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Chapter 2
The Waldorf penthouse had been expensively redecorated that summer in deep reds and chocolate browns, and it was full of antiques and artwork that would have impressed anyone who knew anything about art. In the center of the dining room table was an enormous silver bowl full of white orchids, pussy willows, and chestnut tree branches—a modern ensemble from Takashimaya, the Fifth Avenue luxury goods store. Gold-leafed place cards lay on every porcelain plate. In the kitchen, Myrtle the cook was singing Bob Marley songs to the soufflé, and the sloppy Irish maid, Esther, hadn’t poured scotch down anyone’s dress yet, thank God. Blair was the one getting sloppy. And if Cyrus Rose didn’t stop harassing Nate, her boyfriend, she was going to have to go over there and spill her scotch all over his tacky Italian loafers. “You and Blair have been going out a long time, am I right?” Cyrus said, punching Nate in the arm. He was trying to get the kid to loosen up a little. All these Upper East Side kids were way too uptight. That’s what he thinks. Give them time. “You sleep with her yet?” Cyrus asked. Nate turned redder than the upholstery on the eighteenth-century French chaise next to him. “Well, we’ve known each other practically since we were born,” he stuttered. “But we’ve only been going out for like, a year. We don’t want to ruin it by, you know, rushing, before we’re ready?” Nate was just spitting back the line that Blair always gave him when he asked her if she was ready to do it or not. But he was talking to his girlfriend’s mother’s boyfriend. What was he supposed to say, “Dude, if I had my way we’d be doing it right now”? “Absolutely,” Cyrus Rose said. He clasped Nate’s shoulder with a fleshy hand. Around his wrist was one of those gold Cartier cuff bracelets that you screw on and never take off—very popular in the 1980s and not so popular now, unless you’ve actually bought into that whole ’80s revival thing. Hello? “Let me give you some advice,” Cyrus told Nate, as if Nate had a choice. “Don’t listen to a word 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’d surprised Blair. The only thing that came to mind was the time he’d brought her an ice cream cone when he picked her up at her tennis lesson. That was over a month ago, and it was a pretty lame surprise by any standard. At this rate, he and Blair might never have sex. Nate was one of those boys you look at and while you’re looking at them, you know they’re thinking, that girl can’t take her eyes off me because I’m so hot. Although he didn’t act at all conceited about it. He couldn’t help looking hot, he was just born that way. Poor guy. That night Nate was wearing the moss-green cashmere V-neck sweater Blair had given him last Easter, when her father had taken them skiing in Sun Valley for a week. Secretly, Blair had sewn a tiny gold heart pendant onto the inside of one of the sweater’s sleeves, so that Nate would always be wearing her heart on his sleeve. Blair liked to think of herself as a hopeless romantic in the style of old movie actresses like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. She was always coming up with plot devices for the movie she was starring in at the moment, the movie that was her life. “I love you,” Blair had told Nate breathily when she gave him the sweater. “Me too,” Nate had said back, although he wasn’t exactly sure if it was true or not. When he put the sweater on, it looked so good on him that Blair wanted to scream and rip all her clothes off. But it seemed unattractive to scream in the heat of the moment—more femme fatale than girl-who-gets-boy—so Blair kept quiet, trying to remain fragile and baby-birdlike in Nate’s arms. They kissed for a long time, their cheeks hot and cold at the same time from being out on the slopes all day. Nate twined his fingers in Blair’s hair and pulled her down on the hotel bed. Blair put her arms above her head and let Nate begin to undress her, until she realized where this was all heading, and that it wasn’t a movie after all, it was real. So, like a good girl, she sat up and made Nate stop. She’d kept on making him stop right on up until today. Only two nights ago, Nate had come over after a party with a half-drunk flask of brandy in his pocket and had lain down on her bed and murmured, “I want you, Blair.” Once again, Blair had wanted to scream and jump on top of him, but she resisted. Nate fell asleep, snoring softly, and Blair lay down next to him and imagined that she and Nate were starring in a movie in which they were married and he had a drinking problem, but she would stand by him always and love him forever, even if he occasionally wet the bed. Blair wasn’t trying to be a tease, she just wasn’t ready. She and Nate had barely seen each other at all over the summer because she had gone to that horrible boot camp of a tennis school in North Carolina, and Nate had gone sailing with his father off the coast of Maine. Blair wanted to make sure that after spending the whole summer apart they still loved each other as much as ever. She had wanted to wait to have sex until her seventeenth birthday next month. But now she was through with waiting. Nate was looking better than ever. The moss-green sweater had turned his eyes a dark, sparkling green, and his wavy brown hair was streaked with golden blond from his summer on the ocean. And, just like that, Blair knew she was ready. She took another sip of her scotch. Oh, yes. She was definitely ready. “What are you two talking about?” Blair’s mother asked, sidling up to Nate and squeezing Cyrus’s hand. “Sex,” Cyrus said, giving her a wet kiss on the ear. Yuck. “Oh!” Eleanor Waldorf squealed, patting her blown-out blond bob. Blair’s mother was wearing the fitted, graphite-beaded cashmere dress that Blair had helped her pick out from Armani, and little black velvet mules. A year ago she wouldn’t have fit into the dress, but she had lost twenty pounds since she met Cyrus. She looked fantastic. Everyone thought so. “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 mother and Cyrus Rose. From what Blair could hear, her mother’s friends felt exactly the same way she did, although they didn’t exactly use words like annoying, fat, or loser. “I smell Old Spice,” Mrs. Coates whispered to Mrs. Archibald. “Do you think he’s actually wearing Old Spice?” That would be the male equivalent of wearing Impulse body spray, which everyone knows is the female equivalent of nasty. “I’m not sure,” Mrs. Archibald whispered back. “But I think he might be.” She snatched a cod-and-caper spring roll off Esther’s platter, popped it into her mouth, and chewed it vigorously, refusing to say anything more. She couldn’t bear for Eleanor Waldorf to overhear them. Gossip and idle chat were amusing, but not at the expense of an old friend’s feelings. Bullshit! Blair would have said if she could have heard Mrs. Archibald’s thoughts. Hypocrite! All of these people were terrible gossips. And if you’re going to do it, why not enjoy it? Across the room, Cyrus grabbed Eleanor and kissed her on the lips in full view of everyone. Blair shrank away from the revolting sight of her mother and Cyrus acting like geeky teens with a crush and turned to look out the penthouse window at Fifth Avenue and Central Park. The fall foliage was on fire. A lone bicyclist rode out of the Seventy-second Street entrance to the park and stopped at the hot-dog vendor on the corner to buy a bottle of water. Blair had never noticed the hot-dog vendor before, and she wondered if he always parked there, or if he was new. It was funny how much you could miss in what you saw every day. Suddenly Blair was starving, and she knew just what she wanted: A hot dog. She wanted one right now—a steaming hot Sabrette hot dog with mustard and ketchup and onions and sauerkraut—and she was going to eat it in three bites and then burp in her mother’s face. If Cyrus could stick his tongue down her mother’s throat in front of all of her friends, then she could eat a stupid hot dog. “I’ll be right back,” Blair told Kati and Isabel. She whirled around and began to walk across the room to the front hall. She was going to put on her coat, go outside, get a hot dog from the vendor, eat it in three bites, come back, burp in her mother’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 for the door. Nate saw Blair coming and extracted himself from Cyrus and Blair’s mother just in time. “Blair?” he said. “What’s up?” Blair stopped and looked up into Nate’s sexy green eyes. They were like the emeralds in the cufflinks her father wore with his tux when he 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 would pick her up and carry her away to the bedroom and ravish her. But this was real life, unfortunately.

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