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Chapter 7
“I bet you guys wind up married.” Blair gulped her wine, her little ruby ring rattling against the glass. She reached for the butter, slapping a great big wad on her roll. “Hello? Blair?” Serena said, nudging her friend's arm. “Are you okay?” “Yeah,” Blair slurred. It was less an answer to Serena's question than a vague, general statement made to fill a blank space while she was tending to her roll. “I'm fine.” Esther brought out the duck and the acorn squash soufflé and the wilted chard and the lingonberry sauce, and the table was filled with the sound of clanking plates and silver and murmurs of “delicious.” Blair heaped her plate high with food and attacked it as if she hadn't eaten in weeks. She didn't care if she made herself sick, as long as she didn't have to talk to Serena. “Whoa,” Serena said, watching Blair stuff her face. “You must be hungry.” Blair nodded and shoveled a forkful of chard into her mouth. She washed it down with a gulp of wine. “I'm starving,” she said. “So, Serena,” Cyrus Rose called down from the head of the table. “Tell me about France. Your mother says you were in the South of France this summer. Is it true the French girls don't wear tops on the beach?” “Yes, it's true,” Serena said. She raised one eyebrow playfully. “But it's not just the French girls. I never wore a top down there, either. How else could I get a decent tan?” Blair gagged on an enormous bite of soufflé and spat it into her wine. It floated on the surface of the crimson liquid like a soggy dumpling until Esther whisked it away and brought her a clean glass. No one noticed. Serena had the table's attention, and she kept her audience captive with stories of her travels in Europe right through dessert. When Blair had finished her second plate of duck, she ate a huge bowl full of chocolate-laced tapioca pudding, tuning out Serena's voice as she spooned it into her mouth. Finally her stomach rebelled, and she shot up suddenly, scraping her chair back and running down the hall to her bedroom, straight into its adjoining bathroom. “Blair?” Serena called after her. She stood up. “Excuse me,” she said, and hurried away to see what was the matter. She didn't have to move that fast; Blair wasn't going anywhere. When Chuck saw Blair get up from the table, and then Serena, he nodded knowingly and nudged Isabel with his elbow. “Blair's getting the dirt,” he whispered. “Fucking awesome.” Nate watched the two girls flee the table with a mounting sense of unease. He was pretty sure the only thing girls talked about in the bathroom was sex. And mostly, he'd be right. Blair kneeled over the toilet and stuck her middle finger as far down her throat as it would go. Her eyes began to tear and then her stomach convulsed. She'd done this before, many times. It was disgusting and horrible, and she knew she shouldn't do it, but at least she'd feel better when it was over. The door to her bathroom was only half closed, and Serena could hear her friend retching inside. “Blair, it's me,” Serena said quietly. “Are you okay?” “I'll be out in a minute,” Blair snapped, wiping her mouth. She stood up and flushed the toilet.Serena pushed the door open and Blair turned and glared at her. “I'm fine,” Blair said. “Really.” Serena put the lid down on the toilet seat and sat down. “Oh, don't be such a bitch, Blair,” she said, exasperated. “What's the deal? It's me, remember? We know everything about each other.” Blair reached for her toothbrush and toothpaste. “We used to,” she said and began brushing her teeth furiously. She spat out a wad of green foam. “When was the last time we talked, anyway? Like, the summer before last?” Serena looked down at her scuffed brown leather boots. “I know. I'm sorry. I suck,” she said. Blair rinsed her toothbrush off and stuck it back in the holder. She stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. “Well, you missed a lot,” she said, wiping a smudge of mascara from beneath her eye with the tip of her pinky. “I mean, last year was really . . . different.” She'd been about to say “hard,” but “hard” made her sound like a victim. Like she'd barely survived without Serena around. “Different” was better. Blair glanced down at Serena sitting on the toilet, with a sudden sense of power. “Nate and I have become really close, you know. We tell each other everything.” Yeah, right. The two girls eyed each other warily for a moment. Then Serena shrugged. “Well don't worry about me and Nate,” she said. “We're just friends, you know that. And besides, I'm tired of boys.” The corners of Blair's mouth curled up. Serena obviously wanted her to ask why, why was she tired of boys? But Blair wasn't going to give her the satisfaction. She tugged her sweater down and glanced at her reflection one more time. “I'll see you back in there,” she said, and abruptly left the bathroom. Shit, Serena thought, but she stayed where she was. It was no use going after Blair now, while she was obviously in such a crappy mood. Things would be better tomorrow at school. She and Blair would have one of their famous heart-to-hearts in the lunchroom over lemon yogurts and romaine lettuce. It wasn't like they could just stop being friends. Serena stood up and examined her eyebrows in the bathroom mirror, using Blair's tweezers to pluck a few stray hairs. She pulled a tube of Urban Decay Gash lip gloss from her