I hope you enjoy it, Team Canterwood!
HOW’D YOU DO IT?
Brielle sipped the tea I’d made her and gave me an appreciative smile.
“I missed this,” she said. “You making tea for us. I tried to make a cup after you left, and it was so gross! I mean, I don’t know how you mess up tea, but I did!”
This I had to hear more about. “How’d you make it exactly?” I asked.
Brielle rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “Um, poured water into a mug. Dropped in my tea bag. Put it in the microwave for a minute and a half. Took it out and added a pack of Splenda.”
“Oh, sweetie,” I said, reaching over from my end of the couch to pat her leg. “No tea bags in the microwave, remember?”
Bri smacked her forehead with her hand. “Duh! Ugh! No wonder the tea tasted like burned rubber. Ick.”
“Well, I’m here now, so I can service all of your tea-making needs,” I said. “Now tell me, how did you get here?”
“It wasn’t easy,” Brielle said. “But I talked to my parents a lot about what I wanted for myself. What they wanted for me. You know my parents—they’ve always been concerned that I don’t take school seriously enough. At first, they were convinced I only wanted to go to boarding school so that I could goof off more and get out from under their roof.”
“That does sound like your parents,” I said. “Have to admit, though; you don’t have the, erm, best track record with grades.”
Brielle raised her tea mug. “I take total responsibility for that and accept it. I wasn’t a model student at Yates. I did the bare minimum to get by and used you and Ana a lot for help. I fessed up to my parents that I hadn’t been doing my best.” Bri took a sip of tea. “I told them I wanted a fresh start at a school that I already knew had a stellar reputation—Canterwood.”
“Were they blindsided by the idea of boarding school? I am. It’s something we never talked about. I mean, did Ana know? Why Canterwood, really? Why even boarding school?” I had so many questions for Brielle. We might be in the common room all day.
“I want to let you know, first, that I didn’t choose Canterwood to come and step on your toes. I know you’ve got a new life here. New friends, new riding circle—new everything.”
I shook my head. “Please. I wasn’t worried about that, and I don’t care about stuff like that. You know it.”
Brielle smiled. “I know. But it’s just something I wanted to say. Boarding school has been in the back of my mind since you got accepted to Canterwood. I never brought it up to anyone because it seemed like such an out-there idea for me. My grades weren’t that great at my current school, so why would I transfer to a harder school?”
I nodded, listening.
“Well, it’s because of you, actually. You inspired me, Lauren. You were a model student at Yates and obviously a much better candidate for Canterwood than me, but you pushed me to want to try. I felt like I wouldn’t get a fair shot at Yates because my teachers know me as ‘Bri the kind of ditzy girl’ and the boys know me as ‘Bri the girl who is guy crazy.’ Everyone has an opinion of me that I felt would be hard to change.”
“I know all about that,” I said. “Reputations aren’t easy to change. I hate hearing you say that teachers think you’re ‘ditzy,’ though. You’re not, Brielle. I don’t think any of our teachers ever thought that.”
Brielle raised her eyes to mine. “If not that, then they definitely thought I wasn’t working up to my potential. It was a repeat note I got on all of my report cards.”
“I’ll give you that as long as you acknowledge that you know you’re capable of doing the work and getting great grades.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Brielle said. “No one has any preconceived notions of me. The teachers will view me like a new student, and I’m going to work my butt off to impress them. I want a good reputation in the classroom. It just kind of . . . clicked for me over the summer that I was wasting a lot of time focusing on boys. They’re just so not worth it right now!”
“Whoa!” I said, putting up a hand in a stop motion. “Who are you and what did you do with Brielle Monaco?”
Bri laughed. “I’m serious! Guys are great, okay, fine, but I was sooo obsessed with flirting and getting a guy that if I’d put half of that work into school and riding, I would have been getting awesome grades and would have been a stronger rider.”
“Oh! I have to interrupt! It’s killing me,” I said. “Are you riding a stable horse? Which horse is it?”
Brielle’s face morphed into a giant grin. “Nope. I’m not riding a stable horse. Laur, my parents bought Zane from Kim! He’s coming today! I have my very own horse!”
“Omigod!” I squealed. “BRI!”
The albino gelding had been a school horse at Briar Creek for years. Brielle had been the one to ride him the most, and she loved him.
“I know! Mom and Dad said if I got bad grades at any point, though, the first thing to stop is my riding. There’s no way I’m letting anyone take that from me, so you know I’m going to work hard.”
“When did you apply?” I asked. I stretched my legs out on the couch so my left foot rested on top of Brielle’s knee.
“I wrote a letter to the headmistress and asked if I could submit myself for consideration in August,” Bri said. “It was so late in the year that I was sure she’d say no. I got an e-mail back, though, with the go-ahead to submit my transcripts and stuff.
“Did you tell anyone then?” I asked. “I wouldn’t have been able to keep that to myself.”
“I told Ana,” Brielle said. “She told Taylor, but they were the only people who knew.”
Students passed by the common room, laughing. Thankfully, the door didn’t open and no one came inside. I wanted every second of one-on-one time with Bri that I could get.
“How did Taylor respond to your news?”
Brielle stared into her tea mug, then back at me. “He was totally fine with it from what Ana said. We still weren’t speaking after the voice-mail fiasco. Ana said Taylor told her that he didn’t care that we’d both applied.”
“What about Ana? I feel bad for her! She’s the only one of us left.”
“I feel the same way. She was supersupportive of my applying and thought it would be really good for me. I could tell, though, that she was sad and hiding it. I’m just glad she has Jeremy. It’s not the same as having a best friend, but they’re close.”
Almost two hours later, Brielle finished her story. I’d interjected every so often with questions. In front of us were two empty tea mugs—we’d drained two cups each—and napkins with crumbs from the kitchen’s brownies.
This was a new side to Brielle. An academic-minded Bri who wanted to be a better student and rider.
“After you see all of the cute boys on campus,” I teased, “I give you three days before you’re gaga for them.”
“Nooo!” Brielle said, her tone a half whine. “Don’t do that to me. I’m still . . . weak. You can’t tell me about cuties this early in my detox.”
I laughed so hard I felt my face turn red. “Okay, okay,” I managed to get out between laughs. “No boy talk.”
“Except about your boy,” Bri said. She raised an eyebrow. “I never said I couldn’t talk about my bestie’s boyfriend.”
The warm blush didn’t fade from my face. I hadn’t had much time during Parents’ Weekend to talk to Brielle about Drew. Now I could talk to her all day about Drew! Maybe not all day, but . . .
“Look,” I said. I woke up my BlackBerry, went to my “Drew” album, and set it on slide show. I held my phone between us, and Bri oohed and aahed at the pics. A lot were candids that I’d snapped of Drew swimming or riding. Some were of us that we’d gotten friends to snap of us together.
“Asking about Drew is dangerous,” I added. “You’ll have to slip me Sleepytime tea to make me be quiet after I tell you the fiftieth story about us.”
“Um, I’m still the same Brielle,” she said, a wicked grin on her face. “I want to hear boy stories!”
“You asked for it.” With that, I snuggled back into the couch pillow and told my best friend all about my boyfriend.
First Aladdin M!X edition June 2013
Copyright © 2013 by Jessica Burkhart
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.