Chapter 1: Tap, tap
Raise your right hand and repeat after me:
We, the members of the Boy Swap Club, being of totally sound minds and rockin’ bodies, do here forth promise to be true to the following rules:
1) Never hog your boyfriend all to yourself.
2) Never get mad at a sister member for dating your guy.
3) Don’t go all the way with any of the swapped guys.
4) And never, ever, fall in love with any guys involved in the swap.
I put down my hand and smile at the group of girls I’ve just joined. I can’t believe that I’m really here. I don’t totally understand what it is that I just agreed to but who cares? I’m hanging out with the “it” girls. Cassie Deegan and Caitlyn Ray, the two most popular girls in our entire school, run this club and I about died when Cassie invited me to attend. She slipped me a note after Biology this afternoon that said, “4 p.m., Bookends Bookstore, Travel section. Be there.” At first I thought, oh great—I pissed somebody off and now she’s going to lure me into an empty corner of the giant bookstore so she and her friends can kick my butt, film it on their cells, and post it on YouTube. But curiosity got the better of me, and I couldn’t believe it when I showed up and found ten of the prettiest, most popular girls at my school sitting in a circle waiting for me.
Well, except for, blech, Delaney Adams, the only girl who might actually want to kick my butt. She stands a few feet behind the C2, scowling and appearing generally unhappy that I’m here. Not that that’s new. Obviously she was the “Nay” in the Yay or Nay vote on my invitation. But Cassie and Caitlyn must really want me here so she can just go ahead and deal.
“Okay,” Cassie bellows to the circle, interrupting my thoughts, “I need to make it clear that not just anybody can join Boy Swap. This is a super secret elite club that you have to be tapped into. So don’t like, go running off and telling your friends or anything. Because we’ll deny it all. You were chosen to join our club because you have a desirable boyfriend.” Cassie looks directly at me and gives me a tight smirk.
Hmmm…Chris is a hottie. With his adorable dimples and dive-right-in ocean blue eyes, I think he’s irresistible. But they really picked me because my boyfriend is cute? How weird.
“Look at the girl to your left and the girl to your right,” Caitlyn instructs.
I glance to my left at Sarah Reynolds with her long shiny blonde hair; she’s the swim team captain and last year’s homecoming queen. On my right is Jackie Adelson with glossy auburn waves; she’s a varsity cheerleader and the lead in every single school play. I finger my own chin-length dark brown hair. Okay. So if the three of us went head-to-head for a Pantene commercial I’d come in third. But Chris loves my hair. He’s always running his hands through it when we’re making out.
“They may not be your friends outside in the real world,” Cassie continues, “but in here, they’re your sisters.”
Wow. Sisters! I’ve always wanted a sister. Or two. Or ten. I reach down into my purse for my phone—I want to text Lizzie so bad and tell her all about it. Oooh, but I can’t. Cassie just warned against that, right? Well, I know, and that is what’s important. Currently, my school social status is kind of up for grabs. I’m not exactly what you would call popular. Okay, who am I kidding? If we had to walk the school with our status branded across our chests for all the world to see like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, mine would read “BN” for Band Nerd.
Yes, I’m totally a band nerd. I am the second chair flutist in our school symphony as well as in the marching band. Ack, I know, I know! The orange and black toy soldier band uniforms are flattering on no one! Believe me, if I could convince Mr. Shank, our band director, to let us out on the football field in cute sundresses and wedge sandals, I would. But it is a sacrifice that I make to play my music. I love the flute. When I play it, I feel all Tinkerbell twinkly. If you play an instrument in the band then the flute is the only way to go. Your sound stands out higher and prettier than all of the other instruments and it feels more like they are accompanying you. But don’t mention to anyone that I said that. I’ll have a bunch of pissed off clarinetists and saxophonists on my back.
Anyway, maybe I don’t have to forever be known as a band nerd? This could really change everything for me. Maybe now I’ll make friends with some of these girls and break into their cliques. And that would totally piss Delaney off as well, which is a major bonus. She just hates that I’m sitting here smack dab in the middle of her world. We’ve spent the last five years pretending each other didn’t exist so I imagine this is completely killing her. Her eyes are rolling so far back in her head I’m afraid they might detach and plop right out onto the floor at any moment.
“If there are no questions, I’d like you to sign the forms I’m passing out and…”
“I have a question,” I say, shooting my hand in the air. All eyes fall on me. “Um, I guess I don’t quite understand what I’m agreeing to. What is the Boy Swap Club exactly?”
Cassie sighs and rubs her temple with her right hand.
Whoops. Did she already explain and I wasn’t paying attention?
“Research shows that seven out of ten girl fights are over a guy,” Cassie says quickly. “We’ve discovered the secret to harmony and happiness at school. In order to maximize on male cuteness and minimize on fights and backstabbing, we just share our boyfriends. ”
“And the guys don’t care?” I ask.
