Maggie’s favorite part of her school day was lunch, but it wasn’t like she ate during that time. Instead, the best part about lunch was the informal parade. If it wasn’t too humid outside, the round stone tables underneath the oak trees dripping with Spanish moss were the perfect setting to see—and be seen. She loved that slow walk to her table—weaving through the other students—when she could feel everyone’s eyes on her. There was nothing in the entire world like the admiration that came as the result of constantly striving to be the best. After all, Maggie had quite the legacy to live up to.
See, not only had Maggie’s momma held the crown for Miss South Carolina and Miss Dixie Belle at the same time back in 1989, but her momma had also won homecoming queen and prom queen during her senior year. That was four crowns at once, if anyone was counting. And Maggie’s daddy made buckets of money investing in Big Oil in Texas before he met his wife and followed her back to Charleston, South Carolina. Maggie had inherited both her momma’s good looks, Southern charm, and infamous maiden name, and her daddy’s brain, magnetic personality, and money.
Maggie made good on all the gifts her parents had given her. Not only did she top the Honor Roll every semester, but she’d always placed in the top three in a pageant. And she’d made the Varsity cheerleading squad as a sophomore. Now, sometimes people liked to get their panties in a bunch and start screaming about nepotism, but Maggie had been taking gymnastic lessons since she was four and had won every junior beauty pageant she’d ever entered.
Really, it was like her slow walks to the lunch table in front of the entire school were a reward for how hard she worked. It was nice to be appreciated. Though today, the walk was a little more precarious than normal. Her momma had insisted that Maggie start breaking in the new heels she’d bought for homecoming, but they were at least an inch higher than she was used to wearing. Navigating the tree roots that broke through the ground took all of her concentration. Thank goodness for Bobby. Maggie gripped his bicep and snuck a look up at him through her lashes.
Not only did Maggie have the perfect childhood, she also had the world’s most perfect boyfriend. Bobby Bishop and Maggie Marion had met after he’d dunked her in the Club’s outdoor pool one summer when they were five. She declared him to be her boyfriend the next year in first grade. Even a bajillion years later, Maggie loved everything about him. She loved the way his blond hair curled into his green eyes, and how his tan skin contrasted against the royal blue of his football jersey. She loved how his muscles made her feel delicate beside him, and she loved his easy laugh. Bobby was the most talented quarterback their high school had seen in years, and if things went right this football season, he would have his pick of nearly any D1 college in the country.
Bobby must have felt her looking at him because he smiled down at her. “Have I told you how pretty you look today?” He stopped walking, sliding Maggie’s hand off his arm so he could squeeze her around the waist.
Maggie beamed back at him. “You’re just the sweetest. Momma put me on a new diet, and I lost three pounds!” She grinned, pleased he’d noticed. The cheerleaders had gotten new uniforms a few weeks earlier, switching from basic one-piece uniforms to a midriff bearing two-piece. Maggie hadn’t felt super comfortable wearing what was basically a sports bra to school on game days, so she’d asked her momma for a new diet to really flatten her stomach.
“You know you’re perfect just the way you are.” Bobby leaned down for a kiss.
“Get a damn room.” Tommy pushed between them, nearly sending Maggie teetering over before Bobby grabbed her arm. “Oops, sorry, Mags. Nice shoes!” He grinned, and all was forgiven. Tommy was Bobby’s best friend and star running back. Even though Bobby was clearly the cutest boy in the county—no, in the world!—Tommy held his own with his warm brown eyes and dark hair. She’d been friends with him for ages—their daddies frequently did business together.
Maggie and the boys finally arrived at the table, which had already been claimed by the rest of their friends—all fellow cheerleaders and football players. The period passed quickly like it always did—filled with lots of loud laughter and party planning. Every person at the table had earned their spot, and whenever a new, misguided student tried to join in, they were quickly educated on social standings.
They weren’t snobby; they had just always been together. From play dates as children to summers at the club to cotillion classes—Maggie and her friends just fit together. Outsiders didn’t really understand their world. For instance, how would that new girl from Massachusetts ever understand how much thought Maggie put into selecting Frances I as her silverware pattern?
The bell rang, signaling the end of lunch. “Shit, I gotta run. We’re picking lab partners today.” Bobby stood and slung his bag over his shoulder, then winced. “Sorry, Mags. It slipped out.” He smiled down at Maggie apologetically. She’d never been comfortable around cursing. Her momma had always said that gentlemen should know better than to use foul language around ladies, but sometimes they might need a little reminding.
“Just don’t let it happen again.” Maggie beamed up at him, standing slowly to keep her balance on her new heels.
Bobby automatically put a hand out to steady her and then tucked her hand into Tommy’s elbow. “I do gotta run, though. I don’t want to get stuck with some loser.” He dropped a kiss on her forehead, slapped Tommy on the shoulder, and disappeared into the side entrance of the building.
Maggie sighed, watching him go with a dreamy smile on her face. He was the world’s most perfect boy. The little spark of love spread warmth all the way down to her toes. “Ah, Maggie May,” Tommy half-sang as they walked toward the building. “Bobby’s a lucky guy, huh?”
Maggie lowered her lashes and grinned, but really, she knew she was the lucky one.