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Sunset Boulevard Part 16

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"G.o.d, you'd think Knowledge would know to not to let guys like that in. Did you see his hair? It was, like, sprayed on." Amanda flipped her extensions over her shoulder as she named the beefy bouncer whose job was to keep Saucebox as exclusive as possible, even though, to Serena, it felt exactly the same as every other bar she'd been to recently.

"Serena?"

Serena whirled around, ready to have another one of those so great to see you conversations with someone she'd probably met once. Instead, she saw a familiar, smiling face that immediately took her back in time.

"Oh my G.o.d, Iz!" Serena squealed excitedly. She slid off the smooth bar stool and threw her arms around Isabel Coates, a fellow Constance Billard alum who'd gone to Rollins College down in Florida. She was super tan and had highlights in her shoulder-length blond hair. She automatically looked over Isabel's shoulder, sure she'd see Kati Farkas, Isabel's best friend and constant sidekick. Isabel and Kati had done everything together back in high school. Kati even turned down admission to Princeton so they wouldn't have to be separated. But instead of Kati, a girl with a ski-jump nose and straight brown hair stood next to Isabel.

"This is my girlfriend, Casey," Isabel announced proudly.

"Oh." Wait, did that mean girlfriend girlfriend? Serena noticed Isabel's hand intertwined with Casey's.

"We met in a women's studies cla.s.s." Isabel smiled adoringly at Casey.

There's her answer.

"This is Serena van der Woodsen. We went to school together," she explained.

"Nice to meet you, Casey," Serena said, holding out her hand to the tall girl, who took it gingerly.

"Nice to meet you, too. I haven't seen any of your movies," Casey announced self-importantly.

"How's Kati?" Serena asked.

Isabel sighed and shook her head. "She has this, like, football player boyfriend and is pledging a sorority that wears pink sweatsuits to cla.s.s. It's awful," she sighed disdainfully. "Casey and I pretty much do our own thing. But what about you? I saw your movie. You were pretty good," Isabel allowed.

"Thanks," Serena said, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. "Things are okay. Just working a lot. We're filming a sequel to Breakfast at Fred's that's coming out in summer, so that's fun..." Serena trailed off. Even though she'd been on the cover of the October issue of Vanity Fair, part of her felt stuck. After all, she'd come home from her big premiere to her same pink childhood bedroom in her parents' sprawling penthouse. If possible, she almost felt less grown up than she had last year, especially since she now had an agent and a publicist who told her exactly what to wear, what to say, and who to be seen with.

"Sounds great!" Isabel cooed. "Anyway, I was just showing Casey all the old places we used to go. Remember how we used to like, spend hours trying things on at Barneys? I just can't believe we were ever so young. Things have changed a lot," she mused, nuzzling her blond-highlighted head against Casey.

"Things have changed," Serena agreed. Less than a year ago, she and Blair and Kati and Isabel would meet before school to smoke Merits on the Met steps and imagine their lives in college. Now, Blair was a poli-sci major at Yale, Isabel was a lesbian, Kati was a sorority girl, and Serena was a movie star.

"So, have you seen anyone?" Isabel asked.

"No." Serena shook her head. For her, only two people really mattered: Blair and Nate. She and Blair had tried to keep in touch, and once Serena had sent Blair a package full of Wolford stockings and black and white cookies in a Barneys bag-all of Blair's favorite New York things. Blair had reciprocated with a stuffed bulldog wearing a Yale T-s.h.i.+rt. They'd send occasional e-mails and texts, but never anything long or involved. It was fine, though. Blair and Serena were the type of friends who could go weeks without speaking, then pick up right where they left off.

As for Nate... they hadn't talked since he left, to sail the world for a year. Serena wondered if she'd ever see him again. But she didn't want to think about that right now.

Or ever.

"Are you going to Chuck's New Year's party tomorrow night?" Isabel asked, draining the rest of her drink. "I mean, I know he's, like, such a misogynist, but I figured, you can only protest so much, you know? I prepared Casey."

"Wait, didn't Chuck go to military school?" She hadn't thought about Chuck-with his sketchy history, his trademark monogrammed scarf, or his questionable s.e.xuality-for months. But the last she'd heard, after getting rejected from all twelve schools he'd applied to, he'd gone to some underground, in-the-middle-of-nowhere academy. Of course her parents saw Chuck's parents socially, but they never mentioned him. It was an unspoken rule on the Upper East Side that parents didn't discuss their unsuccessful children.

"Who knows?" Isabel shrugged. "The party's on, though. I saw Laura Salmon at City Bakery this morning and she told me she spoke to Rain Hofstetter at some lame Constance alum tea party that Mrs. M organized. Thank G.o.d I missed that. But, anyway, I guess she talked to Chuck? I don't know. It's at the Tribeca Star. But I guess since you're a movie star and all, you probably have to host some MTV special or something, right?"

"Well..." Serena trailed off. In truth, she already had an invite to a party at Thaddeus Russell's Chelsea loft. Thaddeus had been her Breakfast at Fred's costar and was a true friend. But he wouldn't mind if she stopped by to say hi and then went off to Chuck's party.

"I'll be there," Serena chirped. She suddenly couldn't wait for New Year's Eve. How could she not go see her old high school crowd? While she may not have been thinking of them all that much recently, it wasn't like she'd forgotten them.

And they certainly haven't forgotten her.

I will always love you.

a gossip girl novel.

the secret is out 11.03.09.

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