[Gossip Girl 02] - You Know You Love Me

By Amy Ferguson,2014-05-02 13:01
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[Gossip Girl 02] - You Know You Love Me

[Gossip Girl 02] - You Know You Love Me

Sam Guan

Novels by Cecily von Ziegesar:

    Gossip GirlYou Know You Love MeAll I Want is Everything

    “Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.”

    —Oscar Wilde

    Disclaimer: All the real names of places, people, and events havebeen altered or abbreviated toprotect the innocent. Namely, me.

    hey people!

    Ever wondered what the lives of the chosen ones are really like?

    Well, I’m going to tell you, because I’m one of them. I’m not talkingabout beautiful modelsor actors or musical prodigies ormathematical geniuses. I’m talking about the people who arebornto it—those of us who have everything anyone could possibly wishfor and who take it allcompletely for granted.

    Welcome to New York City’s Upper East Side, where my friends and Ilive and go to school andplay and sleep—sometimes with eachother. We all live in huge apartments with our own bedroomsandbathrooms and phone lines. We have unlimited access to moneyand booze and whatever else wewant, and our parents are rarelyhome, so we have tons of privacy. We’re smart, we’veinheritedclassic good looks, we wear fantastic clothes, and we know how toparty. Our shit stillstinks, but you can’t smell it because thebathroom is sprayed hourly by the maid with arefreshing scentmade exclusively for us by French perfumers.

    It’s a luxe life, but someone’s got to live it.

    Our apartments are all within walking distance of the MetropolitanMuseum of Art on FifthAvenue, and the single-sex private schools,like Constance Billard, which most of us go to. Evenwith ahangover, Fifth Avenue always looks so beautiful in the morningwith the sunlightglimmering on the heads of the sexy St. Jude’sSchool boys.

    But something is rotten on museum mile. . . .


    B with her mother, arguing in a taxi in front of Takashimaya. Nenjoying a joint on the steps ofthe Met. C buying new school shoesat Barneys. And a familiar, tall, eerily beautiful blond girlemergingfrom a New Haven line train in Grand Central Station.

    Approximate age, seventeen. Could it be? S is back?!



    Yes, S is back from boarding school. Her hair is longer, paler. Herblue eyes have that deepmysteriousness of kept secrets. She iswearing the same old fabulous clothes, now in rags fromfending offNew England storms. This morning S’s laughter echoed off thesteps of the Met, wherewe will no longer be able to enjoy a quicksmoke and a cappuccino without seeing her waving tous from herparents’ apartment across the street. She has picked up the habit ofbiting herfingernails, which makes us wonder about her even more,and while we are all dying to ask herwhy she got kicked out ofboarding school, we won’t, because we’d really rather she hadstayedaway. But S is definitely here.

    Just to be safe, we should all synchronize our watches. If we aren’tcareful, S is going to winover our teachers, wear that dress wecouldn’t fit into, eat the last olive, have sex in ourparents’ beds,spill Campari on our rugs, steal our brothers’ and our boyfriends’hearts, andbasically ruin our lives and piss us all off in a major way.

    I’ll be watching closely. I’ll be watching all of us. It’s going to be awild and wickedyear. I can smell it.


    “I watched Nickelodeon all morning in my room so I wouldn’t haveto eat breakfast with them,”Blair Waldorf told her two best friendsand Constance Billard School classmates, Kati Farkas andIsabelCoates. “My mother cooked him an omelet. I didn’t even know sheknew how to use thestove.”

    Blair tucked her long, dark brown hair behind her ears and swiggedher mother’s fine vintagescotch from the crystal tumbler in herhand. She was already on her second glass.

    “What shows did you watch?” Isabel asked, removing a stray strandof hair from Blair’s blackcashmere cardigan.

    “Who cares?” Blair said, stamping her foot. She was wearing hernew black ballet flats. Verybow-tie proper preppy, which she couldget away with because she could change her mind in aninstant andput on her trashy, pointed, knee-high boots and that sexy metallicskirt her motherhated. Poof—rock star sex kitten. Meow.

    “The point is, I was trapped in my room all morning because theywere busy having a grossromantic breakfast in their matching redsilk bathrobes. They didn’t even take showers.” Blairtook anothergulp of her drink. The only way to tolerate the thought of hermother sleeping withthat man was to get drunk—very drunk.

