Does anyone actually say that anymore? Maybe some fifth-grade girls. The type who have unicorn-and-rainbow diaries with easily picked locks and “I heart Billy” drawn on every page. This one doesn’t have unicorns, which is surprising since it’s from Dad. He probably thinks I still play with Barbies. It’s not that he doesn’t care about me. Just more like he doesn’t notice me anymore. He hasn’t since he started dating Isa. Truthfully, he hasn’t really noticed me since Mom died, but I can’t blame him for that. The past couple of years have been a giant blob of suck. At least Dad has Isa, though. I guess one of us should have someone.
Isa. That stupid name makes me want to scream. I almost poked through the page with my pen writing it. Any normal person would shorten Isabelle to Belle, or even Isy, if they wanted to be cute. But Isa? EEEESUHHHH. God. Most Pretentious Nicknames for a thousand, Alex.
But she’s the reason I’m here, at Prescott Academy, where graduation nearly guarantees you a spot in an Ivy League. And she’s the reason Bex gets to go to the Campbell School, which means she’ll get into Prescott, too, when she’s old enough. Dad can’t afford fancy private schools, but Isa the Bulldog Lawyer can. So I guess I can put up with a stepmother when I’m
required to come home. Holidays already suck without Mom, and the same fake smile hides both grief and irritation.
Bex hugged me so tight before they left. She’s scared to go to a new school, and she’s never been away from home before. She’s never been away from me. That’s going to be hard. As cool as it’s going to be on my own here, what am I gonna do without Bex’s hugs? Her nonstop chatter? Her—
Sorry. My roommate showed up. Her name is Emily. She seems cool, and she didn’t bring anything annoying like wind chimes or beaded curtains, but she did bring chocolate. :) Off to the dining hall for dinner.
Okay, so I think I’ll try to write in this thing every night before I go to sleep. I don’t know why. I’ve never really kept a diary before, but . . . I don’t know. I guess it’s nice that Dad got something for me. And it will be fun to document what it’s like to go to Prescott Academy. Maybe years from now, when I’m a famous chemist, I’ll use it for reference when I write my memoirs. But anyway . . . about that documentation. Here I go. . . .
Today was just so weird. Prescott isn’t just a different school, it’s a different planet. I got to my first class, English, and sat at an empty desk. Everyone around me was talking because they all know one another, but it wasn’t like home. At home, if someone
asked how your summer was, you’d say it was lame or talk about a summer job or something. These Prescott kids . . . It was all “Oh, Paris is just so lovely in the summertime!” and “Daddy’s new yacht couldn’t even fit at the dock in the Hamptons” and “I tried amazing caviar on solid gold plates!”
Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t much better. These are the kinds of kids who clearly never had to wonder IF they’d ever get a car, just when. Oh, and also, since we all have to wear the same uniform, apparently the trend is to show off the only things that we can individualize: makeup, jewelry, and what brand of flats you wear. Seriously. I’m guessing my Payless fake leather won’t get me into the upper echelon at Prescott. I suppose I could ask Isa for better flats, but . . . honestly, I’d rather die than feel like I owe Isa anything.
Thank God Emily and I had calculus and civics together, and we found each other at lunch so I didn’t have to eat by myself. She told me last night that she’s a scholarship student. That’s the only way her parents can afford this place. She begged me not to tell anyone, but she didn’t have to. I get it. I told her about my dad and Isa. I didn’t mention Mom.
Emily wants to be a writer. Like movie scripts and stuff. She’s pretty quiet, but if you get her talking about movies, she could go for days.
That’s another thing that’s different about the kids here.
They’re really focused on the future. Everyone seems super smart and ambitious, and they take classes seriously. Back home, classes were just sort of a necessary evil until summer. And they certainly weren’t supposed to be interesting. Here, even my least favorite classes are going to be interesting and challenging.
Speaking of favorite classes . . . There’s a guy in my chemistry class. His name is Drew. Definitely not a scholarship student. His dad owns a restaurant chain or something—at least that’s what Emily said. Anyway, he’s kind of cute. Preppy, but his hair does this floppy thing that’s truly adorable. I saw him later at lunch, too, sitting with a very serious-looking bunch of people. Serious but glamorous. They were just sitting at a dining hall table together, but they might as well have been posing for a Vanity Fair cover. The girl had the prettiest, thickest black hair and dark red lipstick. She had large black rhinestones on her flats. At least I think they were rhinestones. For all I know they could have been real gems from Tiffany. It wouldn’t surprise me in this place.
I’m going to have to buy some better shoes.
Day two at Prescott was just as weird as the first, made even weirder when Drew actually spoke to me about halfway through chemistry.
Drew: Bailey, right?
(I nodded dumbly, like I’d forgotten the English language.)
Drew: You seem like you really know this stuff.
Me: Um. Yeah. There was a really good chemistry teacher at my old school. I used to do extra assignments for her. For fun.
Drew, looking amused: For fun?
