|THE NOT-SO-NEW GIRL
Lauren Page smoothed down the folds of her short plaid skirt and crossed her legs so that she could admire the shiny new black-and-white Chanel spectator oxfords on her feet a little better. They looked so cute with her thick cashmere socks scrunched down just above the ankle, she thought to herself. She’d been wearing the same green plaid uniform to Miss Gamble’s all her life, but she was in the upper form now—seventh grade, which meant saying goodbye to her boring old Buster Browns and hello to the first boy-girl dance with the hotties from Gregory Hall that was only three weeks away. And as far as she was concerned, upper form meant a whole new Lauren.
She leaned back on the plush, baby-soft leather seat in her dad’s sparkling new Bentley Continental and pressed a button that flipped a mirror on the console in front of her.
Sometimes, she couldn’t believe it herself. The girl who smiled back from the mirror looked nothing like the old Lauren. This one had pin-straight chestnut brown hair that fell softly on her shoulders and shone with reddish and caramel gold highlights, a killer Mystic spray-tan, and cheekbones so sharp they rivaled Hilary Duff’s. Lauren felt a little like Hillary herself, when the Duffster lost all that baby fat and started looking so hot that people whispered she’d had major plastic surgery.
Last year she was a financial-aid pity case, fretting over whether anyone at school would notice that her blue cashmere sweater had been bought secondhand at the school’s charity shop, which sold used uniforms for half-price, but this year her sweater was a nine-hundred dollar one with a fancy Italian label. Lauren had been worried about getting it stained, until her dad, who used to pay bills from the co-op grocery with change from the kitchen jar whenever his graduate teaching assistant stipend ran out—had told her that she never had to worry about anything ever again. At least not where pricey designer clothes were concerned. Well then. Bring on the twelve-ply Mongolian cashmere.
Lauren grabbed a tall, frosty Voss water bottle from the mini-fridge hidden in the side compartment to calm her nerves.
A head-to-toe Emma Roberts-like makeover was one thing, but there were still the Ashleys to contend with. Lauren could see them now, giving her the daily head-to-toe fashion evaluation and shaking their heads in mock disgust. Even if there was a school uniform and all students were supposed to look the same to eliminate “status consciousness”, the Ashleys always looked like they stepped out of a J. Crew catalog while Lauren looked like she’d stumbled out of an old Facts of Life episode. They never let her forget it, either.
Lauren clenched her jaw. What if they saw through her six-hundred dollar haircut and button-nose job and decided she was just the same old dork she always had been?
What if they looked at her and saw the same Lauren from last year?
She would not allow that to happen. She dug her Black Satin manicure into the Mercedes’ thick upholstery, leaving ugly grooves in the Italian leather. Uh-oh. That was going to cost a fortune to fix. Then she remembered with relief that a fortune was exactly what she had right now. And like Angelina Jolie, she was going to use her money to do something good for a change.
First, she was going to join the Ashleys. And then she was going to destroy them. She wanted to change the world one day, and she was going to start by making the seventh grade a better place to be.
Lauren spied The Ashleys in their usual before-school hangout by the stone bench in front of the playground, the three of them holding matching venti decaf soy lattes and looking beyond bored. They looked so sweet and innocent—not at all like the soul-destroying creatures they really were. She inhaled and said a little prayer to whatever gods watched over made-over twelve year olds with secret intentions.
Today was the first day of the rest of her new life.