Read Any Other Girl Online

Authors: Rebecca Phillips

Any Other Girl

BOOK: Any Other Girl
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“Do you play, too?” Emmett asked, sounding shocked that I knew my way around the game.
“I used to. Years ago.”
“Wow, I never would've guessed. I mean, you're so . . .” He gestured to my light pink maxi dress, neatly curled hair, and glossy pink lipstick, struggling for an adjective that wouldn't offend me.
“Girly? Dainty? Out of shape?”
“The first two.” He appraised me again with renewed interest. “Why did you stop? Playing, I mean.”
I shrugged and looked away, the universal signal for
Not even worth discussing.
I didn't like to admit it, to myself especially, that I'd stopped playing because of some stupid, ignorant comments made by a couple of gossipy soccer moms who didn't even know me. I'd not only quit sports, but changed my entire image on top of it, all because I wanted people to stop assuming I was somehow maladjusted and in need of female guidance. No, I'd much rather Emmett get to know me as I really was—someone who'd been raised by two men but was just like any other girl. Only with a different type of family from most people.
“A great story of an underdog finally coming out
on top as she learns to love each flaw she has,
one at a time.”
RT Book Reviews
Faking Perfect
any other girl
rebecca phillips
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
chapter 1
didn't set out to flirt with someone else's boyfriend at Miranda Lipton's party. But I did it like I did a lot of things—without even thinking about it, as spontaneous and subconscious as breathing. The incident itself probably would've gone virtually unnoticed if the boyfriend in question had been anyone other than Braden Myers, and if the “someone else” had been anyone other than my best friend.
“I'm gonna miss you,” Shay said, squeezing me into an impulsive, coconut-scented hug. We were standing in Miranda's main floor bathroom, primping in front of the mirror above the double sinks. Our second-to-last week of school had ended just three hours before, and since then we'd hit Starbucks for Frappuccinos, gorged on deep-dish pizza at Mario's, and then walked to Miranda's house in the warm June sun to help her set up for tonight's party. Most of the junior class planned to end up there tonight, eager to take a one-night break from studying and blow off some steam before final exams started on Monday. But for now, it was just us girls.
“I'll miss you too,” I said, hugging her back. “It's just for a couple months, you know. I'll be back before school starts again.”
“I know.” She pulled back and took a swig from her bottle of vodka cooler, one of several currently sitting in the fridge. Miranda's parents had left this morning for an out-of-town wedding. “Summer's boring without you around, though.”
I laughed and sipped at my own cooler. Shay had said the same thing last summer and the summer before that. She always acted sentimental in the week or so before my parents and I left to spend the season at our cottage on the lake. We had been best friends for only two years, but we'd been inseparable since the day we'd met in the spring of freshman year when we both turned up in Mrs. Lockhart's after-school study group for math. There, we'd bonded over our mutual failure to comprehend polynomials.
“What do you think?” I stepped back from the mirror and turned from side to side, inspecting myself from each angle. I didn't have much of a tan yet, so my white off-the-shoulder dress didn't set off my skin tone as much as I'd hoped. “Does this make me look washed out?”
Shay glanced at me through the mirror as she brushed her glossy black hair. “You look like Marilyn Monroe with those fake eyelashes on. Only you're thinner. And not blond.”
I smiled, pleased.
Seven Year Itch
was one of the first classic movies I'd ever seen, and I often went for the Marilyn look—wavy hair, parted on the left. Curve-hugging dress. Thick eyelashes. I liked to stand out.
“My God, Kat,” Cassidy Boveri said when Shay and I joined her and Miranda in the kitchen. “This isn't a nightclub.”
I just laughed and slid up on the counter, bare legs dangling off the edge. Cassidy used to bother me back in freshman year when my reputation made me basically friendless, but all that changed when I started hanging around with Shay. Everyone liked her, which meant they had to like me, too. Or at least tolerate me like Cassidy tried to do, even though it pained her. She still hadn't let go of the grudge she'd been holding against me since the eighth grade when her boyfriend dumped her at the Halloween dance so he could start going out with me.
“I think she looks hot,” Shay said, grabbing a Cheeto from the bowl on the counter and popping it into her mouth.
“We all do,” Miranda said, ever the neutral peacemaker. “And speaking of hot,” she added, a grin unfurling on her freckled face, “is Man Candy coming tonight, Shay?”
