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Chapter 8
the morning afte r "Guess it's a good thing I'm already into Brown, huh?" Nate said cockily. He lit the joint he'd just rolled, took a hit, and passed it to Brigid. Then he stood up and yanked on his khakis before pacing over to the window. Brigid's room at the Warwick New York Hotel looked out onto an air shaft. The room was all right, if you liked floral patterns and brown carpet, but it wasn't exactly the Plaza. "Don't they serve coffee in the rooms in this dive?" he demanded. Brigid was sitting up in bed, naked, with the covers draped loosely over her. "There's a restaurant downstairs, but they charge, like, five bucks for a cup of tea." Nate whirled around. "So?" He wanted her to feel like the entire night had been a mistake. That accepting him at Brown had been a mistake. She balanced the joint on the rim of a glass ashtray. "You know, I don't usually do this," she said, her blue-green eyes darting up and down his body as though trying to read him. Nate opened the wooden entertainment cabinet across from the bed and flicked on the TV. He began watching a sports roundup on MSNBC, purposely ignoring her. "I like you. You know that, right?" Brigid demanded, burning holes into his back. "We did this because we genuinely like each other?" Nate didn't respond. Brigid pulled the covers up to her chin. "You're not going to tell anyone at Brown about this, are you?" He clicked off the television and tossed the remote on the bed. Brigid looked seriously worried now, which was exactly what he wanted. "Maybe," he replied. "Maybe not." She bit her lip. Her strawberry blond hair was sticking out in all directions. "Your admission would be withdrawn," she warned. Perfect. Nate stuck his feet into his shoes and pulled his half-unbuttoned shirt on over his head. "And I could get fired." He grabbed the joint from out of the ashtray and sucked on it. "I gotta run," he hissed, holding in the hit. He was due for brunch with the Yale coach in just over an hour, and he wanted to get good and buzzed first. He squeezed the joint out between his fingers and tucked it into his pocket. "Maybe we should have stuck with the lobster," he told Brigid, tucking in his shirt. She opened her mouth and then closed it again. Her eyes were red-rimmed, as if she was about to cry. "That's it?" "That's it," Nate said, and then he spun around and quietly took his leave. See ya! Out in the hallway he stabbed at the button for the elevator and waited for it with his forehead pressed against the wall. He'd never been that nasty to anyone—at least, not on purpose—and he felt horrible about it. Still, he'd done it for Blair, and it wasn't as if he'd ever follow through and get Brigid fired. All he wanted was a letter from Brown telling him they didn't want him after all. And after that little performance, he'd probably get it. the morning after, part II "Where the fuck are you, anyway?" Erik demanded. "Shush," Serena whispered into the phone. "I'm in the art building. In a painting studio." She glanced at Christian. He was lying on the floor next to her, asleep on top of a piece of unused canvas. There was green paint in his hair. "We fell asleep in here." "Oh, did we?" Erik responded mockingly. "I can't believe you're here and I'm not even going to see you," he whined, pretending to be hurt, when Serena knew he'd probably been up all night partying and wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep. "So, are you like in love, or what?" Serena smiled. Christian's long-lashed brown eyes were closed and his sweet mouth was relaxed. He looked like a sleeping baby. "I'm not sure," she said softly. "I'm supposed be leaving for Yale now." She closed her eyes. "This weekend has been so crazy." Serena smiled. Christian's long-lashed brown eyes were closed and his sweet mouth was relaxed. He looked like a sleeping baby. "I'm not sure," she said softly. "I'm supposed be leaving for Yale now." She closed her eyes. "This weekend has been so crazy." Yale today, although you better go to Brown so we can hang. Talk to you soon. You know you love me. 'Bye!" he burbled nonsensically before hanging up. Serena clicked off, wondering if she should wake Christian or let him sleep. A lime-juice mustache had dried on his upper lip from the Brazilian cocktails he'd made them last night, and there were little green paint Hecks all over his dark olive skin. She was a little paint-smeared and rumpled herself, but Serena was the kind of girl who could sleep on the floor of an art studio all night, wake up and kick the creases out of her jeans, run her fingers through her hair, rub a little cherry-flavored ChapStick on her lips, and voila—instagoddess. Sunlight stalked the tall, wood-framed windows of the art studio. From where she stood, the redbrick buildings of the Brown campus looked serene and sleepy, almost like a ghost town. Then a group of students walked down the path directly in front of the window, wearing old sweatpants and