ROCK N' ROLL == Chapter 1 revealed from the Rock N' Roll, 4th novel from the SCHOOL GYRLS novel series. It will be released on December 31, 2030!
ROCK N' ROLL CHAPTER 1Edit
MY NAME IS MANDY RAIN, BUT MOST PEOPLE IN school know me as Jacque Nimble and Monica Marriot’s best friend, as the third member of the band School Gyrls, or as the student with pink tips on her hair who likes to roller-skate. I’m not tough like Jacque, and I’m way shyer than Mo. I never thought that was a problem until last week, when the Summer Grove Games—the biggest event at Summer Grove Academy—rolled around and I suddenly found myself in the center of it all.
The trouble began Wednesday afternoon when I was in the gymnasium practicing some dance steps with Jacque and Mo. We were choreographing a pip new routine for our new song, “What Comes Around.” It was early November, and the cool air rushed in from the windows, so we didn’t even break a sweat as we moved in time with the music. “I think we should jump around when the music starts, then walk up to the edge of the stage,” Mo said. She did it quickly, strutting like a supermodel as her black curls swung back and forth behind her. “It’ll be dramatic.”
“No way, that’s barely dancing,” Jacque argued, shaking her head. “Let’s roll our shoulders back like this,” she said, moving her body like a worm. “So much better.”
We’d met during our first week at Summer Grove Academy, in the detention room, of all places. Jacque had gotten in trouble for tagging the side of the Lockwood wing, and Mo had barricaded herself in the girls’ bathroom to finish her morning beauty routine. Me? I’d gotten in trouble for roller-skating right into the home ec teacher . . . who happened to be holding her prized strawberry shortcake. I usually hated breaking rules, but that time I’d lucked out and gotten two besties in the process. Now we lived together, performed together, and went to school together. Sometimes it felt more like we were sisters than friends. We even argued like sisters.
Mo crossed her arms over her chest. “I just don’t think it’s a big enough start. Imagine the spotlights coming on and then boom!” She spun around again.
This is how most of our practices went, with Jacque and Mo getting hung up on dance moves. Jacque and Mo looked at each other like they were in a staring contest, seeing who would blink first. Finally, after a long silence, they turned to me. “What do you think, Mandy?” Jacque asked, playing with her gold hoop earrings.
“Umm . . . I don’t know . . . ,” I mumbled. I pulled on the pink tips of my hair. I loved singing and performing, but I left a lot of the big decisions up to them. It was just easier that way. “Both moves look good to me.”
Mo poked me playfully in the side. “You always say that, girl.” She laughed. “You hate making decisions!”
“I do not,” I said defensively. I didn’t “hate” making decisions, I just “preferred not to” make them. Besides, if I always wanted to choreograph dance moves, that would be one more person Mo would have to debate with. It was better with me following their lead.
“Well, let’s just finish one last part,” Jacque said. “We only have a few minutes left until we get kicked out of here.” She pointed to the neon yellow flyers that had been hung up on the walls: SUMMER GROVE ACTIVITIES MEETING COME SHARE YOUR IDEAS FOR THIS YEAR’S SUMMER GROVE GAMES WEDNESDAY AT 4 P.M. IN THE SOUTH GYM.
As we choreographed the next eight counts of the dance, the mood slowly lightened. A few girls I knew from math class strolled into the gym and plopped themselves onto the bleachers. “I was on the Green Team last year and had to do some lame three-legged race,” a girl with a long red braid said. “This year I want to be a forward on the basketball team. Much more fun.” Jacque and Mo moved in time with the music, ignoring them, but I couldn’t help but think about the event that had so many students talking.
For the last month, Summer Grove Academy had been buzzing about the annual Games, a tradition that had been around since World War I (our history teacher, Mr. Porter, loved to remind us of that fact). Back then it was a chance for girls to show off their athletic skills, but now it was just the biggest event at school. Every year, all the students broke into four teams—the Green, Red, Blue, and White Teams—and spent nearly a month in intense training. Girls could sign up for different sports, like basketball, badminton, hockey, or volleyball, or join relay races or do calisthenics. At the Games, teams accumulated points for every event they won, and at the end of the night the team with the highest total was named the champion. They received the giant gold Summer Grove Games trophy—and bragging rights for an entire year.
