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Authors: Gretchen McNeil

Get Even

BOOK: Get Even
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DEDICATION

For Ginger Clark and Kristin Daly Rens,
without whom there is no there there

EPIGRAPH

Revenge should have no bounds.

—SHAKESPEARE,
HAMLET
,
ACT
4

ONE

BREE SAT BACK AGAINST THE CHAIN-LINK FENCE, BOUNCING
her tennis racket lightly against the toe of her black Converse. “Why do we still have physical education in school?”

John snatched the racket out of her hand. “It’s a political conspiracy to repress the youth of America through enforced humiliation.”

A quartet of diligent tennis players trotted past Bree and John to the last empty court and began to hit the ball back and forth over the net with enthusiastic, if not particularly accurate, strokes. They looked lame in their white skirts and sneakers, glistening in the fierce afternoon sun, as they bobbed and swayed like Maria Sharapova in a Grand Slam final.

“You’d think,” Bree said, pulling her knees up to her chin, “that a fancy prep school like Bishop DuMaine would have some kind of virtual phys ed. This
is
Silicon Valley. Shouldn’t we be high-tech?”

A whistle blared from the other side of the courts. “Deringer! Baggott!” Coach Sampson pointed at them with her racket. “This isn’t break time.”

Bree scanned the occupied courts. “We’ve got next,” she shouted, accompanied by an overly enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Coach Sampson slowly shook her head in disgust as she turned her attention to a mixed doubles team.

“First week of school and I already hate phys ed.” John tossed Bree’s racket onto the court. “Can’t your dad get us out of this?”

Bree arched a brow. “Can’t your mom?”

“What’s the point of having a state senator as my best friend’s dad if we don’t get any perks?”

“What’s the point of having the school secretary as my best friend’s mom,” Bree mocked, “if we don’t get any perks?”

John ran his fingers through his black hair, dyed the only color not verboten by Bishop DuMaine’s strict dress code. “At least I’m not afraid to ask.”

“I’m not afraid,” Bree snapped.

“You will be.” John hunched his shoulders and employed his crackly voiced Yoda impression. “You. Will. Be.”

Bree rolled her eyes. Most days, John’s geeky insistence that there was a
Star Wars
quote for every occasion was relatively entertaining, but today it was about as welcome as a raging case of the herps. All she could think about was tomorrow’s supposedly surprise school assembly.

“Did you hear about the special assembly tomorrow?” John said out of the blue.

Bree inhaled sharply. Was he reading her mind? “There’s an assembly tomorrow?” she asked, trying to sound indifferent.

John nodded. “Called by Father Uberti himself. Overheard him talking to my mom about it in the office this morning.”

Bree smoothed down her thick bangs and avoided John’s eyes. “Why is he calling an assembly?”

“Duh.” John turned to face her. “It’s gotta be about DGM.”

“DGM is going down,” a voice boomed from behind them.

Bree craned her neck and found Rex Cavanaugh, flanked by his wingmen, Tyler Brodsky and Kyle Tanner, on the other side of the chain-link fence. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder with tree-trunk arms folded across overly broad chests. All three wore matching royal blue polo shirts sporting the words “’Maine Men,” with the Bishop DuMaine crest emblazoned over their hearts.

Part club, part school-sanctioned goon squad, the ’Maine Men had been created by Father Uberti in response to the school-wide wave of humiliating revenge pranks perpetrated by an anonymous group known only as DGM. In an amazing, ironic move, old F.U. had recruited the school’s top tier of bullies, poseurs, and power-hungry egomaniacs—the same people DGM targeted—and tasked them with ferreting out the students behind the group.

Much to Bree’s delight, the ’Maine Men had been a total bust. In the last year and a half, the score was: DGM—6, ’Maine Men—0.

And she hoped that score held. At least for one more day.

“Did you hear me?” Rex barked.

Bree squinted into the sunshine. “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?” Next to her, John snorted.

“Huh?” Rex asked.

“What do you want?” Bree said slowly, articulating each word.

“DGM is going down,” Rex repeated. Apparently, that was his only talking point. “Once and for all.”

“Right,” Bree said, narrowing her eyes. “Because you’ve done such a fantastic job of that so far.”

Rex shoved his sweaty face against the fence, so close that Bree could differentiate the individually clogged pores across the bridge of his nose. “We know you’re involved, Deringer. Just wait till tomorrow. Even your daddy won’t be able to save you.”

