Read Scandal Online

Authors: Kate Brian

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Social Issues, #Friendship, #Dating & Sex

Scandal (8 page)

BOOK: Scandal
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“Hey, Reed!” she said in full voice.

“Shhhhh!” the rest of the girls replied.

Constance’s blush deepened. She quickly took the empty desk next to Astrid, which creaked loudly as she sat down and sort of listed to the side. Constance braced her feet on the floor and held on to the desk for dear life, clearly terrified of making even more of a scene.

Five minutes passed. I looked at the window. No shadows. No footfalls. My eyes met Ivy’s. Tiffany shifted impatiently in her seat. Shelby cleared her throat and checked her iPhone. Vienna, London, and Portia started to whisper and giggle. The solemn atmosphere we had attempted to create with the late-night meeting time and candles was deteriorating fast. The girls were starting to grow restless. And from the direction of their glances, I could also tell that the Billings Girls were wondering why Ivy was there. I glanced at the window again, growing antsy, and held my watch closer to the candle on my desk.

Nine forty-five. Noelle’s designated time had been nine thirty-five. It seemed Miss Lange had, in fact, moved on.

“All right, it looks like we’re all here,” I began, pushing myself off the desk to stand before them. Everyone looked startled, I’m sure pondering the distinct lack of Noelle. “For the past week, many of us have been wondering what’s to become of Billings. Yes, the building is gone, but for those of us who lived there, being in Billings wasn’t just about the house. It was about us. Our friendship, our sisterhood, our support of one another.”

I paused. Every pair of eyes in the room was riveted on me.

“Well, I think I’ve found a way to preserve the spirit of Billings.” I turned to slide the book off the desk, practically giddy in anticipation of their reactions to what I was about to say.

That was when the window hinges squeaked. Everyone turned to look. Noelle’s black Gucci boots backed through the opening. She eased herself down, her hands clutching the sill, and dropped to the floor, her knees barely bending as her shoes hit the ground. She dusted off the front of her black coat, lifted her hair over her shoulder, and smiled.

“What did I miss?”

She’d shown. She’d actually shown. I looked at Ivy. Her lips were pursed and her entire body looked tense. She was going to get up and walk out. I could feel it in my bones. If I had to choose between her and Noelle …

Well, I didn’t want to have to do that.

“I thought you weren’t coming,” I said to Noelle.

“Are you kidding? Who could ignore an invite like this?” she said, tossing her cream envelope down on my desk like it was a random scrap of paper. She eyed the book clutched in my arms, my teacher’s desk, the students’ desks and chairs gathered in front of me, and gave a wry smile. Then she turned and sat down in the very last desk at the end of the arc.

“Well, Teach?” she said, arching an eyebrow. “How about you educate us on this secret society of yours?”

“Secret society?” Astrid gasped.

“What? That’s so cool!” Kiki added.

Suddenly everyone was whispering, their chairs creaking and shifting. I glared at Noelle. She’d just swooped in here and snatched my big announcement right out from under me.

“Oops,” she mouthed.

I rolled my eyes. “You guys!
Quiet down!
” I whisper-shouted.

Everyone shushed everyone else and soon they were all facing me.

“Okay,” I said, taking a deep breath. “Yes, we are all here to talk about forming a secret society. The Billings Literary Society, to be exact. It was started back in 1915 and was functioning all the way up until Easton absorbed Billings School for Girls in the 1970s.”

“How do you know all this?” Missy interrupted, her nostrils flaring in annoyance.

“Someone left this for me,” I said, lifting the book. “It’s the history of the society.”

Tiffany, Rose, and Astrid all sat forward, eying the book with a covetous gleam in their eyes.

“We may not be able to rebuild our house, but we
can
keep the spirit of Billings alive at Easton,” I said.

