Authors: Candace Bushnell
I hug my knees to my chest. “Don’t have one.”
“You? Without a plan? That must be a first.”
Really? Is that how he thinks of me? As some nerdly, uptight, efficient
? I’ve always thought of myself as the spontaneous type. “I don’t
have a plan.”
“But you always seem to know where you’re going.”
“Sure. I can barely keep up with you.”
mean? Is this a dream? Am I actually having this conversation with Sebastian Kydd?
“You could always try calling—”
“I did. But your phone’s perennially busy. So tonight I was going to stop by your house, but then I saw you getting in Lali’s truck and followed you. I figured you were up to something interesting.”
Is he saying he
“You’re definitely a character,” he adds.
A character? Is that good or bad? I mean, what kind of guy falls in love with a
“I guess I can be…sort of funny sometimes.”
“You’re funny a lot. You’re very entertaining. It’s good. Most girls are boring.”
“Come on, Carrie. You’re a girl. You must know that.”
“I think most girls are pretty interesting. I mean, they’re a lot more interesting than boys.
s are the ones who are boring.”
“Am I boring?”
“You? You’re not boring at all. I just meant—”
“I know.” He moves a little closer. “Are you cold?”
He takes off his jacket. As I put it on, he notices my hands. “Christ,” he says. “That must hurt.”
“It does—a little.” The palms of my hands are stinging like hell where I’ve scraped the skin. “It’s not the worst thing that’s happened to me though. One time, I fell off the back of the Kandesies’ truck and broke my collarbone. I didn’t know it was broken until the next day. Lali made me go to the doctor.”
“Lali’s your best friend, huh?”
“Pretty much. I mean, she’s been my best friend since we were ten. Hey,” I ask. “Who’s your best friend?”
“Don’t have one,” he says, staring out at the trees.
“I guess that’s the way guys are,” I say musingly. I check my hands. “Do you think we’re ever going to get off this roof?”
“Do you want to get off this roof?”
“So don’t think about it. Someone will come and get us eventually. Maybe Lali, or your friend The Mouse. She’s cool.”
“Yeah.” I nod. “She’s got her life all figured out. She’s applying early admission to Yale. And she’ll definitely get in.”
“That must be nice,” he says with a hint of bitterness.
“Are you worried about your future?”
“I guess…. But I thought…I don’t know. I thought you were going to Harvard or something. Weren’t you in private school?”
“I was. But I realized I didn’t necessarily want to go to Harvard.”
“How could anyone not want to go to Harvard?”
“Because it’s a crock. Once I go to Harvard, that’s it. Then I’ll have to go to law school. Or business school. Then I’ll be a suit, working for a big corporation. Taking the commuter train to New York City every day. And then some girl will get me to marry her, and before you know it, I’ll have kids and a mortgage. Game over.”
“Hmph.” It’s not exactly what a girl wants to hear from a guy, but on the other hand, I have to give him points for being honest. “I know what you mean. I always say I’m never getting married. Too predictable.”
“You’ll change your mind. All women do.”
“I won’t. I’m going to be a writer.”
“You look like a writer,” he says.
“Yeah. You look like you’ve always got something going on in your head.”
“Am I that transparent?”
“Kind of.” He leans over and kisses me. And suddenly, my life splits in two: before and after.
what he said.”
“He said I was interesting. And a character.”
“Did he say he liked you?”
“I think it was more that he liked the idea of me.”
of a girl is different from actually
a girl,” Maggie says.
“I think if a guy says you’re interesting and a character, it means you’re
,” The Mouse counters.
“But it doesn’t mean he wants to be with you. Maybe he thinks you’re special—and
,” Maggie says.
“So what happened after we left?” The Mouse asks, ignoring her.
“Lali came and rescued us. He went home. He said he’d had enough excitement for one evening.”
“Has he said anything since?” Maggie asks.
I scratch a nonexistent itch. “Nope. But it doesn’t matter.”
“He’ll call,” The Mouse says with confidence.
“Of course he’ll call. He
to call,” Maggie says, with too much enthusiasm.
Four days have passed since the barn-painting incident and we’re dissecting the event for about the twentieth time. After Lali rescued us, apparently The Mouse and Walt did come back, but we were gone along with the ladder, so they figured we got away okay. On Monday when we showed up at school, we couldn’t stop laughing. Every time one of us looked out the window and saw
and that big red splotch, we’d crack up. At assembly that morning, Cynthia Viande referred to the incident, saying the vandalism to private property had not gone unnoticed, and the perpetrators, if caught, would be prosecuted.
We all snickered like little cats.
All of us, that is, except for Peter. “Can the cops really be
dumb?” he kept asking. “I mean, they were right
“And what did they see? A few kids standing around an old dairy barn.”
“That Peter guy—geez,” Lali said. “He’s so paranoid. What the hell was he doing there anyway?”
“I think he likes Maggie.”
“But Maggie’s with Walt.”
“She has two boyfriends now? How can you have two boyfriends?”
“Listen,” Peter said the next day, sidling up to me in
the hall. “I’m not sure we can trust Sebastian. What if he rats us out?”
“Don’t worry. He’s the last person who’s going to tell.”
