first day. I imagined them whispering in the faculty lounge or wherever it was adults hung out at a place like this, making wagers on how long I might last. I gave her a tight-lipped smile, told her everything was fine, and resolved to hit the library right away to start in on that list of books he’d given me.
I was not going down without a fight.
It was a humid day with thick gray clouds crowding the sky, the air so heavy it felt as if the atmosphere was pressing in on me from all sides. As always, I walked with my head down and a rivulet ofsweat wound its way along my neck and into the collar of my T-shirt. I realized then that I was rushing. Not the kind of weather conducive to rushing. I took a deep breath and slowed down as I made my way around Drake House, a dorm for upperclassmen boys that everyone called “Dreck” because apparently all the unsavory males at Easton lived there.
Everything was going to be fine. I just needed to chill. I just needed to remember why I was here and what I was avoiding going back to. I just needed to—
I rounded the corner of Dreck and heard a window opening, then a giggle. I looked up and stopped dead. There, scrambling out of a basement window and into the bushes, with the help of a large hand on her ass, was Kiran Hayes. She scrambled up, laughing, then straightened her skirt and brushed the dirt from her bare knees. Seconds later, a boy emerged, pulling himself up and tackling her into a kiss. Kiran pushed at his shoulders at first, but then let out a slight moan and kissed him back.
Kiran Hayes was making out with a Dreck boy. The Dreck boy’s hands were, in fact, sliding up her tank top toward her breasts.
Right. I didn’t need to see that.
I turned to go, but the flash of movement must have caught Kiran’s eye. A moment later, she barked.
“Wait! Don’t move,” she demanded.
I squeezed my eyes shut and turned back toward her, my pulse racing.
“God! You really are a voyeur, aren’t you?” she said.
“No!” I wrenched one eye open and caught a glimpse of Kiran’s mauler grabbing his book bag and fleeing around the building toward Dreck’s front door. It was the tall, gawky kid I had seen her wink at the other day. What was supermodel Kiran doing with a manga-reading loser like that? And I thought she had a boyfriend in Barcelona. “I was just taking a shortcut to the library,” I told her. “I didn’t see anything.”
Kiran’s hair was a rat’s nest in the back from where it had been pressed up against the rough brick. Her skirt was half turned around and her lipstick was entirely gone, revealing plump, pink lips. I had never seen her look so disheveled, and she was still drop-dead gorgeous.
“Yeah, right,” she said, taking a step toward me. “You’re not going to tell anyone about this, right?”
“No,” I said. “No. Of course not.”
“Because you cannot even comprehend the things I can do to you,” she said.
Wow. This girl really knew how to cast a threat. Her eyes, so stunningly beautiful on a normal day, were now filled with venom. But even in my intimidated state, I realized that this was a moment I could use to my advantage. I could show Kiran I was trustworthy. I’d been handed another opportunity to prove myself.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
And then, to my surprise, I saw a flicker of relief. She was really scared that people would find out about this. Why? Maybe the kid was kind of a dork, but Kiran was the sort of powerful, popular girlwho could get away with dating whomever she wanted and still rise above the snickers and the rumors. Why was she so concerned about keeping this little affair hush-hush?
“Good,” Kiran said. “Now go.”
No time for questions I’d never have the courage to ask anyway. I turned and got out of there as fast as I could.
For a while, I had no contact with the Billings Girls, aside from practices with Noelle, at which she mostly ignored my