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Chapter 17
Serena fished the Tic Tac out and put it on her tongue, but she was so worried about her future, she could barely taste it. She crossed Fifth Avenue, walking along the sidewalk that bordered the park. Fallen leaves scattered the pavement. Down the block, two little Sacred Heart girls in their cute red-and-white checked pinafores were walking an enormous black Rottweiler. Serena thought about entering the park at Eighty-ninth Street and sitting down for a while to kill time before the play rehearsal. But alone? What would she do, people-watch? She had always been one of those people everyone else watches. So she went home. Home was 994 Fifth Avenue, a ritzy, white-glove building next to the Stanhope Hotel and directly across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The van der Woodsens owned half of the top floor. Their apartment had fourteen rooms, including five bedrooms with private bathrooms, a maid’s apartment, a ballroom-sized living room, and two seriously cool lounges with wet bars and huge entertainment systems. When Serena got home the enormous apartment was empty. Her parents were rarely home. Her father ran the same Dutch shipping firm his great-great-grandfather had founded in the 1700s. Both her parents were on the boards of all the big charities and arts organizations in the city and always had meetings or lunches or fundraisers to go to. Deidre, the maid, was out shopping, but the place was spotless and there were vases of fresh cut flowers in every room, including the bathrooms. Serena slid open the door to the smaller of the lounges and flopped down on her favorite blue velvet armchair. She picked up the remote control and pressed the buttons to open the TV cabinet and turn on the flat-screen TV. She flipped through the channels impatiently, unable to focus on anything she saw, finally settling on TRL, even though she thought Carson Daly was the most annoying man alive. She hadn’t been watching much TV lately. At boarding school, her dormmates would make popcorn and hot chocolate and watch Saturday Night Live or Jackass in their pajamas, but Serena preferred to slip away to drink peach schnapps and smoke cigars with the boys in the chapel basement. But what bothered her most now was not Carson Daly or even the fact that she was sitting alone in her house with nothing to do, but the thought that she might spend the rest of her life doing just that —watching TV alone in her parents’ apartment—if she didn’t get her act together and get into college! Why was she so stupid? Everyone else seemed to have their shit together. Had she missed the all important “it’s time to get your shit together” talk? Why hadn’t anyone warned her? Well, there was no point in freaking out. She still had time. And she could still have fun. She didn’t have to become a nun just because she was joining the Interschool Drama Club, or whatever. Serena clicked the TV off and wandered into the kitchen. The van der Woodsens’ kitchen was massive. Glass cabinets lined the walls above gleaming, stainless-steel counter tops. There were two restaurant stoves and three Sub-Zero refrigerators. An enormous butcher-block table stood in the center of the kitchen, and on the table was today’s pile of mail. Serena picked up the mail and sifted through it. Mostly, there were invitations for her parents—white square envelopes printed with old-fashioned typefaces—to balls, benefit dinners, fundraisers, and auctions. Then there were the art openings—postcards with a picture of the artist’s work on one side and the details of the opening on the back. One of these caught Serena’s eye. It had obviously been lost in the mail for a little while, because it looked beaten up, and the opening it announced was beginning at 4 P.M. on Wednesday, which was . . . right now. Serena flipped the card over and looked at the picture of the artist’s work. It looked like a close-up black-and-white photograph of an eye, tinted with pink. The title of the work was Kate Moss. And the name of the show was “Behind the Scene.” Serena squinted at the picture. The............
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