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Authors: Mari Mancusi

Tags: #Divorce, #Science & Technology, #Sports & Recreation, #Cartoons and comics, #Fantasy games, #People & Places, #Comic Books; Strips; Etc, #Massachusetts, #Schools, #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Love & Romance, #Comics & Graphic Novels, #United States, #Children of divorced parents, #Games, #Marriage & Divorce, #Fiction, #School & Education, #Role playing, #Family, #General, #New Experience, #High schools, #Moving; Household

Gamer Girl (2 page)

BOOK: Gamer Girl
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"I thought
I'd walk you into the office," she replied, obviously pleased
with herself.

Oh, God. Oh,
God. "You really don't have to--"

"I
insist."

Of course she
did. She also insisted on grabbing me by

12

the hand when
we crossed the street and her iron grip didn't loosen as we
approached the school. The sinking feeling in my stomach was getting
worse.

I could feel
the stares as soon as we reached the school entrance and heard the
snickers. Not surprising, I guess. How often did you see a grandma
dragging a unicorn-clad girl through the front doors of your local
high school? They all probably thought I was special needs.

"We'll go
to the principal's office and get your schedule," Grandma
explained, as if I were a five-year-old on her first day of
kindergarten. I hung my head and prayed for some kind of divine
intervention. Maybe I was only dreaming. I'd wake up any second now,
cozy in my bed, realizing this was all just one big, long, horrible
nightmare.

But no such
luck. I was really here. And the nightmare was my reality.

We stepped
through the double doors, into a sea of lip-glossed Barbies and Tom
Brady wannabes. I did a double take. Caitlin warned me this could
happen, but I'd laughed her off. Surely every high school had some
diversity, right?

Evidently
wrong. It was as if I'd wandered into a living, breathing American
Eagle commercial. Shudder. I looked around, desperately trying to
pinpoint at least one person who would prefer Hot Topic over H&M,
but came up empty.

Where were the
mop-headed emo boys and Edward Cullen-worshipping Goth girls? Where
were the skater kids? The punk rockers?

I felt a lump
rise to my throat. This was so not good.

13

Anger burned in
my gut. Stupid Mom for leaving Dad. Maybe if Mom wasn't in such a
hurry to skip town, they could have gotten counseling or something.
Worked it out. Then I'd be back in Boston right now, in my old
school, laughing with my old friends, without a care in the world.

Instead of
rotting away in my current hell.

The sea of kids
parted, suddenly, almost diving out of the way. I look down the newly
formed path, raising my eyebrows. Four kids--two boys and two
girls--sauntered down the hallway in a way you usually only see in
teen movies. Heads high, shoulders back, self-satisfied smirks
written across their perfect faces. They might as well have been
wearing T-shirts with the word
popular
scrawled across the
front.

"Who are
they?" I wondered aloud, forgetting Grandma for a moment.

"You must
be new," a Buddy Holly/Elvis Costello look-alike to my right
chuckled. The only kid I'd seen so far that even remotely stood out
from the rest of the clones. "That's Hannah Dustin High's royal
court. Billy, Chad, Lucy, and Chelsea. In that order. They pretty
much rule the school."

That much was
obvious, given the awed stares of the rest of the kids. I studied the
four of them closer. Lucy wore a cheerleading outfit. No shock there.
Chelsea, on the other hand, was channeling her inner Jackie O,
dressed to impress with a pristine pink suit, complete with a
requisite string of pearls and a dainty white clutch in her
well-manicured hand. It should have looked old-fashioned, but the
girl totally worked it.

14

I turned my
attention to the two boys. Billy was tanned, tall and muscular,
good-looking--your typical jock meat-head, really--wearing a Patriots
jersey and camouflage pants. And Chad .. .

My breath
hitched as my eyes fell on Chad. He was tall, too, but lean--like a
cat, almost--carrying himself with the slinky grace of a model or
movie star. He had curly blond hair and piercing blue eyes, framed
with long sooty lashes. A chiseled face with perfectly sculpted
cheekbones and a full mouth that looked perfectly kissable.

I shivered.
Utterly delicious.

Not that it
mattered. I mean, let's face it. Even if I
were
dressed in my
normal clothes and not unicorn chic, no one like him would ever go
out with someone like me. I was a skater kid's girlfriend, not the
homecoming queen. And this wasn't some bad eighties Molly Ringwald
movie like
Pretty in Pink.

