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Because I’m Worth It
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“Just a few fries and some ketchup, please,” Jenny Humphrey told Irene, the one-hundred-year-old
bearded lunch lady behind the counter in the basement cafeteria of the Constance Billard School for
Girls. “Just afew ,” Jenny repeated. Today was the first day of peer group, and Jenny didn’t want her
senior peer group leaders to think she was a total pig.
Peer group was a new program the school was trying out. Every Monday at lunchtime the freshman girls
were to meet in groups of five with two senior girls to discuss peer pressure, body image, boys, sex,
drugs, alcohol, and any other issues that might be bothering the freshman girls or that the two senior peer
group leaders deemed important enough to talk about. The idea was that if the older girls shared their
experiences with the younger girls and started a sympathetic dialogue, the younger girls would make
informed decisions instead of stupid high-school-career-damaging mistakes that might embarrass their
parents or the school.
With its beamed ceiling, mirrored walls, and birchwood modernist tables and chairs, the Constance
Billard School cafeteria looked more like a hot new restaurant than an institutional dining room. The dingy
old cafeteria had been redone last summer because so many students had been going out for lunch or
bringing their own that the school had been losing money on wasted food. The new cafeteria had won an
architectural prize for its appealing design and high-tech kitchen, and it was now the students’ favorite
in-school hangout, despite the fact that Irene and her mean, stingy, grubby-fingernailed old cronies were
still the ones serving the food from the cafeteria’s updated, nouvelle American menu.
Jenny wove her way through the clusters of girls in pleated navy blue, gray, or maroon wool uniform
skirts, picking at their wasabi-smoked tuna burgers and Red Bliss pommes frites and chatting about the
parties they’d been to this past weekend. She slid her stainless steel tray onto the empty round table that
had been reserved for peer group A and sat down with her back to the mirrored wall so she wouldn’t
have to look at herself while she ate. She couldn’t wait to find out who her senior peer group leaders
were going to be. Supposedly the competition had been fierce, since being a leader was a relatively
painless way of showing colleges that you were still involved in school activities even though your
applications were already in. It was like getting extra credit for eating fries and talking about sex for fifty
Who wouldn’t want to do that?
“Hello, Ginny.” Blair Waldorf, the bitchiest, vainest girl in the entire senior class, or maybe the entire
world, slid her tray into the place across from Jenny and sat down. She tucked a wavy lock of dark
Jenny nodded, clutching the seat of her chair as she stared gloomily down at her plate of cold, greasy
fries. She couldn’t believe her bad luck. Not only was Blair Waldorf the most intimidating senior in the
school, she was also Nate Archibald’s ex-girlfriend. Blair and Nate had always been the perfect couple;
the ones destined to stay together forever and ever. Then, strange as it might have seemed, Nate had
actually dumped Blair for Jenny after meeting Jenny in the park and sharing a joint with her.
It had been Jenny’s first joint, and Nate had been her first love. She’d never dreamed of having an older