ahead with her catwalk strut while wearing a forced awkward smile.

Rita frowns. “Oh… My poor baby…”

But Lynn just diligently records her with his phone, earning him a scornful look from his wife.

He notices, but doesn’t stop. “Hey, after spending what I did on that dress, there's no way I'm not getting a good shot of her,” he reasons.

Lola makes it to the end of the runway, and stops as she holds the same forced awkward smile. She looks out to all the faces watching her, but they don't clap.

At least, not right away. They finally get around to it, but it's the most pathetic, sorry excuse for a reception she's ever been on the receiving end of.

...

Carol shakes her head with shame, while Sam and Mr. Sunderland look on with sorrowful expressions.

Which, for Lola, is all the indication she needs to know that she won't be scoring very high in Poise points.

...

With nothing left to do about it, she makes her way back down the catwalk and through the curtain, where her twin sister is sympathetically waiting for her.

“Are you okay?” Lana asks.

“No! Stupid Lindsey just ruined my moment! There's no way I'll score higher than her now!...” she bemoans.

Lana forces what is supposed to be a comforting smile.

“Ah, chin up, sis. You can still kick her butt in the Personality and Talent parts of the competition!”

Lola thinks it over, and smiles at the thought of this being true.

“Heeey! You're right! I can still win this thing!” Lola proclaims. “...Or at least beat Lindsey,” she belatedly adds.

“Alright everyone. We'll take a brief intermission to let our judges and contestants get ready, and in five minutes, we’ll begin the interviews portion of the pageant!” Ms. Shrinivas announces on stage.

...

“Well… I guess I'm gonna go change again,” Lola informs her sister.

“Alright. Good-” Lana begins before remembering what Lola told her earlier.

“I mean… Break a leg,” she says with a smile.

And Lola just smiles back.

With that, she makes her way over to her dressing curtain.

And despite her sister’s words of encouragement, she can't help but let the Lindsey dress debacle bother her.

“Hmm… It's like she knew I was gonna wear the same dress…”

 

 

Chapter Text

“We are live from Royal Woods Elementary School with the twenty-fourth annual Little Miss Cute and Mean pageant,” the MTAP News reporter reads off her teleprompter. “So far, the show has been one of the most exciting we’ve seen in years, and we’re not even halfway through! Coming up, we have the Personality and Talent portions of the show… Let's watch!” she enthusiastically says with a smile.

She just stands there for a moment holding said smile, waiting for her cameraman to clear her.

“Alright, I switched over to the other camera,” he tells her.

And she immediately settles into a grumpy slouch.

“Ugh… I honestly don't know how much longer I can keep this up… You know, when I was on my phone earlier looking up other jobs, I saw an ad for Christian therapy. Like, they know I need therapy and Jesus in my life!” the reporter complains.

A few minutes later…

Judges Carol, Sam, and Mr. Sunderland are all but falling asleep as Gretchen lists off her favorite things for her interview.

“...Uhm, dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets... uhm, swimming… uhm, taking baths, taking baths naked, uhm-”

Finally, Carol can't take anymore.

“Thank you, Gretchen,” she interrupts. “Uhm, that will be all. You're free to go. Like, now please!” she politely asserts.

Gretchen just smiles as she awkwardly waddles her way back through the curtains.

...

In the backstage area, Lola joins her twin sister Lana after changing back into her usual pink dress.

“Man, that Gretchen girl is really...” Lana begins, trying to think of just how she wants to word her thoughts.

“I told you, we don't talk about Gretchen,” Lola retorts.

She then looks past her twin to see her rival Lindsey gossiping and laughing with some of the other girls.

“Grrrr… I hate her so much,” Lola groans.

“Hey, why do you hate her so much, anyway?” Lana asks.

“What?” Lola defensively asks, as if she's being accused of something. “What do you mean ‘why do I hate her?’ I mean, there's just- like- so much to hate!...”

She pouts to herself for a moment, then groans again.

“Ugh, the judges better give her a hard question.”

Lana steels herself for a moment before deciding to change the subject.

“Uhm… You'll probably do fine. I mean, you've probably got an answer ready for any question they could give you, right?” she asks.

...

Lola relaxes a bit. “Well… Yeah. Yeah I think so,” she happily answers.

The more she thinks it over, the more confident she feels.

“Yeah! I can handle whatever they throw my way! I mean, I've done so many interviews before, and they all turned out really well!”

She recalls the other day when she was having a conversation with cardboard cut out John Stamos.

“Yes, I do plan on writing a novel before the year is over, thank you for asking,” she tells ‘him.’ “And uh… I also plan on settling down, maybe finding a nice boy, moving to a nice home in the hills-”

“Lola?” Lana asks, breaking her reverie.

“Huh? Oh, right, the interview’s coming up. How do I look?” Lola asks her sister in return.

She scrunches up her face. “Ehh… Well…”

Lola frowns at this.

Lana smiles now. “Hahaha, I’m just messin’ with ya! They’ll forget all about that dress thing by the time this is all over.”

“I really hope so,” Lola simply says.

“Alright everyone. Up next, please welcome… Lindsey!” Ms. Shrinivas announces, and the resident redhead makes her way out on stage.

“Good luck, Lindsey!” one of her friends tells her.

“Good luck, Lindsey!” Lola mocks under her breath.

Once she’s back on stage, Lindsey smiles and waves at everyone.

“Isn’t that that little Sweetwater girl Lola goes to school with?” fake-mustachioed Lynn Sr. asks from his seat in the audience.