“Guess our practice time is up . . . ,” Mo said, pulling her thick black hair into a ponytail. As we packed up our bags and stereo, the bleachers filled with thirty or so girls, all excited to contribute their ideas. Bambi Lockwood, the annoying head cheer girl, was sitting in the front row with her best friend and minion, Clair.
Bambi and Clair had been our enemies since the first week of school, when they’d gone out of their way to tell everyone that Mo’s mom worked at a diner. Technically, Mo had lied about that small fact, but it wasn’t their place to out her. Then our band, the School Gyrls, outshined Bambi and Clair at the annual stunt party (that’s just a cool way of saying “talent show”). Now they couldn’t walk past us in the hallways without making rude comments or shooting us dirty looks. I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were just waiting to find the perfect way to get back at us.
Jacque, Mo, and I headed for the side door, trying not to draw too much attention to ourselves. We weren’t exactly the most popular girls at Summer Grove. Here you had to wear pearl earrings, be on the cheer squad, or have a wing of the school named after you to fit in. But I liked wearing my pink fingerless gloves with my uniform, Jacque’s idea of fun was drawing graffiti art, and Mo’s mom never got her a cell, let alone sponsored a wing of a school building. Summer Grove just wasn’t us.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jacque whispered, “before we end up getting sucked in to the Summer Grove Games cult.” She crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue, making an I’m-a-crazy-person face. I couldn’t help but laugh.
But when we walked out the door, we walked right into Headmaster Jones. She didn’t look happy. “Where are you ladies off to? My meeting is about to start.”
Headmaster Jones was a tall woman who always wore a tight navy suit and had her hair styled in an Afro. In the three months we’d been at Summer Grove, she’d given us detention more times than she’d said our names. She wasn’t exactly someone you said no to.
“Um . . . ,” Mo fumbled, “we need to . . . wash our hair.” Jacque and I rolled our eyes. Of all the excuses Mo could’ve chosen, she picked that?
Headmaster Jones ushered us back into the gym. “I think that can wait, Miss Marriot. I need all the brainpower I can get for this.” She pointed to an empty stretch of bleachers, right beside some overeager freshman girls, and gestured for us to sit. Then she addressed the crowd.
“Thank you for coming today!” her voice boomed. “As you all know, the Games are one of the great Summer Grove traditions—they’ve been around for more than ninety years. I myself competed, back in 1979. Unfortunately though, the Games haven’t changed much since then. It’s hard to admit, but they’ve become a bit . . .”—she rapped her fingers against the clipboard she was holding—“outdated.”
“A bit?” Mo whispered to me. “I haven’t done relay races since I was five.” I laughed. It was true. It was like the Games were stuck in a time warp. Since we were freshmen we hadn’t actually attended them yet, but the main feature of the night was called calisthenics, and it was some cheesy aerobics routine. Enough said.
“That’s where you come in, ladies,” Headmaster added. She paced in front of the bleachers, staring at all the bright-eyed Summer Grove girls. In the front row, Madison Arianna Cross had a small blue pad out and was scribbling down notes like we were in biology class. “I want to make this year’s Games the biggest and best yet. They need to be different—more current. Since they’re only a month away, I’d love to hear your ideas.” As soon as she said this, ten hands shot up in the crowd.
A girl in the back, Bethany Price, stood up. She always wore a red fedora, even though it looked Christmasy with her green uniform. “I think we should have the jazz band play during the basketball game. That way, it could be part concert, part sporting event.” One of her friends added “great idea!” as Headmaster Jones nodded her head thoughtfully.
Jacque furrowed her brow. “The jazz band?” she whispered to me. “That’s a terrible idea. Who wants to hear a trumpet solo in the middle of their layup?” I laughed, imagining Jillian Marcus, the saxophone player, kneeling down near the hoop, playing “What a Wonderful World.”
The meeting kept on like that for half an hour, with girl after girl standing up and offering ideas. A sophomore with fiery red hair suggested having it be fashion themed, with every sports team wearing custom-designed uniforms. As if it would be comfortable to hit a volleyball in a pink cocktail dress. Another student thought Headmaster should turn calisthenics into a more formal dance competition. I actually liked that idea, but ...