John was on his feet in an instant, wedging his body between Bree and the fence. “Lay off, Cavanaugh.”

Rex shook the chain link back and forth like a caged gorilla. “Maybe you want to be next, Baggott the Faggot?”

Bree threw back her head in a mock laugh. “Ha. Ha, ha. Cuz that joke’s never not funny.”

“Rex!” A sandy-haired guy with a horrific case of acne trotted up. Bree had never seen him before, but judging by the creases down the front of his blue ’Maine Men shirt, it had recently been removed from its packaging. A new recruit. “Rex, you’ve got to see this.”

“Who are you?” Rex said, his eyes still fixed on John.

“Ronny DeStefano?” the new guy said.

Rex shook his head. “Who?”

Ronny’s forehead bunched up in confusion. “We met at Jezebel’s house party last week.”

Rex pursed his lips as if trying to force his Neanderthal brain to recall the booze-soaked party. “You new here?”

“Yeah,” Ronny huffed. “We have a mutual friend, remember? From junior high?” He looked at Rex pointedly. “We both had a weird experience with—”

“Right!” Rex said quickly. “Ronny. What’s up?”

Ronny nodded toward the soccer field. “There’s some shit going down with Coach Creed. I thought you should—”

“Let’s roll,” Rex said, cutting him off. He stormed away, Tyler and Kyle close behind, leaving Ronny to scamper after them like a puppy.

Bree looked at John. “Any idea what that was all about?”

“Dunno.” John stared over her head toward the soccer field, where a crowd was gathering. “But I have a feeling we’re about to find out.”

 

Olivia swept out of the girls’ locker room, racket in hand, and straightened her designer tennis dress.

“That outfit looks amazing on you,” Amber said, gliding up beside her. “I’m glad you don’t mind wearing last season’s line.”

“Not at all,” Olivia said. Half of her wardrobe consisted of hand-me-down items Amber had deemed “last season.”

Peanut fitted a baseball cap onto her head, pulling her long ponytail through the back. “Too bad Donté’s basketball practice is in the gym,” she said absently. “If he saw you in that dress, you’d have him eating out of your hand.”

Olivia stiffened. “Why would I care what Donté thinks?”

Peanut’s eyes grew wide. “Didn’t you tell me last week that you were going to get back together with him?”

That was supposed to be a secret, Peanut.

Amber arched an eyebrow. “Liv, sweetie. We talked about this. You need someone . . .”

“Richer,” Jezebel said, lumbering up behind them. She pulled a white hoodie on over her beefy shoulders and shook her head. “
You
broke up with
him
, remember?”

Olivia bit her lip. “Um, yeah.”

“If you try to reboot,” Amber added, “you’ll look pathetic.”

“I can’t believe we have to wait until Monday to find out what the fall production’s going to be,” Olivia said, changing the subject. The last thing she wanted was another conversation with Amber about Donté Greene. “The anticipation is killing me.”


I
can’t believe Mr. Cunningham is missing the first week of school,” Jezebel said with a shake of her head. “What kind of teacher does that?”

Amber fished a tube of gloss out of the pocket of her new designer tennis dress and lacquered her lips sans mirror. “I’m still putting my money on Mamet.”

Olivia smiled. Amber would be the last person to have inside information on the drama department.

“Whatever it is,” Peanut said, “there will be a perfect role for you, Livvie.”

“You never know.” Olivia ran a hand through her pixie cut and laughed. “Maybe with my hair this short, he’ll want to cast me as a boy.”

Jezebel sighed dramatically. “Only you would shave your hair for a role and have it grow back looking like a supermodel.”

The role of crotchety cancer patient Vivian Bearing in
Wit
last spring had been Olivia’s crowning achievement. Mr. Cunningham had offered her a bald cap for the performance, but Olivia had shocked everyone by shaving off her strawberry blond curls for opening night. It was a decision she never regretted—every performance was sold out, and she got at least three curtain calls each night.

“Guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” Amber said with a toss of her brown mane. “Come on, ladies. Tennis awai . . .”

Her voice trailed off as she caught sight of something on the other side of the yard. Olivia turned and saw Rex blazing across the blacktop at a breakneck pace. He was bookended by Tyler and Kyle, with some skinny guy Olivia had never seen before trailing in their wake.

“Hi, baby!” Amber cooed at Rex. She turned to the side and posed provocatively in her barely there outfit.

“Not now!” Rex shouted, flashing his palm.

