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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Beauty Crowds Me: Chapter 2 of 16 Chapters. Spoiler preview of Post Series Sequel included. Quotes in italics are direct quotes from Season 2, Episode 2, The New Girl Pt. 2 and Season 1, Episode 1, Rough Housing.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Beauty Crowds Me
2: A New Country
Jo Polniaczek felt like an immigrant in a foreign country. The girls at Eastland Academy weren't like anyone she had ever met. They talked incessantly about the latest trends in clothes, jewelry, makeup, and hair products, while Jo was happy to have a warm coat in the winter and comfortable shoes that didn't fit too tight. She couldn't believe that she was attending classes with some of the wealthiest students in the nation. Having never been exposed to so much extravagance and waste, Jo had a low opinion of the advantaged girls she had met during her first days at the elite boarding school.
As happens to many new comers in a foreign land, Jo managed to find trouble her very first night at Eastland. Most people would consider being arrested and subsequently placed on probation trouble, but Jo's definition of trouble was much more personal. From Jo's perspective, trouble came in the form of a beautiful heiress named Blair Warner.
Less than a full week into the new school year, Jo was neck deep in damage control. She was constantly looking for ways to make it clear to Blair that she wasn't interested in being anything more than friends with the vivacious blonde. It didn't help Jo's cause that she had kissed Blair her first night at Eastland. When Jo had a moment alone, she would berate herself for acting on her instant attraction to the other girl. However, as soon as Blair would enter the room, Jo would forgive herself, knowing that she was incapable of resisting the affection Blair seemed determined to shower on her.
Blair, on the other hand, was getting irritated with the fact that every conversation wound up being about Jo's boyfriend, Eddie. If she had to listen to Jo babble on about Eddie for one more second her head was going to explode. She believed it was all an act, but that didn't make it hurt any less. Jo was apparently willing to go much further in her efforts to conceal her attraction to girls than Blair had ever contemplated. Blair didn't have a problem pretending to like boys, but she never intended on having sex with one of them, much less marrying one. Listening to Jo, Blair realized that the tough brunette might go to any lengths to fit in, even if it meant marrying a man she didn't love.
Blair's first week back at school hadn't been easy on her. Her fortitude had been tested beyond her limits. She, Blair Warner, had been forced to wear an apron and serve other students in the school cafeteria. Except for the horrific summer she had spent in the clinic, it was the most demeaning experience of her life. Blair couldn't imagine that her parents would have agreed to the terms of Mrs. Garrett's proposed alternative to expulsion if they had known that their daughter would be forced to act like a common waitress.
Blair had an image to protect. She would never be caught dead wearing anything but the latest fashions. Even the color of her nail polish was carefully planned each day to coordinate with whichever outfit she selected. Girls who would normally shake in their boots in her presence were smirking at her as they walked through the cafeteria food line.
Classes weren't much better, the whispers would stop as soon as Blair and Jo entered the classroom, but Blair was painfully aware of the extraordinary effort it was going to take for her to repair her reputation among her elitist friends and classmates.
The one thing Blair didn't want to do when she finally got back to her room was to listen to her roommates talk about her least favorite subject. After entering what should have been her refuge, Blair barely spoke while Jo continued to tell her other two roommates how she had met and fallen in love with Eddie Brennan. The depth of Jo's denial became exceedingly apparent when Blair innocently made the comment that she thought Jo was more sensitive than anyone might expect. Blair had intended the comment as a compliment, but Jo reacted as if Blair had accused her of being an ax murderer. Blair thought any normal person would appreciate being called sensitive, but Jo seemed determined to be insulted by anything Blair said.
Blair found Jo's behavior more confusing than insulting. Blair thought she was behaving admirably well around Jo. After all, Blair wasn't being condescending to Jo even though Jo came from a poor home and her social status was less than zero. Jo should be thrilled that Blair wanted to be her friend, but the surly brunette acted as if she was too good for Blair. Blair had never met anyone so exasperating, or exhilarating. Jo didn't fawn over Blair's wealth or her looks and Blair found herself constantly looking for ways to impress her new roommate.
