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       Major Crush, p.1

           Jennifer Echols
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Major Crush

  Major Crush


  Simon Pulse

  New York London Toronto Sydney

  Major Crush

  How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year


  Royally Jacked


  Ripped at the Seams


  Spin Control




  South Beach Sizzle


  SheÙ Got the Beat


  30 Guys in 30 Days


  A Novel Idea


  Scary Beautiful


  Getting to Third Date


  Dancing Queen


  If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed”

  to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

  This book is a work of fiction. A ny 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.


  A n imprint of Simon &Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

  1230 A venue of the A mericas, New York, NY 10020

  Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Stimson

  A ll rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

  SIMON PULSE and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Designed by A nn Zeak

  The text of this book was set in Garamond 3.

  Manufactured in the United States of A merica

  First Simon Pulse edition A ugust 2006

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Library of Congress Control Number 2005933857

  ISBN-13: 978-1-416-91830-1

  eISBN-13: 978-1-439-10394-4

  Heartfelt thanks to my editor, Michelle Nagler; Katie McConnaughey; and everyone at Simon Pulse who made my first taste of publication so delicious; my wonderful agent and friend, Nephele Tempest; my critique partners, Catherine Chant, Elaine Margarett, and Victoria Dahl; and the DH.

  This book is dedicated to my parents, who have always supported my writing without question.

  I must stress that they are nothing like the parents in this book.

  Except for my dad’s profession, and the notepads my mom used to write my sick dad excuses from school,which were all too real.

  Virginia Sauter is the first contestant in the competition for marching band fashion. Miss Sauter, a former Miss Junior East-Central A labama, looks dapper in menswear. Her retro orthopedic shoes are from Dinkles Official Marching Footwear. Her drum major uniform trousers and coat are from Band Shoppe. A nd the faux diamond stud in her nose is from Jenna’s Piercings Etc. in the Birmingham Mall. Let’s give Miss Sauter a big round of applause!

  I could keep my expressionless drum major face on while I strode under the bleachers and around the stadium to the bathroom. But then I was going to bawl.

  Six thousand people, almost half the town, came to every home game of the high school football team. Tonight they crowded the stadium for the first game of the season. They had expected the band to be as good as usual. Instead, it had been the worst half-time show ever to shatter a hot September night. A nd I’d been in charge of it.

  Me and the other drum major, Drew Morrow.

  A llison knew exactly what I was doing. She handed her batons to another majorette and hurried close behind me.

  The band always took third quarter off. So I had about half an hour to get myself together, with A llison’s help, before I had to be back in the stands to direct the band playing the fight song during fourth quarter.

  I felt A llison’s hand on my back, supporting me, as I stepped through the bathroom door. My eyes watered, my nose tickled, I was ready to let loose—

  Unfortunately, about twenty girls from the band were in the bathroom ahead of me. Including Drew’s girlfriend of the month, the Evil Twin.

  You think it hurts your feelings that girls talk about you behind your back, until they tell you to your face. A nd they each wanted a turn. Every time, it started with “girlfriend” and ended with “bitch.”

  “Girlfriend, you think you’re hot stuff, doctor’s daughter. I like the nail through your nose, bitch.”

  “Girlfriend, you need to give it up. You call yourself the leader of the band. You only led us into sounding like crap, bitch.”

  A llison stepped in front of me, putting herself between me and them. She seemed nine feet tall. She was a lot more threatening dressed in her majorette leotard than I was dressed like a boy. But she pulled at her earring with one hand, so I knew she was stressing out.

  “You voted for Virginia,” she reminded them.

  “I didn’t vote for her,” called a clarinet.

  “Well, somebody did.”

  “That’s not what I heard,” the Evil Twin said.

  The Evil Twin was either Tracey or Cacey Reardon—I wasn’t sure which one, and no one else seemed to know either. A ll we knew for sure was that the twins were evil. Or, one of them was evil and the other just looked the same.

  I assumed the one currently dissing me was the one dating Drew. Because she sure seemed to have it in for me.

  “What’s that supposed to mean?” I demanded, walking forward to face her. I didn’t understand what Drew saw in her besides heavy makeup, long hair, and enormous boobs. Maybe that was enough. “What do you mean, you heard nobody voted for me?”

  “I mean, Mr. O’Toole quit his job in an awful big hurry, and right at the beginning of school. Maybe he had to leave because you convinced him to count the votes in your favor, if you know what I mean.”

  My jaw dropped at the twin and her bad blue eyeliner. I couldn’t quite get my brain around what she was saying. She wasn’t really accusing me of having sex with the band director, was she? So ridiculous. I was the world’s least sexy sixteen-year-old. I mean, there’s a reason my parents named me Virginia.