    Luckily Blair and her friends came from the kind of families forwhom drinking was ascommonplace as blowing your nose. Their

    parents believed in the quasi-European idea that the more accesskids have to alcohol, the lesslikely they are to abuse it. So Blair andher friends could drink whatever they wanted, whenevertheywanted, as long as they maintained their grades and their looks anddidn’t embarrassthemselves or the family by puking in public,pissing their pants, or ranting in the streets.The same thing wentfor everything else, like sex or drugs—as long as you kept upappearances,you were all right.

    But keep your panties on. That’s coming later.

    The man Blair was so upset about was Cyrus Rose, her mother’snew boyfriend. At that verymoment Cyrus Rose was standing onthe other side of the living room, greeting the dinner guests.Helooked like someone who might help you pick out shoes at Saks—bald, except for a small,bushy mustache, his fat stomach barelyhidden in a shiny blue double-breasted suit. He jingledthe changein his pocket incessantly, and when he took his jacket off, therewere big, nastysweat marks on his underarms. He had a loud laughand was very sweet to Blair’s mother. But hewasn’t Blair’s father.

    Last year Blair’s father ran off to France with another man.

    No kidding. They live in a chateau and run a vineyard together.

    Which is actually pretty cool if you think about it.

    Of course none of that was Cyrus Rose’s fault, but that didn’t matterto Blair. As far asBlair was concerned, Cyrus Rose was a completelyannoying, fat, loser.

    But tonight Blair was going to have to tolerate Cyrus Rose, becausethe dinner party her motherwas giving was in his honor, and all theWaldorfs’ family friends were there to meet him: theBass familyand their sons Chuck and Donald; Mr. Farkas and his daughter, Kati;the well-knownactor Arthur Coates, his wife Titi, and theirdaughters, Isabel, Regina, and Camilla; Captainand Mrs. Archibaldand their son Nate. The only ones still missing were Mr. and Mrs.

    van der Woodsen whose teenage daughter, Serena, and son, Erik,were both away at school.

    Blair’s mother was famous for her dinner parties, and this was herfirst since her infamousdivorce. The Waldorf penthouse had beenexpensively redecorated that summer in deep reds andchocolatebrowns, and it was full of antiques and artwork that would haveimpressed anyone whoknew anything about art. In the center ofthe dining room table was an enormous silver bowl fullof whiteorchids, pussy willows, and chestnut tree branches—a modernensemble from Takashimaya,

the Fifth Avenue luxury goods store.

    Gold-leafed place cards lay on every porcelain plate. In the kitchen,Myrtle the cook wassinging Bob Marley songs to the soufflé, andthe sloppy Irish maid, Esther, hadn’t pouredscotch down anyone’s

    dress yet, thank God.

    Blair was the one getting sloppy. And if Cyrus Rose didn’t stopharassing Nate, her boyfriend,she was going to have to go overthere and spill her scotch all over his tacky Italian loafers.

    “You and Blair have been going out a long time, am I right?” Cyrussaid, punching Nate in thearm. He was trying to get the kid toloosen up a little. All these Upper East Side kids were waytoouptight.

    That’s what he thinks. Give them time.

    “You sleep with her yet?” Cyrus asked.

    Nate turned redder than the upholstery on the eighteenth-centuryFrench chaise next to him.“Well, we’ve known each otherpractically since we were born,” he stuttered. “But we’veonly beengoing out for like, a year. We don’t want to ruin it by, you know,rushing, beforewe’re ready?” Nate was just spitting back the linethat Blair always gave him when he askedher if she was ready todo it or not. But he was talking to his girlfriend’s mother’sboyfriend.

    What was he supposed to say, “Dude, if I had my way we’d be doingit right now”?

    “Absolutely,” Cyrus Rose said. He clasped Nate’s shoulder with afleshy hand. Around hiswrist was one of those gold Cartier cuffbracelets that you screw on and never take off—verypopular in the1980s and not so popular now, unless you’ve actually bought intothat whole ’80srevival thing. Hello?

    “Let me give you some advice,” Cyrus told Nate, as if Nate had achoice. “Don’t listen to aword that girl says. Girls like surprises.

    They want you to keep things interesting. You know what I mean?”

    Nate nodded, frowning. He tried to remember the last time he’dsurprised Blair. The only thingthat came to mind was the time he’dbrought her an ice cream cone when he picked her up at hertennislesson. That was over a month ago, and it was a pretty lamesurprise by any standard. Atthis rate, he and Blair might neverhave sex.

