Rebel Belle Page 1

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Series: Rebel Belle #1

Genres: Young Adult , Fantasy

Chapter 1

Looking back, none of this would have happened if I’d brought lip gloss the night of the Homecoming Dance. Bee Franklin was the first person to notice that my lips were all naked and indecent. We were standing outside of our school, Grove Academy. It was late October, and the night was surprisingly cool; in Pine Grove, Alabama, where I live, it’s not unheard of to have a hot Halloween. But that night felt like fall, complete with that nice smoky smell in the air. I was super relieved that it was cold, because my jacket was wool, and there was nothing more tragic than a girl sweating in wool. I was wearing the jacket over a knee-length pink sheath dress. If I was going to be crowned Homecoming Queen tonight—and that seemed like a lock—I was going to do it looking as classy as possible in my demure pink dress and pearls.

“Are you nervous?” Bee asked as I rubbed my hands up and down my arms. Like me, Bee was in pink, but her dress was closer to magenta and the bodice was covered in tiny sequins that winked and shivered in the parking lot lights. Or maybe that was just Bee. Unlike me, she hadn’t worn a jacket. Our dates, Brandon and Ryan, were off searching for a parking place. They had been annoyed that Bee and I had insisted on not showing up until the thirty minutes before the crowning, but there was no way I was going to risk getting punch spilled on me or my makeup sliding off my face (not to mention the sweatiness! See above, re: wool jacket) before I had that sparkly tiara on my head. I planned on looking fierce in the yearbook pictures.

“Of course I’m not nervous,” I told Bee. And it was true, I wasn’t. Okay, maybe I was a little bit anxious . . .

Bee gave an exaggerated eye roll. “Seriously? Harper Jane Price, you have not been able to successfully lie to me since the Second-Grade Barbie Incident. Admit that you’re freaking out.” She held up one hand, pinching her thumb and forefinger together. “Maybe a leeeeeetle bit?”

Laughing, I caught her hand and pulled it down. “Not even a ‘leeeeeetle bit.’ It’s just Homecoming.”

“Yeah, but you’re going to get all queenly tonight. I think that warrants some nerves. Or are you saving them for Cotillion?”

Just the word sent all the nerves Bee could have wanted jittering through my system, but before I could admit that, her dark eyes suddenly went wide. “Omigod! Harper! Your lips!”

“What?” I asked, raising a hand to them.

“They’re nekkid,” she said. “You are totally gloss-less!”

“Who’s ‘nekkid’?”

I looked up to see the boys walking toward us. The orange lights played up the red in Ryan’s hair, and he was grinning, his hands in his pockets. I felt that same little flutter in my stomach that I’d been feeling since the first day I saw Ryan Bradshaw, way back in the third grade. It had taken me six years from that day to make him my boyfriend, but looking at him now, I had to admit, it had been worth the wait.

“My lips,” I said. “I must’ve wiped off all my gloss at the restaurant.”

“Well, damn,” he said, throwing his arm around my shoulders. “I’d hoped for something a little more exciting. Of course, no lipgloss means I can safely do this.”

He lowered his head and kissed me, albeit pretty chastely. PDA is vile, and Ryan, being my Perfect Boyfriend, knows how I feel about it.

“Hope you girls are happy,” Brandon said when we broke apart. He had both of his arms wrapped around Bee from behind, his hands clasped right under her . . . um, abundant assets. Bee was so tall that Brandon’s chin barely cleared her shoulder. “We had to park way down the effing road.”

Okay, I should probably mention right here that Brandon used the real word, but this is my story, so I’m cleaning it up a little. Besides, if I honestly quoted Brandon, this thing would look like a Cops transcript.

“Don’t say that word!” I snapped.

Brandon rolled his eyes. “What the hell, Harper, are you, like, the language police?”

I pressed my lips together. “I just think that the F-word should be saved for dire occasions. And having to park a hundred yards from the gym is not a dire occasion.”

“So sorry, Your Highness,” Brandon said, scowling as Bee elbowed him in the ribs.

“Easy, dude,” Ryan said, shooting Brandon a warning look.

Ignoring Brandon, I turned to Bee, “Do you have any lip gloss? I completely spaced on bringing any.”

“My girl forgot makeup?” Ryan asked, quirking an eyebrow. “Man, you are stressed about this Queen thing.”

“No, I’m not,” I said immediately, even though, hello, I clearly was. But I didn’t like when people used the “S-word” around me. After all, a big part of my reputation at the Grove was my ability to handle anything and everything.

