The Flipside

Note from Tina Ferraro:

The ABCs of Kissing BoysI thought the readers of YARN might enjoy looking at the first chapter of a “companion book,” to “The ABC’s of Kissing Boys.”  This story takes place later in the same school year and contains many of the same characters from my 2009 Random House release, “The ABC’S of Kissing Boys,” but instead of being told in Parker Stanhope’s point of view, features her best friend, Becca Benvenuto.

The writing challenges for this chapter were not only the need for me to “head hop” from Parker’s point of view to Becca’s and to establish her voice, but to recap the plot of “The ABC’S of Kissing Boys” from Becca’s perspective–while trying to unfold what I hoped was an interesting new storyline.


The Flipside

By Tina Ferraro

If you read 11:34 upside-down, it spells “hell.”

I learned this in the inky darkness of a Minnesota backyard, where I–Rebecca Benvenuto–sat in a patio chair, playing with my illuminated, digital wristwatch, pushing buttons, turning it around, doing what I could to keep from spontaneously combusting from boredom.

The eight other girls at Elaine Chu’s seventeenth birthday slumber party were her varsity soccer teammates, who mostly hung out on the field and off. I could barely kick a can, much less a field goal, and in their company, felt like the object of that old Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the other…”

But, well, whatever, right?

I’d gotten my invite because of my BFF, Parker Stanhope. In addition to being the shoo-in for the next year’s team captain, she’d pulled off an amazing feat last fall, going from social outcast (a junior left behind on JV!) to one of the most admired girls on our campus. She had the same long, blonde thing going on as Blake Lively on “Gossip Girls,” a passion for fashion, and an I-don’t-care-what-people-think-about-me attitude. The latter of which she drove home by unabashedly, in-ur-face, dating a freshman.

In the midst of her crisis and growth last fall, she and I had found each other again, remembering why we’d been inseparable in middle school. Now wherever she went, I pretty much went, too. She made sure of it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Except on dates with her boy toy. But no problem there because of course, who wanted to be a third wheel? And, for the past eleven weeks, I’d had a boyfriend myself, a junior named Scott Cinderelli, whose Windex blue eyes made him a stand-out on the soccer field as well as in the halls. And while Scott and I weren’t all mushy-smushy like Parker and Tristan, we were definitely “in like,” had a standing Friday night date, and were all Facebook official.

Which was just right for me.

The sound of my name cut through the air, followed by a narrow beam of light. I turned to see Parker charging out the screen door, a party-gift-bag flashlight in hand.

“There you are.” Her tone was one only best friends could get away with: one-part tease and one-part Ur Mom. “I’m thinking we have better things to do than sitting in the dark, Becca. Like winning a scavenger hunt.”

24-Hour Clock

Image courtesy of Travis Jon Allison (flickr.com).

I went with a whiny tone. “Sorry. Too busy playing with my watch.”

She blew out an exaggerated laugh. Parker–like most of these girls–was mega-competitive. She had to, had to win. I, on the other hand, didn’t particularly care about a game’s outcome, as long as it was fun. Which was probably why it didn’t bother me (much) that my newly elevated position in the school’s statusphere hinged on being Parker’s best friend. Popular-by-association beat being practically invisible any day.

Even if it did get boring now and then.

“Okay, Miss Other Half of the Pink Team,” she said, holding up a folded piece of loose leaf paper adorned with a pink star. The shade was accidentally or on purpose a close match with the pink hoodie she was wearing, her favorite outerwear since April showers had brought May flowers and warmer evenings. “Behold. Our first clue: ‘Where all is said and…’”

“Done,” I said, drawing the first letters out to make it sound like “duh.”

“Yeah, but what does it mean?”

“I don’t know, that we’re done? As in, finished? Because Elaine is still trying to mend fences after all that grief she gave you, and so we’re automatic winners?”

She wrinkled her nose, but whether it was at the memory of how Mandy, Elaine and some others had tormented her last September for first not making varsity, and then taking up with a freshman, or at my wild assumption was anybody’s guess. “I wish. I could really use one of those gift cards. My shin guards are shot.”

Hidden somewhere on the properties in this cul-de-sac was an envelope containing two gift cards to our town’s top sporting good store. Elaine’s parents were no-holds-barred when came to their kids, and had gone as far as bribing the neighbors with plates of homemade Korean BBQ to let us run amok in the darkness tonight.

Scarfing down some of the yummy strips of seasoned beef myself earlier, I totally understood why the neighbors had caved. In fact, if a second helping had been the scavenger hunt prize, I’d be jumping hurdles like Olympiad Lolo Jones.

Still, I couldn’t resist teasing Parker a little. “I know what you want more than new shin guards. To win.”

She held the flashlight under her chin and made a little kid, tongue-out stupid face at me. “Okay, yeah that, too. Now come on,” she said and grabbed my hand.

