Secret Rules – First Chapter

What happened to you guys?” Nancy Drew asked as she watched Bess Marvin and Eileen O’Connor stumble into the Thayer Hall cafeteria. Drenched and mud stained, the two girls slogged over to the table where Nancy was having an early Monday morning breakfast with her freshmen dorm suitemates.

“Oh, you won’t believe this one,” Bess answered in a tired voice. Her face was smeared with dirt, and her blond hair was tangled with leaves and mud.

“It looks like someone dragged you out of bed in the middle of the night and made you run an obstacle course,” Eileen’s roommate, Reva Ross, said as she tried unsuccessfully to suppress a smile. “What’s going on?”

Bess and Eileen looked at each other and sighed.

“Someone dragged us out of bed in the middle of the night…” Bess began wearily.

“But I don’t remember hearing anything last night,” Reva interrupted, speaking to Eileen. “I woke up this morning, and your bed was empty.”

“That’s because they didn’t really drag us out of bed,” Eileen explained. “They had us meet them in the quad.”

“To run an ‘errand,'” Bess added. “Which was really a treasure hunt. All over the Wilder University campus. For the last six hours.” Bess noticed Nancy staring at her in disbelief. “Yes, another stupid Kappa pledge stunt,” she said to Nancy, laughing good-naturedly. “So come on, go ahead and get the snickering over with.”

“Don’t tell me these sorority stunts are finally getting to you,” Casey Fontaine, another of Nancy’s suitemates, said. “You’ve been really into it so far.”

“Yeah, and luckily you’ve been around to witness all of my humiliations,” Bess commented. She eyed Nancy’s chocolate-chip pancakes.

“Suddenly I’m starved, and those look great,” she said. “Come on, Eileen, I’d say we’ve earned a break.”

Bess pulled over an empty chair from another table and squeezed in next to Nancy. Her wet clothes squished as she settled in the chair.

“You don’t regret pledging, do you?” Nancy asked, moving away as Bess’s clothes started dripping on her.

“No way!” Bess said, snatching Nancy’s plate of untouched pancakes.

“I mean, all this stuff is pretty fun. It’s only when I’m exhausted and hungry, like now, that it’s hard to remember exactly why I wanted to join.”

“Are these people you really want to be friends with?” Reva marveled.

“They do put you through the wringer,” Nancy added.

“They’re a little hard on the pledge pranks,” Eileen agreed. “But that’s all part of it.” She sat down between Reva and another of her suitemates, Ginny Yuen.

“It’s almost as bad for them as it is for us. I mean, they had to get up in the middle of the night to meet us,” Eileen said as she dug into a bowl of cereal.

Nancy glanced at the muddy puddle forming under Bess’s feet. “It kind of looks like they sent you out into the jungle,” she said.

Bess waved her comment off. “What’s a little walk in the woods?” she said with a shrug. “It wasn’t too bad.”

“Except for the sleep deprivation,” Ginny reminded her.”I heard they make the guys pledging frats do some really ridiculous stuff,” Reva added. “Like blindfolding them and dropping them off in the middle of the next state — without any clothes.”

There was a long second of silence, then the table erupted in howling laughter.

“I have to admit,” Ginny said, dabbing her eyes, “it’s a pretty funny picture.”

“Not so loud,” Eileen said. “You might give someone ideas.”

“Speaking of ideas,” Reva cut in. “I believe that before we were interrupted by our muddy pledges, we were on the subject of Ginny’s lyric ideas for Ray’s song.”

Reva was referring to Ginny’s boyfriend, Ray Johannson, a Wilder student and the lead singer of an alternative-music band called the Beat Poets. Ginny had written lyrics for one of Ray’s songs and had been telling them to her suitemates.

Ginny and Ray were the last people Nancy would have picked to fall in love. He was a little wild, with an earring and a tattoo, and she was bookish and conservative looking.

But that’ll teach you to jump to conclusions, Nancy chided herself. They may be the most oddly matched couple on campus, but they’re also one of the tightest.

Nancy fanned her face with her napkin. “Pretty nice, having a sexy rock singer for a boyfriend,” she said, and sighed.

Ginny stuck her tongue out at her suitemate. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were jealous.”

“Well, if she’s not jealous, can I be?” Casey Fontaine threw in.

