Violet in Private
Violet Greenfield knows she’s supposed to be a super-confident nineteen-year-old because she’s done runway shows in New York and internationally. But now that she’s finally headed to college, she’s afraid she’ll turn back into that girl who blended into the walls in high school. Vassar is just two hours away from New York City––her friends in fashion think she’s crazy to stop modeling now. And her old friend Roger is there...but things have been weird ever since they kissed.
The real question is if she’s not going to be “Violet on the Runway” anymore...who is she?
Praise for the Violet series
“A story for any girl who ever wondered what it would be like to have your wildest dreams come true.”
—New York Times bestselling author Sarah Dessen
“A sensitive portrait of adolescence—simultaneously funny and painful.”
“A fun, fashion-filled, fast-paced read!”
—Carolyn Mackler, author of Guyaholic
“On the runway or off, Violet shines.”
—Ally Carter, bestselling author of I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You
I had no idea Julie was so hung up on my brother. All break she’s completely refused to come inside my house—I have to run out and meet her at her car. The one day when Mom and Dad wanted to ask her how she’s doing at Brown, she made them come out to the driveway and stayed in the car while she answered their questions.
“So, are you like in love with Jake still?” I ask her over a coffee on Franklin Street. “Is he the new Funny Monkey?”
She sighs and looks intently at her tiny espresso cup. Funny Monkey is this stuffed chimpanzee of mine that Julie always adored. Since the first night she slept over at my house in kindergarten, we’ve held Funny Monkey up as the love of both of our lives. In sixth grade, when we both developed a crush on Ben Russell, our secret code name for him was “Funny Monkey.” Ben had the most beautiful brown eyes and perfect wavy brown hair. And thinking back now, he had killer bone structure—a strong chin and elegantly masculine cheekbones, especially for an 11-year-old. I mean, we were heartpoundingly, swooningly in love with him. Then, after sixth grade, he moved. It was the tragedy of both of our summers and we’ve held him up as The One (in a half-joking way) ever since. I still have that stuffed chimpanzee on my bed.
“It’s not that I think he’s my new Funny Monkey,” says Julie. “It’s just that I hate the thought that he’s someone else’s.”
I quickly look out the window to avoid Julie’s gaze.
“Violet, we live in a really small town,” she says. “I know he’s dating some girl in his class named Kara Fink. Whatever. I just don’t want it in my face.”
I turn back and look at her. “Yeah, it sucks,” I say.
“Hey, do you still talk to Paulo from Sao Paulo?” Julie asks.
“Nah,” I say. “I’m so over it.”
“So he wasn’t the new Funny Monkey either?”
“Not by a long shot,” I say. “Maybe I’ll meet my Funny Monkey at Vassar.”
“Or maybe you’ve already met him,” says Julie. “Imagine that your soulmate is someone you already know. Isn’t that weird to think about?”
I tilt my head and look at her questioningly.
“I guess Roger and Chloe are still going strong,” Julie continues, raising her eyebrows.
“Guess so,” I say, working to keep my tone even.
“Does that bother you?” she asks.
And even though I know she knows it bothers me and she just wants me to admit it, I won’t. “Nope,” I say, standing up to go. “If he wants to go out with a short, honk-laughing girl with no personality, that’s his own business.”
Julie picks up her cup to follow me out onto the street. “Sounds like you just couldn’t care less, V,” she says.
I hear the sarcasm in her voice but I decide to ignore it. Sometimes your best friends can read you better than you want them to.
My parents insist on driving me up to Vassar themselves, as if I haven’t already lived away from home. “It’s a rite of passage,” says Mom as we load my new folding bookshelves, two suitcases full of clothes and various “dorm” items from Bed Bath and Beyond into our station wagon. “It’s an excuse for Jake to have a huge party,” I say, looking over my shoulder at my little brother, who smiles and puts a finger up to his lips to silence me.