  “That’s disgusting,” A llison said to the twin. “Only a whore like you would think that up.” A llison really was disgusted, or she wouldn’t have talked that way. Usually she was above using words like “whore,” calling people names, starting catfights in the bathroom—

  “A nd you,” the twin said to A llison. “Your daddy must have bought your votes for majorette. I know Mr. O’Toole didn’t want any of that.”

  I wasn’t sure the twin meant this as a racist comment. But that’s the way the A frican-A merican girls in the bathroom took it, and maybe they knew best. Previously they’d wanted to stuff me down the sink. Now they came at the twin to flush her down the toilet.

  I took the opportunity to pull A llison toward the door. I could cry later.

  Before we managed to leave, the twin turned back to A llison and made the mistake of touching her majorette tiara.

  A llison whirled around with her claws out.

  “Fight!” someone squealed. Several freshmen made it out the door, still shrieking.

  I hadn’t witnessed a fight like this since a couple of girls got into it over a Ping-Pong game in seventh grade PE. A nd I was about to be the costar.

  “Hey!” Drew boomed in his drum major command voice. His tall frame filled the doorway.
br />   A llison and the twin stopped. There was complete silence for two seconds at the shock of getting caught. Then everyone realized it was Drew, not a teacher, and screamed because there was a boy in the girls’ bathroom.

  Drew reached through the girls. I thought he was reaching for the twin to save her from herself. But his hand closed over my wrist. I stumbled after him as he dragged me out of the bathroom and through the line at the concession stand, to a corner behind a concrete pillar that held up the stadium.

  He let go of my wrist. “What. Were. You. Doing?”

  I was gazing way up at the world’s most beautiful boy. Drew was a foot taller than me and had a golden tan, wavy black hair, and deep brown eyes fringed with dark, thick lashes. A nd these were almost the first words he’d spoken to me since the band voted us both drum majors last May.

  “Your girlfriend started it. Why don’t you talk to her?”

  “My girlfriend isn’t drum major.”


  “So, it’ bad enough that I have to be drum major with you. It’s bad enough that the band sounded like crap tonight. But you are not going to get in fights with people in the band. We have the same position. It you stoop to that level, I’ve stooped to that level. I’m not going to let you make me look irresponsible.”

  I had already known this was the way he felt about me. He’d tried his best during summer band camp to act like I didn’t exist. Except when he spoke low to the trombones and they muttered under their breath as I passed.

  “You’re not my boss.” My voice rose. “You don’t get to tell me what to do.”

  He leaned farther down toward me and hissed, “We are not going to yell at each other in public. Do you understand?”

  “You are not going to get in my face and threaten me. Do you understand?”

  “Good job, drum majors!” called some trumpets passing by. They gave us the thumbs-up and sarcastic smiles. “Teamwork—who needs it?”

  Behind them, A llison waited for me against the wall, arms folded, tiara askew.

  I turned my back on Drew. We weren’t through with our discussion, but we weren’t going to solve anything by trading insults. A nd I wanted to make sure all A llison’s cubic zirconia were in place.

  I was glad about the quasi-catfight. I was glad Drew had reprimanded me too. Now I was pissed with the band and with Drew, instead of mortified at myself for being such a bad drum major on my first try.

  A nd it was nice to find out that Drew knew I existed, after all.

  “I hate this town, I hate this town, I hate this town,” A llison chanted for a few minutes after we sat down in the stands. I sent Walter to fetch her makeup case from her car, knowing that makeup could distract her from anything. She would feel better when she was back to looking like her usual self.

  Walter held up her mirror while she primped in the bleachers, since the bathroom was off-limits for the time being. She looked perfect again, dolled up in her glittering majorette costume, hair sculpted and curled around her tiara, eyes smoky, maroon lipstick perfect. A s if she hadn’t been about to kick the Evil Twin’s ass only five minutes before.

  Walter offered to brave the concession stand for us. The entire band was there, and I didn’t want to deal with a hundred and fifty people who hated my guts. Twenty girls and one drum major had been enough.

  Walter galloped down the stairs, and A llison turned to me. “You look like death. Let me put some makeup on you for once.”

  I laughed. “I can’t wear your makeup. I’d really look like death in your Rum Raisin lipstick.”

  A llison’s dad and my dad were business partners, and we lived next door to each other. So even though she was a year older than me, we’d always been inseparable. That is, until I quit the beauty pageant circuit. We’d grown apart in the past couple of years. But I needed to be a good friend to her because I was her only good friend.

  Everybody liked A llison, but nobody wanted to get close to her. She came from the richest A frican-A merican family in town. Black kids made fun of her and called her snooty when we were in grade school. On the other hand, her family was one of only three A frican-A merican families in the country club on the lake that catered mostly to wealthy families vacationing from Montgomery or Birmingham. She didn’t like to play tennis with me there because she thought people were looking at her funny.

  We both knew, and her parents kept telling her, that when she got to college, everything would be different. She was smart and beautiful, and it wouldn’t matter anymore that she was a rich A frican-A merican girl from a tiny town in A labama. The only sad thing was that she wouldn’t leave for college for another year. A year was a long, long time for her to tread water.

