Title: Radical New Me
Author: PK Hrezo
Release Date: May 10th, 2017
Tour Dates: June 6th – 10th, 2017
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Callie Cow: Where is She Now?
That’s what Calliope Crown’s old high school classmates want to know.
Now it’s five years later and Calliope’s gone from fat to fit in a year-long transformation with a world-renowned self-help guru. When funds she’s always counted on fall through, she moves to ritzy Boca Raton to work for her snobby aunt’s beachside bakery and face the same temptation that put her in the body she so desperately wants to forget. Calliope may be armed with a new identity, but old self-images don’t die fast, and true self-esteem isn’t something you can buy online with a credit card, even though her guru would suggest otherwise with the prices of his webinar course and weekly regimen.
Enter one cute and dedicated handyman and Calliope begins to see the world in a new light. Connecting with him, as well as new friends and Internet followers may just prove that life’s detours can sometimes reveal our truest identities in the most unexpected of ways.
“Even without the mask you wouldn’t know me. Social media and I have never gotten along.
But times they are a-changing, and today, I share my journey with the world.
In a nutshell, I’m here because my guru guide told me to be.
Ha! Bet you’ve heard that one before.
This. Me. It’s all part of my new direction. A part of saying good riddance to the past and beelining toward the future as a different person.
A new person. Radically new and determined.
It’s a road trip. So either hop in and be a passenger, or steer your own vessel alongside me …”
Double check mask is still on straight. Its black filigree surrounds my eyes in an elegant frame. A sharp and sassy Venetian disguise. It’s me, but not.
My long auburn streaked locks are swept up and knotted behind me, and my lips are coated in the most radical shade of lip tint I could find: Glam it All to Hell. I’ve always been a Soft Plum or Barely There kind of girl, but neither of those seemed to fit the mystique veil of anonymity quite like a candy-apple red shade. Perfectly radical.
Good. Deep breath …
“In case you don’t wanna ride along with a complete stranger, here are some things you should know about about me upfront:
Not too long ago … well, for pretty much all my life, I daydreamed about being that girl—you know, the one guys stumbled over themselves to talk to. The one other girls tried to copy in front of their mirrors. I put the idea of it on a pedestal for so long, I’m not even sure it’s reachable anymore. Or if it even ever matters.
It’s never been about vanity.
It’s about certainty. Confidence in my health, and in who I’ve let myself become. Confidence in the way I know others see me, notice me. Not being invisible. Not being a disappointment.
After reading Rouby’s book, Roadmap to the Radical New You, I took the wheel of my own life.
Now, I’m here, in front of you, 72 pounds lighter, to let you know you can do the same thing. If you’ve been wanting to make some positive changes in your own life, then I’m here to cheer you on.
If I can do it, you can do it.
It won’t be easy at first. There’s a learning curve, and a hump. And this is coming from someone who’s never had problems with taking tests.
Those first few weeks of radical change were the most difficult in my life …”
Stare at keyboard. Memories of labored breathing, aching muscles, tears of failure … all of it cycles through my mind.
Almost done. Have to power through.
Eyes on screen again, on the masked chub avenger in front of me. Only eyes, lips, and chin are visible. Perfect.
Carry on …
“To be frank, I didn’t know if I’d have what it takes to stick to Rouby’s Roadmap. During that first month, when I exchanged brownie bites and frappuccinos for leg lifts and power walks, I discovered what Rouby calls, my Cruise Control.
And let me tell you once you find it—I mean really know that you can have it—it changes everything.
No more distractions. Or excuses. Just a lot of hard work, and steady steering.
I was overweight all through high school. I tried to lose it, over and over, failing each time and devastating my self-esteem. I was a hot mess on repeat play.
Rouby helped me understand what I was doing wrong. I was starting from the outside, trying to transform my appearance with diet schemes and workout routines that were unrealistic to my personal needs. I was skipping the most vital step in Rouby’s full transformation program—the step that’s key to changing the way a person sees themselves:
Cleansing from the inside out.
If you haven’t read Rouby’s Roadmap to a Radical New You, buy it today. After I implemented his inner program, I discovered his at-home Radical Makeover Intensive course called, Radical Roadtrips.
It’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re not serious about transformation, this course isn’t for you.
Someday I’m gonna find a way to meet Rouby and walk right up and wrap him in a giant hug. Here’s why …”
I hold up my before and after full body profile pictures, side by side. The head is chopped off so it’s only from the neck down, both with me in black form-fitting workout pants and top.
“See. The me on the left is two years ago when I first decided to do something about my health and appearance. The me on the right was taken yesterday. Pretty dramatic, right? Yeah, it gives me the willies every time I see these.
You may be wondering why I’ve chosen to be incognito. Why I don’t show my face or tell you my name …
And that’s a story for another day. What’s important now is the how, not the who.
I’m only three months away from my final transformation, so I’m making a pact with you right now, right here on my very own YouTube channel that if I make it through the next few months and reach my goal, I’ll reveal myself. I need your support in getting there, because my too-fragile ego depends on it.
I don’t think it can take another blow.
