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Poseur #4: All That Glitters Is Not Gucci
The Getup: Hot pink do-rag, spa manicure (in Chanel’s “Paparazzi”), stretch denim Rihanna Romper by Black Halo, smug smile by Poseur
At Winston Prep, upperclassmen may get off-campus lunch privileges, but it’s the lowerclassmen who feel seriously privileged when the high noon bell sounds its clear, Swiss Alps–worthy clang. With a confident flap of their Fendi flats (or are those fins?), tadpolers of all colors and signature Missoni stripes spill into the Main Hall and dart madly toward their destination. Because for forty-five magical minutes, give or take a few seconds, the Showroom—aka Winston’s super-exclusive outdoor parking lot—was theirs.
Well, depending on who gets there first.
Upperclassmen popular enough to secure Showroom parking spots hop into their custom-painted Porsches and Priuses, their brightly buffed Beamers and Bentleys, and head to lunch destinations as venerable and varied as their vehicles. No sooner have the ruby taillights cleared their fine institution’s Spanish colonial-style peach stucco and wrought iron gates than alert freshman from all corners of the lot swoop into the abandoned spaces. Plopping down on napkins or rarely cracked textbooks, the giddy invaders arrange brown bag lunches on the sun-baked pavement, breathing deep the lingering exhaust of their departed idols. Proximity to popularity can be intoxicating.
Unless they’re just high on car fumes.
Either way, forward-thinking freshies love nothing more than popping squats in the vacant lot. Because while it’s not the most comfortable place to eat, it is the most exclusive. Those who eat here today, tend to park here tomorrow… which is why only the most popular ninth-graders eat in the Showroom, banishing lesser-thans to either the sanded redwood picnic tables in the courtyard, or the lush, immaculately maintained lawns surrounding the whimsical Winston Willows, whose feathery leaves not only offer dappled shade but also protection from annoying, sandwich-seeking winged pests.
And so it was, while mucho-worshipped sophomore Melissa Moon and devoted entourage chowed charishi chez Koi, Nikki Pellegrini, Carly Thorne, and Juliet Jackson infested her unoccupied spot and broadcasted their newfound social prowess to the world. At last, they put the C (as in C me?) in Nicarettes, which (as if you didn’t know) happened to be the name of their clique. The three eighth-graders concocted the title one fateful day in seventh grade, combining different key syllables from each of their names. Of course, in the wake of their recently acquired high profile, haters started calling them the Dickarettes, the Moon-a-tics, and (most creative of all) “those self-absorbed idiots”—but they were just jealous.
“You know what?” Carly mused, admiring the gel-slicked blond coil plastered to Nikki’s forehead. The rest of her flaxen hair had been pulled into a bun and tucked into her latest rhinestone-encrusted hot pink do-rag. “I like your hair this way.”
“Why are you saying it like that?” gaped Juliet, majorly miffed by Carly’s intonation. “You’re making it sound like I don’t like her hair this way. And I, like, love it,” she insisted, spearing her boba tea with a straw. “Probably more than you do.”
Oh, what a difference a month made. In one short semester, Nikki Pellegrini had swung from comparatively popular to deeply detested, then back again. Her latest surge in popularity came from cozying up to her highness Melissa Moon, who, along with fellow sophomores Charlotte Beverwil, Petra Greene, and Janie Farrish, had created her own designer fashion label, Poseur. In the last few weeks, the student-governed special study had taken on a life of its own, breaking free from its relatively humble high school origins and seizing the fashion world by storm. Or it would soon, anyway.
Which wasn’t to say fetching coffee was the internship’s only perk. In addition to getting first dibs on all Melissa Moon’s ghetto-fabulous couture castoffs, Nikki was the only eighth-grader permitted to eat lunch in the Showroom, and she got to brag about it—not that she called it that. According to Melissa Moon, bragging was just another word for PR. “As in Public Relations, not Princess RiRi,” the daunting diva quipped while Nikki had nodded, dutifully jotting the definition down. They were so bonded!
