Tuesday, July 16, 2013

THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (chapter seventeen: Sweet Dreams)

Chapter Seventeen
Sweet Dreams
    In the dark, Paige and Shiloh could hear Sia and Rebel giggling stupidly through the thin bedroom walls of the Bennet home.  
   “Are you awake, Paige?” Shiloh asked.
   “Yes, of course.”
   Paige threw her pillow at the wallpaper while Shiloh smiled. 
   “Don’t worry too much about what Darcy Donovan said.”
   “Oh, I’d already forgotten,” Paige lied.
   “It does seem strange, though.”
   “What do you mean?”
   “Well, his best friend seems like such a nice person. Ryan is probably the nicest boy I’ve ever met.”
    Paige paused.
    “It could just be your goodness that brings out the best in him,” Paige giggled.
    “I doubt it,” Shiloh said. “Perhaps we’ve just been too quick to judge Darcy. Maybe there is more to him than meets the eye.”
    “Maybe,” Paige said re-adjusting her pillow. “Whatever, I’m so over him.”
    Shiloh wondered, before she fell asleep, if this meant her sister was previously ‘into’ him.
     Shiloh didn’t believe in dating unless it was dating for the future.  She knew Rebel and her younger sisters just wanted to have fun, but Shiloh was a senior and she wanted a boyfriend that would be there for her, who would take things seriously, to the next level, to college and beyond. Shiloh was playing for keeps. She wondered if Paige felt the same.
    “Darcy Donovan,” Paige said sleepily, “is the most arrogant, self-centered boy I’ve ever met. If he never spoke to me again I’d be extremely happy. If he ever does speak to me again, though, I’m going to ignore him. He’s just not worth the effort.”
     Shiloh had a sneaking suspicion, for once, her beloved sister was wrong.  

THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (chapter sixteen: After-words)

Chapter Sixteen
Homecoming had ended on a low note as Rebel and Sia screeched through the auditorium playing a childish game of tag. The younger Bennet girls were the last students to leave and could be heard laughing throughout the exit hall and giggling with a group of boys before piling into the back seat of Mrs Bennet’s car.
    Mrs Bennet, who had made an appearance to collect her younger girls, had joined some of the other mothers towards the end of the evening. At one point, and much to Shiloh and Paige’s chagrin, their mother could be heard talking up their chances of ‘taking those handsome new boys to the prom.’
     Paige, mortified, turned her head and decided to go outside for air. Senta was hiding out there under a tree.
     “Parties don’t do it for me. I’m so over socializing. Our younger sisters always make us look like total losers. Besides, dancing is overrated, even at an arts school.”
     Paige thought her middle sister had a point even if she had a tendency to sound about twenty years older than she was. Rebel had stumbled outside by now with Sia and was laughing uproariously and speaking way too loudly.
