(Ten years ago, 2.39 p.m.)
Emma Frost is a pupil at the Snow Valley School for Girls in Snow Valley, Massachusetts, a beautiful red stone building surrounded by acres of greenery. A classic Rolls Royce waits outside the front doors. In the classroom, the form teacher, Mr. Ian Kendall is handing out grades to his pupils. Sherry Howard and Nicole Jordan receive good grades whilst Dolores Donovan has done especially well in English. Emma receives a “Not bad, not bad at all,” from her teacher. She looks unhappy, sat behind her desk wearing her school uniform, a red top over a white shirt, black tie and black skirt. Her hair is straight, brown and tied back away from her face. She looks at her grades and thinks to herself who she is; Emma Frost, everybody’s favourite nobody. She sits alone by the window while her fellow pupils chat amongst themselves.
Mr. Kendall calls out Matilda Brant’s name. She is a confident blonde prize pupil who asks him “Are you going to say that I did fabulously Mr. Kendall? Or may I call you Ian?” He replies that she may not and hands her the grade sheet. She has A’s in English, Math, History, Science and Phys Ed and A+ in Art and Spanish. She turns to her fellow pupils and says, “Well, what do you know? A’s, in every subject, guess I made the honor roll again.” Mr. Kendall says that they’re well aware of that as Emma reads her report. She has B’s in all subjects apart from Math and Art in which she receives B+. This is an improvement on her last report card, but nowhere near perfect. The bell rings for the end of class and Mr. Kendall tells them he’ll see them tomorrow but reminds them that this is only the second trimester and if their grades were less than stellar this time round, they still have plenty of chances to improve them.
As Emma wanders slowly out of the classroom, Matilda Brant and some of her friends are in the corridor and watch her, calling her a poor little rich girl, ‘Enema Frost’ and a weirdo behind her back. As she approaches them, Matilda holds out her hand and tells Emma that they noticed she didn’t seem too pleased after she got her report card. Emma reminds herself to stay cool, seemingly not very confident in dealing with someone like Matilda. She replies that it’s nothing really, it’s just that she didn’t do as well as she’d hoped. Matilda places her arm around Emma’s shoulder and tells her that she aced every subject, saying that maybe she could help her, maybe tutor her. Emma perks up a little, asking, “Really? That would be nice.”
Matilda reads the grades and in front of everyone dismisses them, saying, “Can these grades scream ‘mediocrity’ any louder?” Emma can offer no reply. Matilda tosses the piece of paper to the floor and says she’s sorry but she’s way beyond her help, but then that’s what she has ‘Daddy’ for isn’t it? She continues to bitch that everybody knows the reason she was accepted here is because he is the second richest man in the state so does she truly expect them to feel sorry for her because she’s flat-chested and doesn’t test very well? Get real, she adds, saying she doesn’t even have to board there like the rest of them. She has a mansion with her own bedroom, complete with digital tv, access to gourmet foods and a personal chauffeur who drives her to school every day. Emma thinks that this isn’t true but remains silent as Matilda and her friends turn their backs and leave the building, Matilda asking Margo what she’s wearing to the dance. Emma feels that they don’t understand.
Suddenly, she clutches her head in pain, watched from around the corner by Mr. Kendall. She walks out of the front doors and is greeted by Bryce, her chauffeur, a respectable grey haired man in uniform who opens the door to the Rolls Royce. He asks if everything is okay and she replies that it’s just a slight headache. She thinks to herself that she’s been having so many lately, and thinks her brain’s about to explode.
She is driven back to Frost House, home of the Frost family in Boston which is equally as impressive as the school and which also has acres of greenery surrounding it. Horses roam in a paddock next to a wooden bridge that crosses a stream leading to the winding driveway. Emma enters through large imposing wooden doors still reading her report card and thinks ‘Who cares what Matilda thinks of my report card anyway? She’s not the one I have to impress; it’s them, my family.’ The family are having dinner. Present are Hazel and Winston Frost, Emma’s parents who sit at opposite ends of the large dining table. Emma sits next to her bubble-blowing sister Cordelia and opposite her other sister, Adrienne who is making arrangements on her phone. Diagonally opposite sits Christian, Emma’s brother. Christian is tall and slim, athletic looking and wears his hair short. Several staff serve them as Hazel asks how everyone’s day was.