carrying huge travel mugs of coffee. Serena slid away from Christian and pulled on her brown Calvin Klein flats. Leaning against the opposite wall of the studio was Christian's now-finished life-size copy of the ad for Serena's Tears. It was difficult to understand why he'd used so much green, since the ad was shot on a snowy day in February, but even with all that green, the painting was stunning. And bizarre. Christian had developed a technique in which he used only one line to complete an image. In the painting, the features in Serena's face were all connected. Her eyes connected to her nose, which connected to her mouth, which connected to her chin, her cheeks, her ears, her hair. It kind of made her look like something out of Shrek, especially with all that green, but it was still beautiful in its own unique way She retrieved a tube of Chanel lip gloss from out of her bag, found a scrap of paper on the floor, and wrote, I like the green, in pink sparkles. Come see me in NYC. Love, S. Then she pushed the piece of paper toward Christian, grabbed her bag, and tiptoed out the door. "Au revoir," she whispered, turning to blow the sleeping boy a kiss. She hesitated. Was it sleazy to creep away without even saying good-bye? Not when they'd done nothing more than kiss and fall asleep in each other's arms. Besides, the note was pretty romantic. A car honked noisily and Christian stirred. Serena slipped stealthily out the door and down the stairs. She'd never liked good-byes, and if Christian woke up, she'd never make it to Yale. "Love you," she whispered as she left the building. She knew the Brown campus well enough from visiting Erik to find her way to the parking lot. Ignoring the paved walkway, she traipsed down a grassy hill, her shoes damp with dew and her pants legs covered with freshly mown grass. A black town car was pulled over at the side of the road, waiting for her, and all of a sudden she was hit with a bad case of deja vu. Was it only yesterday that Drew had kissed her good-bye at the top of his Harvard dormitory steps, while her town car waited to whisk her up to Brown? Was it only yesterday that she'd told another boy, "I love you"? Yup, that's right. Yesterday. The driver opened the door for her and she got in. "I love you too," she whispered to Drew in apology, even though he wasn't there. A weekend away visiting schools was supposed to help clarify things, but Serena felt more confused than ever. How would she ever concentrate at college when college was full of boys just waiting for her to fall in love with them? There's always the Dorna B. Rae College for Women in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. They're still taking applications! the morning after, part III "Hair of the dog, sister." "Hair of the dog, sister." Hair of the dog. It was the perfect expression for how Blair felt—like a grungy, matted clump of dog hair. She tried to sit up and then fell back on the inflatable mattress again, moaning. Her scalp stung. Her legs burned. She smelled weird. What was wrong with her? No comment. "I swear to God you'll feel better after you drink this." Rebecca knelt down and cradled Blair's head like a morn offering her sick child some warm broth. "It's our secret recipe." How reassuring. Blair sat up, wincing as she gulped the thick red concoction. It tasted like vodka and barbecue potato chips. Blech! "Your hair will look a lot better after the roots start to grow in," Rebecca told her. "And you might want to think about bleaching your eyebrows to match." Blair had forgotten about her hair. She knew it was blond now, or at least some semblance of blond, but she couldn't bear to look at it until she was home and within range of the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon. Rebecca would have to loan her a hat. The girls' room had two sets of bunk beds, set up perpendicular to each other so the four friends could talk and giggle I he night away. The beds were empty. "Where are the others?" Blair croaked. Her mouth felt like it had been basted with nail polish. "Getting bagels." Rebecca pulled her hair back into a tight ponytail. "Every Sunday we eat bagels and talk about the boys we could have slept with the night before but didn't." What excellent fun. Blair was way too hung over to discuss bagels or boys. "I have to get home," she mumbled. At home she could lie on her bed, watch old movies, and eat croissants off the tray Myrtle brought her. She could write Nate a nasty e-mail. And she wouldn't have to look at the disturbing Easter bunny mobile made of red LifeStyles condoms that the girls had hung from their dorm room ceiling. "You can't leave until they come back," Rebecca insisted. She sat down on the bottom bunk nearest Blair, unzipped a metallic pink manicure kit, and began to clean her toenails with a pointy stainless-steel instrument. "We have to teach you our special cheer." Blair decided right then and there that if she ever lived in a college dorm, she was definitely getting a single. No way