The Magnolia League - By Katie Crouch

1

You know what I hate? Sweet tea. Actually, I wouldn’t call it tea; I’d say it’s more of a syrup. Ninety-eight percent sugar, with a little water thrown in so you don’t totally shrivel up and die in this torturous heat. It makes you fat just to pick up a glass, and then leaves your teeth rotten after one sip. Leave it to the crazy citizens of Georgia to flip out over a drink like that.

Other things that aren’t so great? Georgia summers. Georgia boys. My grandmother’s rules. My entire new freakin’ life in Georgia.

I know, I know. I have a bad attitude right now. Reggie would say I’m being a buzzkill. And if I had a buzz to kill, he’d be right. So, please, don’t hate me—I mean, really, this sour, bitter Alex is a new thing. Back in California, I was always a hey-the-grass-is-green-right-here kind of girl. But I’m not in California. As you might have guessed from this pity party of mine, I’m in Georgia. Savannah, Georgia, to be exact.

I’ve been here for two weeks, living in my grandmother’s pre–Civil War, twenty-three-room mansion on Forsyth Park. She’s tiny, but the ceilings and doorways seem designed for giants. As for practicality… well, six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a gallery, a ballroom, and a carriage house—all for one lady. And the decor? It could be truly rad, but she’s pretty much gone with the doily look. Think Southern fussiness meets the Addams Family. I’ve seen funeral parlors cozier than this place.

According to my grandmother and her lawyer, I’m doomed to call Gaston Street home until I’m eighteen. I’m sixteen now, so I guess that means I’m here for two more years. I’m pretty sure that’s longer than a stiff jail sentence for dealing weed.

“Alexaaaaandria!”

I’m Alex. That’s what everyone but my grandmother calls me, so that’s my real name. But I can’t seem to get her to remember that.

“Alexaaaaandria! Are you up here?”

I am up here. Yup. I’m sitting on the railing of the upstairs porch, trying to get a little pot out of this pipe. It was the last present my boyfriend, Reggie, gave me, and I’m hoping that somehow it’ll make it feel like he’s here.

I hear her heels clicking around the rooms. I haven’t seen her in any shoes other than heels. Always in a designer outfit, always in heels. Don’t be fooled, though. My grandmother is a ninja with brass knuckles, dressed for a tea party.

“I’m out here,” I call.

The footsteps slow for a moment as she homes in on her target. Then the pace quickens as she comes in for the kill.

Rap-rap-rap-rap-rap-rap-RAP.

Here she is: my grandmother, Mrs. Dorothy Lawson (first dead husband) Lee (second dead husband, and my mom’s dad). By the way, Mr. Lee, I’ve just been informed, descended from the famous Confederate general. Not exactly a direct descendant, but a cousin’s cousin or something. It’s kind of crazy, because that’s my last name too.

She just goes by Miss Lee now. Doesn’t want me to call her Grandma, because it “ages” her. That’s cool with me. And truthfully, she does look pretty young to be a grandmother. Her dark, shiny hair (no gray in sight) is tied back, with some perfectly placed tendrils escaping around her oval face. There are a few laugh lines (not that I ever see her laugh) around her dark green eyes, but other than that, her face is pretty much as smooth as mine. She is what Big Jon would call “doll pretty”—meaning she looks so delicate that it seems you might break her if you shook her hand too hard.

“Alexandria, it smells like a skunk daaaiiied up here.” She has one of those Southern accents that manages, despite the region’s reputation for hospitality, to be completely disapproving and unfriendly all the time.

“It’s the herb,” I say.

“The what?”

“It’s pot. I’m smoking pot.”

My grandmother puts one hand on her hip and points a surprisingly young-looking finger at me with the other. All available body parts seem to drip with jewels.

“Are you trying to per-tuuuuhhb me, Alexandria?”

“Sort of.”

“Well, if you’re goin’ to smoke, at least smoke tobacco. I’ve got stock in Philip Morris, which means, since you are the sole heir to my estate, you do too. Anyway. Pahhh-lease dress. Your Magnolia sisters will be here this afternoon. I’ve arranged for two girls from your debutante class to come over shortly after my meeting.”

“I am dressed.”

“Alexandria, you are wearin’ rags.”

“I’m wearing shorts. And this is vintage. Look: the Grateful Dead, Greek Theatre, 1985.

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