Winston tells her that her son nearly revealed one of their trade strategies to a major competitor. Christian turns to him and asks how many times he has to apologize. “Until I get tired of hearing your apology Christian,” Winston replies. Christian says that he gives up and won’t even try and defend himself. His father retorts there’s nothing to defend and calls him an idiot. Hazel breaks the tension a little by asking Adrienne to cut short her phone call as they’re trying to have dinner. The more glamorous of the sisters apologizes, telling her mother that she was speaking with a rep from a modelling agency downtown which is looking to turn her into the next Cindy Crawford. She says she was humoring him of course and intends to work with daddy once she finishes her masters.
Her mother is pleased and turns to Emma, asking how her day was. Emma lies. “It was great; I’ve made so many friends I’ve lost count. As a matter of fact, that dance I mentioned a few months back is coming up, and they’ll be really disappointed if I don’t go.” Hazel asks her husband if she can go. He replies that it is entirely up to Emma. She perks up, almost optimistic upon hearing his reply but her father continues to say that she knows the agreement they had concerning her grades. Emma eagerly stands, knowing he would say that and feels prepared to respond. She tells him that she got her report card back today and passes it to him. She stands expectantly at his side as he opens the report while Adrienne takes another phone call.
After reading the grades, her father tells Emma that they are simply unacceptable and she cannot go. Emma is shocked, reminding her father that he said she could go if she got B’s. He accepts that but says that they are not A’s and a Frost should strive to be better. A frustrated Emma runs from the room as Christian defends his sister, telling his father that it’s bad enough he won’t let her live at the dorms with the other students, but does he have to deny her the simple pleasures of adolescence as well? He is a stubborn man, and says that if she puts no effort into earning these “simple pleasures” then yes, absolutely. Christian replies, saying Emma should live at Snow Valley. If she did then maybe she’d have more time to study instead of driving back and forth every day. Winston says she can study during the ride and Christian realizes that nothing he can say is going to penetrate his father’s stubbornness and he stands, excusing himself. Adrienne concludes her phone call and asks Cordelia what she’s missed. “Dinner fell apart before anyone could ask how my day went. Hail Satan,” she replies, her bubble-gum bubble bursting.
Later, Christian joins Emma in her bedroom and does his best to be a big brother to her. The room is all pink, very feminine. A copy of Vogue rests on the duvet and a pink bunny rabbit toy sits atop the television stand. He lets her know that her grades really are better this trimester, even if Winston is oblivious to it and tells her that he is proud of her. Emma sits cross-legged on the bed in her night clothes and thanks him, but asks why it has to be so unfair. It ticks her off. She clutches her head as she says that she could have scored all A’s, she really could have but she hasn’t been feeling too well lately. He asks what’s wrong and she says that for weeks she has been having really intense headaches. He asks why she hasn’t told Winston or Hazel and tenderly holds her under her chin. She smiles but asks him not to mention anything to them. She isn’t ready yet and doesn’t want them starting in on her, adding that it’s probably nothing. As he leaves her room, he concedes that some things are better kept secret but asks her to promise to visit the school doctor which she agrees to.
(Three days later)
Emma is back at school. She and her fellow students are dressed in white fencing outfits for a class taken by Ms. Grizette. They stand around her as she asks for a volunteer to demonstrate circular parries four through eight in today’s first match. Emma somehow knows who she’s going to pick and her feelings are correct as Ms. Grizette chooses her and Matilda Brant. She tells them to select their rapiers and don their masks. Why bother, thinks Emma, she already knows who’s going to win.
Matilda calls, “En garde!” and they begin fencing. After just a few clashes, as Emma thinks about how Matilda is a superior athlete, is popular and is going to the dance, she finds herself being caught by Matilda’s rapier in the chest and blood quickly oozes from the wound. Emma collapses to the floor as a shocked Matilda stands back, removes her mask and insists it was just a tap. Ms. Grizette rushes over, removes Emma’s mask and finds blood coming from her nose too. She tells her pupils to send for Dr. Davenport.