Me: Well, um, yeah. I was kind of good at it, so she let me work ahead of the class.
Then he just nodded, sat back in his desk, and locked eyes with Dark Lipstick Girl. They looked away from each other at the same time. He said nothing else to me, after class and all day. But when I walked by his table of glamorous people at lunch, he and Dark Lipstick Girl stared at me in this sort of predatory way.
What is this? Am I the girl who accidentally stumbles upon a group of vampires and werewolves at her school?
I asked Emily about Drew. She warned me to stay away from him while also drooling over the way his Prescott uniform sweater tightens over his chest, so . . .
Tomorrow is the first Friday here at Prescott. In other words, it’s the first Friday night I’ve ever had without parents around. Prescott has a curfew. We have to be back in our dorms by eleven, but that doesn’t mean we have to sleep. I’ve heard a few people talking about parties in the dorms, but no one’s invited me. It’s okay. Emily and I have decided we’re going to stay up all night and watch movies and pig out on chocolate. I guess she wasn’t invited to any parties either.
The plot thickens.
Mr. Callahan asked me to stay after chemistry class today, so the whole class I was sick to my stomach with nerves. Turns out he wanted to know about my old school back home. He said he noticed I seem to be ahead of what he’s teaching at Prescott.
Ahead of a class at Prescott!
So I told him about Miss Beverly at my old school and how I’d spend a lot of days after school in the lab, doing special stuff that no one else got to do. I also told him that I want to be a chemical
engineer. He laughed when I told him I hadn’t even known that was a thing until Miss Beverly told me about all the jobs that use chemistry, but now it’s the only thing I can see myself doing. He asked if I’d thought about college, like I haven’t been dreaming about Harvard since I was three. He said he’d help all he could.
I thanked him and walked out the door, and that’s when Dark Lipstick Girl grabbed my arm and dragged me into the ladies’ restroom.
DLG: Bailey, right?
Huh. The same way Drew greeted me the first time. Weird. Definitely vampires.
Me: Yeah. Were you listening to me talk to Mr. Callahan?
DLG, shrugging: Not on purpose. You’re pretty good at chemistry, then?
Me: I guess. I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name.
DLG: Katy. Katy Ashton. Your last name is Wells, isn’t it? Are you on scholarship?
I got super uncomfortable with our conversation at that point. The assumption felt awful. Maybe it was my cheap flats? Or maybe it’s just that my family doesn’t summer at the same vacation spot as everyone else? Whatever. She sort of backtracked after that. She put her arm around my shoulders and started walking with me toward my next class.
Then she invited me to Science Club. Seriously? This gorgeous girl is part of something like the Science Club? Prescott isn’t like my old school AT ALL.
Katy, formerly known as DLG: It’s Saturday night. Herschell Hall. That’s the upperclassmen boys’ dorm. Seven o’clock.
Me: The Science Club meets in a dorm on Saturday nights?
Katy just smiled at me, all secretive and glamorous, and told me she’d see me there. Seriously. If Science Club is code for Vampire Club, I will be not be surprised. Pissed at how clichéd it would be, but not surprised.
September 8 Sorry! It’s actually September 9 now!
Emily is fast asleep. I’m about to pass out too. I know it’s probably lame that we stayed in and watched movies, but I had
a lot of fun. She’s really down-to-earth. Honestly, she seems like she could be from back home. We watched Notting Hill. Emily had never seen it before and seemed to love it, so maybe she won’t mind watching it again sometime. It was Mom’s favorite. We used to pop popcorn and put on fleece pajamas and watch romantic comedies all the time. We’d both cry at all the sad parts and some of the happy parts and tease each other about being saps. When Bex got a little older, she’d stay up late with us too. She’d always have a box of tissues ready for when Mom and I would start sobbing.
I wonder how Bex is doing. I miss her.
I really miss Mom.
September 9, later
Walking over to Herschell Hall was the most I’d really seen campus since orientation day over the summer. So far I’ve kept to the class buildings and Baker Hall, my own dorm. Herschell, though, is on the other side of campus, and there’s a pretty pond and park in between. The leaves are starting to turn and I can tell it’s going to be gorgeous here in the fall. Maybe I should start studying outside.
Katy met me at the entrance, holding the door open for me so it wouldn’t lock us both out. When she told me we were going to meet in Drew’s room, my stomach did a massive
somersault. How is he in Science Club? I’ve never heard him answer a single question in chemistry. Of course, everyone here at Prescott is a genius, or at least that’s what their glossy brochures try to tell you.
We walked up three flights of stairs and into a dorm room that looked a bit like mine, only it had window seats and a slanted ceiling on account of the room being on the top floor. I guess I expected the room to be gross and smelly, like frat houses in movies or something, but Drew’s room was tidy and, maybe I’m mistaken, but I think it had been professionally decorated. It kind of looked like the reading room at the New York Public Library. Soft lighting, dark wood furniture, everything just a little gilded.