Just then, a door opened and closed upstairs. My heart vaulted into my throat and everyone froze. Amberly reached out and grabbed Kiki’s arm. Footsteps slowly crossed the hall overhead. I closed my eyes and prayed that whoever it was hadn’t seen the candlelight, hadn’t heard our voices. There were a few more footsteps. A slam. Then nothing. I looked down the row of terrified eyes, stopping at Noelle. She was glaring at me so hard I could practically read her thoughts: If this stupid little project of mine got her expelled, she was going to eviscerate me.

Ouch.

“Um, Reed?” Kiki said. “I vote that if we’re going to keep meeting like this, we don’t do it here.”

Everyone relaxed a bit, laughing quietly.

“Don’t worry. If everything goes as planned, we’ll only have to meet here one more time,” I told them.

“So?” Noelle said, crossing her arms over her chest as she sat back. “What
is
the plan?”

“Well, before we talk about anything else, I should tell you that the BLS will only have eleven members,” I said, my heart beating nervously. “That’s a really big rule in the book, and I’ve decided to adhere to the book completely.”

“But there are fifteen people here. For
some
reason,” Portia said, eyeing Ivy snidely.

“I know,” I replied, ignoring her pointed tone. I swallowed hard. “Four of us will not get in.”

This announcement was met with dead silence. I glanced nervously at Ivy. She lifted her chin and gave me a confident look.

“How are you going to decide who doesn’t get in?” Tiffany asked.

I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. “The book outlines three tasks that each prospective member has to complete. The pledge mistress—that would be me—grades them. The four lowest scorers would be cut. That’s how they did it back in the day, and that’s how we’re going to do it now.”

They all exchanged dubious looks. I half expected Shelby or Portia to walk out at this point. They weren’t exactly the type of people who looked forward to being tested in any way. And I’d always had the impression that Billings didn’t mean as much to them as it did to the rest of us.

“So, if you’re all in …” I paused to give them one last chance to bail. But no one moved. “The first task will be held here on Monday at midnight. This is the knowledge task. I can’t give you the particulars of how you’ll be tested, but you’re going to want to scrounge up your Easton handbooks and study them. Carefully.”

Shelby scrunched up her face like I was insane. “I don’t even know where that thing is.” Which made sense. She was, after all, a senior, and the handbook was something we were given out the first day we arrived on campus. Most people forgot about it about ten seconds later.

“I’m sure you can get a new one in the office. Or better yet, take one out of the library. Asking Double H’s secretary for one might arouse suspicion.”

“Speaking of Double H … wasn’t there a little announcement about the banning of social clubs?” Vienna said, raising her hand as she spoke.

“Yeah. What does that mean for us?” London added.

There was another creak overhead. We all held our breath. Then a set of keys jangled and the front door slammed so hard some of the furniture piles shook. I looked my friends in the eye, one by one, and summoned the firmest tone I could muster in the midst of my trepidation.

“It means,” I said, “that we’re going to have to be very,
very
careful.”

THE RULES

“Okay, so why are we here again?” Graham asked, coming up behind me and Ivy as we walked into the gym for the girls’ basketball game. “I mean, it’s Saturday night. Sat-ur-day night!” he added, doing a twist move with his hips. “Shouldn’t we be, like, I don’t know … partying?”

Ivy and I laughed. I was about to answer when Gage and Trey Prescott, Josh’s roommate, joined us. Gage slapped one hand down on Graham’s shoulder and leaned in close.

“Dude. Look around,” he said. “What’s more of a party than ten half-naked girls, sweating and chasing balls?”

“Gross!” Ivy protested.

“Please don’t let him corrupt you,” I said to Graham. “You’re such a nice guy.”

Graham stood up straight and tilted his head. “Still. The man
does
have a point.”

The three guys laughed as they jostled through the door ahead of us. I rolled my eyes at Ivy and took one of the blue-and-gold pom-poms the freshmen were handing out just inside the door. Easton was playing the Barton School, and Tiffany, Shelby, and Missy were all on the team. Normally this was the kind of thing Ivy would have steered clear of, not being a big school spirit girl and all that, but I had convinced her it would be a good thing to support our prospective sisters.