We did a run-run thing around the side of the house, my shoulder-length brown hair flying back against my head. Parker and I were both on the tall, slim side, and had actually met a week before seventh grade, grabbing at the same size jeans in Anna Banana’s Boutique in Old Town DeGroot. But our similarities stopped there. She was the stop-traffic beauty; I was just okay-looking. The funny part was, she swore she’d give anything for my dark hair and eyes, my olive skin, what she referred to as my “ethnic gypsy look.” Even called the mole on my chipmunk cheek “Madonna-like.”

But what I knew she wouldn’t trade was families. Not that hers was a picnic. Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope were just coming out of an ugly and embarrassing property feud with Parker’s boyfriend’s father, and there was some stress about her older brother’s grades at college. But at least they put their cards on the table. Unlike my family, who basically slinked around the house with our backs to walls, so as to carefully avoid each other and an issue the size of a circus elephant.

Racing into the Chu’s front yard now, the persistent chirp of crickets told us the three other teams (Mandy/Renee, Maia/Genevieve, Tiffany/Amber) had already taken off. Elaine had explained earlier that each team would have a different set of clues to lead to the treasure, so the key to winning was as much about independent detective-work as speed.

I couldn’t help think that a bit of favoritism might factor in, too. Elaine had prepared the clues herself, and would be more than happy to see Parker reign triumphant, so there was probably no reason to get all winded and sweaty.

Except that the way Parker was dragging me, it was either keep up or lose an arm.

After one lap around the cul-de-sac, inspiration hit her. She dragged me to the front curb of a big, white house.

“Voila!” she announced, untaping our second clue from under the mailbox that read “Dunne.” I slipped the first clue in my back pocket–I considered littering on par with terrorism and boyfriend stealing–while keeping the flashlight steady for her.

Converse Shoes

Image courtesy of Graceº (flickr.com).

The same pink star appeared on the backside as she unfolded the new note. “More than you,” she read, catching her breath, “but less than double you.”

I raised the beam up to her face. Her brows arched into the same “huh?” that my throat was sounding.

Instinctively, we exchanged the clue and flashlight.

That’s when I saw the writing on the flipside, just below the pink star. Barely visible, in very light pencil. As if tentatively written. Or poorly erased.

“Wake up,” I read aloud, holding it close to my eyes. And then, below, in print even smaller, even lighter, words that rammed like a field goal into my throat. “Scott Cinderelli is cheating on you.”


I think I laughed. I know Parker did. All I knew for sure was I was suddenly hugging my upper arms, with January-like, sub-degree-chills racing down them. And my heart was thumping out of control.

“Joke,” Parker, said, grabbing the paper back to examine it. “Bad joke. Bad, bad joke.”

It had better be. Because Scott cheating on me was not funny. Not evenly remotely.

And furthermore, it did not compute. There’d been nothing sneaky about his behavior, no changes in his schedule, no poorly explained absences. In fact, he’d been sweeter than ever when kissing me goodnight the night before–borderline romantic. And as I was getting out of his car, he told me to have fun here at Elaine’s tonight. And to call him on Sunday.

See? He cared. He liked me. He considered me an on-going part of his life.

Yep, this was crazy, and some idiot’s idea of a joke.

I drew a long inhale, hoping for calm and clarity.

But the thing was, say just for a moment, that it was true? That Scott had gone and fallen for someone else. Why not just break up with me? Why do something as down-and-dirty as cheat?

Cheating broke hearts, ruined relationships, severed lifetimes of trust. And while I realized not everyone had the same just-kill-me-now, first-hand knowledge of cheating like those of us in the Benvenuto family, even the most sheltered person knew it was wrong.

“Who,” I finally sputtered to Parker. “Who wrote this?”

She screwed her face into a frown.

“Elaine?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t know.” Parker exhaled so loudly I thought I heard her brains rattle. She was one of the few people on the planet who was privy to the seedy side of my home life. She knew what this had to be doing to me. “We’re going to get to the bottom of this.” She pointed the beam of her flashlight in the direction of Elaine’s two-story.

“Now? But the clues…the gift cards, the shin guards.”

She gave her head a toss, then slipped an arm around my shoulders. “Puh-lease. Who cares about some stupid game when it comes to best friends?”

A bunch of heart-thrashing moments later, we walked through the Chu’s front door. A four or five year-old boy–who was not that much older than the son my father visited in Brainerd every Sunday–saw us, then scampered up the stairs.

Probably he’d been told to stay out of sight during his sister’s party. Or maybe we plum looked scary. I know Parker did. Angry lines shot out from around her mouth and eyes. While I felt like one of those jelly fish that wash up on our Lake Superior shore in late summer, translucent almost to the point of invisibility. But if you got near me, you’d sure feel my sudden sting.

Elaine sat atop a barstool in her kitchen, sipping a diet soda, her cell phone on the counter. Parker marched across the linoleum and thrust the paper at her, tapping a fingernail at the words below the star.

“What in the world is this?”

Elaine’s lashes fled back–she knew this was serious stuff–but she also shrugged.

“You didn’t write it?” Parker persisted.

“Not that part, no.”