Amber’s jaw dropped as Rex and his buddies broke into a jog. “What the fuck?”

“What’s that all about?” Peanut asked.

“No idea.” Olivia eyed the large group of students gathering at the top of the hill above the soccer field, as Rex and his ’Maine Men buddies pushed their way into the throng. That couldn’t be good.

Amber sniffed at the air. Like a shark with blood in the water, she could sense gossip-worthy drama from a mile away. A sly smile broke the corners of her mouth.

“I think gym class just got significantly more interesting.”

 

If Kitty had ever doubted that Coach Creed needed his ass handed to him, he was making it real easy for her to get over it.

“Move it, Baranski!” Coach Creed’s bark drifted across the all-weather track where Kitty was leading the Bishop DuMaine varsity girls’ volleyball team in a warm-up run before practice.

Kitty paused. Below her, students dotted the hillside that stretched down to the soccer field. Clad in their blue-and-gold gym uniforms, they were frozen in various stages of hill charges, eyes fixed on the bottom of the slope and the chubby, panting figure of Theo Baranski.

Coach Creed towered over him, hands on hips, flexing his pecs like an MMA fighter. “It’s the first week of school, Baranski, and you’re already falling behind.”

Theo’s face was beet red, and slick with either sweat or tears. Maybe both. He stared up at the steep hillside, his eyes reflecting a mixture of fear and shame. Deep inside Kitty, a memory stirred, so close and so real it was as if she was back in sixth-grade math class, where the numbers and symbols of pre-algebra swam before her eyes, as meaningless to her as hieroglyphics.

Kitty squeezed her eyes shut. The shame of not knowing the right answer. The fear that Ms. Turlow would call on her . . .

How can you be the only Asian kid on the planet who isn’t good at math?

“How can you be the only kid on the planet,” Coach Creed continued, “who can’t haul his ass up that hill?”

Mika jogged up behind her. “That poor kid’s got enough problems without Creed jumping down his throat every day.”

“I know,” Kitty said quietly. Theo had transferred to Bishop DuMaine last spring, and Coach Creed had been on his case since day one.

Mika pulled off her headband and patted her tight black curls into place. “Theo’s going to have a heart attack if he tries to charge up that hill one more time. We should do something.”

We already have.

As much as Kitty wanted to step in and help, her hands were tied. She’d been hoping Coach Creed would lay off Theo the first week of school, giving DGM enough time to put their plan into motion. No such luck.

“You know,” Mika said slowly. “The volleyball team could really use a manager. Do you think I should talk to Coach about bringing Theo on board?”

Kitty smiled. “That’s an awesome idea.”

A commotion rippled through the gathering crowd, as Amber Stevens pushed her way to the front, smiling gleefully in Theo’s direction. “What a pig!”

“Great,” Mika muttered. “The Supreme Bitch has arrived.”

Amber straightened her neck with the regality of a queen and addressed her subjects. “I mean, have a little self-respect. Back away from the double cheeseburger.”

“Move it!” Coach Creed roared. The gathered audience was fueling his rage. “I don’t care if it kills you. Haul your ass up that hill.”

Without warning, John Baggott emerged from the mass of students. “Screw this,” he said, and marched down the hill.

 

Margot paused midway up the hill, sticky and uncomfortable in her oversize sweats, and gulped huge mouthfuls of air as she tried to calm herself down. Beneath the layers of cotton and microfiber, her heart pounded in her chest, not from the physical exertion of hill charges, but from outrage as she witnessed Coach Creed’s latest assault on Theodore Baranski.

“I said, move it!” Coach Creed growled. “Everyone’s waiting for you.”

Margot understood the degradation, the knowledge that every set of eyes was on him, judging his overweight body, murmuring “fat ass” under their breath while they tacitly assumed the obesity was his fault. Without thinking, Margot touched her forearm through the sleeve of her sweatshirt. She desperately wanted to help Theo, but how could she without ruining DGM’s plan?

Suddenly, the tall, lithe figure of John Baggott ambled over to Coach Creed.

“Scuse me!” he said, his voice light and his angular face all smiles. “Don’t mean to interrupt, but are you Theo Baranski?”

Margot started. What was John doing? Why didn’t Bree stop him?

Coach Creed whirled around. “What do you want, Baggott?”

John coolly met Coach Creed’s glare. “I came from the office,” he said, still smiling. “Father Uberti asked me to fetch Theo from gym class. Some kind of emergency.”

BOOK: Get Even
12.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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