The Aristobrats

The Aristobrats brings acclaimed author Solow’s talents to the readership she deserves.” Indie Bound

“A perfect middle school read: fun and breezy with depth.” School Library Journal

Parker Bell has been waiting her whole life for Eighth Grade – she’s finally at the very top of the populadder at Wallingford Academy and her Facebook Friend count has never been higher. A second generation Wally (what most people call an “Aristobrat”), Parker is determined to use her status to champion the underpopular. But when Parker and her three best friends are mysteriously assigned to produce the highly academic (and seriously bleh) webcast, she watches in horror as their spot on the populadder plummets.

The girls will do whatever it takes to save their reputations, even if it means masterminding a plan to get kicked off the project. But when their predicament gets even worse, they just might realize that true friendship means more than status.

Which Aristobrat are you? Take the quiz!

  1. Your style of dress would be described as:




  2. You think boys should…




  3. Your motto is...




  4. You pick your school activities based on...




  5. At home you can be found…




  6. Your friends would say you are...




  7. Your favorite place to be is...




  8. Your favorite snack food is...




  9. Your shoes are...




 

CHAPTER ONE

Exsqueeze-ay moi? Some people are getting dressed in here…”
Parker Bell’s mother, Ellen, had an unfortunate habit of opening her daughter’s door without knocking. Parker was still in her pajamas and her room was a mess. Clothing rejects were all over the floor, draped over the antique chaise and dangling from the mahogany Darcy chair. The desk looked like something had exploded on it, and maybe it had—Parker seriously couldn’t remember.
Ellen, a neat freak who’d have a hairy nip fit if the Egyptian cotton bath towels weren’t folded in thirds, frowned at the unrecognizable floor and the searing beauty tools on the furniture. She looked like she might crack in half.
“I may need a search party the next time I come in here, Park.”
Parker offered a morsel of wisdom she’d read once in CosmoGirl. “They say a messy room is the sign of a brilliant mind, Mom.” She tossed a feather-light pashmina into the air and watched it float gracefully onto the ground.
Ellen ignored her compulsion to pick up and fold. “Then you must be a very smart girl,” she said.
“Thank you.” Parker grinned. Another mother-daughter point: scored.
“I just came in to tell you,” Ellen said calmly, “that Armada will be driving you to school tomorrow because I have a meeting at Siddie’s in the morning.”
Siddie was Sir Sidmund Stryker, aka Sid Stryker, the front man of the legendary band, the Rebels. And Ellen was his architect. Sid hadn’t made a public appearance in nearly a decade, ever since his mother published her tell-all memoir, Rebel Without a Cause: My Life with Sid Stryker. He’d begun renovating the old mansion he bought in Wallingford around the same time and now it was nearly finished. There were only a few people in the world the rock star trusted and Ellen was one of them. She had the alarm code to his house, the floor plans for his bedroom, swatches of fabric for his curtains, and her own schnuggly name for him. Parker found it all a little embarrassing.
“Why tomorrow?” Parker asked. She shouldn’t have cared either way; it wasn’t like she needed her mother to drive her to school. It was the first day of eighth grade, not kindergarten.
“I can move my meeting, sweetheart…” Ellen softened her tone. “If you want me to?” She seemed almost hopeful.
“You don’t need to move your meeting.” Parker tried to sound convincing. Sid was her mother’s only client—Parker knew she had to make accommodations. “It’s just school, Mom. No biggie.”
She collapsed onto her bed and kicked off the furry slippers, looking up through the sheer drapery panels of her canopy bed toward the cottage chandelier that hung from the middle of the ceiling. The polished crystals sparkled in the morning sun. She tried to channel her inner-hypnotist: I am Parker Bell. I am confident, cool, and on top of things.
Ellen cleared a space for herself on the corner of the bed next to Parker’s school uniform. The black watch plaid kilt was made from fine merino wool instead of the cheap polyblend you get now, and the knife pleats were sharper and narrower than the newer ones. It was completely impossible to come by the pure wool version of the Wallingford Academy uniform, unless of course it had been handed down to you.
Parker was a third-generation Wally—one of just a handful of legacy students at the school: an Aristobrat, as most nonlegacies called them, usually behind their backs. The title had its advantages but also came with responsibilities—being a legacy wasn’t always as easy as it seemed.
