“…zero tolerance policy, given the nature of your previous expulsion…”
Or maybe Froghole. That has a better ring to it.
He pronounces my name Sum-ah. I try to remember how Gavin used to say it. Gavin is the sexy duke I dated last year when I spent the summer in England. I don’t think their accents are comparable, though. Gavin’s blood runs blue, so he’d have that upper-crust accent only those in line to the throne have. Granted, there are about forty members of the royal family ahead of him in the line of succession, but that’s still a whole other stratosphere above Mr. Richmond.
Briar’s assistant dean is no duke. And his first name is Hal, which doesn’t sound very British. Unless it’s short for something? Hallam? Halbert?
“Ms. Di Laurentis!”
My head snaps up. Froghole’s expression is as sharp as his tone. I’d zoned him out, and he knows it.
“I understand that rules of conduct and academic policies aren’t the most exciting subject matter, but you, of all people, should be paying attention to this. The remainder of your college career could depend on it.”
“I’m sorry,” I force myself to say. “I don’t mean to be rude or ignore you on purpose. I have, um, attention problems.”
He nods, eyes on my file. “ADHD, according to this. Are you on medication for it?”
I bristle. I’m not, but that’s none of his frigging business.
I make a mental note to ask my parents, who are both lawyers. But I’m fairly certain a student doesn’t have to disclose to the school the medications they’re on.
I brush past the question in a way that would make my father proud. “I’m sure your file also mentions my writing issues?”
The distraction works. Froghole glances back at the file, shuffling a few pages. “Difficulties with written expression—yes, that tends to be a symptom of ADHD. Your advisor at Brown recommended alternate assessment methods for you if possible. Extra time on tests, extra tutoring, and oral exams to reduce the amount of writing. Are all written assignments a problem for you, or just longer essays?”
“Most written work is an issue.” My cheeks are on fire. It’s so frigging embarrassing sitting here talking about how stupid I am.
You’re not stupid, Summer. You just learn differently.
Mom’s voice floats through my head, reciting the same encouraging words I’ve been hearing my whole life. But although I love my parents dearly, their support doesn’t make it any less humiliating that I can’t organize my thoughts on paper. Hell, I can barely hold on to those thoughts for five seconds before my mind wanders somewhere else.
Other people have learning disabilities, I know that. But when your parents and two older brothers all got into Harvard Law and you’re the fashion major who has trouble writing one measly paragraph, it’s a little hard not to feel…less than.
“We’ll try to offer the same academic assistance you received at Brown, but not all your professors will be able to accommodate you.” Froghole flips to another paper. “Let’s take a look at your schedule… I suspect you’ll only have to worry about written assignments in History of Fashion, and Fundamentals of Color and Design. The rest of your courses seem to be more hands-on.”
I’m unable to hide my relief. Along with the two classes he just named, I’m also taking Textiles, which I’m excited about. Sewing and Tailoring, not as excited for. And an independent study that requires I design a line and debut it at the end-of-semester fashion show. All three are almost entirely practical. I fulfilled most of my degree requirements during my first two years at Brown, the awful ones like Lit and Sociology and Gender Studies. That’s probably why I was always on academic probation there. I barely passed any of those.
“But as I mentioned before, there are no strikes here. No second chances. If you cause any trouble, if you can’t meet the minimum academic requirements and maintain your GPA, you will be expelled. Are we clear?”
“Crystal,” I mutter.
Argh. That accent is fake. I’m certain of it.
“Hey, Mr. Richmond, if you don’t mind me asking, where exactly in the UK are you from? You kinda sound like my friend Marcus, who’s from—”
He interrupts with, “Your attention issues are quite concerning, Summer. You never did say if you were on medication…?”
Oh fuck off.
We have a stare-off that lasts a couple of seconds. I clench my teeth and ask, “May I go now?”
“One last thing,” he says, a snide edge to his voice.
I force myself to stay seated.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed that your schedule doesn’t list the name of your advisor.”
I hadn’t noticed, actually. But, sure enough, there’s a blank space after the academic advisor line.
“That’s because I will be looking after you personally.”
A rush of anxiety courses through me. What? Is that even legal?
Well, I’m sure it’s legal. But…why would the assistant dean serve as the advisor for a fashion major?
“It’s not a role I would normally take on. However, given the circumstances under which you were admitted to this university—”
“Circumstances?” I cut in, confused.
His dark eyes gleam with…I think that might be spite? “I understand that your father and the dean are longtime friends and golf chums—”
“—and I’m quite aware of the numerous donations your family has made to this school. With that said, I’m not a supporter of the I’ll-pat-your-back-you-pat-mine mentality. I believe that admission to this college—to any college—should be granted based on a student’s merit. So…” He shrugs. “I feel it would be prudent to keep an eye on you academically and ensure you’re conducting yourself according to the rules and policies we just went over.”
I’m sure my cheeks are redder than tomatoes, and I hope my two-hundred-dollar foundation is doing its job. It is absolutely mortifying knowing my father had to call in a favor with Dean Prescott to get me into Briar after the Brown fiasco. If it were up to me, I’d be done with college for good. But I promised my parents I’d get a degree, and I hate disappointing them.
“We’ll meet once a week so I can evaluate your progress and guide you academically.”
“Sounds great,” I lie. This time I get to my feet without asking permission. “I have to run now, Mr. Richmond. Why don’t you email me our meeting times and I’ll add those days to my calendar. Thanks so much for all your guidance.”
I’m sure he didn’t miss the sarcastic note in that last word—guidance—but I don’t give him a chance to respond. I’m already out the door and waving goodbye to his secretary.
Outside, I inhale the chilled air. Normally I adore the winter, and my new campus looks particularly magical covered with a layer of white frost, but I’m too stressed out to enjoy it right now. I can’t believe I’m being forced to have regular contact with Richmond. He was such a jerk.
I take another breath, adjust the strap of my Chanel tote, and start walking toward the parking lot behind the administration building. It’s a beautiful brick building, ivy-covered and incredibly old, like pretty much everything else on campus. Briar is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country. It’s produced a couple of presidents and a ton of politicians, which is impressive, but only in the last decade have they begun to offer cooler, less academic-based courses. Like this Fashion Design program that’s going to give me a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Despite what some people might think, fashion isn’t fluff.
I’m not fluff.
So take that, Colin Fitzgerald!
Bitterness rises in my throat, but I gulp it down because I’m not a bitter person. I have a temper, yes, but my anger usually comes out in a fiery burst and then dissolves almost instantly. I don’t stay mad at people for long—who needs that kind of negative energy in their life? And I certainly don’t hold grudges.
Yet it’s been two weeks since New Year’s Eve, and I still can’t let it go. The stupid, thoughtless, mean-spirited comments I overheard at the bar refuse to leave my mind.
He called me fluff.
He thinks I’m surface level.
Forget him. He’s not worth the mental anguish.
Right. So what if Fitz thinks I’m superficial? He’s not the first to think that, and he won’t be the last. When you’re a rich girl from Connecticut, people tend to assume you’re a materialistic bitch.
Says the materialistic bitch with the silver Audi, an inner voice taunts as I reach my shiny, expensive car.
Ugh. Even my own mind is trying to make me feel bad about myself.
It was a gift, I remind my traitorous brain. A high school graduation gift from my parents, which makes the car three years old. That’s like a senior citizen in vehicle years. And what was I supposed to do, refuse the present? I’m my dad’s baby girl, his little princess. He’s going to spoil me whether I like it or not.
But having a nice car doesn’t make me surface level.