Four Truths and A Lie
Eighth grader Scarlett Northon has a secret-and not just a little secret. We’re talking seriously, absolutely, 100-percent change-your-life big secret! So much so that her mother, in an effort to shield Scarlett from hometown gossip, ships her off to a prestigious all-girls charter school. Scarlett thinks her life is absolutely over.
But what she doesn’t know is that her life is about to get absolutely interesting, because one day, she receives an anonymous letter. The letter says it contains four truths and a lie-and Scarlett’s reputation depends on determining which is which . . . And as the letters keep coming, and the truths and the lies start piling up, Scarlett begins to realize that maybe her secret isn’t so safe after all…..
I’m all about new experiences. Like last year, in seventh grade, when we got to do step aerobics in gym class. And everyone else was complaining, because they thought step aerobics wasn’t that fun and made you all sweaty, but I was glad for the change. Or a couple summers ago, when I got to go white water rafting with my dad. It was scary at times, and of course I got super wet when the raft flipped over, but it was also fun, and I got some very cool pictures to bring in for “What did you do on your summer vacation?”
But I like to be able to pick my new experiences. I don’t do well with things that are chosen for me. Like my new school uniform for example.
“You’ll look adorable,” my mom says, like she’s talking about bathing suits for some great vacation on a Caribbean island, instead of the Brookline Academy for Girls uniform. Which, fyi, is a ridiculous looking plaid skirt (red, blue, white, and LONG), and a heavy white shirt with a huge collar. The whole thing is very shapeless and will not match any of my shoes, including the pair I just bought, ultra fab Christian Louboutins with a chunky heel.
“I will not look adorable,” I say. “I’m going to look like a complete fool. I thought private school uniforms were supposed be cute.” It’s my first day here, and we’re walking up to my room on the third floor. The elevator is apparently broken, so I’m being forced to carry my bag up three flights of stairs. Every time I move up a step, my suitcase bangs against my leg. Bang. I wonder if I could cut the skirt a few inches. Bang. Or wear a pink shirt with it instead of white. Bang. Or maybe I could make a cute dress out of the whole uniform, as long as I kept the pattern. Bang, bang, bang. Who ever heard of an elevator being broken on move-in day, anyway? This doesn’t seem like a very good start.
“Here we are!” my mom says. “Room 314!”
There are two construction paper cut-outs on the door, one blue, one pink. They’re in the shape of guitars, and my name, Scarlett, is written in the blue one, and my roommate’s name, Crissa, is written in the pink one. The Brookline Academy is an all-girls school. Why would they have pink and blue cut-outs? And how come I got stuck with the blue one? Everyone knows pink’s my fave color. I wrote it down on my new student questionnaire and everything.
I push past my mom into the room. It’s cute, with two twin beds by the window, two desks, and two small closets. Two very small closets. Wow. Why would they make the closets so small? And how am I going to fit all my clothes in there? Did the architects not realize that girls would be living here? Probably they thought it would be fine, since we’d be wearing our uniforms all the time.
“I hope there’s not a fire,” my mom’s saying, looking out the window nervously.
“There won’t be a fire,” I tell her. I plop myself down on one of the twin beds by the window. I think maybe I need a nap. Starting a new school is stressful.
“Well, I’m sure they’ll go over all the emergency routes with you at orientation,” my mom says. “And there’s a fire escape.”
“Yeah, good thing,” I say. “Although I hope no one climbs up it, that would really suck, an intruder coming in by using what is supposed to be a life saving mechanism.”
“We should probably start making your bed,” she says, ignoring me and reaching into one of my bags. She pulls out two packages of sheets, one red, and one white with blue flowers. “Which ones do you want?”
“Red.” I pull myself off the bed and sigh. There’s a stack of boxes in the middle of the room – stuff we had shipped here last week. My roommate’s stuff (Crissa, I guess, according to the cut out on the door) is there, too, although from the looks of it, she doesn’t have as much as I do.
