That was it.
Blair's mother had officially lost her mind.
The morning had started normally enough. Blair had been sitting in the kitchen, perfectly happy, eating her way through an entire pack of chocolate chip cookies and reading an interview with Kings of Leon in some music magazine, when Melissa Manning-Cooper had strode into the room, her high heels clicking on the kitchen tiles.
"It's not dark outside, Blair, why do you insist on having all the lights on?" Blair had ignored her, shoving another cookie into her mouth, but her mother hadn't taken the hint and had insisted on her coming through into the living room.
Blair had followed her, reluctant but curious, and at the same time, a little apprehensive. This was only heightened when she realised that her stepfather, Michael, was already sitting on the sofa, apparently awaiting her arrival.
Blair didn't think there was anyone in the world that she liked less than she liked Michael Manning. Everything about him annoyed her; his ridiculously nerdy haircut, the way his blue eyes constantly tried to search her brown ones for her true feelings, the condescending tone that he insisted on speaking to her in, the way that he was constantly telling her how he knew that getting a stepfather could be hard on a kid but really, he wasn't trying to replace her father and that he wanted them to be friends. This last line was a particular favourite of his.
Michael was convinced that the reason Blair didn't want to sit down and share her inner emotions with him was the fact that she was a teenager going through a 'rough patch'. He didn't seem to understand that it was because he was a ludicrous wimp, a blithering idiot and generally a poor excuse for a man, to use some of the choice phrases she'd thrown at him during the six months he'd been married to her mother. Blair knew full well that Melissa was only with him for his bulging wallet, but even so, their constant PDA made her want to retch and their ridiculous cutesy nicknames for each other made her want to cut her ears off with a blunt butter knife.
She'd thrown herself down onto one of the brown leather sofas with no regard for Melissa's carefully arranged throw cushions and sat there, arms folded, while she waited for her mother to tell her whatever she had to tell her.
As far as she could remember, Blair had only been invited into the living room to 'have a little chat' with her mother and Michael three times.
The first had been to tell her that Michael was moving in. For some reason, Melissa had described him as 'a new friend', even though Blair was fifteen at the time and, as she'd bluntly informed her mother, was well aware of the concept of a boyfriend.
The second time had been just a few months later, when Melissa had gushingly shown her the ridiculously huge wedding ring that Michael had recently bestowed on her.
The third time had been to bribe her with a new guitar, on the understanding that she was her mother's bridesmaid at the wedding and that she wore the puke-inducing dress that Melissa had her heart set on. Blair had agreed, but after the guitar was safely in her bedroom, she'd oh-so-accidentally introduced the frilly monstrosity to a pair of scissors, and her mother had been so irate that she'd actually disinvited Blair from the whole wedding. Which had suited Blair just fine. So she'd been interested to see what Melissa had up her sleeve this time.
"Blair, darling," Melissa had begun. This, Blair now realised, should have been a warning signal. Melissa never called her darling. "Now, you remember that Michael and I are going to Italy for a little business trip?"
"Yes," Blair had said warily. It had been agreed that, while Melissa and Michael were on their 'little business trip' – Blair had no idea why Melissa had been invited, she doubted she even knew what a business was – Blair would stay at her best friend Lauren's house for the week.
"Well, you see, sweetheart, something rather unexpected has happened and we've been able to extend the trip."
"Extend the trip? For how long?" Blair had asked, not even stopping to be concerned about the characteristically vague reason her mother had given for the extension of the trip. Her initial apprehension was already beginning to give way to excitement. As far as Blair was concerned, Having her mother and her mother's husband out of the country for more than a few days only meant more partying, more nightly takeaways, and more good, plain, fun.
"Well, two months," Melissa said.
"Two months? I'm staying at Lauren's house for two months?" Blair had asked, incredulously. She knew Lauren's mother liked her, but she wasn't sure Mrs Lauren liked her that much.
"Well, that's the thing." Melissa had even begun to look a little nervous at this point, and Blair had realised that her excitement had probably been premature. She was probably going to have to go to Italy with them.
"What's the thing?" Blair had asked impatiently, when Melissa didn't elaborate.
"We've made alternative arrangements for you. You're going to be staying with Sarah and Nick. Won't that be wonderful?"
"Who the hell are Sarah and Nick?" Blair had asked blankly. Melissa had looked at her as if she couldn't believe she'd raised such a stupid child. Blair didn't know why she would be surprised; Melissa was not exactly the brightest crayon in the box. As it happened, Blair hadn't inherited the stupid gene, but that was beside the point.
"Sarah and Nick Sheridan, darling." Blair had had to think for a few moments more.
"Sarah and Nick Sheridan? As in...the Sheridans?" she asked, eventually. Melissa nodded slowly. Blair had stared at her.
