Authors: Ivy Adams
And Izzy—she’d always seemed like the normal one. Not that it was easy to be the middle child. Being trapped between the football god and the piano prodigy had pretty much rendered Izzy invisible. And things had only gotten worse since her idiot older brother had punched a locker and broken his hand after losing the first game of
the season. But Piper wasn’t insensitive enough to say anything about that to her friend—she liked her head just where it was.
Mei must have been feeling the tension as much as Piper, because after she finished her fries, she dusted off her fingers and then reached into her back pocket and pulled out her iPhone. “So, I’ve been thinking about the whole Facebook page. Do we have all the rules for the International Kissing Club laid out?”
“I’m pretty sure,” Cassidy said. “I mean, how hard is it? Kiss a boy, get a point.”
“Don’t forget the three points for a really good kisser,” Izzy added.
“Can I just say how much I absolutely love that?” Piper commented. “Three points for a transcendent kiss.”
Cassidy coughed. “Transcendent? I’m not expecting an out-of-body experience, Pipes. It’s just a kiss.”
“Just wait,” Izzy said. “When you get a really great kiss, you’ll thank us.”
“Absolutely,” Piper said. “I can’t wait!”
Mei scrolled through their page until she found the rules, then asked, “Are there bonus points?”
“Bonus points?” Cassidy asked incredulously. “For what?”
“I don’t know. I just thought I’d ask.”
“Of course there are bonus points!” Piper nearly bounced out of her seat as an idea occurred to her. “You get five extra points if you kiss two different guys in the same week. Ten if you kiss three.”
“Three guys in a week?” Cassidy shook her head. “I thought you were trying to escape Germaine, not become her.”
“Oh, please,” she said. “I think I have a little more class than that.”
“I don’t know,” Mei said. “You kiss that many guys, things are bound to get messy pretty fast.”
“Right,” agreed Izzy. “I think we should get bonus points for kissing the same guy twice, too. Or five times. Whatever.”
“Why would you want to waste your ten weeks abroad kissing the same guy when the world is
“Amazingly, Piper, there are many other things to do in Europe besides kiss hot guys,” Mei said with a shake of her head.
“I know that. It’s not like I’m planning on kissing twenty-four-seven. But what’s the point of getting stuck with the same guy for ten weeks? This is probably our only trip out of Paris before graduation, and I don’t plan on wasting a second of it.”
“I think Piper’s right,” Cassidy said out of the blue.
“You do?” Izzy asked, incredulously.
“Absolutely. I definitely have no plans to get serious with a guy. Do you two?”
“What would be the point? We’re going to be there less than a semester,” said the eminently practical Mei.
Piper leaped on her friend’s words. “Exactly! That’s what I’m saying. We only get points for kisses from new guys.” She giggled.
“I think I’ve figured out your going-away present,” Cassidy smirked. “I’m getting you Chapsticks—a giant box of them.”
“Make them strawberry—it’s my favorite flavor. And I’ve got an idea for a going-away present for y’all, too. But you don’t get to know what it is until right before the trip.”
Izzy arched an eyebrow. “Am I the only one here who thinks that sounds sinister?”
“Not sinister,” Mei observed. “Just devious.”
Piper ignored them, too caught up in the totally cool thought about the IKC that had just occurred to her. “What if we take the whole privacy thing off the Facebook page?”
“What? And let everyone know what we’re doing?” Cassidy exclaimed. “Are you kidding me? I haven’t officially gotten permission yet. If my mother saw that, she would flip!”
“So would mine,” Mei agreed. “I can hear her lecture now about how girls today just don’t respect themselves, yada yada yada.” She shuddered. “No, thank you.”
“Well, obviously, I don’t mean that we should broadcast our identities across the world. That’s why we created separate Facebook
accounts. But, I don’t know, what if we used nicknames or something? Avatars. Something that hides who we are but at the same time lets other people see what we’re doing.”
“But what’s the point of taking the privacy off?” asked Mei. “If we’re hiding who we are, anyway?”