    Nate was one of those boys you look at and while you’re looking atthem, you know they’rethinking, that girl can’t take her eyes offme because I’m so hot. Although he didn’t act atall conceited aboutit. He couldn’t help looking hot, he was just born that way. Poor guy.

    That night Nate was wearing the moss-green cashmere V-necksweater Blair had given him lastEaster, when her father had takenthem skiing in Sun Valley for a week. Secretly, Blair had sewna tinygold heart pendant onto the inside of one of the sweater’s sleeves,so that Nate wouldalways be wearing her heart on his sleeve. Blairliked to think of herself as a hopelessromantic in the style of oldmovie actresses like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. She was

    always coming up with plot devices for the movie she was starringin at the moment, the moviethat was her life.

    “I love you,” Blair had told Nate breathily when she gave him thesweater.

    “Me too,” Nate had said back, although he wasn’t exactly sure if itwas true or not.

    When he put the sweater on, it looked so good on him that Blairwanted to scream and rip all herclothes off. But it seemedunattractive to scream in the heat of the moment—more femmefatalethan girl-who-gets-boy—so Blair kept quiet, trying to remainfragile and baby-birdlike inNate’s arms. They kissed for a long time,their cheeks hot and cold at the same time from beingout on theslopes all day. Nate twined his fingers in Blair’s hair and pulled herdown on thehotel bed. Blair put her arms above her head and letNate begin to undress her, until sherealized where this was allheading, and that it wasn’t a movie after all, it was real. So,

like agood girl, she sat up and made Nate stop.

    She’d kept on making him stop right on up until today. Only twonights ago, Nate had come overafter a party with a half-drunk flaskof brandy in his pocket and had lain down on her bedandmurmured, “I want you, Blair.” Once again, Blair had wanted toscream and jump on top ofhim, but she resisted. Nate fell asleep,snoring softly, and Blair lay down next to him andimagined that sheand Nate were starring in a movie in which they were married andhe had adrinking problem, but she would stand by him always andlove him forever, even if heoccasionally wet the bed.

    Blair wasn’t trying to be a tease, she just wasn’t ready. She andNate had barely seen eachother at all over the summer becauseshe had gone to that horrible boot camp of a tennis schoolin NorthCarolina, and Nate had gone sailing with his father off the coast ofMaine. Blair wantedto make sure that after spending the wholesummer apart they still loved each other as much asever. She hadwanted to wait to have sex until her seventeenth birthday nextmonth.

    But now she was through with waiting.

    Nate was looking better than ever. The moss-green sweater hadturned his eyes a dark, sparklinggreen, and his wavy brown hairwas streaked with golden blond from his summer on the ocean.

    And, just like that, Blair knew she was ready. She took another sip ofher scotch. Oh, yes. Shewas definitely ready.

    “What are you two talking about?” Blair’s mother asked, sidling upto Nate and squeezingCyrus’s hand.

    “Sex,” Cyrus said, giving her a wet kiss on the ear.


    “Oh!” Eleanor Waldorf squealed, patting her blown-out blond bob.

    Blair’s mother was wearing the fitted, graphite-beaded cashmeredress that Blair had helped herpick out from Armani, and littleblack velvet mules. A year ago she wouldn’t have fit into thedress,but she had lost twenty pounds since she met Cyrus. She lookedfantastic. Everyone thoughtso.

    “She does look thinner,” Blair heard Mrs. Bass whisper to Mrs.

    Coates. “But I’ll bet she’s had a chin tuck.”

    “I bet you’re right. She’s grown her hair out—that’s the telltale sign.

    It hides the scars,” Mrs. Coates whispered back.

    The room was abuzz with snatches of gossip about Blair’s motherand Cyrus Rose. From what Blaircould hear, her mother’s friendsfelt exactly the same way she did, although they didn’texactly usewords like annoying, fat, or loser.

    “I smell Old Spice,” Mrs. Coates whispered to Mrs. Archibald. “Doyou think he’s actuallywearing Old Spice?”

    That would be the male equivalent of wearing Impulse body spray,which everyone knows is thefemale equivalent of nasty.

