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Charmed and DangerousThe Clique Prequel
By Lisi Harrison
PoppyCopyright © 2009 Lisi Harrison
All right reserved.
WESTCHESTER, NY THE BLOCK ESTATE
Friday, December 31st
“Bonne annéeeeeee!” Kendra Block trilled into the phone with gushing enthusiasm.
“Happy New Year, darling!” Massie’s father added over swirling laughter, clinking champagne flutes, and strains of “Auld Lang Syne.” “We love you!”
“I love you tooooo!” Massie shouted back. But from the stillness of her crisp navy blue and white bedroom those words sounded hollow, lonely, forced; like whoo-hooing on a private riding trail after a blanketing snowfall.
She eyed the swamp green screen on her Motorola flip phone.
Was it really midnight in Paris?
It was like her mom and dad had ridden a time machine six hours into the future. Even though they were parents, Massie envied them. They already knew whether their night was magical: whether their outfits would inspire copycats… whether their jokes were LOL-worthy… whether their conversation topics were charming… whether their New Year’s Eve story had a happy ending… whether—
“Where are you?” Kendra asked, oozing giddiness.
“M’room.” Massie plopped onto the edge of her navy duvet and flexed her toes. Was silver polish fun or done? Class or crass? Mature or manure? Gawd, if only there was some kind of list that told girls what was in and what was out….
“Open your door.” Kendra giggled.
“Go!” Kendra insisted with mock frustration.
Massie slid off the edge of her bed, her gold silk kimono sparking and snapping with static electricity.
“Does she like it?” William asked in the background.
“Shhhhh,” Kendra hissed. “She hasn’t seen it yet.”
Massie squeaked with burst-at-the-seams impatience.
“Is the door open? Are you there yet?” Kendra asked.
“Almost.” Massie padded across the white wool rug, heart revving. Was it the tiny black pug she had been begging for? Oh, puh-leaase make it the tiny black pug she had been begging for! With a big red bow atop her mini head and a diamond anklet with a bone charm. That would semi-make up for her mother’s holiday “surprise” where she’d transformed Massie’s three-shades-of-pink boudoir into a showroom for Tommy Hilfiger. Blue, red, and white everything. It put the nawt in nautical. But she decided to put up with it because the decorator assured her it was “fresh” and Massie’s best friends agreed.
“Okay, I’m here.” She gripped the brass anchor-shaped doorknob.
“Yayyyyyyyyy!” screeched Kendra. “Openit! Openit! Openit!”
Turning the anchor slowly, so as not to startle the pup, Massie cracked the door and peered out. Expecting a nose full of new-puppy smell, she inhaled deeply. All she got was the sharp floral scent of Crabtree & Evelyn’s Spring Rain home spray, her mom’s favorite.
Massie lowered her gaze, ready to make contact with a pair of moist black eyes. Eyes that would pulsate hearts for her new master and—
“Ew!” she blurted at the sudden appearance of a woman’s bare feet. Size nine. Calloused. Dry. Neglected.
A plaid flannel nightgown skimmed the woman’s ankles and tented her stocky body. Strands of long black hair, freed from their tight bun but contorted from hours of captivity, clung to the glistening Pond’s cold cream slathered on the side of her face.
“Happy New Year.” She held a Tiffany box in her palm and smiled warmly.
Ignoring the housekeeper, Massie peered left, then right. Was the pug hiding? Was she part two of her parents’ guilt gift? Was the blue box a red herring?
But, as usual, nothing in the hallway seemed out of place. The only panting came from Inez, who must have been instructed to run up the winding staircase before Massie opened the door.
“Do you love it?” her mother asked.
“Does she love it?” her father echoed.
Sensing Massie’s paralyzing disappointment, Inez opened the box for her. “Beauuuutiful.” The housekeeper dangled the glistening gold charm bracelet under Massie’s jutting chin.
“It has all of your favorite things on it,” Kendra explained. “A high-heeled shoe, a dollar sign, a horse, a diamond-encrusted bell—for the diamonds, obviously, not the bell—and a pig.”
“Yes, you wanted one for Christmas, only we’ve had the hardest time finding housebroken breeds so we—”
“Mohhhm, I wanted a pug, nawt a pig.”
