siobhan vivian - not that kind of girl (4 page)

BOOK: siobhan vivian - not that kind of girl
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and went over the list of committees that would immediately need members, beginning with the pep committee. Dipak addressed the state of our treasury. Low. I resisted the urge to shoot a dirty look at Kevin Stroop. This, Dipak explained, could possibly extinguish my bonfire plans. "Don't get me wrong," he said. "I think the idea is cool. But how are we going to pay for it? We'll need a permit, and to pay for the wood, and--" "The permit fee would be waived," I explained. "I already worked that out with the local fire department." Of course I did. I wouldn't have suggested the idea if I hadn't thought it at least partially through. And I didn't appreciate the hint of condescension in Dipak's voice. But one thing I hadn't thought about was who would pay for the wood. "We'll just get a business to sponsor the bonfire," I said. "I'm not sure that would work with Ross Academy rules," Ms. Bee said. "You know the board voted down the branded soda machines a few years back." Spencer cleared her throat. "We could sell little kits to make s'mores and roast hot dogs. That would help offset the costs." "That's a great idea, Spencer," I said. Seriously. I was impressed. Dipak shook his head. "Offset is a good start. But we hardly have the collateral to begin with." The room got quiet. I felt my good idea going up in smoke. Autumn raised her hand. You didn't need to raise your hand at student council meetings, but Autumn so rarely spoke up, she probably never noticed. "How about you ask Connor Hughes? Maybe he could donate it." I could have kissed her, it was the perfect solution. Connor's family owned the Hughes Christmas Tree Farm. They probably had plenty of scrap wood we could burn. The rest of the meeting went smoothly. I took dutiful notes and loved the way that all the people in the room found me, talked to my eyes. I was the focal point. Ms. Bee looked surprised when Spencer raised her hand to be a freshman rep. And maybe it was a little bit overkill, but she also signed up for almost every single committee and group. After the meeting, Ms. Bee asked if she could speak with me for a minute. She walked me over to the portrait wall, away from everyone else. "I love the bonfire idea, Natalie. It takes me back to my Ivy League days. You're really thinking outside the box. And I'm anxious to see what other projects you propose this year." "Thank you, Ms. Bee." She leaned in close. "I didn't want to tell you this before, in case something terribly unjust happened and you didn't win the election. But there have only been eight other female student council presidents in the history of Ross Academy, and none since I returned to teach here eleven years ago. Which, honestly, as a woman who cares deeply about these sorts of things, made me feel like a complete failure." I turned to say something, but Ms. Bee just stood there, admiring the wall and the rows and rows of slightly dusty frames holding the portraits of former student council presidents. It took a second before I realized her picture was right in front of me. I knew Ms. Bee had divorced her husband--a professor of philosophy--several years ago. They'd lived overseas and had never had children. After the separation, she'd returned to her childhood home in Liberty River and begun teaching at Ross Academy. She had been beautiful back then, too. Pin-straight raven hair, dark eyes, small pearl studs and a tiny gold cross. She was grinning more than smiling, one eyebrow arched with a tinge of mischievousness. Nancy Bee. Ms. Bee pointed to the empty space next to the final picture, of Will Branch. Unfortunately, he'd blinked at the worst possible time. I wondered if people ten years from now might assume he was blind. "This is where your senior portrait will hang, Natalie. It's an exclusive club, but I know you'll make a wonderful member. And you'll be known forever as number nine." It seemed, at the time, the best possible thing to be remembered as. CHAPTER NINE Everyone at Ross Academy had a school-provided e-mail address. I looked Connor Hughes up in the directory and typed a short message about the bonfire wood, asking him to please e-mail me back so we could discuss the details. I thought about giving him my cell number, too, but ultimately decided against it. I didn't need my number being passed around by those guys as a late-night drunk-dial prank destination. He hadn't written me back by the next morning. I had checked every single period until lunch, when I spotted him at the cafeteria Ping-Pong table with none other than Mike Domski and a bunch of bottom-feeders like Marci Cooperstein. Spencer clung to my arm. "There he is, Natalie. Go talk to him." We'd been collecting art supplies and covering the lunch tables with craft paper, in preparation for students to paint pep rally banners after school. I would have preferred talking to Connor on his own, but I needed to know about the wood situation ASAP, since the success of my bonfire hinged on it. And I didn't want Spencer to think I was intimidated by the presence of Mike Domski. "Maybe I should come with you." Spencer was all too excited about this possibility. "I'd give my left arm for a chance to chat up Connor Hughes. That boy is...ungodly hot. He looks like he's been raised on whole milk and fresh blueberry muffins."

