Two: Party Girls
"Jayde, you have got to come!" Alyssa begs me. "It's, like, the party of the year! Everybody who's anybody will be there, and it will totally solidify your status as the Queen Bee of WBA!"
Three weeks have passed since Annah and I first started school at Withered Blossom Academy, and they love me already. It's a bit disconcerting, really. Yes, there are the school bitches who are a prerequisite for any American high school, but I can stick my nose up and act as mean as the best of them, and they quickly grow to respect me. I'm nice enough to the few scholarship kids that they don't automatically hate me for coming from money. There aren't really any rebels. Nobody rolls their skirt up as high as it will go or smokes cigarettes in the car park at lunchtime.
While I've made friends out of everyone, even being seen in the library often enough to gain the liking of the nerds and geeks, Annah is the opposite. Since our little weird moment in the cafeteria on the first day we've barely spoken. I try to keep things normal by asking her bright questions but she answers in monosyllables and stares out of the window as I drive us to and from school in our black Aston Martin.
I've met some kids from the public high school, too, thanks to my friends. It's called Withered Blossom High School or WBHS for short. One of them, Kyle, is throwing a party that is apparently the party of the year. I shrug at Alyssa as we sit nibbling at our lunch.
"I don't know, Aly," I say. "I haven't been to one in ages."
"You have to go!" Drew joins in enthusiastically. "People kill for those invites, you know. There aren't that many from our school going but we've known Kyle since he was in nappies. Come on, please?"
"I have this cute little black Gucci dress that would go with your eyes so well," Lucy-Kate tries to entice me. Even reserved Clara is nodding.
"Alright," I give in. I haven't been to a party since the going-away one my friends threw me in Manhattan, but I remember that they can be occasionally fun. Most of the time I only showed up because it was expected of me.
"Great!" Alyssa beams, and against my will I glance over at the table where Venice sits with her own friends. They are all discussing something avidly. Probably the party, which is being held tomorrow night and is the main topic of conversation. She catches my eye and gives me a small smile. Against my will I return it.
I don't bother asking Annah to go to the party. Parties aren't her thing, and anyway, there's no guarantee that she'd even acknowledge me. I know that I did wrong by forgetting to ask her to sit with us earlier, but I honestly forgot. How long can she hold a grudge for that?
She doesn't eat in the cafeteria. She prefers to eat alone outside instead, hunched at a picnic table picking at her sandwich. I can see her now out of one of the huge windows. Annah's blonde hair flutters slightly in the cutting September wind and she shivers. I get up, deciding to take her a coat from our car. I don't want her to freeze to death.
After warning Drew, the greedy thing, to keep away from my half-eaten bowl of pasta, I head out of Centre Hall round to where the car park is. High brick walls and a metal gate unlocked only when security guards before and after school are present protect the million dollars' worth of vehicles within. Our Aston Martin is parked in the prime spot nearest the sweeping marble steps.
As I unlock the car I have a sudden flash of inspiration. Maybe while I'm giving Annah the sweater I can ask her to cover for me if our parents say anything. My curfew is nine p.m. on school nights, which is when this party is being held. I briefly wonder why Kyle can't wait a couple more days to have the party on Friday night, but I roll my eyes and shrug it away.
I reach into the backseat and pull out a black Superdry coat, which I always keep back there in case of emergencies. Then I go to find Annah. As I approach her picnic table she looks up, raising an eyebrow, and I see that she's still sitting there even though she's finished her lunch.
"Here," I say, holding out the article of clothing. Looking shocked, she takes it slowly and pauses before putting it on over her school uniform. Instantly her rate of shivering decreases. There's something strange in her expression, a mixture of surprise and something else.
We stare at each other awkwardly for a few seconds before I remember the other thing I wanted to ask her. I lower myself onto the bench beside her.
"Um, Annah, I'm going to a party tomorrow and I was wondering if… maybe you could, you know…"
"Cover for you," she supplies coldly, a flinty mask falling over her face and wiping out the weird expression she had before. I nod gratefully.
"Yes, please. I'll owe you really bad, I promise."
"Should've known that was why," she says bitterly. I blink, wondering what she means, but she says nothing else. I wait.
A minute passes.
When Annah continues to show no sign of answering me I get up. "Well, thanks," I say. I'm sure she'll cover for me; after all, I'm her twin sister, and I'd do the same for her if she ever decided she wanted to live life a little.
Not too much living though. I'd rather she didn't go to prison.
The next night, I'm standing in my bedroom with Alyssa, Clara, Lucy-Kate and Drew sprawled on my bed as they watch me watch myself in the mirror. I've just pulled on Lucy-Kate's black Gucci dress and I straightaway decide it's the best dress on Earth. Silky and straight to just above my knees, lacy full-length sleeves and the perfect size to boot. I put a hand on my hip and strike a supermodel pose.
Alyssa giggles as she gets up. In her hand is a huge bag, which I was stunned to discover contained nothing but makeup. No wonder she's in charge of putting our faces on.
"Hmm, definitely this lipstick," she says, but Clara wrinkles her nose.
"Nah, that's too bright. She's dressed in black. We can't have her going in with coral-pink lips."
"You're right," Alyssa gives in. "What about this, though? It's Yves Saint Laurent's Rouge Rock, it'll be perfect!"
I close my eyes and sit down at my dressing table. In the darkness of my eyelids I wonder what Annah's doing, closeted in her room. She's probably obsessing over her homework. I feel momentarily sorry for her. After all, she works so hard, but my effortless grades nearly always beat her laboured-over ones hands-down. Neither of us can help that state of matters, can we?