Jo knew that she had over reacted to Blair's comment. Jo always tried to make people believe she was tougher than she really was and she didn't need Blair Warner announcing to the world that Jo had a sensitive side. Blair looked hurt by Jo's outburst, but for some reason that only made Jo lash out all the more at the beautiful girl. Jo yelled at Blair about everything. She threw some of Blair's clothes off of her bed and over to Blair's, pretending she was angry about the invasion of her space when she knew that it was Blair's way of trying to share some of her belongings with Jo.
Jo's plan to avoid arguing with Blair, and thus not get worked up into a sexual knot of tension over the sassy blonde was quickly disintegrating. Once Jo got started yelling at Blair, she couldn't control herself, it was as if there was an invisible rubber band between the two of them pulling them back and forth. The only way for Jo to find any release was to explode in anger.
Jo couldn't let anyone see how she felt about Blair, even if it meant she would continue to see the hurt look in Blair's eyes every time she yelled at her. Not that Blair was a wimp when it came to standing up for herself. After Jo had continued to rant to their court appointed guardian, Mrs. Garrett, about how difficult it was to live with Blair, Blair spat out that it wasn't easy sleeping next to Mr. Goodwrench either. Jo secretly liked it when Blair would give as good as she got from Jo in an argument. The confrontations with Blair inevitably created a physical reaction that was becoming addictive. Having the most recent confrontation end with Mrs. Garrett ordering both girls to like one another had tickled Jo's sense of humor. Jo could see it in Blair's eyes as well as she turned abruptly so that no one could see the laughter she was trying so hard to suppress.
Jo was trying her best to fit in at Eastland, but she knew her plan to keep her relationship with Blair casual wasn't working. If she had any doubts before, it was confirmed when Blair slammed a cream pie into Margo's face after Margo insulted Jo's mother during lunch one day. In Jo's opinion, Blair was reading far too much into whatever it was between the two of them. Blair was expecting too much from Jo and Jo was determined to set her straight, even if it meant she'd have to leave Eastland to do it.
When Blair walked in on Jo in the middle of packing her things that afternoon, it was all Jo could do to go through with her plan. She told Blair that she didn't want to stay at Eastland and she could see that Blair was hurt. Jo couldn't worry about Blair's feelings because she was having enough trouble holding back her tears as it was. She couldn't believe how close she was to bawling in front of Blair. Jo hated that she had so little control over her tears, they seemed to have a will of their own, falling freely whenever she felt anything intensely.
"But I thought that what happened in the cafeteria just now would,"
"I don't know, I thought we were in this together."
"And we're a team, us against them?"
Jo's words dripped with sarcasm.
Jo pointedly picked up the framed picture of Eddie.
"Well I'm not interested in teams and if you're expecting pats on the back for that pie bit, I just want ya to know that I can take care of myself. I don't need any help from you."
Jo was trying to sound angry, but her voice almost broke at the end of her rant.
"Try to be nice to somebody. I broke a nail for you."
Blair said it with humor, trying to get Jo to lighten up, but the comment about her fingernail caused Jo's eyes to narrow into a more dangerous glare. Blair realized that alluding to their first night together had the opposite of its intended effect.
It was the perfect time for Mrs. Garrett to interrupt. Mrs. Garrett had been watching over teenage girls for many years, and she knew how to calm down a new student on the verge of running away from an overwhelming experience. Of course, Mrs. Garrett assumed Jo was running from the normal adjustments to Eastland, not that she was running away from her feelings for Blair.
When Mrs. Garrett brought up Jo's mother and how hard she had worked to get Jo into Eastland, the rough young girl couldn't stop the flow of tears any longer. Blair sat watching as Mrs. Garrett talked a weeping Jo into staying in school. Blair had never been more attracted to Jo than when she had so emotionally spoken of her admiration for her mother. Jo was even more sensitive than Blair had suspected and the desire to protect the girl who had both excited and frightened her when they had first met, swelled like a tidal wave within Blair's heart.