“Who do you think you’ll have for homeroom this year?” Ellen asked. “Death Breath? Barn Yard?” Ellen knew all of the teachers’ nicknames—they hadn’t changed much since she was a Wally.
“That’s as easy to answer as who’ll win the award for Best Liplock.” Parker couldn’t begin to worry about teachers—there was enough to stress out about already. “I mean, you can make an educated guess but you don’t know for sure until your name is called.”
Ellen rolled her eyes at the remark.
“Did you see my note?” Ellen nodded at Parker’s laptop, an ultra-slim, 17-inch, top-of-the-line Orion notebook in a hot pink protective case. “I sent it last week.”
“I’m…not sure.” Parker lied on the grounds that the truth may incriminate her. “I’m so backblogged it’s not even funny.”
Ellen rested her hand on her hip and raised a suspicious eyebrow. She took a deep breath, surveyed the messy room once more, then puffed out her cheeks like she was about to deliver some earth-shattering news.
“Eighth grade is a tough year, Park,” Ellen warned for about the hundredth time in a month.
Like I need to be reminded.
At Wallingford Academy, eighth grade was the most important year of school (understatement), and very possibly of your whole life (seriously). When you thought about it (which Parker did several dozen times a day for the last three years), it was the last time in your life you didn’t have to stress about the big stuff: directed study proposals, application deadlines, dieting for prom, dieting for college, dieting for glamorous fundraisers… adulthood. On the other hand, it was the year when who you were—and who you ever would be—was pretty much set in stone. Success or failure hinged on the tiniest moments, the smallest details. Long story short? If you ruled eighth grade, the rest of your future was pretty much golden.
“And I know the possibility of leaving isn’t something you really want to talk about, sweetheart,” Ellen said gently. “But we have to talk about it eventually.”
Parker closed her eyes tightly and tried to push the painful thought away. It was easy to pretend they were just like everybody else, but they weren’t. The big house, and everything in it, was all they’d inherited from Parker’s grandmother when she’d died. And an antique chair or a crystal wall sconce didn’t pay the tuition at Wallingford; Ellen did. They weren’t poor, but compared to Parker’s friends, they might as well have been. Parker had always known that Siddie’s remodeling gig would be over one of these days—and one of these days was getting closer and closer.
“We’re okay on taxes for now. That should take us through the fall,” Ellen said. “So at least we have that.”
The fall? Parker tried to picture where that would get her.
“You could sell my furniture on eBay,” Parker suggested. “I don’t really need it.” She tried to look sincere but it was hard sitting there on her canopy bed leaning against her goose down pillows. Frankly, she looked like someone who needed furniture.
“I hate the idea of leaving as much as you do. I know how hard it will be.” Ellen smiled. It was a sympathetic-mom smile, the kind moms give you when your goldfish dies. “I just want things to be perfect for you, Parker.”
“Things are perfect,” Parker assured her. “Absolutely, totally, unbelievably perfect.” She thought about school and her friends and the bottom nearly dropped out of her stomach. “I need this year, Mom. I’ve been waiting forever for it.”
Ellen smiled again. This time it was the I-was-your-age-once smile. “You just promise me you’ll make the best of whatever time you have left at Wallingford. There are great opportunities there for you,” she said. “And you shouldn’t waste a second of it on things that don’t matter. You hear that, Park?”
Parker resisted the temptation to pull out an enormous pair of aviator sunglasses and hide behind them until the next century. “I wasn’t planning on wasting anything,” she reminded her mother. It’s me, remember?
Ellen stood up from the bed and buttoned her suit jacket in Parker’s mirror. “And who knows…maybe Siddie will want to rip everything out and start over.”
With any luck.
Ellen reached over and kissed her daughter’s forehead. “You’re sure you don’t need me to move my meeting?” she asked.
Parker shook her head. “I’m fine.”
She could smell the lingering gardenia of her mother’s perfume. The sweet and familiar scent always made her feel happy and sad at the same time—like looking at an old photo album or winding up the music box beside her bed.
“Everything will work out, sweetheart.” Ellen folded the pashmina back into a proper square and placed it back on the shelf in the closet where it belonged. “I know it will.”
“Me too,” Parker said as her mother walked out. She called out in a clear voice, confident, cool, and on top of things, “Say hi to Siddie for me!”

