The one redeemable thing about having to attend Constance Billard, is that the library is massive, and hardly anyone ever comes in. So many volumes to occupy her time, and no, she's not hiding from the big bad world outside. She's expanding her mind. A weak defense maybe, but it's not like she's ever going to have to use it. It's not like anyone has actually talked to her since school started.
So she reads, she learns, and does really well on tests. Knowing next semester she'll probably end up in all the AP classes, which is fine, it's where she'll belong. Just as she belongs here, with nose firmly buried in book.
The only consolation she finds in this predicament is that he's here every day just as she is, a kindred spirit her mother would say, and something funny happens in her stomach whenever she spots him walking in.
The bewildered looking lonely boy with a crew cut, slightly pointed ears, and a St. Jude's tie that never seems knotted correctly. The one who clearly looks as out of place as she feels, fresh up from the subway from a borough she knows isn't Manhattan.
It's clear he doesn't fit in at this school.
With all the pretty girls circling the halls like vultures, she adjusts her glasses and knows the feeling.
It's a mistake.
When she gets the invitation, she knows the girl's mother must have gotten a class list or something, and simply invited everyone on it. She's not friends with the birthday girl, the name only vaguely familiar.
She protests her attendance, but mom is having none of it, stating she needs to interact more with other kids her age. She needs to get out more. She needs to make friends.
It's a battle she doesn't win, and now she's in a room full of faces she sees every day, but doesn't really know any of them. She finds a corner as sticks to it, forever a wallflower never a rose, and keeps playing with her glasses because she can't figure out what to do with her hands.
Eventually there's a cup of punch to occupy them, but it smells like her Aunt Yoriko's liquor cabinet, so she occasionally spills some into the plant she's been standing next to for the last hour to make it look like she's drinking.
She figures another thirty minutes worth of awkwardness should be enough to appease her mother, when she seems him, library boy, sitting on one of the couches. She doesn't know how long he's been there, no doubt a victim of the same general invite list as she was. Watching as he tries to talk to someone, completely ignored as if he doesn't even exist, she can't help but feel sorry for him as the person he tried to converse with just stares at him like they don't know what he's even doing here.
Their eyes meet for just a second, long enough to make her gasp involuntarily. There isn't enough distance, she thinks. He's never noticed her in the library because she was always far enough away for him not to see her staring, but this, now. The two of them so clearly outcast, pitched to the same pack of wolves, there must be some solidarity he sees in her because now he's making his way over.
Eyes shifting to the floor, the plant, her shoes, everywhere but his rapidly approaching form. She catches sight of Serena van der Woodsen taking the spot he'd just vacated, and briefly wonders what might have happened if he sat a few seconds more.
"Library right?" He asks, instead of saying hello, and she nods in reply staring down into her cup. Shock and embarrassment course through her, that he's noticed her as much as she's noticed him. "So do you read a lot or is it just an escape thing?"
She laughs before she can help it, and just like that the ice is broken, with him smiling down at her.
"Dan," he says offering his hand. "Dan Humphrey."
When she turns to look up at him, to offer her hand, her glasses fall halfway down her nose and she quickly pushes them back up.
"Nelly Yuki," she replies.
No matter how many times she's read the text, (twenty-five), part of her still can't believe he sent it. Eyes scanning the letters of his words with such scrutiny she had to use her saline drops to clear them up.
You feel like getting a little culture?
She's really not sure what he means, doubting Dan's definition is anything like her parents. (The opera, theatre, or something else as horrifically boring).
Standing in front of the mirror, she has no idea what to wear.
Is it a friend thing? Is it a date?
Times like this she wishes she had more girlfriends, or you know, friends. Asking her mom is out of the question because she'll make such an ordeal out of the whole thing, it'll be ruined.
She ends up deciding on a simple black skirt, green cardigan, and these retro cat's eye glasses she'd worn only once before.
Apparently Dan's idea of culture is the kind that goes pop.
He takes her to some museum in Chelsea she never knew existed, that is full of random artwork, collectables, and trinkets from bygone eras of movies, TV, and radio. The first thing he shows her is a Beatles candy bar, that leaves her wondering just what candy had to do with music.
There are a million things with Elvis' face on it, as well as tons of Star Trek stuff. (From all four shows, not that she watched.)
Dan talks at a rapid pace and uses his hands a lot when he wants to emphasize a point. It leaves her staring blankly at him, partly because when he talks so fast she can't really understand him, and mostly because he is clearly the sweetest boy she has ever met.
She likes him.
Not just because they're both big brains that hide away with books rather than deal with the school of piranhas, not just because he's adorable and friendly.
He genuinely seems to like her back.