    “I’m not sure,” Mrs. Archibald whispered back. “But I think he mightbe.” She snatched acod-and-caper spring roll off Esther’s platter,popped it into her mouth, and chewed itvigorously, refusing to sayanything more. She couldn’t bear for Eleanor Waldorf tooverhearthem. Gossip and idle chat were amusing, but not at the expense ofan old friend’sfeelings.

    Bullshit! Blair would have said if she could have heard Mrs.

    Archibald’s thoughts. Hypocrite! All of these people were terriblegossips. And if you’regoing to do it, why not enjoy it?

    Across the room, Cyrus grabbed Eleanor and kissed her on the lipsin full view of everyone.Blair shrank away from the revolting sightof her mother and Cyrus acting like geeky teens witha crush andturned to look out the penthouse window at Fifth Avenue andCentral Park. The fallfoliage was on fire. A lone bicyclist rode out ofthe Seventy-second Street entrance to the parkand stopped at thehot-dog vendor on the corner to buy a bottle of water. Blair hadnever noticedthe hot-dog vendor before, and she wondered if healways parked there, or if he was new. It wasfunny how much youcould miss in what you saw every day.

    Suddenly Blair was starving, and she knew just what she wanted: Ahot dog. She wanted one rightnow—a steaming hot Sabrette hotdog with mustard and ketchup and onions and sauerkraut—andshewas going to eat it in three bites and then burp in her mother’sface. If Cyrus could stickhis tongue down her mother’s throat infront of all of her friends, then she could eat a stupidhot dog.

    “I’ll be right back,” Blair told Kati and Isabel.

    She whirled around and began to walk across the room to the fronthall. She was going to put onher coat, go outside, get a hot dogfrom the vendor, eat it in three bites, come back, burp inhermother’s face, have another drink, and then have sex with Nate.

    “Where are you going?” Kati called after her. But Blair didn’t stop;she headed straight forthe door.

    Nate saw Blair coming and extracted himself from Cyrus and Blair’smother just in time.

    “Blair?” he said. “What’s up?”

    Blair stopped and looked up into Nate’s sexy green eyes. They werelike the emeralds in thecufflinks her father wore with his tux whenhe went to the opera.

    He’s wearing your heart on his sleeve, she reminded herself,forgetting all about the hot dog.In the movie of her life, Nate wouldpick her up and carry her away to the bedroom and ravishher.

    But this was real life, unfortunately.

    “I have to talk to you,” Blair said. She held out her glass. “Fill meup, first?”

    Nate took her glass and Blair led him over to the marble-topped wetbar by the French doors thatopened onto the dining room. Natepoured them each a tumbler full of scotch and then followedBlairacross the living room once more.

    “Hey, where are you two going?” Chuck Bass asked as they walkedby. He raised his eyebrows,leering at them suggestively.

    Blair rolled her eyes at Chuck and kept walking, drinking as shewent. Nate followed her,ignoring Chuck completely.

    Chuck Bass, the oldest son of Misty and Bartholomew Bass, washandsome, aftershave-commercialhandsome. In fact, he’d starredin a British Drakkar Noir commercial, much to his parents’publicdismay and secret pride. Chuck was also the horniest boy in Blairand Nate’s group offriends. Once, at a party in ninth grade, Chuckhad hidden in a guest bedroom closet for twohours, waiting tocrawl into bed with Kati Farkas, who was so drunk she kept throwingup in hersleep. Chuck didn’t even mind. He just got in bed with her.

    He was completely unshakeable when it came to girls.

    The only way to deal with a guy like Chuck is to laugh in his face,which is exactly what allthe girls who knew him did. In other circles,Chuck might have been banished as a slimeball ofthe highestorder, but these families had been friends for generations. Chuckwas a Bass, and sothey were stuck with him. They had even gottenused to his gold monogrammed pinky ring, histrademark navy bluemonogrammed cashmere scarf, and the copies of his headshot,which litteredhis parent’s many houses and apartments and spilled

    out of his locker at the Riverside Preparatory School for Boys.

    “Don’t forget to use protection,” Chuck called, raising his glass atBlair and Nate as theyturned down the long, red-carpeted hallwayto Blair’s bedroom.

    Blair grasped the glass doorknob and turned it, surprising herRussian Blue cat, Kitty Minky,who was curled up on the red silkbedspread. Blair paused at the threshold and leaned backagainstNate, pressing her body into his. She reached down to take hishand.

