27 October 2008

Game 5

Monday 27 October 2008

Lisa appeared in my doorway and called, gently, as though she were interrupting a princess, 'Are you going down to watch the game?'

I nodded, still with my nose in the history book. 'Yes. In a minute.'

'Are you guys going to indulge?'

Yes-- she knows that word. It's what Jessy and I have been calling it when we choose to be naked, or even less than dressed. We'll be watching the game with everyone but J.J., who's in bed by 8.00, Mother who carries a monitor to hear his room from wherever she is, Daddy and the three of us girls. I looked up and little Lisa was rocking on her heels as she habitually does when she's embarrassed, in her black maryjanes, white socks and pink panties peeking out from under her green-and-white polo shirt. I smiled at her. 'I see you are,' I said.

She shrugged cutely. 'So... are you?'

'If you do, then I will.'

Lisa smiled ecstatically then. She adores being one of us, one of the big girls, someone who can make decisions and affect what others do. Then Jessy appeared bare-shouldered behind her. 'I'm having a shower,' she said, and met eyes with Lisa. 'I'd prefer to be clean. Do you want to join me?'

'In the shower?' little Lisa asked, impressed to have been so invited. But it's not the first time for this. Within minutes they were both in there... leaving me enough time to finish homework.

Daddy came up to check on Lisa and discovered her just as she and Jessy were emerging from the bathroom. My door was still open and I heard him say, 'Well if you're coming down to watch the game, please at least have something on.'

Jessy giggled. 'But of course, Daddy!'

Lisa giggled then too.

As it turns out they both went down to watch the game in their underwear. I put aside my almost-done homework and got into something cute and comfortable for the evening, my pale-peach-coloured set from England and my good black shoes that are like maryjanes with little heels. I descended with my snuggly blanket and stepped in to the TV room during a commercial when none of them were paying attention to the screen. 'Ta-da!' I sang, lifting my arms out and twirling on my heels.

They all laughed, even Daddy. 'At least she's wearing something,' Mother said wryly.

I took a place in the far side, beside Lisa whose feet stuck out beyond her own snuggly blanket, in her own black maryjanes. She giggled and squirmed a little closer to me.

The game proceeded and slowly became rained-out. Lisa went up to bed after the second inning when the Phillies were leading two to one. At one point I know I nodded off and woke up feeling, shall we say, somewhat uncomfortable somewhere under the blanket. The room was dark, Daddy and Mother were in the back row, and Jessy was alternately sending text-messages on her phone and watching the game. I realised that without even thinking I had started caressing myself on the front of the panties. It was pleasant and I was able to go on without letting the blanket move. For a moment I actually entertained the idea of not stopping but going inside and onwards without worrying how far it would go. But fate intervened-- Mother and Daddy got up and said they were going up stairs. I blinked and stared at the screen-- there was a torrential downpour at the ballfield and people were sweeping up puddles in the infield. 'Oh,' I said, embarrassed because I hadn't been paying attention.

'This is awful,' Jessy said, and as soon as they went out she turned to me. 'Are you all right?'

I nodded.

'I mean... are you really?'

I just turned to her and lifted my eyebrows.

She giggled at once. At that moment the Devil Rays' batter got a hit. The base runner came home. It was a tied game in the midst of a freezing deluge. 'Drat!' Jessy swore. 'This is awful!' Then came the third out and the inning was over. She got up. 'I'm going to tell Daddy. Do you want anything?'

I shook my head.

'Mm, I'm sure you don't.' She giggled again and left me alone in the room.

A little after that I happened to focus on the TV screen. Game Five of the World Series had been called for rain with the score tied in the middle of the 6th inning.


Lazing on a Sunday afternoon

Sunday 26 October

I don't have on any clothes. Since Thursday it's gone wet but very warm. There's been a thick fog over the Bay outside all three mornings now... today so dense that I barely saw the sun come up.

Last night was the dance for Homecoming and we (Jessy and I) got in late, so after we managed to get up for church this morning we were allowed to return home straight away and Mother made waffles for late brunch. Jessy was doing homework and listening to music on her headset when Lisa came in and fell asleep on Jessy's bed. I got all undressed to have a nap but Mother was watching Jodie Foster in 'Foxes' down stairs and she did not mind that I curled up there with a summer blanket and watched that through the middle afternoon when I really fell asleep. I did put something on for dinner but only for that long and then Jessy and I were trying on outfits and I ended up in just socks and my good ivory-coloured satin panties, just because. For watching the game down stairs I wrapped up in snuggly zip-up blanket.

Oh, of course we have all been watching the Series. Daddy's 'home team' has always been Philadelphia, even through living at the NJ Shore, at Staten Island and even at London over the course of his life. So this week has been exciting for us. As I write this 'we' (optimistic Philadelphia fans) are up two games to one and looking good for a third tonight in the fourth... at home in Philadelphia, etc. Some time in the 6th inning I excused myself and came up here to type. I have been so tardy on this blog since I was sick. But just the sound of the game coming off Jessy's computer in the next room isn't enough. I wrapped up in the snuggly blanket again (without the panties this time!) and went back down to watch the end of the game.

This just in-- the Phillies won. 'One more and that's it,' Daddy said. Yay.


A big-girls' evening

Friday 24 October 2008

My cellphone alarm went off at 7.20 this morning while I was still in the car on the way to school. Jessy looked over from the other seat at me. 'Is that--?'

I nodded briskly. 'You know it is!' And we shared an excited giggle then.

'High School Musical III' has been announced over and over for months. It was to open tonight and for at least the last six weeks my cellphone alarm has been set to remind me when this day came. We went through school all agog with the excitement of knowing that this afternoon we'd be off on our way to see this long-awaited feature. Along the way we were able to entice both Becky and Rita to join us. Oddly Anna was not interested in seeing it. And Josie would be seeing it with her cousin and younger sister. Most importantly we were to pick up a very special guest, en route to VB immediately after school.

When Roger arrived with the dark-green Cadillac the booster seat was already in place. We swung round to the primary school and I got out, to stand in the warm, almost-raining afternoon mist to meet little Lisa as she scurried out from her classroom door. 'Janine!' she squealed, crashing headlong into my arms.

I scooped her up at once and hugged her. 'Are you all ready to go?'

She nodded enthusiastically. 'I told all my friends I was going to see the movie,' she said. 'With my big sisters.'

I kissed the side of her head. 'We're going to have ourselves a big-girl evening, right?'

She made that nod again.

Of course I rang Mother from the car to let her know we had collected Lisa and were on out way. Rita and Becky were amused and impressed that Jessy and I were having out five-year-old sister join us. But that was half the fun. Lisa sat in her booster seat in the middle of the back seat, with Jessy to her left and me to her right and Rita and Josie in the other seats facing us. We went over the 22-mile bridge into VB and pulled up at the Lynnhaven mall at about 4.00. First we ran over and got tickets. There was a bit of a queue there so Becky and I left Jessy and Rita there with the money and took Lisa to the toilets. It was fortunate that we were able to get booked for the 6.45 show. Then we had the chance to wander round the mall a bit, looking in all the shops, and I bought Lisa a kid's-size shirt in Aero.

'I want to wear it next school day,' she said. 'I'll be cool.'

She just loves thinking of herself as being just like Jessy and me. Even as she idolises us we both adore her for it. 'You sure will be,' Jessy said. 'And I can wear my Aero shirt too,' Jessy was saying, 'and we'll be twins.'

Lisa giggled hard at that. 'And I can wear mine,' Becky was saying to her, 'and maybe we can all be cool together.'

Lisa beamed, dangling along on the end of my arm. This really was a thrill for her.

We had supper at Chick-Fil-A and then got ourselves to the cinema-- after a precautionary trip to the toilets again-- for the movie. Jessy noted that the first for-film edition of an HSM movie appeared 'juiced' or as Rita called it 'amped up'. The colours are crisp and the close-ups are vibrant and alive somehow. I don't know how else to describe it. It just hits you like spice or lightning or a drum crack or something. We all adored the story from start to finish. There really are no dull spots in the whole film. The ending (I won't say what happens yet) was satisfying because you are expecting that Troy will choose one option for his future, and then another, and the option he chooses is a total surprise and yet perfect for both his future and his character. Many Christian and children's groups have consistently praised the 'HSM' series because it is more like what Disney used to do-- entirely G-rated, you know, with nothing at all inappropriate, and a definite moral center. After all Troy never even kisses Gabriella till the end of the second movie! But it's still very romantic, especially the dancing scene on the rooftop. Jessy observed that Gabriella wears a cross round her neck. The stuff about Troy as a little boy is adorable (half the cinema sighed 'Awww!').