Besides that, for anyone who does complete the Roadtrip course, Rouby says a special surprise is in store …”
My candy-red lips catch my eye onscreen—the way they pull upward in a genuine smile upon my masked face. A tiny thrill of what has to be a combination of pride and bewilderment sails over my scalp.
“I’m taking life by the wheel, and when I get where I’m going, I will be transformed …”
“I’ll be back after Sunday, when my course classmates meet online for a webinar to hear Rouby speak. If you didn’t know, he has an entire team dedicated to helping his Roadtrip students stay on track. There’s even personalized Curbside Assistance in the event of a mental breakdown. He’s so amazing.
Well, I guess that’s it for me today. You’re tuned into channel, RadNewMe. I’m Rad, and I’ll see you next time. Until then, I’ll leave you with my current stats:
WEIGHT: 130 lbs
WEIGHT LOST SINCE ROADTRIP BEGAN: 72 lbs
GOAL WEIGHT: 120lbs
HEALTHY SNACK OF THE DAY: low fat peanut butter on apple slices
Before I allow myself to play back my video, I hit upload. My first ever vlog is now live.
My stomach turns over. I pull the mask off. I know myself too well and if I watch it back now I’ll nitpick every little detail until I’ve edited it into nonexistence. Besides, it’s not as if anyone is going to stumble onto my little channel floating among the vast ocean of videos and Internet stars.
This was for Rouby. And for me.
I stare at my channel a few seconds digesting the fact that it’s real. Three years ago I would’ve never dreamed of plastering my face up there.
Grabbing a tissue, I rub the red from my lips, stash my laptop inside my backpack, and head into the kitchen.
My roommate’s rummaging through the fridge in our tiny kitchen, her messenger bag draped over her shoulder and at her side as usual. “Did you do it?” she asks, not looking up from the fridge. “Did you take the challenge and share your journey?”
“Crazy, but yeah. It’s done and safely anonymous.” A high-pitched sigh escapes my lips. “Challenge number three is currently underway.”
My thin-without-trying roomie guzzles milk from a half-gallon container, then sets it on the counter. “Knew you could do it. And don’t worry—you’re secret’s safe with me.” She glances at the microwave’s clock. “Crap, I gotta bolt soon.” She turns to rifle through the pantry like an unskilled shoplifter, her voice aimed at the sparse shelves of food while she tosses stuff into her bag. “You’ll inspire people, Cal. Dropping nine dress sizes in the last two years is something to be proud of. Whenever you want me to spread the word about your channel, just holla. I don’t have to tell anybody whose it is.”
She pops up and gusts past me again toward her bedroom.
“Not nine, five dress sizes,” I call out. “Maybe you should watch it first and tell me what you think …”
“Sure.” She returns, back to the fridge in a bluster where she grabs a golden delicious apple.
One of my apples. I don’t say anything. Even though she hasn’t bought groceries for at least a week.
“I get it,” she says, cracking into the crispy apple with a gnash of her teeth. “ You don’t want your high school friends to find you online.”
Friends is not the word I’d choose to describe my old classmates. My roomie already knows that horror story, and I’m not up for a rehashing right now after my adrenaline is still pumping from publishing my first video.
Besides, I’m not that girl anymore. This is my new direction.
I’m a well-oiled machine.
“Will you be on campus later?” she asks, at the front door now.
“My dad’s check just deposited, so yeah, I’ll be there.” I head for the pantry. “Registering for a full load of classes. I’ll be here all summer.”
Halfway out the front door she pauses. “Oh, Caleb will be here tonight. No pressure or anything, but it’d be super cool if we had the place to ourselves. Just sayin’.”
She grins before disappearing with a light slam of the door.
And I assumed having my own place meant it would be mine. I try not to sweat it too much. After these summer classes and the fall semester, this time next year I’ll be graduating and can find my own place, start my real life.
Stepping out into the parking lot of our complex, I sneak past our neighbor’s patio. Last thing I need right now is to be reeled in by the forty-something cat lady for another twenty minute conversation about her romantic relationships that were tragically doomed from the start.
Luckily, she’s not lurking from behind her glass door, so I beeline for my dust-layered white Toyota, when my phone rings.
“Viv, what’s up?” I ask my sister, catching my colorless reflection in the driver side window.
“Got a minute?” she asks in her usual squeaky voice, but there’s a tinge of alarm.
“I’m on my way to campus. Everything okay?”
“Callie, I’m scared.”
It’s not a huge surprise that my paranoid younger sister is scared. She tends to flinch at the mention of even walking the dog on her own, but she has had panic attacks in the past, mostly due to self-induced stress in regards to her violin. The Crown family, albeit commendable for our altruistic attributes, also suffers from innate inferiority issues, passed down from generations of enduring wives and victims of southern chauvinistic marriages on my mom’s side. Thank God that trend ended with my dad.
“Everything okay?” Sliding into the driver’s side, I fumble through my purse for my pale lip gloss. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s not me, I’m fine. It’s Dad. I overheard him and Mom talking last night. I guess he got served a few months back but never said anything. Remember that patient of his who died in the operating room?”