Drew was smoking a cigarette on one of the window seats, the window wide open, no screen. He took a big puff and then handed what was left of it to a boy who sat on the floor by his feet. And while Drew looked like he’d stepped out of a Burberry ad, the other boy was every bit the geeky kind of person I’d been hoping to meet since I got here. Like a lankier but more rugged Harry Potter, the boy took the cigarette, braced it between his lips, and stood, extending his hand to me.
He introduced himself like James Bond. “Clark, Warren Clark,” he said. Crystal blue eyes locked onto mine and didn’t look away, even when I did. Drew started talking about me,
about how I really knew my stuff in chemistry class. He said Warren was just like me that way. That, and Warren is a scholarship student too. I told them I’m not on scholarship and they acted totally surprised until I told them that my stepmother is Isabelle Marlowe, which made Drew chuckle, and Katy said her own father had been up against Isa and lost on more than one occasion. Then Drew started talking about how Katy’s father had represented his in some sort of embezzlement charge and got him out of it with just community service, and then everyone was talking about people I didn’t know, places I’d never been to, and stories I wasn’t a part of. Weekend trips to sunny beaches, cabins in the Berkshires, wrecking a Porsche and getting a replacement the next day. And they were funny but I felt even more out of place than ever. Even Warren has history at Prescott. It sounds like he spends a lot of time with Drew, and spends just as much money. He didn’t mention having a job, but maybe he does. How else does he have that kind of money?
But at some point I noticed he was looking at me again, his blue eyes kind but intense. I met his gaze and did my best to smile back.
At no point did we talk about chemistry, or even science.
When Katy walked me back to my dorm, she hooked her arm through mine and tossed her gorgeous hair over her
shoulder and told me I was welcome at the next meeting. I feel like I passed some sort of test I didn’t even know I was taking. Of course I told her I’d go.
I guess I thought Katy would invite me to sit with them at lunch, but she didn’t. They only nodded slightly as I passed by their table on the way to sit with Emily. Warren was wearing a beanie, which is against the uniform code, but I get the feeling that the so-called Science Club can get away with anything. I’ve asked a few other people about Drew. Turns out his family owns most of the neighboring town of Wiltshire, so I bet the headmaster is afraid to touch him. He flat-out put his head down and slept during chemistry today, and Mr. Callahan didn’t do anything about it. And I looked out the window during civics this morning and Warren was sitting in a tree, feet and overcoat dangling, smoking a cigarette. Smoking on campus, sleeping during class, skipping classes . . . All of those things are against the rules at Prescott, but I haven’t seen Drew or his friends face any consequences.
Oh, and Warren is in English with me. Or he’s supposed to be, when he bothers to come. I didn’t realize that because I guess he always sits in the back, and I always sit in the front and don’t turn around much because I’m trying so hard to
focus on the merits of Shakespeare. (Okay, I actually hate Shakespeare. I know it’s a necessary evil in school, like eating four servings of vegetables every day, but really. So stuffy. No wonder I have to focus so hard. Everything else I can ace in my sleep, but not Shakespeare. Oh no. He demands undivided attention.)
I asked Emily about Warren. She told me he was a scholarship student, which I already knew, and that he’s from her hometown. She said nothing about his personality, and I could be wrong, but I think maybe she doesn’t like him. There was something kind of cold in her eyes when she talked about him. When I pressed her further, all she said was that he spent last summer at Princeton in some sort of science program, so he’ll probably go there when he graduates.
Well, at least one person in the Science Club seems to like science.
I feel like maybe I’m getting the hang of Prescott. I mean, I still wear my Payless shoes, but I’m getting used to everyone being so rich. And I feel like I can kind of fake it, or at least play along when I have to.
The classes aren’t as hard as I expected, either. It’s a lot more work than my old school, and I feel like all I do at night
is homework, but it’s not harder, really. It’s just like they expect more. It’s kind of weird not having parents around. You’d think everyone would slack off with no one telling them what to do. But everyone seems to try harder because of it. I even keep my side of the room clean. Well, sometimes.
Mr. Callahan had me stay after school and balance some really challenging chemical equations today. He didn’t tell me I did well—I think compliments are going to be hard to come by with him—but he was smiling ear to ear when he checked my work. I asked him about the Science Club. He just chuckled like I’d said something funny and told me I didn’t need a club. Then he told me I didn’t have to do the chemistry homework tonight. I might have some free time!
I don’t even know where to start today.
Emily and I were about to go to dinner when Katy showed up and told me it was time for the meeting. I felt really bad leaving Emily to eat alone, but I had a feeling that if I turned Katy down, I’d never get a chance to hang out with her again. I’d be out of the club, so to speak, and I just can’t give up this chance. It will be so nice to have a group again. Somewhere I belong. I hope Emily isn’t too mad.
So we get outside and I start walking in the direction of
Herschell Hall, and Katy grabs my arm and turns me in the opposite direction, almost off campus, to a building that looks like it hasn’t been used in years. It’s creepy as hell. The old walls kind of sag in places, several of the windows are busted out, and there are no streetlights in sight. It looks sort of like a big, yawning stone monster.
