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Authors: Adele Griffin

The Julian Game

BOOK: The Julian Game
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Table of Contents
 
 
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Vampire Island
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS • A division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
Published by The Penguin Group.
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.
 
Copyright © 2010 by Adele Griffin.
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
Summary: In an effort to improve her social status, a new scholarship student at an exclusive girls’ school uses a fake online profile to help a popular girl get back at her ex-boyfriend, but the consequences are difficult to handle.
[1. Bullies—Fiction. 2. Online identities—Fiction. 3. Schools—Fiction. 4. Peer pressure—
Fiction. 5. Friendship—Fiction. 6. Interpersonal relations—Fiction. I. Title.
PZ7.G881325Ju 2010 [Fic]—dc22 2010002281
eISBN : 978-1-101-19830-8

http://us.penguingroup.com

For Nancy Paulsen
one
“This is the craziest idea you ever had,” said Natalya.

My
idea?” My heart was racing. “What are you talking about? It was your idea.”
“Fine. Our idea. Do you think we’ll get caught?”
“Don’t be a baby. Nobody can trace us.”
“And it’s not like we’re even breaking the law,” Natalya added. “Right?”
“Right. We’re not doing anything illegal.”
Not illegal, but maybe a little bit wrong—although tonight had started as tame as every other Saturday at the Zawadski house. First a sit-down dinner of political debates while the meat loaf got cold, followed by Natalya and me whipping up a pan of Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownies, then enjoying a warm square of brownie à la mode while watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of
Island of the Undead
on the Syfy channel.
The third episode was about a zombie who collected the bodies of her victims. That’s when we decided to do it—to make Elizabeth, our very own man-eater. A girl who’d lure in all the guys we’d never dare approach for real.
“Only we won’t really kill them,” Tal said. “Unless, of course, they deserve it.”
The whole thing was a joke. Or a dare wrapped in a joke, but with each layer we added to Elizabeth’s profile, she became more human.
Now it was past midnight. Natalya’s house was dark except for the glow of her laptop in her bedroom. The casts of
Lost
,
Star Trek
, and
Battlestar Galactica
stared down on us from their posters as we put our last touches on Elizabeth. From her nationality (Krakow, Poland) to her school (we made her a freshman at Moore College of Art, in Philadelphia) to her picks and preferences.
Slowly, Elizabeth breathed life. She liked Coldplay and Anne Hathaway and Van Gogh and shrimp scampi. She missed her kid brothers Boris and Drugi, who lived in Poland—and we’d even found stock images of two gap-toothed grade-school boys to stick in her photo album. We’d set up her e-mail from Natalya’s mom’s Yahoo account that she checked about twice a year. The final task was to find her profile photo, which was why we were browsing modeling websites.
“Elizabeth needs to be cute,” I said, “so that guys sit up and pant.”
“But not too cute or they’ll think she’s a lie.” Natalya clicked through images like a Hollywood casting agent. You could never tell what sort of random project might catch Natalya’s interest, but this one had. “Girl-next-door pretty. Like how you could look, Raye, if you weren’t always rocking the double ex-el sweatshirt.” She paused. “Hey, what if I snapped a—”
“—that would be a no.” I yanked up the neck of my sweatshirt so it hid my face. “Don’t even think about it.”
“Why not? It’s not like any prime MacArthur guy would recognize you.”
I peeked out. “Gee, thanks.” But I knew what she meant.
Socially, we were both pretty much invisible, though Tal did stake one claim to fame as the older sister of Thomas Zawadski, MacArthur Academy’s varsity-letter freshman, All-American lacrosse goalie, and unofficial Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownie pig.
“How about her?” I pointed. Heart-shaped face and skinny black tank.
Natalya nodded. “And she even kinda looks like you.”
We watched in silence as her photograph uploaded.
“It probably
is
illegal to borrow someone else’s face,” murmured Natalya. “This whole thing is insane.” But I could tell she was enjoying herself.
“Insanely brilliant, maybe.”
“Whatever. Okay. Now for the personal message.” Natalya rubbed her hands together. “Here we go. ‘Hello, I am Coach Fernier’s niece and just came to this country for art school. Want to please to make some American friends?’”
“That’s good. Now. Who’re we friending?”
“Who’s on your wish list?”
“I guess anyone the Group dies for. The best guys. Chapin Gilbert and Julian Kilgarry and Frank Senai.” My cheeks burned to say their names.
Natalya nodded, but she was chewing the edge of her pinkie. We’d raised the ante and we weren’t going back. “So we’ll start with them. Nobody’ll deny Coach Fernier. Thomas says he walks on water. And then we’ll mix it up with some of Nicola’s friends, for authenticity. Nic won’t care.” Nicola was Natalya’s cousin, who really did go to Moore College of Art.
“Sounds good.” My heart was still pounding. Elizabeth Lavenzck excited me. She was us but not us, she was real and a lie, and soon she’d be friends with guys we’d only dreamed of talking to. “This is more fun that I’d thought.”
“Uh-huh.” Though Tal didn’t sound convinced. “But Raye, what are we going to do with her? If she works?”
“I’m not sure,” I answered honestly. I really couldn’t think about it past this point. Now I stared into Elizabeth’s heart-shaped face, her Mona Lisa smile. The options seemed endless. “First let’s see who we can get.”
two
If your spring sport at Fulton wasn’t tennis or lacrosse or
crew, then you took Health & Fitness. This was not cool. It could have been inked into the school ledger:
Any student participating in Health & Fitness is hereby decreed, for the duration of this scheduled activity, to be kind of a Loser.
But Health & Fitness was no joke. You could get suspended for blowing off the timed bar hangs or fencing parries or whatever was on the menu three afternoons a week in the north gym. Almost worse than taking H&F was the H&F uniform: blue nylon short-shorts and a maroon T-shirt with our antiquated class mascot—Hooter the Snowy Owl—cupped unironically over the left boob.
Non-athletic Natalya and I put in a major effort to keep a low H&F profile, so when Tal’s shorts’ elastic snapped right in the middle of kickboxing that following Thursday, she panicked.
“S.O.S. and Coach says you can come with,” she whisper-yelled as she jogged up, her hands cinched at her waist. “I don’t want to run around dealing with this alone.”
In my lame-ass H&F uniform,
she meant.
My turn at boxing had made me really sweaty, and I was conscious of my shiny face and the wet circles under my pits as we swung past the Administration desk for safety pins before bolting to the locker room. All my friends at my old school had joked that I wouldn’t care how bad I looked in a school of just girls, but that had turned out not to be true. Girls looked and judged, same as guys. Sometimes worse.
“If I pin on each side and one in the back, I think I’m okay.” Tal sighed. “Hey, are you still coming over this weekend?” she asked. “We can update Elizabeth.”
“Yeah, sure.” Although the Elizabeth experience had been sort of a dud. Every guy we’d asked had accepted, even Tal’s crush, Tim Wyatt, who was captain of MacArthur’s debate team. But then everyone had declined to answer more than a few words.
I didn’t know what I’d been expecting, but I know I’d been hoping for better.
“Hang on. Now that I’m pinned in, I need to pee.” Tal ducked into a stall. “Stay?”
I dropped on the bench outside the showers. A few more minutes sweating in my Hooter uniform wouldn’t kill me.
Then the Group barged in, and I thought maybe it would.
Lindy Limon, Faulkner—named for her famous relative—George, Ella Rose Parker, Alison Sonenshine, and Jeffey Makinopolis. Not a single girl from my old school came close to the Group’s fabulous factor. As a unit, they were terrifying.
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