Don’t love your enemy. Declare war on him.
Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to Buttcrack-of-Nowhere, Ohio, to help her mom escape a bad relationship.
All the girls in her new school want one thing—Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.
Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.
The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.
The game board: East Summit High.
The reward: Something neither of them expected.
When I was six, Dad told me something really true; everyone has a to-do list.
It took me another eleven years to actually make one, but thanks to a certain asshole in my life, my list is finished;
- Don’t talk about love
- Don’t think about love.
- Thinking and talking about love leads to Love, which is the enemy. Do not consort with the enemy. Even if those hot-ass actors in the movies make it look cuddly and nice and tempting, don’t fall for it. It’s the biggest bad in the world, the worst villain ever created by hormone-pumped pubescent morons. It’s the Joker, Lex Luthor, that one guy who’s always messing with the Scooby-Doo gang. It’s the final boss in the massive joke of a video game you call your life.
Everyone at Avery Brighton’s party right now has their own to-do list, and most of them look identical to the following;
- Get drunk
- Get more drunk
- Try not to vomit on anyone cute
- Try to score with the cute person you tried your best not to vomit on
It’s a foolproof list that’s easy for even idiots to follow. It ensures you’re drunk enough to think everyone is cute, so that you don’t throw up on anyone, and so you try to score with everyone. It’s basically a how-to for people who watch too much MTV and think having fun is getting blind drunk and making out with someone they don’t remember. It makes everyone here intolerable. Especially the boys. One of them slings their arms around my shoulders, red in the face and murmuring suggestively about going somewhere quieter. I wrinkle my lip and push him off before I hurry into the kitchen. People are too busy boozing up here to bother hitting on girls. Not that I get hit on a lot. Getting hit on is still a new thing, a weird thing, because boys don’t generally hit on fat girls and that’s what I used to be. The fat girl.
I pull my Florence and the Machine t-shirt lower to make sure it covers everything. Flaunting your stretch marks to the entire ‘cool’ populace of East Summit High probably isn’t the best way to make influential friends. Or friends, period. I’d settle for either. Hell, I’d settle for an enemy at this rate. Without an anchor, the sea of high school is the shittiest ride in the world.
“Isis!” A drunk girl sloshes up to me, black hair plastered to her face with sweat. “Hiiiii! How are…what…you’re doing in here?”
“Uh, yes?” I try. She giggles.
“I’m Kayla. We met in history of the….planet.”
“World History,” I offer.
“Yeah!” She claps and points at me. “Wow. You are really smart.”
“I’ll be really wet if you don’t stop that.” I gently position her hand upright, her red cup of beer precariously dripping on the floor and my jeans.
“Oh, will you be wet?” She closes both her eyes really hard and smiles. When I don’t react, she does it again.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Where I come from, that’s called drunk.”
“Drunk?” She buzzes her lips in a laugh, spraying a bit of beer-spit over me. “Not little a even!”
“Look, you’re really – ” I pause as Kayla burps. “ – great and thanks for talking to the weird new girl, but I think you need to go lie down. Or possibly go back in time. Before the invention of liquor.”
“You’re so funny! Who invited you?”
“Ohhh, she’s doing that thing again,” Kayla laughs. “Don’t drink the punch!”
“She invites alllll the new kids to a party. If they stay the entire night without crying or wetting themselves, they’re cool in our book.”
Great. Seven hours of binge drinking crappy beer bought by someone’s older brother is the proving ground for who’s cool and who’s not. I should’ve expected that from a boring, sterile little Ohio suburb like this one.
“What’s in the punch?” I ask, looking over my shoulder at the giant plastic bowl filled with ruby liquid.
“Powdered lax…laxa…pooping powder!” Kayla concludes. A few boys circle around her like sharks, just waiting for the moment she passes the threshold from drunk to too-drunk-to-protest. I glower at them over her shoulder, pull her by the hand upstairs, and go to the second landing, where it’s quiet and not full of horny vultures. We lean on the banister and watch the chaos below.
“So where are you from again?” Kayla asks. Now that she isn’t swaying crazily, I can get a good look at her. Her dark hair and eyes make her one of the few non-white people in the school. Her skin’s amber, the color of honeycomb. She’s really pretty. Better than most of the girls here, anyway, and definitely way better than me.
“I’m from Florida,” I say. “Good Falls. Tiny, boring place. Lots of mosquitos and football jocks.”
“Sounds a lot like here,” she giggles, chugging the rest of her beer. Someone downstairs opens a can of cocktail wieners and starts throwing them around. Girls shriek and duck and pick them out of their hair and boys chuck them at each other and try to get them down girls’ shirts. A wiener flies up and gets stuck in the chandelier, and Kayla ‘ooohs’.
“Avery’s mom isn’t gonna like that,” she says.
“Her parents are probably loaded snobs.”
“How did you know? They’re VEO’s or something.”
“Yeah! I guess it’s a really important job, but then I thought about it really hard and how can it be so important if it’s only three letters?”
“You may be on to something. Something very drunk, but definitely something.”
She beams at me, and reaches over to touch a piece of my hair. “I like that color.”
“Violet Madness,” I say. “That’s what the box called it.”
“Oh, you dyed it yourself? Cool!”
It was part of my pact with myself; lose weight, dye my hair, get clothes that actually fit. Become a better person. Become the person a certain someone would wanna date. But I don’t tell her that, because that was the old me – the one who thought love wasn’t stupid. The one who’d do anything for a boy, even lose eighty-five pounds dieting and sweating like a pig. The one who’d go to crappy little clubs to drink and smoke just to hang out with his friends. Not even him. His friends. I tried to get accepted by them, like it’d make him like me more.
But that’s not me anymore. I’m not in Good Falls. I’m in Northplains, Ohio. No one knows the old me, so I won’t drag her into the limelight just to embarrass the new me. I’m desperate for friends, not socially suicidal. There’s a fine, pathetic line between the two and I’m toeing it like a ballet dancer at her first recital.
“Oh shit,” Kayla hisses suddenly. “I didn’t know he’d be here.”
I look to where her eyes are riveted. It’s unmistakable who she’s talking about. Amid the chaos of the wiener throwing and drunk flail-dancing to the Black Eyed Peas is a single island of still calm. He’s gotta be six feet at least. His shoulders are broad, and everything about him is lean – his waist, his long legs, his ridiculously sharp cheekbones. His messy hair isn’t quite blonde, but isn’t quite brown either – more like a tumbleweed color. Next to me, Kayla is ogling him with all she’s got, and she isn’t the only one. Girls froze when he walked in, and guys are throwing him stink eye. Whoever he is, I can already tell he’s one of those people who are popular in all the wrong ways.
He walks further into the party, keeping to himself. Normally you nod at people as you walk in, or look for someone you know in the sea of the crowd. But not this guy. He just walks. He doesn’t have to push or shove his way through – people part naturally. It’s like he’s got an invisible shield around him. He wears a permanent bored expression, like everything around him is completely uninteresting.
“That’s Jack. Jack Hunter,” Kayla whispers. “He never comes to parties like this. They’re way beneath him.”
“Beneath him? He’s in high school, Kayla, not the royal goddamn court.”
“He’s got a nickname around here; Ice Prince. So he sort of is royalty.”
I laugh. When Kayla’s face remains serious, I stop.
“Wait, you’re not kidding? You guys actually call him that?”