Me: Here? Is this even Prescott’s building?
Katy: Of course. We use the old science building for our meetings. Come on. I promise there are no ghosts.
Me: Not my main concern. More scared of rats, live wires, dead bodies . . .
Katy just laughed and pulled me through the doors. We went down some stairs and a beautiful smell hit me. Chemicals! It was GORGEOUS down there. There’s a fully equipped lab. Something simmered and steamed and hissed pleasantly on a burner. Tubes and beakers and vials and jars and all kinds of equipment lined the shelves and was scattered on old lab tables.
Okay, and I admit it. An even prettier sight was Drew and Warren, both of them in lab coats, hair pulled back by the
goggles they’d pushed above their foreheads. They were leaning over the simmering brew, looking like they knew exactly what the hell they were doing. To a girl who loves chemistry, there’s nothing hotter.
Drew smiled at me, but it was Warren who met my gaze and, with a slight jerk of his head, beckoned me over. I don’t know why, maybe it was because I finally felt like I wasn’t so out of my element, but I walked right up to him and asked him what he was working on.
When he answered, the room spun. I can’t believe I’m going to write this. I should definitely get a lock for this thing.
Drugs. Warren was working on making crystal meth. That’s what he said.
And I laughed because I was sure he was joking, but he wasn’t. Katy started explaining what they do, how they sell to local dealers, and how the area around Prescott is kind of depressed and has a lot of addicts, so it’s easy money. Warren said he needed the cash to get by, and it sounds like he’s the real talent. Katy and Drew make the sales and manage distribution. They explained it to me like it was no big deal. Like it’s completely normal to do something so illegal. Like it’s just a little side business like making decorative wreaths for Etsy.
It was so surreal. The more they talked, the more I felt like I was dreaming or I was the butt of a terrible joke. As they
explained, my ears started ringing and I couldn’t breathe. And I didn’t say good-bye or anything. I just ran out of the building and all the way back to my dorm.
Diary, I need to hide you now.
September 14 again, later
I could be imagining it, but I swear Emily knows. I keep catching her looking at me like she’s suspicious or something. And again she warned me to stay away from Drew. This time she threw Katy’s name in there too. Do you think she knows what the Science Club is up to? I wonder if I should tell her? I mean, of course I shouldn’t. I don’t want to get Warren or any of the Science Club in trouble, but this is just . . . too much. Telling her would be a relief. Someone to share the load, so to speak.
I guess I’m telling this diary, though. It can be the secret keeper for me, since obviously telling someone is out of the question. And I’ll definitely have a lot to tell if these first few weeks here are any indication. Sheesh. What a strange place Prescott is.
I tried to avoid Warren when I saw him in the hallway but he wouldn’t let me. He asked if we could talk and then pulled me into an empty classroom.
Warren: Are you okay?
Me: How could I be?
Warren: Look, I know it’s a lot to handle, but it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s really not that bad at all.
Me: Oh really? What’s not bad about making drugs to sell to the poor addicts in town?
Warren, looking at me like I’m adorable for having a conscience: They’d do it anyway, Bailey. At least if they get it from us, it’s safe. We’re not like those guys that throw poisonous fillers in to make more money and end up getting their clients killed.
Me: Clients? Is that what you call them?
Warren: It’s business, so yes. But not like you see on TV, okay? No cartels, no one who’s going to shoot your kneecaps or something
for breaking a deal. No one is dissolving dead bodies in bathtubs. We just provide a product and make a sale.
Me: With people buying who are slowly killing themselves.
Warren, with a huge, impatient sigh: If someone wants to eat burgers and fries for every meal and they die of a heart attack, it’s not the manager at McDonald’s who is to blame, is it?
I still felt uneasy, but I had to concede that point. Then Warren started talking about how much he can use the money. I get the impression his parents aren’t in the picture anymore, but he didn’t seem to want to explain why, just that they don’t help him financially. And Princeton is going to be incredibly expensive. But he hopes he can eventually become a scientist who could find a cure for addiction. I’m not sure if it’s hypocritical or just poetic that that’s what he wants to work for, but I assured him I won’t tell anyone about the Club.
He asked me if I’d come by the lab again. Apparently they’re
short one chemist after a Science Club member graduated last year, and Warren can’t do it all.
I told him I’d think about it, but how can I even consider this?
I got to talk to Bex! Turns out Isa got her a phone so that she can call home, and she called me, too! She sounds super happy at Campbell. It also sounds like she’s popular. She rambled on about all the kids she’s friends with. Doesn’t surprise me. Bex is the opposite of me in a lot of ways. She’s really extroverted, athletic (she’s going to be playing soccer for Campbell’s junior girls team), and even though she’s ten and should be kind of awkward, she’s not at all. I got all the awkwardness, I guess. But Bex never makes straight As like me, so I’m fine with the way the current flowed in the gene pool.