The best part for us is that little Lisa, who is a smart little girl but still just five years old, got most of the details of the movie including the ending. All the way home over the bridge we all talked about it, till Lisa fell asleep with her head on my shoulder. That was good because we would avoid any superfluous stops for the potty.

Roger delivered Becky and then Rita at their homes and Lisa finally woke up about five minutes from our house. It was 10.25 when I carried her up to the door. Mother met me as I was starting up the steps. 'How was it?' she asked softly.

'Everyone had a nice time,' I said. 'Some of us sort of overdosed on big-girl fun tonight.'

She smiled. 'Well, no one has to get up early tomorrow.'

'I won't,' I said. Lisa sighed sleepily. I got her into her pyjamas and helped her brush teeth and Mother came up to say prayers and tuck her in. In my room I got undressed and started typing in this but I fell asleep... and so what is typed here has been done over this weekend.


26 October 2008

A good day

Thursday 23 October 2008

I woke up today on the first day of feeling better, all eager to go to school and had a rewarding warm shower. As it has abruptly gone unseasonably warm, I dressed in a little denim skirt and my blue-and-grey rugby shirt over my good pink English underwear. Jessy was wearing hot-pink tights with her ensemble so I pulled on mine that are black and bright blue stripes, and then my black high-top sneakers with it. Jessy liked that. She laughed.

I actually got breakfast this morning, a toasted English muffin with strawberry jam and a cup of tea, and Roger rolled up with the green car and Jessy and I skipped down the steps to the yard. 'Glad to see you are better, Miss,' he said to me.

'Thank you, Roger,' I said with a smile, and rolled my head round to look about at the sky. It was the first time I'd been out of the house since Monday. At school things seemed the same-- apparently I hadn't missed much. In History Brett said he was glad to see me up and round about again. Of course we have talked since I was out but it was nice of him to say that in front of other people. In Geometry there will be a quiz tomorrow, on stuff I almost completely know, so I will study for it tonight and be all right. In Chemistry I missed a lab about pH, which I sort of had last year anyway.

At lunch I found out that Josie is dating Kevin, Rita has already dumped the unnamed guy I've already mentioned, and Connor, just this morning, asked my sister to Homecoming so she was all agog with that. Of course we were always going to go, all of us including the now-dateless Rita, but it's always nice to go along with someone. Jessy and I will be have Roger to drive us, so our dates will go along with us-- not protocol I am sure, but I'm sure no one cares much for that these days. As long as Daddy is agreeable to it Jessy and I are.

Brett was not at lunch today as he often stays in math and does independent work in marketing and statistics. He's in Honours Accounting and they do that sort of thing. In choir Ryan C heard that Rita is dateless and quite unchivalrously announced he would ask her out. I like Ryan, but I prayed silently that Rita would find someone before he got round to fulfilling this immodest wish. In an American high school it's not unexpected that things of even more magnitude than that can happen between 7th period and the end of school.

And so it was. The 10th grade girls all congregated in the front hall-- Josie's sister had offered them a ride and Roger never comes before the buses leave, so it was me with Jessy, Josie, Anna and this girl Anna has known from CCD called Colleen. Fortunately my friend Blair from lit class happened by so I wasn't the only one not in 10th. Rachel was not there though we might have offered her a lift home to avoid overcrowding in Josie's sister's Hyundai. Just after Blair left Rita came bouncing round the corner, and we learned that she had successfully avoided Ryan C between choir and her history class and instead 'tactfully' mentioned her dateless situation in the company of another guy she happens to like who has recently been dumped by one of the biggest witches in the whole school... so, problem solved. She beamed with glee about the whole thing. The best part is, as Jessy said in the car, is that he's such a bookish 'nerd' type that Rita's reputation can only enhance his, and, as she said, 'a girl's reputation is never in danger with a decent guy who's serious about school work.' Besides, she said, he's pretty cute.,

I forget why I started to write this.

Oh yes-- when we were home and I was about to get undressed-- that is, I was half undressed-- Daddy came up with something to tell me... and it ended up that the band he's been working with wants me to sing with them. It's just backup, of course-- all I ever do is backup-- and, he said, 'maybe throw in a flute part or something. Well, we'll see. Nothing till after this weekend, you know. But if you think Roger can shoot you straight up there after school one day next week, we can get it together.'

I nodded, standing there in my pretty English underwear and the rugby shirt, thinking. 'All right.... I have a test coming in history; you know they have to get two in before report cards.'

He smiled. 'It won't be the day before that, then.'

I shrugged. 'I can always postpone it. I mean, if they need me.... Time is money.'

He smiled at me again. 'Don't worry about it. Tell me what day works for you.'

I nodded and he went out. Jessy came in from the other door and asked me what that was about. I only shrugged again. 'He has some work he wants me to do,' I said. 'I'm sure it's only--'

'Cool!' she said happily. And here I worried that she'd be jealous. The truth is that I fully expect that she'll ride up to Lewes with me when I go, and I'm sure there will be some part for her too. After all Daddy always believes that since talent is spread round the family, opportunities should be too.


24 October 2008

I am sick

Wednesday evening 22 October 2008

I have not been on lately since I have been sick. Monday afternoon I came home from school with a splitting migraine. I get headaches from eye strain or from sleeping too long, but never like this. Well-- not quite never. Once I had one so bad it made me nauseous and that led to... the inevitable there. My cramps have been no worse than usual-- which is to say they are hardly bad at all. Today it got so bad I could not keep on my glasses and in the car I felt like I would be sick all over my sister. As soon as I got home I went right up to bed but my rest did not last long and then I was throwing up into my potty with my hands on the bowl and my toes in the corner and the rest of me arced up in the middle. It was that awful.

I went to bed and stayed there till Jessy came in to wake me for school-- yes, meaning I slept for about fourteen hours. I woke up feeling horrible but weak and dehydrated. Jessy brought me two glasses of orange juice-- one for now and one for later-- kissed my good-bye and left. Daddy came up to check on me at around 8.00. 'What's up with you?'

I shook my head. 'I don't know. I just had to sleep.'

He sat on the edge of the bed and laid the back of his hand to my forehead and neck and chest like he used to when I was about seven. 'You're not warm... but you feel clammy.'

'I need a shower,' I said. 'I was going to have a bath.'

He nodded at me. 'Have one then,' he said. 'Have a nice hot one and burn this out of you. Do I need to call the school or anything?'

I shook my head. 'They don't do that here,' I said. They did at our old school.

So he went out and I ran a warm bath for myself and soaked in there for about an hour, and I felt well enough when I got out to play with J.J. Mother got me to watch him while she went out to the food market and J.J. and I sat and watched a DVD of 'Blue's Clues' and then made things out of Legos. By the time Jessy got home I was doing much better.

Then this morning I awoke with really bad cramps, and part of a headache, not quite as bad, so I went in to the bathroom and threw up again. This time it was worse because I had so little in me. Jessy came in at like 7.10 when we had to leave and said she thought I had been having a shower, but the sound of the water running was only me flushing like three times. In the course of all the disorientation Daddy came up, heard about how sick I felt, and made me get back into bed and stay home again. After Jessy left he interrogated me about the intensity of my cramps and then scolded me for letting something like this keep me from facing up to something important, like school.

'You have to be the princess,' he said. 'Stiff upper lip and all that. Never let them see you bleed.'

I nodded, squeezing back tears because the Advil had not kicked in yet. 'I'm sorry, Daddy,' I said.

He only nodded but then stopped at the door and came back to lay his hand on my cheek like yesterday. 'Are you sure it's only the cramps?'

I shook my head. 'It's my tummy,' I said.

'Right,' he said. 'Well, if it's like this tomorrow you go to the doctor's.'

I nodded. 'Okay, Daddy.'

He went round the bed tucking in the covers and then bent over and kissed my head. 'I'll bring you up some juice when you feel a little better.'

'Thank you, Daddy.'

He made a kissy-face at me as he went out and shut the door.

It's midnight now and I feel a lot better. Only now I can't seem to fall asleep!


19 October 2008

Stuff I did on Saturday

Saturday evening 18 October 2008

Well, I ended up having a pleasant evening after all. Daddy and I left for the boat at like 9.00 which was an hour after we'd hoped. We pulled on the winter cover, which is large but easy to handle since it just goes over the main boom and zippers down in front of the mainmast and aft of the mizzen mast, so you can stand up in the cockpit and work underneath it. We loaded all the sails and cushions into the big van, cleared out the galley lockers, and emptied the freshwater tanks to run through a little (nontoxic) antifreeze. We also straightened up all the lines, lowered the anchor and chain to the ground (to air) and checked that the cradle blocking will survive the cold winter that's promised (or threatened). It was a lot of work but we were steadily busy. Though we were dirty we did stop at IHOP in New Castle for supper, as we so often do on our way home from New Jersey. When we got home I went right in for a savoury warm shower and then napped till about 8.30, then went online till Jessy got home.