Kendra gasped in horror. “William,” she called into the party noise. “She wanted a pug, not a pig!… I know… huge relief!” Her lips returned to the mouthpiece. “Those are so much easier to find, darling. We’ll get one as soon as we return to the États-Unis.”
“Yay!” Massie pinched the bracelet off Inez’s finger and slid it on. It was a little loose, but nothing she couldn’t have Mr. Novick, the family jeweler, fix after the holidays. She examined her wrist from all angles, studying the way the light reflected off the chain. Aside from the mistaken-bacon it was actually kinda cute. And no one else had one… yet.
Fireworks soared and popped on the other end of the call. Massie felt like exploding right along with them. She was finally going to get a puppy! A confidant. A real best friend. A sibling.
“Oh, and we got you a tiny gold Eiffel Tower. It’s ab-so-lutely chaaarming.” Kendra giggled at her corny pun.
Massie’s phone beeped.
The swamp green screen flashed AHNNA.
Her palms began to sweat.
One last firecracker whistled in the background, then fizzled out.
The phone beeped again.
Ignoring the call would mean violating Ahnna’s strict “talk or walk” policy, an offense that would put Massie in social solitary for an entire weekend. No phone calls, e-mails, IMs, or gossip alerts. She had to act.
“Hullo?” Massie answered quickly. She wave-thanked Inez, then shut the bedroom door.
“Vicky and Sheldon’ll be pulling up in five,” barked the girl on the other end.
The line went dead.
With quaking thumbs, Massie set the stopwatch on her Motorola, then tossed it on her bed. Thankfully, her dark, glossy hair had been professionally twisted into a loose chignon hours ago. Cheeks were tinted to a flirty blush. Lips shimmered with rose-scented gloss. And the faceless mannequin in the corner of her bedroom looked festive times ten in an Agnès B. dress, with a shiny black ticket lodged between her thin porcelain fingers.
Massie slid the gold charm bracelet onto her model’s stiff white arm and stepped back to evaluate. Head cocked, she finger-tapped her chin.
“Hmmmmmmm.” She sighed. “Something is awf. Not awful, just awf.”
The black minidress stamped with silver metallic triangles hung like couture. Gunmetal gray Prada wedges and black cashmere kneesocks would add just the right amount of funk to the function. And the coveted ticket to famed talk-show host Merri-Lee Marvil’s celebrity-studded New Year’s Yves broadcast—where a one-of-a-kind Yves Saint Laurent beaded clutch would drop at midnight like the Times Square ball—was the perfect accessory.
Soooooo… chin-tap… chin-tap… chin-tap… What was it? What was putting the “out” in her outfit?
The soft yellow light from her bedside lantern reflected off the charm bracelet and winked at her. The new kid was trying to tell her something.
The gold charm bracelet clashed with the silver triangles on the dress and gunmetal gray shoes. It was like chewing mint gum and drinking Diet Coke. It was a bitter combination. And the last thing she needed was for people in India or Cairo (or wherever) to be watching Merri-Lee Marvil’s celebrity-studded New Year’s Yves broadcast and saying that some American was mixing metals. And if they noticed, Ahnna would definitely notice.
Massie glanced at her phone—00:02:16:23.
Ehmagawd! Only two minutes, sixteen seconds, and twenty-three whatevers left!
She could ditch the bracelet, but it was new. And gold. And totally enviable. It could start trends or, at the very least, conversations. But rethink the Agnès B.? At this hour? Impossible.
Anxiety ravaged her flesh like razor burn.
Whattodo? Whattodo? Whattodo?
And then, in a stroke of brilliance, Massie pinned her gold M brooch to one sock, and a gold B to the other. The initial pins were a perfect way to tie the whole thing together. After a quick digital picture of the outfit—to avoid duplication in the future—Massie tore the clothes off her body double and speed-dressed. Just as she was sliding the bracelet up her thin wrist, BMW tires crunched the gravel on her driveway.
Her alarm beeped—00:00:00:00.
Inez’s voice came over the white intercom on her nightstand. “The Pinchers are here.”
Massie smoothed her dress. “Nine-seven,” she rated herself out of ten, docking point three for her pale December skin. Satisfied, she turned away from her otherwise flawless reflection.
Racing down the stairs Massie blinked back the cyclone of questions twisting through her brain. Would Ahnna approve of her clothes or turn up her nose? Would she make memories or enemies? Would mixed metals set trends or disgust friends?
