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And the Success Story

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Parties are way less fun now that Caroline’s dad is in jail.

Nobody can exactly stop inviting her, because she had three different offers to be on reality TV, one of which was for her own show (please, like she didn’t see what that did for Paris and Nicole and the Kardashians), but it’s like they think insider trading charges are contagious. Caroline still has the money to stick around, from her mom’s trust fund, but it’s boring now. Nobody talks to her at the best parties, nobody lets her do anything at the office because the name Channing isn’t exactly an asset these days, and she spends more time with Chestnut than she does with most of her friends.

This weekend, she’s in the Hamptons, at Madison’s yearly house party. Mostly she’s just standing out on the terrace with a glass of wine and her biggest sunglasses, pretending the view of the beach is actually interesting, but sometimes she’ll talk to people and they’ll even talk to her about things besides why she turned down the reality TV deals. Nobody remembers things for long, a pregnancy scare or two and she’ll be back in, but for now it’s still boring.

A few people are down on the beach tanning on the sand and splashing each other more than actually swimming, and Caroline thinks about going down there (she has on a totally cute swimsuit under her cover-up), but before she can, she’s interrupted.

“Hey, Stepford,” says someone she doesn’t know. “Where’s the actual booze at this party?”

Caroline blinks and looks to the side, where there’s a girl her age holding most of a bottle of wine. She’s not anyone Caroline knows, which is weird at this kind of party. “Wine is booze,” she says.

“Yeah, and handjobs are technically sex, but they don’t really get anyone going. Man, this rich people stuff is boring, all the movies made it seem way better.”

“I’m sorry, who are you exactly?”

“Man, fancy, I didn’t think I’d get that much attitude from someone standing on her own with a glass of booze, that’s usually my party strategy. Unless there’s something better.”

Caroline smiles. “Madison’s dad keeps his good Scotch in a locked cabinet in the billiards room.”

“Jesus, what is this place, Santa’s fun house?” Whoever it is puts on an exaggerated British accent. “Oh, Scotch will be served in the billiards room, ma’am.” She snorts. “I thought there was supposed to be Ecstasy and shitty techno music at rich people parties, this is kind of a letdown. What’s your name, Stepford?”

“Caroline Channing.”

“You aren’t named after a hotel or a golf course, I’m impressed. Max Black, I’m around here Gatsby-ing it up. Wait, wasn’t he the one throwing the parties? Whatever, I was just in that movie for Tobey Maguire, he was way hotter as Spiderman.”

The name rings a bell, and Caroline takes a second to figure out why while Max takes a swig from her bottle. “You’re the children’s book writer, right? Madison said she was inviting you, that you’re the next big thing on the New York Times bestseller list.”

“Turns out eventually making cupcakes and working the night shift gets boring. I needed something interesting in my life, so it was either get a roommate and take my chances on whether they murdered me or find another hobby, and the guy I was hanging around with drew a lot of pictures.” Max shrugs. “So I got to doing it, and that stuck around longer than he did, and then there was the publishing deal.”

“My dad is in jail and I turned down an offer to be the star of a show called Riches to Rags. Please, like these are rags.”

Max taps her bottle against Caroline’s glass and gets really close to breaking it. “Sing it, let’s start the poor little rich girls club. It’s way more fun than the poor little poor girls club, let me tell you.”

Caroline wrinkles her nose. “I can’t imagine being poor.”

“Yeah, you’d probably suck at it. However, it teaches you great skills, like lock-picking. Want to get some of that Scotch you mentioned and put it in wine bottles and take a swig every time someone says something totally pretentious? Including you, you’re going to be my ticket to getting totally smashed.”

She thinks about being offended, but Max is talking to her, Caroline is starting to not take that for granted. She gives one last look down at the beach, where Keith is running into the surf (damn, those abs, he’s got the best personal trainer), and then turns to Max. “I think I like you. Sure, let’s steal Madison’s dad’s Scotch and judge everyone.”

Max laughs. “I think I like you too, Stepford, judging people is pretty much half my skill set. Come on, let’s sneak in before anyone else decides to play billiards.” She wrinkles her nose. “I think I need to take a preemptive shot for that.”

“This is an awesome plan,” Caroline decides, and goes to steal Madison’s dad’s Scotch. “You said you make cupcakes, right? Maybe we should have cupcakes later on.”

“Why not? Max’s homemade special, maybe even with booze in them.”

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership.”

“Don’t propose yet, Barbie, you haven’t even seen my best moves. Now come on, we are not getting any drunker standing here. You can propose again later, if you really insist.”