The Guys Are Props Club

 

Book#1 of The G.A.P. Series 

During her senior year in high school, Maddie Burch promised herself not to ever fall for a cute guy – or any guy – again. Cute guys are players and not to be trusted, a fact she learned the hard way when her first boyfriend ran her heart through a paper shredder. Two years later, her promise is still intact, and she’s determined to make it through college without falling victim to another creep. She has her job, school and The Guys Are Props Club to keep her mind and hormones in check.

The club was founded by Jessica, Maddie’s best friend. It is a sisterhood of girls who have fallen prey to heartless jerks and who have vowed to turn the tables. Once a semester, Jessica requires members to “do onto others as they’ve done unto you.” Setting the example, Jessica’s next play is Sebastian Capello, a theater major with heartthrob looks and a flair for Latin dance, whose heart she plans to break the way hers was once broken.

What the friends don’t know is that Sebastian is different. Despite his perfect looks and popularity, he’s not a jerk. He doesn’t play games to get his way. Instead, he keeps it real and goes after what he wants with honest intentions. And what he wants is not a bombshell like Jessica, but a down-to-earth girl like Maddie – even if it causes a riff in the girl’s friendship. Even if it means getting Maddie to break her personal vow.

*** Due to language and sexual situations this book is recommended for ages 17 and older ***

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Chapter 1

The Guys Are Props Club—otherwise known as G.A.P.—was in session. From two members, we had grown to thirty in only two semesters. Not that this was hard to believe—99.9% of girls within dating age have had their hearts stomped on, slashed or otherwise ground into tiny little bits by some worthless bastard. Really. I didn’t make that statistic up. Well, maybe Jessica did, but it sounds pretty accurate to me. Today, though, only eleven club members had made it in. The start of a new semester was always hard on everyone’s schedules.

The new girl, Clarissa, was recounting her latest heartache. She sat in one of the folding chairs arranged inside a circle in the small conference room reserved for our biweekly meeting.

“I should have known since the first date,” Clarissa said. “He paid for dinner with a coupon. How cheap is that?”

“Extremely cheap,” Jessica said with distaste.

I used coupons when I could. I wondered if that made me cheap or just budget-minded. Since I was on scholarship, and my bank account was anorexic, I went with the latter.

I sighed and looked at my watch, willing time to go by faster. There were three syllabi—or was it syllabuses?—I needed to go over, and listening to the girls recount the same sappy stories about their break-ups was getting old.

Clarissa’s was the typical story. She started dating a good-looking guy who, at first, appeared to be God’s answer to her womanly needs. Everything went great for several dates, but soon after they slept together, and certainly after Clarissa fell in love with him—the newbies were always falling in love with them—he dumped her.

“There, there!” said the girl to her right. She patted Clarissa’s leg as her eyes shone like wavering pools. The poor sucker was still in the mourning stage.

Looking at her pitiful state made me renew my pre-college vow once more. I would never put myself through that again.

Jessica pushed a lock of platinum blond hair behind her ear. “You can tell us the rest of the story later, sweetie. This is your first meeting, and we understand it’ll take time to get over that jackass. But don’t fret, a few more sessions with the group, and you’ll be cured. And not just that, you’ll be in control. This will never, ever happen to you again. Right, girls?”

“Right,” all the girls chanted in unison.

Jessica’s blue eyes sparkled and a cat’s smile stretched her bee-stung lips. She was the star of this show, and she loved it.

After crossing her legs and accommodating a clipboard on her raised thigh, Jessica continued, “So let’s set some goals for the semester. I’ve already written mine down. I will be more ambitious this time around, so I’ve decided to pull six Plays.”

“Six Plays?!” Brandy exclaimed. She was an olive-skinned brunette with sad puppy eyes who’d joined G.A.P. last semester and hadn’t managed to pull any Plays, though not for lack of trying. “Wow, you’re amazing, Jessica,” she added dreamily.

Jessica’s left eyebrow went up in a coquettish arch, letting Brandy know she was stating the obvious. Modesty wasn’t a malady Jessica suffered from.

My attention started to drift. I liked the camaraderie of the club, but after two semesters of the same, most of its aspects were starting to wear thin on me, especially the Plays. I guess the fact that I wasn’t proud of some of the things I’d done under Jessica’s guidance had a lot to do with it.

For something to distract myself, I counted the windows and the fluorescent lights overhead. The bulletin boards attached to the wall overflowed with flyers from people selling bikes, looking for roommates, offering tutoring. Outside, the colors of twilight played in the sky.

“Thank you for the compliment, Brandy.” Jessica cleared her throat. “I have two targets selected already. I identified them last semester. I will get to work on them A.S.A.P. Now,” Jessica tapped her pink gel pen on her chin, “You should know that this time around, each Play will cost one hundred dollars.”

“What?! One hundred dollars?” I complained, snapping out of it. Others echoed my outrage.

Jessica tried to explain. “I know that’s more than last semester, but—”

“That’s double last semester,” I interrupted.

