Authors: Melody Carlson
© 2013 by Melody Carlson
Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Ebook edition created 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Scripture used in this book, whether quoted or paraphrased by the characters, is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2007
wo weeks into her junior year and Devon Fremont felt dangerously bored. Okay,
-word, as her mom would say) was an understatement—Devon felt like she was sleepwalking. Anyway, she reminded herself as she strolled through the well-maintained Northwood Academy courtyard, she was still the “new girl” on campus. That alone should make life interesting. Acclimating to a new high school, new friends, new classes, pretty much new everything . . . this was not the formula for boredom. And yet Devon felt something was missing. She decided it was high time to stir things up.
“This school is too freaking quiet,” Devon complained to Emma Parks as they met at their usual pre-lunch spot beneath the massive oak tree in the courtyard. Devon glanced over to where several girls were clustered on a nearby bench. Looking
about in a listless sort of way, they seemed bored too. A couple guys were strolling straight toward them, but based on their blank expressions, either the girls were invisible or these guys were from another planet. Or zombies.
“Seriously, what is up with this place?” Devon asked Emma.
“Huh?” Emma’s pale blue eyes squinted in the autumn sunlight. “What do you mean?” Emma had been Devon’s best friend for ages and was one of the main reasons Devon had transferred to Northwood this year. Well, to be more accurate, it was because of Emma
Devon’s mom. After her divorce became final last spring, Mom had become unexplainably paranoid that her only child was going to get into serious trouble before graduating high school. For that reason she’d insisted it was time for Devon to exit the public school system and come here.
“What are you yammering about now?” Emma asked as they walked toward the cafeteria together.
“I just want to know why everyone at Northwood is so totally subdued,” Devon said. “This place feels more like a morgue than a high school.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Emma said defensively. “Just because Northwood’s not as chaotic and crazy as BHS doesn’t mean it’s a morgue.”
“Like you can even remember what Brewster was like,” Devon challenged. “You were there for about two weeks before your mom yanked you out. And that was like three years ago.”
“Well, two weeks was more than enough. The place was a zoo.”
“Yeah, and zoos are fun.” Devon hadn’t even told Emma about some of the crazy events she’d been part of back at BHS.
Emma pushed open the door. “If it’s any comfort, I do remember being upset when I first came here too. But really, it didn’t take long before I got it. This is a great school, Devon. Just give it a chance.”
“I suppose it’s great if you don’t mind being in an old folks’ home. Maybe we should all be wearing our Depends.”
Emma let out a groan as she rolled her eyes.
As they walked through the cafeteria, Devon glanced around the partially filled tables and chairs. This space was only slightly more active than the courtyard, although that may have been because people were occupied with eating. “Seriously, Em, it’s like everyone here is in a stupor . . . or a coma . . . or maybe they’ve been sneaking into their moms’ Xanax.”
Emma flopped her purse on their usual table. “Very funny.” She shook her head dismally.
“What’s very funny?” Cassidy asked as Devon hung her bag on the back of a vacant chair. Emma and her friends claimed this table for lunch every day. And while Devon was grateful to be included in their little clique, she wished these girls were a bit more adventuresome.
“Devon’s just making fun of our school again,” Emma explained with an irritated edge to her voice. “She thinks we’re all on sedatives.”
“Huh?” Abby looked up from her phone. “You’re calling us addicts now?”
“No,” Devon clarified. “It’s just that this place is so quiet. I mean, compared to my old school.”
Cassidy gave Devon a dismal look. “You still claim you’d rather go to school with a bunch of gangsters than get a good education here at Northwood? Seriously?”
Devon was still getting used to these girls, but she had the least tolerance for Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, aka Cassidy Banks. She was pretty sure the feelings were mutual too. Originally Devon assumed this personality conflict was because Cassidy and Emma had been such good friends last year, before Devon showed up and took over. It was natural for Cassidy to resent Devon. But didn’t she realize that Devon and Emma had been best friends since forever?
Devon eyed Cassidy. “Is there some reason we can’t get a good education and have a good time too? Or is that too much to ask of this preppy school?”
Cassidy shrugged in her superior way. “Well, I guess high school is what you make of it. Maybe you haven’t tried hard enough.”