Later that evening, Mrs. Garrett sat in her room listening for anymore outbursts from the girls next door. She was beginning to wonder if it had been such a good idea to pair Blair Warner with the newest girl on Eastland's campus. Edna Garrett liked Blair, but she knew that the pampered socialite needed to learn more valuable lessons than the ones she was receiving in the classroom. Blair came from a very prominent family and she was extremely bright, meaning that one day she would more than likely become a woman of great influence.
Mrs. Garrett felt a responsibility toward Blair and all of the girls at Eastland, to expand their education beyond the classroom. A girl as privileged as Blair needed exposure to someone who had grown up without the advantages that Blair took for granted. Mrs. Garrett had decided that Jo Polniaczek was a perfect example of the type of girl Blair needed to get to know.
Mrs. Garrett had known from reading Jo's records that the girl had not only been raised in a tough neighborhood, Jo was a tough girl. Blair had a tendency to dominate and intimidate her previous roommates and Edna wanted to pair her up with someone who wouldn't be intimidated by Blair's prestigious last name, popularity, or good looks. She suspected that Jo Polniaczek wouldn't be intimidated by anyone. Within seconds of meeting the intense young girl, Edna knew that her suspicions were correct. Edna had not, however, anticipated that Jo would be such a 'tom boy'.
Edna shook her head as she examined the plants Jo had damaged when she had driven her motorcycle through Mrs. Garrett's flower garden on the day she arrived at Eastland. Edna had been horrified by Blair's treatment of another 'tom boy' the previous year and she was unsure as to whether or not Blair had learned the lesson she had attempted to teach her about judging people based on outward appearances.
Cindy was no more gay than Mrs. Garrett, but Blair's insinuations had made the sensitive child question her sexuality. Mrs. Garrett wouldn't go so far as to classify Blair as homophobic, but the popular young girl was often abusive to any of the other girls who seemed anything less than one hundred percent feminine. Mrs. Garrett reflected on the incident between Blair and Cindy the prior year.
It had all started when the girls in the dorm where Mrs. Garrett worked as a house mother were getting ready for the Harvest Fair. Cindy was a basic tomboy, always wearing ball jerseys and hats. She often walked around with a base ball glove as her favorite accessory. When Cindy innocently grabbed hold of Blair in order to get the reluctant debutant to practice for a tug of war game, Blair had reacted strongly.
"Come on you guys. Tug of war practice time."
Cindy pulled Blair up from the sofa where she had been flipping through a magazine.
"We've got to get on the ball before we have our brains knocked in."
"Listen Slugger, some of us want to talk about the dance."
"Now, come on, just plant your foot right here."
Cindy grabbed hold of Blair's leg to place it into the tug of war rope she had fashioned.
"Would you mind not pawing me? You are strange."
"There's nothing strange about her, it's her job. Cindy is captain of the games committee."
Mrs. Garrett had meant her words to serve as a warning to Blair, but the self absorbed blonde missed the warning.
"Well, some of us 'girls' are interested in what happens after her silly games. The dance and the boys, something 'super jock' wouldn't know about."
Later that same day, Mrs. Garrett had been thrilled when Sue Ann nominated Cindy for the Harvest Queen competition, but hadn't thought about how the reigning queen, Blair, might react.
"Thanks Sue Ann for nominating me. I love you."
Cindy threw her arms around Sue Ann and hugged her. Both girls started up the stairs, but Blair stopped Cindy.
"Cindy, what's wrong with you?"
"What do you mean?"
"All this touching and hugging girls and 'I love you'? Boy are you strange."
"I didn't mean anything."
"I'll just bet. You better think about what you mean."