Jessy and her friends went to a teens' dance at the firehouse in Accomac, something that gets held every once in a while by the church to which one of her friends belongs. It did not go late and by 9.30 she had rung to ask Mother if she and Josie and Anna could come back here for snacks, for an hour or so before they all went home. So they all arrived at like 10.00 in their pretty dance dresses and makeup and shoes. Jessy suggested we play Apples To Apples, which my ex-boyfriend Henry had given us in England. It's the British version but it's not much different than the American one which I have played also. I had a nice little fire going by then and suggested that we all sit at my little round table to play.

Before we got started I left them in my room and went down stairs to collect a tray with cans of Dr Pepper and cookies, which I did not send up in the dumbwaiter but carried through to the side stairs myself. So I appeared in my nice floppy grey sweatshirt and navy-blue panties and socks, what I put on after my shower. I don't think Josie or Anna actually cared. They know me and I'm comfortable, you know. Now that may seem a little risky as this is my first full day, but I have never had any problems like that. I'm just glad I'm this close to being predictable.

With my doors closed we were able to keep quiet and keep warm and keep from waking little Lisa. It did mean I wouldn't be able to hear her if she called to me, so once I got up and looked in on her from the gallery. She remained fast asleep-- the sweet sleep of a good little girl. I returned with a smile that they all saw. 'How is she?' Jessy wondered.

'She's fine,' I said softly, and sat again.

The others looked at me. Finally Josie said, 'I think it's sweet that you look out for her.'

'Well why shouldn't I?' I said. 'She is my sister.'

They all smiled at me again. 'Janine's like her other mother,' Jessy said, and drew a card to start the next round. 'We had our nanny and Lisa has Janine.'

'Yes,' I said, looking at her. We have discussed this together before but never with anyone else. 'Well-- she has both of us.'

Jessy smiled at me, then turned over the car on the table: 'Extraordinary'. I wanted to put down 'Jessy'.


16 October 2008

Modest indulgence

Thursday 16 October 2008

The warm weather and fair breezes continue. As soon as I got home I went up to my room and slowly, almost as though I were teasing myself, I got out of everything. It's an indulgence that seems almost like a ritual by now, but it's October, and I figure (and Jessy agrees) that so long as we CAN, we SHOULD. We are NOT a 'nudist family' at all; we are just two girls who have discovered something innocent and pleasant to do with ourselves and have discovered that our family do not make a big deal over it. However this time I felt pretty tingly all over and impatiently I scampered up onto my bed. Fortunately by the time Jessy came in I was all done and scarcely even panting as I lay atop all the covers and opened my book.

I went on reading in 'Evelina', atop my bed on my tummy with the book on my pillow and my knees apart and my feet in the air, with both windows behind me open to the gentle sea breeze even as it began to grow cooler. Jessy came in, naked also, and sat at my table doing her toenails, somewhere beyond my feet where I could not see her and would not care. Little Lisa came in when she got home from school, teased us both about being naked, and then let Jessy talk her into doing her nails. It's the nontoxic stuff anyway-- believe or not Daddy has always forbade us serious nail varnish and especially the acetone-based stuff to remove it. I complained about having wanted some quiet to read, so they cleared out and I had my own room to myself till nearly dinner when Daddy knocked at the front gallery door.

'Oh,' he said peering round the door edge after I had bade him to come in. 'Sorry--'

I did not move but to turn my head and lift one shoulder. 'It's all right. What did you need?'

He hesitated, then stepped mostly round the door. 'Just seeing what you're doing up here,' he said with a sheepish smile. 'Also.... Well, I have to go up and check on the boat this weekend, and I could use the help.'

I nodded at once, from where I was with the book between my elbows. Behind me, my feet swung up and my ankles crossed. 'Sure,' I said.

'You don't have anything planned?'

'No. I mean nothing I can't change.'

'No, never mind it. Don't change your plans. It's only winterising; another weekend would do as well.'

I shook my head, shaking my hair into my eyes so that I had to push it back with my whole hand. 'No, Daddy, I don't mean that. I mean I don't have anything planned at all.'

'Oh,' he said. 'Didn't... Brett ask you?'

'Ask me--?'

'Out. You know... anywhere.'

I laughed a little. 'No, Daddy, he hasn't asked me. Homecoming is not till next week.'

'Oh,' he said, looking about himself and feeling almost as awkward about asking me about my dating life as I was taking these questions. 'Oh, well, I'm sorry.'

I smiled, feeling shy. 'Daddy, it's hardly your fault.'

'Yes, but I want you to be happy.' We met eyes then. 'So, if we leave early on Saturday, we can still salvage something of the day.'

'Or, we can stop at IHOP on the way back, just us, and have pancakes for supper.'

Daddy laughed. 'Right,' he said. He shrugged and looked across the room. 'Aren't you chilly with these windows open?'

I shrugged, turning over my own shoulder to look at them too. 'No. Not really. I'm very comfortable.'

Daddy laughed. 'I'm sure you look it.' We both laughed then. He turned to go out, almost disappearing past the door, and then his head ducked back in. 'Janine?'

'Yes, Daddy?'

'Put on something for dinner this time.'

I blushed and then nodded, because he was leaving. 'Yes, of course, Daddy.'

I did dress for supper-- in sleep shorts and my cover-up shirt-- and then afterwards I came up here and took it off, because with days like this getitng rarer it's meaningful to celebrate it, you know. But I fell asleep reading till Jessy woke me up and wanted me to watch 'Back To The Future' with her down stairs. By now I'm not tired and even though the front is rolling in I'm still naked and will probably be up half the night online.


15 October 2008

Bikini queen

Wednesday 15 October 2008

It has been unseasonably hot these last few days-- Monday was over 80... and you know what that means. We got home from school and while Daddy was still out getting Lisa I got out of everything, stepped into my plain 2-inch-heeled sandals and went down stairs for a drink before I'd go out to the pool. Mother was in the kitchen and J.J. was in his booster seat having a snack. 'You don't have clothes on again!' our little Prince Of The Obvious stated.

I only shrugged and smiled at him. 'I suppose it is warm enough for a swim,' Mother said over the counter to me.

I nodded and took the glass of iced tea she offered. 'Do you know if it's cold?'

"I can't imagine it would be with all these warm days. It gets cold at night, of course, but in all this sun today....' She handed me the glass. 'Have fun.'

While I was waiting for Princess Jessy it went 3.20 and the minivan pulled up in front of the house. Lisa rushed in, waving the watercolour on which she had got high marks from her art teacher. She received my hug and as I was standing up Daddy came in. 'Oh, hello,' he said, smiling slyly at me. 'Are we back to this, then?'

I blushed. I don't know why-- he's only my dad and he's seen me lots of times. 'I haven't done my twenty in weeks,' I said.

He nodded. 'I get the hot-weather comfort thing, I really do,' he said to me as he went round the counter to plant a kiss on Mother's forehead. Then he turned to me again. 'What I don't get is the shoes. I mean, just the shoes. Inside the house.'

I blushed again and looked down. The truth is I always feel more confident in heels, even two inches' worth, and the confidence helps when you stroll into the kitchen amidst your family when you haven't got anything else on. Jessy came in, naked but for her shoes too, and said, 'It's just the thing, Daddy,' she said, and stopped beside me where I stood at the counter. 'Are we sunning or swimming?'

I shrugged, recollecting myself, and said, 'Mother says it won't be too cool for a swim... and I haven't done my daily twenty in ages.'

Jessy nodded. 'All right.' So we excused ourselves from tea and went out to the pool terrace, where we the water was not too cool for a good healthy swim. And I did my formerly usual twenty laps nonstop, a total of about a seventh of a mile.

By the time I was done Mother and Daddy had had their tea and had gone off. Daddy was down in the basement with J.J. and Lisa came up to me and said she didn't know where Mother was. 'Is she in her room?' I wondered.

'I don't know. She better not be having a bath again.'

I nodded. 'I don't think so,' I said, because I knew Daddy to be down stairs. As I was going up anyway I went up the front stairs and paused beside the half-open door to my parents' room. Quietly I ducked inside, following a light from Mother's dressing room. There she was at her mirror, standing up arranging her hair, wearing only her plain blue pumps and her sleek navy-blue bikini with the white outlines of stars all over it.