    At that moment, Nate’s hopes perked up. Blair was acting sort ofsultry and sexy and could itbe . . . something was about tohappen?

    Blair squeezed Nate’s hand and pulled him into the room. Theystumbled over each other, fallingtoward the bed, and spilling theirdrinks on the mohair rug. Blair giggled; the scotch she’dpoundedhad gone right to her head.

    I’m about to have sex with Nate, she thought giddily. And thenthey’d both graduate in Juneand go to Yale in the fall and have ahuge wedding four years later and find a beautifulapartment onPark Avenue and decorate the whole thing in velvet, silk, and furand have sex inevery room on a rotating basis.

    Suddenly Blair’s mother’s voice rang out, loud and clear, down thehallway.

    “Serena van der Woodsen! What a lovely surprise!”

    Nate dropped Blair’s hand and straightened up like a soldier calledto attention. Blair satdown hard on the end of her bed, put herdrink on the floor, and grasped the bedspread in tight,white-

    knuckled fists.

    She looked up at Nate.

    But Nate was already turning to go, striding back down the hall tosee if it could possibly betrue. Had Serena van der Woodsen reallycome back?

    The movie of Blair’s life had taken a sudden, tragic turn. Blairclutched her stomach, ravenousagain.

    She should have gone for the hot dog after all.

    “Hello, hello, hello!” Blair’s mother crowed, kissing the smooth,hollow cheeks of each vander Woodsen.

    Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss!

    “I know you weren’t expecting Serena, dear,” Mrs. van der Woodsenwhispered in a concerned,confidential tone. “I hope it’s all right.”

    “Of course. Yes, it’s fine,” Mrs. Waldorf said. “Did you come homefor the weekend,Serena?”

    Serena van der Woodsen shook her head and handed her vintage

    Burberry coat to Esther, the maid. She pushed a stray blond hairbehind her ear and smiled ather hostess.

    When Serena smiled, she used her eyes—those dark, almost navyblue eyes. It was the kind ofsmile you might try to imitate, posingin the bathroom mirror like an idiot. The magnetic,delicious, “youcan’t stop looking at me, can you?” smile supermodels spend yearsperfecting.Well, Serena smiled that way without even trying.

    “No, I’m here to—” Serena started to say.

    Serena’s mother interrupted hastily. “Serena has decided thatboarding school is not forher,” she announced, patting her haircasually, as if it were no big deal. She was the middle-aged versionof utter coolness.

    The whole van der Woodsen family was like that. They were all tall,blond, thin, and super-poised, and they never did anything—playtennis, hail a cab, eat spaghetti, go to thetoilet—withoutmaintaining their cool. Serena especially. She was gifted with thekind of

    coolness that you can’t acquire by buying the right handbagor the right pair of jeans. She wasthe girl every boy wants andevery girl wants to be.

    “Serena will be back at Constance tomorrow,” Mr. van der Woodsensaid, glancing at hisdaughter with steely blue eyes and an owl-likemixture of pride and disapproval that made himlook scarier than hereally was.

    “Well, Serena. You look lovely, dear. Blair will be thrilled to see you,”

    Blair’s mother trilled.

    “You’re one to talk,” Serena said, hugging her. “Look how skinnyyou are! And the houselooks so fantastic. Wow. You’ve got someawesome art!”

    Mrs. Waldorf smiled, obviously pleased, and wrapped her armaround Serena’s long, slenderwaist. “Darling, I’d like you to meetmy special friend, Cyrus Rose,” she said. “Cyrus, thisis Serena.”

    “Stunning,” Cyrus Rose boomed. He kissed Serena on both cheeks,and hugged her a little tootightly. “She’s a good hugger, too,”

    Cyrus added, patting Serena on the hip.

    Serena giggled, but she didn’t flinch. She’d spent a lot of time inEurope in the past twoyears, and she was used to being hugged byharmless, horny European gropers who found hercompletelyirresistible. She was a full-on groper magnet.

    “Serena and Blair are best, best, best friends,” Eleanor Waldorfexplained to Cyrus. “ButSerena went away to Hanover Academy ineleventh grade and spent this summer traveling. It was sohard forpoor Blair with you gone this past year, Serena,” Eleanor said,growing misty-eyed.“Especially with the divorce. But you’re backnow. Blair will be so pleased.”

