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Authors: Antony John

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Busted

BOOK: Busted
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Woodbury, Minnesota

Copyright Information

Busted: Confessions of an Accidental Player
© 2008 by Antony John.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Flux, except in the form of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

As the purchaser of this ebook, you are granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on screen. The text may not be otherwise reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, or recorded on any other storage device in any form or by any means.

Any unauthorized usage of the text without express written permission of the publisher is a violation of the author's copyright and is illegal and punishable by law.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover models used for illustrative purposes only and may not endorse or represent the book's subject.

First e-book edition © 2011

E-book ISBN: 9780738722023

Book design by Steffani Sawyer

Cover design by Gavin Dayton Duffy

Cover image © 2008 Onoky/SuperStock

Flux is an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

Flux does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business arrangements between our authors and the public.

Any Internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific reference will continue or be maintained. Please refer to the publisher's website for links to current author websites.

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Manufactured in the United States of America

To Pops—the funniest guy I know.

To Gavin—the coolest elevator-button-pushing, drain-inspecting toddler on earth.

To Audrey—simply the best.

1

I
'm sorry, but you can't sit there.”

A petite redhead hovers beside Abby and me. She looks about twelve, and seems intent on guarding the defenseless cafeteria table against our unwelcome advances.

I'd really like to avoid an argument, so I try to ease Abby away, but she stands her ground defiantly. I'd have more success moving a mountain.

“We're saving that table in case people need it,” explains the redhead, smiling sweetly.

Abby mimics her smile. “Well, aren't we lucky, Kevin,” she gushes, grabbing my arm. “
We're
people, so it must be ours.”

The redhead's smile vanishes and her eyes narrow. I sense the negotiations are not progressing to her satisfaction. “You don't understand,” she pouts. “It's for, you know …
particular
people.”

“Oh, we're very particular,” Abby assures her.

“But this is—”

“Are you a freshman?”

“What? No
way
! I'm a sophomore.”

Abby sighs dramatically and prods me with her index finger. “See? They start indoctrinating them so young these days. This one's a couple of years from puberty, but she already harbors territorial ambitions in the school cafeteria.” She pulls me into the chair before I can escape.

Our oppressor's mouth hangs open in shock, but she quickly regains her composure. She cocks one pencil-thin eyebrow, then shoves our table away from hers so it's clear to any passersby that we're not connected. At all. We're an island, Abby and I, a leper colony separated from the social mainland by a few inches that might as well be miles.

“This,” huffs Abby, waving her hand around dismissively, “is why we don't eat in the cafeteria.”

Which is true. Ever since we got the combination to the large music practice room, we've sequestered ourselves with the other members of our quartet—Abby calls it our pop group, but that's a stretch—and our lunch hours have been significantly less stressful. But today the room is being cleaned.

“Bloody carpet shampooers better be done right quick or I'll give 'em what for,” growls Abby, doing a spot-on impersonation of her bubbly British parents.

“If you speak to them in Brit slang, they may not even realize you're pissed.”

“After making me eat in the caf, they'll know I'm pissed, all right.” She shakes her head and her wavy brown hair falls across her face; she sweeps it behind her ears. “Just look around. It's like they put all the wild animals in one cage as some kind of sick and twisted sociological experiment.” She summons a wicked grin, her wide hazel eyes sparkling. “Which begs the question, who's the zookeeper?”

Hiding behind my chicken sandwich, I conduct a quick survey. Not a lot has changed over the past seven months, since the beginning of senior year. The mathletes, stoners, and goths still relegate themselves to the corner tables like they're apologizing for their existence. Which leaves the center tables for the more aesthetically pleasing groups like jocks (who eat loudly) and cheerleaders (who talk loudly about eating).

“There is no zookeeper,” I conclude. “He's too afraid of the animals to come anywhere near here.”

Abby smacks my arm playfully. “Who said the zookeeper was a guy?”

I roll my eyes, but I can't help chuckling. Abby's always Abby, even when she's been spurned by a social-climbing sophomore in designer clothing. I wonder what it would be like to be so self-assured.

Abby's comforting patter ceases momentarily as she tucks into her tuna salad sandwich. I check out the center tables again. They seem to be more densely populated than before, like a mosh pit for Brookbank High royalty.

Between nibbles on a lettuce leaf, the redhead leaps up to make space for approaching cheerleaders; she's evidently aware of her place on the food chain. She pulls a table over so it's touching hers, then waves expectantly. It looks as though at least six tables have been joined together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Clearly the rule about not moving cafeteria furniture doesn't apply to the social elite.

At the center of the jigsaw, with the allure of a rock star and the gravitational pull of an all-star athlete, sits Brandon Trent. He doesn't need to speak loudly, because everyone wants to listen to him. He doesn't need to move around, because everyone comes to him. At the slightest twitch of his chiseled jaw or muscled shoulders, Brandon's loyal followers fall into a swoon. And it's not hard to see why.