He's the one who noticed her noticing him in the library, he's the one who came up to her at that party and started a conversation, he's the one leading her by the hand around a pop culture explosion.
Excusing himself for a minute, she's left to wander idly through a few displays on her own, and ends up in front of that famous four-headed painting of Marilyn Monroe.
"Sooner or later," Dan says, magically reappearing behind her, "everyone ends up in front of Warhol."
For a second she wonders if it really is the painting and not just a copy, when Dan puts his hand on her shoulder, derailing any sense of coherent thought. She can feel the blush spread from where his fingers rest, all the way up her neck and straight into her cheeks.
Before she even realizes what she's doing, whether it's brave or just plain stupid, she turns and grabs the front of his shirt pulling him down for a kiss.
Fireworks go off in her head, and he's so shocked at first he doesn't move, but then he's kissing her back and for a few seconds she feels like the prettiest girl on the Upper East Side.
When they break apart, she's expecting him to ramble, but he's oddly quiet.
"Isn't the guy supposed to make the first move?" He asks.
She's embarrassed, mortified, and all she wants to do is run the other way.
But then he leans in close, pushes her glasses back from where they fell down, and kisses the tip of her nose.
She smiles so wide he can't help but mirror it.
Wallflower Nelly Yuki is pretty sure she just got herself a boyfriend.
She doesn't even like soccer, yet here she is sitting on the bleachers while Emily shouts something unintelligible in her native brogue. Her friend so soccer (football, she insists, call it what it is!) mad that she feels the need to attend school matches because her mom won't let her go all the way to New Jersey where a pro team apparently plays.
There's hardly anyone watching, the two of them lone supporters for St. Jude's side, Emily loud enough for all the players on the field, coaches, and other random spectators to hear.
Nelly can't help but duck her head every time her friend starts chanting a song for some team she loved back in Scotland. One that probably sounds fine when it's sung by a few thousand people like it's supposed to, but a lone redheaded Scottish girl is just embarrassing.
There are some small mercies, however, that fact that she gets to watch Dan Humphrey run around for a couple of hours hasn't escaped her. Watching intently as he plays the ball, a fierce stray thought of wearing that number eleven jersey of his briefly overtakes her mind, having to shake her head to snap out of it.
Emily told her what position he played, striker or centre-back, something she doesn't remember, but something that gets him awfully close to the goal. Her voice rises as he swings his leg back for the kick, on her feet and cheering alongside her friend at the goal causing such a ruckus, that both teams turn to look at the two crazy girls in the stands.
Emily doesn't judge her obsessions, with the whole soccer thing she really has no room to, but it's one of the reasons they're such good friends.
"This is kind of exciting," the redhead says, pressed up against her back, head hovering just over her shoulder as they both peer around the corner of the hall where Dan's locker happens to be.
It's not crazy, Nelly tells herself, staking him out like this. Just like it's not crazy she passed that trophy shop over on Lexington, the one with the half-off special sign on the window.
It's not crazy that she bought a soccer trophy and had Dan's named engraved on it. Just like it's not crazy she just happened to be passing by his locker every day, enough times to actually have learned the combination, and slipped the trophy inside between periods.
Emily is bubbling with energy, so much that Nelly wonders if she has a crush on Dan too, or just a thing for danger.
The bell rings and they straighten up a little, trying their best not to look so conspicuous. Tensing immediately when she spots him at the end of the hall, she regrets the idea a thousand fold.
Emily giggles uncontrollably the closer he gets to his locker, and Nelly wants to tell her to shut up for fear he might actually hear them.
Her breath shudders as he twirls the lock around, and stops altogether when he lifts up the latch and pulls out the trophy. Watching as he stares at it with a curious arch of his brow, and starts to look up and down the hall for a possible perpetrator, she doesn't know what kind of reaction to hope for.
But when he smiles, and starts to laugh, it's as good a response as any.
She once read that love is supposed to make you brave.
Truth is she's never been more afraid, standing in the courtyard watching him, waiting for her moment. Not knowing what she's going to say or how she's going to say it. If it'll even come out as English, or just a bunch of psycho babble that will send him running to the hills.
She can do this.
She's going to do this.
Taking a step forward, watching him shift books around in his backpack, she freezes and remembers something else she read.
How it's usually about the person themselves and not the object they strive for.
It's hard to think about why she likes Dan Humphrey. Why she follows him around, why she makes sure to be in places she knows he will. Why she does unabashed, off the wall things like steal his lunch and duck away before he knows it's her.
Emily tells her every day to just say something to him. To talk to him like a normal person would, and hey, he might end up liking you back, he might end up wanting more. But nothing is ever going to happen if you don't do anything.