     “Have you seen that new Senior? Darcy Donovan? What a jerk! I honestly didn’t know where to look!  When his friend, who’s actually nice, agreed to host a party at their house Darcy looked like he was about to throw up! Perhaps Aussie boys are only hot in movies…”
     “Oh, please, Rebel,” Senta added, “there’s no need to be so descriptive.”
     “Yes, stop exaggerating, Rebel”, Sia added. “Ryan Bingley’s way hotter. Senta, you should stay out here and stop eating so much ice-cream – it will only make you fatter and then you’ll make me look worse as your sister. You need to be more social, chillax...”
    “Are you serious Rebel? Rys Wickam has just arrived and you know I think he’s a candidate to take me to the prom...” Rebel interrupted.
     “It’s not open to everyone,” Paige stated simply.
     “Well, I’ve spoken to Mackenzie Bingley and when she becomes leader of the Praise & Worshipfuls and votes on the Princesses’ next mixer, they’re going to open it up to ‘specially invited guests,’ and that’s when my lovely sisters get to invite me.”
      Paige couldn’t believe what she was hearing or how boy crazy her youngest sisters were. It was embarrassing. She resigned herself to talking to her parents about their behavior. Perhaps her father could send them to an etiquette camp where they were sure to learn some manners.
       Paige was so over homecoming by the time she pulled on her seatbelt. Darcy’s words had stung her beyond the point where she ever wanted to speak to him again.
      “How dare he say I wasn’t good enough for him? As if I’d want him!  A webisode series does not make a star…”
      “Never mind, Paige, at least now you don’t have to acknowledge him,” Coco said as she piled into the back seat. They’d promised to drop Coco home as she lived close by.
      “I think I can safely say, I’ll never willingly talk to him again.”
      “Much less dance with him,” Shiloh added as she crawled in.
       Mrs Bennet had also been filled in on the story.
      “I wouldn’t talk to him or dance with him or go out with him even if he begged you to…”
      “I think I can safely say Darcy Donovan is the last boy in the world I would ever date,” Page assured both her sister and her best friend. 
       As the girls dozed Mrs Bennet commented about the Princess mothers to Paige;  
      “All they wanted to know was where Daddy plays golf and when I told them Mr Bennet doesn’t play golf, one of them actually turned their back on me. And as for that rude boy Darcy Donovan – I’d be quite happy if I never had to see him again.”
      “I’m pretty sure you’ll never have to,” Paige added.
      “Well, he was quite rude when I asked him where Rebel had gone. He just shrugged and turned away. His friend was quite nice though.”
       After dropping Coco home, The Bennet sisters were relieved to arrive at their own place a short while later. Their house was modest but welcoming, rustic but warm.

THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (chapter fifteen: Truth or Daring)

Chapter Fifteen
Truth or Daring
     Ryan looked at him incredulously.
     “I can’t believe you’re standing alone, Darcy. California Girls are hot.”
     “Says who?”
     “The classic song, for one. Mate, if you don’t pull your head out of the clouds and stop sulking we’ll never have a senior year to remember, let alone a junior one.”
    “Never mind, we’ll probably get to repeat it in Australia if my father has his way,” Darcy added sarcastically.
     “Not if we get involved and get good grades and start meeting women,” Ryan added optimistically. “There are so many fine looking girls here...”
     At this point Paige and Coco were standing almost directly behind Darcy and Ryan, but the boys seemed oblivious to this.
     “You have been talking to the only girl I’ve given a second glance to all night.”
     “You can’t be serious. What about her sister? I just saw her somewhere around talking to her friend...” At this point, Paige and Coco were silently listening on the balcony above the throng. I was standing by the punch bowl giggling with Honey as we made notes on our cell phones. It was impossible not to overhear the boys talking in their hot Aussie accents above the din.
     “Paige Bennet is one of the most obnoxious girls I’ve ever encountered. I was in debate class with her a few days ago and her attitude really sucked. Plus, she was seriously pushy. But apart from her personality – which left a lot to be desired – I wouldn’t give her “looks” a second glance. In a roomful of attractive girls, she’s somewhere in the middle. I have no idea how a girl, with two such trampy younger sisters (as he said this, Rebel was being swung around on the dance floor, shrieking), can be so pleased with herself.”
     “Shut The Front Door!” Paige said loudly, climbing down the stairs, staring at Darcy and brushing past him in disgust. 
     Darcy could not have misunderstood her meaning, although most of the other people at the dance were way too interested in what they were doing to notice Paige and Darcy. We – Honey and I – raised our eyebrows and busily punched notes into our cell phones.
     Ryan immediately excused himself to get some punch for Mackenzie. Besides, he wanted an excuse to see Shiloh again.
     If Darcy thought that Paige was going to stand next to him, or even near him, much less talk to him again, he was severely mistaken.
    “C’mon,” Paige said, taking Coco’s arm, “The Princesses are expecting us at their table.”
    Darcy, once again was left bristling, red-faced and speechless.
    It was clearly keyed in by me: He’d never encountered such an exasperating person as Paige Bennet. She didn’t even give him a chance to explain himself.
     Wednesday added: Paige regaled the senior Princesses: Shiloh, Wednesday and Coco with the entire tale, while we freshman Princesses sat and listened and whispered in awe.
     Meanwhile… Mackenzie was busy infiltrating the Praise & Worshipfuls – a prayer group she also maintained popularity with - on the other side of the room. Darcy could tell by the way the entire table of fashion forward Princesses looked down at him, that he’d been misquoted. He turned his back on us. As if he cared what a bunch of gossiping females thought!  
     The truth was, he’d thought very highly of Paige. Too highly. After he’d let her win in debate class there was no way he’d let her get the best of him socially.
      I wrote: I think, Paige is way too much for Darcy to handle but he’d never admit it or let her get the upper hand, like she just had. She’s bested him publicly, twice already. What does he expect her to do next? Tell everyone how hot she thought he was? Before she changed her mind?  
    “Besides, what on earth do you say to a pretty girl, who’s already smart? I mean, you can’t tell her she’s pretty,” Ryan wondered quietly to Mackenzie after he’d talked to Shiloh but she’d acted like her usually reserved self. Mackenzie just smiled over her punch and shrugged. Mackenzie was far more interested in who Darcy was interested in because it clearly wasn’t her.  
   “That’s where Darcy goes wrong,” Honey stated. “He should have complimented Paige. Taken the high road and all the rest could never have happened…” Honey and I were eating ice-cream at my place later that night, reflecting.
    “Never mind, Darcy,” Mackenzie Bingley whispered as she walked over to Darcy. “I’m finished making small talk for the night with those girls who think they are it. Besides, I’m getting quite fond of the Praise & Worshipfuls.”
    This was a table full of students who held daily prayer meetings. Mackenzie was keen to infiltrate them as they held a lot of sway over the vote in all things student related. Basically, they held the power balance at Sunrise High School.  
     As long as Mackenzie was ‘stuck’ at Sunrise High School she intended to own the place. Besides, she believed in Jesus and doing unto others, didn’t she?
     “Remember Darcy,” Mackenzie said, “Paige Bennet will never best you. Trust me; she’ll reveal her inadequacies very soon. The truly classless always do. God doesn’t give with both hands.”
     Darcy looked at Mackenzie as if she’d just inhaled glue.
     That night, when Honey and I were being driven back to Honey’s place for a sleepover, I texted before bed (to remind myself of what we had to add in the morning): What Mackenzie really meant, of course, is that the qualities she identified in Paige and her sister Shiloh were ones she herself lacked (and therefore envied).

THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (chapter fourteen: After the game)

