Authors: J. Minter
a novel by J. MINTER
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â author of the insiders
for J. Morphew and Destiny
Busted at Bergdorf's
“Repeat after me,” SBB said. She was sitting half-in and half-out of a pair of Gucci riding pants with her eyes closed and her hand over her heart. “I, Sara-Beth Benny.”
Camille and I gave each other a sly grin. We were standing in a mirrored private dressing room on the fifth floor of Bergdorf Goodman on 58th Street, surrounded by champagne flutes of Pellegrino and a tray of chocolate covered strawberries the shopgirl had brought in. It was the Sunday afternoon before classes started up at Thoney, and we were waiting for her to return with a wheeled rack of winter clothes we'd selected for some back-to-school shopping. In the meantime, SBB was making us vocalize our New Year's resolutions.
“Wait,” Camille said, nudging me and giggling. “If it's
resolution, why do we repeat after you? We're not Sara-Beth Benny, last time I checked.”
SBB opened one eye and looked at Camille. “Collective affirmation of resolutions has the highest rate of follow-through.” She pinched Camille playfully on the arm. “Don't worryâwe'll get to you guys next.”
As someone who was used to indulging SBB's crazy ways, I gave Camille a nod and joined SBB on the gilded carpet. Camille plopped down next to me, and we followed the instructions.
“I, Sara-Beth Benny,” we repeated, as mock-solemnly as we could.
In the three-way mirror in front of us, I could see our reflections from all angles. Camille was still glowing from her family's New Year's trip to Cabo, and SBB looked fresh faced from a week off from filming and a week on with her new boyfriend, actor-musician Jake Riverdale.
As I looked over at my reflection, I was pleased to see that I had my own sort of glow. It wasn't from a vacation tan, and it wasn't from a boy, but it was satisfying in a very Flan way. It had to do with my decision to start at Thoney this semester and, even though my excitement was tinged with a case of nerves, I was happy.
SBB continued. “I, Sara-Beth Benny, promise to donate a portion of all of my movie and TV royalties, as well as my perfume line profits, to help those in
Africa who are less fortunate than I. And maybe to adopt a child who needs love and whom I could cart around in one of those cute Karma Baby slings. And to grow at least six inches by July.”
“Whoa,” Camille said. “I was only going to try to start recycling more.”
Just then, the shopgirl returned, wheeling in a giant clothing cart full of gorgeous-looking sweaters, pants, and slinky dresses. Instantly, we forgot our collective New Year's affirmation and pounced on the clothes like wild animals.
“Omigod,” SBB said, grabbing a sheer polka-dotted dress from the middle of the rack. “Is this so âFlan on the first day of school' or what?”
I held up the tiny Geren Ford dress to my body. It was asymmetrical, and it tied around the left shoulder with an almost nonexistent green silk strap. It was also no longer than my crotch.
“It's cute,” I said, stalling as I searched for the right words so that I wouldn't offend SBB. “But it looks more like âFlan gets thrown out of school before third period.'” My hand reached for a supercozy navy Autumn Cashmere drape sweater. “How about something more like this?” I said.
“Okay, Mister Rogers,” Camille said, taking it from my hands and hanging it back up. “Believe me, I know
that rocking the five-foot-ten frame does present its own set of fashion challenges, but I will not let you be a frump master on the first day of school.” She rooted through the rack of clothes and pulled out a shrunken gray blazer with three-quarter sleeves and a really unique notched collar. “How about something like this?”
!” SBB and I said simultaneously.
“Ooh,” SBB continued, looking at the label. “And it's my old costar Waverly James's new line. She was showing me how to wear it â¦ there are these really cute leggings that go with this topâ¦.” Her voice trailed off as her tiny body virtually disappeared into the rack of clothes.
“SBB,” I said, sticking my head in after her. “Are you still in here?”
“Ta-da!” She jumped out, holding a pair of stretchy black leggings with a row of brass studs around the cuffs. She waggled them at me. “Terrick Zumberg, here you come!”
Camille squealed. “Um, speaking of New Year's resolutions! Flan, you
wear those leggings with this blazer on the first day of school. Because you know what happens on the first
of school, right?”
I shook my head. “Homework?” I asked hesitantly.
“No! All the Thoney girls go to David Burke's to
meet the Dalton boys for pizzaâand then TZ will see you in
I let my friends hold up the clothes against me and looked at myself in the mirror. The ensemble was totally my style, but I was suddenly feeling more than a little overwhelmed. It made me nervous that Camille just assumed I'd be up on all the Thoney protocol. And now there were all these expectations about impressing TZ, whom I'd barely seen since we'd hung out over Thanksgiving break in Nevis. All the old fears I thought I'd freed myself of came creeping back into my mind. What if I couldn't keep up with life at Thoney?