Of course I have seen my pretty, young stepmother many times in a swimsuit... but never like this, primping herself like a fashion model about to strut down a runway. She had on makeup and everything.

'Um....' I didn't want to appear impolite to be observing her secretly.

She noticed me in the mirror only then and gave a little start. 'Oh,' she said-- and was that a blush? 'I was just....'

I smiled and leaned against the door frame with a sigh. 'You look... fabulous.'

She made a coy smile. 'Well, I just wanted to see....'

She couldn't articulate it, and that's a lot for my stepmother who is always articulately loquacious. I knew what the experiment was she wanted to try. Of course there have been days when we're all in swimsuits-- some of us in less- and it's not an issue, not the issue it is when one of us dresses in a pretty appealing bikini for supper. Suddenly I saw Mother's point. She is hardly coquettish and is never inappropriate, but she does live in a house with two gorgeous teenaged girls-- Jessy and me-- who indulge a penchant for being mostly naked more often than most people would ever expect to tolerate. And yet SHE is the only female here whose role it is to make a man happy, to be worthy of his attention, to keep him company in every way. She only wants to be as alluring and irresistible to him in her own way as we are innocent and uninhibited round everyone else in ours. If that means a dry bikini and high heels for supper then I'm impressed she's thinking so romantically.

I smiled at her in the mirror. 'I think he's down in the basement,' I said softly. 'I'll collect Lisa up here, if you want....'

She smiled that coy smile again and abruptly spun on her toes, left me with a kiss on the forehead, and, then carefully practising her walk, descended to impress the man she loves.

For tonight's casual supper Lisa, Jessy and I all agreed that we would get dressed enough, even if only in sleep shorts and tanktops, so that Mother could remain the elegantly-bikinied piece-de-resistance. Without any ado Jessy and I made sure we would give J.J. and Lisa their baths... and we have not seen Daddy nor Mother since dessert.


14 October 2008

Not your parents' choice for a role model

Tuesday 14 October 2008

This house has over twenty rooms, including the ones in the finished basement, and the one I am in most often is my bedroom. My room is almost in the middle of the house, facing the ocean. Between the two windows in my room, directly opposite the bed, is a tall bookcase hutch before which sits my beloved little round blue table with its matching Windsor chairs, where I sit and read or type what seems like several megabytes of long rambling text like this every day.

After school I usually hide away up here and work on homework, unless it is so nice a day that it begs to be outside. A few times, even when we were not actually sunbathing (meaning: dressed) Jessy and I have sat outside and read or done textbook questions. A few too many times I have had to stay up after dinner doing it when I would rather be playing with J.J. and Lisa or watching TV. Tonight ''Greek' was on so I insisted on getting it done now. It was not cold but I lit a few small logs on the fire and gradually got out of my clothes till I was leaning back in my chair, in my pretty peach panties and plain white socks with the history textbook propped against my bare middle. I hate the whole American Edwardian era but I read fast and was making good progress.

I was interrupted by footfalls, at least three sets of them, coming up the north stairs to the gallery. 'Oo, what's that smell?' one girl said-- obviously sensing my fire-- and they proceeded and past my door into Jessy's room. There they emitted their impressions of Jessy's room too, which is undeniably cute in mauve and cream, and talked on for a while. I recognised the voices of Rita and Josie, and tried to pick out if there was someone else's too. They asked questions about the room, and then Jessy was apparently showing them some pictures, and then--

And then I was distracted enough that the book got tossed up onto the table.

On my way out I grabbed the pale blue shirt that I use for a cover-up and got it buttoned once or twice in the dozen steps to Jessy's room. 'Oh, there you are,' said Jessy, and they all looked up from the computer on her desk, Rita, Josie, almost-silent Rachel the class president, and Jessy. 'We were just talking... about....'

'Maybe we should have been talking about her,' Rita said, and her eyes went over me with something like amazement.

I smirked. The reality is that none of these girls has any sisters as close in age as Jessy is to me, and they're just not used to how we are here. This blog shows that I am definitely NOT too shy to walk into my sister's room in my underwear-- and, as of today, even if there are friends there. We're all girls; why is this an issue? Rita's attention was that she admires me-- I already knew she admires me anyway, for being what I am and doing what I do, and I like that she does. It's a responsibility that I really do want. And Rita's a sweet girl anyway. 'Cute,' I said to her, and the others laughed a little. 'I was just coming in to complain about the noisy neighbours here.'

They all laughed a little at that too. 'Oh, sorry,' Jessy said, like they did at HOH. 'Were you resting?'

'No. Reading. History. Ughh.' I made a face and they laughed. 'What have you got here?'

I could have moved to close one or more of the other buttons but I wouldn't. The shirt was on and not going anywhere. I wouldn't look like a priss (or more of one than I look already). We looked at Jessy's pics and Jessy went in and got my laptop (this one) to show them too. The whole time Rachel seemed unwilling to get too close to me. It's hard to keep a polite distance when there are three or four of you crowding round one laptop computer screen and you have to forego certain personal dignities like worrying about whether your twice-buttoned shirt hangs open too far. I say this now because at the time I really didn't care-- I was comfortable and happy and didn't want the girls to think I was anything else, even though I knew that the shirt was hanging open. What have I got to be ashamed of? --it's only God's handiwork, and all the credit that can be given to me is that I eat sensibly, or very little, and I like swimming and I know how to put on makeup and the few clothes I do wear.

Later I went back to check on my fire and they followed me in to see my room too. Rita ended up sitting with me on the edge of my mostly-made bed with the laptop in her lap. I kept leaning over and pointing at the pics till she finally backed away a little. I suppose she had just realised she was alone in the bedroom with a girl in panties and a half-open shirt and that she should be feeling awkward. I blushed-- I knew what she might have thought-- and sat up straight. 'Sorry,' I said.

She shook her head, staring at the screen without blinking. 'It's okay,' she said quietly.

I relieved her of the computer, shut it down and left it on my table. 'Don't worry about me,' I said from there. 'I'm always like this. Really it doesn't mean anything.'

She looked up and smiled. 'I know.'

I raised my eyebrows. 'You know?'

She nodded. 'Chris said something about it.'

I laughed out loud. 'Oh, that's right! Well, she would!'

Rita nodded. 'I envy you, Janine. You... have the coolest life, and all this--' She waved a hand round the room. 'And you're not.... You know.'

I shrugged, standing there with one hand on the table, letting her look at me. 'I'm not what?'

'You know.... Not conceited.'

I scoffed at that. 'Why would I be conceited?'

She smiled. 'You wouldn't be... and that's why.'

'Why what?'

Now that I look back on this I realise I was really putting her on the spot. Maybe it was unfair of me. My parents have this lovely house and I have this cool old-fashioned room with a canopied bed, and I just walk round this place in my underwear or even less all the time. I know what Rita must have thought and what Chris must have thought to talk about it with her. It was unfair of me to impose on poor Rita to make her answer anything... but that's how I am, always going at people with the questions, although at the time I really didn't recognise what she was trying to say at all.

We were saved from this awkward exchange when Jessy, Rachel and Josie, invaded my room en masse from the gallery with a curious little Lisa in tow. 'Hey,' Jessy said. 'What are you guys doing in here?'

Rita looked up first. 'Just looking at pictures,' she said, and with a glance at me. 'And talking.'

'Talking,' Josie teased. 'And without us?'

Jessy and I met eyes. I knew what that meant.

They left after tea, which I took with them all and Mother and our little ones and I hadn't dressed any more than I was. Jessy came in the front door after seeing them go. Josie's mother had brought them. I sat in the parlour playing piano till she came in, shut the door, and leaned on the end of the piano till I stopped. 'What was that all about?' she finally asked. 'With Rita-?'

I shrugged. 'Nothing,' I said. 'I just think Rita wants a role model.'

Jessy laughed out loud. 'And we know who THAT will be!'

I shrugged and resumed playing, just anything really, just chords. 'She's a nice girl,' I said, 'and I will do what I can for her.'

Jessy raised her eyebrows at me. Then she said seriously, 'Yes, I know you will. That's why they all love you.'

I looked up, but she only made that sly little smile and went off.


Mother gets her hair washed

Monday 13 October 2008

We are off school for Columbus Day, a holiday we did not celebrate in England (duh). I awoke somewhat early and offered to make waffles for everyone, seating J.J. in his chair and setting the table for all of us and even putting on Mother's apron over my sleep shorts and long-sleeved coverup shirt. Afterwards we all sort of split up-- Mother had phone calls to make, so did Daddy, Jessy has homework to do (which really means FaceBook to edit) and the little ones and I cleaned up the kitchen and played rag dolls in J.J.'s room till he got tired and went in for his morning nap.