Chapter Fourteen
After the game
Sunrise won their first game in a semester (Ryan scored the winning goal) and students and family members crowded into the school gym, swiftly decorated for the occasion.
    The two youngest Bennet sisters were the first girls on the dance floor.  
    Mackenzie, seated with her brother and Darcy and a few of Darcy’s new friends from the basketball team were busily spiking the fruit punch. Some members of the  team started laughing when Rebel grabbed the Rys Wickam and tried to force him to dance with her.
    Mackenzie, who’d promised her new Princess friends she’d be over to join them in “Just a moment”, couldn’t resist a few snide words to Darcy who looked on, bored.
      “Have you ever seen a girl make such a stupid spectacle of herself, Darcy?”
      “Not really, but this is the first time I’ve been forced to attend one of these lame homecoming dances.”
     It was true. Darcy’s father had called and warned him that if he didn’t “fully integrate himself in school activities,” it would affect his decision to fund his college applications. Darcy knew he had no power until he turned twenty-one and could release part of his trust fund and take over the property in New South Wales.  Ryan and Mackenzie’s situations were similar, so they had to “put up” with the school socials and rules. They took a few selfies on their iPhones and texted them to their parents as proof of their attendance. I guess it’s, “Put up but not shut up”  Mackenzie whined.
     Mackenzie was busily picking some lint off Darcy’s shirt after she’d posted her fake smile on Twitter.  
     “Oh well,” Mackenzie said, “I suppose I should grace those irritating little fashionistas with my company. Perhaps I could teach them something about mixers.” Mackenzie had already started to live up to her reputation as the haughtiest mean girl that had ever graced a school notorious for mean girls. (note: Pride & Princesses - the prequel to this story!)
      But returning to my novel… Darcy thought Mackenzie was generally quite funny although he knew Ryan wouldn’t be pleased by his sister’s open snobbery.   
     When Mackenzie walked over to our table, Shiloh and Paige dutifully made room for her. Or really, Paige made a move. Already she couldn’t stand Mackenzie’s falseness, but she was always polite and the fact that one of Paige’s best friends, Coco Madison (who Paige had known since grade school) had just arrived was all the excuse Paige needed to excuse herself and go over to the table where ‘refreshments’ as the Princesses had labelled them, were available.
     “Oh Coco, I’m so happy to see you”
     “Me too, Paige. I missed the game. You know, I have my baby brother to sit and my parents are going through the whole separation thing and I had to stay until dad got in. It’s all right though, I think they’ve sorted out custody and things like that.”
   “What a nightmare, I’m so sorry Coco.”
    Coco was a dance major who did debate as her elective. She and Paige were now officially in charge of the scenery for Spring Awakening.
   “You know, it’s really fine. I’m just glad they’ve both found a way to stay in the same area so I can keep coming to Sunrise and keep being a founding member of the Princesses,” Coco laughed, “though it all seems to have gone a bit pear shaped since we let Mackenzie in.”
    “Wonder which one of the new guys Mr Sparks will choose to play Moritz,” Coco whispered to Paige, flicking her blonde bangs off her face. Mr Sparks had been teaching drama in New York but decided to return to Sunrise on secondment. He’d taught at the school over a decade ago and was way cray cray. But in a good way. He took a lot of medication for his anxiety but he was never short on enthusiasm for his own productions and I should know. I’d been in a few of them during elementary school when they needed some ‘real kids’ to make up cast numbers.  
    “I don’t think the newbies do creative studies,” Paige replied.
    “Oh, well, we always need guys. I’m sure they’ll be lured by the promise of extra credit. Hey, I heard all about the grumpy looking one,” Coco gestured to Darcy, who was glancing over at them and frowning.
    “What did you hear?”
     “Only that you bested him in debate club and he’s still getting over it.”
    “Oh, that. Well, the truth is he was going pretty well, I think he might even have won, then he just stopped. I have no idea why.”
    “Well, maybe we’ll find out. Quick, he’s coming this way.”
    At this point a lot of seniors and juniors and some dance electives had taken to the floor. Because Sunrise was a Performing Arts School many of the dancers were very impressive.
    Although Paige’s younger sisters may have started out looking like a joke they were now partnered with two of the schools best guy dancers and were leading the way and appearing to have a very good time as the DJ played some dated music from the turn of the century – classics from 1999-2009.
    So many people were on the dance floor and the atmosphere was so good, that Paige and Coco were slightly obscured from view by the time Darcy had been joined by Ryan – who’d managed to wander over to talk to Shiloh – under the guise of actually talking to Mackenzie.

    It was Ryan’s problem, really, Darcy thought. He was just way too backward in coming forward. Of course, Darcy wouldn’t hesitate to talk to a girl he really liked but there was an oversupply of pretty girls here. In his eyes, Paige was the prettiest tonight, but it was easier to remain aloof.

THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (Public Snubbing)

Chapter Thirteen
Public Snubbing
The evening of homecoming dance, Shiloh and Paige piled into the SUV with their sisters. There had been a lot of racing between floors of their house in Sunrise with the younger girls (particularly Rebel and Sia) screeching over a lack of bathrooms (the Bennets only had two). As usual, Shiloh had showered quickly and gone to her room to fix her hair and Paige soon followed.
    “I still can’t decide what to wear,” Paige said, pulling out a stylish jacket. Both sisters had modest but fashionable wardrobes but their youngest sisters had theirs stuffed with many clothes of the cheaper and slightly gaudy variety.
    Shiloh sighed, she knew she had to look out for Rebel. As the youngest child she should have been the easiest to control. It just wasn’t the case. And Sia followed everything Rebel did with Senta “tut tutting” behind them.
    “Oh, I smell something delicious coming from the kitchen,” Senta could be heard saying dreamily, as she walked through the hallway, her nose in her latest music score. 
     It was true that Mrs Bennet had whipped up her best fried chicken and mashed potatoes because she always insisted the girls have something to eat before they went out.
     “Finally, I’m ready. How do I look?”
      Shiloh, had her blonde hair piled in a side braid with a few sprigs of diamonte jewels to set off her knee length dress, inspired by pictures of movie stars from another era which she had set about her dressing table. Pretty pink fingernails and a bag shaped in the style of a sea shell ensured that Shiloh, as always, looked a dream.
     “You look perfect.”
     Paige still had her dark locks wrapped around a curling iron and wore no blush or gloss, though Shiloh had hinted some would look good on her. She wore a plain pencil skirt and her Dad’s old letter jacket for warmth.  
     “I think you should wear the ice blue dress I chose, Paige. It suited you so much when you tried it on yesterday.”
    “Done,” Paige said, she couldn’t be bothered arguing with her sister when there were so many other important issues going on in the world.
     “I better go and see if it’s possible to talk Rebel out of whatever trashy outfit she’s decided to wear,” Shiloh stated matter-of-factly.
      Paige smiled. Moments later, Paige looked at herself in the mirror and was reasonably satisfied with the result. She looked slim and strong (she’d joined the school gymnastics team in eighth grade and never stopped going). Her hair was tonged into curls and her clothes were unfussy, just the way she liked them. To keep her older sister happy she added lip gloss and blush before she left the house. Oh, and mascara because Rebel once told her it, “brings out your eyes,” and even though Rebel was wrong about most things, Paige thought she was right about this one.  

THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (chapter twelve: Opening Statements)

Chapter Twelve
Opening Statements
Paige was ready bright and early the following morning. She tried not to look too happy when Darcy arrived late to class with shadows under his eyes, looking as if he hadn’t bothered to shower.
     While Paige got up to speak first, it was clear Darcy was still texting under his desk (even though cell phones in class were banned). Paige smoothed her new plaid skirt over her long knee socks, covered by her sister’s best knee high brown boots and walked to the podium anyway.
     Paige had wanted to look her best today and Shiloh had insisted on her borrowing the boots even though they had cost Shiloh her entire month’s pay working at the ice-creamery in Century City on Saturdays. Paige also smoothed her pony tail because she knew her hair had a tendency towards flyaway unruliness. This, according to Teen Fash Wow!, was not fashion forward.
    Try as he might, Darcy sneaked a peak at Paige’s stunning new look. Her dark hair was in a high ponytail down her back, her entire outfit was freshly steamed and color co-ordinated. She clearly wore mascara to, “bring out her eyes.” She looked hot. But how could that be? He was the only hot one.
     Darcy looked away because he didn’t want her to think any more highly of herself than she already did. Darcy’s long black jeaned legs, stretched out from under the desk as he yawned slightly. Just before Paige began to speak, he made a man-sigh and placed his hand over his mouth.
    The entire class laughed but Mrs Tartt was reviewing notes so Darcy’s behavior was overlooked. Then, some boy whom Paige had once turned down at a homecoming dance, made some sort of snorting noise with his nose and Mrs Tartt was so unimpressed she sent him to the Principal’s office.
     The rest of the class sat up straight and listened in.
“Peer Pressure is More Beneficial Than Harmful by Paige Bennet”