was she sitting around with a bunch of girls while they picked at their toes or built mobiles made of condoms. She'd gone to an all-girls school since first grade—that was quite enough girl time, thank you very much. Hauling herself to her feet, she tried to maintain her composure while wearing the light blue Powerpuff Girls nightgown Gaynor had loaned her last night. She needed a shower and then she needed to go home. Actually, fuck the shower. Showers involved bathrooms with mirrors—and seeing herself in a mirror was something she wanted to avoid at all costs. She pulled on her jeans, wincing as they chafed against her shaved-raw legs. Then she yanked her white linen blouse on over her head, feeling way too sick to be wearing such a nice top. She hung the nightgown on the back of somebody's desk chair. "I have to go now" she insisted. A gray Georgetown baseball hat lay on the floor. "Is that yours?" she asked Rebecca. "Take it," Rebecca offered generously. Blair snatched up the hat and put it on. "Tell everyone thank you and good-bye for me," she said weakly. Then the dorm room door burst open and Forest, Gaynor, and Fran tumbled inside carrying paper bags full of warm, freshly baked bagels and steaming cups of hot coffee. Blair's stomach churned with a mixture of nausea and starvation. with a mixture of nausea and starvation. Blair clamped her mouth shut tight as vomit threatened to spew out from between her teeth. She'd gotten up too quickly. Or maybe she shouldn't have drunk the Bloody Mary. Or let four drunk girls shave her legs and maim her hair. The girls stood in a tight circle, their hands clasped. Blair swayed between Rebecca and Forest, the combined odors of their perfumes making her even more nauseated. "What do we say . . . ?" Fran whispered with hoarse enthusiasm. It sounded like the opening line to some sort of chant. "What do we say when he says, 'Come on, you know you want to'?" the four girls chanted. "We say,' Wait, asshole!'" The girls leaned into the circle in a sort of blond head-lock. "No sex without true love. Friendship now and forever" They broke apart whooping and jumping up and down like cheerleaders. "I have to go," Blair mumbled for the fiftieth time, her stomach still roiling. She stumbled for the door, hoping to make it to the bathroom in time, but it was too late. Instead, she whipped the Georgetown baseball hat off her head and upchucked into it. "I'll call you a car." Rebecca grabbed the phone and began dialing efficiently. "We don't want you to miss your plane." Sisterhood was nice, but nobody wanted a sick sister barfing in their bedroom. "Here." Fran held out a blue baseball cap with a white Y on it. A Yale cap. "You can wear mine." Blair took the cap with her to the bathroom. A split-second glance in the mirror made it very clear that she definitely needed a hat. And sunglasses. And a whole new life. the morning after, part IV "It takes him a really long time to get dressed in the morning, even though, you know, he always looks like that," Dan heard Vanessa tell Tiphany when he woke up. He was lying on his back in Vanessa's bed, listening to their voices outside the door as they clattered around the kitchen making breakfast. Looks like what? he wondered. "Hey, it takes time to master the half-untucked shirt," Tiphany responded. Then Vanessa said something that Dan couldn't hear and both girls broke into a fit of laughter. Tiphany was poaching an egg in the microwave. Vanessa had her camera propped on her shoulder. "So tell me why you chose not to go to college," she asked. Tiphany tied her purple-and-black hair into a knot and opened a cupboard door to get out a plate. "Actually, it wasn't really a choice. I just never got it together to apply." "So what did you do when everyone else went off to school?" Vanessa prompted. Tiphany stuck two pieces of bread in the toaster and then opened all the drawers in the kitchen, looking for a knife. "For like a year I just kicked back. Went down to Florida. Lived on the beach and gave piercings to whoever wanted one. Then I got a waitressing job on a cruise ship for a while. Then I ditched the cruise ship and stayed down in Mexico, painting houses. Then I came back and got work in construction." She grinned and licked a smear of butter off her knife. "It's been one fantastic journey." "Wow," Vanessa remarked. Tiphany was probably the most interesting, upbeat person she'd ever met, and she could feel herself developing a crush on her. Not in a sexual way, but in a sort of I-wish-I-were-more-like-you way. "But if you could do it all over again, would you have gone id college?" Dan called over from the bedroom doorway. He was wearing a faded red T-shirt and white boxer shorts, and his hair was wild and matted. "Hey, sleepyhead," Tiphany replied, ignoring the question. "Hey, sleepyhead," Tiphany replied, ignoring the question. "I'm fine." Dan tugged on his shirt uncomfortably. "Did you guys just wake up?&q............
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