The One That I Want, p.1Jennifer Echols
Love is supposed to be easy—isn’t it?
GEMMA CAN’T BELIEVE HER LUCK WHEN THE STAR football player starts flirting with her. Max is totally swoonworthy, and he even gets her quirky sense of humor. So when he asks out her so-called best friend, Addison, Gemma’s heartbroken.
Then Addison pressures Gemma to join the date with one of Max’s friends. But the more time they all spend together, the harder Gemma falls for Max. She can’t help thinking that Max likes her back—it’s just too bad he’s already dating Addison. How can Gemma get the guy she wants without going after her best friend’s boyfriend?
Simon & Schuster, New York
Cover designed by Angela Goddard
Cover photograph copyright © 2012 by Jamie Grill/Getty Images
For more romantic reads
by Jennifer Echols, don’t miss:
Going Too Far
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
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First Simon Pulse paperback edition February 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer Echols
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
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Designed by Mike Rosamilia
The text of this book was set in Garamond 3.
Manufactured in the United States of America
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Full CIP data for this book is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-1-4424-4193-4 (eBook)
This book is for Amy and Jessica.
It has been a long time since they were majorettes,
but when I told them I needed their expertise,
they knew exactly where their batons were.
Chapter 1: April
Chapter 2: August
About the Author
Many thanks to my brilliant editor, Annette Pollert; my incomparable agent, Laura Bradford; and as always, my critique partners, Victoria Dahl and Catherine Chant, who cheered me on with every chapter of this book.
As I opened my locker, an envelope fell toward me with Gemma written in Robert’s tight scrawl. My majorette tryout was in ten minutes. He must have known I would stop here to dump my books and grab my batons before I ran down to the gym. For two years we’d been sending each other Grandparents Day cards on our birthdays and Halloween cards on Christmas. Now he had left me this St. Patrick’s Day or Father’s Day card to wish me good luck.
My heart had already been pounding with anticipation of the tryouts. It jacked into overdrive at the sight of the card. Robert hadn’t wanted me to try out for majorette. He’d said I wouldn’t make it. That I was the wrong type of girl. That everybody in school would make fun of me. I had hung with the artsy crowd my freshman and sophomore years of high school. He’d said that by trying out, I was admitting that I’d wanted to be part of the golden crowd after all. That I was a fraud, and I deserved what I got.
At least, that’s what he’d said. What I’d been afraid he’d meant was, You are too fat.
I had listened to his harsh words since November, when I’d signed up to try out. His card meant that at the eleventh hour, he’d changed his mind and decided to support me. Maybe—crossing fingers—he’d finally started to see me not as a sexless friend, but as romantic material.
Just as I’d seen him the whole time.
Grinning, I slipped the card out of the envelope.
It was a sympathy card.
Okay, it was a sympathy card on the outside. That didn’t mean he wasn’t wishing me good luck on the inside. With shaking fingers, I opened the card.
Inside, Robert had crossed out the inspirational advice for coping with a loved one’s death. Underneath, he’d scribbled:
Congratulations on giving in to the American culture of bourgeois capitalism that markets eternal emaciation and youth.
After the initial wave of fury, I wasn’t sure what was more unbelievable: that Robert had sent me a sympathy card, or that he had signed it Your friend.
I talked myself down. He’d thought I would find this card as funny as he did. He was wrong, but I couldn’t dwell on it. The hall was full of people jogging downstairs to see me. I grabbed my batons, slammed my locker door, and tossed the card into the nearest trash can. Then I stepped into the tide of humanity and got swept toward the gym.
“Gemma! Why do you have all three of your batons?” Addison hissed as I skittered into my place in line outside the gym door. We were twenty wannabes trying out for six open spots to be majorettes with the marching band next year.
The statistics were cruel enough. But even worse, rather than a panel of judges picking us on the merits of our figure eights and vertical spins in the privacy of a closed room, we had to perform our routines in front of the whole school. Every girl who’d ever taunted me for eating more than my share of Girl Scout cookies and every boy who’d ever made fun of me for driving a train with a huge caboose would decide who made the cut and who was a Loser.
Worst of all, even though I’d lost thirty pounds in the past five months, I was still the heaviest girl trying out.
I was under a little stress. And my so-called best friend Addison picked now to quiz me on how I set up my baton routine? She had badgered me into trying out with her in the first place.