As Devon followed Emma over to the food court, she thought about Cassidy’s answer. It sounded like an invitation for Devon to stir something up. Maybe she would. As she filled her soda cup with ice, Devon noticed Harris Martin just a few feet away. This tall, sandy-haired dude had caught her eye on her first day here. He reminded her of Matthew McConaughey. Right now he was reaching for a cheeseburger and saying something under his breath to his buddy Isaac. They both laughed at whatever witty thing Harris had murmured, and, completely oblivious to Devon’s blatant interest in them, the guys continued on toward the cashier without even a sideways glance. What was up with them?
Devon had been trying to get Harris’s attention for more than a week now. So far, she’d only managed to catch a semi-interested glance that she’d hoped had been cast in her direction but might’ve just as easily been aimed at something else. She wasn’t used to being ignored like this. She caught
her image in the mirrored wall behind the salad bar. Maybe she’d missed something this morning. But her long, thick hair seemed to be in place—some people called her a redhead, but she preferred to say auburn. Her shirt seemed to show off the curves that nature had endowed her with. Even her lip gloss looked fresh.
In the last year, Devon hadn’t had any problem catching a guy’s eye when she wanted—sometimes even when she didn’t. She’d even had some guys following her around at her previous school. Sure, they weren’t the guys she was hoping for, but she’d enjoyed stringing them along. However, she had saved her best flirty moves and smiles for the guys who mattered. Unfortunately, her efforts appeared to be lost on Harris. Was it just him? Or was she losing her appeal altogether?
By the time she and Emma rejoined their friends, Devon was actually starting to question herself. What if she really had lost something? Or perhaps she just wasn’t the kind of girl that interested guys at Northwood. She bit her lip as she set her tray down. Maybe she wasn’t as hot as she’d imagined.
“What’s wrong with you now?” Cassidy demanded of Devon.
“Huh?” Devon sat down.
“You look really perplexed,” Abby said.
“What—were they out of chili fries or something?” Cassidy teased.
The girls laughed like this was humorous.
perplexed,” Devon admitted in a grumpy tone. “I mean, what does it take to get a guy’s attention around here? What’s up with these Northwood boys anyway? Don’t they like girls?”
Her friends laughed harder, and now several slams and
insults were tossed Devon’s way. That’s what you get for being honest.
“Maybe you’re just not their type,” Bryn Jacobs teased. Of course, this was easy for Bryn to say. With her gorgeous mane of naturally blonde hair and those big blue eyes, she was always turning heads. However, as far as Devon knew, Bryn had never had a regular boyfriend either. She didn’t even seem to date. Really, what was up with that?
“I’m serious,” Devon told Bryn. “I’m not used to being ignored like this. Are these guys broken or blind or what?”
“Get over yourself,” Cassidy said impatiently. “Just because our Northwood guys don’t act like those hormone-driven Brewster boys doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them. It just means they have better manners.”
“But it’s a Friday,” Devon pointed out, “with a whole weekend ahead of us. Shouldn’t these guys be thinking about something besides school and sports? What about dating? Don’t they even
girls? It’s as if someone has medicated them so that they can’t even see us girls.”
Bryn giggled. “Trust me. They can see us.”
“I’m not so sure.” Devon shook her head. “Something is fishy. Seventeen- and eighteen-year-old guys who aren’t into girls? There is something seriously wrong with that. It’s not normal.”
As Devon dug into her salad, the table grew quiet, and she couldn’t tell if the girls were thinking about what she’d just said or simply concentrating on their lunches and cell phones. Maybe no one cared.
“I’ll tell you what’s going on,” Emma said quietly.
“Going on with what?” Cassidy asked.
“With the guys in this school.” Emma glanced around as if to be sure no one was around to eavesdrop.
Devon frowned doubtfully at her shy friend. “Are you saying you know why these guys are so uninterested in girls?” How could Emma possibly get this? Her experience with boys was so minimal it was laughable. However, Devon knew better than to tease her best friend.
“I’ll tell you guys what I think is going on,” Emma continued in a hushed tone. “But only if you promise not to repeat it.”
Now she had the attention of all the girls. They’d stopped eating and were leaning toward Emma with interest, giving their word that they wouldn’t tell, but now Emma looked uncertain.