CHAPTER TWO

Parker stood at the foot of her bed and studied the clothes she’d laid out for the next day. After the exhausting morning of work, the look was finally coming together.
A uniform could say a lot about more about you than most people understood. If the kilt was just a few inches too long, for instance, you might as well eat lunch in the social donut hole of the East Alcove. Or if your button-down shirt was too silky and tight then everyone assumed you went to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School because that’s how they wore them there. And if you got your Blucher Mocs from Value City Shoes…hello, people could tell.
Image counted if you wanted to be the best, and Parker got that, maybe more than anyone at Wallingford Academy. She wasn’t the prettiest girl in class, or the smartest, and certainly not the richest, but there was no doubt about it — this was Eighth Grade; she could finally be as high up the populadder as she wanted to be.
The secret was pretty simple — wearing the right clothes wasn’t as important as how you felt in them. Being beautiful was about what you did with what you had. Popularity was like that too — it was all about attitude. You had to picture who you wanted to be and then just imagine that’s who you already were.
Parker opened her jewelry box and placed her Tiff’s locket at the spot where her neck would be then added a delicate pair of silver earrings she’d gotten in Vineyard Haven over the summer. The cashmere pullover she’d decided on was new and oversized just enough to hang flawlessly down her back, but not so big to scream XXL. The button-down shirt she’d picked out was crisp cotton, white as teeth, and so starched it could have stood up and gone to school by itself.
She held the sweater up to her chest and put her hand lightly on her hip. It was her magazine cover pose (or Academy Award acceptance pose, whichever came first). Her skin was tan from a summer at the beach and her hair was loosely curled under from the morning’s blow-dry with a thermal boars-head round brush. An extra swipe of bronzer powder along the bridge of her nose made it look smaller than it was. And the classic, regulation colors of the Wallingford uniform went well with her coloring (that was just luck, not work). Altogether, the look said confident but not stuck up, pretty but not self-obsessed with herself, excited but not super anxious about it. Although would staring at myself in the mirror for twenty minutes technically be considered stuck up or merely a commitment to excellence?
Parker set the pullover back down on the bed and opened her laptop.
It didn’t take an Einstein to know that the care and maintenance of one’s Facebook profile was essential to assuring a top position on the populadder. And it wasn’t the quantity of time that mattered; it was the quality. There were new Albums to add, Friends to confirm, photos to tag, Groups to join, and countless Invitations to RSVP to. Good manners were crucial – especially online.
And then there was the time-gobbling task of sorting through the People You May Know section, which changed daily. (This was always the creepiest part, Parker thought. How did Facebook know that she knew them?) It was a necessity to continuously update and polish her Profile – how else could people ever get to know the continuously-updated and polished Parker Bell?

Parker tagged a few photos and sorted through the last of the morning’s Friend requests, confirming seven new ones and ignoring some guy who lived in Paraguay. She looked at the final thumbnail photograph for the third time this week and the only hopeful Friend still waiting for an answer. She clicked open the pending request for the third time this week.

Ellen Bell – you have 0 friends in common

Her own mother! It was mortifying.

Why do they let mothers have their own profiles? Parker shook her head. It was something she would never understand. (Facebook should have a mandatory retirement age, she thought.) She left the pending request hanging out there in Facebook Limbo and clicked back to the home page and to the toughest assignment of the day.

What’s your status right now?