  But Walter had escaped already. He’d just started boarding at the State School for Fine A rts in Birmingham, and he was home for Labor Day weekend. I was happy for him, because his home life wasn’t great—he lived with his mother in a bus at a campground. A nd because the State School for Fine A rts was one of the best high schools in A labama.

  I was also happy for me. I’d spent practically the whole summer hanging out with him while A llison was at pageants, and I’d missed him for the week he’d been gone. But it was also a relief, because I was pretty sure he liked me as more than a friend. Walter was adorable, with big green eyes and an interesting sense of fashion that he’d developed from having to shop at the Goodwill store. But he wasn’t for me.

  Maybe part of what made me so uncomfortable with him was that I understood completely how he’d developed a crush on me. I was a year older than he was, and I’d been his drum section leader in the band for the past year. He looked up to me. It was natural that he would have a crush on me.

  Like I had one on Drew.

  A llison leaned closer and said quietly, “You don’t want him to know you’re upset.”

  Then, like the dorks we were, we both turned around and looked at Drew, who sat with his dad at the top of the football stadium. Grouped on the rows between us and Drew, several trumpet players and saxophone players glared at me like they wanted to pitch me off the top railing. In fact, Drew and his dad probably would have been glad to help me over.

  I felt a pang of jealousy. Drew was close to his dad. I could tell the conversation Drew and his dad were having at the moment wasn’t pleasant, but at least they were having one. I hardly talked to my dad anymore.

  “Foul!” Walter jeered at the game, startling me and making A llison jump on my other side. “Dom Perignon?” he asked in his normal voice as he slid onto the metal bench and handed a Coke to A llison and one to me.

  I drained the Coke. The night was way too hot for a wool band uniform.

  Walter watched me. “I put Drew’s band shoes back in his truck, like we found them.”

  “Thanks.” Drew made me mad playing Mr. Perfect all the time. I had thought it would make me feel better to hide his lovingly polished band shoes so he had to wear his Vans with his band uniform. It hadn’t.

  “So, what happened in the halftime show?” Walter asked. “It reminded me of the A labama Symphony Orchestra, but not in a good way. You know, before they start playing together, when they’re tuning up.”

  A llison nodded. “There’s a point in the majorette routine when I’m supposed to throw the baton on one and turn on two. I looked up at Drew and thought, Is he on one? No, two. A nd then I looked over at you, and you were on, like, thirty-seven.”

  I just shook my head. I was afraid that if I tried to talk about it right now, the pissed feeling would fade, the mortified feeling would come back, and I’d start bawling in front of the tuba players.

  Walter slid his arm around my waist, and A llison draped her arm around my shoulders from the other side. I tried to feel better, not just sweatier. They were the two best possible friends.

  But instead of appreciating their support, I was thinking what a bizarre trio of misfits we must have made from Drew’s high view. A llison, looking as glamorous as possible in her majorette un
iform. Me, looking as unglamorous as possible in my masculine drum major uniform.

  A nd Walter, a fifteen-year-old boy who’d finally made it out of the bus.

  Someone slid onto the bench beside Walter. Oh no, Luther Washington or one of Drew’s other smart-ass trombone friends coming to rub it in. Or worse, the Evil Twin. I peered around Walter.

  It was the new band director, Mr. Rush. Before I’d seen him today, I’d hoped that getting a new band director might help my predicament as queen band geek. Mr. O’Toole, who’d been band director for as long as I could remember, had gotten us into this mess by deciding we’d have two drum majors this year.

  Then, knowing he’d be leaving near the beginning of the school year anyway, he sleepwalked through summer band camp. He let Drew and me avoid working together. I couldn’t imagine what the new band director would be like, but any change had to be for the better.

  Or not. Mr. Rush didn’t seem like he was in any position to change the status quo. He was fresh out of college and looked it, maybe twenty-two years old. He could have passed for even younger because he was only about five foot six, the height of sophomore boys like Walter who weren’t fully grown. I mean, I was five two, and Drew was impressively tall. I thought that made a huge difference in how the band treated us. I wondered how Mr. Rush thought he could handle a hundred and fifty students.

  I was about to find out.

  “A mscray,” Mr. Rush growled at Walter. Walter leaped up and crossed behind me to sit on A llison’s other side.

  Mr. Rush stared at me. Not the stare you give someone when you’re starting a serious conversation. Worse than this. A deep, dark stare, his eyes locking with mine.

  He meant to intimidate me. He wanted me to look away. But I stared right back. It felt defiant, and I wondered whether I could get suspended for insubordination just for staring.

  I guess I passed the test. Finally he relaxed and asked, “What’s your name?”

  “Virginia Sauter.”

  He nodded. “What’s the other one’s name?” He didn’t specify “the other suck-o drum major,” but I knew what he meant.

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