“Yeah I think it is. She seems nice,” Rita comments with her shawl and glasses still present.

“Pshhh… If nice had another meaning,” Izzy, the little girl beside them, snidely says.

“Hello, Lindsey. How are you doing this evening?” Sam asks the girl.

“I’m very well, thank you for asking, Ms. Sharp,” Lindsey sweetly answers.

“Heh, Sam, please,” she replies with a smile.

“So Lindsey, we have one simple question for you,” Mr. Sunderland begins. “Tell us; where do you see yourself in ten years?”

Upon hearing this backstage, Lola and Lana both perk up.

“Hey, that’s the question you prepared for!… Weird…” Lana remarks.

Lola rolls her eyes. “Pshhh… Big whoop. It’s not like they’ll ask me the same question. And even if they do, I’m sure whatever crud she comes up with won’t be anywhere near as good as what I could tell them.”

“Hmm… Well…” Lindsey begins. “Well, first of all: thank you for asking. To answer your question, in ten years, I see myself really making a difference in the world! I want to take time to help others, and be an inspiration to little girls everywhere!”

It’s the perfect answer. The crowd collectively “Awww’s,” including the judges. Even Mr. and Mrs. Loud melt like butter. It even strikes a chord with little Izzy, who sniffles as she wipes away a single tear. “That was beautiful.”

Yup, it was truly perfect…

And it was Lola’s answer.

“What the-?! That was my answer! That was literally the exact same thing I told you earlier!” Lola reminds Lana, grabbing her by her coverall straps. “That was my answer, LANA!”

“Okay, yeah, I heard!” Lana rebuts, taking Lola’s hands off of her. “It was the same crud you told me before we left.”

...

Lola is practically fuming.

“Just… relax… It’s like you said. It’s not like they’ll ask you the same question,” Lana adds.

Lola again forces herself to relax, taking a deep breath. “You’re right. It’ll be fine. I have more personality in the tip of my pinky than Lindsey Sweetwater has in her big fat-”

...

“Thank you, Lindsey,” Sam tells the girl on stage. “You can go ahead and head on back now, sweetie.”

Lindsey does a curtsy. “Thank you very much,” she says to them, and she returns to the backstage area.

“Wow. Talk about a personality,” Ms. Shrinivas comments as the audience applauds. “Up next, we’ll hear from Lola!”

Lola make her way to the curtain, just as Lindsey is stepping through. The two girls stop and glare at one another.

“Good luck topping that, Lo-laxative,” Lindsey quips with a sneer, and then she walks past her with her chin held high.

And just her luck, Lola can't think of a witty rebuttal for Lindsey’s admittedly clever insult, so she just stands there a growls to herself before taking to the stage.

“Grrrr!”

She steps through the curtain, and smiles and waves to her audience like the whole dress fiasco never happened.

Luckily, everyone else is willing to play along with the pretense, because they all smile and clap.

“Woo! Go Lola!” Lynn hollers from his seat

“Shhh!” Rita cattily shushes with a sharp glare.

“Sorry!” Lynn nervously apologizes.

His cheer is apparently unnoticed by his daughter though. She just focuses on the judges before her.

“Hello Lola,” Carol greets with a playful smile. Despite being a regular guest at the Loud house because of a certain someone in her life, she has to remain somewhat professional.

“And hello to you, Carol. And I love what you've done with your hair, Sam,” she says to the other judge, not at all trying to schmooze for extra points.

The crowd “Aww’s” at this as well.

“Oh, stop,” Sam responds to Lola with a smile and a wave of her hand.

“She's a natural,” Lynn proudly whispers to Izzy.

“That’s- nice…” Izzy responds, pausing as she uncomfortably scrunches up her face.

“Are you alright honey?” her mother leans in to ask her.

“Yeah, I think that chili dog is just working on me,” the girl explains.

“Alright, Lola. Are you ready for your question?” Carol asks the girl on stage.

“Most certainly,” Lola sweetly answers.

The judges all whisper to one another, debating on what question to ask. There's apparently a bit of a disagreement between Mr. Sunderland and Carol from the disgruntled looks on their faces, but they ease up as they fix their postures and meet Lola with more smiling.

“Okay, Lola. Same question. Where do you see yourself in ten years?” Carol asks.

What… the actual… heck?...

Lola becomes wide eyed, doing her best not to slouch over and not let her jaw drop.

“Whuh?” she utters.

The audience clams up.

“Oh no,” Rita bemoans with a face palm.

The judges all meet each other with confused expressions.

“Uhm, Lola?” Mr. Sunderland says.

“Huh?” is all the poor girl can say back.

“Do you need us to repeat the question?” he adds.

“Uhm… uhh… No…” she stammers, trying desperately to wrack her brain for a decent answer to the question that won’t sound too much like Lindsey’s.

But it wasn't Lindsey’s! It was her answer! She came up with it on her own, word for word, verbatim. Yet somehow, that scalawag stole it from her!

Worse yet, with all these eyes peering at her, added to the surprise attack she’s just been forced to endure…

She’s drawing blanks.

Everyone patiently waits for her…

The news crew, the Feinsteins, Mr. and Mrs. Loud, the judges…

“Lola?” Sam says now.

Finally, Lola speaks.

“Uhm… In ten years… I want to…”

“In ten years, I want to… marry John Stamos?”

“Oh my gosh…” Lana cusses from backstage as she face palms.

She looks up upon hearing the snide laughter from the other girls around her.

“Oh my gosh! What?!” Lindsey blurts out through her snarky mean girl laughter.