She asked how I’m doing, and I told her about Emily, and I told her there are some cute boys in my class. Of course I didn’t mention the Science Club. There are some things that even Bex can’t know about me, and I wouldn’t want her to know this. She’d be disappointed. Or worried. Or both. That’s the last thing either of us needs.
Before we hung up, Bex told me she wishes she could tell Mom about Campbell. I told her to tell Mom anyway. Is it silly
to think she listens? Probably. Probably clichéd, too. I don’t think there’s anything about Prescott I want to tell Mom yet, but I did put her picture in this journal. There’s a little pocket in the inside of the back cover where I can keep it safe and sound.
Maybe, in a way, I’m am telling her things.
Warren came to my room. I opened the door and he was smiling in that reserved way of his, and he asked if he could show me something. Super weird—Emily, who was doing homework, barely even looked at Warren. He didn’t say anything to her, either. It was like they were trying really hard not to notice the other. What is up with that?
I went with him, even though I still had homework to do. The members of the Science Club have been a little cold to me since I ran out of their lab the other night, and I wanted to at least prove to them that I’m not going to rat them out, even if I didn’t join them.
Neither of us was in uniform, since classes were over. I was in jeans and a comfy tee. Warren was wearing his long overcoat, even though it wasn’t that chilly out. I asked him why he always wears it. He said it belonged to his brother but didn’t say any more. I didn’t press. I barely know him but I can tell talking about his family is off-limits.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that Warren was leading me to the lab. When I hesitated, it was as if he read my mind. Not breaking eye contact once, he told me there was nothing to be afraid of. The rest of the Science Club wouldn’t even know I was there. That the decision was completely up to me and there was no harm in just coming in and learning.
Going with him wasn’t a commitment. It was just . . . learning. And I thought that maybe it could help me decide.
In the lab there’s a station for every step of the process, so that they can have multiple batches cooking at once. He said he makes it a point to stop by every few hours during the day, and that for the most part, nothing is running at night. Apparently the old building has most of the equipment they needed. It’s the ingredients they get elsewhere. Whatever money is left after reinvesting in ingredients, that’s what the Science Club gets to keep, and apparently there’s generally a lot left over. He explained a bit about the group dynamics, how they absolutely trust each other, always, 100 percent, and are completely loyal and dedicated to each other. Warren gets the biggest cut, since he’s the brains of the operation and has the biggest job. Drew and Katy make the deals, handle the logistics, things like that. That Warren makes a lot of money became evident the more he talked. Underneath that dingy overcoat, everything he wears is designer. He doesn’t seem like
the type of person who actually cares about brand names, but then, if he’s making as much as he intimated, I can’t blame him for buying the best. Goodness knows my first purchase would be better clothes.
As Warren explained the chemicals, the reactions, and the methods to what he was doing at each station, I realized something: This is just chemistry. All of it. I could almost forget what we were making, and what it was meant to do, when we were talking about formulas and ratios. It’s actually fascinating. The things I’d done for Miss Beverly were like this, but making meth is even more involved. More nuanced, even. Warren talked about how he’s constantly coming up with new ways to produce it more efficiently or more cleanly, and I could feel myself getting excited too. His passion was contagious, and it was the same passion as mine. This is what I like to do. It’s what I want to do with my life, really. I want to make the world a better place, one ion at a time.
I started asking questions, and Warren was really eager to talk about everything. And he actually wanted my opinions. We started bouncing ideas off each other. Warren almost became a different person. Instead of reserved and stoic, he became animated and witty. We joked, and laughed, and it felt so good to have someone who had the same type of brain that I do. I honestly forgot about the final product until I was back here, in my room.
As I’m writing I’m realizing something, though . . . Warren never pressured me to join the Science Club. Not once the whole night. In fact, he didn’t even bring up me joining. I have to admit, the money would be nice, but more importantly, the group itself would welcome me in. It’s not just that the Science Club is so mysterious and glamourous, it’s that they clearly look out for one another. Their loyalty is fierce.
Loyalty is something I need, I think. After Mom’s death, some friends fled from my grief, some stuck around for a while but ultimately couldn’t handle it; even my own father abandoned me. Knowing that this group wouldn’t do that, even if the reason has to be kept a secret, is so tempting.
Maybe it wouldn’t have to be permanent, either. Maybe I can do this, just for a while, just until they find someone else. Long enough to get to know Warren some more, and maybe earn a spot in their tight-knit circle. Maybe I can even give Warren some advice on how to perfect the product, without actually doing it myself. Maybe this might work.
At breakfast, I asked Emily about Warren. Why she doesn’t seem to like him. She shrugged and said he was just kind of a jerk. I don’t know what’s up with this school and everyone acting like everything’s a big secret.
I had lunch with Emily, but Katy brought over a wrapped brownie for me. It had a note attached:
(Katy’s note, taped to the diary page, in Katy’s girly handwriting):
Drew’s driving into Wiltshire tonight. Want to go with and shop? I need new shoes. Herschell Hall, 6 p.m.
