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Babe in Boyland
 

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Babe in Boyland


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  DIAL BOOKS

  An imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  Published by The Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A.

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) ♦ Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England ♦ Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) ♦ Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India ♦ Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) ♦ Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa ♦ Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England

  Copyright © 2011 by Jody Gehrman

  All rights reserved

  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Gehrman, Jody Elizabeth.

  Babe in boyland / by Jody Gehrman.

  p. cm.

  eISBN : 978-1-101-47573-7

  [1. Sex role—Fiction. 2. Interpersonal relations—Fiction. 3. Boarding

  schools—Fiction. 4. Schools—Fiction. 5. Theater—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.G25937Bab 2011 [Fic]—dc22 2010011876

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  For my editors,

  Lauri Hornik and Liz Waniewski. Lauri, thanks for trusting me with your baby; Liz, thanks for seeing beyond the awkward, angsty stages of early drafts. You’re both brilliant.

  Chapter One

  My name is Natalie Rowan. Everyone knows that. Only a select few, however, know I’m the evil genius behind my nom de plume, Dr. Aphrodite. That might seem like a pretty hefty title for a seventeen-year-old junior who’s not even sure she’s officially made it to what my mom refers to as “heavy petting.” (Ew. I know. But my other option’s “third base,” which is suspiciously ’80s, right? Come on, inventors-of-sexual-euphemisms, get on the job!)

  To be honest, I dig having a secret identity, even if it is kind of a misnomer. I think everyone should have at least a part of them that’s self-invented; in fact, the world would be much more interesting if we all created our own identities afresh whenever we felt like it. Otherwise you’re just walking around regurgitating what’s expected, which is like, why bother? I actually plan to mess up my life and start over every seven years. That way, I’ll never get in a rut. I read somewhere that most of your cells only live about seven years anyway, so in theory you literally are a new person; I figure that’s the best time to start over.

  I created Dr. Aphrodite when I started writing our school paper’s relationship column last year. It’s mostly a Dear Abby type deal, where people write in with questions about love or sex or whatever and I answer them. Occasionally I sound off blog-style on some current obsession of mine—as long as I can get it past our semi-fascist censors and it’s relationship-oriented, you’ll see it in my column. I’ve covered topics like Promnesia (when perfectly sane people forget about everything except spray tans, strapless dresses, and dyed-to-match pumps), Brazilaphobia (fear of overly zealous hair removal), and Face Relations (getting it on with people via Facebook).

  Just so you know, being Dr. Aphrodite isn’t always easy. I have to guard my clandestine writing life so carefully, I sometimes feel like a secret agent. I sort of hoped writing about romance might help me scare up a little of my own, but so far that plan hasn’t worked in the slightest. While I dispense sage advice to the masses about how to make their love lives thrive, my own is virtually nonexistent. That’s one of the reasons nobody can know my alias; who’s going to seek advice from a love expert who’s never been in love? Even though my column’s super-popular, it doesn’t exactly earn me friends and admirers. Only my two best friends and my editors know it’s me behind the smoke and mirrors. You’d think at least they would respect me for my massive following, but I sometimes suspect they don’t take Dr. Aphrodite very seriously.

  Which is sad, really. Because what’s more serious than love?

  As I walk into the Journalism room, I can hear my editors, Rachel Webb and Chas Marshal, snickering. They’re hunched over the computer screen, avidly reading something on the Mountain View News website. At the sound of my footsteps Rachel turns. For a second she looks caught, but the guilty impulse passes almost instantly from her face. Her eyes sparkle as she peers at me over her glasses, pink rabbit nose twitching with delight.

  “Look at this one,” Chas says, all excited. “Some guy actually called her a—”

  Without taking her eyes off mine, Rachel lets out a polite little cough.

  Chas spins around and, seeing me, plasters on a fake smile. “Hi, Natalie.”

  Rachel says, “How’s Dr. Aphrodite?”

  “Fine.” My voice comes out high-pitched and nervous; my gaze flits from Rachel to Chas and back again. “What’s up?”

  “Your latest column’s getting lots of attention.” Chas leans back in his chair. “Have you seen the message board?”

  “Not since last night. Why? What’s going on?” My tongue suddenly feels dry as sandpaper.

  He stands and gestures at his chair. “Go ahead—check it out. We haven’t gotten this many comments since those hackers posted porn on our homepage.”

  Reluctantly, I sit. The page shows my column, its borders afflicted with hearts and cupids. I was able to override the cheesy layout in our print version, but somehow it slipped through online. Bleh. I write a thought-provoking, cutting-edge column about dating in the new millennium, not a Hallmark card. Whatever. I skim my column, comforted somewhat by its familiarity.