“John… Stamos?” Lynn says with disbelief, his mouth agape.

Yes, it’s truly an embarrassing moment for Lola Loud. Even worse, everyone else is embarrassed for her, just like with the stupid dress she was wearing earlier.

Once again, Lindsey has ruined everything.

She just steels herself, wearing a nervous smile as she awaits what will hopefully be a merciful reception from the judges.

Mr. Sunderland nearly lets a laugh escape his lips, his cheeks puffing up and reddening as he holds it back.

Sam elbows his thigh, and he shamefully gets a hold of himself.

The three judges then exchange piteous looks, then shift said looks to Lola.

“Uhm… That’s… interesting, Lola… Uhm, thank you,” Carol tells her.

Lola just dumbly looks to the three with flushed cheeks.

“You can go now,” Carol adds.

Ouch.

...

With a heavy heart, Lola hangs her head low and makes her way backstage.

Once she gets through the curtain, she can feel the eyes of all the other girls upon her.

She glances up to them, and sees as they begin laughing at her. And yes, that includes Lindsey.

Her face reddens as she clenches her fists…

“Hey,” Lana says as she comes to her, wrapping a comforting arm around her shoulder. “Forget about them, you’ve still got the Talent part of the show to-”

Lola swats her arm away.

“Forget it! She’s already ruined this whole thing!” she cries.

She makes her way over to the stairs of the side stage, and sits atop the first step. She begins pouting, and her eyes start welling up.

...

Belatedly, Lana joins her.

“Hey… Come on. This pageant means a lot to you. You can still go out there and put on a good show… You’re gonna do a ten-foot leap, after all!…” Lana encourages with a smile.

After a moment of consideration, Lola meets her sister’s eyes.

“Do you have my ribbon-wand?” she pitifully asks.

“Sure do. Let me go grab it real quick,” Lana tells her.

She makes her way from the steps over to the dressing area, and finds Lola’s ribbon-wand resting on a bench along the wall.

As she goes over and grabs it, she notices something…

Another hand grabbing a second ribbon-wand just beside her sister’s.

She looks up from the wands to see none other than Lindsey Sweetwater. She scowls at Lana before smiling an almost evil smile, and then takes her ribbon-wand and haughtily walks away.

All Lana can do is watch on with a dumbfounded look on her face, and her sister does the same from her spot on the steps.

Lana looks back to her, Lola meets her gaze, and they both just hold the same flabbergasted expressions.

“No way…” they both say.

-----------------------

A few minutes later…

“Alright, everyone. Please give a round of applause for Lindsey!” Ms. Shrinivas announces before leaving the stage.

The lights all cut out, and the curtains are drawn open. Then, a single spot light shines down over Lindsey Sweetwater.

She holds her statuesque pose for a moment before looking to the audience, and then she begins to dance.

Everyone just attentively watches on as she twirls to and fro with the accompanying melody. They are in a blissful nebulous, welcoming the mesmerization that comes with watching her wave her ribbon back and forth.

Now Lynn and Izzy are both tearing up.

“It’s beautiful,” the former comments as he wipes away a single tear.

Of course, Lola and Lana are stunned for another reason entirely.

After nervously swallowing this lump in her throat, Lana gently tugs on Lola’s sleeve.

“Uhm… Your choreography is different, right?” she asks.

Poor Lola just watches on with her jaw wide open.

Suddenly, Lindsey stops dancing, and she dons a serious expression.

She intently makes her way to the very end of the stage, and everyone meets her gesture with visible uncertainty.

“What’s she doing?” Mr. Sunderland whispers to his fellow judges.

“I hate you,” Carol whispers back in a tone like she's actually providing a legitimate answer to his query.

Lindsey takes a deep breath… and then…

She leaps.

She leaps as far and as gracefully as she possibly can, almost like the slow motion scenes in the movies.

It's truly awe inspiring for everyone in attendance. Heck, even Lola gets lost for a moment.

Finally, Lindsey lands.

Then, some random dude with a tape measurer runs up on stage, marks the spot she began at, and hurries over to record the distance.

“It- it-” he stutters. “It was ten feet!” he proclaims.

Silence… and then, deafening applause.

“Oh my sweet chili cheese chips, ladies and gentleman… Lindsey Sweetwater has just broken the record for greatest leap in Miss Cute and Mean history!” the MTAP reporter says to into her camera. “This is truly a momentous occasion, one that little Lindsey Sweetwater is sure to receive a perfect ten out of ten for!”

Despite everyone else's apparent joy, Lola is deflated, disheartened, disbelieved…

Defeated…

“Lola?” Lana pitifully says to her sister.

And Lola just hangs her head low as she returns to her step on the side stage.

Belatedly, Lana paces over to her.

“Lola?” she tries again.

“I… I can’t… How?” Lola stammers to herself, clearly shocked.

“The dress, the interview… and now the leap?”

“How did she know?”

Lana wants to console her, she really does. But then she remembers the revering audience, and how Lindsey’s turn is almost up, which means Lola’s turn will be next!

...

Back on stage, Lindsey takes a bow as roses are thrown to her.

“Wow… This has been an amazing show,” Sam comments.

“Hmm,” Carol snidely begins. “It really has… It kind of reminds me of a certain talent show that was going so well until a certain someone ruined it!” she says as she meets Mr. Sunderland with an accusing look.

“Oh, will you get over it, already?!” he retorts.

Lynn and Rita ebb on their own applauding to sit back down in their seats.