Shay washed her Cheeto down with a gulp of cooler, trying to appear nonchalant. But I knew her well enough to see past the act. Braden Myers was more than just man candy to her. They'd been dating for about a month. Not long enough to become serious, but it was obvious how much she liked him. Braden was a senior at Nicholson, a huge high school across the city from ours, and she'd met him at a basketball game. The rest of us had only seen him once when we all went to the movies together a couple weekends ago, but once was enough to stick him with the “Man Candy” nickname. He was a lean, muscular jock, like Shay, but whereas she was short and dark, Braden was tall, blond, and fair. And pretty damn hot.
“Yeah, he'll be here,” Shay said, and then she shot me a private look, reminding me of what we'd discussed earlier. About how if the mood struck her, she planned to lure Braden into an empty bedroom so they could advance their relationship to the next level. Not the
level, but at least the one that came after kissing. For her, it was a huge step.
Several bottles of vodka cooler and bags of munchies later, the party was in full swing. I stuck close to Shay until Braden showed up around ten, then I headed off to circulate. The house was packed and stuffy, the music deafening. In the dining room, I paused at the table to join a group of guys playing quarters. All the chairs were taken, so one of the guys—Chris Newbury—pulled me down on his lap. I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and made myself comfortable, only vaguely aware of the judgmental stares coming from a cluster of girls sitting in the attached living room.
Let them stare.
I felt buzzed and happy and carefree, immune to rumors and whispers.
“You want to go somewhere?” Chris breathed wetly in my ear after losing his fifth consecutive round of quarters.
“Oh look!” I said, craning my neck toward the kitchen. “There's Shay. I'd better go say hi.”
I hadn't actually seen Shay, but I needed some kind of diversion. I was good at making diversions.
“Wait,” Chris said as I slid off his lap and shouldered my way out of the dining room. He said something else, but I didn't quite catch it over the music. I could guess, though. The word
was attributed to me often, along with various other unflattering terms.
The house was an oven, the mass of bodies blocking any breeze the open windows may have created. I could feel my dress sticking to the sweat on my back.
Craving fresh air, I made my way through the kitchen and outside to the deck where half a dozen people were gathered around on the patio furniture, smoking. So much for fresh air.
I turned at the sound of my name and saw Braden “Man Candy” Myers leaning against the deck railing, alone. I walked over to him, relishing the feel of the light breeze against my skin. “What are you doing out here all by yourself?” I leaned next to him, peering out at the tiny backyard and the distant downtown lights beyond.
“Have you seen Shay? She went inside to use the washroom and never came back.”
I presented him with one of my toothy, full-watt smiles. “There's a big line in there.”
He smiled back, and I felt myself light up inside the way I always did when a guy responded to my attention.
“Mostly girls, right? You girls take forever in the bath-room.”
I let out a big gasp, pretending to be offended, and he laughed. The sound of it made the light inside me glow brighter. “That's because we actually take the time to wash our hands afterward,” I teased.
“Hey, I wash mine.” He held up his hands, which were big and powerful-looking.
I playfully swatted them back down, and an uneasy expression flickered across his face in response to the contact. He shifted a few inches to the right, away from me, and glanced toward the door like he was wishing for Shay to appear.
Undeterred, I continued to tease him. “I bet you spend just as much time in front of a mirror as any girl. You don't just roll out of bed looking like that.”
“Yeah, well . . .” He scratched the back of his neck, which looked flushed in the dim light coming from the kitchen window.
“Stop being so modest. I'm sure you hear compliments like that all the time.” I turned and leaned my back against the railing, aware of the way the moonlight played on the bare skin of my shoulders and cleavage. “Shay is a very lucky girl.”
He laughed nervously. “So, uh, are you ready for exams next week?”
I threw back my head and laughed, even though his question wasn't even remotely humorous. Vodka coolers and warm summer nights made me giddy. “Oh, come on, Braden.” I said, sidling closer to him and poking him in the shoulder with my finger. “This is a party. It's almost summer. Exams are
not what I want to be thinking about right now.”
His throat moved as he gulped, like he was imagining what, exactly, I
want to be thinking about. I peered up at him through my fake eyelashes and grinned, slow and mysterious. If he were any other guy, he probably would have drawn closer at that point, intrigued by the endless possibilities in my smile and eager for more.