Shh, don’t tell.
I doubt Katy needs new shoes. Not in the same way I need new shoes. And I have no money to spend, but this isn’t about shopping. And it’s a secret.
Looks like I’ve got secrets too.
September 20, again.
I’m back from shopping with Katy and Drew, and oh my God, you should see the shopping bags sitting here. I can’t even believe how many there are and what stores they’re from. I feel like I’m a movie star or something.
At Prescott there are specific rules to going off campus. Only upperclassmen are allowed to, and you have to be back before curfew. You can’t spend the night elsewhere, and you cannot go to what our rule book calls “unsavory establishments.” I’m assuming that means bars. It could mean brothels and
strip clubs too. Ha. I guess it’s kind of a catch-all rule for that purpose. Very clever.
So Drew’s car. I mean, I have to say something about it. I don’t like to think of myself as a shallow, materialistic person, but maybe that’s just because I’ve never had a car like this. It’s nicer than Isa’s, even. Drew said his dad bought it for him for his birthday last year. That’s just amazing. I think I got a gift card to Bath & Body Works. Anyway, it’s this dark silver sporty thing. Hardly a backseat, but I didn’t mind. It seriously sounded like a race car as we roared down the country roads we had to take to get into town.
Drew dropped us off at the mall. When I asked Katy if he didn’t want to shop with us girls, she said that he had business to take care of. I know, of course, what that meant. Drew was going to check in with the dealers, maybe even drop off the, um, product. I hadn’t thought of that. If he’d been pulled over for speeding and the car had been searched . . . I got kind of sick thinking about it, but . . . I felt a bit thrilled at the idea. Like we’d gotten away with something. I asked Katy if they are afraid of getting into trouble. She obviously didn’t want to talk about it in public. She whispered and looked around nervously as she answered, but she said they aren’t. That between her father being a lawyer and Drew’s dad owning a good chunk of the town, they figure they’d get a slap on the wrist at most.
Then she bought me a pair of flats like hers. When I protested, she held up her hand and said she likes to buy her friends things. She also noted, somehow not unkindly, that I could use a better pair. And she wouldn’t hear of me trying to pay her back. She repeated that at four different stores, big department stores that I usually don’t even go into. I have a new wool coat, a makeup palette specifically matched to me from a glitzy-looking makeup counter, some hair products that Katy promised would make my frizzy hair smooth, and some new sweaters for our days out of uniform. Every time, Katy took out a credit card that had her name on it. She never minds paying for quality, she said. But I’m not sure if she really meant herself or her father. Who pays the credit card bill?
We met Drew outside one of the department stores. Katy asked if he’d been successful, which he answered by showing her a huge wad of cash. He said we should go eat somewhere fancy, so we did.
He chose a place with a French name, which turns out is owned by his family. The staff called him “Mr. Richmond” the whole time and kept bringing us complimentary appetizers and glasses of wine. Real wine, not like the sugary cheap stuff my friends from home would get if their older siblings were in a good enough mood to buy for us. I find it kind of hilarious that they were complimentary, since the whole meal was on
the house, or on Drew’s house, I guess. I had thought his father owned only a few fast-food chains, but Drew explained that they’d bought some nice restaurants all around the state as well.
They did ask me to join the Science Club again. In a way. Katy and Drew talked about the advantages to having disposable income and not ever having to ask their parents for money. And of course it’s good to have nice things: brand names, high-end makeup, trendy clothes. I had to agree. If I do this with them, I’d never have to ask Dad (or worse, Isa) for anything. I might even be able to buy stuff for Bex. And if what Katy said is true, I won’t have to worry about getting into trouble. I can’t afford to have a record if I want into Harvard.
It’s no problem, Drew said when I asked about getting into trouble again. There’s no way their families would ever let them get a record. Drew and Katy both have their eyes on Yale. They can’t afford trouble either, and with Warren wanting to get into Princeton, it has to be the same with him.
By the time we got back to Prescott, I was feeling much better about the Science Club. I asked them when the next meeting is. Katy and Drew seemed incredibly happy that I was interested.
Emily looked at my (Katy’s) purchases and seemed curious. I told her I’d gone shopping with Katy Ashton and her eyes almost bugged out of her head. She told me to be careful around Katy. She said Katy only seems nice. I think Emily’s just jealous,
honestly. The more I hang out with Katy, the more I like her. But I have to admit, I’m afraid she won’t like me back. I know she bought me all this stuff, but I feel like I have to impress her somehow, if that makes sense. Drew, too, although now that I’ve talked to Warren more, I think Warren is definitely the cuter one. Maybe not as classically handsome, but definitely smarter and more intriguing. There seem to be a lot of Drews around here, but there’s clearly only one Warren.