Soon after, Emma is seated on a bed in Dr. Davenport’s room. Dr. Davenport also sports a school top under her white coat and she talks to Emma, asking her about the nosebleed. It’s the first one she’s had since she was really little and Dr. Davenport asks if she has any thoughts on why she passed out. The gymnasium was spinning, thinks Emma but replies that she guesses the blood made her a bit squeamish. Nothing too out of the ordinary she tells Emma, asking if there’s anything else she should know about. Emma has to admit that she’s been having really bad headaches and the doctor says that they’re probably nothing more than migraines caused by tension but still, she’d like to see Emma in two weeks for a follow-up examination. In the meantime, she provides her with some pain-relievers, reminding her not to exceed the recommended daily dosage. She takes them and replies that she won’t, thanking her inwardly probably for helping her, and for being so nice about it.
(The following day)
Mr. Kendall's class is ending and he reminds his pupils not to forget that the midterm is only three weeks away. He’ll see them on Monday. The girls depart and Matilda and her friends discuss the dance that evening, Matilda mentioning that a lot of cute boys from Pemberton will be attending including Josh Nixon. Her friend says he’s so fine. Mr. Kendall asks Emma if he can have a word. Clutching her books, she asks if it’s about her grades but he says no, he is just concerned about her in general. He says that he knows it hasn’t been easy for her, not being here at the dorms with the other girls, plus, he heard about the incident in fencing class yesterday and wants her to know that if there’s any way he can help, he’s here for her. He adds that he could even tutor her. As they stand facing each other, Emma thinks that she’s never noticed how his eyes are the same color as the ocean. “That, that’s handsome – I mean, lovely. It would be lovely. Can you start today?” she replies. He says that would be tough as he has to chaperone the dance tonight. “Aren’t you going?” he asks. Emma lies. Of course she is.
That evening at frost House, Emma has put on a beautiful long white ball gown. Christian tells her it looks dynamite but she tells him to keep it down in case father hears. Christian is also dressed stylishly and tells her he’ll try, adding that white is definitely her color. Emma can’t believe she’s actually doing this, or that Christian is actually helping her. He pulls a seat up for her and has her face the dressing table mirror. He removes the grips from her hair which allows it to fall naturally. He tells her they are entering the final phase; hair and make-up. Emma picks up a tub and a bottle, asking if blush, mascara, lipstick and eyeliner aren’t a bit much. She doesn’t even have a stretched canvas. Very funny, he replies as he gently applies blusher to her cheek. After applying eyeliner, Emma looks amazing and Christian is pleased with his efforts.
Emma tells him it’s a nice job, but asks how they’re going to leave the estate without mother and daddy finding out. He says that there’s no problem on that front, he does it all the time. If there’s anyone to worry about it’s Cordelia. She’s always sticking her pierced little nose where it doesn’t belong and she’s not above blackmail. Minutes later, Christian is driving Emma in his Mercedes towards Snow Valley and she can’t believe how easy that was. Christian tells her that no-one ever pays attention to the servants' exit. He drops her off outside the school and tells her he has his own appointment to keep but he’ll be back in a few hours to pick her up. “Have fun,” she tells him. “You too.”
Inside the school hall, the students are dressed to the nines and the place is adorned with drapes and balloons hanging from the ceiling. Josh Nixon is talking with Matilda about his dad loaning him his timeshare but before he can finish his sentence, he notices Emma wandering through the entrance, looking sleek and elegant in the white gown. Even Mr. Kendall barely recognizes her as everyone in the hall turns to look at her. Mr. Kendall introduces Emma to a fellow teacher, Ms. Morrissey who knows her as being one of Winston Frost’s daughters. As he speaks, Josh Nixon walks up behind Emma and says hey, introducing himself as Josh. She smiles. “Hi Josh, I’m Emma.” Josh touches her hair, asking if anyone ever tells her that her hair smells like jasmine mixed with honeysuckle. She coyly replies no and he says that he just did, he likes it and asks if she wants to dance. Matilda stands behind them, arms folded and giving Emma daggers.
