siobhan vivian - not that kind of girl

BOOK: siobhan vivian - not that kind of girl
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PROLOGUE On the first day of my senior year, I happened to walk past the auditorium during the freshman orientation assembly. One of the two heavy oak doors, each with the Ross Academy crest inset in stained glass, had been propped open. There were only enough students inside to occupy the first few rows of stiff, uncomfortable seats, and the emptiness gave the place a hollow sound that surely made the freshmen feel even smaller and more overwhelmed. I had a free period and a hall pass, so I ducked inside, for old time's sake. It took all of three minutes before I wanted to scream. Freshman orientation is a colossal waste of time. Or at least, the way our school handles it, forcing new students to sit through a word-for-word recitation of the Ross Academy Handbook, performed in a monotone by the guidance counselor nearest to death. There weren't many dos in the Ross Academy Handbook. It was pretty much a recitation of don'ts, from Don't use your phones during school hours to Don't run at an inappropriate pace in the hallways. More than half the students struggled to stay awake, while the rest focused on subtly and not-so-subtly checking each other out. If it were up to me, things would be run a lot differently. First off, I'd split up freshman orientation by gender. For boys, there'd be a simple presentation, done in ten minutes tops. In fact, I could probably cancel their assembly altogether and just hand out a memo. Because there were only three things that added up to a successful high school experience for guys: doing your homework, wearing a condom (if you were so lucky), and deodorizing your leather school shoes every night, because foot sweat plus polyester dress socks makes for unbelievably rank conditions. Obviously, things would be more involved for the girls.

I'd run their orientation like those scare 'em straight drunk-driving lectures, where the police department parks a mangled, twisted car on the front lawn of school, and a guest speaker cries about how he accidentally killed his best friend on the way home from a party. Except instead of the danger of drunk driving, I'd have a speaker talk firsthand about the danger of high school boys. I know one girl who'd be perfect. She was in my class freshman year. She was nice. Friendly, even to weird kids. Popular, but not enough to make someone jealous, and pretty in a way that was easily overlooked. A few weeks after starting high school, she hit social pay dirt. She found herself a boyfriend. Chad Rivington stood almost twice her height--an intimidating size until you watched him tuck himself into his rusted baby-blue VW bug, which he loved even as it fell apart. He was a senior with decent grades, nice teeth, and a spot on the varsity basketball team. In other words, he was a catch for a girl of any grade, but especially for a freshman. They met in the nurse's office--her with a migraine, him brandishing a savage paper cut with the hope of escaping Spanish II. By the end of the week, they were a couple. By the end of the month, they were the couple. They fooled around, of course. But she took things slow, preferring sweet kisses while walking through piles of crispy autumn leaves over half- naked wrestling matches in Chad's cramped backseat. On their two-month anniversary, Chad asked her to sneak out of Algebra and meet him in the boys' locker room for a secret celebration. The girl had never done anything like that before, but it seemed a fun and exciting dare. Though they hadn't said I love you yet, she felt it every time Chad laced their fingers together. Just a week before, after drinking her first three beers at a house party, she'd almost let it slip. But she decided to save it for a special occasion. Like a two-month anniversary. After glancing over her shoulder, the girl slid inside the boys' locker room and tiptoed down to the very last row of lockers. Chad greeted her with a grin. A moment later, before they'd even said hello, they were kissing. Which quickly turned into groping. It seemed as if her private school uniform had been tailored for this sort of rushed encounter. He had his hands all over her. All over her. And for the first time in their relationship, she didn't worry about where they would go. It was romantic and sexy, and everything inside her melted. Chad had more experience with these sorts of things, and she finally let herself enjoy that. They might have gone all the way if they'd been in Chad's bedroom, or even in the VW. But they weren't near a bed or a backseat. They were in a stinky locker room, next to a fifth-period gym class. And with every shout for a pass, trill of the whistle, or raucous cheer that leaked in, the danger of being discovered fanned the fog from the girl's good judgment. "I can't," she said suddenly. Not there. Not then. Chad tried to convince her with words, with kisses. But now she was the opposite of melting. She pulled away from Chad's mouth and said she'd better get back to class. Chad sagged with disappointment--a familiar posture from their last few dates, though somehow weightier in this instance. He pleaded with her to stay. After all, she'd barely touched him, and he was so turned on. It was only fair to finish what they'd started, right? She insisted she had to get back to Algebra. Sweetly. Apologetically. And when she noticed how bummed Chad continued to look, she leaned in to kiss him. A cute peck aimed for the tip of his nose, to make it all okay. She felt three words float up her throat, ready at last to be said. Except Chad turned his head. The girl felt bad as she hurried back to class. She felt even worse after school, when she came upon some guys razzing Chad next to the smokers' tree. He walked toward his car without so much as a head nod in her direction. The girl didn't know that Chad's inability to get off with a freshman had become a running joke. A social liability. Even Chad himself had made light of it for weeks, thinking his friends might ease up if he played along. So he'd complain of blue balls after he'd drive her home, or hump his locker door in mock frustration after the girl hugged him good morning before homeroom. Things like that. But Chad's participation only made the others' comments seem more welcome. The teasing became less funny and more personal. It was one of Chad's friends who suggested the locker-room make-out session. "Use the anniversary," the guy urged. "It's foolproof." It seemed to Chad like everyone in school had their eyes on the clock during fifth period. Everyone expected him to finally get some. And when he came up short, Chad settled on an excuse that would let him entirely off the hook. When the girl got to school the next morning, whispers hissed liked poison arrows aimed at her back. Boys who'd been nice to her at parties, senior girls who'd just started to warm up to her infiltration of their group, now seemed cold and dismissive. Even some of her own classmates, the ones she'd helped usher into the exclusive upper-classmen world, suddenly looked down on her. She couldn't understand it. At least not until she saw Chad and he guiltily headed in the wrong direction so he wouldn't have to talk to her. After homeroom, the sniffing started. Someone would do it whenever she walked by. She didn't think much of it. It was the height of cold season. But it kept happening. Sniff sniff sniff. Everywhere she went. It wasn't until lunch, when one of Chad's friends commandeered the white board and named the fish stick entr�e after her, that she figured it out. She just grossed me out too much, she could imagine Chad saying. I almost gagged, she smelled so bad. So stupid. So thoughtless. So untrue. But that was all it took. It was over. They were over. She was over. The initial wave of teasing tapered off after a few months, like any stupid catchphrase or slogan. Chad never apologized. Maybe he cleared his conscience by admitting to someone that it was only a dumb joke, but he said nothing to the girl. And someone else took the baton that spring, when a junior supposedly had a three-way in her parents' shower with two of Chad's teammates. But the girl, it changed her. The way she walked. How often she raised her hand in class. What she'd dare to put on her plate at lunch. She was never the same girl again. Not really. She was Fish Sticks. This was why trusting boys was just like drinking and driving. Sure, some people took the risk. One or two beers never feels dangerous at the time. And not everyone who drinks and drives gets into an accident. But to me, it was obvious: Why would you even take the chance? So, yeah. Orientation should be something more like that. We could provide something useful, instead of policies on locker maintenance. Hearing a story like that was just as important as knowing your blood type, or if you're allergic to bee stings. It was information that could save a girl's life. CHAPTER ONE It was the start of our senior year, and my best friend Autumn was feeling nostalgic. She took pictures when we picked up our schedules from the guidance office for the very last time, called it divine intervention that even though we had only two periods in common, the rest were still close enough that we could always walk together. She reminisced about junior year as if it had been decades ago. Even the state of my appearance after swim class--wet hair hanging like long brown icicles, melting pool water onto my navy cardigan--could make her wistful. "You smell like summer," she said, resting her head on my shoulder. "I wish it was still summer." I turned and sniffed my cardigan. Though I'd had it dry-cleaned right before school started, it already reeked of tangy chlorine, so I peeled it off and tied it around my waist. Coach Fallon never sent us to the locker room with enough time to shower. He'd rather us suffer one more lap of butterfly than have thirty seconds to shampoo. Autumn was so lucky that she hurt her shoulder a few years back and had a doctor's note to keep her out of the pool. "Hey," I said. "Could you give me a French braid when we get to class?" I hated the way it dried after swim class, in dull matted clumps. Autumn's shoulder-length hair was twisted into two perfectly symmetrical blond sections. She could make it that good without a mirror. "Here," she said, pulling off my tortoiseshell headband before dropping a step behind me. "I'll do it now." That's how we walked through the freshman hallway, me leading Autumn by my hair, like we were elephants. I kept my head down and asked her questions from my Western Philosophy notes while she went to work, my scalp tightening with every weave. Our first quiz was in five minutes. We'd studied on the phone together the night before, so it was really more of a review, but Autumn had still gotten a few easy ones wrong. "I can't believe it." Autumn stopped walking, only I didn't realize it until my head snapped back. She sighed and asked, "Were we ever that young?" I could tell that Autumn was trying to soak up all the excitement and possibility exuding from the freshmen mulling around us. She was completely charmed by their goofiness, bad skin, and awkward roughhousing. She smiled so wide, the skin around her blue eyes wrinkled. I smiled, too. Except I wasn't thinking back so much as trying to hold on to every minute of senior year. If our dream colleges accepted us, Autumn and I would be living on opposite sides of the country in eleven months. The realist in me had to accept that things wouldn't be the same...or at least, not nearly as good as how we had it right now. Autumn would make new friends. Hopefully, I would, too. But it wasn't a prospect I was particularly excited about. "Oh, jeez," she whispered. "Natalie! Look!" Autumn nudged her chin toward a curvy girl with black corkscrew curls. The girl was kneeling on the floor, reaching deep into a messy locker for her books. Her pleated uniform skirt tipped forward like a ringing church bell. A small triangle of lavender mesh barely shielded her rear from the entire hallway.

Though it wasn't actually written anywhere in the Ross Academy Handbook, it still seemed like every girl at school knew enough to wear something unrevealing underneath her uniform skirt. Spandex shorts, boxers, leggings, or at the very least, a pair of hipster underwear. Every girl but this poor, clueless freshman. I debated whether or not to say something. But only for a second, because if I had a piece of spinach in my teeth, or if my zipper was down, I'd rather be told than make a complete fool of myself. Embarrassing moments had a surprisingly long shelf life at our school. One minute you were a normal girl, and the next, you'd be known as Ass Flasher for the next four years. It seemed only right to intervene. I handed my notebook to Autumn. "Reread my notes on the Socratic method. I'll be right back." I bounded across the hallway, my braid unraveling with every step. A couple of freshman boys had taken notice of the free show and were panting at this girl's butt. I stared them down and positioned myself to block their view. "Hey," I said to the girl. "Can I talk to you for a second?" She stared up at me from the floor, her tan face appearing slightly lighter around her eyes, probably from lying out with an oversize pair of sunglasses. "Um. Sure." Her voice was both friendly and suspicious. "I'm Natalie Sterling," I said, feeling like I probably should introduce myself. "What's your name?" She blinked a few times and then stood up. Which, to my great relief, solved the immediate problem of her unfortunate underwear choice. "Hold on--you're Natalie Sterling?" "Um. Yes," I said. And suddenly I turned into the suspicious one. Her brown eyes were big and expectant, glittering like the eye shadow dusting her lids. She waited, and not exactly patiently, for me to recognize her. "You don't know who I am, do you?" She didn't sound angry. If anything, she seemed tickled. My mind cycled through the faces at my SAT summer prep course. But this girl was clearly a freshman, so that didn't make sense. I shrugged apologetically. "Are you sure you don't have me confused with someone else?" "Okay." She closed her eyes and shook her head back and forth a few times, really fast. "I can't believe I'm about to do this." And then, after a deep breath, she danced a jig, right there in front of her locker. Her toned legs kicked and sliced the air like scissors, and her flats hit the linoleum floor in loud slaps that made everyone take notice. My own deficiency in dance kept me from knowing if she was good or just trying hard. Either way, she bounced with such fervor that her curls boinged like a thousand tiny springs. After a final twirl, which honestly couldn't have come quickly enough, she threw out her hands and exclaimed "River Dance!" Except she said it with a terrible Irish brogue, and it sounded more like Reevah Daaaanse! That's when it hit me. "Spencer Biddle?" The eight-year-old girl I'd babysat for an entire summer when I turned twelve? Spencer Biddle, who wouldn't use the upstairs bathroom without someone standing outside the door, who would eat macaroni and cheese only if the cheese were orange, who put on elaborate Irish step-dancing shows in her living room? Her chest heaved as she caught her breath. "I'm honestly relieved you didn't recognize me. It's been like...what? Almost six years? I'd better look completely different." "Don't worry," I said, squinting past her makeup and imagining her shiny curls uncoiling to a frizzy and unkempt little girl fro. "You definitely do." Spencer pushed some wet hair off my shoulder. "I hardly recognized you, either. I mean, look at how grown up and beautiful you are!" It was a weird compliment, like something my Aunt Doreen or Grammy would say. Not someone three years younger than me. "Seriously, Natalie?" she continued. "You were the nicest babysitter I ever had. I remember one time when you threatened to make Eddie Guavera eat rocks when he peed on the flowers we'd just planted around the mailbox." I winced. "Did I really?" Spencer laughed the same way she used to--quiet puffs of air that pulsed out of her nose, rapid-fire. "All the neighbor boys were afraid of you. It was so awesome!" "Didn't your family move to St. Louis?" "Yeah. When my mom got remarried. But she divorced my stepdad, so we came back this summer." I nodded, even though it felt weird to be discussing things like divorce with Spencer. I was pretty sure that our last conversation involved me trying to convince her that Lucky Charms would make a terrible pizza topping. "We're renting an apartment across Liberty River. It's not bad, actually. My room has these big mirrored closet doors where I can practice my routines." "You'd dance to anything," I recalled. "Commercials. Those wind chimes your mom hung on the front porch. The sound of the phone ringing." I had a sudden memory of how annoying that actually was, from a babysitter's perspective. I could hardly get Spencer to sit still. Spencer's glossy smile gave way to a pucker. "Wait. If you didn't recognize me, why did you come over here in the first place?" I picked some lint off my skirt and suddenly wished that I didn't know the color of Spencer's underwear. I leaned in close enough to smell her cotton-candy perfume and whispered, "When you bent over before, you could see everything. And a bunch of boys were enjoying the view." Her mouth dropped open so wide I could see all her fillings. "Are you kidding?" I shook my head. Despite being embarrassed, Spencer managed to smile. "You know," I told her, "Ross does offer a pair of uniform pants for the girls, but they're these horrible pleated slacks the color of cardboard. Really, the best thing to do is to wear something underneath your skirt." I gave her the rundown of options, and even lifted my skirt the tiniest bit to show her the navy spandex shorts I always, always wore. Even over tights during winter. Spencer nodded, but now she was looking behind me, trying to figure out which of the boys had been staring at her. The warning bell rang. I needed to hurry to class, so I could get settled and focused before the quiz. "I'm sure I'll see you around, Spencer. And let me know if you have any questions about school stuff."

BOOK: siobhan vivian - not that kind of girl
8.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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