Edna Garrett had no way of knowing that Blair had spent the summer before in a private clinic where 'sexually confused' teenagers went through an intense program of 'sexual reorientation therapy'. Otherwise she may have realized that Blair's over reaction to Cindy was based on the confusion, doubt and guilt instilled in her over the summer. Edna only recalled the heartbreaking conversation she'd had with Cindy after Blair had suggested that Cindy's behavior toward her friends was inappropriate.
"Blair was right about me."
"Right about what?"
"About me hugging and touching girls all the time and not caring about boys. Mrs. Garrett, maybe Blair is right, maybe I'm not normal."
"You know, just because Blair said something thoughtless and insensitive doesn't mean you have to let it knock you for a loop."
"Maybe Blair is right. I don't feel nervous around girls. You know me. I'm always hugging and all that junk, I gotta stop that."
"Don't you dare. Up here at the school, these girls are your family. There's nothing wrong with hugging and touching. It shows that you're a loving person and that's good. The only people who will tell you that it's wrong are the ones who can't reach out and do it themselves."
Edna Garrett had been so upset with Blair that day that she confronted Blair in the only way it seemed she could ever get through to the self centered girl, by making the conversation about Blair instead of Cindy. Blair was already dressed for the Harvest Queen competition when Mrs. Garrett located her.
"What do you think Mrs. Garrett?"
"Now I know you might think it's cut a bit low and the eye shadow a bit heavy, but this is the look that's selling."
"Oh no. I think it's just right for you Blair. After all, you're the expert on tricks to attract men."
"I guess so."
"Hum, golly. I bet you could have any man you wanted."
"And I'll bet you have."
"Where'd you hear something like that?"
"No, it's pretty obvious you've been around."
"No, I haven't been. I don't do those kinds of things."
"Oh, come on. The way you get yourself up, you're so sophisticated. You smoke and you talk a good game."
"That's just talk, honest."
"Well, you know what they say, if you're advertising you must be selling."
"I'm not that kind of girl! You can ask any guy I've dated. I'm a tease."
"At tease? Boy oh boy oh boy. You sure could have fooled me."
"You just can't jump to conclusions about people that way!"
"That's right. It's all just appearances, isn't it, Blair? And you're absolutely right about jumping to conclusions. I'm sure Cindy would agree with you."
"It seems you jumped to a conclusion about her."
"You've seen her Mrs. Garrett, she looks more like a boy than a girl."
"You mean like what you just thought about me? Okay I shouldn't have made that crack about her being strange."
"That was the crack?"
"I didn't mean it. I just said it."
"I should apologize."
Blair had apologized and she and Cindy continued to be good friends. Perhaps Blair had learned her lesson and wouldn't jump to the same conclusions about Jo. Edna shuddered to think of what might happen if Blair made any cracks about Jo's sexuality; the other girl might kill the sissy socialite. Well, it was too late to start second guessing her decision now that the girls had to room together as part of their probation, Mrs. Garrett just hoped that they would all survive the school year in one piece.
Later that night, after everyone else was asleep, Blair quietly crept her way over to Jo's bed. She'd been afraid that Jo was going to leave Eastland and that she would never see her again. Blair knew that Jo didn't want to admit that she was attracted to Blair, but she'd caught Jo looking at her more than once over the past several days, and not in a platonic way. Blair wasn't thrilled with her attraction toward Jo either, but she knew herself well enough to know that fighting it would help. Blair thought they had been very good about sticking to her resolution to avoid any physical contact with Jo, but that didn't mean it had been easy. Jo wouldn't admit it, even to herself, but Blair knew she was ultimately just as helpless to resist their attraction as Blair. In Blair's opinion, it was only a matter of time before things changed between the two girls.
"Hey Jo, you awake?"
After receiving several hearty nudges from Blair, Jo answered.
"It'd be hard not to be awake with you poking at me all the time. What do ya want now?"
"I can't sleep."
"Well what do ya expect me to do about it, rock you to sleep?"
Blair couldn't contain her smile; the idea of Jo rocking her to sleep was appealing. Jo leaned over the side of her bed so that her face was only inches from Blair's before she whispered.