“She was amazing!” Rita declares.

“Yeah!” Lynn enthusiastically agrees. But then he straightens up a bit and clears his throat. “Ahem… But I'm sure Lola will be better.”

“Oh, right. Definitely,” Rita says with the same regard.

Meanwhile, little Izzy just can't quite get her stomach to settle…

Finally, Lindsey finishes soaking up the adulation of her audience, and makes her way down the catwalk to return backstage.

Lana perks up upon realizing this.

“Lola, you've got to snap out of it! You have to go on next!” she desperately cries.

It doesn't even faze Lola. “She… She

... How?” she keeps saying to herself.

Lana realizes that Lindsey is now making her way through the curtain.

And, she decides Lola needs some tough love.

She grabs the tiara-wearing twin by her arm to forcefully get her attention.

“Lola, if you don't go put there, you'll forfeit the Talent competition, and Lindsey will win this thing!” she shouts.

Lola meets her with doe eyes, but then sourly frowns as she removes herself from Lana's grasp.

“Oh, what's it even matter! Even if I go out there, Lindsey still wins!...”

She then settles back into her pathetic posture of self-sorrow.

“It’s like she knew what I had planned…” she almost maddeningly says to herself.

...

Back on stage, Me. Shrinivas returns to her position. “That was… Wow. Words escape me,” she states.

“Up next, we will see from Lola… and if what we've seen so far from the show is any indication; I cannot wait to see the next act!”

“No pressure at all,” Lana scoffs under her breath before returning her attention to Lola.

Yes, she's still a confused, depressed mess… But for whatever reason, the stars aligned so that Lana could be with her in this moment, so maybe helping her get on that stage is the reason why.

She sighs as she decides to take another approach.

She sits down by Lola, and rests a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Lola… I can't let you put your weeks of hard work to waste… If you don't get out there and do your routine, I'll go put on a frilly dress and do it myself.”

Lola half-smiles. “You really would, wouldn't you?”

Lana just responds with a smile.

...

Lola sighs now. “Well... That's not happening. People still ask me to armpit fart for them after what you did the last time you filled in for me,” she somewhat jokingly tells her.

Then, she deflates again. “Ohhh!... But what am I gonna do?! She's literally stolen my entire act! If I go out there and do my ribbon dance routine, the judges will totally fail me!”

Both twins think it over for a moment, until the proverbial light bulb flickers on over Lana's red hat.

“I have a perfect idea! Would they disqualify you for having help with your act?”

Lola considers the prospect. “Uhm, I don't think so… Why?”

Lana just proudly grins and nods her head. “Two words… Let’s dance.”


Chapter Text

Back on stage, Ms. Shrinivas returns to her position. “That was… Wow. Words escape me,” she states.

“Up next, we will see from Lola… and if what we've seen so far from the show is any indication; I cannot wait to see the
next act!”

The crowd applauds as the master of ceremonies exits the stage, and they gradually quiet down as they anticipate Lola’s performance for the Talent portion of the pageant.

Carol, Sam, Mr. Sunderland…

The news reporter, the cameraman…

The Feinsteins…

Rita and Lynn Loud, Sr…

The random dude with the tape measurer…

Finally, the curtains are drawn open to reveal a dark stage.

Then, the spotlight shines down to reveal Lola Loud standing with her back facing the spectators.

Slowly, she spins around, and begins tapping her foot.

Backstage, a little green frog slaps the button to a boom box with its tongue, and a funky rhythm begins to play.

After a moment of tapping her foot, she steps forward to reveal her twin sister Lana directly behind her, who is now dressed
to look just like her sister.

The crowd’s pleasant surprise becomes evident, particularly for Lynn and Rita.

“Lana?” they both dumbfoundedly say.

Then, the girls proceed to dance their twin tushies off with choreography and charisma of synchronized swimmers. Every step, every shuck, every jive radiates with more personality, poise, and talent than any ol’ ribbon dance or leap across a stage ever could’ve done.

With just a little apprehension, Lynn Sr. looks around, debating on whether or not he should take the risk…

“The heck with it,” he utters to himself, and he stands up to start clapping to the rhythm.

“What are you doing?” Rita impatiently asks.

But then, she notices the people in front of her doing the same thing; then the people next to them, and before long, everyone is getting to their feet to join in the fun.

The judges, the TV crew, tape measurer guy...

So she smiles, and she joins in too.

“Woo! Go Lola!” she fearlessly hollers through the cacophony.

They reach the end of their dance routine.

They stop and turn their attention to the audience, whose members are all quick and happy to show their adulation. They whistle, they cheer, they throw roses.

Mr. Sunderland even wipes a tear from his eye.
“Bravo… Bravo!”

He looks over to Carol Pingrey, who meets his gesture with scorn.

But then, she breaks.

“Oh, who am I kidding? Bravo!” she agrees.

For a little while, the twins are in blissful
nebulous as they soak in the love.

They turn and smile to one another, then each take a bow.

The best part for Lola? Knowing that somewhere backstage, Lindsey Sweetwater is gritting her teeth, getting all huffy and puffy with envy at their reception.

And Lana? She’s just happy to be having fun with her sister.

-----------------------

Lola and Lana get backstage, and are quick to clasp hands with one another and gush over their routine.

“EEEEEEE!” they squeal in unison.

“That was amazing! You did so good! I knew all those times practicing after the Bluebells meet would pay off!”

“I can’t believe we did that! This dress is way too loose fitting, but man! We did so good!” Lola and Lana respectively say over one another.