My heart rises to my throat. “The thirteen-year-old girl?”
“Her parents are suing him for mal-practice, saying it could’ve been prevented.”
“Wait a minute, how long has this been going on for? He was cleared by the board. They said she had a pre-existing condition.”
“I don’t know exactly.” Vivian’s voice is lower now. “I heard Dad say it’s a family lawsuit. He told Mom he didn’t want us to know or worry because he didn’t think it held any weight, but now … it’s bad. He’s afraid of dragging the practice’s name down with him, so he won’t let them settle. He says it’d admit guilt and he did nothing wrong. He’s convinced a jury will see that and clear his name.” She takes a breath. “Mom’s really scared, though. I’ve never seen her so worried.”
“Do they know you know?” I ask, resting my forehead between my fingers.
“I asked Mom about it this morning, after Dad left. She doesn’t want Dad to go to trial. We could lose everything.”
“He’s not guilty of killing that girl,” I raise my voice. “It was a freak accident.”
“I know. Mom says the parents don’t see it that way, though. All they see is their daughter died on Dad’s operating table.”
I steady my nerves, focusing on my meditative breathing technique a la Rouby. “Is there a trial date?”
“Next month,” Viv says. “Callie, I’m so nervous, I’m freaking out for Dad. I was gonna apply to a bunch of schools this summer, but I can’t make Dad feel like he has to pay for my school now, too. Mom says we could even lose the house.”
I need to be strong for Vivian right now, but my shoulders are caving inward with the weight of this news, heavy and crooked and bent. Poor Viv. She’s had her sights set on the top music schools in the country since middle school. Her flair for the violin is Mom’s and Dad’s pride and joy. The thought of her having to give up her dreams …
“Listen, don’t panic,” I say, reinforcing my tone with false confidence but true determination. “You have to be strong for Mom and Dad. They need to see you can make it through this no matter what.”
“I will,” she says. “It’s just … why did this have to happen now, when I’m so close?”
My sentiments exactly.
All at once, the Central Florida heat seems to swaddle me in damp humidity. Sweat drips down my temples and neck. I start my car, blaring the AC. My own finances pirouette through my mind. I’ve spent every dollar of my allowance, and maxed out my credit cards in order to join Rouby’s Roadtrip program. I won’t have enough to pay for rent and tuition and books without Dad’s deposit this month. What if he loses the case? What if Mom and Dad lose the house? Dad’s so close to retirement.
My mouth is pasty-dry when I finally say, “I’m coming home.”
“Really?” Vivian’s voice jumps an octave. “But … Dad won’t like that we told you. Let him tell you on his own.”
“I’ll rearrange some things here and drive up tonight.” My brain darts in different directions. I won’t be able to register—I can’t spend that kind of money right now, not after this news. I’ll have to postpone the classes that were supposed to have me graduating ahead of schedule.
I force a shrug, refusing full defeat.
It’s just a little snafu is all. I’ll double up on classes next semester, once this lawsuit mess is over and cleared. With some hard work, I can still graduate this time next year. One thing I’m no stranger to, is hard work. I’ve got a snug sized six (formerly size 14) body to prove it.
“Callie, promise me we’ll find a way to help Dad.”
My train of thought derails by way of my little sister’s request. Since graduating high school, she’s the only one I still let call me Callie. I stopped trying to retrain her when it proved futile. It’s all she’s ever known, and old habits are hard to break.
“I promise,” I say. “Try to stay positive, okay? It’s important.”
I disconnect and let the cool air from the AC vent breeze over my face.
Tricky words when everything in life could be about to change for the worse. Times like these are when I’m weakest. When a shortstack at IHOP would definitely make it all better. Or a cannoli from the Italian bakery up the street.
My mouth salivates. Light flaky crust, succulent ivory cream, decadent chocolaty chips …
Instinctively, I press my hands to my belly, rolling up my beige tank top and tracing my fingers over the faint stretchmarks that linger from years of fat rolls.
I can’t go back. I can’t be her again. Not even if those few moments of delicious ecstasy would take my mind off all the problems in the world.
Blinking a few times, I begin to recite the words of my Rouby-approved mantra:
I only put goodness …
Um, what was it again? My brain clouds over with visions of cannolis twirling two by two in time to Disney’s Frozen theme song, Let it Go.
Okay, this calls for Curbside Assistance. Stat.
Pulling up my contact favorites list, I select Rouby and dial, waiting through the standard recording for a live person to answer. Please let this be the day Rouby answers. He’s supposed to surprise his students by randomly taking calls himself now and then.
“Thank you for calling Curbside Assistance,” a woman’s voice comes on the line, professional and articulate. “This is Anna, your qualified lifestyle specialist team member. How can I help you stay on the road to a radical new you?”
Say Hello to author PK Hrezo!
PK Hrezo is a native Floridian, author of fiction and nonfiction, creator and fairy fashion designer of PK’s Pixies, mom of two, wife of a fireman, and best bud to a big dog named Ripley.
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Check out all the stops on the tour –
ItaPixie’s Book Corner – Book Excerpt
Livesandlovesofabooknerd – Book Review