Worst Impressions: A Modern Austen Tale

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I do not want to be famous. People can’t seem to get Charlie Bingley’s name out of their mouth. It’s like he’s an orally transmitted disease that plagues any woman fifteen to fifty years of age. If that were my name they were chewing, I’d switch schools, but Charlie Bingley has attended only one day of class since he moved to Meryton. He’s a flash of lightning. Every girl is obsessed with speculating about why he isn’t at school, while the Bennet females are occupied with literally anything else.

“He’s bringing a bunch of people to the Block party,” Lydia says, hooking her arm through mine. I groan. “I know, right? Twelve girls, Alicia King said, and seven boys. I mean, who cares? But that’s a super weird reason to miss like a week of school.”

“Lydia, I will pay you twenty dollars to talk about anything else,” I say, extracting my arm from hers. She pays me no mind and goes on chattering.

“But Mr. Lucas apparently saw him at Super Savers with five girls and only one guy,” Lydia continues, “and I want to know why anyone would go shopping with an entourage? Like, who needs seven people to buy groceries?”

“Rich people, apparently,” Charlotte says, grabbing my elbow and pulling me towards our lockers.

“Bye, Lyds!” I say, blowing my incessant sister a kiss.

Lydia sticks out her tongue and flounces away to tell some other poor soul about the injustice of shopping in a large group. Charlotte kicks her locker and it swings open.

“Thank all that is good and holy that the block party is tonight,” Charlotte sighs. “If my mother tells me one more time how cute Charlie Bingley is, I’m going to throw her or myself into oncoming traffic.” She stacks two textbooks in her arms and closes her locker.

“When did my sister become so frustrating?” I ask, watching Lydia sidle up to a jersey-bedecked senior football star.

“Which one?” Charlotte asks, flipping through messages on her phone.

“Good point.” I touch the side of my nose. “But I mean the intrepid Lydia Grace Bennet, who is earning a reputation among the senior football players.” I nod to the cluster of giants who are all ogling my littlest sister.

“For her... dazzling work ethic?” Charlotte asks.

“That’s it.” Lydia winks to the tallest player, Denny Weaver, and slinks off to avoid her Biology class. The flock of jocks watch her leave like kittens distracted by a bird.

Charlotte stands and pockets her phone. “At least she has social graces, right? I mean, when was the last time you had a full conversation with Mary?”

“When she asked me to help her run lines for the Vagina Monologues, and even then, all my words were scripted,” I say.

Charlotte laughs and then stops abruptly, staring over my shoulder. I turn around too fast and collide with another human.

“Watch it!” An high pitched voice squeaks. You know those people whose voices don’t fit their bodies? This girl sounds like a Muppet. Her blonde bob flicks off her face as she steps away from me.

“My fault,” I say, stepping back from the girl. I have seen her before, I know it, but where... oh! Blonde hair, eternal scowl. Charlie Bingley’s sister. “Hey, you’re Charlie Bingley’s sister, right?” I ask.

“Caroline,” she spits, as if being Charlie Bingley’s sister is the bane of her existence.

“Lizzie,” I offer. She bears her teeth, which I think is her way of smiling... or she is planning on tearing into my flesh and devouring me alive. But probably the first part.

“And you are...?” She gestures with a limp hand to Charlotte standing beside me.

“Charlotte. Best friend of,” Charlotte says, mimicking Caroline’s empty interest and indicating me. “Nice to meet you!”

I dart a confused look at Charlotte and she returns daggers.

“Mutual,” Caroline says. It’s not mutual.

“See you at the block party tonight?” Charlotte asks rather too hopefully.

“You might see me, yeah.” Caroline scoots past us and waltzes down the hall. Another blonde girl attaches herself to Caroline’s side like a magnet and the two converse in front of the auditorium.

I scoff. “What a--”

“Babe,” Charlotte says. I raise an eyebrow and she holds up her hands in defense.

“What can I say?”

“You’re depraved.”

“I like ’em fiery.” Charlotte sways on her tip-toes to catch a peek at our new anti-acquaintance down the hall.

“Will you stop it?” I whisper, grabbing her hand and pulling her down the hall. One of us has to be reasonable. Somebody in this town has to keep their pants on!

I have never experienced a longer day in my entire life. Half of the students at my school live in Longbourne Park, so half the school spent the day speculating about how many people Charlie Bingley is bringing to the block party, and why he’s missed two weeks of school and whether or not he poops diamonds.

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