    “Where is she?” Serena asked eagerly, her perfect, pale skinglowing pink with the prospect ofseeing her old friend again. Shestood on tip-toe and craned her head to look for Blair, but shesoonfound herself surrounded by parents—the Archibalds, the Coateses,the Basses, and Mr.Farkas—who each took turns kissing her andwelcoming her back.

    Serena hugged them happily. These people were home to her, andshe’d been gone a long time. Shecould hardly wait for life to returnto the way it used to be. She and Blair would walk toschooltogether, spend Double Photography in Sheep Meadow in CentralPark, lying on their backs,taking pictures of pigeons and clouds,smoking and drinking Coke and feeling like hard-coreartistes. Theywould have cocktails at the Star Lounge in the Tribeca Star Hotelagain, whichalways turned into sleepover parties because theywould get too drunk to get home, so they’dspend the night in thesuite Chuck Bass’s family kept there. They would sit on Blair’s four-

    poster bed and watch Audrey Hepburn movies, wearing vintagelingerie and drinking gin and limejuice. They would cheat on theirLatin tests like they always did—amo, amas, amat was stilltattooedon the inside of Serena’s elbow in permanent marker (thank God forthree-quarter lengthsleeves!). They’d drive around Serena’sparents’ estate in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in thecaretaker’s oldBuick station wagon, singing the stupid hymns they sang in schooland actinglike crazy old ladies. They’d pee in the downstairsentrances to their classmates’ brownstonesand then ring thedoorbells and run away. They’d take Blair’s little brother, Tyler, totheLower East Side and leave him there to see how long it took forhim to find his way home—a workof charity, really, since Tyler wasnow the most street-wise boy at St. George’s. They’d gooutdancing with a huge group and lose ten pounds just from sweatingin their leather pants. Asif they needed to lose the weight.

    They would go back to being their regular old fabulous selves, justlike always. Serenacouldn’t wait.

    “Got you a drink,” Chuck Bass said, elbowing the clusters of parentsout of the way andhanding Serena a tumbler of whiskey. “Welcomeback,” he added, ducking down to kiss Serena’scheek and missingit intentionally, so that his lips landed on her mouth.

    “You haven’t changed,” Serena said, accepting the drink. She took along sip. “So, did youmiss me?”

    “Miss you? The question is, did you miss me?” Chuck said. “Comeon, babe, spill. What are youdoing back here? What happened? Doyou have a boyfriend?”

    “Oh, come on, Chuck,” Serena said, squeezing his hand. “You know Icame back because I wantyou so badly. I’ve always wanted you.”

    Chuck took a step back and cleared his throat, his face flushed.

    She’d caught him off guard, a rare feat.

    “Well, I’m all booked up for this month, but I can put you on thewaiting list,” Chuck saidhuffily, trying to regain his composure.

    But Serena was barely listening to him anymore. Her dark blue eyesscanned the room, looking forthe two people she wanted to seemost, Blair and Nate.

    Finally Serena found them. Nate was standing by the doorway tothe hall, and Blair was standingjust behind him, her head bowed,fiddling with the buttons on her black cardigan. Nate waslookingdirectly at Serena, and when her gaze met his, he bit his bottom lipthe way he alwaysdid when he was embarrassed. And then hesmiled.

    That smile. Those eyes. That face.

    “Come here,” Serena mouthed at him, waving her hand. Her heartsped up as Nate began walkingtoward her. He looked better thanshe remembered, much better.

    Nate’s heart was beating even faster than hers.

    “Hey, you,” Serena breathed when Nate hugged her. He smelledjust like he always smelled. Likethe cleanest, most delicious boyalive. Tears came to Serena’s eyes and she pressed her faceintoNate’s chest. Now she was really home.

    Nate’s cheeks turned pink. Calm down, he told himself. But hecouldn’t calm down. He felt likepicking her up and twirling heraround and kissing her face over and over. “I love you!” hewantedto shout, but he didn’t. He couldn’t.

    Nate was the only son of a navy captain and a French societyhostess. His father was a mastersailor and extremely handsome,but a little lacking in the hugs department. His mother wasthecomplete opposite, always fawning over Nate and prone toemotional fits during which shewould lock herself in her bedroomwith a bottle of champagne and call her sister on her yachtinMonaco. Poor Nate was always on the verge of saying how he reallyfelt, but he didn’t want tomake a scene or say something he mightregret later. Instead, he kept quiet and let other peoplesteer theboat, while he laid back and enjoyed the steady rocking of thewaves.