When one of the cheerleaders spills ketchup on her impossibly deep scoop-neck sweater, she leans toward Brandon like she can't believe her good fortune. For his part, Brandon already wields a wet paper towel, ready to apply his magic touch to the stain besmirching her chest. He even seems gallant, averting his eyes, but I suspect that his hands are doing the looking for him.

A moment later he magically produces a packet of Cheetos for his right-hand man, Zach Thomas, who responds with a grateful, lobotomized grin. The smattering of sarcastic applause that ensues successfully identifies Brandon as unquestioned leader and Zach as erstwhile goon.

Brandon's batting two-for-two, and now there's the expectation of further miracles. Everyone is holding their breath, awaiting ever more impressive feats of empathy, dexterity, and general heroism. He may be effortlessly charismatic, but there are times that Brookbank High's obsession with Brandon Trent seems slightly bizarre and borderline pathological.

“He's a jerk,” snorts Abby. “Now stop eavesdropping.”

“What do you mean? I wasn't—”

“Kevin,” she says sternly. “I can see you watching Brandon. Let's focus. Did you get new pads put on your flute keys yet?”

“Affirmative, captain.”

Abby's nose crinkles as she laughs. She's still got tuna in her mouth. “So we're set for practice tomorrow.”

“Also affirmative.”

“What about ‘captain'? I liked that.”

“Also affirmative,
captain
,” I reply obediently.

Abby bows her head gracefully, like a character from a Jane Austen novel. “Thank you, trusty manservant,” she says in perfect Queen's English, then resumes eating. I notice there's no lettuce in her sandwich.

“Hold on. How come you're the captain and I'm the servant?”

“Because I play the double bass and you play the flute. You may be the best musician in the city, but you still play the … well, the
flute
.”

“It's not my fault Mom had a flute lying around at home.”

“I know, Kevin. I know.” She pats my arm sympathetically.

“Anyway, if we could just do an arrangement of ‘California Dreamin',' you'd hear how cool a flute solo can sound.”

Abby groans. “We're not doing songs by the Mamas and the Papas. No one even knows who they are.”

“But it's the best flute solo in the entire history of pop music.”

“And there are so many to choose from!”

I narrow my eyes and pretend to sulk, so Abby drapes her arm comfortingly across my shoulders. It feels good, and makes me wonder what it must be like to be Brandon, whose broad shoulders are rarely seen without a slender female arm as an accessory. I feel my eyes dragged back to him magnetically. I tune in to his conversation.

“Her name's Tiffany,” Brandon explains, wielding a photograph for admiring onlookers. “She's a junior at Brookbank University
…
Dean's List, captain of the varsity gymnastics team, and her dad's VP of McGuffin Industries.”

Everyone at the table “whoas” and “dudes” approvingly, although I'd be amazed if they know what a VP is. Or Dean's List, come to think of it. Truth is, not many of Brandon's friends aspire to academic excellence.

“I think Tiffany wants to take our relationship to the next level,” continues Brandon, nodding in agreement with himself. “Yesterday we were driving around in my mom's Lexus, rehashing that old ‘Was Freud a misogynist?' debate, when she leans over and places her hand firmly on my—”

The bell splits the air and lunch is over. Everyone at his extended table exchanges the kind of glances that say,
are we really going to stop here
? I figure Brandon must be pissed he didn't get to finish his story, but actually he's the first to get up. The other guys jostle for the right to be next in line.

“I guess we should go,” says Abby.

“Uh-huh.”

As he saunters through the cafeteria with his posse in tow, Brandon runs a hand absently through his sun-bleached hair. Girls swoon and the kitchen staff smiles and teachers wave. Before they've even made it to the door, Brandon and his merry men have been surrounded by the most beautiful girls from the senior class. Taylor Carson, class president and aspiring thespian, casts a smoldering gaze, but Brandon just walks by; Morgan Giddes, cheerleading captain, and Paige Tramell, homecoming queen, sidle up like twin contestants for
America's Next Top Model
and bite their lower lips provocatively, but Brandon pretends not to notice. The guy has ice in his veins.

I look at the table just vacated by the posse. They forgot to clear their plates, but already an elderly member of the kitc
hen staff has trundled out. She cleans Brandon's place first.


Are you coming or not?” Abby stands over me, drumming her fingers against her arm. “The bell rang fifty seconds ago.”

“Oh, yeah.” I jump up, much to her amusement, and she links our arms as we leave.

“Hey, wait,” she says. “You didn't eat your sandwich.”

Oops. I'd completely forgotten about the sandwich. “I'm not hungry,” I lie.

“I understand. This place is like kryptonite for your appetite. Hold a hot dog eating contest here and the contestants would be heaving in seconds.”

I snort loudly and the sound resonates around the mostly empty cafeteria. At the doorway, Paige Tramell glances over her shoulder, seeking out the source of this unsavory disturbance. Fleetingly we make eye contact, and as she exits, her beautiful face and stunning figure remain branded on my memory. My heart flutters wildly.

When I calm down I realize that Abby is dragging me out, her fingers twined with mine.

She's holding my hand.

And I hadn't even noticed.

BOOK: Busted
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