She sighed a little, now, savoring the memory.
“What?” Carly inquired, curiosity piqued by the secret smile on Nikki’s face. She was always doing that… and it was starting to get on her not-so-secret nerves. “Why are you smiling?”
“I’m not,” she coyly replied, flipping through the latest issue of Nylon with a Paparazzi Pink–manicured forefinger. She paused to peruse a photo, crinkling her Bioré-blasted brow. “I really hope they don’t do the Poseur shoot like this. I mean, sepia?” She clucked over a color-saturated shot of Gemma Ward. “It really detracts from the high-fashion element, you know?”
Two and half weeks ago, hipster bible Nylon magazine had asked to feature Poseur’s premier couture handbag, the Trick-or-Treater, in its 20 Under 20 fashion issue, and the photo shoot was just a few short days away. Nikki could think of nothing else.
“I guess I’ll just have to keep an eye on the lighting guy, y’all,” she announced with an insinuative arc of her eyebrow.
Juliet almost snarfed a boba ball.
“No way!” she gagged. “You are not going to the Nylon shoot. Are you going to the Nylon shoot? Shut. Up. No, you’re not going. Are you seriously going?”
Nikki squinted her cornflower blue eyes at her possibly disabled friend. “Um, obvi. Our bag is being featured in the issue, y’all!” (In her tireless attempt to channel Melissa Moon, Nikki leaped at every opportunity to jam the word “y’all” into conversation. Sometimes it made sense. Sometimes it didn’t.)
“Plus,” she grinned. “I didn’t tell you this before, but there’s a chance we’re not only going to be inside Nylon.”
“Meaning?” Juliet furrowed her bronzer-dusted brow.
“Meaning we might make the outside?” She cocked an eyebrow and grinned, endlessly pleased with herself. Juliet and Carly glanced at each other, unimpressed.
“What’s so great about making the outside of a magazine?” the latter scoffed, adding a roll of her bulging brown eyes for good measure. “I mean, technically I’m making the outside of a magazine, like, right now.”
“Yeah,” Juliet snorted. “What a superstar.”
At last, she’d achieved the reaction she wanted. Her friends looked amazed and appalled—as if Taylor Lautner had revealed himself in all his bare-chested glory, only to burp in their faces.
“S’all true, y’all.” Nikki sniffed, tossing her head. Her pink do-rag scintillated in the sun. “The best of the twenty designers gets to dress the cover model. And, between y’all and me? Melissa’s positive it’ll be Poseur.”
Carly balled her fists and quivered. As if cavorting around campus with four über-popular tenth-graders weren’t outlandish enough, she now got to go to photo shoots? And not just any photo shoot, but a photo shoot for Nylon, aka the coolest maggie since Gyllenhaal? She took a tiny sip of sickly tea and moistened her bee-stung lips. Now was the time. The time to tell Nikki her do-rag made her look like a sparkle penis.
Too bad Taryn Bell thwarted her plan.
“Heads up!” she screeched at the top of her lungs. As Wednesday’s designated lookout, Taryn had taken her lunch perched on the Showroom’s highest stucco wall, guaranteeing her a long, bird’s-eye view of the winding drive that led from the Main Gate all the way down to Coldwater Canyon. At the sound of her warning call, the lunching underclassmen paused midchew to hold their breaths, alert and still as gazelles.
“Cream-colored, mint condition 1969 Jaguar!” she bellowed.
Without missing a beat, six balletic ninth-grade girls snatched the remains of their grapes and Brie, sprang to their Miu Miu heels, and made a run for it. Barely had their frenzied frames ducked into the dim recesses of Locker Jungle than the Jaguar in question purred through the main gates. The remaining middle-schoolers swallowed and solemnly watched it pass, basking briefly in its bright, reflective light before focusing on the main event: the driver. She’d returned sporting her vintage black-sequined Chanel scarf—previously worn looped about her slender neck—as a headband, braiding the delicate silk-chiffon ends into her glossy ebony curls. On any other day, the innovation might have caused a frenzy, but as Charlotte Sidonie Beverwil cruised into the Showroom that Wednesday, there was another, even more noteworthy accessory to set admirers atwitter. Reclined into the leather passenger seat, and accentuating her style better than any belt, bangle, or bow, sat none other than Charlotte’s ex-boyfriend.