Camille must have sensed me getting tense. “Hey,” she said, linking her arm through mine. “Don't stress. This semester is going to be amazing, whether or not you decide to grace TZ with your affection.”
I looked in the mirror at my two best friends and nodded. “You're right. Thoney, the David Burke's pizza partyâbring it on!”
“Of course Camille is right,” SBB agreed. “Now try these on so I can envy your long legs even more.”
I slipped into the leggings, and Camille handed me a long ribbed cotton tank with detailed stitching that fell well below my waist. When I pulled the blazer on over it and looked in the mirror, I felt instantly more
self-assured. I tried to imagine a boy looking at me. I guess I did look pretty good.
“Hey, you guys,” SBB called. She'd sneaked out of the dressing room and was standing at the edge of the shoe department, holding up a pair of Joie patent leather Mary Janes in one hand and a pair of caramel-colored Michael Kors boots in the other. “Flan, come here and try these on with that outfit.”
Camille and I left the dressing room and stepped out into the bright, bustling floor of the shoe department. The Mary Janes looked pretty great with the leggings.
“Ooh,” Camille said, holding one up to me and putting on a dramatic advertising voice. “This shoe will take you from study hall to evening ball.”
“And right into the arms of
,” SBB sang.
!” I blushed and immediately looked around. It would be just my luck that TZ's cousin or grandmother would be shopping within earshot. Luckily, there were just the usual crew of personal assistants on their BlackBerrys and a bunch of overbearing Upper East Side mothers making their daughters try on “just one more pair” of ChloÃ© loafers.
But then â¦
I recognized those voices,” said someone behind me.
I spun around and immediately knew I hadn't been comprehensive enough in my coast-is-clear sweep of the store. Standing before me was my exâbest friend, Kennedy Pearson.
“I was just picking up my outfit for the first day of spring semester, and I couldn't help but overhear your little discussion in the dressing room.”
I looked at Kennedy's clear plastic Bergdorf garment bag and was stunned to see the very same pair of black leggings that I had on. I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks. If I ever had to put a single face on all my anxieties about returning to Thoney, that would be Kennedy'sâand it would have the same smug look on it that Kennedy had right then.
She put her hand on my arm. “I just wanted to apologize, Flan.”
“For what?” I said, moving my arm from her grasp. “For eavesdropping?”
For stealing my outfit? For being the devil incarnate?
“No.” She winced dramatically. “For having to be the one to tell you, when it's clear that you're really into TZ.” She covered her face with her hand in faux-anguish. “How do I say this? I'm so sorry, Flan, but TZ and I are sort of together. As of New Year's.”
There was a time when I wouldn't have known how
to respond to this. A time when my face would have turned red, and I would have had some whiny, embarrassing response like, “But I thought he liked
.” But I had just spent that week in Nevis finally figuring out how to stand up to Kennedy, and I was determined not to revert back to sad-and-immobile-Flan again. I squared my shoulders, finally thankful for my height, and peered down at Kennedy's Laura Mercier madeup face.
“You know what, Kennedy? You can have him. Sounds like TZ is even flakier than you. You two deserve each other.”
Kennedy's face flushed bright red and her glossy lips parted in shock.
“Wow, go Flan!” Camille whispered at my side. Then I waited, but it was like Kennedy couldn't find anything to say, and so we all just stood there, sniffing the perfume-scented air and waiting for her to back away.
And then, just as I was able to relax enough to start reveling in the fact that I had finally said the right thing at the right time, Kennedy's cell phone started to ring.
“Oh,” she said, “that's TZ now.” Putting the phone to her ear, she said, “Hold on a sec, honey.” Then she turned back to me. “You know, Flan, some people
might think you're âbrave' to come back to Thoney, but I personally think you're really,
going to regret it. Especially after that precious jealousy outburst you just had.” Waving her leggings in my direction, she started toward the elevator. “Can't wait to see you Monday!”
to see you Monday,” SBB shouted, hurling a wad of tissue paper from a nearby shoebox at Kennedy's receding back.
My legs started shaking in my studded leggings, and I grabbed Camille's and Sara-Beth's arms for support. I swallowed hard. This was
the fabulous start I'd envisioned for my New Year. What kind of mean little competition could I possibly have gotten myself into?
The Meal that Launched a Thousand Trips
I'll be the first person to admit that my family is a little bit â¦ unorthodox.
Growing up, most of my parent-teacher conferences took place via video conference call because my globetrotting parents couldn't be tied down long enough to swing by my elementary school for a chat about my first place win in the science fair.
Not that I'm complainingâafter all, when I did get that blue ribbon for my analysis on why you should always talk to your plants while you water them, my parents flew me out to meet them for the weekend in Cape Town (or Buenos Aires, or Hong Kong, or wherever it was this time for a good old-fashioned Flood-style celebration).