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The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)
By Keplinger, Kody
Poppy Copyright © 2010 Keplinger, Kody
All right reserved.
This was getting old.
Once again, Casey and Jessica were making complete fools of themselves, shaking their asses like dancers in a rap video. But I guess guys eat that shit up, don’t they? I could honestly feel my IQ dropping as I wondered, for the hundredth time that night, why I’d let them drag me here again.
Every time we came to the Nest, the same thing happened. Casey and Jessica danced, flirted, attracted the attention of every male in sight, and eventually were hauled out of the party by their protective best friend—me—before any of the horn dogs could take advantage of them. In the meantime, I sat at the bar all night talking to Joe, the thirty-year-old bartender, about “the problems with kids these days.”
I figured Joe would get offended if I told him that one of the biggest problems was this damn place. The Nest, which used to be a real bar, had been converted into a teen lounge three years ago. The rickety oak bar still stood, but Joe served only Coke products while the kids danced or listened to live music. I hated the place for the simple reason that it made my friends, who could be somewhat sensible most of the time, act like idiots. But in their defense, they weren’t the only ones. Half of Hamilton High showed up on the weekends, and no one left the club with their dignity intact.
I mean seriously, where was the fun in all of this? Want to dance to the same heavy bass techno music week after week? Sure! Then maybe I’ll hit on this sweaty, oversexed football player. Maybe we’ll have meaningful discussions about politics and philosophy while we bump ’n grind. Ugh. Yeah, right.
Casey plopped down on the stool next to mine. “You should come dance with us, B,” she said, breathless from her booty shaking. “It’s so much fun.”
“Sure it is,” I muttered.
“Oh my gosh!” Jessica sat down on my other side, her honey-blond ponytail bouncing against her shoulders. “Did you see that? Did you effing see that? Harrison Carlyle totally just hit on me! Did you see that? Omigosh!”
Casey rolled her eyes. “He asked you where you got your shoes, Jess. He’s totally gay.”
“He’s too cute to be gay.”
Casey ignored her, running her fingers behind her ear, as if tucking back invisible locks. It was a habit left over from before she’d chopped her hair into its current edgy blond pixie cut. “B, you should dance with us. We brought you here so that we could hang out with you—not that Joe isn’t entertaining.” She winked at the bartender, probably hoping to score some free sodas. “But we’re your friends. You should come dance. Shouldn’t she, Jess?”
“Totally,” Jessica agreed, eyeing Harrison Carlyle, who sat in a booth on the other side of the room. She paused and turned back to us. “Wait. What? I wasn’t listening.”
“You just look so bored over here, B. I want you to have some fun, too.”
“I’m fine,” I lied. “I’m having a great time. You know I can’t dance. I’d be in your way. Go… live it up or whatever. I’ll be okay over here.”
Casey narrowed her hazel eyes at me. “You sure?” she asked.
She frowned, but after a second she shrugged and grabbed Jessica by the wrist, pulling her out onto the dance floor. “Holy crap!” Jessica cried. “Slow down, Case! You’ll rip my arm off!” Then they made their merry way to the middle of the room, already syncing the sway of their hips with the pulsing techno music.
“Why didn’t you tell them you’re miserable?” Joe asked, pushing a glass of Cherry Coke toward me.
“I’m not miserable.”
“You’re not a good liar either,” he replied before a group of freshmen started yelling for drinks at the other end of the bar.
I sipped my Cherry Coke, watching the clock above the bar. The second hand seemed to be frozen, and I prayed the damn thing was broken or something. I wouldn’t ask Casey and Jessica to leave until eleven. Any earlier and I’d be the party pooper. But according to the clock it wasn’t even nine yet, and I could already feel myself getting a techno-music migraine, only made worse by the pulsing strobe light. Move, second hand! Move!
I rolled my eyes and turned to glare at the unwelcome intruder. This happened once in a while. Some guy, usually stoned or rank with BO, would take a seat beside me and make a half-assed attempt at small talk. Clearly they hadn’t inherited the observant gene, because the expression on my face made it pretty damn obvious that I wasn’t in the mood to be swept off my feet.
Surprisingly, the guy who’d taken the seat next to me didn’t stink like pot or armpits. In fact, that might have been cologne I smelled on the air. But my disgust only increased when I realized who the cologne belonged to. I would have preferred the fuzzy-headed stoner.