Ryan raised his hands in apology. “Okay, okay, sorry. But, I mean, this is obviously pretty important to you, or you wouldn’t have spent over a grand on that outfit.” He smiled again, shaking his head so his hair fell over his eyes. “I really hope your tastes get cheaper if we get married.”

“I hear that, man,” Brandon said, lifting his hand to high-five Ryan. “Chicks gonna break us.”

Bee rolled her eyes again, but I didn’t know whether it was at the guys or the fact that my outfit was over a thousand dollars (yes, I know that’s a completely ridiculous amount for a seventeen-year-old girl to spend on a Homecoming dress, but hey, I can wear it, like, a million times provided I don’t gain five pounds. Or at least that was how I rationalized it to my mom.)

“Here.” Bee thrust a tube into my hand.

I held it up to read the name on the bottom. “‘Salmon Fantasy’?”

“That’s close to the shade you wear.” Bee’s long blond hair was woven into a fishtail braid, and she tossed it over her shoulder as she handed me the lip gloss.

“I wear ‘Coral Shimmer.’ That is very different.”

Bee made a face that said, “I am only tolerating you because we’ve been best friends since we were five,” but I kept going, drawing myself up to my full height with mock imperiousness, “And ‘Salmon Fantasy’ has to be the grossest beauty product name ever. Who has fantasies about salmon?”

“People who screw fish,” Brandon offered, completely cracking himself up. Ryan didn’t laugh, but I saw the corners of his mouth twitching.

“So witty, Bran,” I muttered, and this time, when Bee rolled her eyes, I had no doubt that it was at the guys.

“Look,” she said to me, “It’s either ‘Salmon Fantasy’ or naked lips. Your choice.”

I sighed and clutched the tube of lip gloss. “Okay,” I said, “but I’m gonna have to find a bathroom.” If it had been my Coral Shimmer, I could have put it on without a mirror, but there was no way I was slapping on a new shade sight unseen. Ryan pulled open the gym door, and I ducked under his arm to walk into the gym. As soon as I did, I could hear the opening riff of “Sweet Home Alabama.” It’s not a dance until someone plays that song.

The gym looked great, and my chest tightened with pride. I know everyone, even Ryan, thinks I’m crazy to do all the stuff I do at school, but I honestly love the place. I love its redbrick buildings, and the chapel bells that ring to signal class changes instead of those harsh, electronic buzzers they have at other schools. I love that both my parents went here, and their parents before them. So yeah, maybe I do stretch myself a little thin, but it’s completely worth it. The Grove is a happy place to go to school, and I liked to think my good example was the reason for that. And it meant that when people thought of the name “Price” at Grove Academy, they’d think of all the good things I’d done for the school, and not . . . other stuff.

Instead, I focused on the decorations. I’m SGA president—the first ever junior to be elected to the position, I should add—so Homecoming activities are technically my responsibility. But tonight, I’d delegated all of the decorating to my protégée, sophomore class president Lucy McCarroll. My only contribution had been to ban crepe streamers and balloon arches. Can you say tacky?

Lucy had done a great job. The walls were covered in a silky, shimmery purple material and there were colored lights pulsating with the music. Looking over at the punch table, I saw that she’d even brought in a little fountain with several bistro tables clustered around it.

I scanned the crowd until I saw Lucy, and when I caught her eye, I gave her the thumbs-up, and mouthed, “Nice!”

“Harper!” I heard someone cry. I turned around to see Amanda and Abigail Foster headed my way. They were identical twins, but relatively easy to tell apart since Amanda always wore her long brown hair up, and Abigail wore hers down. Tonight, both were wearing green dresses with spaghetti straps, but Amanda’s was hunter green while Abigail’s was closer to seafoam.

The twins were on the cheerleading squad with me and Bee, and Abi and I worked together on SGA. Right behind them was Mary Beth Riley, wobbling on her high heels. Next to me, Bee blew out a long breath before muttering, “Maybe no one will notice if she wears tennis shoes under her dress.”

Despite Bee’s low tone, Mary Beth heard her. “I’m working on it,” she said, glaring at Bee. “I’ll get better by Cotillion.”

Since “Riley” came right after “Price” alphabetically, Mary Beth would be following me down the giant staircase at Magnolia House, the mansion where Cotillion was held every year. So far, we’d only had two practices, but Mary Beth had tripped and nearly fallen directly on top of me both times.

Which was why I’d suggested she start wearing the heels every day.

“Speaking of that,” Amanda said, laying a hand on my arm. Even under her makeup, I could see the constellation of freckles arcing across her nose. That was another way to tell the twins apart; Abi’s nose was freckle-free. “We got an e-mail from Miss Saylor right before we left for the dance. She wants to schedule another practice Monday afternoon.”

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