Afterwards I had a nice warm shower-- thanks to the solar-boosted hot-water system! -- and sat in the middle of my bed reading in 'Evelina' and listening to classical music-- Rameau, the French Baroque, the kind of thing Mother and Daddy like because of its blend of intense logic and delicate beauty, though I chose it mainly because it's the kind of thing Fanny Burney, a.k.a. Madame D'Arblay, might have heard while writing this book, her father being such a musical historian and her husband being so French and all.

At the minuet I closed my eyes and just sat there and listened. It's so elegantly simple, and yet a very complex step, six in eight, and eight in thirty-two, going round the room in your imagination (and in the actual ballroom, since I have actually danced it a few times myself) and back to the top, perfectly logical and fun at the same time. Then, no sooner than it was over, little Lisa, like me not quite dressed either, appeared in my dressing-alcove door and said, 'Mother won't come out of her room.'

I turned and looked at her. 'What?'

'Her door is locked. And Daddy's in there too.'

'How do you know he is?'

She shrugged, twirling on her heels like she does. At least she was dressed-- I had on nothing but the sheets. 'Well,' she said, as though not wanting to say anything, 'I heard their voices through the door.'

I confess I looked at the clock-- that was probably unfair and impolite of me, you know. But I was already blushing a little. (Why?) 'Oh,' I said. 'Well, maybe... she's having... a nice morning bath.'

Lisa stopped at the side of the bed and toyed with the edge of a sheet. 'Oh,' she said, thinking. 'You said boys and girls aren't supposed to have baths together.'

I shrugged too, making sure she saw me do it. 'I'm sure he's not in there with her! Just washing her hair.' We both laughed a little. 'Mother does like that. Besides, it's much different when they're married.'

'Oh,' she said, recognising that this was one of those things she wouldn't understand because she is five.

The one thing I had recognised is that, though my room connects through a wardrobe to my parents' dressing room, there is enough masonry in the thick wall between my suite and theirs that.... I won't finish that.

'What are you doing?' Lisa asked me.

She leaned up to see into the book. I showed her-- all words of course. 'Fanny Burney,' I said.

'Oh. Why do they call her "Fanny"?'

'Well, her name is Frances, but in her time "Fanny" was a cute nickname for "Frances".'

'Do I have a nickname?'

'"Loquacious Lisa",' I said, and then leaned over and kissed her head. Then I thought of something. 'Where's J.J.?"

'Having his nap,' she said. 'It's his morning nap time. And Jessy is in her bed too. No one wants to DO anything.'

I looked again. 'Hmmm,' I said. 'And it's almost eleven.... We should be getting ready for tea. Do you want to help me?'

She nodded eagerly, so I closed the book on my feather bookmark and got out of the bed.

I was dressed (mostly) and down in the kitchen boiling for tea when Daddy came in and seated little J.J., changed and cheerful, in his chair. Mother came down the front stairs, practically skipping as I heard, and bounced in to the kitchen from the other end, happy as a little girl and cute in snug jeans and a black t-shirt, with her thick curly blonde hair still slightly damp from-- you guessed it-- washing it. Lisa smiled up at her, coming back from carrying in the platter of raisin muffins. 'Hi. Did Daddy do a good job?'

Mother looked round with a face like you can't imagine-- somewhere between pleasant surprise and sheer fright. 'Did he what?'

'Washing your hair,' Lisa said simply, stamping one foot as though there could have been no other idea.

'Oh,' said Mother, and glanced over at me behind the kitchen counter, while I nodded in an exaggerated 'you'd better understand me!' way. Fortunately she got it. 'Oh, yes, well, mothers sometimes like to have someone wash their hair... the way they do for girls like you.' And she leaned over and kissed Lisa's head, and while Lisa smiled happily that her guess had been right, Mother met eyes with me in spite of her deep red blush.


13 October 2008

Over the bridge and far away (part II)

Saturday 11 October 2008

Jessy and I have been planning on a day to visit the mall in Virginia Beach and as the week unfolded we ended up inviting cute little Rachel (Jessy's 10th-grade class president) to join us. Daddy, ever protective, would not allow just anyone to drive us the long way over the Bay Bridge-Tunnel and into the wilds of VB and so arranged that Roger would chauffeur us in the green Cadillac. We did not get under way till after 1.00, when Rachel finally rang and said she was done her chores. ('Chores?' Princess Jessy said on the phone. 'Chores? Could you describe what a "chores" looks like?')

Going over the bridge there is a bit too much wind to stand up and squeal out the roof window (we've tried), but with that open and the back windows down we were full of the cool sea breeze even sitting across the back seat. The sun was just a little over to the right and brilliant-- it looked like the kind of day you'd want to throw your arms round and hang onto forever. Rachel was thrilled. She'd never been to the mall in VB before.

Lynnhaven was busy as ever. Roger stopped at the kerb and came round to open the door for us, and I alighted, then Rachel, then Princess Jessy. We were all dressed casually, in jeans and t-shirts, though neatly and cleverly. Naturally people turned and looked at us like we were starlets. (I admit that this is one reason I love having Roger drive us.) I tossed my head and happened to remember the Aeropostale store was not far away, so I just said, 'Oh, hullo, dears, here it is!' and led them off to the doors. Jessy had to ring Roger with her phone to give him an idea of where and when to meet us. Well sometimes image is more important than logistics!

At AE we all bought bras. This is really my favourite place to buy them. I am lucky-- I can lift them right off the rack and know the fit beforehand. Jessy is still developing (sorry) and she and Rachel went into a dressing room together. Jessy said that Rachel was trying one on over her own bra till she turned round. I didn't have to ask-- I knew Jessy would have been all bare from the waist, trying it on and toying with the fit, almost as casual if she'd been trying it on right in the store. She simply has the kind of personal confidence that doesn't allow fear. She'd never do something like that of course-- try on a bra in the store, or a swimsuit, or really anything more than outerwear, because she is after all a lady. But it's not from fear or embarrassment. A lady is a lady because it is how she shows respect for others, and also for herself. Whether or not she feels comfortable doing this or that, she is ever aware of the comfort of other people too.

I don't think anyone seeing Jessy trying on a bra would ever feel uncomfortable about it, at least not because it's such an unpleasant sight. But there are many kinds of discomfort and a lady is always aware of them all.

As for Rachel I think she deserved a little shaking-up. We love her and it'll be good for her to wake up just a little. Maybe that's part of being a lady too.

I hate to say it but we felt like stars all day. We sat at a table for pizza ($3.00 a slice. Go figure) and at the next table were two eager children and their exhausted mother, all of whom seemed to stare at us as though we were someone they should have known. I really don't know why we seem to get this. We're not Haylie and Hilary's characters in 'Material Girls' --we're not that stupid or obvious, even if we are somewhat cheerful and animated. People have said that I am a good role model for younger people, and maybe they are right because I constantly find younger people, especially girls but also boys, paying attention to me. The little girl at that other table kept looking at me as though I were... Taylor Swift. 'Hi,' I finally said to her.

'Hi,' she said softly, shyly.

'What did you get today?'

She shrugged. 'We've been shoe shopping,' the young-looking mother said. 'I think I've been in every store here.'

'Yes, but it's fun, isn't it?' I said, and smiled at the little girl.

She nodded but wouldn't say anything else. When we got up to go we all said good-bye to them as though they'd been our supper companions. Later Rachel reported that a pair of 9th-grade girls from our school were lurking a few dozen steps behind us as though they didn't want us to see them there. We all giggled. Well maybe they'd have something to tell everyone else about come Monday.

All in I bought three new bras (one can never have too many), two pairs of opaque tights, a bundle of six pairs of socks, two pairs of soft cotton sleep shorts for the price of one, and a packet of three coconut-scented sachets for my wardrobe... at AE; and besides that there were the food, drinks, a book, the Taylor Swift CD, a black t-shirt, a pair of plain black canvas Vans slip-ons, padded insoles for my Timberland deck shoes, a short grey denim miniskirt, two different VS scents, and a super cool black wool beret. The other girls got some stuff too. Roger swung up like a Godsend to rescue us from the burden of all these purchases, getting out of the car to open the door and then offering to pop the boot (okay, trunk) lid. 'No, thank you,' we said, for we wanted to sort through all our stuff on the ride home. It was nearly dark though and Rachel and Jessy fell asleep on each other's shoulders before we were over the bridge.


