Authors: Cecily von Ziegesar
Tags: #Romance, #Young Adult, #Chick-Lit
If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.
he chapel bell tolled on that cold January morning, alerting the Waverly Academy student body that there were only five minutes before the dean’s first address of the brand-new year. Jenny Humphrey took a deep breath of crisp air as she bolted down one of the salted paths crisscrossing the snow-covered quad. Her fleece-lined Camper boots crunched against the snow, and the ends of the long gold-and-white scarf her mother had sent from Prague trailed behind her like a flag. It was the Monday morning after Christmas break, and the scene was still unblemished by footprints and snowball fights. The sloping roofs of the brick school buildings were covered in white, looking like so many gingerbread houses. It made Jenny fall in love with Waverly Academy all over again.
Up ahead, a crowd of students streamed into the stone chapel, eager to get Dean Marymount’s welcome-back-to-campus address over with. “You’re so tan, Jenny!” Sage Francis exclaimed, waving from the top of the stairs. Her pin-straight corn silk-blond hair stuck out from underneath a hand-knit pink-and-white-striped beret. “I can’t believe you got to spend two weeks in the Bahamas with the Vernons.”
“Your freckles really came out.” Benny Cunningham eyed Jenny critically as she expertly tied her striped Waverly tie into a perfect Windsor knot. It had taken Jenny about twenty tries in front of the mirror to get her own knot right. Benny’s camel Michael Kors coat flapped open over her regulation maroon Waverly blazer. Marymount’s first chapel address meant everyone had to dress alike—at least for the morning.
“Just one week,” Jenny corrected Sage, ignoring Benny’s passive-aggressive freckle comment as the girls waited for the crowd to move through the door. She’d spent Christmas in New York with her dad, Rufus, and brother, Dan, and then a week with Callie Vernon, her beautiful Southern belle roommate, at her family’s retreat in Nassau. As they packed to go home for break, Callie had begged her to come along on their family vacation, not wanting to be left alone with her parents. Jenny was a little intimidated by the idea of spending a week with Callie’s glamorous Georgia-governor mother and international real estate magnate father. But they’d been surprisingly easygoing, spending the days on their laptops and cell phones and letting the girls do as they pleased—which mostly consisted of parking their rattan beach mats on the warm sand and soaking up the sun. Jenny made her way through the condo’s complete collection of Agatha Christie books as well as two whole tubes of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer sunblock.
“Really, I hope you used lotion with a high
,” Benny, whose pale skin looked downright Casperesque, added. The three girls elbowed their way through the heavy oak doorway into the chapel. “Tropical sun practically guarantees skin cancer and wrinkles,” she said with a tone of authority.
Jenny almost laughed. At Constance Billard, her old school back in New York City, she was always jealous of her classmates who came back tanned and gorgeous from their breaks in Palm Beach or St. Lucia. Now, she was actually one of them.
“Grab your seats, Owls!” Ms. Rose, Jenny’s English teacher, directed. She clapped her hands and attempted to shepherd the slow-moving students inside. Even the faculty was required to wear their regulation blazers and ties for the first chapel meeting, and the petite teacher could easily have passed for a student.
The high-ceilinged chapel was warm and humid. The aisles were crowded with boys in wrinkled blazers, slapping one another’s backs and exchanging elaborate knuckle-bumping handshakes. Girls hugged and chattered about their family trips to Anguilla or Aspen.
“Jenny!” Alison Quentin, Jenny’s friend from art class, called to her from a bench near the front of the chapel. “I saved you a seat.”
Jenny squeezed past a pack of giggling soccer team girls admiring the diamond-encrusted tennis bracelet on Rifat Jones’s wrist. She slid onto the hard wooden bench next to Alison. “How was your break?” Jenny asked, unwinding her scarf from her neck. She shook some melting snow off her long brown curls. “You were in Connecticut, right?”
“Boring. So glad to be back to civilization.” Alison rolled her eyes and pushed up the frayed sleeves of her blazer. “Listen, what are you doing for Jan Plan? Verena and I decided last night to write and perform a one-act play, but we need another person to make it work. Do you want in?”
Jan Plan was one of Waverly Academy’s greatest institutions. Instead of regular classes, students spent the month of January on campus working on one less-conventional learning project. Most people worked in pairs or small groups, on anything from tracking precipitation patterns in Rhinecliff to writing a paper about the representation of beauty in
. There was a handful of classes taught by Waverly profs for the students who couldn’t function without the regular class structure, but they were far more fun than your average chem or algebra class: popular choices were Knitting 101, Music Appreciation, and various language immersion courses that meant spending hours in the screening room watching foreign films and eating popcorn. Best of all, students were graded on a pass/fail basis. Which naturally meant sleeping late, and parties every night.
“Thanks for asking,” Jenny said, stuffing her pink Gap gloves into her blazer pockets. She shifted her knees to the side to let a bulky football player squeeze past. “But I was kind of hoping to work on this art project I’ve been thinking about.”
After taking two amazing fall-semester art classes—advanced figure drawing and portraiture—Jenny was dying to put what she learned toward a solo art project. Over break, she’d been standing at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Eighty-fifth Street, watching the people stream across the street as the
sign blinked on. Wet snow drifted down from the sky, and something about the way the people were moving made Jenny wish she had a camera—or that she
a camera. She tried to imagine what the photograph would look like if she left the shutter open: the garbage cans and mailboxes on the sidewalk would stay the same, but the people would be just a beautiful blur of motion. Immediately, she knew she wanted to try and replicate that impression with her own eyes and hands.