“So. I’ve been thinking about the first task,” I said under my breath, running the silky plastic of the mini pom-pom through my fingers. “And I think it might be better if we—”

“I don’t want to hear about it,” Ivy said, pausing at the end of the jam-packed bleachers. At my old school, Croton High, a girls’ basketball game wouldn’t have drawn much of a crowd, but here at Easton, where we were all campus-bound in the dead of winter, it was like a rave. Gage and Trey had joined Josh and the other guys at the top of the center bleachers. As I found them, Josh met my eyes, then quickly looked away. Graham, I noticed, had broken off from them and was sitting with Sawyer a couple of sections away.

“What do you mean you don’t want to hear about it?” I waved at Constance, who was sitting a few rows in front of Josh, wearing an Easton sweatshirt over a plaid skirt. She was surrounded by Kiki, Astrid, Missy, Amberly, and Rose. She smiled and waved back, but her always sweet and welcoming face turned a tad sour when she saw that Ivy was with me.

“I want to be tested just like everyone else,” Ivy told me, holding her ground as a couple of Barton guys tried to nudge us forward onto the bleachers. “I already know more than I should. But if we’re going to do this thing right, you should test me and make sure I make the cut.”

The Barton guys finally got the hint that we weren’t budging any time soon and went around us. One of them blatantly checked out Ivy as he went by and she smiled back at him.

Geez. You have a boyfriend, remember?
I glanced at Josh again. This time his gaze was trained on the court, where the girls were finishing up their pregame warm-up and jogging for the benches. I took a breath and told myself to focus.

“That’s insane.” I looked into Ivy’s eyes and realized she wasn’t kidding. “Ivy, I need your help. How am I going to set up these tests and administer them and judge the results all on my own? That’s impossible.”

“Yeah, but it’s the rules,” Ivy said under her breath. “You’re the Elizabeth Williams here, Reed. Once you have a membership, you’ll have all the help you need, but for this one, you’re going to have to make the decisions.”

“If you’re getting tested, then I should be too.” I said, starting up the steps.

She grabbed my arm and pulled me back down, tugging me into the corner by the fire extinguisher. Over the loudspeakers, the national anthem started to play.

“Whoever left you that book chose you,” she said. “You’re the one person who gets a pass.”

“Okay, fine,” I said. “You can do the tasks. But if you fail any of them, I will personally kick your butt.”

She smirked. “I would expect nothing less.”

The players gathered at the center of the court for the tip-off. Cheers of “Go Easton!” and “Let’s go Barton!” erupted from the stands as sneakers squeaked on the freshly waxed floors.

“I’m going to go get a soda,” Ivy told me. “Save me a seat.”

“Okay.” I sighed, suddenly heavy with the full weight of the Billings Literary Society on my shoulders. “I’ll be up there with Constance and those guys.”

“Got it,” Ivy said with a nod.

She paused to let a crowd of Barton fans through, their faces painted red and white. As the buzzer commenced the game, I started up the bleachers, carefully avoiding fingers and toes and book bags. Halfway up, I felt someone watching me and glanced toward the top bleacher. Josh. He quickly looked away, and a lump formed in my throat. I wished I could just go up there and join him. Hang out with him, talk to him, just be near him. But I couldn’t. Feeling suddenly conspicuous, I slid into the aisle where my friends were sitting. Constance made room for me on the bench next to her, slipping her backpack onto the floor and her coat under her butt. I sat down and smiled, concentrating on not looking back at Josh again.

“Thanks.”

“No problem,” she said, tugging her thick, red ponytail over her opposite shoulder. “Where’d Ivy go?”

“To get something to drink,” I replied, keeping one eye on the game.

“Oh. That’s good.”

Constance continued to fiddle with her hair. Then she uncrossed and recrossed her legs half a dozen times and sighed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked finally.

“Nothing! It’s just …” She turned toward me, her back toward the other girls, and lowered her voice. “You planned this whole thing with her, didn’t you? The BLS?” she said, her whisper dropping to barely audible. “Her and Noelle.”

BOOK: Scandal
7.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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