"Well, if ya think ya can stand sleeping next to Mr. Goodwrench, I'll see what I can do."
Blair blushed at the sound of her earlier criticism being repeated, but she beamed with happiness when Jo shifted over in the bed allowing room for her new friend to join her.
"I'm glad you decided to stay, Jo."
"Don't get the idea it can be like this every night. I can't be lulling you to sleep every time you have a bad dream or something."
"Whatever you say, Jo."
Jo wrapped her arms around Blair's body from behind and gently rocked back and forth with her face buried deep in Blair's hair and her legs snuggled tightly underneath her bed mate. She knew she should have sent Blair straight back to her own bed, but the expectant look on Blair's face was irresistible. Jo had never met anyone whose face would light up at the slightest compliment, but any time Jo did anything nice for Blair, the beautiful debutante lit up like a Christmas tree.
Jo couldn't keep the smile from her face, she understood how scared Blair had been earlier in the day. The thought of never being able to figure out what was happening between the two of them had also scared Jo. It had scared her more than risking that they might slip up and get caught. What scared her even more was how strong and certain she felt while holding Blair. Her attraction to Blair encompassed far more than physical desire. Something about the way Blair looked at Jo made Jo feel like she was the most important person in the world. It was intoxicating, having someone like Blair Warner so interested in everything Jo said or did. She held onto Blair that night, swearing to herself that it would be the last time she allowed herself to fall asleep with the blonde girl wrapped in her arms.
When Blair's alarm clock went off the next morning, she was surprised to find herself back in her own bed. She looked across the room for Jo, but the other bed was empty. Blair was completely alone in the room. She couldn't believe she had slept through the morning routine of the other three girls. More surprising, she had apparently slept through being carried to her own bed the night before. Blair smiled as she remembered how nice it had felt to fall asleep next to Jo again.
It wasn't until Blair checked the time before leaving for class that she noticed the slip of paper that had been placed under her alarm clock. She immediately recognized Jo's hand writing. Blair searched her memory to recall when she may have mentioned to Jo that Emily Dickenson was her favorite poet, but she couldn't remember ever having told that to Jo. As she read the words of the poem Jo had left for her, Blair was amazed at the beauty of the poem Jo had selected.
Baffled for just a day or two
Embarrassed not afraid
Encounter in my garden
An unexpected Maid.
She beckons, and the woods start
She nods, and all begin
Surely, such a country
I was never in!
Blair carefully folded the paper and put it safely away in the keep sake box she kept on the top shelf of her closet. Jo was not only sensitive, she was also romantic. Blair was totally smitten with the unpredictable brunette.
Post Series Flash Forward: Tootie Returns to Peekskill
Jo Polniaczek sat patiently in the sun room of the home she had shared with Blair Warner for over 10 years. She could hear Blair moving throughout the house, running through a mental checklist of all the things she felt should be done in preparation of Tootie's arrival. She looked longingly at the wide variety of fruit, sandwiches, salads, and casseroles that filled the tables along the shaded area of the pool deck just beyond the sun room, but she didn't dare touch anything until after the guests arrived.
The role of hostess was one that both Blair and Mrs. G. took very seriously, and Jo wasn't about to disturb the food arrangement, which she was sure had been meticulously planned to be as visually appealing as it was appetizing. She smiled as she recalled the excitement with which Blair had spent the past few weeks preparing for their long awaited reunion. It wasn't as if Jo hadn't helped, her job had been to stay out of the way and she had performed her task admirably.
Jo, too, was looking forward to the reunion. It would be nice to have all four musketeers together again. Natalie visited their home so often that she had her own bedroom, but Tootie hadn't visited Jo and Blair since they moved back to Peekskill. Jo suspected that Blair had only planned the massive Eastland Academy multi-year reunion as a way to entice Tootie home, but she was thrilled that Blair's plan had worked.
