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Chapter 11
“I heard she had plastic surgery in Europe this summer, but they didn’t do a very good job.” Mrs. McLean was reading out loud now. Serena sat back in her chair, crossed her legs, and closed her eyes, basking in the old familiar feeling of sitting in this room full of girls, listening to Mrs. M’s voice. She didn’t know why she’d been so nervous that morning before school. She’d overslept and gotten dressed in five minutes, ripping a hole in her black stocking with a jagged toenail. She’d chosen her brother Erik’s frayed old shirt because it smelled like him. Erik had gone to the same boarding school as Serena, but now he was away at college, and she missed him terribly. Just as she was leaving the apartment, her mother caught sight of her and would have made her change her clothes if Serena hadn’t been so late. “This weekend,” her mother said, “we’re going shopping, and I’m taking you to my salon. You can’t go around looking like that here, Serena. I don’t care how they let you dress in boarding school.” Then she kissed her daughter on the cheek and went back to bed. “Oh my God, I think she’s asleep,” Kati whispered to Laura. “Maybe she’s just tired,” Laura whispered back. “I heard she got kicked out for sleeping with every boy on campus. There were notches in the wall above her bed. Her roommate told on her, that’s the only way they found out.” “Plus, all those late-night chicken dances,” Isabel added, sending the girls into a giggling frenzy. Blair bit her lip, fighting back the laughter. It was just too funny. If Jenny Humphrey could have heard what the girls in the senior class were saying about Serena van der Woodsen, her idol, she would have punched their lights out. The minute Prayers was dismissed, Jenny pushed past her classmates and darted out into the hallway to make a phone call. Her brother Daniel was going to totally lose his shit when she told him. “Hello?” Daniel Humphrey answered his cell phone on the third ring. He was standing on the corner of Seventy-seventh Street and West End Avenue, outside Riverside Prep, smoking a cigarette. He squinted his dark brown eyes, trying to block out the harsh October sunlight. Dan wasn’t into sun. He spent most of his free time in his room, reading morbid, existentialist poetry about the bitter fate of being human. He was pale, his hair was shaggy, and he was rock-star thin. Existentialism has a way of killing your appetite. “Guess who’s back?” Dan heard his little sister squeal excitedly into the phone. Like Dan, Jenny was a bit of a loner, and when she needed someone to talk to, she always called him. She was the one who had bought them both cell phones. “Jenny, can’t this wait—” Dan started to say, sounding annoyed in the way that only older brothers can. “Serena van der Woodsen!” Jenny interrupted him. “Serena is back at Constance. I saw her in Prayers. Can you believe it?” Dan watched a plastic coffee-cup lid skitter down the sidewalk. A red Saab sped down West End Avenue through a yellow light. His socks felt damp inside his brown suede Hush Puppies. Serena van der Woodsen. He took a long drag on his Camel. His hands were shaking so much he almost missed his mouth. “Dan?” his sister squeaked into the phone. “Can you hear me? Did you hear what I said? Serena is back. Serena van der Woodsen.” Dan sucked in his breath sharply. “Yeah, I heard you,” he said, feigning disinterest. “So what?” “So what?” Jenny said incredulously. “Oh, right, like you didn’t just have a mini heart attack. You’re so full of it, Dan.” “No, I’m serious,” Dan said, pissily. “What are you calling me for? What do I care?” Jenny sighed loudly. Dan could be so irritating. Why couldn’t he just act happy for once? She was so tired of his pale, miserable, introspective-poet act. “All right,” she said. “Forget it. I’ll talk to you later.” She clicked off and Dan shoved his cell phone back into the pocket of his faded black corduroys. He snatched a pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket and lit another one with the burning stub of the one he was already smoking. His thumbnail got singed, but he didn’t even feel it. Serena van der Woodsen. They had first met at a party. No, that wasn’t exactly true. Dan had seen her at a party, his party, the only one he’d ever had at his family’s apartment on Ninety-ninth and West End Avenue. It was April of eighth grade. The party was Jenny’s idea, and their father, Rufus Humphrey, the infamous retired editor of lesser-known beat poets and a party animal himself, was happy to oblige. Their mother had already moved to Prague a few years before to “focus on her ............
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