Chapter 1– Southern Belle Rule #5: Dress Well and Presentable at All Times
The plush گلابی carpet was starting to aggravate Cara in unimaginable ways. She remembered begging her mother for گلابی carpet years پہلے because all the girls in the neighborhood wanted گلابی carpet. When she got it, she had been the only with that color carpet. She remembered how proud she felt boasting to the other girls about how she was the first with گلابی carpet. Over the years, she realized how ridiculous the color گلابی was. گلابی is for little girls and a week from now, she would no longer be a little girl. She will be an official southern belle. The carpet was jeopardizing everything.
Making a mental note to herself to fix the carpet, she retreated downstairs to where she smelled بلوبیری waffles کے, waffles that told her that her mama was home. She moved a little faster until she reached the kitchen. Standing over the counter with a Southern Living Magazine in her hands, her mama munched on her waffles کے, waffles with her eyes intent on the magazine. Cara felt a little jolt of happiness in her bones at the sight of her mother. She was almost never ہوم in the mornings.
Like most southern women in Brantley County, her mama had chosen to cut her pale blond hair shorter than before. She wore a stained تہبند, برساتی around her waist that was tilted to the left. Under it was a white cotton t-shirt and regular blue jeans. Around her neck was a string of pearls to give herself a dramatic flair. Despite the fact she was cooking, she wore white heels that made her legs appear longer than usual. Regardless of how her mother felt about being in the south, she still acted like a true southern woman.
“Hi, honey,” called her mom from the magazine, “I found a new recipe for سیب, ایپل pie. آپ wanna help me out with it tonight?”
“Mama,” complained Cara, “you know I invited Izzy and Savannah over today. I promised we would have the sleepover at my house. Can we make the سیب, ایپل pie tomorrow?”
Cara’s mama stood up straight and placed a hand on her hip. She gave Cara one of her classic disapproval glares. “I don’t remember آپ taking this up with me young lady.”
Cara shifted from foot to foot as she slid into one of the stools in the kitchen. She had forgotten to tell her mama about her plans for the evening. She had invited the girls over at the last minute. She had wanted to go over ideas for her debutante ball. Everything needed to be perfect if she wanted the head of the ball committee to accept her. “Oops, mama, I guess I forgot.” She shrugged her shoulders and slid the plate of waffles کے, waffles closer to her.
“Honey, آپ gotta tell me these things. آپ know how I hate being the last to know.” She grabbed another plate to place the new batch of waffles. “I saw some moving vans outside the house.” She eyed Cara expectantly.
Cara groaned as she realized what her mama meant. “But do I have to do it now?”
“The sooner the better,” replied her mama. She pulled out some chocolate chip کوکیز she had already made before Cara had come downstairs. The کوکیز smelled delicious and made Cara irritated that the new neighbors always received the best of what her mama’s cooking had to offer. “Oh, and be nice, honey.”
“I always am, mother,” کہا Cara. She snatched the plate of کوکیز leaving behind her steaming بلوبیری waffles.
Her mama knew she hated greeting new neighbors. They were normally weirdoes with awful brats running around the house. The families would be from out of town moving down south to get a better perspective on life. In two weeks, they would اقدام out figuring out that the south was not for them. She walked across the سٹریٹ, گلی eyeing the house. It had been beautiful and Victorian styled before the neighbors came. They had boxes cluttering the front lawn and tacky curtains hanging in the windows. Hopefully, these neighbors will اقدام out as soon as possible and take their lawn ornaments with them.
Cara flipped her long curls back as she reached the house. Plastering on a hospitable smile, she rang the doorbell. She could hear a bunch of bustling and loud clangs as someone came to the front door. Before she could have time to fix her hair, a lanky girl with auburn hair swung the door open. She looked frazzled and worn out. Cara was taken aback at the girl’s appearance.
She had ripped white jeans with an oversized black tee that read in white letters: Sarcasm is just another free service I offer. Strands of hair were falling from out the Yankee baseball ٹوپی she wore to keep her hair together. She didn’t wear any makeup and her eyes had bags underneath them. Cara was astonished that the girl was daring enough to allow people to see her in such a tragic state. She seemed to be the same age as Cara, 15, but آپ could hardly tell with her narrow head and round eyes.
“Oh sweet Jesus, sugar, what happened to you?” Cara placed one hand over her دل and stared at the girl from سب, سب سے اوپر to bottom.
The girl’s eyebrows scrunched together as she looked at Cara confused. “What are آپ talking about? Nothing happened to me.” Cara could hear her strong New York accent as she talked.
Cara had to refrain from rolling her eyes at the Yankee girl. “Never mind, sugar, I stopped سے طرف کی to bring over a plate of freshly made cookies. My mama made these at the crack of dawn.” Cara smiled broadly while handing over the cookies.
