OOPS! I always copy the chapters from thedocument that's the whole story...this time, I guess I copied it twice. Here itis, fixed.
Grace nervously paced her bedroom. She was wearing a silk dressing robe that Kirsten had bought her—obviously Kirsten's signature look—over new underwear that Kirsten had bought her, contemplating which of the dresses that Kirsten had bought her she should wear. Tonight was the big night.
She hadn't minded Caleb Nichol after awhile; he had treated her with slightly aloof courtesy, which she appreciated. She didn't mind Gabrielle, either. The woman was beautiful, but she wasn't stupid, and she wasn't bad conversation. Still, tonight was nerve-wracking beyond belief. Suddenly, a knock came at the door.
"Miss Grace?" said Cara politely. "You've a telephone call." Grace thanked the maid and picked up the phone.
"Hi, Grace?" It was Summer.
"Hi, Summer. What's up?"
"Can I ask you a huge favor?"
"I just got out of the shower, and Melanie is totally trashed. I really can't deal with her when she's like this...Can I come over now and hang out with you before the party?"
"Uh, no problem. I'm not exactly dressed yet..."
"Me neither, maybe you could help me pick something to wear."
"Why not, come over."
"Thanks. Love ya! Bye." Grace cradled the phone with a smile. She remembered getting dressed with friends before dances or whatever, and tonight had seemed particularly lonely. Maybe Summer could be a real friend. She turned to the closet and surveyed her choices again.
Summer showed up pretty quickly, carrying a dress bag and a designer tote with supplies in it. She was just barely dressed, in a pair of sweats and camisole. Her hair was still wet, and she seemed near tears.
"Thanks," she said quietly. "I just can't handle her sometimes."
"I understand," Grace assured her, but Summer still looked forlorn.
"I tried to like her, Grace, really, I did. I mean, I'm not the only girl in Newport whose parents got divorced...but I just can't take it. She's not even a real person; she's a pretty plastic shell with nothing but booze and painkillers and coke inside." Summer's eyes were suspiciously wet. "I just don't get it. My dad's such a great guy. Why did he end up with this worthless—bimbo?" Grace tentatively reached out and gave the other girl a firm hug.
"I know. I knew dads like that at home, too. It's okay..." Summer wiped her arm across her face and gave a weak smile.
"I can't talk like that with anyone else," she admitted. "Nobody really knows me well enough. I mean, don't get me wrong, I have friends. But I don't have a best friend. I have a hard time talking about her, you know? It's like there's this unwritten rule that you pretend everything's okay, right? Like, you can bitch about your stepmother, but actually caring isn't allowed." Grace looked down shyly.
"Yeah. I know what you mean. That's like how I get with my boyfriend. He's the only one I can tell that it really embarrasses me that Lance and my mom work in the skin business." She looked up at Summer and smiled forlornly. "Except you, now."
"Maybe we have more than Jim in common," said Summer thoughtfully.
"Yeah," said Grace, and they shared a smile that cemented their friendship. "Anyway...Can you help me? I have no idea what to wear."
"Sure. Let's see." Grace walked over to the closet and pulled out a dress. It was green and mid-calf length with a scoop neckline. Summer wrinkled her nose.
"Nope, definitely not the right dress for tonight. It's still too warm for anything long like that." She stood up and flipped through the dresses hanging neatly in rainbow order.
"You're obsessive, Grace Cooper," she teased, raising her eyebrows.
"Not normally," Grace admitted. "I just..."
"Yeah," Summer said, softening. "I know. How about this one?" She held up a halter-style dress that was blue with white polka dots and white piping. Grace held it to her body and studied her reflection.
"You have to put it on, you know." Grace blushed. "Don't be modest; it's only me." Grace took off her robe and quickly pulled the dress over her head. Summer studied her carefully.
"That's the one," she said. "Hey...no offense or anything...but you should straighten your hair a little. It's looking a bit crazy." She rummaged through her bag and came up with a ceramic flat-iron. "Here."
"Thanks," said Grace, eyeing the tool suspiciously. She'd never done anything more drastic to her hair than blow-drying it. As she headed for the bathroom, Summer stopped her.
"Wait. Which one should I wear?" Summer unzipped her bag and took out three dresses. One was pink with a plunging neckline; the next was strapless and yellow with a bow under her breasts; and the last was sleek purple satin and looked like lingerie.
"The yellow one," decided Grace. Without pausing, Summer stripped off her tank top and pulled the dress over her head.
"Zip it up for me?" After the dress was firmly zipped-up, Summer took off her pants and gazed at herself in the mirror.
"I think I'm going to straighten my hair the whole way," she said, reaching into her bag and pulling out some product that Grace didn't recognize along with a blow dryer.
"You have your own bathroom?"
"Yeah," Grace nodded. "I think Kirsten said all the bedrooms do." She opened the door next to the closet and walked into a rather small, rather bare bathroom. Summer found an outlet and plugged her hair dryer and flat-iron in.
"So, um, Grace?" asked Summer once she'd turned the loud dryer on. Her eyes were firmly focused on her reflection, and Grace noticed a slight blush on her face.
"Yeah?" Grace combed her hair carefully while the flat-iron heated up.
"What does sex feel like? I mean, the first time." Grace put down her comb suddenly.
"I don't know," she said. Summer's flushed cheeks were now flaming.
"I didn't mean to imply you're a slut or anything," she said quickly. "I just...well, you're older than I am, and you said you had a boyfriend, and..."