I hate unpacking. I open a box marked “books” and start shoving them haphazardly on the shelf over my desk. I actually have a surprising amount of books, although I like to read romance novels, so I don’t think this is going to gain me any points here. Probably all the girls here read Shakespeare. And Hemingway. And that one War and Peace book that’s supposedly like a bazillion pages long. Not that there’s anything wrong with these books, I’m sure. But I’ll be they don’t have any good happy endings, like in THE DUKE’S KISS, this one really good book where the duke and this normal girl spend the whole time trying to overcome social barriers before they finally get together.
Brookline is a charter boarding school that was started by my mom’s best friend and college roommate, this woman named Marion O’Neal. Basically it’s for really smart girls. Their motto is “Fine young women, excellent head starts.” Yikes. You have to take this super- competitive placement test just to get in. Well, I didn’t have to take the test, which was a good thing, because I probably wouldn’t have passed it.
But it’s fine, since I totally have a plan for how to come off as smart.
This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Do not let ANYONE find out the real reason I am here, i.e., very big scandal involving my dad which made me have to leave my old school due to general disgrace and losing all my friends. Once people find this out, they will realize I am not smart. Not to mention they will want to talk about said scandal, and will probably (definitely) gossip behind my back.
Act smart. One time I watched this show about how just presenting a certain attitude totally made people think you were whatever you were pretending to be. So I’m going to act smart. I even bought a pair of fake glasses (Chanel, black spectacles, totally cute.)
Work hard. This is going to be the hardest one, since I’m not so good at doing things that require, um, well, work. But I know I’m going to have to apply myself. Plus, even though I was allowed in here and everything, if I don’t keep my average at a B or better, we’ll have to “revisit the situation.” That’s what Headmistress O’Neal told me when they let me in. “Revisit the situation.” I’m determined that I will not be revisiting anything while I’m here. Not my grades, and certainly not my past.
I’m debating whether or not I should just hide all my romance novels under my bed or something when a girl walks into my room.
“Hello,” she says from the doorway. I’m so startled I drop A KNIGHT’S KISS right on the ground.
“Oh,” I say, picking it back up and shoving it back in the box. “Hey.”
She comes over and sets her suitcase carefully down on the other bed, then holds her hand out to me. “I’m Crissa.” She has long smooth brown hair, and she’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt that says “I HEART NY.” There’s a black messenger bag slung over her shoulder.
“Nice to meet you,” I say, taking Crissa’s hand and shaking it. “I’m Scarlett.” Yay for roommates! At first I was a little nervous about having to share a room with someone. I’m an only child and I’ve always had my own room. But now I’m totally into the idea. Staying up all night talking and gossiping. Reading magazines and doing each other’s hair. Watching movies and eating –
“I see you’ve already picked your bed.” Crissa thrusts her chin in the air.
“Oh, um, yeah.” Ooopsies. I just figured whoever gets here first gets first pick of the beds. That’s how they do it on all those reality shows. Of course, a big fight usually ensues after that, but still. “I hope that’s okay.”
She shrugs. The door to our room flies open again, and a gray-haired woman in a blue dress appears. “Honestly, Crissa,” she says. “You didn’t have to run up the stairs. You know I have a bad knee.” She smoothes her hair. “It wouldn’t hurt you to act like a lady.”
“Sorry, Mother,” Crissa says. She heads over to the other bed, and drops her bag on it.
“Hello,” the woman says, looking me up and down. “I’m Crissa’s mom, Debbie Bacon.” She frowns, and her eyebrows wrinkle. “Mrs. Bacon.” I try not to burst out laughing. Bacon. Haha. But then I realize she made a big point of making sure I knew to call her Mrs. Bacon, and it’s not really that funny anymore. Does she think I’m some kind of delinquent?
“Pleased to meet you,” I say. For a second, I think maybe I should curtsy or something, but then I realize I’m not wearing my uniform yet. From behind me, my mom clears her throat. “Oh, I’m sorry.” I look from Crissa and Mrs. Bacon to my mom. “This is my mom, Mrs. Northon.”
“Nice to meet you,” my mom says.
We all stare at each other awkwardly for a moment.
“So the headmistress tells me you’re a transfer from Rockville Public,” Mrs. Bacon says. There’s a smile on her lips, but it’s not quite reaching her eyes. And the way she says “Rockville Public” makes it sound really bad, like anyone who comes from public school is two seconds away from ending up on the streets. Which isn’t true. I mean, Rockville Public is in the richest district in Massachusetts.