Talk about retro.
Okay, granted: Jake had totally grown into himself over the summer. Thanks to a divinely inspired haircut and the power of Accutane, the mangy ponytail and gag-worthy pimples were things of the past. But still! Was he really supposed to compete with Jules, the half-French, half-English Orlando Bloom lookalike who, when he wasn’t volunteering at nursing homes, translating Goethe from the original German, or knitting his own Henleys, zoomed around town in an acid green Ferrari? The guy wore a freaking cape! And he pulled it off! Jake had been wearing the same gray hoodie with the banged-up Amnesiac pin for, like, a decade.
“Look.” Nikki cleared her throat. “Just ’cause she sent Euro boy packing does not mean she’s back together with Jake. They’re so just friends, okay? Charlotte really needs some time for herself right now.”
Of course, beneath her calm and collected exterior, Nikki was on throbbing red alert. She’d been in love with Jake Farrish since, like, forever, and she wasn’t going to lie: the sight of him in Charlotte’s Jag put some major pain in the belly chain. Could the rumors be true? Were they back on the rocky-yet-romantic road to Jakelotte?
Crazily enough, she was the reason the pretty pair parted ways in the first place. Way back in September, on the night of Poseur’s infamous “Tag—You’re It” party, Nikki, who’d never so much as tried alcohol before, downed two flutes of champagne and ended up lip-macking Jake in plain sight of everyone at the party… including Charlotte Beverwil. Of course, it took Charlotte two and a half ticks to dump him, and find herself a new avowed love: making Nikki Pellegrini’s life a living hell. Promptly dubbing her Icki Prostitutti, Charlotte turned the entire school (and maybe the world) against her. It took prayer, pain, and a whole lotta luck, but eventually Nikki redeemed herself. Well, Melissa Moon thought so, anyway. And if Melissa Moon thought something, so did most everybody else. Charlotte remained the one person Nikki hadn’t won over, and until she did, she vowed to keep her distance from Jake. She wasn’t about to wreck her ever-fragile social standing—even for her favorite future husband.
“Purple and yellow VW bus!” Taryn spat up her apple and exploded in alarm, cuing a band of semicollapsed freshman boys and girls to untangle each other from their laps and limbs and sit up, blinking with confusion. Winston’s stoner royalty was returning from their daily lunchtime ritual: a jaunt to a secluded alley, followed by a trip to Baja Fresh for quesadillas, icy sodas, and endless salsa shots. Joaquin Whitman’s VW bus (commonly known as the VD) rumbled through the Main Gate at a snail’s pace, leaving the junior joint squad ample time to gather their flavor-blasted Goldfish and Rasta-knit hacky sacks, even in their aspiring stoner stupor. As the van creaked into its spot, neopunk sensation Creatures of Habit blasted through the grimy, half-cracked windows.
“Omigod!” Nikki wheezed, grinning madly at her friends. “Do you know why they’re playing Creatures of Habit instead of Marley?”
Carly and Juliet looked at each other and shrugged (translation: they were dying to know).
“Because… Petra’s dating their bassist, Paul Elliot Miller.” Sighing proudly, she added, “He’s the hot one.”
When she wasn’t sucking face with badass bassists (or bong water), Petra Greene constituted Poseur’s moral center. In other words, she reminded her more superficial business partners how to be “environmentally conscious,” or whatever. And sure, if all girls were born as freakishly flawless as Petra had been, then they’d probably spend their time canvassing for silkworm rights, too, right? But, no. Some people have eyelashes to curl.
