True to her word, Serena goes through her motions.
She picks up flowers at the market, she has coffee by herself in the little cafe down the street, she walks in the park.
It's there in the park that Georgina Sparks finds her.
"Well, Serena van der Woodsen!" Georgina cries, holding out her arms to embrace her.
"Georgie," Serena replies, not nearly as warmly, but smiling all the same as she lets Georgina hug her hello. "It's been quite some time since I last saw you." She pulls back and looks at Georgina -- the long, straight hair, the dark eyeliner, the soft flat shoes.
"I've been in San Francisco," Georgina says, sitting down on the park bench besides Serena. "It's wild out there, absolutely wild and I love it. Everything is happening out there now."
"So what brings you back to New York, then?"
Georgina shrugs, pulling out a cigarette. "I figured I'd stop over and spend some time here before I head out to Paris and see Allen's friends -- he's in India, you know --"
"Never mind," Georgina says, striking a limp cardboard match. "But really, I missed you too, and I've desperately wanted to see you, and how lucky I am to run into you in Central Park!"
The smell of the cigarette is off, and Serena turns her head to regard Georgina. "That's not--"
"It is," Georgina says, exhaling. "Want some?"
"No," Serena says quickly, brushing off her skirt as if to brush away the suggestion too. "No, thanks."
"You don't do that any more?" Georgina asks.
"No," Serena says, quickly, again.
"Amazing how fast things change," Georgina says, leaning back against the bench.
"Yes," Serena says, and leaves it at that.
"Listen, hey," Georgina says, "it's been swell catching up with you, but I should probably let you get back to your day. Why don't you give me your card and I'll call Mary to get something set up? Lunch somewhere?"
"Sure," Serena says, opening up her purse with only the slightest trepidation. She hands Georgina her card, and Georgina smiles brightly.
"Swell," she says again, pocketing the card. "You'll be hearing from me real soon, Serena. It's going to be wild."
"And what can I get you, miss?"
"Gin and tonic, please," Georgina says.
"And for you, miss?"
"Just water, thank you." Serena is still looking at her menu, not up at the waiter or across the table at Georgina.
"Oh, Serena, still no fun?" Georgina teases. "Come on, not even one cocktail?"
"It's noon," Serena says, but she's smiling a little. "Maybe next time."
"Thatta girl," Georgina says, leaning back in her chair.
"So tell me about your San Francisco adventures," Serena says.
"I don't even know where to start," Georgina replies, tilting back forward, her elbows on the table. "All I can tell you is that it's absolutely amazing out there, Serena. Everything is new and the people are fab, and the crowd I run with... well, they'd absolutely adore you, S."
"I'm glad you think so," Serena says. "I'm glad you're enjoying it there."
"I really think you'd like it, S," Georgina says. "It would be a whole new start for you." Something flickers in her eyes. "That's what you want, isn't it? Starting over?"
"Well, yes," Serena says, and she's bringing her hand up to touch a curl of hair behind her ear, glancing away from the table. "I mean, I do, but I don't think moving to San Francisco is the right way to go about doing it."
"Don't you ever think about just burning everything to the ground and running away from it?" Georgina asks.
"No," Serena replies, her voice quiet. "No, because there's too much to risk losing forever if I do."
"What, like Blair Waldorf?" Georgina asks. "She was never as good of a friend to you as I was. Always so haughty and judging and phony. I never judged you on anything, you know that."
"Blair is a good friend," Serena says, closing her menu. "And she's not the only one."
"What, is there a boy?" Georgina says, her voice teasing again.
Serena is silent, then says, "Yes."
"There are a million boys in the world," Georgina replies. "You're Serena van der Woodsen. You can have anything or anyone you want."
"I want him," Serena says.
"For now," Georgina says.
"For now," Serena admits, "but I do like him a lot."
Georgina exhales through her nostrils, sitting up straight. "You've really changed a lot, S. You're all grown up already."
"I'm not the person you used to know," Serena says. "I realized... I realized how much that person hurt the people I cared about, and I knew I couldn't be her anymore. I can't be that person anymore."
"But that's who you are," Georgina says. "That's who you'll always be."
"I don't think that's so," Serena replies.
"I can't change your mind about San Francisco?" Georgina asks.
"No, but it's sweet of you," Serena says.
Georgina nods, looking away, then turns back to her. "Well, hey, at least let me lend you this record I got. Brand new from England. You can't even get it here yet."
"Really, you'd let me?"
"Sure," Georgina says, her face unreadable except for the false bright smile. "That's what friends do."
back in the fold -- why, Miss Georgie Sparks, what have you been
up to on the West Coast? And why are you back?
We can't say if we're happy you're
back, or if we should be holding on to our hats...
It's quiet for a Saturday in the Strand.
Dan picks up a slim poetry book where it's lying in a pile, opens it up and starts to flip through it.
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness," a female voice says as he reads the opening line himself.