Julie left for Brown yesterday, and Roger went up to the city a week early to hang out with Chloe before classes start again. I didn’t even listen to one sad song after he left—I am totally focusing on college guys… once I meet them.
The drive up I-95 with my parents is actually kind of fun. My dad lets me choose a radio station, and if I can name the titles of 10 songs in a row before the chorus comes on, I get $10. Jake and I invented this game like five years ago, and usually he’s around to compete with me and steal my thunder, so it’s nice to play solo. I pocket $20 by the time we get to Richmond VA, and then Mom requests NPR, so I put on my ipod headphones and lie down in the back seat.
I got a letter from Vassar last week, but it didn’t say that I had a roommate or anything, so I’m not sure what to expect when I get to campus. What if everyone’s already made their friends? I told Julie and Roger how I feel like I’m going to be the new kid in high school. Then Roger said, “It’s worse than that--it’s like being the new kid who starts in the middle of the year!” Nice.
I’m scared. I spent 17 years of my life not fitting in with anyone except Julie and Roger. Girls were mean to me because I was so freakishly tall and toothpick-y, guys ignored me completely, and it wasn’t like I was super-smart like Roger or super-ambitious and involved like Julie. I just sort of blended into the walls.
And I know I’m supposed to be a cultured and worldly 19-year-old with crazy-high confidence because I’ve done fashion weeks in New York and like three international cities, but the truth is that modeling hasn’t raised my self-esteem all that much. It may have even created some new insecurities. I’m afraid that I’ll revert back to being the girl who got lost in high school. The girl whose name no one seemed to know.
I put on David Gray’s White Ladder, an album Julie and I discovered in junior high, and I admit to myself that I’m fully dreading the end of this 12-hour drive.
Saying goodbye to Mom and Dad is oddly sad. I left them last year to move to NYC and live in a model apartment, which should have ostensibly been much scarier than moving into a dorm room in college where I’m surrounded by people my own age who all want to make friends. But maybe I’m tearing up because college feels bizarrely like camp, which I never enjoyed. It’s a bunch of people your own age, yes, but they’re people who are judging you, figuring out if you’re cool enough, immediately establishing your social position.
As I watch my parents walk down my extra-wide hallway, I feel a lump in my throat. I wave one last time and head back into my room. It’s actually a suite in a dorm called Main, which is—as its name suggests—the big, prominent building on campus. It’s the original post-card portrait of Vassar, and it has dorm rooms, but also the college center downstairs and lots of administrative offices, as well as the Rose Parlor, where they serve tea every weekday at 4pm. Mom loved that, but I’m not sure it’s something I’ll be attending.
The suite is big—there’s a living room with a big futon couch and a table, and there are three bedrooms off that common area. No one else seems to be here, but the common space is sparsely decorated with a bizarre Vassar Film League calendar, one of those old World War II posters of Rosie the Riveter (thank you, AP American History class) and a big, mostly dead, green-brown plant in the corner. I’m tempted to peek into the other rooms, but the doors are closed and I’m afraid I’ll get caught snooping, even though I’m here a day early. Tomorrow’s the day everyone will be back from winter break for real. I just wanted a night to feel the campus out for myself.
I walk into my small bedroom and wonder who had it last semester. There are still pushpins in the walls and a couple of wire hangers in the beat up armoire. Maybe this person couldn’t handle the work and dropped out. Maybe something really tragic happened in her family and she had to go home. Maybe my suitemates are total bitches and the roommate couldn’t deal.
Julie’s life coach would so not approve of this negative thinking.
I decide to call my Aunt Rita in Brooklyn. She’s kind of quirky—she runs a pottery shop out of her backyard—but she always knows what to say.
“Hi, Rita,” I say when she picks up the phone.
“Violet!” she says, sounding genuinely happy to hear from me. “How’s my girl?”
“Good,” I say, feeling a sniffle start to come. “I just got to Vassar and Mom and Dad left, so I’m kind of—“
She interrupts me before my voice cracks. “Scared and apprehensive?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say, smiling despite my urge to cry.