“My math skills aren’t that bad, Maddie,” Jessica said. She tilted her head to one side, making her smooth, long hair fall over her shoulder. “I know it is twice as much, but think about it. The pot will be more sizable in the end. With every member entering—by the way Clarissa, everyone is required to register for at least one Play—the pot will be three thousand dollars. Well worth winning. Tell me you wouldn’t like to get your hands on that kind of money.”

She had a point. Three thousand dollars would be a hefty meal for my malnourished bank account. Still, I didn’t have one hundred dollars to spare on the entry fee, and I had no intentions of pulling anymore Plays. I had planned to enter and fake it some kind of way, but now I couldn’t even do that. Jessica was going to give me a hard time about this. I just knew it.

“Um,” Clarissa lifted a hand hesitantly. “Sorry, but what’s a Play?”

“A Play,” Jessica explained, “is you leading a guy on, using him like a dirty dish rag, and then throwing him away.”

“Oh,” Clarissa said, her mouth twisting to one side, a clear sign that she was questioning the morality of doing something like that. We’d seen that look before.

After a huge sigh, Jessica stood, put her clipboard down on the folding chair and exited the circle. She wore tight, white capri pants, three-inch, black-and-white checkered heels, and a turquoise top with the letters G.A.P. running over her breast. The dots punctuating our club’s initials were hot pink rhinestones she had hot-glued onto it. Gathering her thoughts, she started pacing back and forth in front of a dry-erase board.

The speech was coming.

Whenever one of the members decided to question the morality of leading a guy on, Jessica took it upon herself to remind everyone why we were here and what the purpose of the club was.

“There was this boy,” Jessica started.

Oh boy. I suspected she would have everyone in tears soon.

“We met in junior high. He was smart, funny and good at sports. He had a slight acne problem that made him shy and a bit awkward. But did I care? No. He helped me with my math homework and he carried my books, and I . . . I found him adorable.

“My mom’s a dermatologist, so I asked her to give him some advice on medication for his condition. A year later, his acne had cleared. Six months after that he had an amazing growth spurt. He grew seven inches and made the varsity football team.

“As you can imagine, he became very popular. Next thing you know, he was dating the head cheerleader. That would be . . . me,” she put two pink-tipped fingernails on her breasts and made a half curtsy.

A few of the members giggled. I shook my head. She was such a show off.

“We talked about attending U.C.I. together.” Jessica’s voice grew low and husky. “We talked about marriage and about having kids. I loved him. He was my first, and I wanted him to be my only. I would have done that for him, and I would have been happy.

“Then he was offered a scholarship to play football at Ohio State. I was so happy for him. It was a dream come true for Taylor. I had wanted to come here to sunny California, but I didn’t care. I told him I’d go to Ohio State with him.”

Jessica’s voice wavered. I shifted in my seat. I hated when she talked about Taylor. I’d never met him, but she talked about him so vividly that sometimes it felt as if I had, as if I’d gone to high school with them and had witnessed their break-up in person. But I hadn’t. Jessica was from Texas, and I grew up in Arizona. We’d only met a year ago. Still, when she talked about her ex-boyfriend, it brought back too many memories of my own, memories I had learned to lock away . . . most of the time.

Jessica shook her head. “But it turned out that his new, fancy scholarship meant I wasn’t good enough for him. Ohio was to be his new beginning, a place for him to shine . . . by himself. Without me.” Even the girls who had heard Jessica tell the story before gasped. “When he left he didn’t even say goodbye.”

“The bastard,” Brandy spat, a perfectly practiced “The End” to Jessica’s tale.

Clarissa’s tears were flowing now, her own misfortunes surely amplified by Jessica’s story. My head slumped as I felt that familiar helplessness inside me. I hated how Jessica had the uncanny ability to make painful events, more than a year old, feel fresh. I hated the gaping emptiness in my chest and the soul-eating anger that tried to fill the space. I fought it, knowing that if I let it flood me, I would become a terrible person. It had almost happened last semester. But that was not me, nor was it who I wanted to be.

At moments like this, I always questioned my reasons for being here, for remaining a member of G.A.P. But every time I came to the same conclusion. I was here for Jessica.

She straightened to her full five-foot-ten frame and pushed her sizable bosom forward, her war flags. “Do you guys feel that? Right here,” Jessica pointed at her breastbone, over her heart. “Doesn’t it feel like a piranha is eating your heart out with its little bitty, sharp teeth?” Her words squeezed through tight lips.

The girls nodded fervently.

“That’s why I formed this club. Because we carry those little fuckers inside. And guess what? They’re transmittable. And not only that, we know exactly how this disease works and how to give it to somebody else. Somebody who deserves it.”

“Damn right,” one of the girls shouted, punching a fist in the air. Others cheered, reveling in the camaraderie.

“So if you ever wonder how right or wrong it is to Play a guy, think of all those countless, impossible-to-heal bites you’ve suffered deep inside you. There’s nothing wrong with this, girls. It’s all about the meaning of the phrase ‘an eye for eye.’”

Jessica’s face composed itself into a righteous expression.

“It’s in the Bible.”

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