These days Miley is pretty close to her parents. She sees them about once a week. "My dad's always home," she says. "He's like, 'There's nothing for me to do out here.' So he chills at the house all day, and I go see him." One time she went out to her backyard and saw a shadowy figure in the bushes. "I thought I was gonna get murdered," she says, "and then I see my dad climbing my fence. He's like, 'Sissy! I found a secret path where I can get from my house to your house without having to go on the street!' I'm like, 'Dad, you definitely just trespassed through someone's yard.'"
She spends more time with her mom, Tish, whom Miley says dreamed of being a performer herself, but couldn't because of bad anxiety. "She danced ballet from the time she was three till she was 30, but she was very shy," Miley says. "She could never do this, so she wanted it for me. I get anxiety too, and she didn't want my anxiety to ever stop me from doing it the way it stopped her." Her mom often travels with her, but she can still make Miley cringe. "When she's being embarrassing, she'll call me 'sweet girl,'" Miley says. "When we were getting ready for the VMAs, I was about to put on my teddy-bear costume and she's like, 'Sweet girl, do you need to potty before you put your costume on?' I'm like, 'Mom! Kanye is standing right here!'"
For a while, Miley's dad was pretty upset with her partying ways. In 2011, he gave an interview to GQ where he said if he could go back in time and stop her from being Hannah Montana, he would. But Miley says they've gotten to a better place. "We have a different relationship now," she says. "Now I hear all these crazy stories from him. Like, I never knew my dad smoked weed. I thought my dad was a freak. Now I know he was just stoned."
The next morning, Cheyne is down in the kitchen getting ready for the trip. Up in her bedroom, Miley sends him a text: "I think I'm having a panic attack."
We've decided to go sky diving. Everybody is pretty scared, but nobody wants to be the one to back out. "I can't believe we're doing this," Miley says when she comes down. She's wearing a white tank top and red track pants, with her hair in her little-creature pigtails. She grabs a couple of Gatorades and we hit the road.
We're driving to a town called Perris, out in the desert on the way to Palm Springs. It's home to Skydive Perris, supposedly one of the best sky-diving spots in the country. The plan was to leave early enough that the paparazzi wouldn't be there yet, but two of them are already waiting. "Should I tell them I'll give them a picture and then fuck off?" Miley asks.
Cheyne nods and pulls over. "Yo, we're gonna give you a picture right now if you don't follow us around all day long," he says. The paps agree.
"And then you're gonna fuck off?" says Miley.
"OK," Miley says. She hops out of the car and poses for 30 seconds in front of a Dumpster, then hops back in and we're on our way. ("I'll usually give them a picture and they're pretty cool," she says. "I actually don't really get the point of paparazzi anymore. It's not like back in the day where they sold pictures to magazines. Now they just put them online. I don't really know how they make money.")
Cheyne does 90 on the 210, driving past Pomona, Chino, Riverside. Pretty soon we're deep into the Inland Empire, surrounded by broken-down cars and yucca trees. "The desert is so weird," Miley says. "This is where all the tweakers live. It's like Breaking Bad for real. They go down to the local taco shop and sell meth. Meth country. Meth town."
She turns to Cheyne. "You think we might be able to see the ocean?"
"If it's clear," he says.
"We gotta keep doing stuff that's really crazy," Miley says. "I need my own Rolling Stone column where every issue it's just something crazy I do."
We're about 15 minutes away when she starts pointing at something through the windshield. "Oh, my God," Miley says. "You can see people falling from the sky right now!" Up ahead, a few thousand feet above the horizon, some black dots are drifting down to Earth. "Oh, my God," she says. "Why is homeboy spinning around? He's upside down! He just went upside down!"
We pull into the parking lot, and Miley meets Scott Smith, her instructor for the day. Scott has been parachuting since 1978; he's made more than 12,000 jumps. "I trust you," she says. "But I'm scared."
"Good," says Scott. "There's two kinds of people who make their first jump – those who are scared, and those who lie." He takes her to sign a bunch of release forms, and Miley has a laugh about the line that says, "Parachutes do not always work." For her emergency contact, she puts her mom; for her job, she puts "unemployed." "If I die," she tells Scott, "you guys are so fucked."
While we wait for our turn, Miley stands outside chain-smoking cigarettes as a few dozen fans take turns coming up to get pictures with her. Most of them compliment her on the VMAs. "Stick your tongue out!" one grandmother tells her. Then it's time to suit up.
As we wedge ourselves into the plane, Miley and Cheyne grip each other's hands tight. We climb for about 15 minutes – rising to 8,000 feet, 9,000, 10,000. "We're seriously about to jump out of this plane right now," Miley says. Finally, at 12,500 feet, the plane levels off. The door opens, and Miley and Scott scoot over to it. She hangs her toes over the edge, as the desert races by below. Cheyne, who does not seem to be having fun, grits his teeth and glares. "Miley fucking Cyrus!" But she's already out the door.
Six minutes later, everyone is safe on the ground. "Holy shit!" Miley says. "That was awesome!" She calls her mom and tells her she's alive. "One thing about sky diving," she says, "you really know who you love, based on who you call." I ask her if she talked to Liam already. "Oh, shit!" she says, and takes her phone back out. (Two weeks later, the couple will announce their split.)
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