Hearing Sebastian’s name was like a skewer to the gut.
Ever since the kiss, Sebastian’s presence has been like an invisible shadow sewn to my skin. I cannot go anywhere without him. In the shower, he hands me the shampoo. His face floats up behind the words in my textbooks. On Sunday, Maggie, Walt, and I went to a flea market, and while I pawed through piles of sixties T-shirts, all I could think about was what Sebastian would like.
Surely he’ll call.
But he hasn’t.
A week passes, and on Saturday morning, I reluctantly pack a little suitcase. I look at the clothes I’ve laid out on the bed, perplexed. They’re like the random, disjointed thoughts of a thousand strangers. What was I thinking when I bought that beaded fifties sweater? Or that pink bandanna? Or the green leggings with yellow stripes? I have nothing to wear for this interview. How can I be who I’m supposed to be with these clothes?
Who am I supposed to be again?
Just be yourself.
But who am I?
What if he calls while I’m gone? Why hasn’t he called already?
Maybe something happened to him.
Like what? You saw him every day at school and he was fine.
“Carrie?” my father calls out. “Are you ready?”
“Almost.” I fold a plaid skirt and the beaded sweater into the suitcase, add a wide belt, and throw in an old Hermès scarf that belonged to my mother. She bought it on the one trip to Paris she took with my father a few years ago.
“Coming.” I bang down the stairs.
My father is always nervous before a trip. He gathers maps and estimates time and distance. He’s only comfortable with the unknown or the unexpected if it’s a number in an equation. I keep reminding him that this is not a big deal. It’s his alma mater, and Brown is only forty-five minutes away.
But he fusses. He takes the car to the car wash. He withdraws cash. He inspects his travel comb. Dorrit rolls her eyes. “You’re going to be gone for less than twenty-four hours!”
It rains during the drive. As we head east, I notice the leaves are already beginning to flee their branches, like flocks of birds heading south for the winter.
“Carrie,” my father says. “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t beat yourself up about things.” He can usually sense when something is wrong, although he’s rarely able to pinpoint the cause.
“I’m not, Dad.”
“Because when you do,” he continues, warming up to one of his favorite topics, “you lose twice. You’ve lost what
you’ve lost, but then you also lose your perspective. Because life happens to people. Life is bigger than people. It’s all about nature. The life cycle…It’s out of our control.”
It shouldn’t be, though. There ought to be a law that says every time a boy kisses a girl, he has to call within three days.
“So in other words, old man, shit happens and then you die.”
I say this in a way that makes my father laugh. Unfortunately, I can hear Sebastian in the backseat, laughing too.
“Carrie Bradshaw, right?”
The guy named George shifts my file from one arm to another and shakes my hand. “And you, sir, must be Mr. Bradshaw.”
“That’s right,” my father says. “Class of 1958.”
George looks at me appraisingly. “Are you nervous?”
“Don’t be.” He smiles reassuringly. “Professor Hawkins is one of the best. He has PhD’s in English literature and physics. I see on your application that you’re interested in science and writing. Here at Brown, you can do both.” He reddens a little, as if he realizes he’s being quite the salesman, and suddenly adds, “Besides, you look great.”
“Thanks,” I murmur, feeling a bit like a lamb being led to slaughter.
I immediately realize I’m being silly and overly dramatic. George is right: Everything about Brown is perfect, from
the charming redbrick buildings of the Pembroke College campus, to College Green, dotted with voluptuous elms that still have their leaves, to the glorious columned John Carter Brown Library. I need only insert my mannequin self into this picture-postcard scene.
But as the day progresses from the interview in the artfully messy professor’s office—“What are your goals, Ms. Bradshaw?” “I’d like to make an impact on society. I’d like to contribute something meaningful”—to the tour of the campus, chem labs, the computer room, a first-year dorm room, and finally to dinner with George on Thayer Street, I begin to feel more and more flimsy, like a doll constructed of tissue paper. Halfway through dinner, when George mentions there’s a rock ’n’ roll band playing at the Avon Theatre, I feel like I can’t refuse, even though I’d prefer to lie in my hotel room and think about Sebastian instead.
“Go,” my father urges. He’s already informed me that George is the kind of young man—intelligent, well-mannered, thoughtful—that he’s always pictured me dating.
“You’re going to love Brown,” George says in the car. He drives a Saab. Well engineered, slightly expensive, with European styling. Like George, I think. If I weren’t obsessed with Sebastian, I probably would find George attractive.
“Why do you love Brown so much?” I ask.
“I’m from the city, so this is a nice break. Of course, I’ll be in the city this summer. That’s the great thing about Brown. The internships. I’m going to be working for
The New York Times
George suddenly becomes much more interesting. “I’ve always wanted to live in New York City,” I say.
“It’s the best place in the world. But Brown is right for me now.” He gives me a hesitant smile. “I needed to explore a different side of myself.”
“What were you like before?”
“Tortured,” George says, and grins. “What about you?”
“Oh, I’m a little tortured too,” I say, thinking of Sebastian. But when we pull up to the theater, I vow to put Sebastian out of my mind. Clusters of college kids, drinking beer and flirting, are seated outside at tiny French tables. As we push through the crowd, George puts his hand on my shoulder and squeezes. I look up at him and smile.
