Snark and Circumstance (Novella) - By Stephanie Wardrop

Chapter 1: The Devil Wears Polo

I’m not one to judge, but the new kid is a stuck-up asswaffle. I discover this first thing on the first day of our junior year, when he marches up to me in homeroom and announces, “You’re in my seat.”

I blow the bangs off my forehead and look up from the depths of my backpack to see a tall boy with dark curls glowering down at me. I don’t remember him from last year. I was new to the school then and not exactly winning any popularity contests, but I still knew who everyone else was. And I would definitely have noticed someone this obnoxious.

“Excuse me?” I say.

“You’re in . . . my seat,” he repeats, more distinctly this time.

I try to sound reasonably bright and cheerful but this kid’s kind of freaking me out. “It doesn’t look like anyone’s assigned seats yet. At least, there’s no nametag here.”

He sighs a little and tries again. “I always sit in the center seat, second row.”

“How am I supposed to know this, since I have never seen you before in my life?” I immediately regret the way that sounds, but I’m nervous. And when I’m nervous, my mouth often works independently of my brain. It’s the bane of my existence, really.

Before he can say anything else, Mr. Mullin walks in with a newly shaved head that draws some hoots from the guys in the back. I point to the desk next to me and the boy sighs again and slides into the open seat—but not before he gives me a look that would wilt lettuce.

Great. Last night I promised my mom I would try harder to make friends this year. The school day hasn’t even officially begun and already I’ve almost wrestled a guy for a chair. Even though he started it.

I turn away from the Chair Nazi as Mr. Mullin picks up a sheaf of printouts and starts taking roll. People are still jabbering about their summers at the Cape and the Patriots’ prospects and how awesome this year is going to be, but more quietly as Mr. Mullin announces that we have a new student at Longbourne High. He calls out, “Mike Endicott?”

“It’s Michael Endicott,” says the Seat Freak, exactly the way I would imagine the Queen of England would respond to you if you called her “Lizzie.”

Mr. Mullin rubs his shiny, pink-topped head with one hand and nods under his palm. He says, “Okay. ‘Michael’ it is. Hey—‘Endicott?’ Like the street in town? Where the Starbucks is?”

Michael smirks a bit and replies, “Yes. But we were here before the street. And the Starbucks.”

Mr. Mullin just nods and starts reading names at the top of the attendance sheet again.

Despite myself, I turn back to Michael and demand in a whisper, “You’re not new here?”

“I grew up here.” He sounds as if I should have known this somehow. “But I went to a different school.”

“Where? Charm school?”

He almost smiles then, but his dark brows form a deep V.

“No. I went to the Pemberley School,” he says, turning to the front of the room. He then turns back to me and jerks his head toward Mr. Mullin. “Is that you?”

“Is what me?” I splutter ungrammatically, until I realize that Mr. Mullin has been calling my name for some time now. People are looking at me with the sort of pity or contempt you would feel for any girl over the age of two who is unable to recognize her own name. They are ready to direct me toward the special classrooms.

“Yes!” I call out, too loudly. “I mean, I’m Georgiana Barrett . . . except everyone calls me Georgia.” Mr. Mullin just nods and marks something on his notebook—maybe a little checkmark next to my name in the “Potential Space Cadet” column.

“ ‘Georgiana?’ ” Michael repeats.

“What?” I practically growl, because I am embarrassed enough already.

“It’s just an unusual name.”

I explain, “Well, my dad teaches at Meryton College—Victorian lit—and he named us all for characters in novels or famous women in nineteenth-century England.”

He’s looking at me steadily with his intense dark eyes. I think of those snakes that hypnotize their prey, only there’s something also alarmingly appealing about these eyes, something that makes me want to keep looking into them.

“You didn’t grow up here, did you?” he asks me after a few moments of appraisal.

“No. We moved here last year,” I admit, before I can wonder how he figured that out.

“I can tell,” he says as the bell rings.