Parker twirled the gold friendship ring on her finger and wiggled her toes, now freshly pedicured a pale ballet pink. She only had a few minutes left before she needed to run out to meet her friends but she had to let the answer come to her. Thinking too hard ruined it. Not thinking hard enough and you were cheating yourself and your Friends. But it was more difficult today for obvious reasons. Updating her Status didn’t usually make her this nervous. Parker bit her lip and tried to concentrate.

What’s your status right now?

Parker is

She looked at her reflection in the screen, flipped her silky hair over one shoulder and put her fingers to the keyboard.

Parker is…ready.

Yes. One word. Powerful. True. Telling. Plus, she felt proud of herself for resisting the temptation to add:

…sort of.

CHAPTER THREE

The five rules of La Coppa Coffee Tuesday:

  1. It must be Tuesday.
  2. It must be at La Coppa Coffee.
  3. You must bagsy the comfy couch even if it means resorting to ugliness.
  4. 24-hour cancellation policy. No exceptions.
  5. What’s said at La Coppa Coffee stays at La Coppa Coffee.

 

Parker couldn’t believe it was finally the day before school started: the first La Coppa Coffee Tuesday of the school year. After seven years of waiting, eight if you count Kindergarten, the moment had arrived. She was only minutes away from seeing her three best friends for the first time as official Eighth Graders.
Parker walked quickly past World of Beauty, Baby Cakes bakery and Hemingway’s Books. Wallingford Towne Centre was filled with so many Wallingford students that you could smell the new leather of everyone’s shoes.

Her phone buzzed as she walked past the Orion™ Computers Retail Store and through the courtyard toward the coffee shop on the other side. The texts from her friends had been building up all morning. Her message box was in need of a serious purge.

Wher R U?!

M$ULkeCRz

5 mins L8

And they all signed off the same way. Always.

LYLAS

Love you like a sister.

Initially it was just the simplest way for the four best friends to text goodbye, and then, one of them, Parker didn’t remember who first, said it aloud – like a word:

“…Talk to you later. Lylas.”
After that, it became part of their vocabulary.
“…See you then. Lylas.”
“…I’m sooo excited. Lylas.”
It was easy to forget it was an acronym because it sounded more like a name. Singular: Lyla. Plural: Lylas. Together, they were a unit. Parker never screened their calls and they never screened hers. If you created a Group, they joined it. If you sent them Links, they clicked them. When your Wall was blank, they filled it. It was who they were and how they signed off. Sometimes they added a :-) or a ;-) ) or a ~:->, depending on their mood but LYLAS always came first. In email. In everything.
Parker pushed open the door of La Coppa Coffee. The engraving on her new friendship ring glittered for a moment in the morning sun: Friends Forever. The gold band was more fitting, Parker thought, than the macramé bracelets they’d all worn since Pinecliff summer camp two years ago. (Plus the colorful string always broke off in the shower.) Her throat tightened. It hurt too much to think about leaving The Lylas but she was determined not to let any of it show. At least the rings would last forever.
The smoky smell of espresso beans filled the air.
“Lyla!” Ikea Bentley, the most punctual member of the group, got up from the comfy couch with Parker’s Half-Caf Venti Mocha Machiatto at the ready.
“Lyla!” Parker wrapped her hand around the hot cup and they exchanged a double-air-kiss. Their ample layer of sheer LipGlass, sticky enough to conjoin them at the lips forever, kept them from avoiding contact. “So needed this,” Parker thanked Ikea for the much-needed fix and quickly took a sip from the frothy top.
“No probs,” Ikea said licking her upper lip (actually the Secret Signal that Parker had a foam mustache). She handed Parker a napkin and nodded once the ‘stache was clear.
Ikea was pronounced I-kay-a, like the exotic African lodge where she was conceived, not I-kee-ya, like the un-exotic Swedish furniture store.
Like Parker, Ikea was an Aristobrat. Her father, a former Yalie and the senior partner at Bentley & English LLP, was a Wally from way back. Mr. Bentley was the kind of attorney who got calls in the middle of the night from the Crown Prince of Dubai, the Secretary of State, or billionaire computer mogul J. Fitzgerald Orion himself.
Mr. Bentley’s goal in life (as in the only thing he ever talked about, as in the blank application taped to the refrigerator, as in the bumper sticker he stuck to the mirror in his daughter’s bathroom) was for Ikea to go to Yale. Just like he did.
It wasn’t much of a stretch — Ikea was one of the smartest girls at Wallingford (the smartest girl on the populadder, defs) and she already looked old enough to be on Court TV. She was also the only African American girl in the class, which was good for college applications but also really annoying because people were always trying to match her up with Brooks Jenkins, the only African American boy. Brooksie was totally beneath Ikea in every way, which no one understood — Wallys could be so blind.
“We’re loving the tote.” Parker admired Ikea’s new bag — a pink and lime patterned canvas with a teaberry bottom. Lavishly complimenting the other person’s new thing, whatever it was, was one of the many Lylas Rules. “Très cute.”
Even the tote bag itself was part of the Rules: Designer handbags were out. Designer totes were in. Of course, The Rules were ever changing, constantly amended, reversed and modified. And there were always exceptions.
“Your tote is très cuter,” Ikea gushed. (Another Rule: You have to say the other person’s new thing is better than yours, even if you didn’t really think so.)
Ikea sat down in the leather club chair beside the comfy couch and fixed her glossy straight hair behind her ears. Today’s outfit was sunny, and perfectly complimented her hazel eyes. Ikea loved bright colors. Usually they were printed on canvas or cotton, embroidered with flowers and combined with some form of pink. She was preppy. Seriously preppy. And not in a fakester way, like an Abercrombie Zombie or a Polo-poser. If it had a croc, a duck, or a Black Dog on it, Ikea owned it. If it could be made out of ribbon, monogrammed, or engraved — she bought it. And she never shopped in malls, or even fancy stores like Langdon’s. She bought oodles from Maax in Nantucket, the Lilly’s in East Hampton, and CJ Laing’s in Palm Beach. Ikea was a purist. A total prepsicle. It was impossible not to admire her focus.
Parker untied her belt and slipped out of her trim, voile trench jacket. She hunkered down on the end of the couch and kicked off her ballet flats.