"Finished!" Alyssa announces a few minutes later. I open my eyes and gasp at my reflection. The girl in the mirror is me, undeniably, but she's my alter ego: she's racier and bolder and gives off that bad-girl vibe I've never accomplished before.
My lips are stained a glossy dark red, strikingly dark eyes outlined with black eyeliner that makes them look bigger and more mysterious. It also draws attention to my beauty spot and ivory cheeks. My hair, gleaming golden waves, are loose down my back with some sort of dark glitter in them. I cannot believe that a girl with nothing more than the world's greatest collection of makeup can effect this radical a change.
The girl in question, Alyssa, is smirking over my shoulder. "I'm not going to ask you what you think, because your opinion is obviously along the lines of "Holy cow, my best friend is a genius"," she says. "Am I right?"
"Aly, you are a genius," I agree fervently. Drew laughs.
"That she is. Every time we go out it's Aly that does our makeup and I'm an idiot if she doesn't become a stylist when she's older."
"You're already an idiot," Lucy-Kate cuts in, and I laugh as I hold up my hand to stop the bantering.
"Alright, girls, enough. Let's go!"
Drew tosses me a pair of black Christian Louboutin heels and we make our way down to the garage. Lucy-Kate, Drew and Clara are going in Clara's Escalade. Alyssa is riding with me. The two of us get into my car and we set off, me tailing the others. I don't need to worry too much though. Even if Alyssa didn't know the way every single car on the road seems to belong to rowdy teenagers. All I have to do is follow them.
Kyle lives in a mansion on the outskirts of Withered Blossom, which is impressively big but not as big as ours. The streets around are so clogged with cars that I finally cut dangerously in front of a reversing Porsche and steal its space. The driver flips me the bird but leaves otherwise peacefully.
"Come on," Alyssa says. She drags me out of the vehicle and we join the line streaming towards the doors. On the way we find the other girls.
"Aly! There you guys are!" an obviously drunk Kyle yells at us from the doorway. "We've all been waiting for you to introduce the new chick to us!"
"And here she is," Alyssa laughs, pushing me forward. "This is Jayde Kasperoni, everyone!"
She's managed to push me inside while they were talking and I smile coolly at Kyle. "Hey."
"Kasperoni, huh?" he grins, inspecting me. ""Grab yourself a drink, they're in the kitchen."
I gave up drinking after I experienced my first and last hangover, but I don't tell him that. I nod politely and make my way forward alone. Alyssa's ditched me to chat to Kyle but Clara is still at my side. I hadn't pegged her to be the partying type to be honest.
"The kitchen's this way!" she yells. She has to shout over the heavy beat of Usher's Oh My Gosh pulsing everywhere.
"Thanks!" I shout back. We navigate the ocean of bodies through to the kitchen. I wrinkle my nose at the sight of a pile of vomit lying on the floor and a faceless couple making out.
"Do you drink?" Clara asks. I shake my head, smiling.
"The hangover put me off alcohol for life, to be honest."
"Same for me," she giggles. "I mean, at first I thought that I'd developed a sudden allergy to sunlight and loud noises. Then my big brother came in and asked me how my first hangover was!"
We laugh as we select a pair of sodas. You can't go wrong with Coke, after all.
"Where are the others?" I ask curiously.
Clara makes a disparaging noise. "Probably well on their way to being sloshed and doing things that mean loads of lovely blackmail for me. Wanna join in?"
"Sure," I agree. We return to the living room, which has been converted into a dance floor. I take out my phone and snap a few pictures of Lucy-Kate dancing wildly to Rihanna's We Found Love and Alyssa kissing some zit-speckled WBHS boy in Spin the Bottle.
I glance at my watch a little while later, and see that it is nearing midnight. I'd better be getting back home. I find Clara, who says she'll stay a little longer to bring Lucy-Kate and Drew back with her, and Alyssa who tells me to leave her. She's apparently staying the night. I laugh a little at how drunk she is, and drive away.
I have misgivings as soon as I see that the hall light is on at home. Why should it be? Both my parents are meant to be in bed. Is it Annah?
As soon as I unlock the door, I am faced with the sight of both my parents standing with their arms crossed, eyebrows raised and one foot tapping. I cringe. But right after that, I straighten in a white-hot flash of anger.
Annah, my twin sister, told.
"Well, Jayde?" My dad says. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
"I'm sorry, Dad," I say stiffly.
"You better be," he snaps. "I'm not having you risk your GPA taking a hit just because you lost a few hundred brain cells at a pointless teenage gathering on a weekday. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Dad," I say.
"Go up to bed now," my mother breaks in. "You're grounded for the next two weeks."
My eyes widen. I haven't been grounded since I was thirteen, and that means my parents must really have been mad.
Annah's fault. Again. Why did she rat me out?
I ascend the staircase to the third floor where my bedroom is, leaving the lift. Half of this floor belongs to me; the other half belongs to Annah. I stop outside her door and rap twice.
She opens its. There is a guilty expression on her face which tells me all I need to know. I take a step backwards, away from her, disappointment and fury chasing each other round my body in equal amounts.
How could she do that to me? Why would she want to?
"I can't believe you," I tell her. My voice is even and empty. It's so emotionless I've nearly even fooled myself, but only I know the full extent of the anger that simmers beneath my words.
Maybe Annah does guess at it, though. In any case she swallows as though fortifying herself and opens her mouth to say something.
But I don't want to hear what she says. Firing her one more poisonous look to last her through the night, I spin on my heel and storm away.