Read The Game of Boys and Monsters Online

Authors: Rachel M. Wilson

The Game of Boys and Monsters

Contents

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Excerpt from
Don't Touch

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About the Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

The Game of Boys and Monsters

It started as a game. Evy's game, because, looking back on it, we were always playing Evy's games.

Evy, “with long
e
's, please,” had been my best friend since we were born—in the same week, in the same hospital. She would say, “We were meant to be best friends, Les. It was destined.”

“Destined” was one of Evy's favorite words.

We weren't supposed to be born on the same day, but Evy was eager. From day one, her mom said, Evy never did have any patience.

Evy wasn't just born first; she grew up faster than me. She claimed her first boyfriend in second grade. By the time we were in middle school, she'd already had at least one kind of sex with two guys—at summer camp though, so people at home didn't talk.

She told me because she trusted me and “liked me best.”

Other girls in our class, girls who got along with boys, they split off, formed an unbreakable ring with a sharp, glittering edge. They armed themselves with contact lenses, charm bracelets, highlights, and tinted lip gloss (because “lipstick is trashy”).

But Evy stuck with me. Evy gave the rest of them a big F-you, showing up with her renegade hair that she would never cut or dye in ropey braids and tumbling curls, the definition of romantic. She edged out the sweetness with a pair of chunky, vintage glasses that she didn't even need and a smack of hot-pink lipstick right before it was “in.”

Evy smacked her lips, and the boys went, “Oh.”

The boys were always going “Oh” when Evy looked their way.

The night the game started, we were sitting on Evy's roof outside her bedroom window. “It's a teenybopper TV drama cliché,” Evy liked to say of her perch, “but there's a reason for it. This is the only place on this whole lot where we're taller than what's going on inside.”

I liked it because we could see the stars.

On that night they were extra sharp, crisp and bright, and the chill in the air seemed to match. We shivered in tank tops because earlier that day, when the sun was hot, we'd gone bike riding down to the village and back for no reason, just to ride.

We'd seen some guys from our class there, and Evy pushed me toward Ben, Ben of the wide smile and sideburns and paws like a bear. She'd stop pushing me if I asked her, but here we were starting tenth grade, and I'd never had a kiss, much less a boyfriend. It's about time, I'd been thinking lately, and I didn't mind Evy pushing me so much with Ben. The sun warmed my face, but not as much as the heat pulsing up through my skin to flirt with the cool breeze. When I wiped a slick of sweat, my cheeks burned hot to my touch.

“Hey, you've got a leaf,” Ben said, and he'd reached into the sweaty mess of my hair to lift it out.

Later on, at Evy's, the night seemed to suck the last summer warmth from the air. I lay back on the roof to absorb what heat the shingles had stored.

“It's almost fall,” I said. “Best time for witches.”

“You are too weird,” Evy said, but she didn't mean it. She liked me that way.

“Okay, so here's the game,” Evy said. “Every guy is either a vampire or a werewolf. Our job is to decide which.”

“How can you tell the difference?”

“It's something you feel,” Evy said. “Take Ben, for example. Ben is clearly a werewolf.”

“Why?”

“Well, he's stocky for one thing, like he's compact. There's some muscle in there.”

“I thought you said it was a feeling.”

“Yeah, but the feeling comes from a lot of things. . . . Okay, and his smile. He smiles all the time, and it's warm, like he's not hiding anything.”

“Don't werewolves have something to hide?”

“Not like vampires. I mean, maybe if he were an actual werewolf, he'd have something to hide, but I'm talking essence. A vibe. A werewolf isn't in control of what happens to him. The monster comes out and takes over, but the rest of the time he's a regular, warm-and-fuzzy guy, like a really sweet dog.”

“So you're calling Ben a dog?”

“No, Ben's hot, but he's also sweet.”

“Okay, so who's a vampire?”

She thought for a second. “Malcolm. Malcolm Sweeney is a vampire.”

Evy had kept a thing going with Malcolm Sweeney for a solid three months, which for Evy was kind of a long time. She ended it, but I couldn't ever tell if she was really done with him.

“Okay, so being a vampire is a bad thing?”

“No. No, not at all. I hooked up with him, didn't I?”

Evy luxuriated—that's the only word for it—rose up with her knees to the side, mermaid-style, and stretched her arms out in all directions, rolling her wrists so her hands did a grasping dance against the black sky. For a second, it looked like she was catching stars.

“But you get the vampire vibe,” she said.

I did. Malcolm was thin and sleek with thick, black hair that seemed immune to mussing. “His mom is half Japanese,” Evy told me once, supremely delighted to possess the secret of Malcolm's hair.

Malcolm was nice enough, but there was an edge to him, like a constant, electrical hum. Evy pushed his buttons, but he rarely lashed out. Instead, the hum went up a few watts, Malcolm's smile tightened, and he seemed to file the slight away, to bring out and exploit at a later date.

That was part of why it never really clicked between Evy and Malcolm. She liked immediate feedback, a pot boiling over. Malcolm simmered.

So Malcolm was a vampire, “because he's calculating,” Evy said. “He doesn't act on impulse. A vampire is all about control.”

“Is he
draining
?” I asked, fishing, and Evy took the bait, lying down beside me so close that the weight of her hair tugged against mine.

“Malcolm was exhausting,” she offered, a smirk in her voice. “He wasn't happy with me how I am. He acted like he was, but he wasn't. It's that control thing again.”