"And I live in Chino. It's okay. I'm probably the oldest virgin in that town," said Grace softly. "But...I don't want to end up like all the other girls, you know? I guess it's dumb, but I wanted to be special. I mean, Ryan and I...I wanted us to have a future. I'm not stupid; he's not stupid. I thought maybe we could get away, be something more. Dumb, really, but I know that babies get in the way."
"That's not dumb," said Summer. "I hope it's not weird, my talking about sleeping with your brother."
"He doesn't really feel like my brother yet," admitted Grace with a wry smile. "It's okay."
"Yeah...but, anyway, I guess we've been talking. He doesn't know I'm a virgin."
"He doesn't know that you've never had sex, and you're talking about having it with him?" asked Grace incredulously. "Summer..."
"I know it's wrong, but I have this reputation," she said. "I'm the brunette Holly. Remember, Holly Fischer, I told you about her?"
"Yeah, I remember. But still...Is he a virgin?" Summer nodded.
"We've been dating six months," she said in a small voice. "And he only dated two other girls between then and seventh grade...and I know neither of them slept with him. And I just don't believe he randomly hooked up with anyone, you know? He's not that kind of guy." Grace looked down. She hadn't known that there was a different "kind of guy." All the boys she knew, even the sweet ones, had hooked up early and easily.
"Here," said Summer, picking up the flat-iron. "Let me show you how to use it." She carefully straightened some of the hair around Grace's face.
"You're…like, really beautiful, you know?"
"Thanks," said Grace shyly. Summer handed her the iron.
"Listen…if the conversation got too personal…I'm sorry. I just…"
"It's fine. Really," she added forcefully. "I mean, it's weird, but it feels like I've known you a long time."
"Yeah," said Summer thoughtfully, nodding her head. "You get that sometimes, I guess. I mean, I've known some people my whole life, but I couldn't talk to them the way I can talk to you." She glanced at Grace's hair. "I think that's good. You want to keep some of the curls; it keeps it soft. Close your eyes," she instructed, and she lightly sprayed hair spray. Then, taking the flat-iron, she began to straighten her own hair.
"So, just so you know…" started Grace hesitantly. "Kirsten wants to pretend that I've known Dad my whole life, you know, just lived with my mom. It's probably what's best. I was thinking, maybe I've known you my whole life, too?"
"Sure," said Summer softly. "Maybe you have." They shared a grin as Summer finished her hair with fairly heavy hairspray.
"Isn't it going to be really greasy?" queried Grace. Summer shrugged.
"I'll wash it when I get home," she said. She ran a brush through her hair to keep it soft. "All right, make-up time." Matter-of-factly, Summer pulled out a make-up bag and began coating her face. Grace watched in astonishment.
"Hey, ease up on that, Sum," she said, the nickname flowing from her mouth as easily as if she had always known the other girl. "You're pretty enough that you don't need all that." Summer put down the foundation bottle embarrassedly.
"You're not the first person to say that," she admitted. "I just—I have to be perfect, you know? And, hey, my dad's a plastic surgeon. In my house, 'perfect' means artificial."
"Yeah. I guess every girl goes through a stage like that," said Grace with a laugh. "For me it was freshman year. I hated my freckles," she explained. "But it's actually so much easier and more comfortable to not wear so much." She brushed a little blush against the cheeks of her smooth, clear skin, followed by mascara and pink lipstick.
"See? Low-maintenance is so much more fun." Summer smiled.
"Sorry, I can't yet. Not for Caleb Nichol's birthday. I'm Newport, remember?" They laughed. "But maybe I'll give it a try." Grace waited as Summer meticulously lined, then shadowed, then mascara-ed her eyes. Their silence was broken by a knock at the door.
"Grace?" It was Kirsten. Grace left the bathroom and let her stepmother in.
"You look great," she remembered to say, even though she clearly had a lot on her mind.
"Thanks. So do you," Grace noted, eyeing Kirsten's red satin V-necked gown. Kirsten smiled in thanks.
"Um, honey, we're just about ready. I wanted to make sure you were dressed, and you are. Okay, um…" She ran her fingers through her blonde hair, the smooth veneer cracking and letting her slightly nervous behavior show through.
"Hi, Mrs. Cooper," said Summer, as she came out of the bathroom, her make-up finished.
"Oh, hi, Summer, I didn't know you were here already," said Kirsten with a warm smile.
"I came by to get dressed," she said lightly. "Melanie was acting up." Grace noticed that Summer referenced the stepmother she hated with casualness and almost amusement. It all came down to layers; Ryan's and now Summer's. That was how you measured closeness. Ryan.
"Oh, Kirsten," Grace said suddenly. "Is Ryan here yet?"
"No, sweetie; I would've told you. Don't worry. He'll be here." She turned her attention back to Summer.
"Honey, if she's bad already, you know you can always spend the night here," she said with concern. "The guest bedrooms are full, but you can stay in the pool house."
"You can stay with me," said Grace quickly. "I mean, if you want."
"Thanks," said Summer shyly. "You guys are great."
"Come on," said Kirsten, putting an arm around each girl. "I can't deal with my father and Gabrielle on my own." Grace smiled inwardly at the emphasis Kirsten put on Gabrielle's name, just as Summer did on Melanie's. She recalled how Summer had said she was lucky to have Kirsten for a stepmother, and she really was.