Dan zips his backpack and takes off for the gate.
She follows, because for now, it's all she can find in her to do.
(Junior It Girl)
Oh god, oh god, oh god.
She doesn't know what she did to magically appear on Blair Waldorf and her little minion's radar, but here they are trying to get something from her.
"Look," she snaps. "I know you're not really interested in how my family owns half of Tribeca."
"Of course we're interested," the blonde one replies. "You're the newest member of our little club."
"Which is only for the smartest girls of the junior class," chimes the brunette.
She doesn't know what they're up to, but it all sounds rehearsed.
"Our junior class only has thirty girls," she shoots back. "We're already an elite club." Snatching her violin off the table, she needs to get out of here, like right freaking now. "Can I go now?"
But no, they only get more insistent, they only push harder.
"You know what would be hot?" The blonde again. "You, us, at G-Spa."
"I don't drink."
"Saks Fifth?" The brunette.
"Yogurt on the steps?" The blonde.
What is it with these two? For supposedly smart girls they're having an awful hard time taking a hint.
"Lactose intolerant. Look, I really don't want any friends." Let alone the likes of you, she doesn't say. "All I want to be is left alone."
"Why is that?" The brunette again. "Recent heartbreak? You know with us the guys will never stop calling."
Oh my god just let me leave! Her mind shouts.
"What? No. I have a boyfriend. I…" Have absolutely no reason to explain myself, she thinks, and turns to leave before either of them can get another word in.
"It's like they were the mob or something," she says, before grabbing her cup of coffee taking a careful sip, and trying not to knock over the stack of SAT books balanced on the table. "They just wouldn't take no for an answer, I mean, I don't even know what they thought they were doing trying to get me to hang out with them."
Dan, of course, thinks the whole thing is nothing short of hilarious, and can't stop grinning as she vents her sense of dread over the whole situation.
"Sounds like," he starts, pausing to take his own sip of coffee, "you were being recruited."
Her eyes go wide, almost choking at the mere idea that she could even warrant such an invitation to join the resident mean girls.
"But why?" She wonders aloud. "We've been in the same class for three years, why now?"
He takes a moment to think about that, while she idly flips through a few pages of the book she knows she can't possibly concentrate on.
"It's Blair Waldorf," he starts, waiting for her nod to go on, "which means there is definitely something sinister behind it." She nods again while he taps his fingers on the cover of another SAT prep manual. He stares at it for a second before frowning.
"What's your class rank?" He asks.
"First," she says. "You know that."
"Of course," he says nodding, "but what is Blair's?"
"Second," she replies.
"And what's your dream school?"
"Yale," comes out in all but a whisper, the realization hitting her like a cold icy knot in the bottom of her stomach. Everyone knows Blair Waldorf has been dreaming about wearing Yale blue since the day she was born. Looking up at him again, fear in her eyes, "she wants to destroy me."
Dan smirks. "A little dramatic don't you think?"
"It's Blair Waldorf," she all but shouts, repeating his exact words. "She's trying to get in my head, and you know what? It's working. Oh god, oh god, what is she gonna do?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he says, reaching across the table to take her hand. "Calm down okay? If we're right about this, at least you know something is coming. I mean, she can't get to you if you know she's out there plotting or whatever."
She manages a small at that, but still, the dread is there. Knowing a cougar is coming to eat you is really no different than a surprise attack if the end result is going to be the same.
"Hey," he says softly, giving her a reassuring squeeze. "It'll be okay."
She doesn't believe that.
"And besides," he goes on. "You got me in your corner."
That she does believe, giving him a real smile before leaning across the table for a kiss.
It's not true.
That's all she can think when the familiar chime of a gossip girl blast goes off on her phone. Queen B's evil plot at subterfuge not going directly for Nelly herself, but tangling Dan into her widow's web, organizing a picture of him and Serena van der Woodsen looking awfully friendly in some bookstore.
It's not true because they don't really know each other, even though their respective siblings are best friends, there isn't a whole lot of social interaction between them.
It's not true because, while everyone knows he used to have a thing for miss too-tall blonde, he's with her now. He's happy.
It's not true because he's Dan. Because he would never…
God, this is Blair's plan. To get her so crazy she can't even think straight enough to concentrate on the SAT's, and damn her even though she knows it's all a lie, it's still working.
A few girls pass her by with cruel smirks on their faces, and she wants to scream.
But Dan, with timing as good as ever, finds her before she bashes one their heads in with her violin case.
"It's not true," he says quickly.
"I know," she replies. "I just…"
"Yeah," he sighs taking her hand and scowling at the onlookers. "You think some people in this school would be allowed to be normal." He says more to them than to her.
