So she doesn’t dislike me! Or maybe she just hates Amanda more. Either way, I’m thankful, and I cal goodbye to her retreating figure. She waves a

hand and moves into the stairwel as Nate comes out of it. He approaches us in his quiet, friendly manner.

“Going to bed soon, ladies?”

Amanda smiles sweetly. “Of course.”

“Great. Did you have a nice first day, Anna?”

It’s so peculiar how everyone here already knows my name. “Yeah. Thanks, Nate.”

He nods as if I’ve said something worth thinking about, and then says good night and moves on to the guys hanging out at the other end of the hal way.

“I hate it when he does that,” Amanda says.

“Does what?”

“Check up on us. What an ass**le.” The bathroom door opens, and a tiny redhead maneuvers around Amanda, who just stands there like she’s Queen


of the Threshold. The girl must be a junior. I don’t recognize her from the circle of desks in senior English. “God, did you fal in?” Amanda asks. The girl’s pale skin turns pink.

“She was just using the restroom,” I say.

Amanda sashays onto the tile, her fuzzy purple slippers slapping against her heels. She yanks the door shut. “Does it look like I care? Skunk Girl? ”

Chapter six

One week into school, and I’m knee-deep in Fancy International Education.

Professeur Cole’s syl abus is free of the usual Shakespeare and Steinbeck, and instead, we’re focusing on translated works. Every morning she hosts

the discussion of Like Water for Chocolate as if we were a book club and not some boring, required class.

So English is excel ent.

On the other hand, my French teacher is clearly il iterate. How else to explain the fact that despite the name of our textbook— Level One French—

Professeur Gil et insists on speaking in French only? She also cal s on me a dozen times a day. I never know the answer.

Dave cal s her Madame Guil otine. This is also excel ent.

He’s taken the class before, which is helpful but obviously not really helpful, as he failed it the first go-round. Dave has shaggy hair and pouty lips, and the peculiar combination of tan skin and freckles. Several girls have a crush on him. He’s also in my history class. I’m with the juniors, because the seniors take government, and I’ve already studied it. So I sit between Dave and Josh.

Josh is quiet and reserved in class, but outside of it, his sense of humor is similar to St. Clair’s. It’s easy to understand why they’re such good friends.

Meredith says they idolize each other, Josh because of St. Clair’s innate charisma, and St. Clair because Josh is an astounding artist. I rarely see Josh without his brush pen or sketchbook. His work is incredible—thick bold strokes and teeny exquisite details—and his fingers are always stained with ink.

But the most notable aspect of my new education is the one that takes place outside of class.The one never mentioned in the glossy brochures. And

that is this: attending boarding school is like living inside a high school. I can’t get away. Even when I’m in my bedroom, my ears are blasted by pop music, fistfights over washing machines, and drunk dancing in the stairwel . Meredith claims it’l settle down once the novelty wears off for the juniors, but I’m not holding my breath.


It’s Friday night, and Résidence Lambert has cleared out. My classmates are hitting the bars, and I have peace for the first time. If I close my eyes, I can almost believe I’m back home. Except for the opera. The Opera Diva sings most evenings at the restaurant across the street. For someone with such a

huge voice, she’s surprisingly smal . She’s also one of those people who shaves her eyebrows and draws them back on with a pencil. She looks like an

extra from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Bridge cal s as I’m watching Rushmore from the comfort of my mini-bed. It’s the film that launched Wes Anderson. Wes is amazing, a true auteur

involved in every aspect of production, with a trademark style recognizable in any frame—wistful and quirky, deadpan and dark. Rushmore is one of my favorites. It’s about a guy named Max Fischer who is obsessed with, among many things, the private school that kicked him out.What would my life be like

if I were as passionate about SOAP as Max is about Rushmore Academy? For starters, I probably wouldn’t be alone in my bedroom covered in white

pimple cream.

“Annnnn-uhhhhhh,” Bridge says. “I haaaaate themmmm.”

She didn’t get section leader in band.Which is lame, because everyone knows she’s the most talented drummer in school. The percussion instructor

gave it to Kevin Quiggley, because he thought the guys on the drumline wouldn’t respect Bridge as a leader—because she’s a girl.

Yeah, well , now they won’t. Jerk.

So Bridge hates band and hates the instructor and hates Kevin, who is a twerp with a disproportionately large ego. “Just wait,” I say. “Soon you’l be the next MegWhite or Sheila E., and Kevin Quiggley will brag about how he knew you back when. And then when he approaches you after some big show,

expecting special treatment and a backstage pass? You can sashay right past him without so much as a backward glance.”

I hear the weary smile in her voice. “Why’d you move away again, Banana?”

“Because my father is made of suck.”

“The purest strain, dude.”

We talk until three a.m., so I don’t wake up until early afternoon. I scramble to get dressed before the cafeteria closes. It’s only open for brunch on

Saturdays and Sundays. It’s quiet when I arrive, but Rashmi and Josh and St. Clair are seated at their usual table.

The pressure is on. They’ve teased me all week, because I’ve avoided anything that requires ordering. I’ve made excuses (“I’m all ergic to beef,”

“Nothing tastes better than bread,” “Ravioli is overrated”), but I can’t avoid it forever. Monsieur Boutin is working the counter again. I grab a tray and take a deep breath.

“Bonjour, uh . . . soup? Sopa? S’il vous plaît? ”

“Hel o” and “please.” I’ve learned the polite words first, in hopes that the French will forgive me for butchering the remainder of their beautiful language. I point to the vat of orangey-red soup. Butternut squash, I think. The smel is extraordinary, like sage and autumn. It’s early September, and the weather is stil warm. When does fal come to Paris?

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