Lana goes over to collect her frog Hops, then meets her sister with another smile.

“Hey, for real. You did really great out there- for the whole show I mean,” she insists.

“I should be thanking you!” Lola insists. “You saved my butt out there! Thanks to you, I might still have a chance at winning this thing!”

“Well, I really hope you get the W,” Lana happily responds. “Now if you excuse me… I need to change. I’m not chafing anywhere in this thing, and that just ain’t right,” she remarks.

Lola just rolls her eyes with a grin, and leaves her sister to go change back into her coveralls.

Shortly after, she comes face to face with Lindsey Sweetwater.

The redheaded girl just crosses her arms with a pouty look on her face, then petulantly “Hmph’s” before walking away.

Lola just smiles to herself with the pride of knowing she’s out-matched her rival.

“Hmph. Serves you right for stealing my act,” she thinks aloud.

But, despite her euphoria, she can’t help but let some of those peculiar feelings from before creep up on her.

“How the heck did she know about it, anyway? It can’t be a coincidence…”

Nevertheless, the time comes for the closing ceremonies.

Ms. Shrinivas takes to the stage once more.

“Alright, everyone. After a fantastic show from all of our girls-”

“Except Gretchen,” Mr. Sunderland mumbles to himself, earning another elbow to the thigh from Sam.

“...it is almost time for the judges to decide tonight’s winner,” Ms. Shrinivas continues. “We’re going to take one last intermission, and when we return, we’ll have everyone come to the stage for the announcement. Thank you,” she finishes before leaving the stage.

In the crowd, Lynn Sr. and Rita both stretch. “Yeesh, I forgot how long these things are. I mean, how long can you drag one of these things out?” Lynn complains.

“Three chapters and ten thousand words apparently…” tape measurer dude comments as he happens to pass by the row of seats.

“Huh? Whatever,” Rita says. “Should we go outside and get a breather?” she asks.

“Heck no!” Lynn answers. “After everything we went through to get here, the last thing I want to do is miss out on the closing ceremony for some stupid reason…”

To his right, a poor little girl is sickly grimacing as she holds her stomach.

Her family members turn to face her with concerned expressions.

“Honey? Are you alright?” her mother asks.

“Ugh… I really shouldn’t have eaten that chili dog…” she says. Then, her face forms the expression one forms when they realize they’re doomed.

“Izzy?” her father asks.

“Uh oh… I forgot to take my pills…” the girl reveals.

Her family members form the same doomed expressions, and Lynn and Rita look over with concerned looks of their own.

Then, Izzy relieves herself- in a manner that would put Lori Loud to shame.

It’s loud, it’s burly… and worst of all, it stinks.

To Izzy’s embarrassment, all the nearby patrons start animatedly tucking their faces into their shirts, moaning and groaning as they all get up to leave.

And yes, this includes Mr. and Mrs. Loud.

“Oh, ugh… It smells like- like…” Lynn stammers.

“Lori after yoga?” Rita answers for him.

“Yeah, the heck with it. Let’s take five,” he concedes.

...

“Ah come on, guys. Aren’t you overreacting just a little bit?” Izzy says.

During the commotion of making their way through other parents going outside to stretch their legs, Lynn drops his fake moustache, and Rita’s shawl and glasses escape her person.

“Where’d our disguises go?” Lynn wonders.

“Forget about ‘em. I need oxygen,” Rita asserts.

“But you said it was three dollars!” Lynn argues, earning a sour look from his wife.

They try to make it through the back exit, but it’s far too crowded. They look all around, and in every direction, there are just too many people clustered together.

“Now what?” Rita thinks aloud.

They look around some more, and see the side stage entryway is clear.

“This way,” her husband tells her, taking her hand to lead her that-a-way.

“But what about Lola?” Rita concerningly asks.

“She’ll be too busy getting ready for the ceremony,” he states. “...Worst case scenario, at least we got some good shots of her during the rest of the show.”

...

Meanwhile, Lana steps out from Lola’s dressing curtain to find the latter doing some last minute gussying up at her vanity.

“How do I look?” she asks Lana upon noticing her.

“Cute and mean. How do I look?” she asks in return.

“Grody and classless,” Lola answers.

“Good,” Lana relievingly states.

Just then, their parents appear from the side stage. They see the twins before the twins can see them, and they alarmingly try to hide behind…

Gretchen.

...

The girl gives the two adults a dirty look before simply moving out of the way, leaving them exposed for anyone to see them.

And of course, Lana and Lola just happen to look over…

“Mom?!” Lana blurts out.

“Daddy?!” says Lola next.

Desperately, Lynn does the only thing he knows to do.

“Uhm… I’m not your dad. I’m Deadpool!” he cries as he quickly puts on his Deadpool mask.

It doesn’t fool anyone.

“Yeah, nice try,” Rita says as she unceremoniously pulls it off of his balding head again, to his discomfort.

“Yeah Dad. Even with the mask I’d know it was you. Your nose is huge!” Lana bluntly states with a smile.

“Hey!” he defensively cries.

“Yeah, you could land a plane on that thing!” Lola adds.

“Or park a bus,” Lana eggs on.

“Or Vanzilla!”

“Or Lori’s hair!”

“Ooo! Double burn!”

“Alright, that’s enough,” Lynn stoically says as his wife snickers.

They get serious now.

“What are you guys doing here? I thought I told you not to come to my shows anymore!” Lola cries like a total brat.

“Well, we’re your parents, and we have a right to come see our daughter perform at her pageant,” Rita defends.