Another Friday night with no invite to a party, but that’s okay. I know it’s just because there aren’t any parties, at least any I’d want to go to. I heard Drew tell Katy in chemistry that they need to do a lot of work this weekend, so I know they’re at the lab. I could probably join them, but I’m still not sure I want to. Plus I kind of feel like I haven’t fully been accepted yet. I don’t know how or when I will be, but I’m almost 100 percent sure I’ll have to prove myself. Like an initiation or blood oath or something. Or maybe I’ve seen one too many mob films. Still, I have no doubt that they are serious about secrecy and loyalty, so with all I know, they have to make sure I’m not going to rat.
Emily and I skipped the dining hall and ordered a pizza and did our movie thing again. She has a whole collection of DVDs. She keeps them in one of those old-school flip albums like my
dad has to store his CDs. She organizes them by director, not alphabetically or even by genre. I let her choose tonight. She decided on a movie called High Fidelity, which I’d never seen before, but I can see why she likes it. The main character reminded me of her a little because he was so into music, but in this cool way, like he could recall the history of the songs he liked and random trivia about musicians. Emily is like that with movies.
After the movie we sat around talking. She asked me about my mom and I told her a few things. Then she asked me what happened to her. And it’s okay. I mean, I’m used to getting asked, I guess, and it’s nice that she cares. I told her about how Mom was driving me to get some school supplies. Luckily, Bex was home with Dad. We had a green light. Mom even looked both ways before she started to go through the intersection. She was always cautious like that. It was just that this other car was so fast. And the driver was texting, not paying any attention. She hit Mom’s side of the car and we spun so hard that I hit my head on my window. I passed out. At the hospital I was told I had a concussion. I was also told Mom didn’t make it, but they didn’t have to tell me. I remembered—still remember—every detail of the last time I saw her alive. The side of the car was folded in over her. She was covered in sticky red. It smelled like metal and burning. Her mouth was open, frozen in a scream. She didn’t answer
me when I called out to her, before I lost consciousness.
I didn’t actually tell Emily the gruesome parts and I don’t know why I wrote it down just now. I guess it feels good to write it, like something I needed to get off my chest. The girl who was texting walked away with hardly more than a scratch, like she hadn’t irrevocably changed anyone’s life. That girl is still alive. I am too. At least, mostly alive. I’ve heard people say that a part of themselves died when they lost someone they loved. I’m not sure any of me died with her. But I am sure that I’ll never be the same. It’s been two years now and I still don’t really feel like myself. I managed to keep my grades up, and I went through the motions at school, but I didn’t make any friends. The ones I had got tired of me being not much more than a zombie who did homework. I never went out with them anymore. Pretty soon I just wasn’t invited. I’d like to say it hurt, but it didn’t. Not really. I was kind of relieved that I didn’t have to act normal around anyone.
Dad was kind of like me, too. He’d be better around Bex, because Bex needed both of us to show her that we were okay, that we were all okay, or we were going to be. But when it was just us, Dad and I were the same. Until Isa came around. Then Dad wasn’t just pretending that things were fine, he actually was fine. He pulled himself out of the hole we’d made for ourselves and cleaned up the house, bought new furniture, got rid of Mom’s
clothes, and, I noticed, he took down the pictures of Mom in his room. Meanwhile, I kept her picture by my bed and slept with her pillowcase on my pillow, still deep in the grieving hole. And I guess that’s what I’m mad about most. Not that Dad found someone new or even that he’s over Mom. Just that he left me behind, and now it feels like I’m the only one still grieving.
I didn’t tell Emily any of that, either. She started talking about movies where moms die, like they could be some kind of therapy for me. It’s sweet of her, in her own nerdy film-buff way, but I don’t need therapy. I don’t need movies. I just need Mom back. Failing that, because of course I can’t have her back, not being alone would be nice. And now that I think about it, having new friends who know nothing about my mom . . . Honestly, it would be kind of a relief. A fresh start. I could eliminate the sad elephant in the room and just try to be Bailey again.
I think maybe I should just flat-out ask Katy what I need to do to become an official member of the Science Club. It would be amazing to be part of a group again. I had a decent-sized group of friends back home. Two of them, Jess and Anna, had been my friends since first grade. Evan, Cat, P.J., and Chelsea were added in middle school, and we oddly stuck together through high school. I thought they were going to be there through thick and thin, but I realized that wasn’t going to happen after Mom died.
I can’t really blame them for not understanding, and they were just amazing before then. Very accepting of my know-it-all-ness and Ivy League ambitions, even if they would have rather spent their nights driving around aimlessly in the country and hardly ever read books unless they were for school. As fun as they were, though, it would be great to have a group of friends with ambition like mine, and of course the chemistry part of it would be fun. Plus, well, Warren. Maybe it’s too soon to say this, but I think there’s a connection there. I can already see how great it would be to have a boyfriend who wants to go to Princeton and loves learning and chemistry. Back home, I think it intimidated most of the guys I knew, how focused I was on college. And let’s face it, if I join, I’d certainly never have to be lonely, because it’s clear the Science Club takes care of their own. And if my mom’s death taught me anything, it’s that being lonely and not understood is the worst thing in the world.