He looks up, and there's the owner of the voice -- petite, with straight long brown hair, a slim dark silhouette, smoke-ringed blue eyes. She smiles.
"Howl," she says, pointing to the book. "It's pretty wild; have you read it yet?"
"No, not yet," he says, flipping to look at the cover, then back to her. He's never seen a girl like her before, and she smiles brighter, pink lips revealing white teeth.
"You should read it," she says. "It'll change your life."
"I could use some life-changing," he says, and then he offers her his hand. "I'm Dan, Dan Humphrey."
"Georgina Sparks," she says, taking his hand in hers. "But everyone calls me Georgie."
"Georgie," he says. "I like that."
"I like the way you say that," she replies.
"Well, tell you what, Georgie," he says, holding up the book. "Let me buy this, and then let me buy you a cup of coffee. What d'you say?"
"That sounds swell," she says, putting her hand on his forearm.
Jenny can hear Dan's laughter through the open coffee shop door, and as she's got a spare fifteen minutes before Nate will expect her back -- as if he cares when she gets back or not -- she pops her head into the door.
It's not Serena sitting at the table with him, that's for sure.
She ducks the waitresses and the customers as she moves through the tables, finally arriving at Dan's table.
"Jenny!" he says, standing to greet her, then sitting back down. "I was just talking about you!"
"Hopefully nice things," she says with a small smile, looking down at the brunette. "Who's your friend, Dan?"
The girl stands and offers her hand as Dan says, "Jenny, this is Georgie. Georgie, this is my sister, Jenny Humphrey."
Georgie. Jenny knows that name, but she doesn't let it show in her eyes or in her lips as she shakes her hand and says, "Nice to meet you. Are you visiting from out of town?"
"Oh, I grew up in New York," Georgie says, sitting back down, "but I've been traveling the world. There's so much world out there to see, after all."
"Fascinating," Dan says. He's enraptured by this girl. Jenny can see it.
"Lately I've been in San Francisco," Georgie continues, "but I'm about to head off to Paris. I was telling Dan about Allen--"
"Ginsberg," Dan says, as if that means anything to Jenny. She nods as if it does.
"I really think they'd like young Mister Humphrey," Georgie smiles. "He's got talent."
"That's debatable," Dan says, but he's leaning back in his chair to bask in the compliment all the same.
"I just wanted to say a quick hello, so I better be going," Jenny says. "Enjoy the rest of your coffee."
"Oh, I'm sure we will," Georgie says, smiling at Dan over her coffee cup.
"See you later," Dan says without looking up at Jenny.
Jenny darts back out of the coffee shop, rolling the words over in her mind.
Georgina Sparks is back in town.
"Hi, Dorothea. Thanks for letting me in again."
"You're welcome, Miss Humphrey."
"No," says the voice from the front room. "No, no, Dorothea, how many times do I have to tell you, no riff-raff. Ever."
"Hi, Blair," Jenny says, her head appropriately bowed. "Look, I know you don't like me--"
"Just stand in the hallway," Blair says, getting up from her couch. "I don't want your feet on my main rug."
"--but you do know that Georgina Sparks is back in New York City."
Blair presses her lips together, a quick glance down and then a quick glance back up. "Yes. I've seen it in the Column."
"She's going after Dan, and it has to be because she's going after Serena."
Blair wrinkles her nose in distaste. "Why should I care?"
"Let's be honest, Blair, what would a girl like Georgina want with a guy like my brother? You know how he is. It was a shock that Serena liked him, let alone Georgina too."
"It's a good point," Blair says with a half-sigh. "What do you want me to do?"
"All I know is that you're better at this than me," Jenny says. "I defer completely to you here. But you need to know that Georgina is up to no good."
"She never is," Blair says.
Blair pushes through the door, shoulder first, past Anna. "Chuck."
"Hello to you too," Chuck says from his desk. "Nathaniel's on his way."
"Good," she says, shooing Anna away without even looking at her, closing the door behind her. "I'm glad you could clear your schedule."
"For you, any time."
"You saw the Column."
"Any idea what she's up to?"
"None," he says.
Blair drops into the chair as Anna opens the door for Nate, holding his fedora in his hands. "Oh, hey, Blair--"
"Hi," she says. "Sit down."
"So you two are talking again?" Nate asks. Chuck glances across the desk to Blair, who looks coolly back at him.
"I think bygones are bygones in this case," Chuck says.
"For now," Blair says.
"Glad to hear it," Nate says, sitting down. "So, Georgie's back in town, then?"
"We stand united against a common enemy," Chuck says, opening up his cigarette case. "Shall we get started?"
Dan has his hands up and under Georgina's top, right on the soft skin of her belly -- no girdle, he can barely think as she's swooping down to rain kisses on his mouth, her hair brushing against his face.
"I'm leaving for Paris tomorrow," she says, dropping words in between each kiss.
"What? Paris?" he says, sitting up underneath her.