Yankee eyed them before accepting the offering. “You can come inside if آپ want.” Yankee stepped back to reveal the inside of the house, which was مزید cluttered than the front lawn. “Sorry about the mess.”
“No thanks, darling,” Cara replied, strained. “But welcome to the neighborhood. I’m Cara VanDere, سے طرف کی the way. I live across the street.” Cara took delight in how Yankee’s face fell when she realized that Cara lived in the mansion across the street.
“I’m Jazmyn Langston. I just moved here.” She laughed in a way that showed she was nervous. Cara smiled politely. “Are آپ sure I can’t help آپ to anything? My sister just finished making breakfast. We’re cleaning up this morning. The moving men left the boxes out here even though we told them that we preferred they put them inside.”
Cara continued to smile. She wanted to leave as soon as possible. “How tragic? I have to go, so sorry to be leaving so soon.” Cara turned around to leave and was off the front porch when Yankee/Jazmyn called out to her.
“Wait, I know this is kind of pushy, but do آپ think آپ could help us unpack these boxes? We need all of the help we can get. I understand if آپ have some prior arrangement.” Cara turned back to see the lanky, awkward Yankee tugging at a ہار she wore around her neck. Her green eyes pleaded with Cara to stay and help.
With the same bright smile, Cara said, “Again, I say, how tragic.” With a flip of her curls, Cara made the journey back to her house. She could feel her mama’s disapproval through the silk curtains.
Savannah Henderson kicked her older brother, Hunter, as his character ate hers in the game. This was the fifth time her brother had defeated her. To tell the truth, she wasn’t hurt سے طرف کی this. She was happy to be spending time with him. He had ran away from ہوم because of their parents and now he was back because he didn’t want to abandon his sister. She was glad to have him back.
They sat on his ruff سوفی, لٹانا in the attic. Their parents had remodeled his room when he left and he was force to sleep in the attic when he came back. It was cramp in the attic, but he was able to fit his television, bed, and his PlayStation. There were also posters of emo bands that Savannah had never heard of. کتابیں and trash covered most of the floor. Hunter never did like cleaning up. She didn’t know why she thought his old habits would have died when he left.
“Oh, little sis, when will آپ learn?” Hunter smiled at her as he placed his controller on the floor. His dark brown curls fell into his eyes hiding the same brown eyes she had. She noticed that his southern accent had dulled. It wasn’t southern but it wasn’t northern either. It was in between. “I’m a master at this game.”
“You just got lucky,” کہا Savannah. She pulled a strand of black hair behind her ear. Her hand was uncontrollable and always getting in her eyes. She could never pull the sexy, messy look Hunter had. It looked sloppy whenever she tried.
Hunter shook his head as his curls bounced around. “I didn’t get lucky five times. آپ suck at this game.” Savannah gave up سے طرف کی placing her controller اگلے to his. “Doesn’t giving up feel great?”
“Shut up, Hunter,” she laughed. “What should we do now?”
Hunter leaped off the سوفی, لٹانا and over to his bed. He bent down and stuck his arm under it. He pulled out a پیزا box drenched in grease. Smiling at her, he brought the پیزا over. Savannah made a face once she smelled it. It smelled like the ہوم of a skunk rolled in garbage.
“Don’t be like that, Van,” he said. “Don’t let mama’s pretentious cooking keep آپ from dishing out on some greasy, fattening pizza.”
“I’m not having any of that,” frowned Savannah as she leaned away from the pizza. Hunter plopped onto the سوفی, لٹانا ignoring Savannah’s strong feelings towards his meal. “Can’t آپ smell that?”
“Nope,” he کہا while chewing on a slice.
Savannah stood up on her unsteady heels. “I’m going to make myself something that isn’t foul to eat.” She smirked at her brother as she walked سے طرف کی him and down the attic steps.
Savannah felt jittery as she entered the باورچی خانے, باورچی خانہ after riding the elevator down. Cara had texted her a thousand times reminding her of the sleepover she was having at her house. No one refuses an offer from anyone in the VanDere family. The VanDere family owns Brantley County and several counties surrounding it. Cara’s family built most of Brantley County into what it is today. Because of this, they have money that would never run out. The kids of Cara’s grandkids will never have to work a دن in their life and they would still be able to afford a luxurious lifestyle.
Savannah did want to go to Cara’s sleepover. Everyone in Brantley desires to be invited and many never get to say hi to Cara. This was a huge opportunity for Savannah to climb the social ladder and become one of the most admired girls in school. She might be able to get into the debutante ball. Cara was her key to southern town fame and perhaps, her mama’s approval.