Connor was good looking. It wasn't any one thing that stood out, but more like everything fit together in this smooth way. He had an easy way about him, like he didn't have a care in the world. He probably didn't, either. But Spencer and Connor? Or Spencer and any of those guys, for that matter? Bad idea. Terrible idea. "Go put these supplies in the closet and meet me back here," I told her. Spencer looked disappointed as she tried to manage all the stuff I piled in her arms, but she did what I said. And, after a deep breath, I walked right up to Connor. "Hey. Did you get my e-mail?" Connor finished his volley, smacking the ball as hard as he could before turning to me. The force of it made my hair flutter. "Yeah, I got it. I'll drop the wood off Friday morning. No problem." His voice was gravelly, like he had the beginnings of a sore throat. And it didn't sound like it came from his mouth, but from somewhere warmer, somewhere deep in his chest. It seemed a little rusty, which would make sense, because Connor wasn't the kind of guy who talked much. Mike threw the ball back at Connor, but it got stuck in the net. I grabbed it for him. "Great. I was worried that I'd have to come up with a backup plan. Everyone's really excited about the bonfire. It might end up becoming a new school tradition." I knew I sounded braggy, but I couldn't help myself from rubbing it in Mike Domski's face. And honestly, I expected similarly pleased reactions from the rest of the people surrounding the Ping-Pong table. Not from Marci--that girl had it out for me. But the other football guys, because they were the ones who'd benefit most. The whole thing was practically being done in their honor. Only their faces were utterly stoic and unenthused. Mike Domski flicked his paddle at me, trying to get me out of the way, so the game could continue. Except I didn't move. I stood still, because I knew it would make Mike mad. "Will the wood be here Friday morning?" I asked Connor. "Or later in the afternoon? I just want to confirm the details with you, so I can coordinate with the fire marshal and get this whole thing crossed off my To Do list." Connor laughed. And not in the way where he might sympathize with how much time and effort it was taking me to get all this dealt with. He laughed like I was telling him a joke. "Consider me confirmed, RSVPed, and whatever." Then he threw his Ping-Pong ball up in the air to serve. But I guess he saw I was pissed, because he didn't hit it. He caught it instead. "Seriously, Sterling. I promise. You'll have the wood by homeroom." "Dude," Mike said, in a fake whisper. "Natalie wants your wood. Bad." Everyone snickered. Including the girls. "I don't need anybody's wood. I can buy my own wood," I spat back, allowing my annoyance to clearly come through. It was only when everyone started cracking up that I realized what I'd implied. I walked away as fast as I could, and dreamed about a tragic accident where Mike's crotch caught fire. CHAPTER TEN The morning of the pep rally, I was too anxious to eat breakfast. Honestly, it was too early for breakfast. The sky was still dark when I picked Autumn up, and she slept with her head cradled by the seat belt on our drive to school. It was maybe a little type A obsessive of me, but I had involved myself in every last detail. I didn't want to leave anything to chance, not when the success of the entire pep rally fell squarely on my shoulders. Plus, I'd come up with a pretty ambitious design idea for the senior hallway. So for two full hours before school started, I worked harder than I ever had in my life. Autumn stood precariously on the edge of a chair borrowed from Mr. Darby's Comparative Lit classroom. Grunting and stretching as far as her arms would allow, she lifted the edge of a twirled piece of blue crepe paper one centimeter at a time. "Do you want me to get a level?" she joked. I ignored that, because I was stressed and because Autumn should have known how important this was to me, and checked my watch. We only had about fifteen minutes left to finish up. I ripped a piece of masking tape with my teeth and secured the corner to the wall. Then I cupped my hands around my mouth and called down the hallway. "Let's get balloons tied to every rung of the staircase, okay Carlie?" Carlie Glaskov, dressed in her cheerleading uniform, manned the helium tank I'd gotten the supermarket to donate for the day. A bright-blue balloon stretched with helium, but instead of tying it off, she put it to her lips and sucked. "Got it, Natalie!" Her voice sounded like a cartoon mouse's, and she giggled so hard her face turned red. "Go seniors!" "Go seniors!" I said back, a little frightened. "Watch her, will you?" I whispered to Autumn. And then I walked the length of the hallway, picking up stray pieces of tape, streamers, and popped balloons. About an hour before, a bunch of seniors who weren't in student council had shown up to help decorate. It was a real ego boost. Even some of the popular people, like Carlie. I knew she'd voted for Mike Domski, but she'd come anyway. I got to the very end of the hallway, opened up the pay-phone booth, and sat on the bench inside. I stared down to the other end and took it all in. The senior hallway looked amazing, like a navy-blue-and-white candy cane. We'd striped every single inch of the hallway--the lockers, the floor, the ceiling. It looked like something right out of Willy Wonka or a fun house, just like I'd imagined. I couldn't wait for the rest of the senior class to see what we'd accomplished. But really, this would be nothing compared to my bonfire. Dipak came bounding down the stairs. "Hey! How are the other halls looking?" I asked. I hadn't had a chance to check them myself. Dipak pushed up the sleeves of his Ross Academy decathlon sweatshirt. "Well, us juniors have this whole feather motif going. We ripped open a bunch of pillows and dumped them all over the floor. But I'm a little concerned that it looks like we killed an eagle right there in the