“Like we tell them.” Caitlyn laughs and the rest of the girls join her. Okay, so apparently everyone here does know how things work already, and I’m asking too many questions. But come on, it sounds a little strange. How do you share boyfriends without their knowledge? And why do they want to share boyfriends anyway? I don’t even like to share my fries. Although, loaning Chris out to get to hang with these girls is intriguing. It would be hysterical if I actually became popular from being in their club, so popular that Delaney would beg me to be friends with her again and then Icould reject her snooty butt. Oooh, that would be amazing. And I’m sure they’d return Chris to me in the same condition as I left him, right? Hmm. Oh, what am I saying? This is ridiculous.
“So, like I said before, if there are no other questions…” Cassie scans the circle with an arched eyebrow—daring someone to say something. But no one makes a peep. “I’ll need you each to sign one of these,” she adds. A stack of papers is quickly passed around the circle of girls, and I start to read mine. It’s some kind of boyfriend permission form. These girls are funny!
“Okay,” Cassie interrupts my thoughts, “you are being passed an agreement that we’ll need you to sign immediately. It is really simple. I, fill in your name, voluntarily participate in the Interscholastic Boyfriend Exchange Program, here forth referred to as ‘Boy Swap Club’ blah blah, of which my boyfriend, fill in his name, unknowingly shall participate, blah blah blah, turn the page, enter into this agreement under no force and of my free will, yadda yadda, for a period of no less than three months, blah blah blah. If contract is broken, penalties up to and including excommunication from entire student body…well, you get the gist. If you want to join our club, sign now.”
Seriously, can this girl slow down? I don’t want to give away a kidney or something. I scan the first few lines. I don’t know. Should I do it? Part of me says drop the paper on the chair and get the heck out of here. Part of me says don’t be a bore, take a chance, and see what happens. What’s the harm? I raise my hand again.
“Yes?” Cassie says, narrowing her eyes at me.
“Can I get a copy of this to read at home?” I hear a few sighs and see several girls give each other looks. Yikes. They’re probably all wondering who let the loser in. But I just want to gather more information. I mean, this isn’t exactly like when I joined French club.
Stop it Brooke! This is so not going to change your Band Nerd status. And besides, these girls are, like, the smartest and prettiest at school. They are readily signing it so it can’t be that bad, right? And it’s not like Chris would ever cheat on me anyway so I’m totally getting the best of both worlds. “I mean, never mind. Sounds fab,” I add quickly and scribble my name. “Here,” I pass my form to Sarah and try to appear thrilled. Everyone shuffles their papers back to Cassie.
My stomach flips. Ugh. What did I just agree to? That was rash wasn’t it? I didn’t even take time to really think it over. Let girls date my Chris? Why would I do that? And why do they want Chris anyway? True, he’s hot. But he’s just as big a band nerd as me. Although what’s wrong with band nerds anyway? We’re cool. In our own way. Maybe the popular kids are finally ready to give us the appreciation we deserve. Ah, who am I kidding? No, things are fine the way they are. I don’t need to be in this silly club. Now if I can just get that piece of paper back… “Um, excuse me, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d…”
“Okay,” Caitlyn says, completely ignoring me. “There is one last piece of business before we let you go today.” She props her Dooney & Burke bag up on her lap and pulls from it a fistful of the rare, extremely sought after, pale pink scarves.
A collective “ooooooh” goes around the circle and every girl is staring at the pile of scarves with wide eyes.
“You will each be given one of these pink scarves,” Caitlyn says but I can hardly hear her. My mind is racing. Ohmigod! The scarves! Lizzie and I have been searching everywhere for these scarves. All the girls have. It’s like, the popular girls started a fad and none of us could join in because we couldn’t find the darn things anywhere. And now I am getting one? Lizzie is going to DIE!
But wait, grasp reality here, I don’t needone. I’ve made it all this time without a scarf. Without being popular. I’m fine. Closing eyes now. Nothing to see here. Well, maybe just a little peek.
“You must always have the scarf on you in some way—neck, hair, wrist, whatever,” Caitlyn says. “If it doesn’t match your outfit that day well, then have it on your backpack or your purse in some fashion. This is our signal to each other that we are all in the BSC. Never, and I mean NEVER, tell anyone where you got the scarf. If you are ever asked, tell them it was a sale at Macy’s.” Everyone is bobbing their heads up and down in excitement. My fingers are twitching at the idea of possibly holding a scarf in just a few seconds. Cailtyn walks the circle, dropping one scarf in each girl’s lap.
I’m losing will power fast. Must. Touch. Scarf. Caitlyn’s getting closer to me. What will people say if they see me at school wearing this scarf? Matching with all of these super cool girls, together in solidarity. A sign that I belong with them. That I, Brooke Thomas, second chair flutist, am someone important. My right leg is bouncing up and down in anticipation. And then Caitlyn drops a scarf on it.
Oh my God. I drape it over my left wrist and hold it up toward the light. This is the most beautiful scarf I’ve ever seen.