I took a tentative step closer to Elaine. “But, is it true?”

“What? About Scott cheating on you?”

I managed to get my head to bounce.

Elaine shrugged again. “How would I know? He and I aren’t close or anything. I don’t think any of the girls here are. I mean, this is totally weird on so many levels.”

“Totally.” Parker grabbed hold of her soda can, knocked back a drink, then thunked it on the counter. “Call the girls in.”

“Now? Someone’s bound to win soon enough.”

Now,” Parker demanded in the same take-no-prisoners tone that their former team captain/queen bee Chrissandra Hickey had once used on them–before being booted from off the team in scandal, and then transferring to another school. Still, Parker had studied at the feet of the master. “We’ll finish the game later. We can’t leave Becca not knowing like this.”

Elaine looked like she’d been slapped. All she was missing was a red mark and tears. “Yeah, Park,” she managed. “Sure. Whatever.”

Minutes later, the nine of us were sprawled about Elaine’s living room, Mandy, Renee, Tiffany, Maia, Genevieve, Amber and Elaine listening to Parker’s mini-rant, while I studied their wide-eyed faces, wondering who knew what–and who might be doing what. With my boyfriend.

But after much meaningless group speculation, Elaine stood, threw a look at Parker, and suggested we go back to the game. Parker nodded, and the girls made a break for the door. Either running from the meeting or toward the gift cards, I didn’t know. “Sit tight,” Parker then spoke in a low voice to me. “I’m not done with Elaine.”

“No prob,” I said, sinking deeper inside the overstuffed chair, my hands moving to my wristwatch. It read 1:11, I saw, both right-side up and upside down. Which was a pretty decent metaphor for what was going on right now. I had a problem, either way I looked at it.

And while I was pretty sure the others forgot about the note the moment they hit the night air, this would not end here for me. Oh, sure, I had the rep in this group as a Girls-Just-Wanna-Have-Fun type. I wasn’t crazy-competitive, didn’t devote my after school hours to doing tireless, make-myself-better practices. But this wasn’t about some sporting event or game. And this wasn’t about pretending something or someone(s) didn’t exist.

This was different. This was personal. This was my life.

Scott was cheating or me. Or he wasn’t. But in either case, somebody wanted me to think he was. Somebody who wanted to freak me out, to break us up.

And that was just evil. Unconscionable. Crappy. I would get to the bottom of this. I would!

Although as I snuggled deeper into the chair, half-hearing Parker grill Elaine about who could have possibly added that note to our clue, my arms came up in another self-hug. And started thinking about the old line about being careful what you wished for.

Because you just might get it.

Tina FerraroAbout Tina: Fans of Tina’s books enjoy Tina’s ability to combine feisty female heroines with romance and a ton of laugh out loud moments. Her debut novel, “Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress,” answers a question most girls hope they never need to solve: is it possible to face your friends with grace and dignity after being dumped exactly 48 hour prior to prom?  Next came “How to Hook a Hottie,” a cautionary tale about making money by delivering relationship advice–especially bad relationship advice. And most recently, “The ABC’s of Kissing Boys,” a hilarious tale of a high school junior’s romance with a freshman (Facebook nightmare, right?)

Tina is also an avid blogger about YA literature.  Check out YAFresh and Books, Boys, Buzz!

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8 Comments Post a Comment
  1. jully chung says:

    didnt expect it to be mysterious type of book…
    as i read the first couple of paragraphs, i thought that this story was going to be about girls that kidnapped..i dont know why, but i think i read a book similar to this one…where they have a party and a couple girls get kidnapped~

  2. Jenny Jeong says:

    The story has the mysterious mood that makes the readers intense and to think what might happen next.
    The general feeling seems to be mixed with romance and mystery.
    My prediction about this story is betrayal of friendship and a climax that no one expects.
    Overall, this is full of events and mysteries that makes the readers intense while reading the story! *^^*

  3. Tina Ferraro says:

    Interesting, Jully! Haha, wish I’d thought of that!

    I actually have a book being shopped by my agent right now that includes a paranormal event that takes place at a slumber party…might be something you’d like down the road.

    Thanks for commenting!

  4. Brenda R says:

    Wow, I’m also surprised by the outcome. I wasn’t expecting the mysterious type, at all. This is a refreshing type of story, where I have no idea what to expect! Usually, I have a guess of what the outcome will be before I even hit the halfway mark. I like it, and it’s very relatable.

  5. Jong woo Lim says:

    In the beginning, i thought it was just book about kids playing around. However, i didn’t expect it to turn out to be such a mysterious type of book

  6. Tina Ferraro says:

    Brenda and Jong woo, I am delighted to surprise! Thanks for commenting, and look for the next installment…well, in a couple months, I think!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I loved it. I didn’t expect it to be mysterious, but it was a good surprise. When is the book coming out in stores?

  8. Meredith says:

    I love this because I really liked Becca in ABC’s of Kissing Boys. I love that she gets her own book. I think it’s cool that it is a mystery and I can’t wait to find out what happens.

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