pocket and smeared another layer on her lips. Then she picked up Blair's hairbrush and began brushing her hair. Finally, she peed and rejoined the dinner party, forgetting her lip gloss on Blair's sink. When Serena sat down, Blair was eating her second helping of pudding, and Nate was drawing a small-scale picture of his kick-ass sailboat for Cyrus on the back of a matchbook. Across the table Chuck raised his wine glass to clink it with Serena's. She had no idea what she was toasting, but she was always up for anything. Disclaimer: All the real names of places, people, and events have been altered or abbreviated to protect the innocent. Namely, me. hey people! SIGHTINGS C was seen in Tiffany, picking up another pair of monogrammed cufflinks for a party. Hello? I'm waiting for my invite. B 's mother was seen holding hands with her new man in Cartier. Hmmm, when's the wedding? Also seen: a girl bearing a striking resemblance to S, coming out of an STD clinic on the Lower East Side. She was wearing a thick black wig and big sunglasses. Some disguise. And very late last night, S was seen leaning out her bedroom window over Fifth Avenue, looking a little lost. Well, don't jump, sweetie, things are just starting to get good. That's all for now. See you in school tomorrow. You know you love me, hark the herald angels sing “Welcome back, girls,” Mrs. McLean said, standing behind the podium at the front of the school auditorium. “I hope you all had a terrific long weekend. I spent the weekend in Vermont, and it was absolutely heavenly.” All seven hundred students at the Constance Billard School for Girls, kindergarten through twelfth grade, and its fifty faculty and staff members tittered discreetly. Everyone knew Mrs. McLean had a girlfriend up in Vermont. Her name was Vonda, and she drove a tractor. Mrs. McLean had a tattoo on her inner thigh that said, “Ride Me, Vonda.” It's true, swear to God. Mrs. McLean, or Mrs. M, as the girls called her, was their headmistress. It was her job to put forth the cream of the crop–send the girls off to the best colleges, the best marriages, the best lives–and she was very good at what she did. She had no patience for losers, and if she caught one of her girls acting like a loser–persistently calling in sick or doing poorly on the SATs–she would call in the shrinks, counselors, and tutors and make sure the girl got the personal attention she needed to get good grades, high scores, and a warm welcome to the college of her choice. Mrs. M also didn't tolerate meanness. Constance was supposed to be a school free of cliques and prejudice of any sort. Her favorite saying was, “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” The slightest slander of one girl by another was punished with a day in isolation and a seriously difficult essay assignment. But those punishments were a rare necessity. Mrs. M was blissfully ignorant of what really went on in the school. She certainly couldn't hear the whispering going on in the very back of the auditorium, where the seniors sat. “I thought you said Serena was coming back today,” Rain Hoffstetter whispered to Isabel Coates.That morning, Blair and Kati and Isabel and Rain had all met on their usual stoop around the corner for cigarettes and coffee before school started. They had been doing the same thing every morning for two years, and they half expected Serena to join them. But school had started ten minutes ago, and Serena still hadn't shown up. Blair couldn't help feeling annoyed at Serena for creating even more mystery around her return than there already was. Her friends were practically squirming in their seats, eager to catch their first glimpse of Serena, as if she were some kind of celebrity. “She's probably too drugged up to come to school today,” Isabel whispered back. “I swear, she spent like, an hour in the bathroom last night at Blair's house. Who knows what she was doing in there.” “I heard she's selling these pills with the letter S stamped on them. She's completely addicted to them,” Kati told Rain. “Wait till you see her,” Isabel said. “She's a total mess.” “Yeah,” Rain whispered back. “I heard she'd started some kind of voodoo cult up in New Hampshire.” Kati giggled. “I wonder if she'll ask us to join.” “Hello?” said Isabel. “She can dance around naked with chickens all she wants, but I don't want to be there. No way.” “Where can you get live chickens in the city, anyway?” Kati asked. “Gross,” Rain said. “Now, I'd like to begin by singing a hymn. If you would please rise and open up your hymnals to page forty-three,” Mrs. M instructed. Mrs. Weeds, the frizzy-haired hippie music teacher, began banging out the first few chords of the familiar hymn on the piano in the corner; then all seven hundred girls stood up and began to sing. Their voices floated down Ninety-third Street, where Serena van der Woodsen was just turning the corner, cursing herself for being late. She hadn't woken up this early since her eleventh-grade final exams at Hanover last June, and she'd forgotten how badly it sucked. “Hark the herald angels si-ing! ?Glo-ry to the newborn king! ?Peace on Earth and mercy mi-ild,?God and sin-ners reconciled.” Constance ninth grader Jenny Humphrey silently mouthed the words, sharing with her neighbor the hymnal which Jenny herself had been commissioned to pen in her exceptional calligraphy.

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