  Dear Dr. Aphrodite,

  Help! I really, really like this guy and I think he likes me, but is afraid to make a move. I’m very popular (sorry, but I am) and he’s kind of a notch below, socially (don’t hate me! I’m just being honest). Sometimes I catch him looking at me, but he never says anything because he’s super-shy. A few times I’ve tried to start up conversations with him, but it didn’t go anywhere. I think he’s intimidated by my social status. Should I ask him out?

  Sincerely,

  Hot for the Art Boy

  Dear H-FAB,

  I can see your quandary. You’re a gorgeous, charismatic, goddess of fabulosity (I don’t know you, but I’m reading between the lines). Art Boy is obviously intimidated! You’re like the sun and he’s squinting up at you, barely able to see because of your blinding radiance.

  Should you ask him out? Of course you should! I bet he’s pining away for you right this second, trying to work up the courage just to say hi. Put the bo
y out of his misery! What do you have to lose? If he says yes, and he can get over his inferiority complex, you might make a great couple. If he says no, don’t even trip; it would only prove that he’s too insecure to handle your tremendous power and beauty.

  I scan the page and see a series of comments have been posted—fifty-three, to be exact. As I reach for the mouse and scroll down to view them, I can feel cold sweat breaking out along the back of my neck. Chas mutters something under his breath and Rachel suppresses a laugh, which turns into an unattractive snorting sound. I shoot her a dark look; she bites her lip.

  Posted by: Shredder103

  I’ve been reading your column ever since you started it last year, and I haven’t said anything, but I’ve got to speak up because it’s getting out of control. Every single week girls write to you for advice and all you ever tell them is what they want to hear. You have no idea how guys think or feel about anything! All you’re doing is helping girls at this school perpetuate their delusions about the world and how it works. Not once have you ever told them anything useful or sane from a guy’s point of view. Do us all a favor and stop!

  Posted by: BeerHog

  i fully agree w/ shredder. who do u think u r dr. aphrodite? last month my gf wrote u complaining i play video games when i should be w/ her and now she’s nagging me about going 2 couples counseling. COUPLES COUNSELING? WTF??? im 15!!! damn, gimme a break.

  Posted by: Joey

  srsly, ur ruining our lives! all the chicks @ mt view high listen to u and all u do is fill their heads w/ BS!! chas, fire her already!!!

  Posted by: Duckmanrocks

  Can anyone say “delusions of grandeur”? That’s what happens when you lose touch with reality and start to believe your own hype. That’s what happens to girls when they listen to you, Dr. Aphrodite. There are approximately nine hundred girls who go to school here, and as far as I can tell at least eight hundred ninety-seven of them have been poisoned by your column. My sister took your advice and gave her boyfriend an ultimatum: He had to stop playing Texas Hold’em with his friends every Thursday night or she’d dump him. Guess what? He didn’t stop.

  So she dumped him. Now she’s miserable, and her boyfriend’s with some other chick, one of the three who doesn’t read your column, apparently. You really think you helped my poor sister? She cries herself to sleep every night. I’ve got to wear earplugs. Thanks a lot.

  Posted by: Moshi-moshi

  Yeah, what he said!

  Posted by: Joey

  see, chas? every1 agrees! give her the ax!!

  Posted by: ZombieKing

  What does Dr. Aphrodite know about love or sex? When’s the last time she got any?

  And so on. The abuse goes on and on. Every once in a while someone pipes up in my defense—always a girl and obviously one of my fans. I turn away from the computer when I can’t take any more and fold my arms in front of my chest, forcing myself to look Chas in the eye.

  “Any publicity’s good publicity, right? At least they’re reading. That’s really something when you consider how illiterate most of these idiots are.” It takes all my concentration to keep my voice from trembling. An ache behind my eyes tells me tears are imminent, but I refuse to give in. Not here. Not in front of these two, the editorial team from hell. I’m going to write a book someday called The Devil Wears His-and-Her Gap Cardigans. Everyone knows I should be in line for editor-in-chief next year, but Chas is obviously grooming Rachel for the position instead. Together, they’re so condescending they make me feel like the literary equivalent of chewing gum—cheap, saccharine, and utterly disposable.

  “That’s a good attitude.” Chas’s smile shows no teeth.

  “Actually, that’s precisely the attitude readers are offended by,” Rachel says.

  “What’s that supposed to mean?” I snarl.

  “You’re cocky, Natalie. You think all girls are superior to guys or something. It’s reverse sexism.” She cuts her eyes at Chas. “You’ve heard of misogyny? This is mansogyny!”

  I groan in response. Ridiculous.

  Chas hoists his laptop bag over his shoulder. “Well, I’m not going to fire you, so don’t worry.”

  “Gee, thanks.” Like he even could! There’s nothing else in his pathetic rag readers bother with, and they both know it. The only reason they’re gloating about this whole fiasco is because they’re jealous of my column’s popularity.

  Chas pushes his glasses up onto the bridge of his nose. “Guess we’ll catch you later. We’re headed to the library.”

