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Chapter 29
They didn’t even want her there. Fuck ’em. She was free to do what she pleased. She carried the phone over to her desk and shuffled through a pile of papers until she found the Constance Billard School student directory, which had arrived in the mail on Monday. Serena read through the names. She wasn’t the only one skipping the party. She could find someone else to hang out with. “Yo,” Vanessa said, picking up the phone. She was getting ready to go out with her sister and her friends, and she was wearing a black bra, black jeans, and her Doc Martens. She didn’t have any clean black shirts left, and her sister was trying to convince her to wear a red one. “Hi. Is that Vanessa Abrams?” a girl’s voice said on the other end of the phone. “Yes. Who’s this?” Vanessa said, standing in front of her bedroom mirror and holding the red shirt up to her chest. She hadn’t worn any color but black in two years. Why should she start now? Please. It’s not like wearing a red shirt was going turn her into a bouncy cheerleader with blond pigtails. She’d have to be brainwashed for that to happen. “It’s Serena van der Woodsen.” Vanessa stopped looking at herself and threw the shirt on her bed. “Oh,” she said. “What’s up?” “Well,” Serena said. “I totally understand why you wanted to cast Marjorie. You know, for your film? But you seem to really know what you’re doing, and I really need the extracurricular or Ms. Glos is going to kill me. So I thought I’d try to make my own movie.” “Uh huh,” Vanessa said, trying to figure out why Serena van der Woodsen of all people would be calling her up on a Friday night. Didn’t she have a ball to go to or something? Some fête? “So anyway, I was wondering if maybe you could help me. You know, like show me how to use the camera, and whatever. I mean, I really don’t know what I’m doing,” Serena said. She sighed. “I don’t know, maybe making a film is a dumb idea. It’s probably a lot harder than I think.” “It’s not dumb,” Vanessa said, feeling kind of sorry for Serena despite herself. “I can show you some of the basic stuff.” “Really?” Serena said. She sounded thrilled. “How about tomorrow? Can you do it tomorrow?” Saturday was Vanessa’s vampire day. She usually woke up after dark and then went to the diner or to the movies with her sister or Dan. “Sunday is better,” she said. “Okay. Sunday,” Serena said. “You probably have a lot of equipment and stuff at your house, right? Why don’t I come over there, so you don’t have to lug it around.” “Sounds good,” Vanessa said. “Okay,” Serena said. She paused. She didn’t seem very eager to hang up the phone. “Hey, isn’t that big party in the old Barneys building tonight?” Vanessa said. “Aren’t you going?” “Nah,” Serena answered. “I wasn’t invited.” Vanessa nodded, processing this information. Serena van der Woodsen wasn’t invited? Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all. “Well, do you want to come out with us tonight?” Vanessa offered before she could stop herself. “Me and my big sister are going to a bar here in Williamsburg. Her band is playing.” “I’d love to,” Serena said. Vanessa gave her the address of The Five and Dime—the bar her sister was playing in—and hung up the phone. Life was so strange. One day you could be picking your nose and eating donuts, and the next day you could be hanging out with Serena van der Woodsen. She picked up the red shirt, pulled it on over her head, and looked in the mirror. She looked like a tulip. A tulip with a stubbly black head. “Dan will like it,” her sister Ruby told her, standing in the doorway. She handed Vanessa a tube of dark red lipstick. Vamp. “Well, Dan’s not coming out tonight,” Vanessa said, smirking at her sister. She dabbed on the lipstick and rubbed her lips together. “He has to take his little sister to some fancy ball.” She checked herself out in the mirror once more. The lipstick made her big brown eyes look even bigger, and the shirt was kind of cool, in a loud, look-at-me way. Vanessa stuck out her chest and smiled invitingly at her reflection. Maybe I’ll get lucky, she thought. Or maybe not. “I have a friend coming to meet us,” Vanessa informed her sister. “Boy or girl?” Ruby asked, turning around to check out her butt in the mirror. “Girl.” “Name?” said Ruby. “Serena van der Woodsen,” Vanessa mumbled. “The girl whose picture is all over town?” Ruby said, clearly