“Last-minute change,” I whispered back. It was a lie. I had planned to use three batons in my individual routine since November. Anticipating that she’d copy whatever I did and then tell everybody I’d copied her, I’d performed a dull routine whenever we’d practiced together. I’d kept my real routine supersecret.
“Well, do you want me to sit in front of you and hand you the extra batons when you need them?” Addison asked, making even her whisper sound hurt.
“No, thanks. I’ve got the pickups planned.” I’d engineered them carefully, anticipating every disaster. If I started by twirling baton number one, placing two and three at the edge of the gym floor where I could dive for them at the appropriate points in my routine, mean boys would kick them underneath the bleachers so I couldn’t reach them. For this reason, most girls had friends who would sit off to the side and hand them batons, as Addis
I did not trust Addison. My batons would wait right beside me in the middle of the floor. I might trip over them, but that would be better than someone else tripping me. At least I would be in control.
Inside the gym, the voice of the principal, Ms. Zuccala, escalated in the microphone, probably announcing, “Let the games begin!” like we were gladiators about to be thrown to the lions. I couldn’t hear what she really said because the gym exploded into a deafening roar of screams, whistles, applause, and feet stomping the bleachers. Majorettes were a big deal at our high school. Also, everybody was really happy to be skipping calculus.
In front of me, Delilah bounced on her toes. I had a few classes and band with her, but she was quiet, and I’d never had a conversation with her until we started majorette tryout meetings. The first thing I’d learned about her was that she was prone to panic attacks, though she was petite and beautiful and had a lot less reason to be nervous than I did. I leaned forward to whisper in her ear, “Good luck!”
She looked over her shoulder at me. “Thanks, Gemma. You too!” she said through the tooth-baring majorette grin she’d already pasted on her face.
Then I turned to Addison, who was not beautiful but faked it well. Her makeup was model-perfect. She’d bleached her hair several shades blonder than natural and flat-ironed it into submission until it didn’t dare curl in the Georgia humidity. “Good luck!” I told her.
She flared her nostrils. “Thanks,” she said, half smiling, still puzzling at my three batons. When she was not privy to every detail of my life, she felt betrayed. She would not forget this.
I ignored a pang of guilt. She had betrayed me first. Our moms had been majorettes together at this high school. We’d been ten years old when Addison’s mom told my mom that Addison wanted to take baton lessons, but only if a friend would take lessons with her. Wouldn’t I take lessons too? I hadn’t wanted to be the heaviest girl in that group either. But my mom had asked me, “You don’t want Addison to miss out on something she wants to do, do you?”
Five years of baton lessons later, Addison had decided that both of us would try out for majorette. I had told her not no but hell no. She’d asked me, “Why in the world not, Gemma? Every girl at our school wants to be a majorette, and you’re so much better at baton than a lot of them.” And when that didn’t convince me, as she knew it wouldn’t, because I was not a person who did stuff just because other people were doing it, she’d asked with her usual tact, “It’s the sequined leotard you’d have to wear during football games, isn’t it? You’re letting your weight hold you back. If you refuse to try out for majorette, you’re admitting that you have a serious problem.”
The prospect of dancing in front of the entire school had forced me to lose the weight Addison had been bugging me about the entire time we’d been friends. So here I was, thirty pounds lighter. We wore T-shirts and shorts to try out, thank God. I still wasn’t ready for the sequined leotard. Luckily, I didn’t have a chance of making the majorette squad. I would have loved Robert’s support, but he was right that my effort was futile. Majorette tryouts were a popularity contest, and I was not popular.
Mrs. Baxter, the majorette coach, guarded the door into the gym. She was grandma old. She was thin, but the skin underneath her chin wobbled when she moved, in time with the jeweled chain hanging from the spectacles perched on her nose. She’d been the coach when my mother was a majorette. Mrs. Baxter had been a majorette herself several centuries ago. She ran our school’s twirler line like she was stuck in time, and she always held her head perfectly level as if she were wearing a tiara.
As each girl approached her, she looked the girl over one last time, smoothed her hair or tucked a loose end of her T-shirt into her shorts, and sent her inside the gym amid renewed whoops from the student body. Mrs. Baxter looked Delilah over and didn’t see anything wrong. She just put her hands lightly on Delilah’s cheeks, so as not to smear Delilah’s heavy makeup, and said, “You will do great. Good luck!” Delilah stepped over the threshold, into the Roman coliseum.
Mrs. Baxter turned to me.