Which was going to be tricky, since students were encouraged to work together for Jan Plan. Technically, only juniors and seniors were allowed to work alone with permission from their advisers. “Ms. Rose said I’ll need to get permission from Marymount to do it on my own.”
Alison ran a tube of cherry ChapStick across her lips. “Good luck. You know what a grouch he can be.”
Jenny nodded slowly. She was dreading asking Dean Marymount for permission to work alone on her project, especially since she’d already been in trouble so many times this year. What could she possibly say to make him believe she was a responsible, rule-abiding Owl? “Wait, where is Dean Marymount?” Jenny asked, craning her neck to see if she could spot him up by the stage. The chapel bell had finished chiming five minutes ago, and a murmur ran through the crowd as students began to realize that something wasn’t quite right.
is not Marymount,” Alison whispered. The entire student body watched as a tall man with a head of thick steel-gray hair strode confidently across the stage. He was in his late forties, dapper, and looked like he could have played James Bond in a different life—a far cry from the balding, sweater-vest-wearing Dean Marymount. “Is that Armani?” Alison asked, nodding at his expensive-looking suit.
By the time James Bond had reached the podium at the center of the stage, the entire chapel was abuzz with conversation. “Everyone, please.” He raised a single hand into the air. “There’s no need to panic.” The man had a deep, soothing voice, and, as if by magic, the room grew silent. “Dean Marymount is alive and well, but there’s been a change in the administration. My name is Dr. Henry Dresden, and I’m your new dean.”
The chapel gave a collective gasp.
“Things are going to be a little different with me in charge,” Dr. Dresden chuckled, and smoothed his royal blue tie. “I’ll be down in the trenches with you. I’ll be teaching a class spring semester—Advanced Comp Lit, for those of you unlucky enough to be in it.” He gave a half grin to the stunned students.
“Ohmigod. Is it too late to register?” Alison whispered, nudging Jenny sharply in the ribs.
“Also, working among you will be my own children, Isaac and Isla.” He tilted his face slightly to smile at a boy and a girl sitting at the edge of the stage. Jenny hadn’t noticed them before. They were both about sixteen or seventeen, with dark wavy hair and pale green eyes… and incredibly good-looking. They wore maroon Waverly blazers that still had a starched, brand-new look to them.
“Someone answered my prayers.” Ryan Reynolds leaned forward against the back of Jenny’s pew to punch Lon Baruzza on the arm. “I got dibs on the chick.”
Alison rolled her eyes. “Good luck with that.” The dean’s daughter, whose wavy brown hair looked perfectly tousled, tucked her plaid Burberry skirt tighter around her knees, as if she knew all the boys in the crowd were staring at her.
Jenny turned her eyes to the boy. He was adorable, with dark, slightly curled hair and smooth, tanned skin. Her stomach dropped when she realized he was staring straight at her. A faint smile appeared on his lips, as if he liked what he saw.
Her heart pounded at twice its normal speed. Was she imagining it? The boy’s striking green eyes held a playful look, a challenge to hold his gaze. Suddenly, the art project that had seemed so important five minutes ago was the furthest thing from her mind.
Jenny was used to being the new kid on campus, but now she was happy to relinquish the title.
Instant Message Inbox
|TinsleyCarmichael:||Think Marymount got fired? Or that his wife caught him with Pardee and made him leave Waverly?|
|CallieVernon:||Who cares? This dean seems so chill.|
|TinsleyCarmichael:||Too bad he wasn’t dean when Easy was around.|
|CallieVernon:||I know. Maybe then I’d still have a boyfriend.|
|TinsleyCarmichael:||And his hottie kids? That’s not going to hurt his popularity.|
|CallieVernon:||U have a boyfriend, don’t forget. Leave the hotties for us spinsters.|
Instant Message Inbox
|RyanReynolds:||I officially call dibs on the dean’s daughter.|
|AlanStGirard:||No dice, bro. We all saw her at the same time.|
|RyanReynolds:||That’s why I’m calling dibs!|
|AlanStGirard:||Sorry. All’s fair in love and hot chicks.|
allie Vernon yawned as she stepped through the oversize doors of the dining hall. It resembled an old English cathedral, with thick stone walls and an arched ceiling. The walls were lined with black-and-white class pictures dating back to Waverly’s founding and shots of the campus when it was little more than two brick buildings and the chap el. Callie’s parents had met at Waverly and were both in one of the class photographs. It made her both slightly nervous and slightly annoyed that she couldn’t escape their watchful eyes even a thousand miles away.
Callie dragged her feet over to the cereal bar. She’d found it almost impossible to get out of bed that morning, her body still on the sleep-till-noon schedule of her Caribbean vacation. After pouring herself a bowl of MultiGrain Cheerios and a glass of orange juice, her hazel eyes scanned the breakfast crowd. The hall was a sea of alarmingly similar maroon-clad bodies, and it took her a moment to single out the adorably sun-freckled Jenny, her Bahamian companion, and her other best friend, Tinsley Carmichael. They were sitting at a long oak table in front of the fireplace with Benny and Sage and a bunch of other Dumbarton girls.
“Nice hair,” Tinsley said cheerfully, reaching out to flick Callie’s messy ponytail. She wore a thin black T-shirt and a pair of narrow-wale black Earl cords. How did Tinsley always manage to just throw things on and still look so good? “Looks like you’re still on vacation time.”