I guess I’ve made up my mind.
I found out what the Science Club initiation is.
I went to the lab again. It was Sunday afternoon and I was bored. Emily was elsewhere—she didn’t tell me where she was going. I assume the library, or Prescott’s AV room. I’d finished all my homework, even the extra set of formulas Mr. Callahan had
me work through. There was nothing to do except watch sitcom reruns or read, and the rest of the dorm was too quiet. I threw on one of my new sweaters and went to the old science building.
The doors outside were locked, but I could see lights on through the frosted glass of the basement windows. I knocked as loud as I could. Katy laughed when she opened the door and saw me there.
Me: Um, labor omnia improba vincit?
Katy: You honestly think Prescott’s motto is going to be our password?
Me, stuttering: Um, okay. Etlay emay inyay, easeplay.
Katy, smiling: Glad to see you here, Bailey. We were hoping you’d join us. You do want to join us, right? (I nodded.) There’s something we need from you before you do, though.
Me: Is this the initiation?
Katy laughed, like I was such a kidder, but she got serious really quickly. Then she explained what they needed from me.
Collateral. They need something to make sure that I won’t rat them out. Something to make the consequences horrific for me if I did.
And as Katy explained exactly what I needed to do, I started to realize exactly how horrific.
She must have been able to see my thoughts on my face because she told me to think it over and to come back when I was sure.
I don’t know how I could ever be sure of this.
Something truly weird just happened. Emily and I were doing homework after dinner when there was a knock at the door. She went to open it, and there was a package sitting in the hallway. No one was there. Pretty handwriting on the top announced that the package was for me.
It was wrapped in simple brown paper and tied with twine, like an old-fashioned Christmas present. I opened it immediately. Inside there were two chemistry textbooks. Textbooks I know plain well are used at Harvard. Both are written by professors there.
Emily asked me if they were from Mr. Callahan, but they’re not. I know exactly who they’re from.
This has been, by far, my best day at Prescott, and I owe it to the Science Club. It was like they planned a wooing coup (God, that sounds ridiculous, but I don’t know what else to call it). I don’t have much time because Katy’s going to be here in about twenty minutes to go get coffee and study for our civics quiz, but here are the highlights:
Warren showed up after my first class with a cup of coffee for me. He walked me to my next class, looked me straight in the eye and told me it was great to see me again, then walked away. Swoon. For such a chemistry geek, he has swagger for DAYS.
At lunch I walked by the Glamorous Table like usual, but this time they waved me over to them. And then they slid over and made room. Just like that. It was SO COOL.
Katy taught me how to use lip liner between third and fourth period. Then she gave me one of her dark lipsticks. It was Chanel. I told her I couldn’t possibly accept it, since they’re so expensive, and she just shrugged and said, “Please. That’s pocket change compared to what we make in a week in the Club.” And then she asked me to get coffee with her tonight.
Drew announced to the whole class that I am brilliant with chemistry. He actually called me the Chemistry Queen. It was embarrassing and also amazing and I think some of the girls wanted to kill me.
Emily is gone again. No idea where she goes, but I’m okay with that for now. She isn’t happy that I ditched her at lunch, I don’t think. But I did ask everyone if she could join us. Warren said no, absolutely not. I feel really terrible about that. Emily doesn’t seem to have many friends here at Prescott. She’s not exactly a pariah, but I don’t think she MEANS to be a loner either. Maybe something happened with her before . . . like maybe she used to have a lot of friends but they don’t talk to her anymore for some reason. Which leads me to the next point:
I’m beginning to feel like maybe Emily and Warren used to date or something? I can’t help but wonder . . . Why does Warren seem to dislike her so much, and vice versa? Must ask Katy later.
I promise I’ll write more tomorrow, but for now, all I can say is I feel like I’m “in.” And it’s wonderful. The best I’ve felt in ages. And I can’t be out again. I just can’t.
I know what I have to do.
This time when I showed up at the old science building, it felt like everything had changed. Everyone was a lot more serious, but I also felt a lot more welcome. Like I belonged.
Drew helped me give them what they needed for collateral. I feel this weird sense of trust with him now. And I know he
will use it only if absolutely necessary. But I also feel like he was completely understanding about how hard it was and how scary. I feel like he truly cares.
Katy and Warren hugged me, and we all promised to protect one another. Then they gave me a new lab coat and a pair of goggles. Warren took my hand (!!!!) and led me over to the first station, and my first official lesson in making meth began.
Over the next three hours, I was on a different planet. It was just us and the reactions of chemicals, the only real magic there is. But to be honest, it wasn’t even about the chemistry. Or that what we were doing was going to make us rich. It was that I felt like a part of something, and not just any part, but a truly integral part. I felt needed and wanted.
And when we were done, Warren walked me back to my dorm. :)