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chapter 18
“I need your help,” Serena said, squeezing Blair's arm. Blair kept her body stiff until Serena let go. “Sorry,” Serena said. “Listen, I want to make a movie, and I thought you could help me, you know, with the cameras and stuff, since you take film.” Blair glanced at Kati and Isabel, who were quietly sipping milk behind her. Then she smiled up at Serena, and shook her head. “Sorry, I can't,” she said. “I've got activities every single day after school. I don't have time.” “Oh, come on, Blair,” Serena said, grabbing Blair's hand. “Remember, we always wanted to do this. You wanted to be Audrey Hepburn.” Blair removed her hand and folded her arms across her chest, glancing at Isabel and Kati again. “Don't worry, I'll do all the work,” Serena added hastily. “All you have to do is show me how to use the camera and the lighting and stuff.” “I can't,” Blair insisted. “Sorry.” Serena pursed her lips to keep them from trembling. Her eyes seemed to be growing larger and larger, and her face was turning splotchy. Blair had seen this transformation in Serena many times as they grew up together. Once, when they were both eight, they had walked the three miles from Serena's country house into the town of Ridgefield to buy ice cream cones. Serena stepped out of the ice cream shop with her triple strawberry cone with chocolate sprinkles and bent down to pet a dog tied up outside. All three scoops fell splat into the dirt. Serena's eyes had grown huge and her face looked like she had the measles. The tears had just started to roll, and Blair was about to offer to share her cone with Serena, when the shop owner came out with a fresh cone for her. Seeing Serena on the verge of tears once more touched something deep inside of Blair, like an involuntary impulse. “Um. But we're going out on Friday,” she told Serena. “Drinks around eight at the Tribeca Star, if you want to come.” Serena took a deep breath and nodded. “Just like old times,” she said, staving off her tears and attempting a smile. “Right,” Blair said. She made a note in her mental PalmPilot to tell Nate not to come out on Friday now that Serena was coming. Blair's new plan was to knock back a few drinks with Serena at the Tribeca Star, leave early, go home, fill her room with candles, take a bath, and wait for Nate to come. And then they'd have sex all night long to romantic music. She'd already burned a sexy CD to play while they did it. Even the best-bred girls resort to cheesy things like burning CD mixes when they're losing their virginity. The bell rang and the girls went their separate ways to class; Blair to her AP Academic-Achievers afternoon, and Serena to her plain old Kraft-American-Slices classes. Serena couldn't believe she had just been rejected not once but twice in the last ten minutes. And as she gathered her books from her locker, she tried to come up with a new plan of action. She wasn't going to give up. Her picture wasn't on the side of a bus for nothing. westsider's romantic dream up in smoke Vanessa skipped the first five minutes of Calculus to call Daniel on his cell phone. She knew he had Study Hall fourth period on Thursdays, and he was probably hanging out outside, reading poetry and smoking cigarettes. A girl was using Constance's pay phone in the hallway by the stairs, so Vanessa slipped outside to the pay phone on the corner of Ninety-third Street and Madison. The lower-school boys were playing dodgeball in the Riverside Prep School courtyard, so when his cell phone rang, Dan was sitting on a park bench in the traffic island in the middle of Broadway. He'd just cracked open L'Etranger, by Albert Camus, which he was reading in French class that term. Dan was psyched. He'd already read the English translation, but it felt especially cool to read the French original, especially while sitting outside drinking bad coffee and smoking a cigarette in the middle of noisy, smelly Broadway. It was very hard-core. As people walked past in a hurry to get somewhere, Dan felt aloof and removed from the chaos of everyday life, just like the guy in the book. Dan had dark circles under his eyes because he hadn't been able to sleep the night before. All he could think about was Serena van der Woodsen. They were starring in a movie together. They were even going to kiss. It was too good to be true. Poor dude, he had that right. His cell phone was still ringing. “Yeah?” Dan said, answering it. “Hey. It's Vanessa.” “Hey.” “Listen, I have to make it quick. I just wanted you to know that I told Marjorie she has the part,” Vanessa said quickly. “You mean Serena,” Dan said, flicking his ash and taking another puff of his cigarette. “No, I mean Marjorie.” Dan exhaled and clenched the phone tightly. “Wait. What are you talking about? Marjorie, with the red hair and the gum?” “Yes, that's right. I haven't got their names mixed up,” Vanessa said patiently. “But Marjorie stank, you can't use her!” Dan insisted. “Yeah, well, I kind of like that she stank. She's sort of rough around the edges. I think it will make it feel edgier, you know? Like, not what you'd expect,” said Vanessa. “Yeah, definitely not,” Dan sneered. “Look, I really think this is a mistake. Serena totally ruled. I don't know why you wouldn't want her. She was awesome.” “Yeah, well, I'm the director, so it's my choice. And I chose Marjorie. Okay?” Vanessa really didn't want to hear about how awesome Serena had been. “Besides, I keep hearing all these stories about Serena. I don't think she's all that reliable.” Vanessa was pretty sure that everything she'd heard was completely bogus, but it couldn't hurt to mention it to Dan. “What do you mean?” Dan said. “What kind of stories?” “Like she manufactures her own drug called S, and she has some pretty bad STDs,” Vanessa said. “I really don't want to deal with that.” “Where'd you hear that?” Dan said. “I have my sources,” she said. A bus roared up Madison on its way to the Cloisters. On the side of it was a massive photograph of a belly button. Or was it a gunshot wound? Scrawled in blue girly writing on the side of the poster was the name “Serena.” Vanessa stared after the bus. Was she losing her mind? Or was Serena really and truly everywhere? Every last bit of her? “I just don't think she's right for us,” Vanessa said, hoping Dan would come around if she used the word “us.” It was their movie, not hers. “Fine,” Dan said coldly. “So, are you coming out with me and Ruby in Brooklyn on Friday?” Vanessa asked, eager to change the subject. “Nah. I don't think so,” Dan said. “See ya.” He clicked off and tossed the phone angrily into his black courier bag. That morning his sister Jenny had stumbled into his room, her eyes all blood............
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