Good thing Petra was super weird—otherwise the good people of Winston might die of jealousy. For now, the only people who seriously worshipped her were fellow wastoids and other such ganja groupies. As the bohemian bombshell flounced from the VD’s passenger seat, her honey-blond hair falling in glinting tangles down her back, they watched from afar, hacky sacks clutched to their hearts. One glance at that Princess of Pot, that Goddess of Green, could undo, like, multimillion-dollar antidrug campaigns.
“Platinum Lexus convertible!” Taryn squawked, spewing a healthy sip of San Pellegrino Limonata into the wind.
Crap! The Nicarettes scooped up their boba teas and Post-it-tabbed magazines and tore the hell out of Melissa Moon’s space. Because, as the despotic diva informed them in no uncertain terms when she first agreed to let them eat there, she would not, repeat not, hesitate to run them over.
Per the usual, Melissa and her orbiting entourage glided into the Showroom blaring Christopher Duane (aka Seedy) Moon’s latest soon-to-be-octoplatinum single. Recognize that last name? Yup, rap producer icon and hip-hop heavy hitter Seedy Moon happened to be Melissa Moon’s father. The new single, “V,” which he wrote in one sleepless night after the now legendary Pink Party debacle, explored the intimate details of his (now ex) fiancée Vivien Ho’s betrayal. The Pink Party, for the one person in the universe not in the know, was supposed to be their engagement soiree, but the glamorous gala went all horribly awry. Seedy discovered his shady fiancée had sabotaged his daughter’s brand-new business. Did he mention she was his daughter? And what kind of whack job gets jealous of a high schooler, anyway?
And then lies about it? Over and over?
And he’d thought she was the one.
Seedy posted “V” on his Web site, Mo_Money_Mo_Moon.com, at the crack of dawn, the very next morning. The song was spare as spare could be: no production value, no jingle-jangle, no guest vocals by the conjured ghost of Biggie Smalls, no nothin’. Just a man rappin’ to the beat of his own broken heart, yo. The passionate, confessional, hard-as-nails single became an overnight sensation: seven million downloads and counting. Everyone was saying it—Seedy Moon was back— and it was a relief, since up until then his latest tunes had bombed. After making a name for himself as the first rapper to address the built-in conflict of growing up half black, half Korean in South Central L.A., Seedy had found inner peace, cranked out a series of Buddha-inspired tracks, and fell off the charts faster than you could say “downward dog.” But with “V” he’d hacked up the lotus flowers and gone back to his roots, taking all that old anger to a whole new level. In the already notorious final verse, Seedy ties up his duplicitous ex in her own “cheap-ass, nasty” hair extensions and tosses her into the L.A. River.
“Is. It. True?” Carly raised her voice, squeezing each word between the booming beats quaking from Melissa’s subwoofer.
“I’m not. At liberty. To say!” Nikki replied in kind, peering along with her friends from behind a camellia hedge.
Even after pulling into her spot, Melissa left the motor running and the single blaring, ensuring she and her air-freaking posse would croon every last word. Her best friend, Deena Yazdi, who fancied herself the next Mariah, fluttered her kohl-lined eyes shut, plugged one ear with a bright polished acrylic talon, and waved her free, long-fingered hand into the air. Thankfully, what Deena’s voice lacked in all-things-tone, Melissa’s megarack made up for in rhythm (it bounced in perfect time).
Okay, noted Nikki, polishing off her boba with a mighty slurp. All members of Poseur accounted for— she frowned—except one. Standing on her tiptoes, she scanned the now car-dominated parking lot for the missing member in question. Shouldn’t she be playing third wheel to Jake and Charlotte by now? Or texting her best friend Amelia from the confines of her half-dead Volvo sedan? Or (at the very least) hiding in a bathroom stall, bemoaning the perpetually pathetic state of her very existence?
Where was Janie Farrish, anyway?
Excerpted from Poseur #4: All That Glitters Is Not Gucci by Excerpted by permission.
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