Reva rolled her eyes in mock indignation. “What are you complaining about, Fontaine? Not only are you tall and gorgeous, and the star of your own TV show, and, and, um — wait I’ll get it — “

“You also have your own too-sexy boyfriend!” Nancy helped out.

Reva nodded at Nancy. “Right, Charley Stern,” she declared. “L.A. cutie-pie.”

Charley, featured regularly in supermarket tabloids and glossy pictorials, had been Casey’s costar on the TV sitcom The President’s Daughter. Casey had been the star of the show before she decided to go to college.

Casey picked a cereal O out of Eileen’s bowl, and held it up to the light, pretending to study it carefully. “He’s okay, I guess,” she said with feigned boredom.

“Casey, if you’re tired of him, I’ll take him off your hands,” Nancy teased.

Casey gave Nancy a satisfied smile. “In your dreams.”

“You sure you don’t need any help?” George Fayne called out to Will Blackfeather from the steps of his apartment house. The echoes of the Wilder clock tower chiming ten o’clock wafted through the neighborhood of Victorian houses just off campus.

In her jeans, baggy fleece jacket, red hat, and big, clunky hiking boots, George combed her fingers through her thick brown curls and brushed at the dust. She and Will were just returning from three days of camping in the woods, a day more than they’d planned.

Will shook his head no at her, smiling, and leaned into the back of his car for the rest of the camping gear. He was wearing jeans, a jacket over a flannel shirt, and heavy hiking boots. George couldn’t help but notice how muscular he was. She knew he was beautiful the second she laid eyes on him across a sea of heads in the dining hall her first dinner on campus. But she didn’t know how beautiful. Not until this weekend.

I can’t believe he’s all mine, she mused, struggling to keep herself from laughing out loud.

As Will strode up the walk toward her, his arms full, they exchanged broad smiles. “I — ” he began to say, but didn’t finish. He didn’t need to. His big, brown eyes said it all. I love you.

“I love you, too,” George whispered. Leaning her head against Will’s muscular chest, she listened to his beating heart. The thumping was like music. Everything about him was special now. Everything was different — Will, school, her life. Nothing would be the same again.

As if he’d read her mind, Will let out a little laugh of pleasure. “This weekend was the best time of my life,” he said lovingly.

“Mine, too,” George said, sure now that her decision to take the “final step” in her relation ship with Will had been the right one.

Their first night at the campsite, they kissed until they fell asleep in each other’s arms. But the second night, they both felt the time had come. The moon was streaking through the clouds, showering their campsite with white moonlight. The night air was surprisingly warm, and the only sounds were the crickets chirping softly in the trees and the nearby brook gurgling against the rocks. Will had held her gently as they stretched out side by side in their tent, which they’d set up on a springy bed of pine needles.

Surprisingly, George hadn’t felt uncomfortable. Will was gentle and loving — and he’d thought of everything. She didn’t even have to bring up the subject of protection. They’d talked it all out before.

The next morning the sun nudged them awake through the screen door with warm light. The first thing George saw were Will’s smiling eyes peering into hers. “Hi, beautiful,” he’d said, and she melted again into his arms.

“Hey, George!” a voice cried, snapping George out of her reverie. “We missed you at crew practice this morning!”

George looked up to catch one of her teammates flying by on her bicycle.

“You’re not mad you missed practice, are you?” Will asked.

George smiled ironically. “I’m sure the coach’ll let me make it up with some extra wind sprints tomorrow. But I will have to get the notes from my nine o’clock calculus class. The professor loves to give pop quizzes.”

George helped Will inside with the stuff. As they walked up the stairs, they were quiet. George didn’t feel giddy — she felt romantic, in love, and calm.

Then she thought of her friends, Nancy and Bess. I want them to know, George decided. But know what? How much should she tell them?

Telling Nancy would be easier. George had told her about her plans with Will. But George felt a pang of guilt when it came to Bess. She didn’t purposely not tell her. It just hadn’t come up. They’d both been so busy, George hadn’t found a chance to talk to Bess. Now Bess was going to find out after the fact. She’d better try to see Nancy and Bess as soon as possible. Maybe they could have lunch today.

“Shoot,” George murmured as she followed Will into his apartment.

“What is it?” he asked, reading her expression.

George pecked him on the cheek. “Nothing,” she said. But telling Bess wasn’t nothing. She didn’t want this to put a damper on a momentous weekend. But she knew it had potential for disappointment.

Comments are closed.