Piper shrugged. “Wouldn’t it be cool to show just a few choice people how much fun we’re having outside of this stupid town?”
“A few people? Or Germaine?” Mei reached over and stole the last of Piper’s fries.
“Germaine, of course. Plus all the guys who have spent weeks oinking at me. It’d be nice to show them that the world doesn’t revolve around them. That others can have fun, too.”
keep River from thinking I’m pining for him,” Izzy mused, her eyes brighter than Piper had seen them in a while.
“Exactly!” agreed Cassidy. “And it would shut up all those guys who claim I’m a lesbian just because I wouldn’t sleep with them.”
“Not to mention providing us with the ammunition to one day take down Germaine and her stupid Kiss the Pig page once and for all.” Mei’s eyes gleamed with approval.
“Well, there is that.” The thought had definite appeal to Piper—a whole Facebook page about kissing hot guys was so much cooler than one about kissing a pig. And if the thing took off, it would be awesome. It could be a whole revolution against mean girls everywhere.
“We’d have to be careful,” Izzy said. “We don’t want a bunch of skeezy guys around the world cyberstalking us.”
“Ooooh, yuck,” Piper agreed.
“So what do we call ourselves, then?” Mei asked. “I mean, if you want to hide who we are, we need good nicknames.”
Cassidy poked her in the shoulder. “I think you should call yourself Mulan.”
“Why not? That’s kind of cute, actually.” Piper tugged gently on her friend’s jet-black hair.
Cassidy added, “Yeah, and if we go with something as lame as Disney, then nobody will ever guess who we are.”
“It’s not lame!” Piper protested. “Especially if I can be Esmeralda.”
Izzy choked on a french fry. When she was finally finished coughing, she gasped, “You’re cute, Pipes, but you’re no Demi Moore.”
“Whatever.” She paused, her mind racing over the possibilities. “So who should I be then?”
“Ariel, of course. You can’t wait to get out of here and be someone else.”
“Hmm. That’s a good point. And I think it would be kind of sexy to be a mermaid.”
“Of course you do.” Cassidy glanced at Izzy. “I think you should be Jasmine. Since you love hummus so much. And flying carpets
“I can get behind that,” Izzy agreed.
“No no no! I’ve got it!” Piper said with a grin. “You’re Jane, from Tarzan.”
going to the jungle,” Mei pointed out.
“And God willing, there will be half-naked men there,” Cassidy added.
Izzy nodded, considering. “I have always thought that Tarzan was a sexy hunk of ink.”
“Not as hot as Chang.” Piper nudged Mei. “You lucky dog.”
“What about Cassidy?” Mei asked, blushing. “Is there a sporty princess?”
“Cassidy’s Rapunzel,” Piper said.
“But don’t you think I’m more of a Pixar girl?”
“No, honey, you’re Rapunzel.” Piper patted her on her hand. “You’ve been trapped here for sixteen years and are just dying for a chance to let your hair down.”
“My hair’s already down, thank you very much.” Cassidy held up a blond lock.
“Yeah, well, the escape thing still works,” Mei said.
Cass thought about it, then said, “It kinda does. You’re right.”
“Okay, then.” Piper held up her milkshake. “I propose a toast. To the launch of the IKC fan page and the hottest Disney princesses to ever walk the planet.”
“Or at least the most insane,” Mei said as she bumped Piper’s cup with her own. Izzy and Cassidy joined in.
A little while later, as they were about to leave, Piper remembered to ask Cassidy, “So, have you gotten the whole money thing figured out yet?”
“Actually, I’m going to ask my dad today,” Cassidy said, looking determined and more than a little scared.
Holy crap. And Izzy was the one in a bad mood? If Cassidy had this hanging over her head, she should be the one snapping at people. Even if Izzy hadn’t talked to River since he went off to college, that was nothing compared to calling up a scuzzy deadbeat dad and asking him for money.
“Don’t worry, Cass, it’ll be fine,” Piper said, squeezing her friend’s hand. “I just know it.”