12 October 2008

Over the bridge and far away

Saturday 11 October 2008

Today marks the eighth anniversary of Mommy's passing. At some time in the wee hours of the morning of the 11th she sat up in her hospital bed, caught my father's hand, and said aloud, 'I see stars!' And with that she proceeded to our loving God who submits even all things unto Himself. When Jessy and I awoke that morning Daddy was leaning over the bed-- for we had slept together that night for being so anxious about how she was doing-- and he told us that Mommy was 'out of danger'. Having both seen 'Sense and Sensibility' we knew how most people would have taken that line, but we knew also that in his faith Daddy meant it entirely another way. Mother (our nanny then) wrote that day calling our reaction The Wailing. 'I do not know how it could ever stop,' she wrote. And it did go on, if not as a sound of tears then as a cold empty pit in our souls, for quite some time till we realised what she had actually prayed for, that there could be some form of happiness without Mommy, not in spite of her absence nor because of it, but along with it. Mommy abides in Heaven, and we abide here, and we are both happy because we simply must be. There is no life without hope, and as Gran says, 'As long as there is life, there is hope.' The two are interrelated, because that's the only way life makes any sense.

I spent a little time in prayer this morning before I actually got out of bed, because I had slept through the actual moment that marked the event and I have promised myself I will never begin an October 11th without remembering her. I know this does not matter to Mommy. She is happy where she is and smiles down upon us all with confidence that we will all be all right. As Daddy has often reminded us, mourning is for those who are left. Pity for the one who has gone on is pointless-- she is the happy one, happy at home in the arms of God, and we are left to carry on in the cold cruel world.

Sometimes, even here, where Mommy never lived, I will walk in to the kitchen and for a moment imagine her standing there in her church dress and apron cleaning carrots or mixing cake batter and I will get a sudden pang down inside when I realise it's only what I might like, not what will ever be. And then I worry that I will forget her smile, or her scent, or the sound of her voice. I know Jessy believes she already has. But then we will watch her on a home video, look over our photos and revisit some of the toys and dolls she gave us, and we know her all over again as we always have. Those who leave us in the body do not leave us in the heart. This is why we call our stepmother 'Mother', like Maria gets called in 'The Sound of Music' (which is where we got the idea) and never 'Mommy' or 'Mum' like Lisa calls her instinctively. Mommy is not replaced at all-- indeed we live on with her, all of us, even our stepmother who loved her like an older sister or even a second mother... as Jessy and I love her in turn. Without Mommy having been what she was to each of us, none of what we have now could have been possible. It is really this profound-- even Mother when she was still our nanny wrote, on the day of her engagement to Daddy, that Mommy was her own saviour, the perfect sister, wife, mother, and friend, a lamb without blemish who suffered a painful and incurable condition and at age 33-- if you can believe that symbolic coincidence-- died to allow us all a new life.


Princess Janine goes on a date

Friday 10 October 2008

Brett is a guy in my History class who sits almost behind me, kind of over one row, but we never talk in class because the teacher hates it. So the only time he has ever said anything to me is in the hallways, or for a few minutes before class starts, which is not long because I come all the way from German and we're all usually rushing to get out of her class and get on to where we have to be next.

Anyway we had to work in groups the other day in History and Brett ended up in the same group as me and so we were able to talk more directly, although only about the Spanish-American War, and met eyes. He has very pretty eyes for a guy, bright blue with long lashes like Zac Ephron's (okay, I should not say that). And he wears his hair a little longer than most guys I have seen here, which is also good. And he is taller than me, of course, but not too tall. And-- as I happen to get from overhearing him, actually, he is older than me, by about a month. Which is also good.

On Thursday afternoon he caught up with me after school, which is not that hard to do as I usually hang around the front hall gabbing with other people and Roger knows to not come till the buses have already gone. I was quite stunned to realise he was actually asking me out... for a DATE.

'I know it's not much, just a movie, but it's something to do. So, if I can pick you up around seven....'

'That sounds nice,' I said then. --playing the modest little twit, you know.

We settled the issue of how he could find my house and we separated for last period. In the car on the way home I told Jessy everything. She was quietly impressed with my good fortune and offered to help do my hair. We put it up, mostly, and pulled down two strands on the sides like we usually do with it, but I made a face in the mirror at myself, so she pulled it off to one side and just let the other side have the loose strand which looked more interesting. It was a casual set which meant I could pull on my charcoal-grey sweatshirt over my head. I wore that over a black tanktop with my black twill skirt and navy tights and black pumps with 2" heels-- 5'7"... not too tall for Brett. Also I brought my glasses for the movie in my little black purse. Fortunately he's already seen me wearing them.

Brett arrived at about three minutes before seven and Mother made me open the door. Then there was the awkward moment when everyone had to be introduced, including Lisa who stared up at this nice-looking young man in this house like he was one of the Jonas Brothers. Daddy was up stairs giving J.J. his bath but Jessy hurried up to take over for him for, as Mother said, it is the daddy's prerogative to approve of the daughter's date. I blushed. But Daddy is very easy-going and Brett is very sensible and they talked for a few moments and seemed to accept each other.

Brett seated me in the car as a gentleman should for a lady. I felt very flattered and even unworthy. I have not been on many first dates at all-- I saw Henry somewhat steadily over my second and last year at HOH and before that I only really hung out with people as part of a crowd. I think maybe three times boys came to the house in Norwich to see me... or sometimes Jessy. Before that we were home-schooled in Lewes and met almost no guys at all. The issue of me going off with someone not related to me whom my parents scarcely know has been pretty much nonexistent till now.

Brett is a good driver and his 200SX is kind of old but well-kept. I put on my seatbelt and kept my knees together and watched him shift gears. Even watching Daddy or Mother do it, that is always something that impresses me.

At the theater he stayed a little behind me as a gentleman is supposed to do and stayed standing till I had sat in the row first. As a movie, 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' has the ability to make you question your own existence-- I don't mean it's existential. I mean it's so bad you want to just kill yourself. But being intelligent we both made fun of it and had a pretty good time laughing at either the movie's banality or what we said about it. The place was about two-thirds full-- Chincoteague is never busy at this time of year-- with most of the people our age and younger, with the odd parent into the bargain.

Afterwards we drove up to McDonald's and had hot-fudge ice-cream sundaes. I made a stupid comment about 'watching my figure', the kind of thing any girl says just to alleviate the awkwardness of going out on a lovely date with a really nice guy and then wanting to pig out on sugar-covered milk fat, but it led him to comment on my comment which I really did not need at all. 'At least it's worth watching,' he said. And I blushed (like a stupid twit). How could he watch anything? --I was in a floppy sweatshirt.

When we got home we sat in the car in front of the house and talked-- honestly, that was all, about school and Jessy and me going to HOH and his family's business (feed and supplies-- they sell to Perdue-- enough said). Just after 11.00 we walked up to the door. I made sure there were no curious eyes peeking out from between the curtains anywhere before I leaned in and accepted his kiss-- on the cheek, because that is where he was going with it on his own. That flattered me. A guy is usually willing to kiss you anywhere really, but there's always the suggestion that it's all in code-- if it's on the cheek, does that mean he's showing respect at the beginning of something that might develop, or is it the end of something and you shouldn't get your hopes up, or are you just a sister to him; and if it's on the neck that means something totally different, but if it's on the lips is he just being romantic or taking advantage of a situation that he knows will never repeat itself; and at what point is it all just a test of you for him to see if you pass his expectations? And could a girl develop an ulcer from all this?

Dear Brett, if you are reading.... Well first I hope you're not! --because there's so much in here that will embarrass me! But tender me gently, good cavalier-- you deserve only the best in a lady and I am all too aware of the challenge I have to accept.

And, Brett's friends, if you read this, notice I pass no judgements on him-- I would never 'kiss and tell', but to say that our much-admired gentleman is every bit what we want to believe he is, and all the more to be admired.

And, dear blog-readers, your Princess Janine may be too open and too trusting, but, as you already know too well, she is ever a lady (even if she does want a date to the Homecoming dance... hint, hint, HINT).


07 October 2008

A boy and his bath

Tuesday 7 October 2008

I woke up this morning feeling refreshing-- of course-- and took my time in the shower and in prancing round before getting dressed for school. Jessy wasn't as jealous this time. In PE we were doing field hockey, which though it looks it is NOTHING like rounders. I made a goal almost all by myself (I say modestly) and Becky and I high-fived each other... like it actually counted for a game or something.

When we got home from school we learned that Daddy was going to be much later than expected, probably close to midnight. He is working with one of his artistes in the studio at Lewes and has been driving the almost-two-hours' ride back and forth about two or three times a week. I heard Mother telling him, 'Why don't you just stay over?' and then there was a pause as he told her why and then she said, 'Awww,' and got a little weak-kneed and I knew what his reason was.

Jessy was to go to a meeting of the Homecoming Committee at Rachel's house, and Mother had already committed to go to a church women's meeting, so she offered to drive Jessy to Rachel's house as long as Jessy could get her own ride home. I have to laugh at Mother going to that-- she's going to be half the age of most of the people there, or younger, and that doesn't affect her one bit. She has always been most comfortable round older people and they all always love her enthusiasm for what they hold dear. She really does belong to some earlier generation... maybe by about 200 years.

So I am to be on my own with our two little ones. This is hardly a hassle to me. They are both very good angels. After we had gelatin for dessert and I made sure J.J. had gone to the potty I left them in Lisa's room playing with blocks, cars, some dolls and I think a cookset. J.J.'s room is all the way at the other end of the house, as far from Lisa's as you can get on this floor, in fact, and he has been playing down here more and more in anticipation of moving up to the tower room above Lisa's one day. For now he is not allowed on those narrow, dark stairs and Lisa is very adept at steering into her own room to keep him within bounds. I made myself comfortable-- as though that needs explaining-- and sat at my round table with the dressing-alcove door open to the gallery so I could hear them, and they were fine... for a while. Lisa was singing gently as a part of whatever they were playing until I heard her say, as sternly as a five-year-old can sound, 'No, J.J. Don't touch that.'

He began to say something, but--

'NO,' she said, even more severely. I stopped typing and listened. Then came the slap.

J.J.'s wail went up like a police siren. I got up at once.

So often these things make you feel stupid and guilty-- you know, if I had got up fifteen seconds earlier this would not have got to this. But I knew he was wailing more of frustration than of pain either emotional or physical. I stomped up to the doorway and glared into the room with my hands on my hips.

'He was touching the wire,' she told me anxiously.

'She hit me!' he cried, and got up to rush to me for a hug.

I caught him, awkwardly round my knees. 'What wire?' I asked.

Lisa pointed to the lamp cord under her desk. 'You said we're not allowed to touch anything that's plugged in,' she said. 'Mummy said... I mean.' She looked about herself somewhat embarrassed at that slip. 'He was going to pull on it. I had to stop him.'

I nodded and looked down at the one now only lightly holding onto my bare leg. 'J.J.,' I said seriously, 'I'm sorry Lisa thought she had to slap you, but you know we don't play with things that are plugged in. That could be very dangerous and you could get hurt.'

'I'm sorry,' he said-- which he is very good at saying. Daddy calls it the politicians' school of morality-- better to do it and apologise halfheartedly afterwards than to ask for permission first and risk being denied.

I stooped and gave him a hug anyway, admitting him inside the unbuttoned shirt. 'It's almost time for a bath anyway,' I told him gently. 'Do you think I can help you have a bath now?'

He nodded eagerly. Unlike Lisa who sometimes gets confused about authority figures round here, little J.J. is always happy to take direction from either Jessy or me just because we are NOT Mother.

So the three of us repaired to the bathroom off the gallery and a bath was run for J.J. Lisa was good enough to run all the way down to his room and fetch some pyjamas and a clean Pull-Up and returned, carefully laying the stuff on the potty lid and then kneeling beside me at the side of the bath. 'Would you like to get in too?' I asked her, trying to make it sound inviting. 'Into this nice, warm bath water?'

She shrugged. 'You said boys and girls aren't supposed to have baths together,' she said.

'Oh, but that's for big girls and boys,' I said innocently. 'I think it would be all right, if--'

'I just want to help you,' she said.

'Fair enough,' I said.

J.J. sat in the water half facing her and they played with some of the bath toys as I finished rinsing his hair with the cup we keep in there just for that. I had taken off the shirt and was leaning over to wash him when he happened to look up and, seeing the obvious, and being two and a half, he lifted one soapy hand and laid his whole palm on my bare breast.

I was not as startled by this as I might have expected. It'd have been stupid to think he wouldn't ever investigate me at this range. But then he said, 'Janine is pretty, like Mummy.'

Now THAT made me blush. Lisa only knelt there, watching him try to keep his hand there as I went on washing his back and bottom. But, of course, it was over. 'Now, J.J.,' I said calmly, 'it's impolite to touch people like that without asking first.'

Lisa seemed to nod agreement at that. She's not too little to know how a big girl's body is different from a little boy's! 'Why?' J.J. asked.

Good question! 'Well,' I said, 'it's how we show respect. You don't see the rest of us doing anything like that to each other, do you?'

'But everybody's always touching ME,' he said. 'YOU didn't ask first!'

I smiled and then shook water from my hands and looked him in the eye. 'Very well, then. Would you like to finish washing yourself?"

Here was a new challenge! He nodded, without a second thought. So I sat back on my ankles in the middle of the bathroom floor to watch him.

He picked up the wet cloth and began slowly, even carefully sloshing it round himself. Lisa hid a giggle. But we let him go on and he was very good at remembering where I had just washed him and doing it again. 'Don't forget your face,' Lisa reminded.

Even though he might not have wanted me to I did lean in and help him with that part. 'Close eyes!' I instructed, as Daddy used to with us, and rinsed off his face with several cupfuls of water. Then I picked him up and Lisa and and I towelled him off-- and he seemed to not remember ever complaining that he was being touched by other people again.

It was past 7.30 but Lisa and I decided to have milk and cookies before she had her own bath. Mother came home just before I was ready to escort him up to his room. I was still in just the pale-blue cover-up shirt and with damp hair from J.J.'s bath. She started to praise me for being such a good childminder but I would not hear of it and made sure she knew how Lisa had helped. I did tell her about the slapping incident but that was after Lisa went up to run her own bath.

While Mother was seeing J.J. off to his bed I checked in on Lisa, sitting like a little pixie amidst too much bubble-bath. She asked me to wash her hair and I took off the shirt again and knelt beside the bath. Of course she asked me what I thought of J.J.'s bit of investigation but I was feeling very clever and said, 'He's just a little boy, and he's curious.'

'Well I think it was impolite,' she said very prudishly, even sticking out her bottom lip then.

I smiled her and said, 'But we can't hold that against him, sweetie. He certainly didn't mean to be impolite, and we can all be patient enough to teach him when he needs to know.'

'Are you mad because I slapped his hand?' she asked then.

'I think you slapped him because you were afraid he would get hurt,' I said, 'and that's different from slapping him because you wanted to be mean... isn't it?' She nodded. 'I just think there might be other ways to keep him from getting hurt. Then again... I wasn't there at the moment, so I can't say.'

'Well I just love my baby brother and didn't want him to get hurt.'

'And I am sure he loves you for being such a good big sister.'

She seemed very proud of herself then.

After Mother tucked them each in I made my own rounds and gave them each a kiss goodnight too.

People say I am very good with children. When I was little, like Lisa's age, both my parents were very sweet and affectionate as well as being very intelligent and logical. They never used 'baby talk' and always answered anything we asked when they could. And then we had our nanny, who has become our new mother, and she has always been affectionate and fun and sensible with us too. I suppose it only makes sense that I would be something like that with my own younger siblings. I never thought I would be anything but a fun mother who is more like a big sister herself than a really responsible parent, but maybe there is something to being big-sister-like after all, because these two little kids have two great parents as well as two fun and responsible big sisters, and they're turning out fine.


05 October 2008

Another Sun-day

Sunday 5 October 2008

Another beautiful day dawned upon us here at Terncote, unseasonably warm and bright-- or at least as compared to our last two Octobers spent in East Anglia. After church we had brunch at the pancake house though Jessy and I both hinted to each other that this was a waste of good sunning time. Neither of us is clear but that would not stop us from taking to the chaises. Daring everything I went out back in the just the bottom of my navy-blue bikini, which is cut low at the hip and fits me like a soft spandex glove round my bottom, making it one of my favourites of all time (another is the solid-white one that's just like it, but that would not do, even today).

Daddy saw us out. 'Oh, what is this, another afternoon at the spa?'

We giggled. 'Just for a little, Daddy!' Jessy said. She was in the bottom of her yellow-and-dark-green one, cut only a little more modestly than mine, and MY pale-blue shirt that I used for a cover-up and not her own white one.

'All right,' he said, and sat on the top of the low wall there and watched us go.

We didn't stop at the pool terrace but went out the side gate to the lawn where we'd dragged the two chaises from the garden about a month and a half ago. It was delightfully warm and the breeze was minimal. Jessy peeled off the shirt and we reclined the chaises and lay on our fronts for about an hour. I caught up on my sleep with a good nap. Sleeping in the salt air and sun is about the best thing to chase away the sniffles... and the cramps. I am nearly done and it certainly wasn't enough to keep me from getting comfortable.

At about 2.00-- though I have no way of knowing-- we turned over and lay upon our backs. The early-autumn sun has got to be the finest, brilliant but not too hot, enough to tan you (or keep you tan) but not to burn you. We didn't even put on lotion, and we'll both be well pinked for tomorrow morning at school. This is the life!

Jessy told me a little about her day with the girls at the mall. They'd run into some boys from school-- naturally-- and seen 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' which was Rita's choice, probably because the boys she likes wanted to see it. Having conned Mother into 'lending' her spending money, Jessy also bought some shoes. I think now she has about 25 pairs. Of course it was for Rachel's birthday so they all bought underwear, also some hose, makeup, and costume jewelry, and they had pizza at that place that's too expensive and doesn't put any seasoning on it ('White people's pizza,' half-Italian Daddy jokingly calls it).

Talk of food made me hungry. I'd only had a short stack at the pancake place. Fortunately Lisa came trotting out while we were on our backs and, fortunately, it was Jessy who had the nerve to get her to run an errand to the kitchen for us. Jessy may be a princess but she's got little Lisa who will do anything to please her. Lisa returned with a small bowl of celery and carrots for us and two of her apple-juice boxes (notice-- NOT three). I sat up and kissed her head. 'You are the best little sister in the world,' I said.

She smiled coyly, rocking on her heels like she does. 'Hey,' Jessy said then, sitting up and glaring at me, teasing. 'What am I then?'

''You're the big little sister,' Lisa told her.

Jessy nodded. 'You bet I am.'

'Can I sun with you guys?' Lisa asked.

We looked at each other and then nodded. 'Sure,' Jessy said. 'But where are you going to lie down?'

'I'll get my towel!' she said, and she scampered back to the garden steps. We both laughed at her innocent enthusiasm. Not five minutes later she returned, in her pink panties, with a big white beach towel fluttering out behind her as she ran. So then we were three, savouring the unseasonable sun and warmth, till the sun had lowered enough for it to get chilly, and we went in for tea.

I know these days are going to be precious and few now. Maybe that's why I'm still in the bottom of my swimsuit, even if I've had to put a log on the fire.


A legacy of being brave

Saturday 4 October 2008

Today Jessy went off, just a few of her tenth-grade gang taking out Rachel for her birthday. Rachel is the youngest of them all-- she won't technically be fifteen till Monday-- and yet has been elected their class president and is active in football (okay, soccer), homecoming, French club, orchestra, honour society, really just about everything. She will seem shy when you first meet her but gradually warms to where she is the most talkative little thing you've ever met. She is a born leader who tends to listen to everyone before deciding on something. As a result she seems to have a very large privy cabinet and is constantly in the company of other girls, like Jessy, Josie, Anna, Rita, and maybe two others who all offered to accompany her-- in two parent-driven cars of course-- to the mall for lunch and probably a movie.

Technically I was invited, but declined, careful to not step on Rachel's feelings, as I would be the only 11th-grade girl there today and thus the only one not among her subjects. I did phone Rita and give my apologies. Jessy skipped down the steps this morning in her oversized navy-blue HOH school sweater and cute little black skirt and white tights and navy low-heeled pumps and looked absolutely terrific... of course. None of them were in jeans. This is Jessy's influence (maybe it is mine also) of imposing our English-girls'-school fashion sense upon rural eastern Virginia. I hate to say it but they lap it up like maple syrup round here.

Mother went out with Lisa for an eye appointment. We are all dreading that little Lisa has the family curse of nearsightedness and will get early crow's-feet like I will from squinting so much because she will hate wearing her glasses. (And I really HATE contacts, so don't say it.) Little J.J. and Daddy played in the yard, riding round in the tractor to gather firewood. Daddy is hardly what you would call the lumberjack type (he is more like the gracefully-aging rock singer type) but he likes doing anything with his little namesake and J.J. will never disappoint in that way. He sat on Daddy's lap and helped steer the tractor and they went all the way down to the end of the lane, both of them picking up sticks or branches from all over the yard and putting them into the trailer.

I am not clear of my time but was as 'comfortable' as I could make myself, sitting at the piano in navy-blue cotton panties and socks. But round 3.00 J.J. had managed to get hurt somehow and they arrived at the kitchen door with all the urgency of a 911 call. 'Sit up here,' Daddy was saying, and then the water was running. 'Hold up your hand like that.'

'Okay,' he said impatiently, but he was not crying.

I got up and hurried in to be of some help. 'What happened?'

J.J. looked round at me from his place on the counter, holding up a finger which was oozing a little blood. Daddy looked up, only for a moment, not because of how I was dressed (or undressed). 'Janine, good,' he said, reaching across the room for the cupboard. 'I need-- Band-Aids and that neospooie stuff.'

'Neospooie,' J.J. laughed, as he liked the sound of Daddy's years-old nickname for it.

I got out the tube and handed it to Daddy but his hands were wet now so I offered to put it on. 'You seem very brave,' I said to my little brother. 'How did you do this?'

'On a stick,' he said.

'Just a stick?'

'Yeah,' Daddy said, half holding him as I applied the ointment and opened a plaster (Band-Aid, sorry). 'A briar or something. Nothing that will need shots....'

I looked at it. 'No, it seems fine. And you are not crying?'

'It doesn't hurt now,' J.J. said.

'Well!' I said. 'I wish I were as brave as you are. Did I ever tell you about when I had to have my first Band-Aid?'

Daddy smiled at that and turned to wash his hands, leaving his littlest in charge of his eldest.

'Daddy and I were playing ball in the sitting room of the old house,' I said. 'And the ball went under the heater and I reached under for it and cut my finger on these little metal fins in there.'

'Did it hurt?"

'Oh, yes. Well, I was only little, like you are. And Daddy picked me up and sat me next to the sink, just like you are now, and he explained to me that he was going to put a little lotion on it, and then a Band-Aid. And I said, "Will it hurt?" And Daddy said, "No, it will just be like a little diaper on there, after I put lotion on it."'

Of course I was using all the inflections that get known as 'Motherese', the kind of storytelling that makes even a cut-finger story seem riveting to a small child. 'You wore diapers?' J.J. marvelled.

'We all wore diapers,' I said. That seemed kind of ironic to day today! 'But I was like you and didn't want to be wearing them any more, so I said, "No diapers. Panties."'

J.J. laughed. Daddy seemed to get wistful at this story, most of which I have got from him over the years, and kind of wandered off-- not quite out of earshot. 'But you're wearing panties now!' J.J. said.

Yes I was. 'Well, I'm not going to wear diapers now, am I?'

He giggled hard at that.

I went on. 'So Daddy opened this Band-Aid, like this--' and I was opening it-- 'and wrapped it round my little finger... like this.' And I did that on J.J.'s finger, which was cut a lot more than mine had been on the very tip that time. 'And I didn't like it on there. It felt too new and different. And finally we had to take it off.'

'Did it bleed?'

'Not after a while. And only a little bit.' I stood up and looked at him sitting on the counter by himself. 'You really are very brave about it.'

He nodded. 'It doesn't hurt now.'

'You don't mind it being on there?'

He shook his head. 'Will it get better?'

I leaned in then and wrapped my arms round him, holding him right up to my bare chest. I didn't care. J.J. didn't care. Daddy didn't care. 'It will, now that we have that thing on there, and you are being so brave.' I stood up and smiled at him. 'So... what were you doing down there, working?'

'Picking up sticks,' he said. 'Big ones, and even bigger ones. Daddy got the real big ones.' Then looked up at me and put up both arms. 'Can I--?'

I had a big smile at that, for there is nothing so easy to indulge as a small child who wants a hug-- even if you're half naked. So I caught him up in my arm and hoisted him off the counter, and he hung onto me as I folded him against my chest. 'Well,' I said, walking round the kitchen a little to rock him on my arm, 'do you think you're done working for a while?' I looked over at Daddy at the table. 'Is this break time? Can we have tea?'

He laughed, smiling proudly up at me. 'That's up to you,' he said, and glanced at J.J. 'You two, that is.'

'I think not tea,' I said slowly, looking my little brother in the eyes, 'but maybe... chocolate milk.'

'Chocolate milk!' And I kissed him on the head, set him down on the counter again where he could participate, and got out the milk.