Wesley. Fucking. Rush.
“What do you want?” I demanded, not even bothering to be polite.
“Aren’t you the friendly type?” Wesley asked sarcastically. “Actually, I came to talk to you.”
“Well, that sucks for you. I’m not talking to people tonight.” I slurped my drink loudly, hoping he’d take the not-so-subtle hint to leave. No such luck. I could feel his dark gray eyes crawling all over me. He couldn’t even pretend to be looking me in the eyes, could he? Ugh!
“Come on,” Wesley teased. “There’s no need to be so cold.”
“Leave me alone,” I hissed through clenched teeth. “Go try your charming act on some tramp with low self-esteem, because I’m not falling for it.”
“Oh, I’m not interested in tramps,” he said. “That’s not my thing.”
I snorted. “Any girl who’d give you the time of day, Wesley, is most definitely a tramp. No one with taste or class or dignity would actually find you attractive.”
Okay. That was a tiny lie.
Wesley Rush was the most disgusting womanizing playboy to ever darken the doorstep of Hamilton High… but he was kind of hot. Maybe if you could put him on mute… and cut off his hands… maybe—just maybe—he’d be tolerable then. Otherwise, he was a real piece of shit. Horn dog shit.
“And you do have taste and class and dignity, I assume?” he asked, grinning.
“Yes, I do.”
“That’s a shame.”
“Is this your attempt at flirting?” I asked. “If it is, you fail. Epically.”
He laughed. “I never fail at flirting.” He ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair and adjusted his crooked, arrogant little grin. “I’m just being friendly. Trying to have a nice conversation.”
“Sorry. Not interested.” I turned away and took another drink of my Cherry Coke. But he didn’t move. Not even an inch. “You can go now,” I said forcefully.
Wesley sighed. “Fine. You’re being really uncooperative, you know. So I guess I’ll be honest with you. I’ve got to hand it to you: you’re smarter and more stubborn than most girls I talk to. But I’m here for a little more than witty conversation.” He moved his attention to the dance floor. “I actually need your help. You see, your friends are hot. And you, darling, are the Duff.”
“Is that even a word?”
“Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend,” he clarified. “No offense, but that would be you.”
“I am not the—!”
“Hey, don’t get defensive. It’s not like you’re an ogre or anything, but in comparison…” He shrugged his broad shoulders. “Think about it. Why do they bring you here if you don’t dance?” He had the nerve to reach over and pat my knee, like he was trying to comfort me. I jerked away from him, and his fingers moved smoothly to brush some curls out of his face instead. “Look,” he said, “you have hot friends… really hot friends.” He paused, watching the action on the dance floor for a moment, before facing me again. “The point is, scientists have proven that every group of friends has a weak link, a Duff. And girls respond well to guys who associate with their Duffs.”
“Crackheads can call themselves scientists now? That’s news to me.”
“Don’t be bitter,” he said. “What I’m saying is, girls—like your friends—find it sexy when guys show some sensitivity and socialize with the Duff. So by talking to you right now I am doubling my chances of getting laid tonight. Please assist me here, and just pretend to enjoy the conversation.”
I stared at him, flabbergasted, for a long moment. Beauty really was skin-deep. Wesley Rush may have had the body of a Greek god, but his soul was as black and empty as the inside of my closet. What a bastard!
With one swift motion I jumped to my feet and flung the contents of my glass in Wesley’s direction. Cherry Coke flew all over him, splattering his expensive-looking white polo. Drops of dark red liquid glistened on his cheeks and colored his brown hair. His face glowed with anger, and his chiseled jaw clinched fiercely.
“What was that for?” he snapped, wiping his face with the back of his hand.
“What do you think it was for?” I bellowed, fists balled at my sides.
“Honestly, Duffy, I have no earthly idea.”
Angry flames blazed in my cheeks. “If you think I’m letting one of my friends leave this place with you, Wesley, you’re very, very wrong,” I spat. “You’re a disgusting, shallow, womanizing jackass, and I hope that soda stains your preppy little shirt.” Just before I marched away, I looked over my shoulder and added, “And my name isn’t Duffy. It’s Bianca. We’ve been in the same homeroom since middle school, you self-absorbed son of a bitch.”
