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Authors: Rebekah Crane

Tags: #Young Adult

Playing Nice

BOOK: Playing Nice
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Praise for Rebekah Crane's

 

PLAYING NICE

 

"I love this book as an adult but as a teenager I would have been obsessed. Rebekah Crane captures perfectly and poignantly the thousands of feelings, thoughts, dreams and desires of that wonderful creature called a teenager." —
Lili Taylor, Actress

 

"Hilarious, heartfelt, and edgy... From the first page you'll root for Marty even as she makes the obligatory mistakes that all teens must commit. At its core,
Playing Nice
shows that fighting for true friendship, even through major challenges, is well worth it."
—Rory O'Malley, Tony Award Nominee for The Book of Mormon

 

"This book is a must read for anyone who is or has experienced any form of bullying or has ever been a teenager girl... Smashing."
—Meagen Howard Fox, Page Turners Blog

 

"I think the mark of a truly excellent young adult novel is when you stop and think, wow, I knew that badass chick in high school; I had a crush on that hot, mysterious musician; I was that girl who always tried to be good even though I just wanted to scream sometimes. It's tough to create teenage characters that are believable, but
Playing Nice
hits it spot on." —
Lindsay Feneis, age 23

 

"Quirky, real, emotional and funny." —
Virginia Ryan, age 29

 

"I want to read this book from cover to cover over and over again." —
Maggie Tugend, age 14

 

"
Playing Nice
shows how strong teenage girls can be— through the fun times, the sad times, and the times you fall madly, deeply in love." —
Allison Williams, age 32

 

"I loved
Playing Nice
so much; I never wanted to put it down!" —
Kaylie Taips, age 13

 

 