When Evy had first started seeing Malcolm, I'd been jealous—a little. Not that I would ever let a guy come between me and Evy, but Malcolm . . . I sat behind him all last year in History, where Mr. Reyes taught by writing notes on the board for us to copy. Because I was fast at copying things down, I had a lot of time to study the way the light hit Malcolm's hair—the color of the blackest coffee, I decided, or dark chocolate, shining sky white in a shaft of sun.

But all that was dumb because a guy like Malcolm wouldn't be interested in a girl like me. In books, guys like Malcolm notice what's inside, what's underneath, but in real life they mostly just hook up with girls like Evy.

When they started dating, I'd been happy for them. I wrote it in my diary: “I'm happy for Evy. She should have a good guy who loves her. And if I care about Malcolm at all, I should be happy that he has Evy. She's the best present I could give him.”

“Give him,” like I'd made it all happen.

I meant I was giving her up. Giving up so much of Evy to Malcolm was a sacrifice, one I told myself I was happy to make if that was what Evy needed.

“Okay, so Malcolm's a vampire,” I said, “but what about guys who don't fit either category?”

“They all do, more or less,” Evy said.

“Jamal.”

“Werewolf. Have you seen him wrestle?”

“So werewolves are good at sports?”

“It's an animal thing. Vampires can be strong, very strong, but they're not so prone to . . . let it all go. It helps if you think about what they would be like in bed.”

“Okay, Ronald Hamm,” I said, because it was impossible to picture Ronald in bed. Ronald wasn't a vampire or a werewolf. Ronald, if anything, was a goblin, at best a hobbit.

“Vampire,” Evy said, like I was stupid for even asking.

“Okay, now I really don't get it.” If I'd had to pick, I would have put Ronald as werewolf because he was hairy: fuzz on his upper lip, a furry mole on his cheek, a thick carpet of arm hair.

“Think about how he watches people,” Evy said, “like he's stalking them. How he hangs back. And he's such a cold fish. A werewolf has some heat to him. Remember, vampires are technically dead.”

“Vampires are like fish,” I said, picturing Ronald flopping around on the deck of a boat.

“Not all of them, but that's the kind of vamp that Ronald is.”

I was getting it.

“Devon Washington,” she said.

“Vamp.”

“That's right. Tytus Ronin.”

“Werewolf,” we both said together.

Over the next few days, we went through all the guys in our class with few disagreements. One time I even convinced Evy she was wrong. Erik Strom, she agreed with me, seemed like a werewolf on the face of things, but it was all an act. Once he lured a girl in with his easygoing front, he would suck her dry.

By the time school was back, we had “won” the game by coming to a decision on every guy in school. But then the Marsh boys came to town.

The Marsh boys were brothers, one tall, one strong, and both of them handsome.

Jack Marsh, the tall one, wore cowboy boots under old jeans that actually fit him and button-down shirts. “He can dress,” Evy said.

He could do a lot of things, it turned out.

He could write—he shared a poem in English class that had Celie Vonn calling him “like the next Jack Kerchack.” We had to read
On the Road
over summer break, so I'm guessing she meant Kerouac.

He could swim. “He's like a goddamn red snapper,” Alec Wernick said when Jack joined the swimming team. “It's like he doesn't even have to breathe.”

And Jack Marsh could charm the pants off anyone. He seemed quiet at first, but given the right opening, he'd come out with something surprising—sometimes shocking, sometimes hilarious, but always sharp.

Kayla, the queen of lip gloss and charm bracelets, decided to make Jack her guy. She announced it the first day he showed up at school. And he was nice to her, too nice, probably, if he didn't mean for it to go anywhere.

Once, in the student lounge, Evy and I were talking with the Marsh boys—well, mostly Evy was talking, but I was there too—when Kayla came up, tugged at the flaps of Jack's open vest, and said, “Jack, what does a girl have to do to get your attention?”

“You've got it,” he said, locking eyes with her in a way that made me nervous, but all the while disentangling himself from the creeping vines her arms had become. She tried to hang on, but he picked her up by the waist and set her down on the other side of our tight circle. The epitome of a mixed message.

I wasn't sure where Jack stood on Kayla, but as soon as she was gone, he started scratching himself and said, “Wait, was that a girl or a rash?”

Evy laughed like a bell falling down stairs, and Jack smiled, but not with his lips. Those were parted, a promise.

“Jack Marsh,” she would tell me that night as we stirred up a potful of hot, gooey marshmallow crisps, “is a vampire.”

Hap Marsh had the same straight nose as Jack, the same winking eyes, but his “vibe” was entirely different. While Jack stayed aloof, Hap would grapple and get in your face, push your buttons, and force you to dance. Jack stayed cool, watching his brother with amusement, while Hap bounced and juked from side to side, lashing out in anger one second and laughing it off the next.

On the day that the game took a turn, Hap and Evy swing-danced in the senior parking lot just as school was letting out, holding up traffic. People honked, especially Frannie Yarborough in her fancy four-wheel drive, Daddy's-sorry-for-something-big, monster SUV, but Hap stepped on Frannie's front bumper and pulled Evy up past him and onto the hood. She squealed, kicked off her shoes, and kept dancing. The honks—except for Frannie's—turned to rhythmic toots of approval. When Hap swung Evy down and dipped her with a low, swooping lunge, at least ten seniors jumped from their cars to hoot and cheer.

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