I never thought I’d say this, but thank God the damn techno played so loud. No one but Joe overheard the little episode, and he probably found the whole thing hysterical. I had to push my way through the crowded dance floor to find my friends. When I tracked them down, I grabbed Casey and Jessica by their elbows and tugged them toward the exit.
“Hey!” Jessica protested.
“What’s wrong?” Casey asked.
“We’re getting the fuck out of here,” I said, yanking their unwilling bodies along behind me. “I’ll explain in the car. I just can’t stand to be in this hellhole for one more second.”
“Can’t I say bye to Harrison first?” Jessica whined, trying to loosen my grip on her arm.
“Jessica!” I cricked my neck painfully when I twisted around to face her. “He’s gay! You don’t have a chance, so just give it up already. I need to get out of here. Please.”
I pulled them out into the parking lot, where the icy January air tore at the bare flesh of our faces. Relenting, Casey and Jessica gathered close on either side of me. They must have found their outfits, which were intended to be sexy, ill equipped to handle the windchill. We moved to my car in a huddle, separating only when we reached the front bumper. I clicked the unlock button on my key chain so that we could climb into the slightly warmer cab of the Saturn without delay.
Casey curled up in the front seat and said, through chattering teeth, “Why are we leaving so early? B, it’s only, like, nine-fifteen.”
Jessica sulked in the backseat with an ancient blanket wrapped around her like a cocoon. (My piece-of-shit heater rarely decided to work, so I kept a stash of blankets on the floorboard.)
“I got into an argument with someone,” I explained, jabbing the key into the ignition with unnecessary force. “I threw my Coke on him, and I didn’t want to stick around for his response.”
“Who?” Casey asked.
I’d been dreading that question because I knew the reaction I’d get. “Wesley Rush.”
Two swoony, girly sighs followed my answer.
“Oh, come on,” I fumed. “The guy is a man-whore. I can’t stand him. He sleeps with everything that moves, and his brain is located in his pants—which means it’s microscopic.”
“I doubt that,” Casey said with another sigh. “God, B, only you could find a flaw in Wesley Rush.”
I glared at her as I turned my head to back out of the parking lot. “He’s a jerk.”
“That’s not true,” Jessica interjected. “Jeanine said he talked to her at a party recently. She was with Vikki and Angela, and she said he just came up and sat down beside her. He was really friendly.”
That made sense. Jeanine was definitely the Duff if she was out with Angela and Vikki. I wondered which of them left with Wesley that night.
“He’s charming,” Casey said. “You’re just being Little Miss Cynical, as usual.” She gave me a warm smile from across the cab. “But what the hell did he do to get you to throw Coke at him?” Now she sounded concerned. Took her long enough. “Did he say something to you, B?”
“No,” I lied. “It’s nothing. He just pisses me off.”
The word bounced around in my mind as I sped down 5th Street. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my friends about the wonderful new insult that had just been added to my vocab list, but when I glanced at myself in the rearview mirror, Wesley’s assertion that I was the unattractive, undesirable tagalong (more like dragalong) seemed to be confirmed. Jessica’s perfect hourglass figure and warm, welcoming brown eyes. Casey’s flawless complexion and mile-long legs. I couldn’t compare to either of them.
“Well, I say we hit another party, since it’s so early,” Casey suggested. “I heard about this one out in Oak Hill. Some college kid is home for Christmas break and decided to have a big blowout. Angela told me about it this morning. Want to go?”
“Yeah!” Jessica straightened up beneath the blanket. “We should totally go! College parties have college boys. Won’t that be fun, Bianca?”
I sighed. “No. Not really.”
“Oh, come on.” Casey reached over and squeezed my arm. “No dancing this time, okay? And Jess and I promise to keep all hot guys away from you, since clearly you hate them.” She smirked, trying to nudge me back into a good mood.
“I don’t hate hot guys,” I told her. “Just the one.” After a moment, I sighed and turned onto the highway, heading for the county line. “Fine, we’ll go. But you two are buying me ice cream afterward. Two scoops.”
Excerpted from The DUFF by Keplinger, Kody Copyright © 2010 by Keplinger, Kody. Excerpted by permission.
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