Ahhhh, to be in France and already have all the answers.
WHITE PLAINS, NY WESTCHESTER COUNTY AIRPORT
Friday, December 31st
“Stop!” Ahnna shouted.
“What?” Mr. Pincher slammed on the brakes.
Ahnna, Lana, Shauna, Brianna, and Massie lurched forward. They slammed into the tan leather seats and then busted out laughing.
“What happened?” Mr. Pincher turned to face Ahnna, his white cashmere scarf swaddling his cleft chin. “Is everyone okay?”
A stunned Mrs. Pincher gripped her pearl choker and glared out the windshield.
“Okay? Uv’korse we’re oh-kay.” Ahnna lowered her window. Bitter cold wind blew her butterscotch blond curls around like the fur of a goldendoodle on an air-sniffing joy ride. “This is gonna be the coolest party evv.”
Massie nodded in agreement while massaging her cramped calf. Squeezing into the back of a Beemer with three other girls hardly said New Year’s Eve; more like hitchhiking to the nearest town for gas. She’d offered Isaac, her driver, and their new Lexus LX 470 with the stocked fridge, killer speakers, and heated seats (to keep dresses from wrinkling). But Ahnna had flat-out refused.
No shock there. When Massie suggested it, Ahnna turned it down.
They drove under a NEW YEAR’S YVES sign made of silver and gold Swarovski crystals and entered the packed parking lot. Normally reserved for private planes and helicopters, the tarmac had been transformed into what looked like a luxury car showroom.
Rows of just-washed luxury sedans glistened with pride, awaiting their drivers’ return. Or were they glistening with sweat? Sweat from knowing that with a new year comes a new model, and they were days away from being traded in?
Massie’s insides sank under the weight of her sympathy. She knew that you-could-be-replaced-in-a-heartbeat feeling all too well.
“Stawp!” Brianna smacked Shauna’s arm. “Check out the license plate on that Bentley.”
Shauna repositioned her cherry red Moschino glasses. “It says J-Lo!”
“Stawp!” Lana squealed.
“M’gawsh!” Ahnna clenched her fists.
“When did ‘stop’ stop meaning stop?” Mr. Pincher tapped the gas and inched toward the valet attendant.
“I hear it’s even better on the inside,” Mrs. Pincher told them as they pulled past the snaking line of ticketless wannabes hoping to convince the bouncers to let them in.
“Eeeeeeeeeeee!” Ahnna, Shauna, Lana, and Brianna shook their hands as if drying manicures. They did it every time they were excited times ten. Massie, however, refused. It didn’t look hot—it looked like they were on fire.
“You guys should really calm down,” Massie whispered from the side of her glossy mouth. “You’re acting like you’ve never been to a TV event before.”
Ahnna pulled her head inside the car, her windblown curls now a wild mane. “And you have?”
“No,” Massie mouthed, eyeing the sprawling airplane hangar, which by now probably contained half of America’s A-list, and most of Britain’s. “But they don’t know that.” She waved her hand toward the wannabes and—“Oops!”—her bracelet accidentally slid off her wrist, landing on the car carpet with a jingle-thud.
“What was that?” Shauna thumb-pressed her red glasses against her nose and scanned the floor.
“My new Tiffany charm bracelet.” Massie scooped it up and slid it back on.
Lana, Shauna, and Brianna looked at Ahnna, their eyes filled with the longing of a child silent-begging Mom for a slice of chocolate cake.
Yes! They liked it!
“Whatevs.” Ahnna rolled her eyes. “I used to have one of those in the second grade.”
“You did?” Mrs. Pincher turned around to face her daughter, her thin eyebrows arched in genuine surprise. “I don’t remember that.”
Ahnna’s cheeks reddened.
Respectfully, Lana, Shauna, and Brianna pretended not to notice. Massie turned toward the window with smug satisfaction.
Sticking it to Ahnna felt better than proving a teacher wrong or buying an outfit before it showed up in Us Weekly. Yet, in the spaces behind her rapidly beating heart, where everything was quiet and true, Massie knew it wasn’t right.
She should want the best for her best friend; have her back, not stab it. But Ahnna made that so hard, especially when she vetoed all of Massie’s good ideas—even the ones that would up their social standing at Presbyterian Elementary and Middle School (or PMS, as everyone called it because its students were so moody) to alpha- and beta-fy PMS’s super-popular LMNOP (Lysa, Madison, Nylah, Opal, and Peyton).