“We want to be able to support you,” Lynn adds.

“And encourage you.”

“And take pictures.”

Lola sighs. “I’m sorry guys… I guess I did get a little carried away after last time,” she apologizes.

Lynn and Rita softly smile. “Aww, that’s okay, kiddo,” her father says.

“We did get a little carried away at your last pageant, huh?” Rita admits.

“Well, all that matters now is that we’re all together,” Lana happily declares.

“Ugh… Why y’all gotta be so mushy?” tape measurer guy says as he passes by.

They disregard his cynicism.

...

“You girls did so well up there! Where did you guys learn to dance like that?” Rita asks the girls.

“Well, we were at our first Bluebells meet, and I did a really crummy job trying to get my fitness badge,” Lana explains.

“So… being the prime example of physical excellence that I am, I took it upon myself to help Lana get in shape by dancing,” Lola furthers.

“In return, I taught her how to dig a latrine!” Lana excitedly tells them.

“Not that I would ever use one…” Lola is sure to let them know.

“Well, we couldn’t be any prouder of you,” Lynn
Sr. states.

“Aww, thanks Daddy,” Lola says.

“Oh… how about a group hug?” he suggests.

He’s meant with indifference from his wife and daughters.

“C’mon, that’s a little much,” Lana retorts.

“Yeah, what is this, Cool House?” Rita quips.

Lynn furrows his brow. “Forgive me for trying to show affection,” he whines.

“Alright, everyone. Let’s have everyone get back to their seats. The judges have decided upon the winner of the competition!” Ms. Shrinivas announces back on the stage.

“Well, I guess this is it, Lola,” Lynn says with a soft smile. “Go out there and break a leg.”

“And no matter what happens, know that we’re just happy you did your best,” Rita adds.

“Yeah, I would’ve done better if stupid Lindsey Sweetwater hadn’t’ve stolen all of my ideas,” Lola mumbles under her breath.

“What was that?” Lynn asks.

“Nothing!” Lola saves face. “Thank you guys!” she tells them, and then she begins to leave for the stage.

Her loved ones just smile to one another.

“Just sayin’ guys… Don’t get used to seeing me in a dress. Not gonna happen again,” Lana tells her parents.

“How much you wanna bet she’ll grow up to be like Luna?” Lynn jokes to his wife.

She guffaws, and proceeds to elbow him in the ribs.

“Ow! It was a joke! Just a playful little rib… Haha, get it?” he adds.

Rita rolls her eyes. “Come on, Deadpool. Hopefully the smell is gone by now,” she says regarding their seats.

“Smell? What smell?!” Lana excitedly asks.

 

 

Chapter Text

"Alright, everyone. Let's have everyone get back to their seats. The judges have decided upon the winner of the competition!" Ms. Shrinivas announces back on the stage.



"Well, I guess this is it, Lola," Lynn says with a soft smile. "Go out there and break a leg."

"And no matter what happens, know that we're just happy you did your best," Rita adds.



"Yeah, I would've done better if stupid Lindsey Sweetwater hadn't've stolen all of my ideas," Lola mumbles under her breath.

"What was that?" Lynn asks.

"Nothing!" Lola saves face. "Thank you guys!" she tells them, and then she begins to leave for the stage.

All the contestants scurry to form a line just as they did before, with Lola and Lindsey once again getting side to side.

They scowl at one another.

“That was some dance, Loud. I couldn’t tell which one of you was who, considering you both looked so ridiculous,” Lindsey ribs.

“Pshhh… Save it, Stinkwater. We both know the real reason why you’re upset,” Lola retorts.

Lindsey just crossly huffs. “Hmph… Well, it doesn’t matter either way. I still did way better than you in the Personality and Poise parts of the competition,” she states.

Which, isn’t a necessarily a confession to deliberately sabotaging Lola’s act… but at the same time, it isn’t not a confession either.

Now Lola huffs. “Alright, Lindsey… Tell me the truth. How did you know I-?”

Before she can finish though, Mr. Johnny, everyone’s favorite resident stagehand, is making his way over.

“Alright, places everyone!” he simply says, and then he makes way as he gestures everyone’s other favorite stagehand Mr. Hatoralo to draw the curtains back.

The rivals savor every remaining moment they have left to snarl at one another.

“I’ll just say it one more time… I can do anything I want to when I put my mind to it,” Lindsey intently tells Lola before shifting her focus forward.

Lola just winces. “Why do you keep saying that?...”

The curtains finally get drawn back to reveal the contestants to the audience one final time for the evening. Despite her stupor, Lola straightens herself up and smiles to the crowd just as all the other girls do.

...

Meanwhile, Lynn Sr. and Rita have made it back to their seats, and luckily enough, things smell a little better.

They happen to lock eyes with little Izzy, who just nervously smiles and shrugs.

The adults just empathetically smile back though.

The judges are ready, the visitors are ready, and the MTAP news crew are ready as they switch on their cameras.

...

Ms. Shrinivas once again takes to the stage. “Well everyone, here we are. The moment we’ve all been waiting for… The judges have all tallied up their scores, and have come to an agreement on who will win the title of Little Miss Cute and Mean,” she happily announces.

All three judges make their way up to the stage one by one. Carol is holding a small yellow envelope in one hand, and a pristine sash in the other. Sam is holding a pillow with a glamorous silver crown resting on top of it. Mr. Sunderland… has a gift card for Flipp’s, and a little plastic scepter that looks like it was won from the bowling alley.

