Evernight Page 11

Mom raised an eyebrow. “So, God and politics are powerful, but as always, money rules the world.” Soft laughter echoed around the room. “Fifty years ago, no American high school teacher would have mentioned the taxes. A hundred years ago, and the entire conversation might’ve been about religion. A hundred and fifty years ago, and the answer would have depended on where you lived. In the North, they’d have taught you about political freedom. In the South, they’d have taught you about economic freedom—which, of course, was impossible without slavery.” Patrice made a rude sound. “Of course, in Great Britain, there were those who would have described the United States of America as a bizarre intellectual experiment that was about to go bust.”

More laughter now, and I realized that Mom already won over the entire class. Even Balthazar was half smiling at her, in a way that almost made me forget about Lucas.

Not really. But he was nice to look at, with his lazy grin.

“And that, more than anything else, is what I want you to understand about history.” Mom pushed up the sleeves of her cardigan as she wrote on the blackboard: Evolving interpretations. “People’s ideas about the past alter just as much as the present does. The scene in the rearview mirror changes every second. To understand history, it’s not enough to know the names and dates and places; a lot of you know all of those already, I’m sure. But you have to understand all the different interpretations that historical events have had over the centuries; that’s the only way to get a perspective that stands the test of time. We’re going to focus a lot of our energy on that this year.”

People leaned forward, opened their notebooks, and looked up at Mom, totally engaged. Then I realized maybe I ought to start taking notes, too. Mom might love me best, but she’d flunk me faster than she would anyone else in her classroom.

The hour flew by, with students asking questions, clearly testing Mom and liking what they found. Their pens scratched out notes faster than I could imagine writing, and more than once, my fingers felt like they would cramp. I hadn’t realized how competitive the students would be. No, that’s not quite right—it was obvious that they were competitive about clothes, and possessions, and romantic interests. That voracity shivered in the air around them. I just hadn’t realized they’d be competitive about schoolwork, too. No matter what it was, at Evernight, every single person wanted to be the best at everything they did.

So, you know, no pressure there.

“Your mother is fantastic,” Patrice gushed as she walked through the hallways after class. “She’s looking at the big picture, you know? Not only her own little window on the world. So few people have that.”

“Yeah. I mean—I’m trying to be like her. Someday.”

Just then, Courtney turned the corner. Her blond hair was pulled up into a tight ponytail that made her eyebrows arch even more disdainfully. Patrice stiffened; apparently her new acceptance of me didn’t extend as far as defending me in front of Courtney. I braced myself for Courtney’s latest snarky remark. Instead, she sort of smiled at me, and I could tell she thought she was being nicer to me than I deserved. “Party this weekend,” she said. “Saturday. By the lake. One hour after curfew.”

“Sure.” Patrice shrugged just one shoulder, like she couldn’t care less about being invited to what was probably the coolest party at Evernight this fall, at least until the Autumn Ball. Or were formal dances not cool? Mom and Dad had made it sound like the biggest event of the year, but their ideas about Evernight were already suspect.

My curiosity about balls and their coolness or lack thereof had kept me from answering Courtney for myself. She glared at me, clearly annoyed I hadn’t gushed all over her with thanks. “Well?”

If I’d been gutsier, I’d have told her that she was a snob and a bore and that I had better things to do than go to her party. Instead, I only managed to say, “Um, yeah. Great. That’ll be great.”

Patrice nudged me as Courtney sauntered, with her blond ponytail swinging behind her. “See? I told you. People are going to accept you because you’re—well, you’re their daughter.”

How big a loser do you have to be to coast into high school popularity on your parents? Still, I couldn’t afford to turn my nose up at any acceptance I won, no matter what the reasons were.

“What kind of party is it going to be, though? I mean, on the grounds? At night?”

“You have been to a party before, right?” Sometimes Patrice didn’t sound any nicer than Courtney.

“Of course I have.” I was counting my own birthday parties when I was a kid, but Patrice didn’t have to know that. “I just was wondering if—there wouldn’t be drinking, would there?”

Patrice laughed like I’d said something funny. “Oh, Bianca, grow up.”

She headed off toward the library, and I got the impression that I wasn’t invited to come along. So I walked back toward our room alone.

Somehow my parents are cool, I thought. Does it skip a generation?

My parents had said that I would soon settle into a pattern, and that when I did, I’d like Evernight more. Well, after the first week, I knew they were only right about the first half.

Classes were okay, mostly. Mom made one reference to me being her daughter, then said, “Neither Bianca nor I will ever mention this fact again. You shouldn’t either.” Everybody laughed; she had them eating out of the palm of her hand. How did she do that? And why hadn’t she taught me how to do it, too?

Other teachers took some getting used to, and I missed the informality and friendliness of my old school. Here, the professors were imposing and powerful, and it was unthinkable not to meet their high expectations. A lifetime spent hiding from the world in the library had prepared me for the work, and I put more time into my studies than ever. The lone class that bothered me was English, because that was the one Mrs. Bethany taught. Something about her—just the way she held herself or how she cocked her head before someone answered a question in class—well, she was intimidating.

Still, academics weren’t going to be a problem. That much I’d already figured out. My social life was a different story.

Courtney and the other Evernight types had decided that I wasn’t somebody to despise; my well-liked parents had won me the right to be safely ignored, but that was all. Meanwhile, the “new admissions” kids regarded me with suspicion. I roomed with Patrice, and apparently that was reason enough to assume that I wasn’t going to side against her and her friends. The cliques had formed within a day, and I was caught exactly in the middle.

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