The problem with her plan was that Hunter despised the rich VanDere’s lifestyle. He believed that they are the reason why the south is all money crazy and stuck in their ways. He considers them the root of evil. Savannah noticed that Hunter had become مزید cynical towards the rich like the VanDere’s, the Jackson’s, and their parents, Kourtney and Charles Henderson. Hunter never liked the rich and poor diversity, but he wasn’t as angry over it as he was now. It scared Savannah sometimes that he might do something dangerous to get back at everyone.
She shook her head of those thoughts. She was going to go to Cara’s sleepover and no one was going to talk her out of it. Hunter may be persuasive, but Savannah can be just as smooth talking as he can.
Grabbing a bowl of salad, she traveled back to the attic. Her heels were making her steps unsteady and wobbly. She hated the fact that she had to wear heels. They were annoying and dangerous in her mind. She did it for her mother. Like her mama, Savannah wanted to be involved in the fashion industry. Wearing heels and dressing stylish was part of this act that she had created to get her mama to approve. It hadn’t been working and Savannah was close to giving up. What was the point of wearing neck-breaking heels if آپ can’t get what آپ wanted out of it?
She groaned going up the stairs it was the hardest part. She could hear Hunter laughing from the attic. She held back a snarl. Once she reached the attic, she flung the heels against the walls. Hunter was hiding behind the سوفی, لٹانا was a silly grin on his face.
“You okay there?” he asked.
“What do آپ think? I hate wearing those darn shoes.” Savannah plopped on the سوفی, لٹانا and crossed her arms like a disobedient child. “I hate having to wear this stupid skirts and frilly blouses.”
“Then don’t do it anymore,” کہا Hunter. “Stop trying to impress mama. She is never going to give آپ her blessing. She is dangling her approval over your head just so she can make آپ do anything she wants آپ to. It isn’t worth it.”
Savannah slumped on Hunter’s بستر while munching on her salad. She knew he was right, but the hope that one دن her mama would give her approval was too much for her to let it slip from her fingertips. “You don’t understand,” she said.
Hunter smirked, “Maybe, I don’t understand, but I do know آپ need to relax for the day. Come on, Van, it is Monday which means the last دن until school starts tomorrow. Let’s go to a party. My buddy Jim is throwing a party while his parents are on vacation. آپ wanna go?” He had leaped from the سوفی, لٹانا and was sitting اگلے to her on the bed. He had abandoned his پیزا on the floor still in the box.
“I don’t know, Hunter.” She fiddled with her hands. “We have to go to بستر early today since school is tomorrow. We can’t go to a party.”
“Come on, آپ never do anything crazy یا fun. Let’s go to the party.”
“I can’t,” she demanded.
“Can’t یا won’t,” asked Hunter.
“I can’t,” کہا Savannah as she continued fiddling with hands with her head down. Her black fell down to cover her face. It acted like a shield so she couldn’t see her brother’s face. She would crack and give in to her brother’s invitation. “I’m going to a sleepover at a friend’s house.”
Hunter’s eyebrows shot up. “You have friends?”
Savannah glared at him through her hair. “Of course, I have friends. I’m not some kind of loner.” It was typical of her brother to think she was a pathetic nobody at school. Granted, she had never had close friends. She never had دوستوں that she swapped secrets with یا talk to about crushes. In her mind, دوستوں were overrated and only existed in کتابیں and movies. Cara wasn’t a friend. She was an opportunity, but it would be nice to have a friend.
Hunter held his hands up in amused defensive. “Don’t get mad, sis. I’m sure آپ are capable of making friends.”
“Whatever,” mumbled Savannah as she glanced back down at her lap?
“Blow them off. Come to the party.” When he saw that Savannah was not budging, he added one crucial detail. “I know a certain person who will be there.” He nudged her with his elbow hoping she would get the hint.
She shook her head. “I don’t care about Gavin. Besides, I want to make a good impression with these girls.”
Her defense was crumbling, but that hadn’t caught Hunter’s attention. “Why do آپ care about those girls? They’re just southern nothings that would follow آپ into hell because of our money. Blow them off.”
“Jesus, Hunter, don’t mention the place down there in this house,” کہا Savannah with a disappointed look. She wasn’t very religious, but growing in the south آپ grow accustom to never mentioning hell یا Satan. It was only acceptable in church and even then, it is still an iffy. “One دن mama is going to hear آپ and slap the crust out your eyes.”
Hunter smiled at his little sister as if she was an innocent gazelle. “Who cares if mama hears me? She can’t hurt me. Back to the topic, we’re going to the party and that’s final.” He grinned before getting up and going to the closet. Savannah could only think about the awful things Cara would say when she hears that Savannah wasn’t coming.
Cara was adjusting her silk pajamas when she heard the doorbell and her mama greeting Isabelle Jackson with a stronger accent than normal. She hurried down to free Isabelle from her mother’s clutches. She came just in time to hear her mama raging about Isabelle’s mama.