“Before we announce tonight’s winner, we would like to thank everyone for participating tonight, and for trying their very best,” Ms. Shrinivas begins again.

“Except for Gretchen,” Mr. Sunderland mumbles to himself as she watches the peculiar girl thoughtfully comparing her thumbs.

“...We would also like to reward tonight’s runner-up, who shall fulfil the future duties that come with the crown should the winner be unable to do so,” Ms. Shrinivas continues.

“Ms. Pingrey… The envelope please…” she beckons.

Carol gladly hands it over, and the tension in the entire auditorium becomes proverbially palpable.

All the parents are crossing their fingers and biting their lips in hopes that their respective daughter will win the crown and sash.

Lana is backstage doing the same for her sister’s sake, and even little Hops has to shield his eyes because the anticipation is just too much.

Ms. Shrinivas opens the envelope, and her eyes widen.

“Ladies and gentlemen… The runner-up for the title of Little Miss Cute and Mean…”

“Lola Loud!”

There’s quite the ovation. Clapping, whistling, the whole shebang…

But three certain individuals with the surname Loud all deflate.

“Oh dear…” Rita bemoans.

Her husband sighs a defeated sigh. “Dang it…”

“Poor Lola,” Lana dejectedly says to herself.

And Lola, poor Lola, her jaw just dumbfoundedly drops as Mr. Sunderland makes his way over with the Flipp’s gift card and plastic scepter.

“Here you go, Lola. Congratulations,” he endearingly tells her.

She almost thoughtlessly takes the the two consolation prizes, but her mouth retains shape. The truth didn’t take very long to sink in…

She’s lost.

Worse yet, she gets to watch another one of these wenches accept the true prize, the stupid crown and sash she’s dedicated weeks of grueling training to try and win.

After giving everyone a moment to accept the reality that is Lola’s coming second, Ms. Shrinivas returns her attention to the task at hand.

“And now… the winner of this year’s competition… and your new Little Miss Cute and Mean…”

“Lindsey Sweetwater!”

“You’ve gotta be-” Lana starts to say before the rest of her statement is muffled by the sound of applause.

Lindsey brightens up like an Independence Day sky, her eyes practically bugging out of her skull as she accepts her talismans with a wide smile. Carol sets the crown atop her head, and then slings the sash that reads “Little Miss Cute and Mean” around her person.

“Oh my gosh!” she ecstatically utters.

...

While everyone begins happily celebrate Lindsey’s victory, Lola can’t help but feel like this is all somehow a way to ostracize her. It’s almost like all those people cheering are actually just laughing at her- pointing their bony, scraggly fingers at her all while wearing the meanest, ugliest schadenfreude ridden smiles.

But as many unpleasant feelings as there are swirling around inside of her, as many discomforting thoughts as there are racing through her brain…

All she can do is stare with the same stupid look on her face.

The judges and other girls are clapping for Lindsey too, and Mr. Sunderland gestures her to take the microphone. As if this wasn’t already the most painful experience of Lola’s six year life…

The former journalism teacher lowers the mic for the little girl, who continues smiling her shiitake eating grin as she accepts this opportunity.

“Well, first of all, I’d like to thank all of you for coming out here and showing your support tonight, it really means a lot… I’d also like to thank the judges for their fairness and impartial decision making during tonight’s pageant,” Lindsey says.

“What a load of crud!” Lana comments to herself upon hearing this.

...

“But most of all, I want to thank all of these girls joining me on stage,” Lindsey continues, looking to all the other contestants. “You all did such a great job up here tonight, and I’m honored to be sharing this stage with you…”

Then, she looks right at Lola. And still, all Lola can do is watch on with the same frozen face that comes with her defeat.

Lindsey smiles… But it’s so… so… evil. It’s the type of smile one smiles when they know they have you right where they want you, and there isn’t a stinkin’ thing you can do about it…

“And remember… You can do anything you put your mind to…”

The knife… It’s been twisted.

It’s all Lola can do not to literally faint, it’s all so debilitating. Lindsey Sweetwater- oh, how ironic that name is… Lindsey Sweetwater, the girl who stole her dress, the girl who stole her interview answer, the girl who stole her ribbon dance routine… has now stolen the crown.

 

And now… she has the audacity to say that?

-----------------------

The show is over. All the members of the audience are leaving their seats, the news crew are packing up, and all the little girls who vied to be cuter and meaner than the rest have begun to clear the stage.

Yet, poor Lola… All she can do is watch as Lindsey Sweetwater happily takes her crown and sash and makes her leave. She hasn’t acknowledged Lola since saying those now haunting words to her. She doesn’t have to. She knows what she did, Lola knows what she did, and now there’s nothing left for her to do but relish in her victory… A victory that’s even sweeter because it’s at Lola’s expense.

“Lola? Sis?” Lana says, making her presence felt as she tries waving a hand in front of her sister’s face. “I really don’t wanna have to get Hops to help me out here…” she disappointingly continues.

Finally, Lola comes to. “Whuh? Huh?”

Lana meets her with blatant sorrow. “Lola, I-” she begins.

The feeling one gets as they know someone is approaching comes over the two though, so she stops herself. Their shared intuitions prove to be true, as Mr. and Mrs. Loud step over to them, each with sorrowful expressions of their own.

They just exchange bereaving looks, words failing all of them. Really, they’re unneeded though. Everyone knows what’s wrong, they don’t need to say anything about it.

The weight of it all finally falls on Lola. Where Lindsey now gets to enjoy her victory, Lola must bear her defeat.