delighted. “Yeah, that’s her,” Vanessa said. “Well, I bet she’s pretty cool,” Ruby said, rubbing hair gel into her thick black bangs. “Maybe,” Vanessa replied. “I guess we’ll find out.” “What fantastic flowers,” said Becky Dormand, a junior at Constance. She kissed Blair on both cheeks. “And what a hot dress!” “Thanks, Beck,” Blair said, looking down at the green satin sheath she was wearing. She had gotten her period that morning, but she had to wear extremely flimsy underwear with her dress. It made her nervous. A waiter walked past with a tray of champagne. Blair whisked a flute off his tray and downed it in a matter of seconds. It was her third so far. “I love your shoes,” Blair said. Becky was wearing black, high-heeled sandals that laced all the way up to her knees. They went perfectly with her short black tutu dress and her superhigh ponytail. She looked like a ballerina on acid. “I can’t wait for the gift bags,” Laura Salmon squealed. “Kate Spade, right?” “I heard they even put a glow-in-the-dark condom in them,” Rain Hoffstetter giggled. “Isn’t that cool?” “Not that you’ll be using it or anything,” Blair said. “How do you know?” Rain huffed. “Blair?” Blair heard someone say in a tremulous voice. Blair turned around to see little Jenny Humphrey standing behind her, looking like a human Wonderbra in her black satin dress. “Oh, hello,” Blair said coolly. “Thanks again for doing those invitations. They really came out great.” “Thanks for letting me do them,” Jenny said. Her eyes darted around the huge room, which was throbbing with people and music and smoke. Black three-foot-high candles in tall glass beakers trimmed with peacock feathers and fragrant white orchids flickered everywhere. Jenny had never been to anything this cool in her life. “God, I don’t know anyone here,” she said nervously. “You don’t?” Blair said. She wondered if Jenny thought she was going to talk to her all night. “No. My brother Dan was supposed to come with me, but he didn’t really want to, so I just let him drop me off. Actually, I do know one person,” Jenny said. “Oh,” said Blair. “And who is that?” “Serena van der Woodsen,” Jenny chirped. “We’re making a movie together. Did she tell you?” Just then, a waitress brandished a platter of sushi under Blair’s nose. Blair grabbed a chunky tuna roll and shoved it into her mouth. “Serena’s not here yet,” she said, chewing hungrily. “But I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to see you.” “Okay. I guess I’ll just wait for her here, then,” Jenny said, snagging two flutes of champagne from a waiter’s tray. She handed one to Blair. “Will you wait with me?” Blair took the champagne, tilted her head back, and poured it down the hatch. The sickly sweet fizziness of it didn’t exactly jive with the raw fish and seaweed she’d just eaten. Blair burped queasily. “I’ll be right back,” she told Jenny, practically running for the powder room. Jenny took a sip of her champagne and gazed up at the crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, congratulating herself on making it in there. This was exactly what she’d always wanted. She closed her eyes and finished off her flute of champagne. When she opened her eyes again, she saw stars, but still no Serena. Another waiter walked by with more champagne, and Jenny took two more glasses. She’d drunk a little beer and wine at home with her dad, but she’d never had champagne before. It tasted wonderful. Careful, it doesn’t taste so wonderful when you’re on your knees in the bathroom, throwing it up. Jenny looked around for Blair again, but couldn’t find her. The party was so crowded, and although she recognized a lot of faces, there was no one she’d actually feel comfortable going up and talking to. But Serena would be there soon, she had to be. Jenny walked over to the bottom step of a marble staircase and sat down. She could see everything from there, including the door. She waited, drinking both glasses of champagne and wishing her dress wasn’t so tight. It was starting to make her feel nauseous. “Well, hello,” a deep voice said, hovering above her. Jenny looked up. Her eyes settled on Chuck Bass’s aftershave-commercial face and she sucked in her breath. He was the best-looking boy she’d ever seen, and he was looking right at her. “Aren’t you going to introduce me?” Chuck said, staring at Jenny’s chest. “To who?&rdqu............
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