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Mandy Hubbard

Prada and Prejudice

Chapter 1

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a teen girl on a class trip to England should be having the time of her life.

At least, that's what I thought. Instead I'm miserable. It took me two weeks to convince my mom I was responsible enough to go on this trip instead of staying with my dad for the rest of the summer, eight days to rush-order a passport, and precisely twenty-four hours to regret it. It's my first full day in London and instead of seeing Buckingham Palace or Big Ben or the Thames, I'm sitting in Belgaro's cafe inside my hotel, wishing someone, anyone, would give me the time of day.

The point of this trip was to tour all of London's historically significant sights as a precursor to European history. Sophomore year starts next month, and it's supposed to be the Year We Pad our College Applications. At least, that's what the pamphlets said.

Last year, I never would have felt this desperate. My best friend Katie and I never wanted to be one of the in-crowd zombies. In fact, we made a sport of heckling the A-list.

When the yearbooks came out last spring, we drew mustaches on the popular girls and wrote little quotes of the stupid things they'd said in class.

And then Katie moved away. Without her around, it's nearly impossible to convince myself that I'm happy on the D-list. How can I be? I'm the only one on the D-list.

It all started when I called Katie during lunch, two days after she moved. It's probably pathetic to admit it, but I had started eating my lunch in the bathroom. I was miserable, and I needed my friend's support.

So there I was, blabbing away on my cell phone in the corner stall. I had no idea Trisha Marks (cough-SNOB-cough-cough) had walked in. She overheard the whole thing — even the part where I said cheerleaders were modern day courtesans. As you can imagine, it didn't go over so well. At least, not once Trisha looked up the definition of courtesan on her handy-dandy iPhone.

Now I'm hated by pretty much every pom-pom-wielding airhead at my high school.

I look up when the door chimes, and to my horror see three of my classmates stride into the room. Angela, the lanky blonde, has no less than three bags with cute little rope handles, Chanel, Gucci, and Armani proudly emblazoned across each one. Summer, her petite best friend, walks quietly in her shadow, a Juicy bag in hand, her dark wavy hair cascading down her shoulders. Mindy walks beside them, looking like the normal American teen she is: her messy brown hair is in a bun, and she's wearing a lace-embellished pink tank top and destroyed denim jeans. The three of them laugh at something I can't hear.

Basically, they look like they're having the trip I dreamed of. The three girls might not be the A-list, but they're certainly on it. And since Angela Marks is Trisha-the-demon-cheerleader's little sister, she's sworn in blood to defend her honor. Or, you know, give me the evil eye and ditch me, even though we're assigned travel-buddies. It's her fault I can't leave the hotel without breaking Mrs. Bentley's golden rule: Safety in pairs. Never go anywhere alone. Blah, Blah, Blah.

And now they'll see me wallowing in misery like a total loser. I shrink back in the leather booth, hoping the big leafy palm next to the table is enough to obscure my face.

They cannot know I'm sitting here, two empty glasses of Coke next to me, like I've been here all day. Because the truth is, I have been here all day.

The group activities won't start until the day after tomorrow. We'll be visiting museums and palaces and going on double-decker bus tours. I can't decide if things will improve then, or just get worse. Sometimes I feel more alone when I'm surrounded by my classmates than I do when I'm actually by myself.

Why did I think this trip was going to be different?

It was supposed to be my chance to change everything. I guess I thought if we were thousands of miles from home, I'd be just as far from my old reputation. I was wrong.

For the record, I don't think it's humanly possible for me to be friends with Angela.

She definitely shares Trisha's gene pool, if you know what I mean — all the way down to the sneer she makes every time someone annoys her. But Mindy is usually in a bunch of honors classes with me, and last year sometimes we'd end up as lab partners in Chem. Maybe if I was a little more outgoing, Mindy and I would be friends by now.

She seems cool, I think, as I watch her roll her eyes at Summer when Angela's not looking. If I'd been assigned as her buddy for this trip, she wouldn't have ditched me. I just have to get Angela to begrudgingly accept my presence, and then maybe we could all hang out as a foursome. If I'm lucky, maybe we can switch buddies entirely.

The trio of girls set their shopping bags in a heap on the booth next to mine, oblivious to my presence behind the leafy palm. I can't see what they're doing, but I imagine Angela is picking up the menu and trying to decide between the spinach salad with no dressing or a glass of water. I'm pretty sure she's anorexic, which is easier to handle than the idea that she's naturally perfect. I mean, really—her collarbone could cut glass.

"So, should I wear this red one, which shows more cleavage, or my sparkly yellow tube top tonight?" Summer asks. She must be rifling through a bag, because all I can hear is crinkling plastic.

"Yellow tank. Definitely. It's more clubby," Angela says. "But what shoes can you wear with it?"

Seriously — clubby? Figures they're going to break all the rules and hit a club. I never would have the guts to do something cool like that. All I have on my schedule is an in-room movie rental, which is sounding more pitiful by the minute.

Summer sighs, this great melodramatic heave that makes it seem like she's just found out she flunked sophomore year before it even started. I picture her frowning her big pouty lips and wrinkling a perfectly groomed brow. "I dunno. I swear I packed my black Guccis, but they weren't in my bag."

"Those aren't Guccis. They're knockoffs," Angela says in a sharp voice.

Oh, snap. I look down at my Old Navy flip-flops poking out from under the table, and then slide them further underneath me.

"So?" Summer says, her voice rising an octave. "Do they look that bad?"

Mindy says, "Well, it's not like guys can tell the difference."

Angela makes a growling sound. Her minions have spoken back, so she must be trying to assert her dominance. I don't speak Angela, so I can't know for sure. I imagine right now she's flipping her platinum blonde hair over her shoulder while rolling her eyes. "Well, I can. Did you see that girl at the coffee stand this morning? She was wearing fake Pradas. I mean, seriously. Does she really think she's fooling someone?"

Yeah. Angela is seriously the most stereotypical Valley Girl I've ever met. She's a walking cliche. It doesn't stop people from worshipping her, though. With flawless skin, sparkling blue eyes, and the bounciest hair I've ever seen, I can't really blame them.

Now I imagine Mindy rolling her eyes, wishing they were having a more intelligent conversation. The kind she could have with me, for instance. We could he strolling up and down the fancy walkways and admiring English architecture while we debate the theory of evolution. Or at least how much we hate Mr. Thomason, our Honors Chemistry teacher from freshman year. During our first lab together, I almost burned off my hair with a Bunsen burner and all I got from him was a lecture in front of the entire class. The man has no sympathy.



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