Lately it had been so bad, Massie had started keeping a list. It detailed all of the suggestions she made and the reasons Ahnna knocked them down, just in case she ever wanted to sue for “obstruction of popularity,” aka “pop-blocking.”
WHAT SHE REALLY MEANS
I am going to Paris with my parents for New Year’s. They said I could bring you guys. Wanna go?
I can’t. I already have tickets for Merri-Lee Marvil’s New Year’s Yves party. My dad can get tickets for all of you. He’s the director of her daily talk show so it shouldn’t be a problem.
I will do whatever it takes to make sure you don’t go with Shauna, Brianna, and Lana while I’m stuck here. Even if it means inviting you to a party I was going to use to make you jealous. Besides, I want to shop-block you and keep you from the incredible stores on Avenue Champs-Élysées. If I have to buy my Chanel at Saks, so should everyone. Oh, and have I mentioned in the last eight seconds that my dad is the director of The Daily Grind? I have? Oops. My bad.
Let’s meet before every holiday party to plan our wardrobes. PMS is a uniform school. We are behind other schools when it comes to fashion. We can combine our clothes, put together outfits, and style each other so we all look ah-mazing.
I don’t decide what I’m going to wear until day of. Sometimes minute of. Sorry.
I’m getting help from Yasmine, Merri-Lee’s stylist, and I don’t want her to help you. Every Ahnnabee for herself. Uh-kay?
Let’s have sleepovers at my house every Friday night.
My parents will never approve. They like me at home.
I hate being reminded that your house is bigger/nicer/ smells cleaner/is better staffed than mine.
So let’s have sleepovers at your house every Friday night.
My parents are private and don’t like guests.
I still suck my thumb.
I don’t think we should wear so much eyeliner. It’s all about cheeks and lips.
Tell that to Shauna who just got glasses and needs a little something to make her feel less pathetic.
I put on my older sister’s eyeliner at the beginning of the school year and everyone thought I was in the sixth grade. Does anyone think you’re in the sixth grade? No? Didn’t think so.
Let’s change our name. The Ahnnabees sounds kinda desperate, like we’re wannabes or something.
You’re just saying that because you don’t have an ahna name like me, Lana, Shauna, and Brianna and you’re jealous.
I managed to convince four girls to name a clique after me. Do you hawnestly think I’m going to change it?
Let’s play a game called “What Would You Rather Get for Christmas?”
Okay, I’ll start. What would you rather get for Christmas? This stupid game or something fun?
“We’re here,” Mr. Pincher announced, opening the door and dropping his keys in the white-gloved hands of the parking attendant.
Massie shimmied out of her maxi shearling and followed the others outside. Without shame, the Ahnnabees hurried toward the entrance, each in a different-color puffy jacket: yellow, pink, baby blue, and lilac. They looked like a gang of skinny-legged Easter-colored M&M’s from the commercials.
Over the years, Massie had told them winter coats were party-dress poison. But tonight she decided to let it go. She was over them treating her words of wisdom like sunflower seeds, something to chew on for a second and then spit out. Instead, she raced for the warmth of the giant klieg lights by the entrance, proud to know she stood apart.
A crowd of bundled-up regular people was gazing in awe at the clear night sky. Or rather, at the crystal-covered pole that jutted out from the center of the airplane hangar and the massive gold-and-black beaded YSL clutch affixed to the top. Their chapped lips were agape and puffs of mouth smoke filled the frigid night air, as if they were beholding the star atop the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, or an alien landing.
Like a true celebrity, Massie avoided their eyes as she breezed by, casually waving her black ticket as if it were nothing more than a tissue.
“Stawp!” Ahnna blurted when they came upon two sumo wrestlers-slash-doormen in white tuxedos and white (faux?) fur hats. Their massive suits doubled as screens that broadcast the party, live—and were currently featuring a performance by Mandy Moore. It was a little something Merri-Lee insisted on doing for her poor freezing fans who hadn’t been lucky enough to win access during her monthlong on-air giveaway.
The Pincher party flashed their tickets and the sumo wrestlers opened the doors.