“You are so super tan, Park,” Ikea said, kicking off her own Eliza B. Horse & Rider flip-flops. “Hawaiian Trops. Totally.”
“You think?” Parker looked down at her impeccably bronzed arms. “I don’t understand why…I wore Fifty the whole time in The Vineyard.” Or maybe it wasn’t exactly Fifty, Parker thought; maybe it was more like a family-sized bottle of baby oil, some lemon juice, and a Fritz Bandeau tankini for weeks on end. Parker kept that to herself though too – she didn’t want Ikea to think she had tanorexia.
“Tribb is going to go crazy when he sees you,” Ikea told her.
Parker tried to contain her excitement. It was important to keep a level head about all these things. Tribb was Tribble Manning Reese III, the Wallingford Tigers’ star forward and team captain. Tribb was the kind of guy who put his hands in his pockets, locked his knees and looked really good, you know, just standing there. Total front cover Hottery Barn.
Ever since Tribb and Parker foxtrotted together in Miss Portia’s cotillion class last year, it was obvious that he would be her EGB (Eighth Grade Boyfriend). It was all planned out: she would go to his practices, they’d flirt by the lockers before First Period, IM for hours, and they’d have their first kiss after the Tiger’s game against the Fox Chapel Acorns, the first major social event of the season. He’d even get the lowdown on the dress she was wearing to Fall Social so they could coordinate perfectly (he was pretty metro that way). He’d give her a gardenia wrist corsage. A single but fragrant flower. Always a classic.
No one was more perfect for Parker – everyone thought so.
Parker counted out the week until Fall Social – she’d definitely be at Wallingford until then. “I don’t need to impress Tribb Reese,” she maintained. “Plus, Tribb should love…he should love…what’s on the inside.” Parker nearly choked on her words. For the first time, Eighth Grade felt so real.
“Absolutely,” Ikea agreed. “The inside is so important.”
Parker took a deep breath — the kind that the sucks tears right back in your head before they have a chance to come out. She settled into the couch and sipped on the Mocha Mach, pointing to the visible spot of skin above Ikea’s Capris. “You should totally get a tattoo back there,” she said. “Like a little fairy. Or the Japanese symbol for peace or something.”
Ikea twisted her head around and tried to get a glimpse of her own backside. It wasn’t hard to miss – everyone else at La Coppa Coffee saw it clear as day.
“I heard Brie Channing got a butterfly tattoo on her ankle,” Parker relayed. “Her mother doesn’t even know about it.” She sipped. “Now she has to always wear knee socks. Even for tennis.”
Ikea’s jaw dropped.
“A tattoo? Can I do it?” Plum Petrovsky called, returning from the barista counter with a coffee as big as she was.
“Lyla!!” They all traded another round of air kisses, carefully avoiding any tragic coffee or Lipglass mishaps.
“All we really need to do a tattoo is a needle and some India ink,” Plum said.
And she would know — Plum nearly got expelled last year for piercing Missy Foxcroft’s ears in the Girls’ bathroom. Even though Plum was a Legacy too, she’d nearly been expelled from Wallingford a total of four times. Most were grievous misunderstandings, false representations, and one possible case of extortion (which couldn’t exactly be proven, but couldn’t exactly not be proven either).
Plum took a seat at the other end of the comfy couch, took the top off her cup and blew on the dark, steamy liquid. She pulled her tiny legs up to her chest and wrapped her arm around her knees. The top part of her scribble-print Chuck Taylors were folded down and held together by double laces.
Parker blinked at the engraving on Plum’s new friendship ring: Friends Forever.
Plum’s skin was smooth as porcelain, her short, glazed haircut had one sharp streak of Cherry Bomb red (well, today it was Cherry Bomb red) imbedded in the bangs, and her brows were nothing short of red carpet ready. She was heir to the Out of This World cosmetics empire and the company guinea pig. She was always getting Milky Way facials, Sea of Tranquility paraffin masks, and Close Encounters of the Botanical Kind. Plum always looked great and usually smelled pretty fruity. It more than made up for the fact that she still hadn’t grown into her training bra.
But as much as Plum obsessed over an eyebrow, she thought that boys were entirely overrated. Thanks primarily to her younger brother Nico, Plum maintained that the male species were all smelly, splashed water on their toothbrushes instead of actually brushing their teeth, drew bloody skulls on everything they owned, never flushed the toilet (no matter what was in there), and recited the lyrics of rap songs instead of having real conversations. Boys, Plum felt, needed brat bribes just to act human. And Parker had to admit, she wasn’t always wrong about this.
