"The board has agreed that given the circumstances, a serious penalty is in order."

Elise van der Camp sat in a stiff backed chair across from the principal of the Manhattan School of the Arts, where she had spent the past two years, zoning out as he rattled off her impressive rap sheet – a string of failing grades, multiple offenses for drug use and truancy, and of course her crowning feat – getting caught doing lines of coke while being fucked from behind on the baby grand piano in the school auditorium. It was fair to say, as she looked over at her grimacing parents, that she was in serious shit.

"Elise's talent and your generous donations to the institution have allowed her to get away with as much as she has," Principal Cooper drawled, "unfortunately, this is the last straw. The expulsion will be effective immediately. I must say, I didn't expect this from you so early in the year, Elise."

Her mother dropped her head in her hands. Her father grit his teeth, looking increasingly furious as the lecture from Principal Cooper continued. Elise looked at her hands, fingernails bitten down to the quick, cuticles ragged and torn, playing at the fraying hem of her grey school skirt and the splitting ends of her white blonde hair.

She was escorted to her dorm to collect her things, loading them into the back of the long black limo her parents had picked her up in. Tears welled in her eyes as the limo pulled away from the curb. She loved New York.

"You will be living at home from now on," her father said tersely, "boarding school doesn't agree with you, it seems."

This was rather anticlimactic, as it lasted only a few days. Elise sulked around the house, pointedly ignoring the teacher they'd paid to tutor her.

"She's driving us all crazy, Frank," Andrea van der Camp hissed to her husband, "And there's no private schools in the area that will take her with an expulsion on her record."

Frank was a reasonable man. A distinguished attorney, he was married to the waiflike blonde heir to the Crispy Treat fortune and father to three children; the youngest of whom was Elise, a pianist of considerable talent, who couldn't seem to behave. He sighed. Maybe he'd let her grow up too fast, and a year or two of rules and regularity would suit her.

"I know someone who can get her into New Haven Prep. I don't like that she'll have to board, but it's close and I've been promised that they're strict, especially with drugs. Most importantly, they'll keep this quiet while I'm running for office."

And thus, Elise van der Camp, who had spent the last two years living in a pressure cooker of musicians and artists in the heart of New York City, found herself rolling up to the sleepy, well-manicured grounds of New Haven Prep in a freshly pressed blazer and pleated skirt.

"You've got one chance," her father warned. "One shot. No drugs, good grades, no trouble. You do well, and we'll support you in anything you choose to do after you graduate, including sending you back to New York for college. You don't, and it's back to house arrest. Take this seriously, Elise."

Her mother held her hand out. Elise reluctantly dropped her credit cards, cash, and the keys to her Mercedes into her mother's expectant palm. "We'll give them back when you've proven you can get your act together. "

She gave her mother a stiff hug. Her father patted her on the back. She watched, left only with her suitcase, with a mixture of relief and regret, as her parents sped away.

Well, shit.