Besides, I
reminded myself as I forced my gaze away from his beautiful face, he
was probably dumb and spoiled and used to girls fawning over him.
Good-looking guys usually were. Especially if they found themselves
in the popular clique, as this guy had. I'm sure he would annoy the
hell out of me the second he opened his mouth.

Still, I had to
admit, there was just something about him. . . .

I realized the
four of them had stopped in front of me. Oh, joy. Time to be sized up
and judged by the popular clique.

15

This day was
getting more and more like a bad after-school special every minute.
After the commercial break, I'd probably start drinking and doing
drugs, just to fit in, only to have my best friend die and my mother
convince me to head to rehab and restart my life, friendless, sober,
and alone, but strangely happy and peaceful about it all.

"Nice
shirt." Chelsea sniffed, giving me a once-over.

"Yeah, I
think my five-year-old sister has one just like it," Lucy added
snottily.

"Hey,
leave the girl alone," Billy said with a smirk. "It's
obvious she's horny!" He cracked up at his own lame joke. "Get
it? Horny? Like the unicorn on her shirt?" He high-fived Chad,
who seemed a bit reluctant to slap his hand back. Or maybe it was
just my imagination.

In the
meantime, the hallway erupted in laughter and jeers, totally egging
him on. I could feel my face burning with humiliation as I stared at
my feet, wishing to be anywhere in the world but here. I couldn't
believe it. Two minutes into my new school year and I was already the
class joke.

I suddenly
realized Grandma was squinting at Billy intently. At first I thought
she might be considering coming to my aid. But then her face lit up
and she squealed, "Billy? Billy Henderson? Is that you?" to
my new arch nemesis.

I cringed. I
had no idea what was coming, but I knew it couldn't be good.

Sure enough,
Billy stiffened. "Hi, Mrs. Miller," he mumbled out of the
corner of his mouth. I cocked my head in

16

question. The
two of them knew each other? A split second later, Grandma had let go
of my hand to crush Billy into a tight embrace. Guess so.

"Oh,
Billy," she crowed, releasing him from the hug. "It's so
good to see you! You're all grown up now. Last time I saw you, you
were four feet tall and still wetting the bed!"

Laughter broke
out among the crowd and Billy's face darkened to a beet red. I gaped
in horror. This was not happening. This could not be happening. My
grandma, embarrassing the most popular kid in school. On my first
day.

Billy whirled
around to face the crowd. "Shut up!" he growled. "She's
lying. I swear."

Was it too late
to pretend the old woman had Alzheimer's and had just wandered into
school by mistake? Absolutely no relation to me whatsoever?

"Billy,
this is my granddaughter Maddy."

Evidently it
was.

She shoved me
forward, having no idea about the scene she was causing. "Maddy,
do you remember Billy from back when you were little? He used to live
down the street. I babysat him while his mother was at work."

I stared at
Billy. He stared back at me, his face a mixture of humiliation and
fury. I read his expression clear as day. I was the one who would pay
for this public embarrassment. And I would pay dearly. After all, the
others might have eventually forgotten my fashion faux pas, but Billy
would never forget this.

17

"Come on,
Grandma," I said, steering her toward the door marked MAIN
OFFICE
.
"I need to get my schedule."

"Come on,
Grandma," Billy mocked in a high-pitched voice as the elderly
woman turned away. "Let's go home and play with unicorns."

I glared at
him, wanting nothing more than to smack him upside the head and wipe
that ugly smirk off his face. But what good would it do, really?
There was no winning for me in this situation and I knew it. So I
sucked up my pride and turned away, following Grandma into the
office, where she was talking to a secretary. "I think you're
all set now, Madeline," she declared, handing me a slip of
paper. "I've done my grandmotherly duties. Now you behave
yourself on your first day."

I sighed and
took the schedule. "Thanks, Grandma," I said.

"Have a
great day, sweetie, and I'll see you back at the house tonight."
Stepping out into the hall, she called out, "I'll even make you
your favorite bunny rabbit cookies."

Ah, yes, the
bunny rabbit cookies I liked back when I was six years old. The icing
on the anticool cake.

"Bye,
Grandma," I said, resigning myself to my fate of school loser.