“It’s normal,” she says, going into her no-nonsense, that’s-the-way-it-is voice. She tells me about how on her first night alone after she moved out of her parents’ house, she curled up in a ball among the boxes and cried herself to sleep.
“Pathetic, right?” she says, laughing at herself. “But that apartment turned out to be the best and bravest move I ever made. College is F-U-N, kid.”
When we hang up, I feel much better. I also want to make sure I don’t spend my night curled up crying among unpacked boxes—it does sound dismal.
I lift my suitcase onto the ultra-narrow bed. There’s a window in my room, but it leads into the hallway. It’s that mottled glass that people sometimes have in their bathroom windows so people can’t see through them but light can still come in. I’d prefer the room with the outdoor view, but I’m coming into this living situation late, so I don’t have much say. I take out a two pairs of shoes and start to arrange them in the closet when I hear the door to the suite fling open.
“I’m back, bitches!” yells a shrill voice outside my room. “Who wants a shot?!” A tall, thin blonde guy wearing a super-tight shirt that has a picture of a match and the word “Flamer” on it appears in my doorway.
“Oh,” he says, curling his lip. “Who are you?”
“I’m, um, Violet,” I stammer, feeling like I’ve already disappointed the first person I’m meeting at college just by not being whoever he was expecting.
“Hi,” he says, “I’m Kurt. I was looking for Tara and Jess, but I guess they’re not back yet. So you’re replacing Amy, huh? Good thing—just between us, she was a major psycho. Ooh, you’re like really tall. Do you play basketball?”
“Nope,” I laugh. “So was Amy really crazy?” I want to detract attention from my freakish height, and I’m glad to be included in any sort of gossip.
“Yeah,” Kurt says, coming into my room and sitting down on my bare mattress. “And not someone who brought the good kind of drama. This girl was majoring in cuckoo. In fact, I’d febreeze everything in here if I were you. Including the hangers.”
Kurt leans over and peeks into my suitcase, reaching in to pull out my Christian Louboutin dust bag. “Oooh,” he says with wonder. “May I?”
“Um, those are kind of—“ I start, but before I can finish, Kurt has whipped out my glitter-red 5-inch Pigalle heels. He gasps audibly.
“Oh my God,” he says, standing up and slipping off his own shoes. “Are you some sort of Wizard of Oz It girl?”
“No,” I say, feeling my face turn red. Why did I pack those heels anyway? Angela wanted me to buy them for an event last year, but what was I thinking bringing them to college with me? I’m sure they will never be appropriate attire here. And now Kurt thinks I’m weird.
Of course, he’s the one who took off his shoes and is trying on my size 11 Louboutins, so maybe I’m not the most eccentric one in the room. He stumbles a bit and grabs onto my shoulder for balance.
“Oh my God! I know who you are!” he screams, narrowing his eyes at me as he kicks off the heels. Then he runs out of the room in a shot.
I’m flabbergasted, but before I have a chance to even wonder where Kurt went, he’s back. And he’s holding an issue of Nylon from last summer. “Violet Greenfield, I presume. Page 82. I didn’t recognize you at first with that dishwater hair and those silly flip flops—and boy do you need that eye makeup to get those gray orbs to pop, but you clean up good, girl! This is you.”
I nod, glancing briefly at the spread in Nylon that Kurt is pointing at—it’s the one that I shot last spring when I had a crazy-dark purple smoky eye and I had to wear a sheer top—you can totally see my nipple. Of course that’s the issue that he has to have with him. It couldn’t be the innocent Teen Girl shoot where I’m showcasing jumpsuits and umbrellas?
“I love it!” squeals Kurt, throwing down the magazine and diving back into my suitcase. “Let me help you unpack, Miss Supermodel. I have a feeling we are going to be BFFAA.”
“BFFFAA?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“Best friends forever and always, duh!”
I think Rita might be right about college.