“Come on,” Devon pressed. “Spill the beans. What’s up with these guys? Inquiring minds want to know.”
“Well, I should probably keep my mouth shut . . . but I remember something Edward said a couple years ago—about this speech the guys are given at the start of the school year. Only the junior and senior guys get to hear it.”
“Huh?” Bryn frowned. “Who’s Edward?”
“Emma’s older brother,” Devon explained quickly. Why didn’t Bryn know this? “What kind of speech, Em?”
“Well, I obviously didn’t
the speech, but I did overhear Edward and his buddy talking about it. It seems that Mr. Worthington always gives the older guys this little talk. It’s a Northwood tradition.”
“What kind of talk?” Bryn demanded.
“From what I can tell it has to do with respecting girls. Worthington talks to them about dating and that kind of stuff. I think he challenges the guys to accept a code of honor. I’m not sure, but I do remember that Edward took it pretty seriously in his senior year. He even chose
to date at all . . . well, at least for a while anyway.”
“Good for him,” Cassidy said. “Dating is like asking for trouble.”
“Hey, I remember your brother dated Shandra Tompkins before he graduated,” Abby pointed out. “What was up with that?”
“That’s true,” Emma admitted. “But that was after he’d gone for most of the school year without a single date. I’m just about positive it was because of that little talk.”
“Maybe Worthington’s talk is kind of like the guys’ version of the purity pledge,” Cassidy said with enthusiasm. “You know, like the one we took at church back in middle school. Remember?”
“You took a purity pledge?” Devon asked Cassidy.
Cassidy looked uneasy. “Didn’t you?”
Devon frowned. “No . . .”
“Never mind.” Cassidy shrugged as she reached for her water bottle.
“Anyway,” Emma jumped back in. “That might explain why the guys are acting kinda chilly toward you . . . and the other girls.”
Devon watched Emma push a strand of drab, dishwater blonde hair out of her eyes. If Devon had her way, she would’ve given her best friend a makeover by now. However, Emma had already declined the offer—several times. Still, it wasn’t easy having a ho-hum looking best friend, and it certainly didn’t help the less than warm dating atmosphere here at Northwood. Especially if what Emma was describing was true. A code of honor? How boring was that?
“Well, at least we know what’s going on now,” Bryn said in a dismal tone. “Why we’re being ignored like this. The guys are just trying to be honorable.”
“That’s nice,” Cassidy said. “I like it.”
“It makes sense,” Abby conceded. “Especially since everyone respects Mr. Worthington. I can understand how a speech from him might make guys think twice about dating.”
“It does take the pressure off,” Bryn said. “If no one’s dating, it’s no big deal, right?”
“Maybe it’s no big deal right now.” The wheels in Devon’s head were turning. “But what if things start to change?”
“What’s going to change?” Abby asked.
“The girls.” Devon gave her friends a sly smile.
“How so?” Bryn asked.
“The girls didn’t hear old Worthington’s speech, did they?” Devon was putting together a plan as she spoke.
“Well, no, but—”
“That means we girls don’t have to accept whatever it is that Worthington told them. Do we?”
“Of course we have to accept it,” Cassidy challenged. “Why wouldn’t we accept it?”
“Because it’s no fun.” Devon eyed the girls, wondering how game they’d be. “It’s just plain boring. And I, for one, refuse to go along with it. I want to have some fun this year.”
Abby’s dark eyes flickered with interest. “So what are you going to do about it?”
“I have a plan.”
“Let’s hear it,” Bryn urged.
Devon slowly looked around the table, studying this diverse mix of five girls. Being new to the group, she wasn’t sure what the common denominator was that connected them as friends, or even how long they’d been friends. At first she’d assumed it was church they had in common, but now she knew that wasn’t exactly right because not everyone in this group
attended church. Still, they seemed to be a solid clique, and for now, thanks to Emma, she was part of it—and grateful for it. Even so, she knew they could be having more fun, if only someone would lead the way. That was where she came in.
“Come on,” Abby begged her. “Out with it. Let’s hear your plan.”
“Well, I’m not even sure if it would interest
of you . . .” Devon purposely kept her voice quiet and somewhat mysterious. “But I was imagining a plan . . . or maybe it’s more like a game. Or a game plan.” She laughed.