“But BTdubs, no way are we doing a butterfly tattoo,” Plum told everyone. “Butterflies are way played out,” she said.
Parker and Ikea both nodded; Butterflies are way played out.
A new rule was born.
“Ike…” Plum sipped from her drink. “…you think your parental unit can keep me out of detention this year?” She phrased the question casually, like it was no biggie to ask Mr. Bentley something like that. “My grandmother is so making my mother send me to Our Lady of Fatima if I get another detention.”
“…I don’t know if he can do that,” Ikea said nervously.
Mr. Bentley had recently been named Wallingford Academy’s new Board President, a job that would require an untold amount time nosing around in Ikea’s bizness. It would take the pressure she usually felt about getting an A+ in just about everything in her life (which apparently was required to get into Yale), put a lid on it, and turn the temperature up to scalding. But leave it to Plum to see the potential in Mr. Bentley’s appointment.
Ikea bit at the end of her grosgrain watch band and then moved on to her thumbnail. Parker found herself biting at her thumbnail too. She could feel Ikea’s pain.
“Hello, Darls!” Katherine ‘Kiki’ Allen, the very first-of-all-time member of The Lylas (and third generation Wally), burst into the crowded coffee shop with an armful of shopping bags, a stack of British fashion magazines, and hugsies for everyone. “I am so knackered,” Kiki puffed. “I had the most beastly time getting out of the house.”
Kiki had just returned from a summer in London with a brand new faux-English accent and gi-normous credit card bills from Harvey Nichols and Patrick Cox. Kiki was a Euro-chameleon — instantly influenced by whatever country she’d just been visiting. It was like the time she came back from Paris and had to put a ‘la’, ‘le’ or ‘les’ in front of everything.
On the other hand, Kiki looked fabulouz as only Kiki could. She wore a pair of metallic flats, humongous Cavanna sunglasses, and Studio D’Artisan jeans that looked like they’d been painted on her. Celebrity hairstylist, Adee Phelan, had given her wide, blunt bangs that reached down to the tips of her eyelashes (so soon every Wally would rush to the salon for the same). And ignoring the Designer Tote Decree entirely, she carried all her junk in a Lariat handbag the size of a Volkswagen. It was the British It Bag, Kiki had said. Everyone in London had one.
Kiki’s mother, Bunny, had once been married to a Bulgarian Count. She still made her dinner reservations under the name “The Countess of Battenberg” even though the marriage had lasted only eleven days.
Her great-great-grandmother on her father’s side was Eugenie Singer of the Alexandria Island Singers, and her great-grandfather was Thomas L. Allen, heir to the Allen Railroad fortune. Dr. Allen didn’t seem to be a doctor of anything. And although he was always dressed in a custom-made suit and tie, read the Wall Street Journal cover to cover every morning, and had his own full-time driver, he never went anywhere in particular. He’d never had a job in his life.
Kiki even had her own Centurian Card, which meant she could’ve charged a small island if she wanted to: the best kind of situation for a shopaholic. She could’ve paid everyone’s tuition and then some (not that Parker would ever ask).
“You bagsied the comfy couch during coffee hour?” Kiki asked, plunking down beside Parker with a cup of English Breakfast tea. “How smashing!” She checked her lipstick in the reflection of her phone.
“Ikea saved the couch,” Plum said, “with her enormously smashing booty.” She sipped and grinned wickedly, twirling her Cherry Bomb highlight around her finger.
“My booty is not smashing,” Ikea protested. “I’m so not-fat, you guys…” She tried to turn around again to have another look at her rear end. “…Am I?”
“Not if your scale is metric,” Kiki said.
Ikea smirked. “Women shouldn’t be so obsessed with their weight,” she offered, suddenly super-serious. “Girls already face so many pressures in today’s media-saturated society.” Ikea was a recent graduate of the GirlPower™ Self-Empowerment Program and believed in all this type of stuff now. (Ikea believed in a lot of things, Parker noted, none of which made her butt look as thin as it was at the beginning of the summer.)
“We all admire your fat activism, Ikea,” Kiki said. “It’s one of your most fattractive traits.”