Mei gave an encouraging thumbs-up. And even Izzy smiled with false cheer as they threw away their trash. But Piper could tell by the looks on Mei’s and Izzy’s faces that her friends were as concerned about Cassidy’s plan as she was. Not because of the money thing, but because of what it might do to Cassidy to talk to her dad again. Their relationship was pretty nonexistent and the fact that she was willing to ask her dad for the money showed just how important this trip out of Paris was to Cassidy. She needed a chance to just be herself, to get away from all the jerks who thought she would put out just because her mom had—not to mention the ones who called her names when she wouldn’t.
Knowing Cassidy wouldn’t want to dwell on anything related to her dad, Piper shifted all of her shopping bags until she had a free arm. Linking it with Cassidy’s, she said, “Recycled clothes, here we come!”
Cassidy laughed. “I can’t wait.”
Piper figured they all knew she was talking about a lot more than a shopping trip.
Four hours later, Piper bustled out of Mei’s car and down the walk to her front door, weighed down by all her shopping bags. Who would have guessed that REI actually had some cute stuff? Not a lot, but she loved the new jacket and backpack she’d picked up there. While they weren’t made of recycled water bottles, even Izzy had been forced to admit they were cool.
As she opened the front door, she sent up a quick prayer that her parents had already left for their dinner party. The last thing she was in the mood for was a long, drawn out “discussion” while her mom pawed through her shopping bags and criticized everything she’d bought.
But the second she walked in the house, she knew she was out of luck. Her father’s cigar smoke—gross—hung in the air, mingling with the scent of her mother’s before-dinner drink. Or maybe she should say bottle, as her mom was going through a lot more than one drink these days.
“Piper, you’re home!” Her mom came into the foyer just as Piper started up the stairs. “I was hoping we’d catch you before we left.”
After running through a number of inventive curses in her head, Piper forced a smile as she turned to her mom. “Yeah. Sorry I’m late—Izzy took forever at REI.”
“I don’t know why she insists on shopping at that ridiculous store. She’s such a pretty girl. She’d look so much better if she didn’t dress in burlap all the time.”
Though Piper secretly agreed, she felt honor bound to defend her friend. “It’s not burlap, Mom. Besides, Izzy really cares about the environment.”
“I know, I know. But I don’t see why she can’t look good while
she’s caring about the environment.” Her mom walked closer to the stairs, her four-inch stilettos tapping out a rhythm on the marble floor. The quick patter told Piper that her mother was a lot more sober than she’d originally thought, though Piper didn’t know if she should be happy about that or not. A sober mom meant a nosy one, and she would really like to get up the stairs without a postmortem on—
“Well, don’t just stand there. Show me what you bought.”
Too late. Of course, it had been too late the second her mother realized she was home. With a sigh, Piper tromped down the scant few steps she’d managed to climb and followed her mother into the family room, where she laid her bags on the couch for inspection.
It didn’t take long for the criticism to begin. “There isn’t one bag here from Neiman’s. Really, Piper, are these stores the best you could do?”
“You know Piper, Mom,” Savannah said as she walked into the room. “She thinks she’s too good for Neiman’s.”
Piper shot her sister a glare, but Savannah only grinned evilly as she poked at bags from BCBG and Express.
“Besides, she thinks she’s an
. Neiman’s is probably too boring for her.”
“I like it just fine, Savannah. But these stores are cooler. Plus, you know my friends aren’t crazy about Neiman Marcus.”
“Which is one more reason I’ve always questioned you hanging around with them,” her mother said with a disapproving frown. “You always looked so much nicer when you were hanging out with Germaine. Now there’s a girl who knows how to dress.”
Piper gritted her teeth and tried to ignore the little flash of betrayal that came with the realization that, despite everything, her mother was still on Germaine’s side. It didn’t matter that she had caused Piper—and her mother—months of untold grief. Nor did it matter that she was a manipulative narcissist who cared about no one and nothing but herself. All that mattered to her mother was that Germaine looked good while she terrorized the halls of Paris High.