As they head for the dance floor, she reaches out and says, “Not so fast.” Emma realizes that it’s Matilda but before she can do or say anything, Matilda grabs her gown by the shoulder and rips it, allowing the front to fall. “Oops! Guess I ruined your brand new Gaultier!” Matilda says. Emma turns and aggressively says that at least it isn’t borrowed like hers. She adds that maybe she should spend a little less time worrying about her and a little more time figuring out what she’s going to do once her family declares bankruptcy next month. “Bitch!” yells Matilda who pounces on Emma, knocking them both to the floor. As they grapple, she asks who told her about that but Emma thinks to herself almost the same thing, how did she know that?
Mr. Kendall spots them and as he approaches, Matilda pulls more of her fragile dress apart, revealing her bra and naked flesh. Matilda stands over her, holding the torn fragments of her expensive gown. “Riches to rags Frost. That’s different right?” she says. As she sits, clutching what’s left of her gown over her body, Matilda laughs, as does Josh Nixon and many other students. Mr. Kendall angrily grabs the ripped cloth from Matilda’s hand as Emma flees towards the exit. As she runs, her high-heeled shoe heel snaps off sending her tumbling to the floor once again. Everyone laughs even more as Emma holds herself up, her nose bleeding again, dripping on the floor.
Sometime later, Emma is back safely in the Mercedes with Christian who asks her what happened back there. She remains tight-lipped and turns her head away from him, embarrassed more than anything. She thinks to herself that she must have been out of her mind, wondering how she is ever going to show her face at school again. They’ll never let her live it down. She walks up the stairs to the Frost House’s front door only to find her father pull them open with a furious look on his face. He damns her to hell. He says he strictly forbade her from attending that insipid dance and not only did she disobey his order not to go, she chose to add insult to injury by engaging in some lawless catfight while there - and lost.
Emma struggles with her response, asking how he knew, and is about to mention that Christian said Cordelia would say something. Her father points his finger at her, asking what Christian has to do with this. Emma says nothing; it was all her idea, no matter what Cordelia told him. He replies that he didn’t find out from her sister. Her teacher, Mr. Kendall called and told him everything.
At the Snow Valley School for Girls, Emma sits alone behind a desk as Mr. Kendall asks what happened Friday night. Emma is still upset about it. “Tell you?” she says, “As if you don’t already know!” She says that what Matilda did was horrible enough, but her father didn’t have to find out she was at the stupid dance. She tells him that she thought she could trust him. He thinks about this and realizes his error. He apologizes to her, telling her he hadn’t realized she’d snuck out against her father’s wishes. Emma sits forlornly, thinking how could he have known? She’s the one that should be apologizing. “I hate my life, I just want to die,” she whispers. Mr. Kendall walks over to her and tells her to just stop and think about all the people she would hurt if that were to happen. She asks him to name one. He takes her hand and tells her, “There’s me, Emma, there’s me.” He leads her to the window where the sun’s rays bathe them in a warm glow.
They stand there, looking outside and he tells her that he thinks she has a great deal of potential and when that potential is finally realized, when she blooms, it’ll be up to her and her alone to choose what happens next. He adds that she’ll probably look back on this one day and wonder. He tells her not to look back, look forward. The future is bright so she shouldn’t forget her sunglasses. He spots the Rolls Royce on the driveway and asks, “Same time tomorrow?” She says she wouldn’t miss it and asks, “Can I call you Ian?” He says sure, but it’s time to head home now.
Emma leaves his classroom, but when she gets into the corridor she feels kind of funny and steadies herself against the wall. Matilda and the other girls are ahead of her and along with Mr. Kendall, notice her looking unsteady. “What’s the matter with her?” one girl asks just as Emma’s nose begins to bleed once again. Suddenly, a barrage of random thoughts enter her mind from everyone around her and she drops to the ground, wanting someone to make the voices stop. Mr. Kendall rushes over to her as she screams, “Make them stop!” With that, Mr. Kendall shouts her name as she passes out in his arms as her fellow students look on, shocked.