“I promise to my God that I will hunt your mama down if she doesn’t stop flirting with Todd. I’m sorry to say that Izzy, but آپ know your mama. آپ know how she is. آپ know better than anyone how much of a hopeless romantic your mama is.” Cara’s mama shook her head and sipped on her wine. “I know آپ love your mama to death, but I love my Todd to death and I will not let some other woman take him away from me, no offense.”
Izzy was slouched on the sofa with her fingers rubbing her temples. Cara walked سے طرف کی and grabbed her mama’s wine glass. “You know mama آپ aren’t allowed to drink. آپ know the rules,” scolded Cara. Izzy looked up at Cara with thankfulness.
“Honey, I need that,” begged Cara’s mama. Cara went to empty the wine contents in the sink and left the glass on the counter for the butler to get in the morning. She came back to see her mama sprawled out on the سوفی, لٹانا snoring.
“Thanks for stopping her,” کہا Izzy as she followed Cara to her room. “I know how man crazy my mama is. I don’t need to hear it from your mama.”
Cara laughed while pushing the door open to her newly carpeted room. “This is why I ignore my mama half the time. Bless her heart; she never knows when to stop talking.”
Isabelle had stopped listening once she saw Cara’s room. It was elegant and beautiful just like Cara. Cara had redecorated her room from the last time Isabelle had been there. Instead of the گلابی carpet, it was now a baby blue with specks of white and dark blue. The walls were white and pictures of her in different places, poses, and clothes covered every inch of the room. A chandelier hung from her ceiling dangling strands of sparkles that glimmered when they danced above them.
She felt that familiar pang of jealousy that came whenever she was close to Cara. It made her uncomfortable to think about how Cara and her family own most of the county. She didn’t want to be jealous, but it was hard whenever she saw the amazing things that Cara had. Isabelle had nice things too, but it was different when it came to the VanDere family. Everything they had seemed vintage and exquisite with a touch of everything the south has to represent.
Isabelle realized with an alarming clarity that she was دوستوں with a very influential person. Most would use that to their advantage, but not Isabelle. She was دوستوں with Cara because she truly wanted her as a friend. She did not have an ulterior motive when she came to Cara’s parties یا sleepovers.
“Izzy,” demanded Cara, “are آپ listening?”
Isabelle was snapped from her thoughts. Cara was bending towards her mini fridge. Her dark curls bounced around as she grabbed a water bottle. “Sorry, Cara,” کہا Isabelle.
“Anyways, I was talking about the debutante ball. I was thinking about wearing a گاؤن, gown my grandmamma wore when she married my granddaddy. The problem is that it’s white which is so ugly. I’m thinking about adding some dark blue and black فیتا, فیتے hoping that would spice it up. Wait, do آپ think we have to wear a certain color to this ball?” Cara flopped onto her white سوفی, لٹانا and glanced up at Isabelle who was sitting in the chair سے طرف کی her desk.
“It depends. It is tradition to wear pure white,” کہا Isabelle. She knows everything about the ball since her mama talks nonstop about how Isabelle would be a true southern belle if she were in the ball. Her mama talked about how Cara and her pompous mama got everything they wanted and it wasn’t fair for them to control the debutante ball. Since Isabelle has blond locks and blue eyes, her mama considers her a true southern beauty. “I think آپ should stick to tradition.”
Cara made a scuffing noise. “That is what I’m afraid of.”
The debutante ball is held every سال for upcoming 16 سال olds. It is a rite of passage in the south and only a hand full get selected to participate. The Women of the South Committee select the participants. The committee is full of southern ladies that live in Brantley like Mrs. VanDere and Mrs. Henderson. Isabelle’s mama is on the committee, but she rarely goes to the meetings. The ball is for the rich and fancy. No one without at least a million dollars in the bank ever gets a chance to be a part of the town’s debutante ball. The women swear they allow anyone and everyone in, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that what they say is a lie.
“You know,” began Isabelle who was summoning the courage to continue, “I was thinking about being in the ball. It could be fun with us both being there.”
There was a small pause before Cara began laughing hysterically. “That is so hilarious, sugar. Bless your heart; I hope that you’re joking right now. This debutante ball is my moment. آپ know that, sugar, I’ve been working my butt off trying to impress these women and this is the last step I must take to become a southern belle and I would like it مزید if no one was there, but me. Unfortunately, they have to include other people. That doesn’t mean I want my best friend to be in the ball with me. No offense, but آپ aren’t that pretty and most likely wouldn’t be considered to be in the ball. I’m doing آپ a favor سے طرف کی rejecting آپ now. I hope آپ understand, darling.”
Cara smiled at her, as a true southern girl would do when she was insulting someone. Isabelle wanted to cry یا scream, but she didn’t. In the back of her mind, she kept thinking that Cara was right and it was a stupid idea even thinking about her in the debutante ball. She closed her mouth and listened to Cara talk about her plans.