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Bonjour Shanghai
Excerpt

Prologue

I made it.

Well, barely.

I ran down the airline ramp all sweaty and winded, my bags swinging from side to side, including the canvas bag Jake gave me as a goodbye present that reads Smart Women Don’t Kiss Ass, They Kick It in bold pink.

I almost missed my flight because deep down inside, I still wasn’t sure I should leave. It was no surprise that leaving Jonathan behind was heart-wrenching. We stood there holding each other in the middle of the busy JFK terminal for what felt like forever, with Jake looking on.

Even though I was trying to be fully present in Jonathan’s arms, I could see and feel Jake’s anxiety in the distance. He kept checking his phone. I wish I could have helped resolve all his problems before I left, but I just couldn’t.

We all came together for a group hug, and I promised to video-call them daily on WeChat, then I kissed them both and just ran and didn’t look back until I got to the security gate. That’s probably why I’d chosen to wear sneakers — so I could run. Maybe I’d known that if I slowed down, I might lose my resolve in an instant, change my plans, and never get on that plane. Love and friendship can open your heart wide and make you do foolish things.

But I just couldn’t do that to Maddie, to my parents, or, more importantly, to myself. I need to prove that I can kick ass on my own. That I really can make it.

I rushed through security and dashed off to the gate with my visa, passport, and boarding pass in hand, and now here I am at the plane. I don’t look anything like a Parsons or Condé Nast fashion student at the moment, with sweat dripping from my forehead and my hair in a messy bun, but who cares?

When I board, the flight attendants don’t look too thrilled about my tardiness. But their mood shifts when I compliment them on their uniforms: impeccable red dresses and delicate silk scarves tied around their necks. They look impossibly chic.

Some of the passengers shoot me evil stares, maybe because I’m late, but more likely because of the pink-sloganed bag I keep shoving in their faces as I awkwardly manoeuvre to my seat. Jake would be immensely proud.

I pull out my magazines, the two paperbacks Jonathan gave me to read, and my bottled water. I also have a box of cupcakes baked for me by Jake’s mom. I actually teared up when he handed them to me. The fact that Jake’s mom has no clue about her son’s predicament breaks my heart.

I look around. Thankfully, my seat neighbour is a mature-looking Chinese woman who’s already got her nose in a book. I like my travel companions to be quiet so I can read and write.

I’m hoping to finally write another blog post for Bonjour Girl, one that resonates with my values, now that I have the time, space, and energy to do it.

After the emergency protocols have been duly explained and we’ve taken off, I pull out my laptop. I open a bag of roasted almonds and think about what to write. This feels good. Taking refuge in my writing will help me to have a more positive outlook on my upcoming adventure. I’m going to Shanghai!

Someone taps me on the shoulder.

“Clementine? Clementine Liu?”

I look up to see a handsome young Asian man standing next to me in the aisle.

“I have a note for you from a close friend of mine,” he says, handing me a folded piece of paper. “Enjoy your flight, okay?”

“Thanks.”

I sit up straight, curious about this mysterious note.

I open it and my eyes nearly pop out of their sockets when I see who it’s from.

Welcome to Shanghai.

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Bonjour Girl
Excerpt

@Clementines blog, Bonjour Girl, is a total fake-ass disaster. Don’t bother reading it. It’s a waste of your precious time.

The nasty tweet hits me like a wall of vintage boots, handbags, and boho dresses. Or like a hurricane that goes on a rampage in my soul and leaves a gaping wound in my heart. I fight back tears while absentmindedly chewing on my nails. I cringe, knowing how many Twitter followers she has. Her malicious post has lots of retweets, too. Like, far too many. Somebody please shoot me now. This is dredging up old, unwanted emotions, all the pain and worry that nearly destroyed me last year. That’s why I came here, why I escaped to New York.
I want to crawl into the nearest hole and lie there until the school concierge finds my decaying remains.
Okay, I’m being gross and melodramatic. I take it back. I just want to hop on the next flight to Paris and never set foot in America again.
I feel nauseous and dizzy at the thought that the entire Parsons student body has probably seen this awful tweet and is now laughing at me. To make matters worse, I think of a Latin proverb I learned at my private school in France: verba volant, scripta manent. It literally means “spoken words fly away, but written words remain.” This totally sucks.
My mind goes into overdrive:
My chances of making any more friends are nil.
My existing friends will think I’m a complete loser and will desert me.
My chances of ever making it as a fashion journalist are ruined.
My transfer to Parsons will get revoked.
My parents will then kill me and ship me back to France on the next flight. (Not so bad an option considering the circumstances. Actually, that might be a good thing.)
Again, my eyes well up, but I’m too angry to cry. My classmate’s biting words sting to the bone. Especially after all I’ve already endured in my personal life.
What did I do to deserve all this?

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