The only person more excited about the reunion than Blair was Mrs. G. Edna Gains had shown up on their doorstep nine years earlier intending to assist Blair after the difficult birth of their second child, E.J. Jo was eternally grateful. It had been a very rough time for Blair, who had recently lost her mother to a long battle with cancer. Mrs. Gains not only helped with their children, she gave Blair a much needed sense of security.
After four years, it became obvious to everyone that the temporary arrangement was no longer temporary. At that time, Blair and Jo built a smaller home within sight of their estate so that Mrs. Gains could have more privacy to entertain her own friends. The feisty red head continued to spend more time in the main home than in her smaller home, but she enjoyed being able to invite her sons and their families to visit her on holidays without having them stay with Jo and Blair.
When the couple originally returned to Peekskill and built their home on the hillside area just north of Eastland Academy, formerly known as Cooper's Rock, speculation as to the nature of their relationship as students reached an all time high. Because of the breathtaking views, it had once been the most notorious make out spot in town. Having attended both Eastland Academy and Langley University, there was little doubt in anyone's mind that both attractive women, like most students of their time, had visited the popular lover's lane on more than one occasion. The only question was whether or not those visits were with boys from Bates Academy and Langley, or with one another. It was a topic, however, neither woman was willing to discuss.
Having Mrs. Gains join their family shortly after their arrival helped pave the way for Jo and Blair to gain acceptance among the tight knit Peekskill community. Mrs. Gains had been a well respected businesswoman in Peekskill for many years before moving to Africa with her new husband. She had a reputation not only as a savvy businesswoman, but as a strong woman of integrity as well. The fact that a woman of Mrs. Gain's stature had moved in with Jo and Blair reflected well upon the couple in the eyes of the local townspeople.
Jo's thoughts were interrupted as she heard, or more accurately felt, Blair join her in the sun room. After so many years, she could sense Blair's presence without having to see or hear her enter a room.
"What ya thinking bout, Princess"?
Blair's smile broadened when she heard her lover revert to the thick Bronx accent that had gradually disappeared over the years.
"Are you going to talk like that all week, Grease Monkey?"
Two can play this game she thought as she chuckled at Jo's mock glare.
"Nah, I was jus gettin ya in the mood is all."
They both broke into an easy laughter. Blair's heart swelled as she listened to the sound of Jo's laughter. They had not always had reason to laugh during their years together and Blair was grateful for the life they had managed to build in spite of the obstacles they had faced.
"Well Jo, since when haven't I been in the mood?"
Blair continued to tease, using her sexiest voice. Jo marveled at how Blair could still send a rush of excitement through her body without the slightest of effort. She pulled Blair into her lap, raked her body with a heated gaze, and grinned seductively.
"So, um, where can I kiss ya without messin up the hair and lipstick. We don't want our roomies gettin suspicious 'bout what we've been doing with each other all day."
"You never worried about messing up my hair and lipstick when we were younger."
Jo turned her head sideways and stared into deep chocolate eyes. She knew those eyes so well, it took only a second to confirm the desire.
"So, that's what ya been thinkin 'bout."
"Specifically, the day we met. How I felt the first time I saw you. How hard I tried not to want to be with you all the time."
"Well, I tend to think more about that first night."
Jo leaned her head back, waiting for her kiss. She wasn't disappointed. It was so different from their first kiss. She could feel Blair's lips curve into a smile and knew that her lover was thinking the same thing.
"You're a great kisser, Jo."
"Don't tease me, babe."
"Would I tease you, Jo?"
"Only half of my life," Jo laughed. "It's a wonder I didn't die from sheer frustration."
"Oh please. Tell me you didn't love every minute of it."
Blair's voice was deep and throaty, causing Jo to lose all interest in their conversation.
"Stop talking and start kissing."
Blair slipped her hands underneath her lover's shirt and tenderly trailed up and down Jo's back. Just as her hands moved to Jo's side and her thumbs began to gently brush against her breast, they heard Natalie's car come to a stop in front of their home.
"They always did have the worst possible timing."
Jo groaned loudly as Blair leapt from her lap and ran to greet their friends.
3: It Had To Be You
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