“Yes,” my mom says, standing up and putting her hands on my shoulder. “We thought Scarlett would benefit from a more challenging academic environment.” Wow. Way to go, Mom.
“Mmmm,” Mrs. Bacon says. “Challenging it definitely is.” She glances at her watch. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m terribly late for my steering committee,” she says. Steering committee? Is Mrs. Bacon a race car driver? “Now, Crissa, please make sure you let me know when you find out who you have for math.” She tightens the scarf around her neck. “And if there’s any problem with the gray knee socks, please call me immediately.” She kisses both of Crissa’s cheeks, says goodbye to me and my mom, and then disappears out the door. Ooo-kay then.
Crissa says nothing. Maybe she’s just nervous around parents. That happens to me sometimes, like when my friend (well, I guess ex-friend now since no one from my old school will talk to me) Taylor had a pool party and her mom kept asking all the girls if they were looking forward to starting eighth grade and who was the hottest boy in school. It was quite unnerving, and very annoying. I shoot my mom a pointed look, which basically means, if you want me to have any friends here, you should probably leave. Like now. I don’t want to be the lame girl whose mom is hanging around her on the first day of school.
“Well,” my mom says, getting the hint. She checks her watch and stands up. “I should probably get going, too.” I can tell she wants to say something else, but not in front of Crissa. “Call me tonight if you need anything.”
“Of course,” I say, rolling my eyes to show Crissa that I’m not worried about it. No getting homesick for me, definitely not. Never mind that I’ve never spent any significant amount of time away from home, and never really liked sleepovers.
“So,” Crissa says, once my mom’s gone. Her brown eyes look me up and down. “I heard you only got in here because your mom knows Headmistress O’Neal.”
“Oh,” I say, taken aback. I reach into the box of books and pull out two more, then shove them onto the shelf. “Yeah. Well, I’m not, um…” Crap. I didn’t come prepared with a cover story. Maybe I can everyone I got kicked out of my old school for fighting or something – I always wanted to be a badass. “I’m not really supposed to talk about it,” I say, hoping she gets the hint.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She opens her suitcase, removes a gray cardigan sweater, slides it on, and begins to button it up very carefully. Then she takes out a picture frame and places it on her nightstand. It’s a silver frame, with swirly black letters all over it, spelling out “friends” “best friends forever” and “love.” In it, there’s a picture of Crissa with another girl, there’s arms around each other, smiling into the camera.
“Um, well,” I say, slowly, trying to keep my voice light. “My mom thought it would be good for me.” Which is true. Crissa raises her eyebrows, which need some serious tweezing.
”Cool picture,” I say, trying to change the subject. “Who is it?” I pick up the frame and study the picture.
“My best friend,” Crissa says, taking the picture out of my hand and placing it back on the nightstand. “Her name’s Marissa. She was my roommate last year, and she was supposed to be my roommate this year, but she moved. She goes to school in California now.”
“She looks nice,” I say.
“She’s amazing,” Crissa says. “We totally ruled this school.”
Geez. Way to be obvious. Okay, so maybe I’m not Marissa. But that doesn’t mean me and Crissa can’t be friends, right? I mean, I can be as cool as Marissa. I can smile into the camera and rule the school with Crissa, right? Although we’re obviously not off to a very good start.
My thoughts are interrupted by squeals coming from our doorway. The squeals are coming from two girls, one with mopsy brown hair, and a blonde with large red-framed glasses (ha! I knew glasses would be popular around here.) Crissa jumps off the bed and runs to the girls – and they all embrace and jump around.
Well. She’s obviously a little warmer to them than she was to me.
“I can’t believe you cut your hair!” Crissa says to the blonde one. “Does it feel weird, it being so short?” That’s what she calls short? It’s halfway down her back.
“Not really,” the girl says, tossing her hair around.
“I love it,” Crissa says. “It suits your face.”
“I’m so sorry about…” she trails off and gives Crissa a sympathetic look, then squeezes her shoulder. “I hope you’re okay.”
“I’m so fine it’s ridiculous,” Crissa says. “I mean, it was my choice.”