  “Yeah?” I feign interest, eager to change the subject. “What are you working on?”

  “Story of the Year entries are due a week from Monday.” Rachel’s tone implies only serious drug users could possibly miss such an important deadline.

  “What’s that?”

  She nods at the announcement board. It’s meticulously arranged, with a border of yellow corrugated paper and shiny capital letters at the top saying MOUNTAIN VIEW NEWS. Under that is a typed notice that reads Please consult with Assistant Editor Rachel Webb before posting your announcements. Everything on it is perfectly straight, like she took a ruler and lined each notice up before impaling the edges with shiny silver thumbtacks. Rachel points at the Day-Glo yellow paper neatly tacked to the very center of the board. Story of the Year Award, it says. Win $1,000. Show your potential as an investigative reporter by covering a social issue relevant to your generation. Deadline: Monday, September 20, 5:00.

  “Oh, yeah,” I say. “I was thinking I should enter something.”

  After a moment of silence, Chas and Rachel burst out laughing.

  “What’s so funny?”

  “You’re hardly an investigative reporter, Natalie.” Chas punches my arm lightly.

  “So? I’m a writer. I know how to do research.”

  Rachel catches her breath and puts on a mock-serious face. “When they say ‘a social issue relevant to your generation,’ they’re not talking about H-FAB and her crush on Art Boy.”

  This cracks them up. I glower.

  “This just in!” Chas says in a cheesy reporter voice. “H-FAB and Art Boy Go to Homecoming!”

  I offer the weakest of smiles. “What are you guys writing yours on?”

  “Prescription drug abuse.” Chas nods. “It’s a real epidemic.”

  “Eating disorders,” Rachel says solemnly. “Speaking of which, are any of your friends bulimic? I need a good quote.”

  “Sorry.” I shrug. “No one I know enjoys puking.”

  “Don’t get offended. It’s common among theater types, and I know you used to act.”

  “None taken.” Which isn’t exactly a lie, since of all the things they’ve said to me in the past ten minutes, this is the least insulting.

  “All right, see you,” Chas says, heading for the exit. “Get to work on that H-FAB piece. Sounds like a front-page feature.”

  They’re still laughing as they walk out the door.

  When they’re gone, I go back to the Day-Glo announcement and read it again. I try to picture the expressions Chas and Rachel will wear when they learn I’ve won. For once in their lives, they won’t look so smug. They think Dr. Aphrodite’s a big joke, huh? Think she can’t investigate? They’re about to realize just how serious Dr. Aphrodite can get.

  Chapter Two

  As I’m driving away from campus, I get a text from Darcy that reads simply My house. Now. Rob’s a dick. Between reading her text and thinking about that damn message board, I’m so distracted I almost drive up onto the sidewalk, where a startled blonde is walking her Pomeranian. Fantastic—just what I need to make my day complete: vehicular man-slaughter plus first-degree dogicide.

  At Darcy’s house, I park the Buick haphazardly in the general vicinity of the curb, throw open the gate, and dash straight to Darcy’s room, which has its own entrance. Her walls are completely covered with posters of Jim Morrison. She’s got a thing for him, don’t ask me why.

  Darcy’s a drama nerd, big-
time. We’ve been in plays together since we were like seven. Up until the end of fresh-man year, I was way into theater too. That’s when Summer Sheers moved up from LA and started stealing every single role from me, instantly demoting me from ingénue to understudy. It pissed me off so much that I stopped auditioning and started pouring my creative energy into a new role: Dr. Aphrodite. Now that’s going downhill too. Great. I’m seventeen with two failed careers already.

  “Darcy?!”

  She appears in her bedroom doorway, eyes red from crying. “He blew me off again.”

  “No!”

  “Yes!” she wails. “He was supposed to meet me after fifth period, but he never showed. I saw him drive off with Michiko Tanabe. Stupid prick!”

  I pull her into my arms and she unleashes a torrent of hiccupping sobs. “Shh . . .”

  “I saw Michiko wearing a Dave Matthews T-shirt the other day! Do you have any idea how much Rob hates Dave Matthews?”

  “Sit down,” I say, pulling her down onto the oversized beanbag at our feet. “Tell me everything.”

  “So you know we hooked up last weekend, right?”

  I nod. Rob is Darcy’s on-again-off-again messed-up angstridden mini-rocker boyfriend. He’s like five foot three with a concave chest. Amazingly, the chicks dig him. He’s in a band called PigHead. Going to their gigs makes me want to rupture my own eardrums with an ice pick.

  “I know this sounds stupid after everything we’ve been through . . .” she says, her throat thick with phlegm from all the crying, “but I seriously thought we were at a new level. He told me . . . he actually said . . .”

  “Okay, hold on.” I dig through my purse and produce a Kleenex.

  She blows her nose violently a couple times, then resumes. “He said he could picture us in LA together.”

 
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