But not Braden. He shifted again, uncomfortable, and started backing away. “Well, I'm going to go, um, find Shay.”
“Okay,” I said, confused. What was his problem? Why was he acting so eager to get away from me? I rewound our short conversation in my head, trying to pinpoint something I'd said or done to offend him. Nothing. I'd acted like my typical bubbly self. Then again, Braden didn't know me very well—in fact, it was the first time we'd ever spoken to each other for longer than a second—so he wasn't exactly familiar with my effusive personality. The guys (and girls) I went to school with and saw on a regular basis were all used to it. No one took me too seriously.
But Braden—going by the scandalized look on his face as he walked away from me—wasn't accustomed to assertive girls who modeled their appearance after retro actresses and liked to stand out in a crowd. Shay, after all, was none of those things.
. For whatever reason, I felt a sudden, intense need to go look for her. Call it intuition, or premonition, or whatever the hell people called it when they were struck with that ominous sense of foreboding. I just knew I had to find her, and soon.
The kitchen was even more congested, and it took me a few minutes to get through. As I maneuvered around the bodies, Cassidy Boveri's strident voice rang out from somewhere behind me. “Classy, Kat. Real classy.”
Distracted, I didn't bother to look back and ask what she meant.
In the dining room, the guys were still playing quarters at the table, though their coordination had decreased significantly since I'd left. As I passed, Chris Newbury made a grab for my arm, but I dodged him and headed for Miranda, who was mopping up a spill on the living room hardwood.
“Where's Shay?” I asked when she straightened up, a wad of paper towels in her hand.
“She just left with Braden,” Miranda told me.
“Left? I thought we were spending the night.”
She shrugged. “I thought so too.”
I dug out my phone to see if Shay had texted me. She hadn't, so I sent her a text, asking where she was and what was going on. What had Braden said to her to make her ditch me without explanation? What exactly did he think had happened between us out there on that deck?
Shay never did text me back.
I wasn't used to being invisible. Especially not in the loud, crowded hallways of Brighton High. The cacophony of voices, footsteps, and bursts of laughter seemed almost subdued on the first day of final exams.
No one paid any attention to me as I walked away from Mr. Porter's English class, my wrist sore from the three-hour exam I'd just written. Cassidy brushed past me like I didn't exist. I knew where she was going—to meet up with Shay outside the main doors. From there, they'd probably hit Starbucks and then maybe study together for their next exam. That was what Shay and
would've done, anyway, if last Friday night hadn't happened and she was still my best friend.
Friday night
. It had been three days, but knots still formed in my stomach whenever I thought about the uneasy look on Braden's face, and Shay's disappearance, and the fact that she'd ignored my texts and phone calls all weekend. Worst of all, it was due to one giant misunderstanding, which she refused to give me a chance to explain away.
I had every intention of heading to my locker next, but instead of turning left at the end of the hall, I turned right and followed Cassidy. Intent as she was on escaping, she didn't notice me skulking a few feet behind her. I trailed her all the way down the stairs, across the lobby, and out into the hot sun where Shay waited on a small patch of grass near the sidewalk.
“Shay,” I said, but my voice was lost in the roar of a passing transit bus. Brighton High was located in one of the busiest areas of the city, surrounded by restaurants and coffee shops. That came in handy for fast-food runs during lunch hour, something else Shay and I used to do together.
“Shay,” I repeated louder, and she glanced up. Immediately, the welcoming smile she'd had for Cassidy dropped into a scowl at the sight of me.
“Seriously, Kat?” she said, shaking her head like she couldn't quite believe I had the nerve to seek her out after she'd avoided me all weekend. “You seriously want to do this right now? Here?”
I glanced around. Students were still teeming out of the main doors like ants, squinting as the afternoon sun hit their faces. Several of them eyed us with interest. A lot of people had been at that party Friday night, had heard what I had done to Shay, my supposed best friend. My
true friend, really. They'd waited a long time for a confrontation like this. Waited to see me, Kat Henley, shameless flirt and supposed boyfriend stealer, get what was coming to her, at last.
“Please, just listen to me,” I said, reaching out to touch Shay's arm. She stepped back, closer to Cassidy, who leaned toward her in support and gave me the same look she'd been giving me since Shay had brought me into their group, the one that said
I'm a much better friend than you
. She was loving this more than anyone.
BOOK: Any Other Girl
10.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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