Sarah and Nick Sheridan were the most sickeningly perfect couple Blair had ever laid eyes on. They had three blonde haired, blue eyed kids, and they'd had an enormous house with a pool and a tennis court, which Blair had spent a lot of time in when she was younger. Sarah and Melissa had been friends since university, and so Blair had been forced into a 'friendship' with the middle Sheridan child, Ashley, who was a year younger than her, but they'd never really liked each other and Blair had spent most of her time practising her tennis serve against the wall. Then, when she was seven, the Sheridan family had moved away, and Blair hadn't seen them since. Something suddenly occurred to her.
"Um, mother," she began. "Forgive me if I seem a little confused, but didn't – didn't the Sheridans move away?"
"Well, yes, Blair. Nine years ago."
"Didn't they move to California?" Melissa nodded. "And they still live there?" Melissa nodded again. "And I'm going to stay with them?"
"Okay, but this is England."
"Yes." Melissa was obviously not catching onto Blair's point. She wondered how best to explain it.
"Well, California is kind of far away. As in, thousands of miles across the ocean and then across an entire other country."
"Yes, but California is a wonderful place! It's for the best. America has a very similar culture to ours, only a few minor differences, and trust me, honey, you'll have a simply brilliant time. You leave in a week. We wanted it to be a surprise for you!"
Blair gaped at her. Was the woman serious? She eyed her mother.
"Are you on crack?"
"Oh, don't be ungrateful, Blair," Melissa had said reproachfully. Blair's mouth had literally dropped open at this point, her attempt at staying calm and cool leaving her completely.
"Ungrateful? What do you mean, ungrateful? You're sending me halfway across the world, with barely a moment's notice, so that you can swan around Italy doing nothing for two months, and what, I'm supposed to jump up and down for joy? Jesus. Do you actually live on this planet?"
"Don't be so rude, Blair. I'm your mother," Melissa had said, in an icy tone that reminded Blair of herself. Blair's shock had quickly manifested itself into anger, though.
"Yeah, right, and I'm your daughter!" she cried. "Not an unwanted Christmas gift that you just send back to the store when you don't want me!"
Melissa had sighed then, as if she couldn't understand what on earth Blair was making such a big deal out of.
"Really, Blair, you're quite over reacting. It's already been decided and Michael booked your flight this morning, so I'm afraid you've got no choice in the matter." Blair had sat still for a few seconds, staring in pure, astonished outrage between her mother and her mother's husband, who had been perched on the sofa looking as if he wished he could be anywhere but there.
"You're not serious, are you?" she had asked eventually, sure that this must be some sort of sick joke. Her mother had always been a little out of touch with reality, but this? This was ridiculous. Things like this just did not happen. Who the hell booked their sixteen year old daughter a one way flight across the world without telling her? An idea suddenly occurred to Blair and she began looking around the room, searching for hidden television cameras.
"Blair, I really don't know why you're acting like this is the worst thing that has ever happened to you. This is a lovely surprise that we planned for you - it's the opportunity of a life time!" Melissa said. She looked genuinely quite distressed, which only stunned Blair further.
"You really don't get it, do you?" she asked. She spoke slowly, in the hope that her mother might understand. "You are sending me away, against my will, without consulting me at all, and you actually expect me to be happy about it? What is wrong with you?"
At this point, Melissa had lost her temper, which Blair had to admit she'd been quite glad about, because it gave her an excuse to shout and scream and stamp her foot and in the end, after ten minutes of furious argument that essentially went round in circles and got Blair no further in her quest to make her mother understand the ludicrousness of her plan, Blair had let out a scream of pure frustration and stormed up to her room.
She was still sitting up there now, quietly seething, her phone in her hand. With only a week to go before her abrupt departure, Blair knew that she had to tell her best friends, Samantha and Lauren, immediately. But how the hell did you tell somebody that you were being shipped off to California for two months? Blair had no idea. Unsurprisingly, she'd never had to spread such news before.
At least, she thought dryly, her mother had inadvertently given her a crash course in the worst possible way to tell people. Honestly. Blair had a strong suspicion that Melissa had a secret drug habit. There was no other explanation for it. Had she really thought that Blair would be excited? The whole thing was so ridiculous it was almost funny. Certainly, Blair knew, if it had happened to someone else, she would have laughed at the absurdity of the whole thing.
She sighed heavily. She guessed that she might as well get it over and done with. So she lifted the phone to her ear, pressed speed dial number 1, and mentally urged her friend to pick up the goddamn phone.
"Sam? Hi. Are you with Lauren right now? Perfect. Listen, can you meet me at – meet me at the park? I have some news to give you. Like, enormous, earth shattering, ridiculous news that you probably won't even believe, because I sure as hell don't. No, I won't tell you now. Okay, I'll see you in five."
Well, she thought. Here goes.