Ikea laughed in spite of herself. Plum pulled her notebook out and starting sketching Kiki and her cup of English tea. She tilted her head and crinkled her nose as she drew.

“I saw these boots on Bond Street,” Kiki stated, turning the pages of British Vogue around for the group to see. “The Brits do everything first,” she proclaimed. “Liam Davies is a legend. He invented style.” She pointed to a picture of a pale, super-skinny English rock star and the glamboyant boots she’d apparently almost bought. “He’s an immense ledge. Immense.”
Ikea peered closer at the photograph. “I’m sure Liam Davies would want to be known for his music more than a pair of purple boots and black nail polish,” she said.
“You don’t wear purple suede platforms if you don’t want to be known for them,” Kiki responded.
“I just don’t think you should judge people by what’s on the outside. That’s all,” Ikea argued. “Clothes aren’t that important.”
Alarm bells started going off in Parker’s brain.
“Well thank you very much you for the fashion update, Lilly Pulitzer.” Kiki eyeballed Ikea’s splashy Jubilee print top.
Parker quickly closed Kiki’s magazine before things turned ugly. Everyone was completely stressing out about tomorrow even if no one was saying so.
“We’re not here to focus on anyone’s fashion felonies,” Parker reminded them. “Tomorrow is a very big day. There are a lot of great opportunities for us.” Saying the words out loud made Parker’s stomach flip-flop. Ikea nodded. “We need to focus on the things that really matter. Remember?”
“Like planning for dresses for Fall Sosh,” Kiki proposed.
“Fall Social is two months away, Keek,” Parker said. Some people may not even be here by then. “I mean…we’re the leaders of the school now. Noblesse oblige and everything.”
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required,” Ikea quoted, looking like she might break into some song from the spring play.
“I just want to eat lunch in the West Alcove,” Plum said, concentrating on the details of her sketch, “finally.”
“It’s like our destiny,” Ikea agreed.
“Just like my destiny is these completely to-die-for pair of open-toe snakeskin D’Orsay slouchies.” Kiki couldn’t help but look at the back of her magazine. “Total Must-Haves.”
There was an awkward silence as everyone stared at the slouchy boots on the back cover. Having just commented on all thirty photos in Kiki’s new Album ‘The Shoes I Bought in London’, it was difficult for everybody to drool all over yet another pair.
Kiki looked up from her dream booties. “What?” she asked the group.
“Oh…nothing.” Plum said, flashing the Hairy Eyeball over at Parker. (Plum’s shockingly glamorous Hairy Eyeball was famous the world over. She could catch a bank robber with that thing.)
“They’re great boots, Keek,” Ikea said. “Must-Haves all the way.”
“So Lylas, let’s review the rules./” Parker brought the conversation back the key issue of the day. “Eighth Grade is…” she began.
“The most important year of school,” Ikea answered correctly. “Possibly of our whole lives.”
Plum turned the page in her notebook, sat up as tall as she could, and read some of the new policies they’d come up with over the summer. “We will set an example…” Plum began.
“For the whole school to follow…” Ikea added.
“We won’t snub anyone,” Plum recited. “At least not in public,” she clarified.
“We will be nice to the noofs,” Parker said.
“Because it can be super intimidating being a new person at a new school, especially Wallingford,” Ikea continued.
Plum turned the page. “We will not let petty problems…”
“Or parental expectations…” Parker put her hand on Ikea’s.
“Or polyblend fibers…” Kiki shivered.
“…get in the way of our goals.” Plum read.
“We will never be tempted to wear Vamp nail polish again.”
“Vamp is so over.”
“Clear is the new Vamp.”
“We will not commit Facebook Faux Pas.”
“Or Tweet uncontrollably.”
“And require a Twittervention.”
“We will blow dry or flat-iron every morning, even if it all looked fine the night before.”
“And we will condition.”
“And exfoliate.”
“And we won’t make anyone feel unworthy just because of their underpopularity but we will still assume the best seats in the auditorium and The Good Table at lunch because we’ve earned them.”
“And the number one, never-broken rule…”
“Friends first,” they said all together and clinked friendship rings.
Parker tucked her feet happily back up on the couch. “Eighth Grade is going to be great,” she said. “The best.”
The Lylas finished their drinks and walked out onto the street in front of La Coppa Coffee. The sun was shining on the square. It still smelled like summer: honeysuckle and fresh cut grass and swimming pools and suntan lotion. Parker smiled.
Facebook had not lied. Parker Bell was ready.
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5 comments

  1. admin

    Thanks, April! I wish I could say that the Aristobrats 2 is coming out soon, but my publisher seems to have fogotten about it! Lots of fun surprises in the second book. xx

  2. Rosemary

    u are so great at writting that i hav like totally decided to find every book u’ve written in the library and read it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Rosemary

    p.s. i turned out to be kiki. great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! its obvy im not kiki but i so badly wish to be an aristobrat ( but maybe without the drama in the book.I’d drop dead if i had all those problems).So if i was an aristocrat i would like to be a kiki for her style and a Ikea for her smarts ( my parents are like her dad but not as harsh).

  4. Rosemary

    for my 1st coment imeant to put aristobrat in front of book
    srry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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