Walking down the hall, judging eyes staring at the two of them, she walks a little straighter when Dan gives her a reassuring squeeze. Out in the courtyard sits Blair and her cronies at a picnic table, and for a second she thinks Dan is going to march right up and tell her off.
For playing with people's lives simply because there is someone out there smarter and better than her. Because he has absolutely no fear of them and it's just something he would do.
But he doesn't.
He just walks her right in the middle of the courtyard, out in the open for all those who thrive on rumors to see, and kisses her like she's the only thing in the world that matters to him.
When they break apart there's no applause, no great big movie moment, everyone who cared enough to stare look as bored and judgmental as ever. But Nelly catches Blair's gaze for just a second, her face that same blank mask, but the eyes burning with an angry defeat.
Nelly smiles serenely, and walks away holding her boyfriend's hand.
(Senior Social Faux Pas)
She doesn't know why it hits her so hard.
The fact that it's her last high school party, that it's probably the last time she'll be (somewhat) on top of the food chain.
It's not like she's actually going to miss any of them, Kati, Isabel, Penelope, or Hazel. Means to end is practically all they were, putting up with their cruelty so she could attend the best parties. She doesn't like to think what kind of person that makes her, but it's a little late for regret now.
Riding in the limo, listening to them all harp about who's going to be at the party, who's wearing what, and the endless droning on about the bombs that gossip girl had dropped on them at graduation, she stares out the window watching the light blur offering no opinion.
It's the usual crowd splitting march as they walk inside.
She takes her first drink the second they walk in, and isn't without a cup in her hand for the next few hours.
It's all a mass of light, sound, colors, and what she does flailing her arms around could almost be called dancing. It's freeing, being so inebriated, to let all the weight of this whole high school experience lift from her shoulders.
Bumping into Nate Archibald, getting called drunky, it's nothing to the warm pleasant feeling inside her blood. She is floating and free despite Isabel chirping through clipped lips not to embarrass herself.
Then Dan Humphrey walks in with that friend of his while she's faltering toward the bar for more, and she's too drunk to keep the crush she's harbored balled up any longer.
Stepping after him, trying not to trip over her own two feet, hands reaching out for his attention.
"Um Dan, you're here." She almost wants to laugh, or cry, or something. She didn't think this would be so hard. "There is something I have to tell you, and only because I'm drunk."
The friend looks like she going to laugh, or chime in, some kind of interruption she puts the quash on that as quickly as she can.
"Ssh," she says with a raised finger. "And I'll probably never see you again. I-um…"
And suddenly, there is Serena van der Woodson smiling and beautiful, looking over in their direction and it cleaves the courage cleanly from her drunken tongue. What she's doing, what she can't possibly do…
"Oh god, I have to go."
She runs right back to the bar and asks for a double.
Never has had her head felt so heavy, just as it never hurt so much to open her eyes. On the floor in a room, with no idea just where she ended up. Too much to drink, yes, too much exertion with the dancing and Dan…
Did she really?
It's difficult to decipher what really happened, and what could have happened through her drunken stupor.
She can barely move, throat dry and left arm half-asleep. Squinting against the stray sunlight peaking though half-drawn curtains she spots the sight of Hazel and Penelope passed out a few feet away from her.
Isabel lay strewn just under the window, Kati doesn't appear do be anywhere, and she tries to push her self up, sending her head and stomach swirling. Taking a deep breath she tries again, makes it to her knees and eventually her feet.
She finds her way to the bathroom, flips on the light and closes the door. Turning the faucet on she washes away the remains of last night from her face, looks up to her blurred form in the mirror, and finds her glasses hanging broken from her necklace.
Frowning slightly, she realizes that it really is over. Once she leaves this room and walks out the door she's never going to see anyone who's passed out on that floor again. It's not sadness she feels. It's just…
Of high school, of childhood, of so many things.
She takes a big drink of water, walks into the bedroom which she only now realizes is Penelope's, finds her jacket and walks out the door not looking back.
On the sidewalk she pulls out her phone to call a cab and sees she has three voicemails, two from her mom and one from a number she doesn't recognize. Ignoring the first two, she listens to the unknown number and almost drops the phone when his voice comes from the earpiece.
Hey Nelly, it's Dan. I just wanted to say… Well, I know last night must have been embarrassing for you, but it was flattering none the less, and maybe part of me is a little sad I won't get to see you drunkenly confess other random things next year. Good luck at Yale, and who knows? Maybe I'll see you around.
She laughs, so big and bright she has to cover her mouth, and people on the sidewalk pass her by with amused looks on their faces. Waving down a cab, she climbs in the back seat feeling ten feet tall.
It's the end of some things, yes, but the beginning of so many others.