    He might look like a stud, but he was actually pretty weak.

    “So, what have you been up to?” Nate asked Serena, trying tobreathe normally. “We missedyou.”

    Notice that he wasn’t even brave enough to say, “I missed you”?

    “What have I been up to?” Serena repeated. She giggled. “If youonly knew, Nate. I’ve beenso, so bad!”

    Nate clenched his fists involuntarily. Man oh man, had he missed


    Ignored as usual, Chuck slunk away from Serena and Nate andcrossed the room to Blair, who wasonce again standing with Katiand Isabel.

    “A thousand bucks says she got kicked out,” Chuck told them. “Anddoesn’t she look fucked? Ithink she’s been thoroughly fucked.

    Maybe she had some sort of prostitution ring going on up there. TheMerry Madam of HanoverAcademy,” he added, laughing at his ownstupid joke.

“I think she looks kind of spaced out, too,” Kati said. “Maybe she’son heroin.”

    “Or some prescription drug,” Isabel said. “You know, like, Valium orProzac. Maybe she’sgone totally nuts.”

    “She could’ve been making her own E,” Kati agreed. “She wasalways good at science.”

    “I heard she joined some kind of cult,” Chuck offered. “Like, she’sbeen brainwashed and nowall she thinks about is sex and she like,has to do it all the time.”

    When is dinner going to be ready? Blair wondered, tuning out herfriends’ ridiculousspeculations.

    She had forgotten how pretty Serena’s hair was. How perfect herskin was. How long and thin herlegs were. What Nate’s eyes lookedlike when he looked at her—like he never wanted to blink.He neverlooked at Blair that way.

    “Hey Blair, Serena must have told you she was coming back,”

    Chuck said. “Come on, tell us. What’s the deal?”

    Blair stared back at him blankly, her small, fox-like face turning red.

    The truth was, she hadn’t really spoken to Serena in over a year.

    At first, when Serena had gone to boarding school after sophomoreyear, Blair had really missedher. But it soon became apparent howmuch easier it was to shine without Serena around. SuddenlyBlairwas the prettiest, the smartest, the hippest, most happening girl inthe room. She becamethe one everyone looked to. So Blair stoppedmissing Serena so much. She’d felt a little guiltyfor not staying intouch, but even that had worn off when she’d received Serena’s flipandimpersonal e-mails describing all the fun she was having atboarding school.

    “Hitchhiked to Vermont to go snowboarding and spent the nightdancing with the hottest guys!”

    “Crazy night last night. Damn, my head hurts!”

    The last news Blair had received was a postcard this past summer:“Blair: Turned seventeen onBastille Day. France rocks!! Miss you!!!

    Love, Serena,” was all it said.

    Blair had tucked the postcard into her old Fendi shoebox with all theother mementos from theirfriendship. A friendship she wouldcherish forever, but which she’d thought of as over untilnow.

    Serena was back. The lid was off the shoebox, and everything wouldgo back to the way it wasbefore she left. As always, it would beSerena and Blair, Blair and Serena, with Blair playingthe smaller,fatter, mousier, less witty best friend of the blond über-girl, Serenavan derWoodsen.

    Or not. Not if Blair could help it.

    “You must be so excited Serena’s here!” Isabel chirped. But whenshe saw the look on Blair’sface, she changed her tune. “Of courseConstance took her back. It’s so typical. They’re toodesperate tolose any of us.” Isabel lowered her voice. “I heard last spring Serenawas foolingaround with some townie up in New Hampshire. She hadan abortion,” she added.

    “I bet it wasn’t her first one either,” Chuck said. “Just look at her.”

    And so they did. All four of them looked at Serena, who was stillchatting happily with Nate.Chuck saw the girl he’d wanted to sleepwith since he could remember wanting to sleep withgirls—firstgrade, maybe? Kati saw the girl she’d been copying since shestarted shopping forher own clothes—third grade? Isabel saw thegirl who’d gotten to be an angel with wings madeout of realfeathers at the Church of the Heavenly Rest Christmas pageant,while Isabel was alowly shepherd and had to wear a burlap sack.

    Third grade again. Both Kati and Isabel saw the girl who wouldinevitably steal Blair away fromthem and leave them with onlyeach other, which was too dull to even think about. And BlairsawSerena, her best friend, the girl she would always love and hate.

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