Blinked at my hair. The guidelines for tryouts had specified that we needed to be “in full hair,” which translated apparently as “big hair.” My usual style was to wear my long brown hair straight with purple streaks. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to create movie-star hair easily. Long ringlets cascaded around my shoulders. I’d even worn a rhinestone tiara that I’d bought at the costume store, because it made the purple streaks seem ironic.
Mrs. Baxter’s gaze moved to my face. The majorette tryout guidelines had specified “full makeup” also. I was wearing an even heavier version of my usual smoky eye—maybe more of an evening look for most people rather than something they would wear during a dance tryout, but it went with my movie-star hair.
Her gaze shifted to my T-shirt. While the other girls had opted for white or bright colors, mine had a picture of Courtney Love, for luck. If Courtney Love had tried out for majorette—which I was pretty sure she hadn’t, because she was in juvie by the time she was my age—I thought she would have worn a tiara and striped her hair purple too. The new shirt was a lot smaller than what I usually wore, because I’d lost so much weight. But I was careful to make sure it wasn’t too clingy. It disguised the stubborn roll of fat still hanging around my midriff. I wore long black shorts and thigh-high black-and-white-striped socks, because they amused me, and black Converse high-tops. This was the way I had dressed for my first two years of high school.
And I had fit in, more or less. I just wasn’t someone you’d peg to try out for majorette. I’d gotten a lot of guff from my friends in band, especially Robert, for losing so much weight, trying out for majorette, and showing what a popular-girl wannabe I was. Trying out wearing my usual clothes with my usual purple hair was a concession I made to my friends, to show them I didn’t think I was suddenly too good for them and their style. They were the only friends I had. Them and Addison. What a selection.
“Good luck,” Mrs. Baxter said to me without emotion. I could tell that in her mind, I was not a contender. In my mind, I wasn’t either. But I would try out. I would placate Addison and give Robert and the rest of the band something to talk about behind my back for the next few months. And after that, it would be over.
“Gemma Van Cleve,” Ms. Zuccala called. I smiled my own brilliant smile and high-stepped into the gym, walking forward but facing sideways with my grin to the crowd, as Mrs. Baxter had taught us wannabes. There was a smattering of polite applause and an ugly groan from the band section. Before I could stop myself, I glanced in that direction and saw Robert, his dyed-black hair unnaturally glossy in the gymnasium lights, cupping his hands over his mouth to boo.
Reaching my designated place for the group routine, I turned forward, bent to place my third baton out of the way, and took my position with my arms extended, batons in hands. The booing had faded away with the applause. But the more I thought about it, the angrier I got, and the bigger I grinned. I would not make the majorette line, but I would twirl a flawless performance, and Robert could suck it.
Ms. Zuccala announced Addison, whose applause was a little louder than mine. Then came the girls behind her in line. They were a year older than us and had been majorettes this year. The applause for them was enthusiastic.
The school’s fight song blared over the loudspeaker. It was a recording of the marching band. I was part of that marching band too. Only girls who’d been in band were allowed to try out. But for once, I wasn’t playing alto sax. I was kicking and skipping in front of the band, pinwheeling my batons like a pro. If we’d been judged on our performance during the fight song alone, I would have been a shoo-in for majorette.
Some of the other girls had been taking baton for only a few months, since deciding to try out for majorette. Even Addison had dropped out of le
I stayed on pattern, keeping my batons spinning in a plane, while the other girls’ batons wobbled. I caught my tosses with the big end of the baton up to keep my spins neat, while the others grabbed their batons wherever they could. Not that the crowd would know the difference. What they would notice was how many times the other girls dropped their batons and had to chase them as they rolled away in a semicircle across the gym floor.
Sure enough, as the second stanza of the fight song began and all twenty of us wannabes attempted a high vertical toss while we turned underneath, three sickening thuds sounded, batons dropping to the wooden floor. Mine landed squarely in my hand. Another few thumb-flips, one toss caught behind our backs, and a horizontal twirl in one hand with a vertical twirl in the other just to make sure everybody was well coordinated, and we were done.
The recording stopped abruptly. The last strains of trombone echoed in the rafters. Two more batons thudded to the floor, and rubber soles squeaked on wood as girls scampered after them. I stood with both batons extended gracefully, my third baton on the floor next to my toe, right where it should be, and grinned my glamour smile. Really, the look was meant for Robert. I had not embarrassed myself as he’d told me I would. The applause was louder now.
The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols / Young Adult / Romance & Love / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes