28 September 2008


Sunday 28 September 2008

The aftermath of the northeaster has been fading, leaving us with thick, humid mornings and everyone has been holding onto summer with shorts and skirts and tanktops at school. For church I wore my good white linen skirt that I got in England and a navy-blue sleeveless top and my soft cotton shirt with pale blue and gold and grey stripes that I wear as a jacket. When we got home Mother announced she was yielding to Princess Jessy's need for more makeup and taking her down to Target. At first Lisa wanted to go and then chose to stay home because J.J. had got into the Legos and she wanted to play with that. Daddy promised to keep an eye on them-- which really meant he would play too. So I went up to my room, only long enough to take off everything but my pretty white cotton panties, and I descended for a stroll out in the garden to take in the day.

The humidity of the midday was soft and dull, like a sweaty woollen blanket cast over everything. With deep breaths and long sighs I strolled out past the pool and leaned on the railing of the garden wall at the back of the property, gazing out at the haze of stubborn sun upon the Bay. There was a breath of breeze wafting in from my left, and I realised that out on the barrier island the surf must have been pumping. Jessy and I should really pay another visit to Chincoteague. I would love to get Roger to meet us at school with the sticks on the roof, and we could get changed in the back of the car on the way and paddle out as soon as we got to the beach. I have met a few kids at school who surf and that would really be the envy of them if we were to do that. I would only wish that those kids wouldn't be there to actually see us doing it. I am so out of practice in surfing that I would probably look like an idiot. Then again the water is still warm enough that I wouldn't need any kind of wetsuit, and surfing in a bikini is usually worth any mass quantity of mistakes.

I did not go out the gate and out onto the jetty but turned and wandered back through the garden and went out the north-side gate to the yard. The damp grass was soft and cool on my feet. Feeling indolent I dragged my chaise away from the side of the house to the middle of the lawn and settled down on my back, sighing to feel the welcome sun on my skin.

After maybe half an hour I did not feel any drier for having sat in a damp place and got up, having to rearrange the panties on my skin, and returned to the garden. Without waiting for anyone to see them clinging to my bottom I dove into the pool and then actually swam 20 laps, as Jessy and I started doing on about the second day we were here in Virginia. The panties stayed on and I made pretty good time.

By the time I got out little Lisa had got bored with playing Legos with 'the guys' (Daddy and J.J.) and wandered out to see me swim. I stopped in the shallow end of the pool and said hello.

'Hey,' she said. 'Whatcha doing?'

I shrugged, pulling back my hair with both hands. Lisa is five and ever curious, but fortunately there is really nothing Jessy and I don't share with her. If she has to learn about older girls, she could do far, far worse than to learn from her own two sisters who never ostracise her and will always explain anything in terms she can understand. 'I just wanted to take advantage of the day,' I said.

She smiled, standing there in her little lavender shorts and a white tanktop, looking down at me. I waded to the ladder and arose from the pool, shaking off the water and pulling back my hair again. As though it mattered I carefully adjusted the wet panties on my hips. Lisa met me, still smiling. 'You went swimming in your panties,' she giggled.

I shrugged. 'It was what I had on,' I said.

Lisa laughed. Of course this has happened before. She's seen me in even less. No worries.

We went into the house through the small back parlour and I was able to avoid Daddy and get up to my room. In my bathroom I towelled off while Lisa watched and prattled on about what they had made in J.J.'s room with Legos. Still in the damp panties I sat on the towel at my table and started to type a little in this. But Lisa wanted to stay and I hate having anyone watch while I type, so she sat on my leg and we looked at some of my pictures from HOH and this summer. There were a few of Lisa being cute, swimming with us during our 'Olympics' which we had done 'original style', meaning naked as the Greek men had done in the first days. Jessy and I had helped Lisa refine her crawl stroke and had her swimming laps of the 12-1/2-metre pool within a few days. Mother had been impressed-- so much for paying for swimming lessons. Though we do watch her cautiously, it is with less and less anxiety to see her paddling two or three lengths of the pool nonstop. She wants so much to please Jessy and me, and we want so much to be her best role models.

'With great power comes great responsibility.' Lisa is a responsibility I take very solemnly, and very happily. That doesn't change if she happens to have seen me swimming in my panties after church.


27 September 2008

Cinnamon Toast and the Dust-free Shelf

Saturday 27 September 2008

At HOH (the school Jessy and I attended in England), many of the girls boarded there, and their dorm rooms were often the place to hang out after classes or during weekends when there were events going on. I stayed over with two of my friends, on the floor between their beds, during an all-night haunted-house party, and then a few other times just for fun. Likewise we hosted friends at our (rented) house several times too. The boarding girls are often lonely and far from home, but at HOH there is no clique made of either day girls or boarding girls-- we are all one family.

One of my friends was (or is) a very pretty, sweet-natured girl originally from Singapore, whose parents moved to England for a short while, just long enough for her to start at HOH and make friends before they were temporarily transferred to Amsterdam. She wanted to stay on and so became a boarding girl. The last I saw of her was a few days before the end of second term when she was packing up her things to leave the dorm and relocate with her parents to Surrey. I stood in the room close to catatonic with sadness, and she went on prattling about some funny thing she and her sister did over a summer break long ago, completely unwilling to face the fact that we will probably never see each other again. In her almost random packing of just everything she had into everything she could carry, she turned to the bookshelf along the wall beside her bed and started scooping up stuff and dropping it all it into a box. In the midst of it all a small brown bear fell off onto the bed and I caught it, holding it to myself as she went on packing. She did not notice I had the bear till she happened to glance up. 'Oh! You look cute together,' she said.

I shrugged, holding the bear, actually rocking with it a little. 'He looked like he needed a hug,' I said.

'I don't even know where I got that,' she smiled. 'I swear all I do is dust the shelf with it.'

I looked, and sure enough the bear's bottom was dirty from having been slid side-to-side on the shelf. I was still holding him when the stewards came and shifted her stuff out to the reception room, so kind of as a farewell gesture-- and mostly because I am sucha sap-- I said I'd take him home, clean him for her, and bring him to the farewell party tonight. 'He can't go off to a new home with a dirty bottom,' I said.

She laughed. 'Why don't you take him home, and you give him a new home?' And so I did.

Cinnamon Toast is a small cinnamon-brown bear, about 15 inches tall if he were to stand up on his short little legs, but he is always sitting on his soft round bottom. He is a very polite and modest little bear who never insists on his own way and never gets impatient for attention even though I think I lavish him with it a bit too much, in deliberate compensation for how lonely he must have been just dusting the shelf in the dorm room. In some form of ursine gratitude he is always happy to see me and loves to hold onto my arm with his Velcro palms, like when he sits on my lap while I write. He has a loopy kind of smile and lopsided eyes and if you wind him up he plays a music-box rendition of 'Teddy Bears' Picnic', which I hardly ever do.

I am sure Cinnamon was originally from China, though I haven't looked at his faded tag and he is too plump and soft to twist round and look at it himself. But, you see, all bears learn the culture in which they grow up. Cinnamon has always heard English, he understands English, and he thinks of himself as English. I do not think he reads English, but he does like books and enjoys looking at pictures when I read to him. Sometimes I have left him on the bed with my current book and return to find he is looking into it. I think this exposure to literacy enriches his life. He has read 'Wuthering Heights', Ann Radcliffe's 'The Italian', 'The Great Gatsby', and countless issues of 'Cosmo Girl' and 'Vogue'. He has seen dozens of literary films on DVD as well as plenty of episodes of 'Gossip Girl', 'Greek', 'Gilmour Girls', 'Coupling', 'Eastenders' and 'Staying In'. He has seen 'The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants' three times and 'Narnia', I think, four.

I do not think Cinnamon misses living in the dorm very much. It was very dusty sitting alone on the shelf with books and photo collections of people he does not know and I know that a few times the Statue of Liberty from Paris had been leaning too sharply into his arm. Here is he an active part of my room and gets to sit or roll around anywhere I am-- and I am often in my room when it is not nice enough or light enough to be outside. He does not get thrown round indiscriminately like a hot-potato and is never subjected to ignominious treatment such as being trapped under soiled laundry or left to fall into ash from the fire. He does not care for the outdoors but has never been left in the garden dirt either. Aside from figure dolls he is one of only two male creatures I have here, the other being a brown bison my sister gave me from the Cape May zoo who soberly occupies a corner of the bookshelf. Actually I do not have a large menagerie at all any more, having given much of it away to Catholic Charities or children I have known, or else spread it round my rooms in New Jersey, Delaware, and also here. Cinnamon goes with me wherever I will be spending the night, except on the boat, since we have returned to Virginia, and has sat on my lap (usually reading or napping) for two westward flights and one eastward flight across the Atlantic.

He is gentlemanly enough to not look when I am getting dressed but not too prudish to sit on my knee when I am not dressed. He is fluffy enough that he does not need to hog the covers and warm enough that the few times he has rolled off onto the floor and spent half the night down there he does not catch cold. I know Cinnamon forgives me for that because when I apologise about it he smiles at me. In this way we have an understanding. I kiss him goodnight every night, after my prayers, and say goodbye to him in the morning. He waits for me patiently to get home and since I always come up to my room straight away when I get home he never feels lonely or ignored. 'Hello, Cinnamon!' I call as I come in. 'Where is my good little bear?'

And he smiles up from the book he is perusing to say, 'Here I am, my princess!'

I think that for anyone the unconditional adoration of a small fluffy friend is a Godsend, in that I actually believe God has grant us fluffy toys for us to befriend and love. It is a kind of practice for the real thing. Our family do not have any pets-- we move around or holiday much too frequently and spontaneously for that-- and having no boyfriend or husband or children of my own, Cinnamon is the one I care for at this stage of my life. Maybe that is immature. But I raised around love and having respect for everyone and everything, and, I am glad to have Cinnamon as the one who listens in on my silent prayers and accepts me for everything that I am.


26 September 2008

Meditation on my naked sisters

Thursday 25 September 2008

This evening during the gale Jessy and I both lit fires in our rooms, just small ones to take the chill off. This does not really settle the nerves because the wind howls in the chimney pipe and makes the fire do weird starts and stops. Jessy, naked as usual, lay on the hearthrug of her room and draped a blanket over her backside and seemed very comfortable reading in Elizabeth George.

After her bath little Lisa came out in a towel, padded round to her room, and before she had got dressed she discovered Jessy in this position reading. She went in to say goodnight to her, ended up sneaking under the blanket, and when Mother went in to collect her Lisa was curled up, half on top of Jessy's bare back, half asleep. Mother giggled, and I heard Jessy say 'Shhh!' as she went on reading.

I got up and went in and saw that, but before I could grab a camera Mother was detaching little Lisa from her beloved big sister and carrying her in to her room for bed.

I am grateful to both my sisters for showing us all the example of sweet love. They are ten years apart in age, but their birthdays are within two weeks and in many ways they are kindred souls. I know many people online, reading this, will think it's somehow naughty, or even sexy, that two nice young girls will snuggle up naked under the same blanket. But even as they are looking sexy to people with naughty minds, they are also showing their very real innocence. They do not know what naughty-minded people would think. They have not a naughty thought in either of their minds. To Lisa any part of Jessy's body represents her bigger sister. To Jessy, how could any part of Lisa be anything else but a part of her sweet little sister who follows her everywhere? This isn't something sexy or naughty but something very pure and sweet, and I know that God smiles down upon these two very good girls in every single thing they do.


25 September 2008

Of wind and sea

Thursday, 25 September 2008

We have got another northeaster again, a bit fiercer than the one last week when Jessy and I rode up to Chincoteague to see it. This one is less picturesque and less welcome, and we certainly don't need to go anywhere else but home to see it. From my window I watch with no sense of comfort as the whole Bay breaks up into wild whitecaps, rising three and four feet in places and smacking into our pretty concrete jetty so that not merely the spray but the wave's own green water shoots straight up and rains down on the terrace. If not for our own garden wall we might well be seeing waves lapping at our swimming pool.

(Do not even ask about the pool! --it is by now thoroughly salty!)

As I write this the sky has gone dark in two hours' anticipation of sunset and the wind hammers at the side of the house. Fortunately our lovely boat is not here but already pulled out for the season and safely blocked somewhere well up the Delaware River, or else I might have seen it bobbing too animatedly too close to the floating dock. Our chaises and tables are all pushed up against the house where they would have blown much less neatly had we left them out.

I am not cold and sit here, still in my jeans and jersey from school and with my warm little bear in my lap, shivering even so as I consider how very vulnerable a human being is before Nature. My only consolation is that all things come from God, including these storms, and maybe this is His way of testing us, of showing us what we must endure in order to learn to trust Him in His infinite judgement. Then again maybe this is His way of changing the seasons. If so, then not as I will, but as You will, O God... and forgive me for lamenting that my summer here has been much too short!


21 September 2008


Sunday 21 September 2008

Gently she pushed the hair of my forehead and I opened my eyes. 'Hey,' she whispered, smiling down at me.

'Mm,' I sighed, and rolled over onto my back, neglecting the covers. It was a little past 7.30 but not chilly.

Jessy was sitting naked on the side of my bed, reaching over to rearrange my hair. 'How is it?' she wondered.

I got to one elbow and we both craned our necks to look at the thick bandage on the side of my breast. 'It's still there,' I said, of the bandage.

'Does it still hurt?'

I thought for a moment. 'Not really.'

She made a cute pouting face at me. 'I wish I could help more.'

I looked up at her and then laid a hand on top of hers, on the bed. 'But you already have helped, so much.'

She nodded. 'Do you want to have a shower before church?'

I shook my head. 'I just want to find something I can wear, you know.'

We stood together in front of my wardrobe for a few minutes and finally decided I could wear a kind of snug tanktop instead of a bra and then something over it. Jessy helped me pull on the tanktop and shirt over my head. I did not look conspicuous and not having to have a bra strap cross right over the bandage was a relief.

After church Daddy wanted to drive over to the airport, just for a ride, and I offered to go with him. Jessy went along because I did. We wandered round the airplanes, Daddy pointing out this and that on each one and Jessy and I wondering if now he wants to get an airplane for himself. Finally Daddy turned to me and said, 'How are you holding up?'

I stopped and looked at him. "I'm fine; why?'

He shook his head, absent-minded, and then turned to wander on a little. We followed. 'I'm sorry about it,' he said. 'I shouldn't have--'

'Wait, Daddy,' I interrupted. 'It's not your fault. If it's anyone's it's mine, because I couldn't carry the thing right.'

'I shouldn't have made you carry it at all.'

'Now Daddy, who else was going to help you?'

'I could have got your mother to do it.'

He always refers our stepmother as 'your mother', even though Mommy was always 'Mommy' to us with him. 'Daddy, no offence, but I am probably stronger than Mother is.'

Jessy nodded at that. 'She is,' she said.

Daddy thought for a moment and then smiled. 'I guess you might be right.' He walked on a little more and then said, 'The stupid contractors should have put the thing away like I asked them to.'

We both nodded at that. He's not usually into blaming other people at all, but as long as he can find a cause for something bad that's happened he can accept it and move past it.

At home I sent e-mails to my friends from HOH and also Audrey and some other cousins, had a nap, helped Mother bake yellow corn muffins and a cake for dessert, and finished my homework for Geometry and German. I ran a bath and Jessy came in to help wash my hair while I held up the plastic under my arm with tape like before. Little Lisa came in, sat on the potty lid with her feet dangling off the floor, and prattled on and on about this and that, not really paying much attention to why the three of us had to be all together and why I even had to be having a bath to begin with. I expect to be able to wear at least something presentable tomorrow for school. I just worry now if I will have a scar, but that is a worry I will NOT share with Daddy.


20 September 2008


Saturday 20 September 2008

This place is not really finished, especially the lawn and yard which still need manicurement and cleaning-up. Whilst we were in England the workmen were working mainly under Daddy's directions over the phone and e-mail, and a lot of stuff was left lying round for them to move later, or in some cases they were just sloppy and never picked it up. Mother (our stepmother) decided that today would be clean-up-the-yard day and so we were all pressed into service from about 9.00 onwards.

A lot of it was raking, trimming, or moving potential firewood (Daddy will burn nearly anything in a fireplace). Jessy and I moved logs and scrap lumber for probably two hours straight. Mother served us iced tea and then we all went right back to it. Then Daddy asked me to help him with something. There is a rack that the workmen used for painting the storm shutters with epoxy paint. It is about ten feet long and two feet wide and made out of two-by-fours and some skinny metal pipe. We picked it up and manoeuvred it onto the yard trailer which Daddy towed over to the other side of the garage. Back there is some other junk leftover from the construction including a not-so-tidy stack of scaffold planks, some with ugly rusty nails in them. This is not a place Lisa or little J.J. ever go, so it is not especially a safety hazard. But in lifting the painting rack off the trailer and manoeuvring it in beside the back of the garage we had to pass pretty closely to some pretty nasty-looking spiky stuff.

I had one end of this rack and had to press it up to like shoulder-height to get through the gate and past some other stuff. Daddy was carrying the other end walking backwards. 'Don't push at me,' he said several times, and though I was losing the strength for this I was trying very hard not to let him trip over his heels. At one point we were very close to the scaffold-plank pile. I felt like I would lose my hold on this rack at any second. 'Just another moment, almost there,' he said.

'Okay,' I struggled. I wobbled a little and the thing was so unwieldy and heavy that it tended to sway on its own. I bumped sideways right into the side of the scaffold-plank pile, felt something jab me and heard my t-shirt rip, but soldiered on in some pain till we could put the thing down.

The second my arms went below my shoulders I felt the pain and couldn't hold it. Fortunately Daddy was able to guide the rack over to one side as it went down with a clatter. 'Owww,' I said then.

Jessy had been behind me and came over. 'Your shirt is ripped,' she observed.

'That's not all,' I said, and peeled it up under my right arm. There across the skin of the side of my breast, near the bottom, was a very nasty gash about two inches long, stinging from the dirty nail and wood that scraped me. Blood oozed down my ribs from it.

'What happened?' Daddy asked, coming towards me from the other end of the rack. 'Did it bite you?'

I only looked up, still holding the t-shirt up under my arm, and he leaned over and looked at it. A bra might have taken some of the direct hit but I hadn't worn one for this sweaty work and the cut was much deeper for my oversight.

Daddy actually laid his fingers to the flesh nearby to pull up my breast and examine it. It stung and bled more. 'Owww,' I said quietly.

He winced. 'Right. Get in the car.'

'Are you taking her to the hospital?' Jessy asked innocently as he stomped past her to the garage. That didn't need an answer.

'I just want to wash it first,' I said quietly, and turned, carefully laying the t-shirt down over it. 'Can you come with me?'

She nodded. 'I haven't had a shower.'

I made a face. 'I don't think I can have one right now,' I said.

At the clinic in Accomac we sat for another hour waiting for a variety of other scruffy-looking people. Jessy had dressed my wound with antiseptic ointment and a thick gauze bandage with tape, all of which the nurse told me to take off, which hurt a lot. By now the bleeding was mostly stopped although it still stung awfully. The nurse looked at it for a few moments and then the doctor came in. It was a male doctor. I immediately blushed. But they didn't have a female doctor on this shift.

Daddy was ready to back out of the examining cubicle-- he doesn't like stitches, and also he won't ever compromise the dignity of a lady, even one of his own daughters. I knew that looking at it behind the garage was as much as he would do. But Jessy would not leave my side even after the doctor told her she was in the way. She sat on my left and held my hand securely while I lay on the table with my other arm over my head and the t-shirt pulled up, almost TOO far, and got treated.

He asked how it had happened, on what I had gouged myself, and I told him it was a nail, and he gave me a shot for that. He said it would not need stitches but he did use some really strong tape to draw it closed and told me not to take off the tape for several days. I winced. 'How will I have a shower?' I wondered, since I was already a foul mess from working all morning.

'Take baths,' he said, and smiled a little. 'After about Tuesday you can take it off.' And he gave me a prescription for stuff to put on it after that, as well as the one for antibiotic, and told me to take Tylenol Extra Strength for the 'discomfort'', which really meant 'PAIN'.

Jessy had brought me a clean t-shirt and stood guard while I changed it after the doctor left the cubicle. I didn't know what I would do with the other one and carried it out. Daddy met us in the corridor, got the report from the doctor, and then leaned in and gave me a hug. 'I'm sorry, sweetheart,' he said.

I hugged him back, hard. 'It wasn't your fault.'

He made a face, not convinced of that. 'You're a good trouper,' he told me, which is what he always says to us at times like this.

'She didn't even cry,' Jessy said.

'I cried,' I said.

'Not out loud,' she said. 'I would have bawled my eyes out.'

I gave her a hug too.

As soon as we got back home I went up stairs for a bath. Jessy came in and helped me, mainly by washing my hair while I held a plastic bag taped under my arm to keep the bandage out of the water. I did not put on a bra yet and wonder how one will fit around, not over, the bandage. I will have to go to school in the morning without a morning shower.

The only good part of this is that the doctor provided me with a note to keep from participating in PE this week. So I can actually wear makeup and something reasonable.


Skirt across the water

Friday 19 September 2008

It was windy and chilly this morning and from my window I could see the ocean rolling in fast white combers that broke upon the barrier islands and disturbed the bay even these two miles away. When I stepped out of my morning shower I was shivering in spite of the steamed-up mirror. Jessy met me with a towel. 'What are you wearing?'

She shrugged, smiling shyly. 'Just... stuff.'

It was cute stuff, short, snug khaki shorts with a multicoloured bandanna for a belt over opaque aquamarine tights, a black tanktop under a plain white cotton shirt with the tails tied up at her middle, and her plain black pumps. 'It's cute,' I said. 'Where did you get the tights?'

She got a little red and looked away. 'From ballet,' she said.

'From ballet!' I smiled. They were. 'Clever.'


Jessy will often do this, so I will have to play catch-up and try to at least compliment her. It won't do for her to put together something pert and witty and then have me in jeans schlumping in to school with her, you know. I went out to my room, got on my underwear, and then stood in front of the wardrobe thinking till steam came out of my ears. (Well at least I was warm inside!) I ended up with a pale blue shirt with faint gold and grey lines from Pac Sun, worn unbuttoned over a navy tanktop, and last year's pleated grey school skirt from HOH with navy tights and my black shoes which are like maryjanes but with 2-1/2" heels. Surely Jessy would approve of that.

Now I know it's kind of conservative, but that is the influence of my stepmother as well as my mother and father. This is how we are here. I do not have my ears pierced, but I never wear earrings anyway. I have never worn bare-tummy tops to school, even though half the girls here wear them even as the weather gets cold. I like heels but nothing too high. I never wear anything that shows cleavage except for two of my formal gowns. More of my stuff is solid colours than bold prints, and I tend towards navy-blue and grey, like we wore at HOH, or else girlish pink and pastels. I hate red. I don't like shiny or satiny-finished clothes. I like a close fit but nothing too tight. I never show ANY part of my underwear deliberately or even negligently.

If all this makes me boring, then I am boring.

In school, wearing a skirt always gets attention. Even though Jessy and I have been wearing skirts at least three times a week since we started here (and five times a week last year!), the boys still stare and the girls still glare. Teachers, for some reason, seem to like seeing us in skirts. I think it is true what my stepmother says, that everyone appreciates a young lady in a skirt. It seems proper and satisfying somehow, and of course Jessy and I are always proper about it, legs crossed, knees together, back straight to ascend the stairs, and all that. We were raised to set good examples and this is what we do to do it.

At lunch, Rita raved over Jessy's whole ensemble and then wanted to know about my skirt. 'Where did you get it? It's so cute.'

'You'd never guess,' Jessy said slyly.

'Wait,' Chris said, 'it's a uniform skirt.'

I looked at her. 'From our old school.'

'From your English school!' Rita said. 'Oh, that is so hot.'

I laughed. 'Hot?'

'Sure. Real English girls' school skirt.... Totally hot.'

We all laughed then. They asked, and Jessy and I told them about what we wore at HOH-- skirts like this, navy knee socks (or tights in winter), black maryjanes, pale-blue shirts (they actually called it a 'blouse' there), and navy-blue jackets, which we didn't have to wear during each class but pretty much all the rest of the time. The girls in 6th-form (like 11th and 12th grade in the US) wore blue-and-white printed scarves like neckties. (When 6th-formers address you, you have to call them 'Ma'am'. You do not address them first.) It was all very prissy and proper, exactly what our mother would have wanted for us, exactly what our father and stepmother were looking for before we actually moved there. As the one American in each of our classes Jessy and I were very careful to be modest and humble, to observe, to ask for guidance, to fit in, and not to arrogantly assume we were automatically an exception because we were American, as though that made us somehow better in a society that doesn't value anyone who assumes that. As a result the other girls accepted and loved us from the start, considering us respectful and respectable, and we were no longer outsiders saying 'us' and 'them' but all of us saying 'we' about all of us together. We were a real part of the school, just as all the girls born and raised in England were too.

And even though this school has turned out to be pretty positive for us (so far), we miss that life too. The other night I felt terrifically maudlin and actually wept on my pillow over it. Living there for two years was a privilege that most American girls will never know, and coming back here was a privilege most British girls will never know. That's pretty humbling, and it's a lot to miss.

This afternoon I sent an email to a group of my HOH classmates, wishing them luck as they start their fateful 6th-form year. I've been getting responses back ever since. Most of them have asked 'How's it going?' and 'Have you forgot us yet?' --to which I have already replied, 'It's just fine,' and 'NEVER.' I wonder if they know how much Jessy and I dearly love them, not just because they represent a wonderful experience we have had with them at HOH, but because they have been such loving friends to us as well.

Daddy says we will pay them all a visit over Easter break, or else invite some of them to visit us here in Virginia. Photos and e-mails are not enough to bridge that whole ocean. I guess it's true that hands across the water should never, ever, let go.


16 September 2008

Unexpected visitor

Monday 15 September

It was delightfully warm all day, as I had hoped and even expected it would be here in Virginia. These late-summer afternoons are glorious, not too hot with plenty of sun, nothing like the quickly-greying twilight we had in England even at this time of year. Even though the daily humidity has pretty much gone since the hurricane, the pool has not gone too cold and even a dip in the Bay is not too chilly. Today, instead of doing any homework I went down to the lower lawn and spent a lovely hour by myself, on my chaise with a towel and a book.

Jessy did not come down, claiming she had reading or something, but I knew she might have seen me as her room is on the second floor at this corner. Nevertheless I was good, so I wouldn't do anything too spectacular. When I presumed it was close to tea-time I sat up, pulled my panties back on, and collected my towel and book. The panties are not what I wore to school but brand-new, just plain low-rise cottons in a very pale pink. I love the fit and so wore them just as loungewear even though I could have gone without anything at all.

As I came in the side garden gate I perceived Mother leaning out the back door looking for me. 'Oh!' she called. 'There you are. Janine... you have a guest.'

Half a second before I froze-- you know, who could this be? -- I saw a familiar face peering out past Mother at me. 'Oh, hello,' I said politely, and made sure my posture was straight as I ascended the steps inside the gate.

'Hi,' Chris said, somewhat shyly, and she watched me stroll confidently across the garden and up to the back terrace.

Mother just looked from me to Chris and back again, and then made a kind of sly giggle and stepped back into the back parlour. 'What's up?' I said to Chris as I stopped right in front of her.

'Nothing,' Chris said. Her eyes went all over me. I guess I kind of expected that she would be curious about finding a nice friend from school who sunned nearly naked. Honestly I didn't feel awkward myself at all. I have been getting so used to this that I might not have flinched if she'd been with a boy.

'So... you just came over here yourself, then?' I asked to make sure.

She shrugged. 'Yes, just to see you.... Your stepmother said you'd be having tea. I didn't think that....'

I made a wry face. 'Well, I can go put something on then. You might as well come up.' And I eased past her, through the double French windows that usually stand open in weather like this, and started in to the big parlour.

'Janine,' Mother called, coming through the dining room behind me, and I turned round with Chris almost bumping into me. 'Would you tell those other two that tea is up? And Chris, you are welcome too, if you'd like.'

Chris thanked her politely and I led her off, through the big parlour to the back hallway, up stairs to the gallery and in past my bathroom to my room. 'Wow,' she said slowly, stopping at the doorway. 'What's on these floors?'

'The floors?' I turned and looked down where she looked at the floor boards. 'Nothing's on them. They're just wood. Unfinished oak.'

'Unfinished?' she wondered. 'That's so--' Then she looked up at my canopied bed, dark-green-stained with curtains and a spread that match the blue-and-white toile of the window draperies, and my dark mahogany Sheraton (repro) dresser, and the little round table between the windows done in blue milk-paint, with its two matching Windsor chairs. My walls have panelling along the bottom, up to the window sills, the same green milk-paint as the bedstead, and above the rail the plaster is just plain white. It's nothing very expensive, just very traditional, like the rest of this house, simple and understated and easy to have been made, like it would have been had this house really been built in 1720 instead of just looking like it was. Unlike most people I have known I don't have any posters of Zac Efron or photo collages of friends tacked up on my walls, just a few framed mementoes here and there and a litho of Romney's children over my fireplace. Most of the stuff in my room was either acquired through junk shops or else, like the bed, ordered specially for this house while we were still in England. When you grow up around wood and cabinetry and architecture as I have, you get to appreciate these things, you know.

'Janine,' she said looking round it all, 'my God....'

At the time I was not really thinking. 'What?' I asked.

'This place is gorgeous.'

I laughed and turned from her towards my table. By now I don't think she was so surprised to have found me nearly naked. Either the room, or my near-nakedness, would just be one more unexpected and unusual part of her surprise visit to me this afternoon.

I opened the laptop and showed her some of the pictures from England, letting her sit in my chair while I leaned over and poked at the keys. She didn't seem to mind that I was so close to her. Some people might be expected to feel awkward at someone bare right beside her. But Chris was already willing to accept me. She's a real friend.

With the windows open on the shady side of the house the sea breeze can make it pretty chilly and I was a little embarrassed to discover I was showing it. While Chris paged through some more pics I got a jersey out of my drawer. It's just the one from my old school, a little heavier than a t-shirt, with the flag on it. Chris looked up and watched as I wriggled it on over my head. In spite of the flat fit it fell down just low enough to hide the panties. That was good enough. 'Well,' I said, 'shall we go down for tea?'

She smiled and looked me over again. I have good legs and showing ALL of them is a pretty good look for me. 'Really?'

I shrugged. 'Well, it's kind of my stepmother's thing, you know.'

Now that I think about it I don't think that what she wanted me to explain was that we really do have afternoon tea here.

Down stairs Jessy and Lisa and J.J. were all at the table. Fortunately both of them were dressed, Jessy actually in the same faded long jeans and pretty pale-green top she had worn for school. She looked cute. Mother served blueberry muffins and the tea. We all shared how our day had been at school, and Mother told us about what she'd done in the garden. At about 5.00 Chris said she would have to go. I walked her out to her car, parked somewhat shyly too far from the steps and the door. 'I'm glad you weren't upset that I just popped in,' she was saying. 'I hope I didn't interrupt your... tanning.'

I shrugged. 'I don't really need it. It's just a chance to be alone for a while.'

Chris smiled. 'Do you ever just stay in your room?'

She was looking me over again, not in an inappropriate way of course, but because I am sure none of her friends had ever walked with her down to the lane with no pants on. 'Sometimes. But I'm not really a recluse, you know.'

'No, you're really not.' She stopped at her car and turned round to look up at the house. 'It's some house, Janine. You must be so lucky....'

'It's what Daddy wanted for us,' I said, standing there with my arms folded over my stomach, looking up at the place too. 'He wanted us to live in a castle, like we're his princesses and Mother is his queen. And, so we do.' I giggled.

Chris giggled too. 'It's very romantic,' she said, and looked at me. 'And you seem to enjoy it.'

I shrugged. 'We do. It's all harmless, really.'

'It is,' she said wistfully. 'And as long as you're so good about it....'

I laughed. 'But of course!'


13 September 2008


Thursday 11 September 2008

When I got home from school today I went up my little round table in my room, read and typed till I'd got done a good half of my homework, and then went down for tea. Mother is always very happy to serve tea and to ask us all about our day. She and I sat with Lisa and J.J. at the table in the small dining room. Jessy had insisted on doing her homework-- however odd that sounds. And Daddy was not here-- he's been working in the studio that's at our old house up at Lewes because it's more local for the band he's working with. Jessy asked once if this meant we could just move 'home' --the word she used-- to that house. Mother had to think about that. Neither of my parents can say we are actually putting down roots here, but they intend for us two to finish at this high school and having a residence in Virginia looks good for either VCU or William and Mary. And Daddy intends to invest some more. So for now this castle is home.

As I was helping Mother clear off, Jessy sauntered into the kitchen from the front stairs. She was naked except for her low-heeled pink pumps, which she had not worn to school but chosen out of her wardrobe after she'd got home today. It's kind of what she and I do. 'Hey,' I said, deliberately not making any issue out of how she looked.


'Jesseeeeeee!' little Lisa squealed, running out to give her a hug, which was scarcely round her waist.

Jessy only giggled. Lisa is harmless and adorable. 'I'm sorry I missed tea,' Jessy said as Mother came in with dishes. 'Any ladyfingers left?'

'We didn't have ladyfingers; we had scones,' Lisa told her.

'Oo. Any of those left?'

'Yes,' Mother told her, 'but hurry up and eat one, because you'll be running into supper time.'

'Isn't Daddy coming home later?'

Mother shook her head. 'He's on the road as we speak.'

'Good!' Lisa cheered.

Jessy and Lisa went back up stairs. I stayed down a while and read to J.J., then we coloured, then he needed to be changed which I left for Mother and went back up. In Lisa's room Jessy lay across the bed, with her bare bottom sticking up as she leaned down over the far side to play Barbies with her. It was funny, in a cute kind of way. But at least she's free and clear today too.

After supper Lisa appeared in my doorway and asked if I wold join her and Jessy down in the TV room to watch 'Gold Diggers' on DVD. I looked up and saw she was all bare too now. 'Is this a thing, now, that we all have to do together?'

Lisa shrugged, cutely. 'I don't know. I just felt like it....' She twirled back and forth on the balls of her feet as though being bashful, though she really does like being naked. 'So... are you going to?'

I laughed. 'Yes, sweetie, if you insist.'

She giggled in delight and spun round to bound down the stairs. So I got out of everything I had on. It's been cool lately; there hasn't been any return of summer humidity since even before the storm, and the basement is particularly chilly. I drew out an armload of blankets from the hall cupboard before going down. 'What's that for?' Lisa asked, standing up in the centre of the room like she'd been directing Jessy where to sit.

I peeled one of the blankets off the pile. 'Well, it's not exactly warm down here,' I said.

'I want the green one!' Lisa claimed, and relieved me of the blanket. So much for her standing on principle.

So we all curled up, mostly in separate corners of the sofas, and watched 'Gold Diggers' on DVD. Mother came down after tucking in J.J. and sat in the side chair watching the last half of the movie with us. By that time the room had warmed up somewhat from our having been in it and none of us was very covered. In fact I lay half on my back and half on my side with the whole thing thrown off. This is the kind of freedom I love when I'm naked. I feel like half the Queen of Sheba, privileged and pampered, and half Eve, a poor innocent child in the woods. In a way I guess that says something about my personality.

And honestly, my parents do not mind that I loll round the house like this at all. I know that some people think it's arrogant... but it's not. It's the opposite-- it's actually very humbling. I am helpless and vulnerable, I cannot hide myself-- I can only be what I really am, natural and free. Some people think it's conceited... but it's not. I would never flaunt my body, because it's only what God gave me, so, not to me, not to me, but to Him be the glory. Some people think it's sexual... but it's not. If I feel totally piqued all over, it's because I am so immediately aware of everything-- the texture of the sofa, the least little breeze, a droplet of perspiration down the middle of my back-- but it's not arousing in the sense that my body's crying out for some sort of intimate attention. It's just a form of intense comfort, like my body and soul are both completely at ease, and the comfort itself is excitingly delightful. If I could really live like this-- and I mean all the time, in every part of my life-- I probably would. Then again... who wouldn't?


10 September 2008

Free and clear

Tuesday 10 September 2008

I was standing in the middle of my room cleaning my ear with a q-tip when she came in. 'Hey. Oh. You're not dressed?'

I wasn't. I was stark naked after my quick morning shower, my body all clean, my hair still a little damp. I felt alive, free, refreshed, able to take on anything. Beyond me the draperies hung open and the sashes were up. Outside, the beautiful cool late-summer air was sweet with salt scent. The morning sun was just a hand over the ocean horizon. I turned round, past the big mirror I rarely look at anyway, and faced my sister. With a little breath I said quietly, 'I'm clear.'

She made a pouting face. 'I'm not,' she said.

I nodded. 'I know, sweetie.'

She was already dressed, in cute snug black pants and a silver-grey-white-black striped top and plain white socks. I tossed the q-tip into the little bowl I keep on the dresser for stuff like that and we just stood there and looked at each other for a moment. 'I'm always going to be a day behind you, aren't I?'

I shrugged. 'And I'm always going to be two days after Mother.'

She shrugged too. 'Hm. And what do you think Lisa will be?'

'We'll be long gone, and Lisa will be the lady of the house by then.'

Jessy smiled at me. 'Except if Daddy takes us to the Olympics in London. We'll all be together then, right?'

I nodded. 'I hope so.'

'Hm. Well, I just came in for your good stuff.'

I nodded and she went in to my bathroom and came out with the little eyeliner tube. 'Wait-- you're wearing silver with that?' I had to ask.

She leaned round to look into the mirror. We each saw the other there too. 'Yeah, why not? Unless you think--?'

I shrugged. 'Something warmer, hun. To bring out your eyes. You're not a robot.'

She giggled, nodded, and went back into my bathroom to steal something else and then went out.

I heard little Lisa's voice in the gallery-- she wakes up at about the time we leave and today she's early. 'Janine?' she called sleepily, and before I could move to put on even a thing her face appeared in the doorway. Then came the rest of her, in her bright yellow summer pyjamas. 'You're not dressed,' she observed.

I shrugged again, like I do too much. 'I'm comfortable.'

She giggled. 'Do you have clothes to wear?'

'Of course, sweetie,' I said, turning in to the room again. 'I'm not going to school like this.'

Lisa giggled. 'That would be funny.'

'Yes,' I said, picking up my panties, 'and that's why it's only truly fun if we do it here. Right?'

'Right,' she said. 'Can I go through your room?'

I turned round and kissed her on the head, inevitably batting her with the panties in my hand. 'Of course, sweetie. Mother has something waiting for you, I'm sure.'

She smiled and trotted round my bed to the other side and went out through the door to the front stairway. It was a quarter to seven and I had to get dressed.


09 September 2008


Tuesday 9 September 2008

It was drizzly this morning when Roger arrived to drive us to school. He stepped out with no umbrella and we skipped down the steps and got in. Jessy always gets in before me and then I sit in the right rear seat, which is where the gentleman is supposed to sit, where there is the switch for the divider window and the intercom phone. This used to have a regular mobile car phone in it and the cradle and connectors are still here for it. The whole car is like that, slightly 'retro' and '80s', which gives it a kind of charm. It's in perfect nick of course, everything works that's supposed to work, the TV was upgraded to a DVD system before we started using it, and the engine and all that is rebuilt and restored and redone. But it's like the alternative and antithesis to what anyone else could have got, a more recent super-stretch Lincoln with that gaudy grille and stupid appliques. It's only like our daddy anyway, and our stepmother too, to be sensible and conservative and dignified, even when the two teenaged girls have to ride in to school in a long dark-green Cadillac.

In homeroom the slightly-heavy girl in her tight jeans said hello to me. I'm not giving her name-- that description fits enough people in this school-- so I'll call her Becky. I said hello back and asked her how she made it in the storm. She said they had a window in their garage blown out and some stuff 'relocated' round their yard. Some other people listened in and contributed that they had similar hassles. I guess no one had really talked about it yesterday. I told them about the leak, saying merely that it was 'up stairs' and not 'in the tower', you know. (No one at this school knows where we live.) I also told them and Jessy and me raking up all over. I did NOT say I'd been in my underwear during most of it... but I was.

Becky is in my PE class. We got changed together. At HOH I did not mind this as much because we were all girls and there didn't have to be anything odd about it. While we are all girls in the girls' changing room here too, it feels different. Some girls dress for guys more than others do. You see this in their underwear. I prefer just plain cotton panties, modest bikini cut, comfortable and cool. I saw at least two of them in thongs today. It embarrasses me and I have to look away. It's not because I am intrigued or interested-- it's the opposite. Any lack of dignity makes me uncomfortable. I mean, unless they are going over their boyfriends' houses for a striptease and God knows what else straight away after school, what does it matter?

Then again maybe that's exactly what they're doing.

Becky and I were done at the same time and leaned beside each other in the lobby just inside the door, waiting for the bell. 'Where did you go before here?' she asked me.

I looked at her. 'We were in England,' I said.

'You don't sound English.'

I smiled. 'It's just my family heritage,' I said. 'We only lived there two years.'

Someone else heard that and turned round and looked at me. 'Is your dad in the air force?'

I smiled at that too. 'No, we just felt like moving there for a while.'

'Cool,' she said, and then turned to tell the girl ahead of her about it.

Becky shook her head. 'I knew there was something unusual about you,' she said with a smile. 'You're different... like a priss, but you're not.'

I made a face. The bell rang, the door opened, and a herd of girls poured forth into the corridor. 'I don't know,' I smiled. 'I'm pretty priss.'

Becky laughed. In the corridor she said to me, 'I don't know about that. And I'm not sure I'm not that priss either. You know....'

I smiled, nodding at what she had just told me. 'I know. But it's all good, right? I mean... it has to be.'

'Yes,' she said. 'Yes.' She was looking up at me as though she had just found a kindred spirit... because she had. Then we had to separate for our classes. 'See you, Janine,' she said.

'Bye-bye,' I said, and turned up the other corridor.

In the lunch room I waited by myself at what has become our 'usual' table. It's kind of sad how many people will walk past one person sitting alone and not say a single word to her. I am not a monster in any way and you'd expect people would not ignore any girl at all, you know. I certainly wasn't ignoring anyone myself. One boy happened to meet eyes with me as he passed and said hello, really just because he kind of had to. I said hello too, but that was all the farther that was going to go. Oh, well.

Jessy and her coterie arrived a few minutes later. Josie had brought a lunch, or half of one-- crackers and cheese, a fresh tomato, celery sticks. I have not ordered anything to eat here yet and neither has Jessy. Anna and Rita left their stuff, collected tray lunches from the queue, and returned. By that time Josie was mostly done her snack. I was mostly done my German. Jessy was mostly done telling Josie all about whatever we'd done yesterday (nothing out of the ordinary) while Josie gobbled up the news ravenously as if she were starved as much for this banal news as for food.

Rita came in, in a gorgeous green-and-white print dress, with her wild curly hair piled on top of her head and falling down the sides like a Regency goddess, and spilled the news that a guy she has known for a while wants to date her. This led to the expected discussion of what they all think of this guy, what they all think of the guys they already know, what those guys think of them, what they think of other guys, what other people think of other people and finally what uber-popular Rita should do about a guy who wants her for an actual regular, publicised girlfriend, which was the only part of this on which I ventured any opinion at all. They all stared at me, including Jessy, as I pronounced my verdict on the issue at hand.

'I mean, why does he want to go out with you?'

They all looked at me as though I'd asked them the best way to settle people on Mars. Then Josie, bless her heart, said, 'Well? She's Rita.'

They all laughed, even Rita. Fortunately this really was meant as a joke. Rita does not actually take her great beauty or notoriety very seriously at all. It's really just a reputation other girls have built round her and she is actually pretty humble about it-- like any superstar should be. 'I didn't ask him that,' Rita said seriously then.

'Who ever does?' Anna said.

Jessy was smiling straight at me. 'Janine does,' she told them. 'Janine asks everyone "why".'

'I really do,' I said, smiling back at her.

'I bet they all hate you,' Rita said with a smile then.

I shrugged. 'Anyone who's afraid of that question doesn't deserve my time,' I said. 'Or my heart.'

There was the dreaded silence after that, which I should have dreaded. These girls are not like the British girls at HOH. They are from a once-rural part of eastern Virginia, cut off from high art, high culture, high church, even most of world events, who have come to rely only on their parents' money to live in a modern mansion with vinyl siding and their laptop computers to connect with the greater world. They have not lived where I have lived, they have not seen what I have seen, they do not have the experiences I have nor the parents I have. It is wrong for me to expect them to have my values; but that does not mean I should not try to teach them about them if they really need them.

'Tell them about Henry,' Jessy said to me.

'Henry?' Rita wondered. 'His name is Henry?'

'He comes from a very old family,' I told her, and then proceeded to tell them how I happened, by chance, to have met someone from a 900-year-old family who lived in a 300-year-old country house and happened to have fallen in love with him. Till, of course, we separated. I had asked Henry 'why' and he could only say that it would never work, mainly because we were so different. I had taken offence to that, till I figured out why. My values and tastes will stand up to anyone's-- they are probably better than those of some royalty in the world today. Henry's family was no better than my own. But his family could not tolerate mine. Henry's 'advances', as my diary called them then, were because he had stopped valuing me as a respectable girl and had come to consider me as a worthless American outsider from a family in the entertainment business. All my father's conservative tastes and sensibly-invested money and all my stepmother's polite decency and local Norfolk heritage had come down to the inescapable fact that I would never be as good as Henry to Henry or his family. And I had said 'no' to him that evening with the very firm conviction that I would never say 'yes' to anything he would ever ask me, ever again.

'Wow,' cute little Josie sighed then.

I shrugged and stared off across the lunch room. The period was almost over.

'Find out WHY he wants to date you,' Jessy was telling her. 'Why he is attracted to YOU, Rita, cute popular Rita. You have a right to know from the start, and no one wants to see you get hurt when you find out too much later.'

'Yes,' Anna said.

'Yes,' Josie agreed.

Rita nodded. 'What if he just says he's only after... the one thing?'

I looked up then. Did she mean to say cute, popular Rita hasn't-- you know-- yet? Really? I hadn't thought of the possibility till that moment.

'Then you have your answer,' smart, brilliant little Jessy said to her.

'Yes,' Josie said softly.

'Yes,' Anna agreed.

I know then that none of them would have wanted the real topic of this girlish conversation to ever be overheard by anyone who hadn't heard ALL of it.

Rita looked right at me and asked me, 'Why do guys all have to be like this?'

I smiled. 'Because we let them,' I said.

The others thought about that. 'I have never let them,' Rita said quietly.

I patted her hand on the table like Mother would have done. 'Then you're a lady,' I said, 'and that's why you deserve his respect.'

People were clearing off; the bell was about to ring. 'Can I call you tonight?' Rita asked, turning from me to Jessy and back to me. 'Just to let you know what he says?'

The clock clicked over. 'Sure, sweetie,' I said-- sounding much too much like my stepmother at that moment! --and stood up with my books. The bell rang and the sudden noisy exodus began. 'We want to hear from you.'

Rita nodded, seriously, and we all kind of patted her back as we left.

In the Book of Judges the Gileadites were given a code word so that they could differentiate between those of their tribe and those who were the enemy Ephraimites, and the code word was 'Shibboleth'. The code I have discovered is not a matter of life and death, as theirs was-- at least not directly. But there is a kind of code, made up of certain words and attitudes we girls frame round certain issues that confront us, like a kind of shared secret faith, by which we recognise each other as innocents. Becky said it to me in the corridor after PE. Rita admitted it openly, and then the reactions of Josie and Anna confirmed them too. Jessy's convictions about the topic were made clear to them, and I don't think I left any doubt about me. This is a common ground more important than favourite colours or compatible signs or what schools we used to go to, more important than anything except maybe religion itself. And in confessing this kind of social faith we have made a pact to each other to never let down the others.

Many times online I have been asked pointblank whether or not I am a virgin. It is always being asked by a sex-starved coward who would never pluck up the courage to ask it to my face. And a thinking man shouldn't have to ask it. What unmarried 16-year-old of a good Christian family ought to be anything else? And though it is a question I never answer and call only impertinent and irrelevant online, I have to wonder why I don't answer it. Why have I any reason to be ashamed of being what I am? --that is, a good Christian girl with enough faith, intelligence and common sense to apply my God-given assets only to His work and not to my own temporary pleasure? I know I did God's work today-- I stood up for a principle God truly loves, since it serves His people best to do as I have done-- and to not do what I have not done. I helped Rita today, and she is not likely to ever forget what she learned about herself, me, and the rest of us over the lunch table. I should be proud of that. I have been good, and so I can be a good influence to others who worry that their own goodness has not been enough. I know I am called, even required to do that, as it says, 'If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained'. It means that if I stand by and do not help, I am as guilty as the one who makes the mistake and sins because I would not help.

From now on I will be more proactive and less afraid. What good is making new friends here if I must give in on what I believe to be best? But I found today that I do not have to give in at all. I already have friends whom I care for and who look up to me. Isn't it my job to be a good example? And so I will be.


07 September 2008

The morning after

Sunday 7 September 2008

The day dawned cool and clear with a very gentle breeze, the perfect aftermath of a storm. I would know about the dawn-- I think I was up for it. Even before my shower I wandered up stairs to the tower to look at the wall we had destroyed to get at the leak. The floor and wall are still damp but the caulking Daddy had put in will hold for good. All that remains is to clean up the mess and rebuild the wall.

Outside the water has subsided and the lane is all clear, so Daddy got the minivan out of the garage and we went to Eucharist at St James'. When we got home Daddy asked me to clean up after the leak mess-- which serves me right for asking about it. I got all the windows of the tower opened up and a fan running, but it was still hot and muggy and I ended up getting out of everything but my panties (small surprise there) and crawling round in the syrupy plaster goo with a brush and dustpan and finally a vacuum. By the time I descended I was in need of another shower. And there was still more to be done.

I went outside to find out what everyone else was doing and only happened to glance up at the house. Daddy had got out the long ladder, carried it up to the south roof above his and Mother's room, and was up at the top of it, peering in under the 4th-storey window that had leaked yesterday. I held my breath-- he is usually not one for heights at all, but this is his house which he adores and he'd not going to let a stupid fear keep him from protecting it. Even as I watched him from down on the lawn he poked hard at the leak area and rattling the ladder. Worried, I called up. 'Are you all right?'

He mumbled something that the brisk sea breeze carried away. Then he withdrew another blade from his tool bag and probed under the windowsill again. I knew that mumble-- it was not a time to ask him stupid questions.

Jessy was alone in the garage yard with a bamboo rake, supposedly straightening out the red gravel and smoothing out the sand that will never be all gone. But you know Her Highness isn't much for manual labour and by the time I got to her she was only meandering aimlessly with the rake half dragging behind her and looking up past the kitchen to watch Daddy up on the ladder. She had on the bottom of her flowery red swimsuit, a plain white tanktop, a bandanna tied round her head and her loosely-tied hiking boots. 'Hey,' she said, 'what's up with you?'

I was still undressed as I had been working, with my hair all a sweaty mess and white wet-plaster blotches on my knees and elbows and feet and even the bottom of the black cotton panties. 'Hey,' I said. 'Is this supposed to be work?'

She made a face and leaned jauntily on the rake. 'There's another one of these things in the garage.'

I nodded. 'Right, and I do one thing and then half of your thing as well.'

She shrugged. 'So?'

But I did get out the other rake and, working together as we often do so well, we got most of the garage yard sorted out.

Soon Daddy came down and next we knew he was at the corner of the gate and calling to us. 'I need you guys out here,' he said as he neared. 'With the rakes. Janine, you might as well get little more decent, of course.'

'But she's never decent,' Jessy teased me.

We laughed.

I did go up into the house, putting on only a plain pale-blue shirt which I tied up at the ribs instead of buttoning and my hiking boots that are like Jessy's. Well, it was hot, you know. I found Jessy outside the gate at the unfinished house nearest ours, on the other side of the foundation which will be our chapel, halfheartedly raking sand out of the red gravel driveway. Daddy had directed us to check over all the driveways and rake back the sand and soil, and for the afternoon we progressed down the north side of the lane which had taken the most beating from wind and rain. Before long we were only fifty yards or so from the main road. Cars went by-- I do not think they saw us nor cared what I had on. Daddy drove down with the little tractor and met us at the fourth house, whose damage was nearly nothing. 'This doesn't look too bad now,' he said.

We both leaned on our rakes then. We'd been raking for about two hours. I was totalled. 'It looks better than we do,' I said.

Daddy laughed. 'Well, I didn't bring the trailer, so you can walk back.'

I nodded, blowing hair out of my face, and Jessy and I shouldered up our rakes like returning soldiers and marched back to the house. With some help from Lisa and J.J., Mother had swept the whole back garden, skimmed the pool and now had tea and ladyfingers waiting. She loves this place as much as Daddy does. We sat on the back terrace and toasted ourselves on a busy day. Daddy decided that there was nothing keeping us from going to school in the morning and that Roger had said he'd be down in the morning with the green car. Lisa was ecstatic about that. School is still new to her. Before supper I had a shower and after supper I had a nap. Somehow I'm supposed to have got my reading for American History II and the odd-numbered chapter exercises in Geometry done. Don't these teachers know there was a hurricane?


06 September 2008

Hannah visits.

Saturday 6 September 2008

After school on Friday Jessy and I asked Roger to drive us up to Chincoteague, which is about 18 miles, just so we could look at the surf. We were both in skirts and with heels on, which was kind of cute as we stood at the beach amidst the tourists in their swimsuits and scanned the ocean. No surfers were out-- there was scarcely anything for them to surf. I recognised no evidence of a storm swell at all, leading me to naively believe this storm won't be much of anything. But that's probably Daddy too-- he always tries to second-guess the weathermen. He says a good surfer or sailor will know as much about weather as anyone with all those instruments. He says the secret is to turn off The Weather Channel-- which Gran watches way too much! --and LOOK OUTSIDE.

But the storm did come. The wind came up in the wee hours of Saturday morning. I remember other summer storms we have had, when we were in Delaware and even before, when we lived in Surf City, and it's always scariest when it hits at night. By morning the power was out, but as Daddy said, that's to be expected. Our generator kicked in of course, but it does not power all the outlets and with the storm shutters closed the house stayed dark late into the morning. (We carried candles.) And the air-conditioning would not come on, so the house began to get hot and muggy. Jessy and I did not get dressed even after showers-- we each had on panties-- but because there was so much to do we wore shirts.

When we were in England I remember trying to explain to people what a tropical storm along the East Coast was like. They get plenty of winter storms and some spring weather, but nothing like a circular storm mass moving up a coast like this. Some of them thought riding out a storm along the sea seemed romantic. I guess I see their point. It is definitely exciting. At first it only gets dark, there is a little rain, and the breeze kicks up, enough that you would want to take in towels and swimsuits off the line, nothing too severe. The wind will stay around for a few hours beforehand and then as the whole force of it arrives it winds up into a vicious howling. Each burst of it feels like it will press the whole wall in. There is no way to just ride it out without becoming anxious. It seems to sap all your courage and strength. Even prayer doesn't feel like it will help.

Mother did lead us in a prayer service, adapting the old prayer for people in distress at sea, and we all admitted our worries. Daddy included that he was worried for other people as well. I think it's easy to think you are the only one suffering through a storm when it afflicts you. Meanwhile everyone else is suffering exactly the same as you are.

We are not worried so much about the house as we are curious. This house is new-- we moved into it on 31 July, and this is its first major storm. Using the third little pig's concept, it is built all in structural block and the low-pitched rooves are fibreglassed inside the parapets and then sealed round the edges with lead plate. Like our other two houses this one has storm shutters on all the windows which swing closed from outside and pin securely top and bottom. This is Daddy's idea of a house along the Shore, an idea that no one else seems to take seriously. Holiday houses with large glass area may be charming in fair weather, but in a storm, which is most likely to happen when the people are NOT at the holiday house, can do serious damage. And then of course there are the insurance claims and higher premiums. We have never had anything serious happen because of a storm. It's always the stupid stuff-- the Laser sailboat blew over and tried to float, trailer and all, across the yard, or potted plants fall over and have to be repotted, or the clothesline gets twisted round the garden gateposts, and of course there is always plenty of raking up to do to get the gravel and sand and soil back in their proper places.

Daddy had Jessy and me inspecting windows every half-hour or so, which meant we were scrambling all over the house to see what was holding. One of the shutters in little J.J.'s room vibrated enough in the hammering wind to become loose. Daddy would not let us open the window till the wind subsided so it went on banging. Fortunately the glass held. But it was very nerve-wracking to hear it and to think that the house was sort of coming apart. Having cramps didn't help my anxiety at all. In fact I went up and lay down in my room, but all I could do is curl up in a ball and pretend I'd be able to sleep.

Jessy came in and told me that the house had developed a leak. One of the upper tower windows-- on the south side, wouldn't you know it-- was apparently not sealed enough and a pretty good torrent of water streamed in under the sill. The paint on the wall and the trim on top and baseboards has lifted. Daddy had us chip away at the plasterboard to get into the wall and he was able to squeeze plenty of emergency stop-leak in between the block and the sill, the kind of stuff you use to stop leaks on boats. This held... sort of. We were able to guide the water out of the wall and into a large square dishpan. The two of us were crawling around in our panties and shirts getting really messy and sweaty. It might have been funny if we were not both so anxous about seeing water coming into our lovely home. Jessy came up with a way to siphon the water out and lead a piece of hose down two flights of stairs but it became more trouble than it was worth and we just sat up there on the wet floor waiting for it to fill and taking turns carrying it down about every 15 minutes. It was bloody boring! --but if this is the worst that has happened, we're fine.

Round suppertime the rain subsided. As long as there is rain you don't see how the wind eases. When the windows began to clear we could look outside. The whole lower yard was flooded-- I mean so wet you could not see the grass, as though we and our little walled garden were floating in the sea. Straight out past where the boat usually is there were the tops of some marsh grasses on the barrier islands and then nothing but the tormented ocean, swirling white and angry in the low light. The waves have been broken up by the jetties and the ''moat' which we have round the perimeter of the property. The other way down the lane, the other houses stand dry but surrounded by gleaming wet grass, scattered gravel and mud. That will be a mess to clean up, but only eventually.

Daddy went down the lane in his yellow rain jacket and inspected the houses before it got dark. From the upstairs gallery we watched him leave each one and dart across the lane with his flashlight. When he got back it was just about dark. The rain was mostly stopped and the wind was scarcely anything. He reported that a few of the windows in the unfinished houses had not held and at least one of them would have water stains on the raw-oak floor. Some plasterboard was ruined, as expected. But the basements were basically dry-- as ours is-- and everything had come through much better than expected.

The best thing was that, of course, we had moved the boat upstream-- all the way to the Delaware River, actually. Daddy and his brother sailed the boat up the coast where it will have rode out this storm at a marina, thanks to a friend of Daddy's with an empty slip. I am looking forward to going up to Chincoteague over the next few days to surf whatever storm swell remains. And we'll probably leave the boat up north, sail it around up there before getting it ready to haul out for the winter. There are a few family and social events planned for later in the month and we'll get to stay at the house in Surf City and the one in Delaware, both of which neighbours have reported are fine so far. Terncote Castle has come through its first hurricane tolerably well.


05 September 2008


Wednesday 3 September 2008

When we got back from school Mother was home alone with J.J., since Daddy had gone to get Lisa himself. Jessy and I called hello and went right up stairs to get out of our school things. I was down to my panties when I remembered Mother was sitting outside at the umbrella table beside the pool, I stepped back into my shoes and went down like that

J.J. ran right up when he saw me. 'Janine! Look what I made!'

He had been playing in the sandbox with those oversized Lego bricks and had assembled what he called a house. It was three bricks, but they were assembled pretty creatively. I raved over it and he ran back to the sandbox at the corner of the terrace. 'Did you want anything?' I asked Mother at the table.

'No, sweetheart, I'm fine.' She smiled up at me. After a moment I sat down. 'Well, how was the first day?' she asked me.

I shrugged, doing that thing with both shoulders. It's kind of a cute gesture in a tanktop but I don't know how it looks when I'm not wearing one. 'It was all right....' I leaned back and crossed my legs and happened to look down at them then. 'I was kind of going to ask you something though.'

She closed the book then. 'What is it, sweetie?' She always calls us 'sweetie' --it's her word.

I shrugged again. 'Do you mind it that Jessy and I have been mostly undressed all month?'

Mother laughed. 'No, not at all. It's comfortable, as you said, and it's harmless. You and Jessy have demonstrated that you can be appropriate about it. I don't see anything wrong with it.'

'It doesn't bother you that we're doing that all the time, and... you're... not?'

She smiled at me. 'I'm sure it's a girls' thing, sweetie. Not for someone like me.'

I narrowed my eyes at her, not understanding. She's twenty-six-- she's beautiful in a bikini, I imagine she'd be beautiful out of one, and she's always had a beach-baby tan and that brilliant blonde hair.... She's got nothing to be ashamed of, even after two babies. 'Oh,' I finally said.

'Were you inviting me to join you?'

I looked up and suddenly blushed. I have blushed maybe three times in her presence before. 'No, I wasn't. That is, I mean--' and then I shut up.

She patted my arm. 'It's all right, Janine. I would never impose on your privacy. Besides--' and she smiled-- 'I don't think your father would approve.'

I looked at her then. 'Do you think he doesn't approve of--'

'No, no, it's nothing like that. I'm sure he doesn't mind you two at all. But it's different being a wife.'

I thought about that. 'But you're so beautiful,' I said to her. 'And I'm sure some men would.... You know.'

'Yes. I know.' She patted my arm again. 'And you're sweet to think nice things of me. And I can't say I've never thought of it.'


'I would never do anything to make your father feel uncomfortable,' she told me, 'and I'm perfectly happy with what does make him comfortable. I only hope that you will have a husband like I do some day, and then you will know what it's like... to be treated like a queen.'

I smiled and put my hand over on top of hers, like she usually does to me. 'I'm sure I will,' I said, 'because Daddy is what I think of when I think of what men should be.'

She smiled and caught my hand for a squeeze then. 'Then I know you'll be very happy.' We sat there looking at each other for a long moment and then she said, 'Till then, no one minds if you're getting comfortable with yourself, Janine, you and Jessy both. As I said before, I think it's cute. And there's something very innocent and healthy in it. You two are mature enough to know what's appropriate, and it's been good for little Lisa too. Did you know she has no strap lines either?' And she giggled.

I do adore my stepmother.


04 September 2008

First day of school

Wednesday 3 September 2008

My alarm went off, but Mother came down the hall to fetch us. Jessy prefers an evening shower, so that might free the hall bathroom in the morning. My bathroom is not large, barely big enough for the plain white porcelain stuff in it, but it is right inside my door to the back hall so she tends to use it a lot, like for her makeup in the morning.

I put on my white toille skirt with a brick-red genre print and sleeveless pullover top in the same brick-red color, and then my plain white canvas wedges. Jessy came out of her room in a cute cotton skirt in a yellow-and-white-on-pale-green print and a pale yellow tanktop with a white cotton shirt worn unbuttoned over it. She had on flip-flops but I cautioned her about that. The high school doesn't allow flip-flops. After we had tea she went up and came back down in her natural-colored sandals.

When we stepped out the sun was already hot; it was like 75 degrees at 7.15. That storm is still waiting offshore. Roger was waiting with the dark-green Cadillac. Daddy insisted that we let his driver take us to school this year, so he and/or Mother can take little Lisa in to kindergarten. I predicted it will be only awkward, but my predictions won't sway Daddy. At least Jessy and I are both going to the same school this year so Roger wouldn't have to make two stops.

We both kissed Lisa goodbye and skipped down the steps and said good morning to Roger as we got into the car. Roger is an old friend of Daddy's who has worked as a driver for him since his superstar days. He is trustworthy and conservative-- like anyone else who works for my parents.

At the school there was a crowd of people milling about in the front yard, on the grass, on the pavement, under the portico, you know. Naturally they turned to look as we pulled up in the long Cadillac. It's not very gauche at all, just a 20-inch stretch, just enough to have a rectangular back door, done in a very dark green with subtle navy-blue pinstripes and real wire wheels with wide tires with small white letters and private number plates. It's also not new-- 1981. And of course Roger wears a plain gray business suit and black tie, more understated than a hired chauffeur. So it's definitely not a hired car and I think that impresses people.

Roger left us off at us the kerb where the buses don't go and stopped at the end of the portico. I checked my make-up in the inside mirror before getting out but it was all right. A girl can never be too careful, you know.

This was only the second time Jessy and I have ever been to this building and we were trying very hard not to flinch as a hundred strange people stared at us, not just because we had just got out of a twenty-foot Cadillac but because we were also new to this school and oddly dressed-- I had not seen anyone else in a skirt so far. I heard one or two comments, things like, 'Who is that?' and 'Oh, look, it's Hilary and Haylie.' I got a little red, looked to Jessy, and when she gave a little nod we started up to the building with our notebooks and purses.

I found my homeroom all right, but it's in the science lab. Already I hate this room, which will be full of half-dissected furry creatures, stuck to their boards with pins, and which will smell like people have been tossing cutup cat livers into the dustbins forever. The only thing good about it is that today is the first day of school and there won't be anything like that happening for at least a few weeks.

I'm just glad I had Biology at HOH and won't have to take it here. Unfortunately, Jessy will.

After the Pledge, which I almost had to remember, were the announcements, and then the period was extended to a whole hour so that the freshmen could get all their stuff. It was helpful to me (and Jessy in her homeroom somewhere) too. We filled out forms for school lunch, school insurance, school Internet and school locker assignments. The period was very boring. About half the people talked about their summers and the other half are new and don't know anyone. Next to me is a very quiet slightly-heavy girl in the wrong jeans who's showing too much middle below her top. On the other side are three boys who talked together all period. I sat very still and alone in my seat, keeping my knees together like I was being stared at. Really I think they were all ignoring me. I was glad for the bell.

First period is Geometry. We received our textbooks and a schedule of chapters to be covered and the concepts they will include. Then the teacher put a few examples on the board and assigned the first page, which is some kind of diagnostic, for homework. Homework on the first day! --and this is only first period. What an omen.

Second period is PE. I hate PE... you go to all this trouble making yourself look beautiful and then they make you get all sweaty and then there's no time to do it all over-- not that you even want to anymore without a serious shower. For the first day they just made us sit on the bleachers while they told us what PE uniform to wear and what padlocks to use and what the grading policy will be. It's all based on participation. Last year at HOH there was a girl who claimed she had a health problem and didn't have to participate in PE. She ended up on the Honour Roll. I think I have an health issue too. It's an aversion to putting makeup back on over sweat.

The slightly-heavy girl from homeroom is in my PE class. I saw her talking to someone else, so at least she's not friendless.

Third period is German. Ach, mein Gott! Ich nicht mochte diese Klass! The teacher is 'Ms Heidelbraun' who is obviously MISS Heidelbraun, and for a reason. She is blond, blue-eyed, tall, broad-shouldered, and has a scary ability to become very cold and stern. This woman is a serious throwback to Hitler's 'Ubermann principle'. You feel like giving her the Hitler salute every time she says something. (Where do they get these teachers?) Now that this is German III, so she said, she had each of us introduce ourselves with our full names-- auf Deutsche, naturlich-- and answer whatever she asked. They were not tough questions, of course, but it was surprising how much I can forget over such a short time-- probably mostly because of changing schools. Miss Heidelbraun promised us that most of the instruction would be in German, to get us used to hearing and understanding it, and we would be expected to reply with as much as we could. Was machts Sie mit diese?

'Hallo,' I said, 'ich heisse Janine [and my last name].'

'Vilkommen am Deutsche Drei,' she said. 'Und was hast Sie gehaben, dieser Sommer?'

Of course they looked at me. This was the penalty for anyone who sounded like he or she had any modicum of proficiency in it. 'Ich hab eine suntan gehaben,' I said.

People laughed. 'Vielen gut,' she said, and moved on to some girl called Sarah behind me. Sarah messed up her own name and Miss Heidelbraun laid into her a while trying to drill her back to competency. I'm not sure Sarah ever had any competency to begin with.

Fourth period came; American History II. I like History, and I already like the teacher. He is a published authority on the Holocaust and also Equal Rights, so this promises to be a decent learning experience. While he was handing out textbooks, a guy beside me introduced himself as Barry and asked me if I'd heard of any parties for this weekend yet.

'Um, no,' I said gently. 'I don't know anyone here yet.'

He looked me over. I flinched a little and held my knees together. 'Well, you know me. And you are--?'

'Janine,' I said-- and just then there was a lull so that was all anyone heard.

'Janine,' the teacher said from across the room. 'Welcome to the class.'

People looked at me and laughed. I went red. The bell rang and I got up fast. Barry called to me but I just got out of there.

Thank God Jessy is in my lunch period. We'd agreed to meet up here. She came in nearly late and saw me before I saw her. 'Hey,' she said behind me, and I turned round. Two other sophomore girls had come in with her and she introduced them-- Anna and Josie, both of them in cute little skirts too. As we stood there in the centre of the cafeteria I heard comments-- someone actually said, 'Hey, look-- it's the junior plastics!'

Jessy only smiled. Nothing like that ever bothers her. 'Come on, sit with us. We're sitting with Rita.'

'Rita?' I wondered.

Rita comes with a reputation of being a serious socialite, but she is actually very sweet. She is the first person who actually asked anything about Jessy or me all day, and we sat at the table for the shortened lunch period and were able to tell her and Anna and Josie a little about our old school and how we had come to move here from England. At least I have made some friends, even if they're all sophomores.

Sixth period was Chemistry, which I can handle if I'm up to it. Last year I got a B in Bio, but I hated Bio. Chemistry has labs and all, but basically it's more intellectual than practical and that probably means I'll handle it better. The teacher assigned us seats and I am now seated right next to a really good-looking guy who transferred into the district this year. None of the other girls have said anything to him yet, so I made sure I said hello.

'Hey,' he said, not quite looking at me, and kept his attention on the teacher. The guy was handing out textbooks! --is this more important that a cute chick saying hello?

I watched him trying to push his hair back up on his head-- it kept falling into his eyes, being so long in front, and it looked kind of cute. When he happened to glance at me, I asked him, 'How was your other school?'

'Oh, it was all right,' he said to me. 'Not as good as this one.'

'Why's that?' I asked.

'It's just not that good of a school. Do you like it here?'

I shrugged. 'I guess. I mean, it seems all right. I used to live in Delaware. My stepmother says it's a little harder here than most places.'

Joey nodded. 'It is. That's what I heard.'

The period was short and the bell was about to go off. 'Well,' I said, 'all it takes is actual work, you know.'

He looked at me again. 'That's right.'

Was I correct in assuming that this guy is a science geek-- however cute he is? But how bad could that be? At least I like chemistry-- 'Well,' I said, feeling lost for something to say, 'I'm Janine.'

He nodded, as though he already knew that. 'Joe,' he said; 'well, everyone calls me Joey.'

I smiled. 'Okay, Joey.'

The bell rang. Mission accomplished.

For seventh period I have choir. This is by far my favorite class already. I was in choir at HOH. Of course it's mostly girls, but it's a good group. Two of the guys and about three girls-- including my little sister Jessica-- are apparently are new this year. Our cute young teacher led us in a really quick warm-up, which everyone desperately needed, of course-- it sounded awful. The new boys were given a little audition for parts, which meant they each had to sing alone in front of us all. 'Better get used to it,' someone said, and we all laughed, at the joke of course-- not at the boy. He blushed and sang anyway. --not too badly at that. The other boy was better; he's obviously sung before. Two of the boys got on the percussion after that and started this almost-Jamaican-sounding thing, and some girls started vamping on that, 'Yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah,' you know, while the teacher took care of her books and sheet music, till the bell rang.

Jessy and I walked out together. 'So, where are you going now?' I asked her.

She looked again at the paper on top of her notebook. 'Three-oh-six. Math.'

I nodded. 'Algebra sucks. There will always be about three idiots who hold the class back. The best thing is to find someone better than you and work together, like after school or at lunch. And you have to do ALL the homework.'

She nodded, smiling a little to herself. 'I'm sure I'll be all right, Janine.'

I smiled. 'Okay. I have English; it's down this way. See you out front then?'

She nodded eagerly. 'Yes. See you.' And we shared smiles before she went off.

One of the guys from choir came up on my shoulder then. 'Is that your sister?'

I nodded. 'Yes.'

'Oh, I didn't know who she was. She looks like you.'

'It's the hair.'

I smiled. 'It's the hair. And other stuff. What do you have now?'

'English,' I said.

'Yuck. I have gym.'

I laughed. 'Aren't you're going the wrong way for that?'

'I have to go to the locker first. Hey, it's the first day anyway.'

I laughed again.

'Derek!' he yelled loudly up the hallway. I shuddered. Fortunately I had one more hallway to come.

Eleventh-grade English is American literature, beginning with Ann Bradstreet and Phyllis Wheatley and daring to get into the Beat Poets by June. Last year in fifth form I had British lit and would have had the A-level (the British A.P.) class this year. This is supposedly an Honours-level class and already I can see people who don't care or don't know how to pay attention. The teacher handed out the one-and-half-inch-thick textbook and her schedule of chapters to be covered and when we might expect major papers and a term paper. People groaned. Actually I don't mind writing at all, as long as what I'm writing about is worth my time. The teacher talked for the rest of the period about MLA format and Internet plagiarism, and I sat back in the seat and wished I were somewhere else.

When the bell rang I walked out the end of the hallway into the main hall and met up with Jessy. Somehow the guy from choir had made it back from PE and skipped-- literally skipped-- dodging people, going past us on his way to his locker. Apparently he didn't see me. We went on up the main hall looking for people we'd already met to say 'hi' to. There weren't many. While at my locker I saw the slightly-heavy girl with the bare-middle top and I said 'hi' to her. I'm not sure she remembered me from homeroom, but I'll say 'hi' to her tomorrow.

Of course I remembered to take the math book with me. 'Why are you bringing that?' Jessy asked.

'I have homework.'

'Ughh!' she groaned.

'I know, right? So how was it?'

She smiled. 'It was fine. How was yours?'

I held up the math book. 'I have homework,' I said, holding up the book.

'Ughh. So... do you think it would be a problem if I wanted to stay after some days? Anna asked me to work on the wall murals. The class usually gets a late start, so....'

'I really don't care, hun.' Then I saw Joey walking by himself on the other side of the hallway, and before I could catch his attention he turned up the wing and left us. 'I'm sure I can find something to do while I wait,' I said. 'Maybe get a start on our class's....'

As we were going by the 200 wing Rita and Anna met us, with some other girl. Rita leaned right in and said, 'This is Jessy and her sister Janine. Janine, I don't think you know Rachel. She's a friend, a good friend.'

'Hi,' the girl called Rachel said shyly to me.

I was very impressed with Rita's sense of manners-- she's not 'Regina George' at all! She's more like Barbie. Mother would be pleased. I smiled at the girl called Rachel, to be nice. She is very pretty, tall and slender with almost-red hair and a cute powder-blue cotton skirt. 'Hi, Rachel,' I said. 'Are you working on the mural too?'

She nodded. 'She's our class president,' Anna said. 'We elected her last year.' She smiled proudly at her friend and then looked at me again. 'So, it's kind of her project.'

'Cool,' I said.

'Our ride is here,' Jessy said, having looked out the glass doors.

'Um, yes,' I said, and then turned to her. 'Well, we'd better not be late. We'll see you girls tomorrow, okay?'

'Okay,' Anna said, and the shy class president only watched us go then.

Roger stepped out and opened the door as usual. 'Good afternoon, girls,' he said. 'How was the first day?'

I held up the math book. 'Janine has homework,' Jessy told him, and got into the car.

'It's a school thing,' I said, and Roger laughed.


Last day of summer vacation

Tuesday 2 September 2008

It's depressing really.

Oh, I know it's supposed to be exciting-- a new year in an all-new school, in a new state (or commonwealth), meeting new people, and all that. But the day before the first day of school has always seemed sad to me. I always feel like I have to do something thrilling enough to carry my excitement level on through at least Hallowe'en.

I did remember to sleep in, of course. I got up at about 9.30 and had a leisurely bowl of Kix in the breakfast room. Daddy came in and sat at the end of the table, his face buried in The Guardian (he's been getting it mailed to the house here). A few minutes went by and then he noticed I was naked. 'Hey,' he said then.

'Hey,' I said, and looked up. We met eyes.

'So,' he said with a smile, 'did you pick out something for tomorrow?'

'Uh, yes,' I said, surprised by the question.

'Jessy says you guys were laying things out last night.'

I smiled, shyly. 'Yes.'

He nodded. 'Cool,' he said. He is always encouraging of our girlness like that.

Jessy came through the big dining room and appeared in the door behind Daddy. She was all bare too. Daddy looked up only a little-- he's seen enough of us. She stopped beside his chair and looked over at me. 'Hey,' she said.

'Hey,' Daddy said.

'Hey,' I said. I was done the Kix.

'What are you doing today?'

I sat up and pushed a little back from the table. 'As little as possible,' I said, and Daddy laughed a little.

'Nothing of any redeeming value?' she teased, and he laughed some more.

'Exactly that.' I stood up. 'Daddy, if you will excuse me....'

He looked up, smiled, and then gestured to me. 'As you wish.'

Jessy leaned over and kissed him and as I went out I did too. We went straight back to the small parlour and out to the terrace. 'This is what you meant,' she said to me. 'Out here, right?'

'Yes,' I said. And we arranged ourselves on our two chaises and lay there for the better part of an hour. After that I swam my usual 20 laps. Mother brought out morning tea-- that was at about 11.00. Lisa sat with us at the umbrella table. Later she played in the pool with us. I left those two and wandered out to the back gates, leaning on the edge of one as I watched two fishing boats go up the channel. They didn't see me. I left the gate half open and strolled back through the garden to the side gate and went out to lie on the chaise under the trees. There I stayed for most of the midday.

When I got up again Daddy had gone out, Mother was working on her book, and Lisa and J.J. and Jessy had all gone into the house. I walked round the front of the house and went down the south edge of the property to the water again. For the sake of the adventure I began to make my way along the marshes towards our dock. A boat went by and I ducked. I do not think they saw me. Another came round the curve in the channel just before I reached the dock. I had barely my head above the dock and if they saw me that's all they saw. As soon as they passed I climbed up on the dock, went aboard our boat to wash off, and then sat on the edge of the dock, dangling my feet, till I heard another motor approaching. Like a twit I got up and ran up the gangway to the gates. I only hope they didn't see me then!

For the rest of the afternoon I lay on the chaise in the shade or else went into the pool. I missed lunch and when tea time came round again I was starving. Mother came out and sat with me under the umbrella table while Jessy played with Lisa and J.J.

'So how has your short little summer been?' Mother asked me.

I sat back in the little chair, crossing my legs, and lowered the teacup to the saucer. 'I feel like I've been too lazy,' I said, 'and you've been doing all the work.'

She laughed. 'No, it's not like that. When you start back in school we'll all have a routine, like last time. This one month has been your well-earned holiday.'

I smiled at her. 'You're very sweet to say that,' I said.

'Well, I guess I'm just very sweet then.'

We both laughed.

We had what was according to Mother our last 'casual' supper, in which everyone-- regardless of how we were dressed-- could take whatever a plate could hold and sit wherever one was comfortable. Daddy was playing piano in the big parlour so Jessy and I sat in the small one, leaning back with our legs crossed like film stars, and listened. Towards evening I started getting the familiar agitation and after my shower I put on panties. This is the first I've worn regular cotton underwear in about three weeks-- the other times I had on swimsuit bottoms, and once not anything, under jeans or shorts. I can't say it feels weird-- the cramps pretty much take over that-- but I will say it's been a personal record, and a very pleasant one. Would I ever actually live naked? --that is, deliberately being naked at all times at home, unless it was absolutely required to wear clothes? No. I don't see the point to that. But to ALLOW myself to be naked, to not dress unless it's more convenient, to wake up, swim, have breakfast, sunbathe, play with my sisters and brother, read, paint or draw, and to not have my parents object or even make a big deal out of it? --that is perfectly fine with me at any time.