“You’re awfully cute, Carrie Bradshaw,” he says into my ear.
We stay out until closing time, and when we get back in the car, George kisses me. He kisses me again in the driveway of the hotel. It’s a clean and tentative kiss, the kiss of a man who thinks in straight lines. He takes a pen out of the glove compartment. “May I ask for your number?”
“Why?” I ask, giggling.
“So I can call you, dummy.” He tries to kiss me again, but I turn my head.
I’m feeling a little woozy, and the beer hits me full force when I lie down. I ask myself if I would have given George my number if I weren’t so drunk. I probably wouldn’t have let him kiss me either. But surely Sebastian will call now. Guys always call as soon as another man is interested. They’re like dogs: They never notice if you’ve changed
your hair, but they can sense when there’s another guy sniffing around their territory.
We’re back in Castlebury by mid-afternoon on Sunday, but my theory proves wrong. Sebastian hasn’t called. Maggie, on the other hand, has. Several times. I’m about to call her when she calls me. “What are you doing? Can you come over?”
“I just got back,” I say, suddenly deflated.
“Something happened. Something big. I can’t explain it on the phone. I have to tell you in person.” Maggie sounds very dire and I wonder if her parents are getting divorced.
Maggie’s mother, Anita, opens the door. Anita looks stressed, but you can tell that a long time ago she was probably pretty. Anita is really, really nice—too nice, in fact. She’s so nice that I always get the feeling the niceness has swallowed up the real Anita, and someday she’s going to do something drastic, like burn down the house.
“Oh, Carrie,” Anita says. “I’m so glad you’re here. Maggie won’t come out of her room and she won’t tell me what’s wrong. Maybe you can get her to come downstairs. I’d be so grateful.”
“I’ll take care of it, Mrs. Stevenson,” I say reassuringly. Hiding in her room is something Maggie’s been doing for as long as I’ve known her. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to talk her out.
Maggie’s room is enormous with floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides and a closet the length of one wall. Nearly everyone in town is familiar with the Stevenson
house, because it was designed by a famous contemporary architect and is mostly comprised of glass. The inside of the house is pretty sparse, though, because Maggie’s father can’t abide clutter. I crack open the door to Maggie’s room as Anita stands anxiously to the side. “Magwitch?”
Maggie is lying in her bed, wearing a white cotton nightgown. She rises from beneath the covers like a ghost, albeit a rather churlish one. “Anita!” she scolds. “I told you to leave me alone.” The expression on Anita’s face is startled, guilty, and helpless, which is pretty much her usual demeanor around Maggie. She scurries away as I go in.
“Mags?” I caution. “Are you okay?”
Maggie sits cross-legged on the bed and puts her head in her hands. “I don’t know. I did something terrible.”
“I don’t know how to tell you.”
I can tell, however, that I’m going to have to wait for this terrible revelation, so I sit on the padded stool-y thing Maggie uses as a chair. According to her father, it’s a Swedish-designed ergonomically correct sitting contraption that prevents backaches. It’s also sort of bouncy, so I bob up and down a bit. But then I’m suddenly tired of everyone else’s problems.
“Listen, Mags,” I say firmly. “I don’t have much time. I have to pick up Dorrit at the Hamburger Shack.” This is true, sort of. I probably will have to pick her up eventually.
“But Walt will be there!” she cries out.
“So?” Walt’s parents insist that Walt have an after-school job to make money for college, but the only job Walt’s ever
had is working at the Hamburger Shack for four dollars an hour. And it’s only part-time, so it’s hard to see how Walt will be able to save enough money for even one semester.
“That means you’ll see him,” Maggie gasps.
“Are you going to tell him you saw me?”
This is becoming more and more irritating. “I don’t know. Should I tell him I saw you?”
“No!” she exclaims. “I’ve been avoiding him all weekend. I told him I was going to see my sister in Philadelphia.”
“Don’t you get it?” She sighs dramatically. “Peter.”
“Peter?” I repeat, slightly appalled.
“I had sex with him.”
My legs are all tangled up in the Swedish sitting device and I bounce so hard the whole thing falls over, taking me with it.
“Shhhhh!” Maggie says.
“I don’t get it,” I say, trying to detach myself from the stool. “You had
And another one bites the dust.
“When?” I ask, once I manage to get off the floor.
“Last night. In the woods behind my house.” She nods. “You remember? The night we painted the barn? He was all over me. Then he called yesterday morning and said he
to see me. He said he’d secretly been in love with me for, like, three years but was afraid to talk to me because he thought I was so gorgeous I wouldn’t talk to him. Then
we went for a walk, and we immediately started making out.”
“And then what? You just did it? Right in the woods?”
“Don’t act so surprised.” Maggie sounds slightly hurt and superior at the same time. “Just because you haven’t done it.”
“How do you know I haven’t?”
“So you just did it. On top of the leaves? What about sticks? You could have gotten a stick stuck in your butt.”
“Believe me, when you’re doing it, you don’t notice things like sticks.”