“Eeeeeeeee,” screeched the Ahnnabees as they entered the enormous space. Usually the stark home to a fleet of American Airlines jets, the hangar was pulsating with life.
Cameras coasted along tracks, gathering sweeping shots of the beautiful guests as they danced, toasted, and embraced. Servers weaved through the crowd, offering samples of the fantastic dishes prepared over the past year on The Daily Grind. Each waitress had the name of her dish, the chef who invented it, and the actual recipe scrawled on her black catsuit in metallic gold pen—handwritten, of course by Freda Luu, winner of Merri-Lee’s high school penmanship contest—episode 267—back in May.
The stage, at the far end of the structure, seemed miles away. But the sound of Sisqó asking the audience if they were ready for “The Thong Song” was clear as a well-cut diamond. Massie’s insides soared like the Times Square ball in reverse. This was the BPE—Best Party Ever.
“Stawp!” Lana slapped a hand against her mouth, covering the black dot of a mole that punctuated the top left side of her lip. “I love this song!”
“Eeeeeeeee!” The girls squeal-waved. Even Massie did it this time, her charm bracelet sliding off her wrist for the second time.
“Let’s go!” The Ahnnabees unzipped their puffy jackets and whipped them toward the rack of hangers, practically blinding the coat-check guy.
“Stawp!” Massie blurted when she saw her four friends dressed in matching Burberry plaid dresses.
“Stawp!” giggled Lana in shock.
“Stawp yourself,” gasped Shauna.
“Stawp yourself,” cried Brianna.
“Staw-aw-aaawp!” barked Ahnna. “I can’t believe you all copied me!”
A chorus of “we didn’t” and “it was a total accident” followed. Massie opened her mouth to reiterate the benefits of pre-party wardrobe summits but what was the point? Ahnna’s constipated expression said it all.
“You look like you’re wearing the PMS uniform,” she finally said, unable to help herself.
“Awwww, aren’t they precious?” Mrs. Pincher remarked. “Like a girl group. Who knows, maybe you’ll get discovered tonight!”
“Yeah!” Ahnna shouted with glee. “The Ahnnabees!”
“Eeeeeeeeee!” they shrieked again, this time without Massie.
Renewed and ready to take their rightful place by the foot of the stage, they began shoving their way into the crowd.
“Stop!” This time the command came from Mr. Pincher. He casually deposited his empty glass of champagne on a passing server’s tray. “We’ll be calling you every half hour to make sure you’re all safe and accounted for. If you don’t answer, I will hunt you down and take you home, midnight or not. Is that clear?”
Ahnna nodded yes and waved her phone to prove she meant it. Then the four girls pranced into the heavily perfumed crowd, bobbing their heads to Sisqó’s buoyant hip-hop anthem.
And as usual, Massie trailed behind, like a tag-along sibling or a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of a Jimmy Choo. But wait—comparing the Ahnnabees to fabulous footwear was ten kinds of wrong. They had terrible style, made her feel small, and were cheap. They were the opposite of Jimmy Choos. They were Jimmy Poos. So why was she sticking to their bottoms at all?
The truth was, LMNOP already had an M, and the Ahnnabees were the next best thing. During many sleepless nights Massie told herself to stay patient and keep trying. Eventually they’d realize she had good ideas. Great ones, even. And then they’d start treating her better. She wouldn’t feel like toilet paper anymore. And the emotional blender in the pit of her stomach would stop churning up feelings of sadness and despair. Maybe they’d even change their name to include hers? Or sleep over? Or compliment her inventive outfits? But that day felt more distant than Uranus.
Pushing past the densely packed partyers, trying to catch up to her so-called friends, Massie was reminded of the turquoise beaded dress she’d bought last year at Saks.
Her mother had been taking her to the Marc Jacobs show during Fashion Week, and Massie was dying to wear something new. The event was about to start, and after an unsuccessful Fifth Avenue blitz and a ton of “hurry up” pressure from Kendra, she agreed to the tacky mini, which was much more figure skater than fashion model. The instant she pushed through the store’s revolving door she wanted to return it. But it was too late. The bill had been stamped FINAL SALE in thick red letters. There was no going back. She had settled out of desperation and was stuck with it for life.
Just like the Ahnnabees.
Excerpted from Charmed and Dangerous by Lisi Harrison Copyright © 2009 by Lisi Harrison. Excerpted by permission.
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