Paige cleared her throat before speaking clearly…

“I’m not going to lie. Nor am I going to bore you all with fancy words and statistics. When I heard the title of this debate, I thought, how is it possible to argue in favor of a statement that is so clearly wrong. It’s so obvious, isn’t it? Peer pressure is harmful – but only if used in the negative sense. Of course, being pressured to drink or smoke or take drugs (some of the kids in class rolled their eyes) is bad. We all know that feeling, but being pressured to make friends, go out, have a good time and socialize, being pressured to be part of something bigger and greater than yourself, a school community and a family; that’s important. Where would you be without other people to rely upon? Where would you be without high standards by which to measure yourself? Some psychologists who specialize in teen mental health think the way to a happier life is to lower your standards to those standards which are considered more obtainable, and some people might acknowledge their point in some instances…”

   At this moment, observers in the room noted that Paige looked directly at Darcy who was crumpled on his desk, apparently half asleep, half awake and using the edge of a compass to clean out under his nails. He was not looking at Paige and appeared to barely be listening to her speech. Paige cleared her throat again and continued speaking…
    “…I disagree. I say, keep your standards high and measure yourself by your peers who also keep their standards high – who want good, clean, honest fun on a Friday night, who want to do well in school and sports and arts and the things that interest them. In short, choose good role models and peer pressure is the best kind of pressure there is.”
    After Paige spoke with passion, most of the class clapped. Darcy appeared the most enthusiastic, so enthusiastic in fact, that he made very loud, rebellious claps on the top of his desk. He couldn’t help himself. 
    Rys Wickham whispered, “Dude? What are you on?”
    Darcy ignored him and stood up. He knew to back out now would look cowardly and he’d never do that.
    He smoothed his dark hair out of his eyes and walked towards the podium as Paige sat down.
    Of course, he hadn’t prepared the way Paige had. He’d had more important things to do last night, but that wouldn’t stop him speaking with passion. After all, he’d won the Schoolboys State Debating Championships back home in Sydney two years in a row. He could come up with a better argument than Paige’s and speak with even more authority.

“Why Peer Pressure Is More Harmful Than Beneficial by Darcy Donovan”
Darcy spoke in a deep, authoritative voice. Peeps immediately sat up and listened in…  

“My fellow students (already Paige bristled at the use of the word ‘fellow’ – already Darcy had unintentionally isolated the females in the class using a male dominated word instead of a gender neutral one, she thought, but since there were only six other students, he didn’t need to rely on their vote)… I’m not going to lie either, since it’s not in my nature (Paige bristled again at his inference that it was in hers…) but I am going to tell you all a story. You may have noticed my appearance right now, I look as if I haven’t showered or changed my clothes for a day (the class laughed – he had them in the palm of his hand already) and that’s because I haven’t… The reason that I haven’t… the reason is…because…”
    At this point Darcy paused. He was going to tell them he’d been up all night visiting his sister who had been recovering from her emotional breakdown at least partly brought on by peer pressure. He knew a personal story would win the captaincy. Personal stories often swayed a side that was sitting on the fence. He realized what he was about to do could have a good outcome for himself but a very harmful one for Blair. If he told the truth about where he was last night and why, that ‘peer pressure’ at an all girl’s school had Blair striving to be the thinnest and most popular and helped to create her OCD, her eating disorder and her depression – that that would be bad for Blair were her news ever to go public. 
    Darcy stopped in his tracks. He paused as the students, hanging on his every word, were stunned to see his mouth close.
    “I’m sorry,” he said to Mrs Tartt. “I really didn’t prepare this as well as I should have.” He turned to the class, “You should vote for Paige, her speech was… impassioned.”
    Then Darcy looked at Paige who was seated at her desk and couldn’t resist adding as he walked out of the room, (under his breath so that only Paige could hear), “even though she was wrong.”