hallway. The sophomores are lame--they only have like two banners. But I was actually impressed with the freshmen. They made up fake newspapers with winning Ross Academy headlines on them." I smiled. Spencer had hinted all week that she had something special planned. "But no hallway looks as good as the seniors'," he said. "Like, not even close." It was exactly what I'd hoped to hear. And now there was only one thing left for me to check on. "Did you notice if Connor dropped off the bonfire wood?" I asked. Dipak shrugged. "I don't think it's here yet." I tipped my head back. "I should have called him last night to remind him." I hated depending on other people. There was too much of a chance for them to let me down. "You have Connor's phone number?" Dipak sounded surprised. "No," I admitted, slightly insulted. Was it totally out of the realm of possibility that I would? "The Hughes Christmas Tree Farm is in the phone book." Ms. Bee appeared in the hallway. She wore a navy A-line dress with gray leather pumps and several strands of thick white pearls, looking equal parts school spirity and expertly put together. I wondered--did someone like Ms. Bee even own a pair of sweatpants? "Natalie, I've had such fun wandering the halls this morning. The school looks wonderful." She placed a hand on my shoulder. "I believe the fire chief is planning to come sometime between second and third period to take a last check of the bonfire setup before he signs off on the permit. Do you know if everything's ready to go?" "We'll be good to go," I promised. At least, I hoped we would be. A few minutes later, Autumn ran up. She pushed on my shoulders and pinned me against my locker. "What are you doing?" I laughed. "Painting your face!" she said, pressing the tip of a white grease crayon against my cheek. "You don't look school spirity enough for student council president." I had been so busy with the preparations, I hadn't thought much about what to wear. I chose a plain blue sweatshirt, a pair of jeans, and my gym sneakers. I guessed it was kind of blah. "Stop moving," she warned me. "Nothing too big, okay?" I said, glancing at the feather that took up the entire side of Autumn's head. "Shhhhh," she said. I let Autumn paint me and enjoyed the buzz and fever and excitement in the hallway. I felt on top of the world until Martin came up and said, "Natalie, we have a serious problem." "What? The wood? It's still not here?" I searched around for Connor Hughes and started to panic. What if Connor never planned to bring the wood in the first place, just to make me look bad? What if this was a big joke made at my expense, because I'd beaten Mike Domski in the election? Martin shook his head. "No. I mean, I don't know if the wood is here yet or not. But that's not the problem." I stepped out of the way of Autumn's crayon. "What's the problem?" "Nick Devito has the flu." "So what?" "So...there's no one to dress up as Ross the Eagle for tonight's game." "Can't we get one of the freshmen reps to do it?" "I can try. But a lot of those kids are on the freshmen teams or in band." "What about Dipak?" "Dipak has serious claustrophobic issues. He'd hyperventilate inside the costume." "What about you?" I asked, my eyes narrowing. "I'm supposed to be selling the merchandise at the game." I took a deep breath. "Martin, are you telling me that I'm going to have to be Ross the Eagle tonight?" He nodded solemnly. "Yes, Ms. President." "Come on. Hold still!" Autumn said, grabbing my face and steadying her crayon. "Promise me you won't get this stressed out and miserable over every student council thing this year, okay? Everything is fine. The hallway looks great. Relax. Let's have fun!" "Okay, okay," I said. She had a point. It was time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Suddenly, it was way too loud in the hallway. Connor Hughes and other seniors on the football team, dressed in jeans and their jerseys, headed to their lockers in a pack. Everyone cheered. "Sorry, Autumn," I said, pulling away from her. "Give me a second." The greasy crayon squiggled wildly to my earlobe, but I didn't care. "Connor!" I shouted as loudly as I could, trying to push my way toward him. "The wood?" Connor turned around and looked confused, possibly at the blob on my face. Then he gave me a thumbs-up. The wood had arrived. Everything was going to be fine. There was another noise. Music. A dancey song that I knew from the radio, only played faster and with more bass, growing steadily louder. The crowd suddenly parted. Autumn and I found ourselves pushed backward until we were pressed up against the lockers. I stood on my tiptoes. Ten freshmen girls marched down our hallway in two lines, as if they were in a parade. They were led by Spencer. She had a pink iPod strapped to her bicep and she was holding two white portable speakers, one in each hand. She strutted like a model on a runway. Autumn jumped, straining to see. "Doesn't she know that freshmen aren't allowed in the senior hallway on pep rally day?" Of course, rules like that were ridiculous. You could go anywhere you wanted. Still, they were rules. And there seemed to be lots of them Spencer didn't know. The girls had their hair up in ponytails tied with curls of white satin ribbon, and white terrycloth shorts that were way too short for any real athletic activity. I didn't recognize all of them, but I did spot Susan Choi, who was another one of my freshmen reps. Each wore the same fitted, blue, child-size T-shirt. Murmurs and whispers overtook the cries of "Go home, freshmen!" as the girls strutted by to the beat. I heard laughter. Whistles. Catcalls. I pushed forward to the edge of the crowd. Each shirt had a pair of bulbous footballs positioned like pasties over their boobs. And above them, the same single word was printed across the chest, curling in a perfect arch.

BOOK: siobhan vivian - not that kind of girl
5.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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