PLAYING NICE
Rebekah Crane
In This Together Media
New York
In This Together Media Edition, January 2013
Copyright @ 2013 by Rebekah Crane
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Published in the United States by In This Together Media, New York, 2013
BISAC:
1. Girls & Women-Juvenile Fiction. 2. Humorous stories-Juvenile Fiction. 3. Friendship (Social Issues)-Juvenile Fiction. 4. Emotions & Feelings (Social Issues)-Juvenile Fiction. 5. Bullying (Social Issues)-Juvenile Fiction
ISBN-10:0985895659, ISBN-13: 978-0-9858956-5-5
eBook ISBN-10: 0985895640, ISBN-13: 978-0-9858956-4-8
Cover photograph by Tyler Maroney
Cover and Interior Design by Steven W. Booth, Genius Book Services
Table of Contents
For Anna and Emmy, who share their greatest gift with me— Laughter.
CHAPTER 1
My mom likes to tell everyone that from the day I was born she knew I would be a nice person. According to her story, I emerged from the womb with a smile on my face.
"You didn't even make a peep. I thought you were dead," she always says. The doctor told her I came out shaking his hand, like I was trying to introduce myself.
"How nice!" he announced at my arrival. At least, that's what my mom claims.
Last year, I was voted The Nicest Person in Minster High School. I got an entire page dedicated to me in the yearbook. I waited until I had a copy in my hands to tell my parents. I wanted them to see what all their hard work had accomplished. All the years of practicing manners at the dining room table and forced conversation with old ladies at church about their bridge games. It all paid off with a full-page spread of their daughter, describing all the nice things she does.
I came home and placed the yearbook on our kitchen counter, open to that page, across which were splattered in glossy color pictures of me starring in the school's production of
Guys and Dolls
. I played Sarah Brown. It was my dream roll: the do-gooder Salvation Army girl who helps a bad-boy gangster become a better person. And I got to have my first stage kiss.
There were also pictures of me tutoring after school and picking up garbage on the weekends with the Clean Air Club. All the things that make people like me.
When my mom went to make dinner, she saw it and screeched, "My daughter, the nicest person in Minster High School! I knew you could do it!"
I smiled from the couch as I watched TV, knowing I'd made them proud once again, that I had lived up to the expectations, set at my birth, that I would be a nice person.
When the photographer came to school to take pictures for my page, he sat me down in a seat and said, "Smile and don't move." I pulled my shoulders back, the way my mom always taught me, and posed, chin up, chest out. Posture shows people how you view yourself. The pictures came out great. My teeth look as white as snow next to my mahogany hair and hazel eyes. I look pretty, but not overdone.
A lovely lady
a man will want to marry one day
, my father said.
Smile and don't move. Whenever someone makes me mad or a bubble rises in my gut that makes me think everything I've been working for, everything I think I am, is a lie, I remind myself: smile and don't move. Doing that got me an entire page in my high school's yearbook and it's going to get me into a great college and find me a wonderful man to marry. And when it becomes my turn to have a baby, that girl is going to come out smiling, just like I did. The nicest baby that doctor has ever seen.
***
I signed up for the Welcoming Committee at the beginning of the year because I needed more things to put on my applications for college.
"Junior year is the most important. Don't get off-track," my mom told me. She has a way of singing the end of her sentences so they don't sound too harsh. She can make a demand seem melodic and uplifting.
Clean your room or you're grounded
, sounds better chirped out like a Disney character. Once she heard about The Welcoming Committee, my mom insisted I join and run for president. She even made posters with glitter that said, "Vote for Marty. A welcome face."
In the end, I was the only candidate. Ms. Everley didn't even make a ballot. She just stood up at one of our meetings and said, "Looks like WelCo has its first Margaret Thatcher." I didn't really like that she compared me to an old English lady, but I reminded myself that it didn't matter because I'd won, even if I was running against me.
The Welcoming Committee was formed to help freshman adapt to high school. We show the new kids around to their classes, make sure no one ends up duct-taped to the football goal posts, stuff like that. It's been easy and I won't complain about another opportunity to show the University of Michigan that I'm a well-rounded person.
I've had an application to U of M sitting on the desk in my room since I visited Ann Arbor two years ago. I knew from the moment I set foot on the campus that it was where I was meant to go. A prestigious university four hours away from my parents' house in Minster, Ohio. Close enough to go home for the weekend. Far enough away that they can't come knocking on my door at any moment. I've even picked out what dorm I want to live in freshman year and what sorority I'm going to rush. All I have to do is pack my transcripts with so many great things that U of M can't possibly turn me down.
"Thanks for coming in early this morning," Ms. Everley says as I sit down at one of the desks in the Welcoming Committee office. It's really just the Special Ed classroom, but we've decorated with happy posters and motivational signs to make it our own.
Ms. Everley is the teacher in charge of WelCo, as we like to call it. She's also my English teacher, one of the hot ones who makes teenage boys confused and sweaty, who flip their hair and put on too much perfume and make-up. She usually wears tight black pants that crease at the butt because they're too small and some lacy top, except today her pants are beige and her red silky top has ruffles around the boobs. I don't think she's married, so there must be something wrong with her. My mom says any woman over the age of thirty who isn't married probably pays too much attention to her job and not enough to what's important. And it does seem like Ms. Everley loves teaching.
"No problem. I like getting here early. It helps me focus." My mom always says I should act appreciative even if I'm not. The truth is that I stayed up late last night watching TV and I'm tired. I had to put on an extra layer of makeup to cover the bags under my eyes. "Is this about what happened last week?"
When Ms. Everley emailed me late yesterday, I was worried that our meeting had to do with a freshman girl who got busted having sex in the boys' locker room with a senior. Our principal found them with their pants down mid 'thrust,' as he called it. Just thinking the word 'thrust' makes my palms sweaty. Everyone in school knows. The girl's life is totally ruined. I heard her parents are thinking of moving to Finley. You can't do things like that in Minster. You just can't.
"Actually, we have a new girl coming to school today, and I thought you'd be the perfect person to show her around, being president of WelCo and all."
"A new student?" I ask, a bubble of anticipation rising in my stomach. No one ever moves to Minster. It's in the middle of nowhere. The last person who did was Phillip Knasel, and he came from Wapakoneta, a town twenty miles away. His parents died in a car accident and the courts said he had to go live with his grandma. Sometimes I think he still has a hard time fitting in. Or maybe he's just sad because he doesn't have any parents. I don't know what I'd do if mine died.
"We are the Welcoming Committee, after all." Ms. Everley shrugs and her boob-ruffles bounce.
"Of course, I'd be happy to help." I smile widely at the thought of meeting someone new, of being their first impression of Minster High. They'll always remember the day they met me. I'll be a shining star in their high school career. The nice girl with bright eyes and a strong handshake, who offered them guidance and friendship when they needed it most. I smooth down the front of my dress. I was born for stuff like this.
"Great. She's a junior, like you, and she's in your English class."
I nod. I'm in Honors for English, along with every other subject. If the new girl's in my class, she must be smart. I like smart people. They have goals and expectation, just like me.
Ms. Everley keeps talking for a few minutes, but I tune her out. My eyes hurt right where the bulb meets the socket. I shouldn't have stayed up last night. My dad told me to go to bed, but I was engrossed in an episode on the Discovery Channel about animals who mate for life. Their dedication to each other fascinated me, the way a father penguin will stand in the bitter cold for months holding an egg on its feet, all because he loves the mother and wants the baby to survive. I've never been in love, but if a penguin can find a soul mate, I'm sure I can, too.
I'm lost in thoughts about penguins and love and how I need to remember to talk slowly and smile when the classroom door opens and a girl walks in. Her heavy boots on the linoleum shock me out of my trance. Each step sounds like her feet are tied together with chains.
I look up and see a girl so covered in black I think she might be the goddess of night.
"You must be Lily Hatfield," Ms. Everley says, rising to greet the new girl.
"Don't call me Lily. It's Lil." The new girl speaks as if she's correcting a peer, not a teacher. She takes off her gigantic red sunglasses and places them on top of her black hair.
"Okay, Lil," Ms. Everley says, accenting the new girl's name. The pleasantness that coated her voice seconds ago is gone. Now she sounds strained, like she's swallowing the words she really wants to say. She points to me at my desk. "This is Martina Hart, the girl who'll be showing you around today."
I blink and stand up.
You're being rude
, my mother's voice whispers in my ears.
BOOK: Playing Nice
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