   That night, Paige told Shiloh all about what had happened in debate class that day.    “Of course, I knew he had a point but he didn’t need to say it in such an ungracious way. That’s what debate class is all about - being able to create an argument for or against any topic, regardless of your personal feelings.”
    Shiloh was wide eyed. “Oh Paige, one day your opinions are going to come out when they are least wanted and then you’ll see just what peer pressure is like…”
   “Well, Shiloh, you told me not to hide my light.”
   “And that’s true, you should use your talents and your voice only that… I worry it makes people not realize what a sweet person you are. They don’t know you like I do.”
   “I suppose, but what’s more important, popularity or being true to myself?”
    Shiloh shrugged.
    “Of course I didn’t wholly agree with the argument I had to take, either, but the point is, I won. That’s how it’s going to be when I go to law school. Besides, now I’m captain of the debate team.”
   “I’m happy for you Paige, but at what cost? Just remember, ambition isn’t everything... it makes girls… unpopular.”
    “I know, but being popular isn’t really important to me.”
    “It might be…”
     “We both know you are the sweetest, prettiest most popular girl in school and what sense would there be in competing with you?” Paige joked.
      “Oh, Paige, that’s not true. I envy your conviction. Just be careful. Darcy doesn’t seem like the sort of boy to let a girl win. Besides, we still have to see Darcy and Ryan and Mackenzie at homecoming next Friday night.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (chapter eleven: Drama)

Chapter Eleven
A few streets and one social divide away, Darcy was holed up in the huge double bedroom of his swanky Bel Air mansion changing channels on his flat screen television. The butler had the night off. His housekeeper had gone to visit her sister and the house was virtually silent.
    Darcy was bored and lonely.
    Neither of his parents was home for the weekend – as usual. They’d returned from the east coast for the weekend and his mother was out socializing with the Ladies Of Bel Air Society and his father was ‘working late’ at the bank’s LA office which meant he was probably having an affair with his secretary.
    It was up to Darcy to field the call from his fifteen year old sister, Blair, who was being released from her teen rehab center the next day.
    “Hey,” Darcy said. He felt very protective towards his sister, though it wasn’t cool to admit it. She’d been on his mind since school started.
    “Hey Darcy, where’s mom?” Blair asked hesitantly.  
    “Oh, she had to rush out – something urgent …”
    “Oh… ”
    “Well, I’ll come up to see you tonight, if you’re allowed visitors.”
    “Well, I’m kind of tired now Darcy, but thanks for offering.”
     Already Blair was beginning to think she could rely on Darcy better than her own parents.
     “I’m kind of happy to be getting out of here tomorrow. They say I’m fixed… sort of. Ongoing self-esteem issues from the bullying at an all-girl’s school, that kind of thing.”
     Darcy wasn’t sure what to say so he told her about school.
     “It sounds like fun,” Blair said.
     “Well, it’s different. There’s this debate speech I’m supposed to prepare tonight and there is this girl in my class who is driving me crazy…”
     Blair instantly told him that she’d be fine if he wanted to go do that, then she burst into tears and told him that she’d really expected mom to be talking with her tonight.
     “You know what? I’m coming over,” Darcy said, “the speech can wait. I’ll help you pack your things and even stay at the center tonight if I’m allowed, then I can drive you home tomorrow. I think you’ll feel happier in the new house – we have all your belongings that have just arrived in a box from Australia.”
     Blair stopped crying instantly. Darcy was a good brother – the best. As for Darcy, he knew preparing some lame debate for English class would have to take second place to caring for his sister. He was loyal to his family, he understood his priorities and really wasn’t quite the uncaring person everyone had mistaken him for.

THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (chapter ten: Homeroom)

Chapter Ten
Priorites and Private conversations

   “I’ve decided to help with the Bachelor Auction and the pre-prom party – if you guys still need someone,” Paige told her sister.  
    “Of course, I’ll tell Wednesday.”
    I texted the other girls straight away.
    Shiloh was very excited as they took the school bus home that day.
    “Not a good look,” Mackenzie stated, shaking her head. “I have no idea why you all voted those two in,” she added. Of course we’d offered to drive the Bennet sisters home but there were so many of them. The older Bennets were considered attractive and hardworking but they weren’t rich and didn’t live in a glitzy suburb like Honey (Bel Air) or even the nicest part of Sunrise. They lived, like I said before, on the wrong side of the tracks.
    “Do you want a lift, Sweetie?” Mackenzie asked me.
    “No, my mom’s picking me up after swim practice.”
     “Oh, cool,” Mackenzie said, as if it wasn’t. Being a Princess wasn’t as much fun as she thought it was going to be.    
     I laughed at the thought of her when I adjusted my goggles. I couldn’t deny our swim coach (we call him Mr Suave), isn’t our main reason for participating in the club. He’s really old (almost thirty) but relatively cute and his girlfriend hangs out in the bleechers like his personal fan club every afternoon except Fridays. Some women need to get a life. Whatever.
     As I wrote that into my story it suddenly occurred to me that maybe Mackenzie’s meanness was rubbing off on me. That wouldn’t be great, would it? My mom wouldn’t be proud, so I scribbled it out but I totally think women need to have their own interests outside of their boyfs. (that’s short for boyfriends) and husbands, don’t you? I’m going to put that under my advice column: Wednesday’s Advice. I think Honey’s got that covered though. I’m just her PA stand in. Honey is by far the most popular freshman. She’s pretty in the right way and definitely nice as well. I’m so glad we’re friends. I always beat her in swimming races though.
       Darcy pulled up into his driveway around the same exact moment as Honey and I were being dropped home.
       Mackenzie, having arrived earlier, realized just a glimpse of Darcy’s hotness from her upstairs window brightened her day. He glanced up at her through the car window and waved dismissively. He too had trailed the school bus. He was thinking how much he’d hate having to take public transport in LA as he clicked open the gates without giving Mackenzie even a backward glance.  
    That night, in their crowded but clean and comfortable home, the eldest Bennet sisters (who shared a large, fairy light decorated attic bedroom) were talking in their beds.
    “Okay, do you want to hear it? I’m ready.”
    “Of course,” Shiloh replied encouragingly. Shiloh was always encouraging. Her real ambitions, however unfashionable to her sister, lay in her heart and her home.
    Paige read her speech standing on her bed with Shiloh listening in rapt adoration. When Paige spoke, standing on her bed, it was almost like she was on fire – but in a good way. Paige got quite impassioned about topics whereas Shiloh was always happier sitting quietly and listening.
     At the end of Paige’s speech, Shiloh clapped.
    “Oh, Paige, I think your argument is amazing!”
    “Do you Shiloh, really? I mean, I’m not sure about my competition, except that he’s an Aussie misogynist, obviously.
     “What does that mean?”
    “It means he doesn’t think girls are as good as boys… just because… we’re girls!”
     “I didn’t think he’d be that popular, but then half the class voted for him. I think it’s because I’m too outspoken… not popular…”
      “Mmm… but don’t you think Ryan’s good looking?”
      “I suppose so,” Paige said hesitantly, lest Shiloh should think she liked him. Ryan was cute, but Paige was way too argumentative for such an easy going boy. He was obviously perfect for Shiloh, though.
    “I think he’s one of the cutest guys I’ve ever met,” Shiloh added.
    “Oh Shiloh, you like him!”
    “Uh Huh. I think I do.”
    “Well, be careful. He and his friend are just so…”
    “So what?”
    At that question Paige began to smile. She hugged her polka dot pyjama-clad legs and laughed.
    “So rich...”
    “I overheard Elle saying they are the richest people in the Southern Hemisphere. But I never thought Australians were class conscious. Maybe we’re just misinterpreting him. Darcy seems snobbish but maybe he’s just shy, like me.”    
    “Maybe… but I doubt it.”
    “Oh well, I’m sleepy,” Shiloh yawned. Paige went to flick the dimmer.
    “Remember,” Shiloh said, “Tomorrow… don’t hide your light.”

Paige smiled in the dark.