I reluctantly
stepped into the hallway and faced the masses again.

"Aren't
you going to say good-bye to Grandma?" Chel sea was teasing
Billy, nudging him in the ribs. He glowered at her.

18

"Shut the
hell up," he growled. "I don't even know who that crazy
loon was."

"She
certainly seemed to know you."

"Billy
wets the bed, Billy wets the bed," Lucy chimed in, in a singsong
voice.

"SHUT UP!"
Billy roared. He met my eyes with his, furious and full of hatred.
"You are so dead, Freak Girl," he muttered under his
breath. Then he pushed by me and into the crowd, which parted for him
as it did before. His gang followed him, still giggling. Chad lagged
behind, glancing backward. He caught my eye, gave a sheepish shrug,
and mouthed the word "Sorry." Then he and his friends
turned the corner and disappeared.

I stared after
them, shocked by Chad's apology. I had so not expected that. Maybe he
was different from his friends. Not that it mattered. Nice or not, he
was way out of my league and I knew it.

Still, he was
so cute. So, so cute.

"Wow, way
to make a first impression," said a voice to my right as the
crowd dispersed. I looked over to see the Elvis Costello boy on my
right. He wore a black turtleneck, dark blue jeans, and thick black
glasses over his brown eyes. Very hipster-nerd chic. "I'm Matt,"
he said, holding out a hand. "And you, Maddy, have just
embarrassed the most powerful kid in school."

"I didn't
say anything," I protested weakly, knowing that it didn't
matter. I was guilty by association, and while Billy couldn't
retaliate against Grandma, he could and would

19

make my life a
living hell. I just knew it. "This is so not how I wanted my
first day to begin."

"Meh, it's
really not about you, you know. Those guys hate pretty much everyone
not in their immediate social circle. And that means ninety-five
percent of the school. Funny, when you consider the same ninety-five
percent loves them and worships the ground they walk on."

I made a face.
"Well, not me. Count me in for hating the haters, thank you very
much." Except maybe Chad. He was different. But I wasn't about
to admit that to Matt.

"The
Haters." Matt chuckled. "That's a fitting name actually."
The bell rang, cutting him off. "Gotta get to class," he
said, winking at me. "See you around. And don't let the Haters
get you down."

20

CHAPTER 2

I'D LOVE to say
my day got better from there, but it would be a lie. I felt like a
leper as I walked through the halls. I could feel people pointing and
whispering as I passed. And why wouldn't they? I was wearing a
freaking unicorn sweatshirt. And I'm sure there wasn't a soul in
school who hadn't now heard of Grandma's taking on Billy Henderson.

I tried using
my cell phone to call Caitlin--to at least get a comforting ear--only
to have it confiscated by a teacher who told me that here at Hannah
Dustin, cell phones needed to be kept in lockers until the end of the
day. I tried sneaking out of school to buy a new outfit, only to be
stopped and told there was no open campus here. I was trapped. A POW
with unicorns on my chest. It probably could have been worse, but I
wasn't sure how.

After what
seemed an eternity, the final bell rang. I retrieved my cell phone
from the office, then caught the early bus home. Mom greeted me at
the door.

"How was
your first day?" she asked, her cheerful expression

21

not completely
masking her tired eyes. Then she looked down at the frolicking
unicorns on my chest. "That's a new look for you." She
smirked.

I opened my
mouth to tell her about the hell that was my day, then I saw Grandma
lurking in the hallway behind her. "Fine," I muttered
instead. "I've got homework." I pushed past her and headed
up to my room.

"Fine?"
Mom called after me. "That's all? What did you think of your
teachers? Were the kids nice? Did you make any new friends?"

Anger burned in
my gut at her questions. I knew she had no idea, but I couldn't help
blaming her for asking. After all, she was the one who forced me to
attend this miserable school to begin with. To leave my friends
behind.

"Oh,
sure," I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. "Tons of
friends. In fact, I'm a shoo-in for homecoming."

"Maddy,
come back here and talk to me!" Mom called after me.

I ignored her,
taking the steps two at a time until I reached the top landing and
ran to my room. I flopped on my bed and grabbed my cell out of my
purse and dialed Caitlin.

"Hello?"
my friend answered a moment later, sounding out of breath and giggly.

BOOK: Gamer Girl
11.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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