With a heavy heart, she hangs her low, and walks over to her father. Without looking to his eyes, she rests her weary head on his thigh, seeking comfort in spite of the truth.

He and his wife exchange another piteous look, and then he picks his daughter up and rests her in his embrace. “Come on, kiddo,” he simply says.

Lana just watches on with sadness in her own heart, then follows her parents and sister as they take their leave as well.

-----------------------

“It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it…”

Those same words, and all the variations of, keep racing through Lola’s mind.

The car ride home is quiet. There’s a slight drizzle, not even enough rainfall to fully be considered inclimate weather. Just enough to remind everyone how miserable this moment is.

Lynn Sr. just focuses on the drive, and Rita looks out the window with a tired look on her face.

Lana sneaks looks at her twin every so often, but Lola just keeps melancholily staring out her own window in most pitiful way imaginable.

She wants to say something to her, something to make things better; but she knows it’s moot. At least… at least for this car ride home.

The angstful silence gets to Lynn though, and he can’t help but make an attempt to lighten the mood.

“Say… How about we stop and get some ice cream, guys?” he suggests to his family with a soft smile.

“Ooo! I want mudslide!” Lana excitedly shouts, the frozen treat loving six year-old in her manifesting- and subsequently disregarding any and all other parts of life.

But Lola, she does nothing. She just keeps looking out at the night.

Rita turns to face Lana, and sadly frowns. There will be no ice cream tonight.

Lana comes back to reality, and realizes just why though. So, with the attempt on her father’s part to make things just a little better coming to pass, the family just returns to their angstful silence.

Lana sneaks one last look at Lola before taking refuge in her own thoughts; thoughts of hoping for the best for her twin sister.

Eventually, Lola breaks from her tunnel vision gaze with the outside world, long enough to look down at the ridiculous plastic scepter she was gifted, and the what turns out to be expired gift card for BOGO Flippees.

They’re simply reminders of Lindsey Sweetwater to her.

“When you put your mind to it… What the heck did she mean by that? Why did she keep saying it?” she wonders.

...

Suddenly, her eyes widen.

“Oh my gosh… Can she…?”

 

Chapter Text

Hey everyone, I have some bad news. I seriously have just lost any and all motivation to finish this story. I could list a bunch of excuses, like how I’m busy, and have other stuff going on, and blah blah blah… But you all deserve better.

So, regretfully, I won’t be finishing this story. I am truly sorry, but I’d rather tell you than leave you waiting for stuff that won’t come.

I will be putting all of my writing efforts into my Teen Titans story, which I can BS an ending to if I need to (even though I hopefully won’t need to), and I will at least do one more chapter for Switching Teams at some point. But, full disclosure: I think I’m done writing after that. At least for a while. Things could always change, but I’ve just been slowly losing my will to keep writing. It sucks, but at least I’m being honest with myself and the rest of you.

That all being said, let me reiterate: I’m cancelling this fic. Sorry:(

HOWEVER…

Since I’m being a fat jerk and leaving y’all hanging, I guess I’ll at least leave you with some notes and whatnot about what I had planned for the rest of this thing.

My plan was to have Lola and Lana start working together to test Lola’s theory about Lindsey being able to read minds. I didn’t actually have any of these tests planned out, I was gonna wing them, but that’s what was gonna happen.

During their creeping on Lindsey, they would have discovered that she planned on signing up for a dance competition with one of her friends, and this would’ve led to Lindsey and friend challenging the twins to enter the contest, wagering Lindsey’s Little Miss Cute and Mean title.

So, from there, Lola and Lindsey would practice for the dancing contest, and Lola would just be too much for Lana, and they’d start arguing. Lana would reveal to Lola that all she cared about was spending time with her sister, totes making her feel all guilty in the process.

The day of the competition would come, and for some reason or another, Lindsey’s partner wouldn’t be able to be part of the thing. So, reluctantly, Lola and Lindsey would decide to put their differences aside for the night, and enter the contest together. And yes, they would win. Duh.

After the competition, Lindsey and Lola would have a nice heart-to-heart. Lola would tell the truth about thinking Lindsey has mind reading powers, and Lindsey would tell her that she actually had sock hat kid, Chandler, and Christina spy on her going into the pageant.

Just kidding. It would actually turn out that it was just a really big coincidence that Lindsey did everything Lola had planned, because great minds think alike.

Lindsey would also reveal she has an older sister of her own, one she doesn’t get to see much of, which is part of the reason she’s so mean to Lola. (Because she’s jelly).

The last chapter would’ve then seen Lola surprise Lana by setting up an awesome Pirate themed play area in the backyard, and they would have finally gotten their sisterly quality time happily ever after.

No yuri anywhere, I know. But I still think it would’ve been cute.

Well, the the half-assed version of the story. Again, I’m really sorry to do this. I hate to leave this thing unfinished, but I’m not gonna torture myself to mull through it either. Writing is supposed to be fun.

I hope you guys and girls can understand where I’m coming from, and hopefully we’ll all hear from each other again sooner than later. I know I’ll be reading some of your fics:)

(Except Auto’s stuff… Bleck).

I guess there’s not much else to say, except, thanks for indulging me this far. Whether this is the first story of mine you’ve read, or you’ve been here since Fingerbang was running around with her dutiful sidekick in Silent Hill… I can’t tell you how much it means to me that even one person would take the time to read my work. It’s the best feeling in the world for a writer to share their stuff.

Thanks again everyone. It was a pleasure while it lasted.

-JamesSunderlandsPillow.