“Is your mom freaking out?” the blonde says. I have no idea what they’re talking about, so I can’t even get in on the gossip.
“Kind of,” Crissa says. She looks uncomfortable. “But it’s really not her decision.”
“Oh,” the brunette says, looking over Crissa’s shoulder. “Is this your new roommate?”
“Yeah,” Crissa says, as if she forgot I was sitting there. Maybe I should have worn my fake glasses right off the bat. I wonder if it would be too obvious to go searching through my bag and pull them out. I could be all, “Look! I found my glasses, whew, much better. I totally need them when I read my copy of War and Peace, the print is so small.”
“Scarlett,” Crissa says, “This is Tia” — the brunette — “and Rachel.” — the blonde.
Upon further inspection, Tia and Rachel would benefit from my tweezers just as much as Crissa would. And then I have a brilliant idea. I could do makeovers! My heart starts to rise a little bit as I think about the possibilities. I could take these three under my wing, turning them from ugly ducklings into swans! And then the four of us would become the most popular girls in school, totally taking out the current most popular girls in school, who have always (of course) been mean to them in the past! And it would be way better than anything Crissa had with Marissa. It would be like a Disney movie, only better because it would be my life! And sure, it won’t really be the same, since there aren’t any boys here (everyone knows that in these movies, the popular boys fall in love with the newly made over girls), but still.
“Nice to meet you,” Rachel says.
Tia just looks me up and down.
“Nice to meet you both,” I say, making a big production of pulling out my make-up bag. “Does anyone want any” — I pause for effect — “Kiehl’s products?”
I expect this announcement to be met with squeals of excitement, and then a trip down the hall to the (communal, eww) bathrooms for facials and fun. But they all just stare at me blankly.
“It’s okay,” I say. “I don’t mind sharing. We can do facials!”
“What are Keels?” Crissa peers over at my bed for a closer look. Is she kidding? What are Kiehl’s?
“They’re product,” I say. “Skin stuff. You know, for facials?”
“Ooooh,” Rachel says, nodding. “My sister gets those.”
“Let’s go do facials,” I say. “I have exfoliator, a mud mask, a..”
“We can’t,” Tia says, speaking to me for the first time. “We have to sign up for extras.”
“Extras?” I ask.
“Extracurriculars,” Rachel explains. She holds up a jar of moisturizer. “I wonder if this would help my dry skin.”
“It totally would,” I say. “And this is the lotion that goes with it.” I hand her the bottle.
“We have to get to extras,” Crissa says forcefully. She taps her sneakered foot on our floor. “But maybe later we can play with your product.” She says product as if it’s some kind of dirty word. Plus you don’t play with product. It’s not a yo-yo.
Rachel rolls her eyes, and pulls a bag of Swedish fish out of her pocket. She opens them and pops one into her mouth. “Extras don’t start for another ten minutes.”
“Yeah, but if we don’t get there, all the good ones will be taken.”
Good ones? There is nothing good about extracurricular activities. Extracurricular means extra. Like in after school. Time when you could be doing something else. Like having fun.
“Fine,” Tia says. “Time to go to extras.”
“We’d invite you,” Crissa says. “But new students have to sign up for extras through their advisor. Sorry.” She doesn’t look sorry at all.
They file out of the room, leaving me by myself.
I look down at my hands. Whatever. I mean, they can’t be the only girls here. There are tons of students in my class. Well, okay, like a hundred and fifty. But still. Three out of a hundred and fifty is like.. Um. Well, it’s not a huge percentage. Like, two or three percent, I think. I’ve never been good at math. And what was it my mom said? That it would only take one or two really good friends for me to start feeling comfortable? She’s totally right.
And besides, after what happened to me at my old school, this is nothing.
I gather up my Kiehl’s products and get ready to head to the bathroom. I can give myself a facial. It will cheer me up. And maybe while I’m in the bathroom, I’ll find another girl there, giving herself a facial, and she’ll be all, “Oh, hi, I’m so glad there’s finally someone here who understands the value of a good facial!” Cheered by this, I grab my facial bag, and then go digging in my bag for a towel.
Copyright 2008 by Lauren Barnholdt
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