"Yes," she says, stopping to look into his eyes, her own intense and blue. "I want you to come with me."
"Yes," she says, her hips against his. "They'll adore you out there. I know they will. You'll have so much to write about, and to think of all of the connections you'll make..." She shifts her weight against him, and Dan stiffens. "Plus, you'll be with me," she adds.
She watches his face.
"All right," he says, and she kisses him again, deeply, claiming him.
"Meet me at the Hotel Chelsea," she says when she comes up for air, "at noon tomorrow. Bring your suitcase. I'll have a car waiting to take us to the airport."
"I will," he says, breathless.
"Promise," she says, her teeth on his lower lip.
"I promise, I swear," he says.
After he walks Georgina out of the building, Jenny has emerged from her room and is standing in the kitchen, putting on her little apron. "Are you hungry?" she asks, and he can't really read her face.
"Not really," he says. "D'you know where my suitcase is?"
"The front closet," she says. He still can't tell what she's thinking, what she's heard, what she knows, so he looks away from her.
"I'm... I'm going to go get that, then," he says, heading towards the hallway.
"Sure," she says, and as soon as his back as turned, she's picking up the phone.
It's eleven-fifty in the morning as Dan Humphrey pushes open the door to the Hotel Chelsea lobby, suitcase in hand, his hat slightly tipped down over his brow.
He glances over the lobby, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, searching for Georgina and not finding her just yet.
He sits on one of the lobby couches and takes off his hat, next to a girl with an Audrey Hepburn hairdo and dark sunglasses. Something about her is familiar, but she makes no notice of recognition, blowing cigarette smoke out of her elegant nostrils.
"Got a light?" he asks.
She turns and looks at him finally, but the answer comes from behind the couch.
"I do," and it's Serena van der Woodsen, stepping into the lobby. Her eyes and mouth are serious.
"Serena," he says, standing up, hat and suitcase in hand. "I didn't expect--"
"No," says the girl in the sunglasses, and of course it's Blair Waldorf, of course it is. "No, you didn't expect us at all."
"Where are you going?" Serena asks, her voice so even and steady she has to be about to lose it.
"I, well, I was..."
"Running away with Georgina Sparks. We know," Blair says, exhaling again. "And that's why we're here to stop you."
"I didn't think I was that important," Dan says. "After all, I'm no Park Avenue Princess like you two."
"No," Blair says, "you're just a poor dumb coward."
"Blair," Serena says.
"What, Serena? Only a poor dumb coward would let Georgina Sparks use him like this, and you know it."
Dan turns his head to see the elevator doors open, with Georgina appearing in the elevator and Chuck Bass stepping in front of her. Blocking her. She screws up her mouth into a scowl as Chuck walks her into the lobby.
"Well, they've caught us," Dan says to Georgina, who just rolls her eyes at him. "What do we do?"
"Honestly, at this point, I don't care what you do," Georgina says, crossing her arms. "Look at Serena's face, Humphrey."
Sure enough, Serena can't even look him in the eye, her hands shaking as she grips the back of the couch.
"You did this to get to Serena?" Dan asks, and Georgina shrugs. "You never really liked me?"
"You're all right," she says, dismissively.
"So you just wanted to get me out of town?"
"Basically," Georgina says. "Just long enough for Serena to know that you ran off with some strange girl without even saying goodbye. After all, isn't that usually what you do, S? Breaking hearts and falling off the map? Turnabout is fair play, don't you think?"
"Stop it, Georgina," Blair says, rising from her chair to stand in front of Serena.
"At any rate, Bass is giving me two thousand dollars to go and not come back for a while," she says, while Chuck opens his billfold. "So I'm taking it."
"How long is a while?" Dan asks, his mouth dry.
She shrugs. "Two thousand dollars, that's maybe a couple of months."
"What about me?" Dan says.
"Already told you, I don't care," Georgina says. She tucks the cash into her trench coat pocket and gives Chuck's cheek an affectionate double-tap, which he brushes away with the cuff of his blazer. "Looks like my car is just about here."
As she turns to leave, she looks back at Serena. "Just a warning for you, S."
"What?" Serena says without looking at her.
"Everything's going to change. Everything you and I know, everything this city, this country, this world knows -- it's all going to change, and it's going to happen fast. You can feel it in your bones, Serena van der Woodsen, and you know it."
With that, Georgina Sparks disappears into New York City.
Chuck offers Blair his arm, and they leave the lobby together. "Disgusting place," Blair spits as they walk out. "I can't believe -- well, of course I can believe Georgina Sparks would pick a hotel like that -- but the fact that I had to go there..."
"Where do we go from here?" Dan asks as they stand alone in the lobby.
"We don't," Serena says, barely a whisper. "We don't."
and Miss Blair Waldorf are reigning over the Upper
East Side again -- we're so glad to have you two back
where you belong! But hold onto your hats; there's still
much more to come! Here's hoping that the rest of 1963 brings
good things to us all...