31 May 2009

An odd observation

Whitsunday evening, 31 May

I thought of something funny but as I am about to go down stairs and watch 'Rebecca' with Mother and Jessy this will be brief (I hope). Yesterday afternoon Jessy found a box of cake mix in the cupboard and made a chocolate cake, on which she sprinkled powdered sugar and of which she then ate about three pieces. I just cut for myself a piece leaving about two pieces' worth left in the pan and thought how nice it was that we had a chocolate cake lying round here for no special reason. But, you see, this is Jessy-- during her period she becomes almost uncontrollably industrious. She rearranges her room, categorises books, paints a picture, throws two or three pots in one afternoon, shovels snow, rakes the yard... and then for the next 21 days she does little or nothing in the way of being constructive. She is a princess-- and I guess the only time she doesn't feel like one is when she doesn't feel like much of anything, you know.

I am the opposite (I think). I do nearly nothing during my time except pop Advil and read a book (or type in this). At most of the other times I tend to be eager to do things. I like this place looking nice and always help Mother. Mother has an attitude about doing chores that makes everything she does an act of love. She sings and hums and makes up silly little rhymes about the most mundane things and always says she actually has fun scrubbing a floor or folding and ironing. So I try to take advantage of that mentality.

The odd thing I thought of is that for the first time in my life I had a first date (and a second) during the most inconvenient of weeks and it never felt like an issue. We went out, we talked, we had fun, we shared the experience of being together and at no time during any of it did I feel uncomfortable at all. I have to hope that Jessy finds someone to date soon-- or, I should say, that Jessy finds someone has found her. There is great value in not having to worry about how uncomfortable you feel-- or, maybe it is that it's being able to not worry about how you feel. Aside from not being able to sun all bare-bottomed outside, I have no regrets at all about the past week. I am sure Jessy would feel the same way were she going on dates too.

Then again, if she were, we all might just miss out on having a nice chocolate cake for no special reason.


Such is the gentle life.

Whitsunday, 31 May 2009

As we are back in the US again we must become used to American ways all over again, and one of them is the way the church here celebrates Whitsunday as 'Pentecost' and emphasises the colour red. Jessy and I would be unswayed however and with Lisa we all wore white. We each have a new soft cotton dress, and I wore my white sandals. Of course at church half the people teased us-- 'You forgot to wear red!' --none of the poor dears knowing that we really were commemorating the day, only in a different way. There were two baptisms as this is a traditional day for it, but, unusually, one was an adult-- a mother and a the newborn (actually about 2 months old). Then there was the usual reception with tea and doughnuts and all, which Daddy and Mother wanted to stay for since it meant we did not have to go out for pancakes.

At home I rang Dottie at the ice-cream parlour up in New Jersey, because I promised to, just to find out how she was doing. So by the time I was ready to go outside the cloudiness and drizzle had cleared up. I put away the dress and sandals and in my underthings went into Jessy's room, where she was complaining about not being able to go all bare outside. After some comforting I got her to come out with Lisa and me anyway. I went out in my panties too, to not let Jessy feel left out, but she was still a little miffed that my panties were white. Hers could not be-- she of course had worn a slip with her white dress to church.

And little Lisa went bare, such as she is prone to do. She doesn't have these problems!

We did not merely lie out but did a bit of straightening-up round the yard, as the recent rains have cluttered the side yard with sticks from the trees and so on. We rearranged some potted plants round the bottom of the steps from the upper garden and finally dragged our chaises down to the lawn to settle in. The sun was very bright, even intense, which was what we wanted. Jessy and I imposed on Lisa to put the lotion on our backs. She never minds this-- she considers it an honour. Of course I put it all over her too. She giggles when you rub lotion onto her bottom. I always make sure to tickle her because that's sort of called-for when she is only 5 and prone to giggling.

When we moved the chaises down we sort of set them up a little closer to the water. The walled garden is very formal and solid, with plenty of rip and even a spare little beach between the easternmost wall and the water of the Bay. But the yards to either side just sort of roll down in a series of shallow terraces till a fringe of grass is separating the area we maintain from a short dune and then the sand and the water. The fringe of grass is never trimmed and so provides a kind of screen between the fishermen's eyes and where we lie. I have never felt uncomfortable lying there. I am quite sure none of them would ever even think to look for us with binoculars and as I said I don't think they would see us. So last summer we gradually came to make this our usual sunning zone. Because of the wall we are out of sight from the first storey if anyone should happen to come over-- although we'd still have the problem of sneaking back into the house!

I nodded off-- too many late nights online I am sure! --and had a very bizarre dream about these horrible steel frames which rolled on a track and you put scrap metal into them to burn so that they would move together, which was the end. And some terrorist group was using them as an execution device. One prisoner I had become friendly with and I remember reaching out and holding his hand in farewell, saying, 'I love you, brother!' And he said, 'I am safe now.- --meaning he was in God's hands. He knew I would be the last friendly human being he would see on this earth. And I woke up shaking.

Jessy was out of her chaise and wandering down along the fringe of grass. There were boats out-- I wondered how modest she would be, but none of the boats seemed close enough to worry about. As I watched she said down cross-legged in the grass and toyed with a small stick. She was bored. She would rather have been naked. Lisa was long gone by this time-- she never lies long but wanders round the yard too, sometimes doing some questionably modest things herself-- once last summer we found her on the other side of the house exploring the construction site that would become the ballfield... and naked, but for her sneakers which she put on 'to be safe'. I got up and strolled down to where Jessy sat. 'What's wrong?'

She shrugged. I watched her toy with the stick for a bit and then she looked up at me. 'We're not going to be able to do this at the Shore,' she said.

Both of us are intending to work at the ice-cream parlour this summer. We'll be staying in our old house, the little house Daddy built on the beach when he and Mommy were first married. It's cosy, but of course the beach there is very popular with even unsavoury characters and there's no opportunity do do as we do here. I folded my legs under me and sat down. 'I know,' I said. 'But we'll be back often. Dottie's giving us a very lenient schedule.'

'I know....' She leaned back on her hands and stretched out her legs. 'I didn't think I would love here, and now I do.'

I smiled at her. 'Because of this?'

She shrugged. In that pose it looked very cute. 'Yes.... And the house. And the quiet. And because of Daddy.'


'He loves it here,' she said. 'He's busy all the time. He scarcely even works now. And now with the ballfield....'

I knew what she meant. Daddy drives over on the tractor and mows the whole outfield and surrounding yard as well as our own. You would think someone like him would be content to hire someone-- but the only paid people who do our yard are for cleaning the pool and trimming the trees with that tall thing on the arm. He actually enjoys driving round in circles on that tractor, often with little JJ on the 'copilot seat' (which is a seat with a seatbelt he bolted to the fender beside his seat in his lap) or in the trailer with Lisa. We see very few visitors here, being so far away from all our usual acquaintance. And we did not go away for New Year's and scarcely have gone anywhere since. I feel as Jessy does-- that when we are working up in New Jersey this summer I will miss this place terribly. It's become a home in more than a physical sense.

Little Lisa came running-- I mean really running, full tilt-- round the front corner of the house and down the whole yard to where we sat. 'You guys!' she said. And she skidded to a halt and slid in on her side beside us in the grass. 'What are you doing?'

'Talking,' Jessy told her.

'Ha-ha-ha. Is it girl talk?'

I turned at her. 'What if it is? You're a girl.'

'Ha. Yes I am.' And she shrugged, as though unsure of that. But really there isn't much we refuse to talk about in front of her. What she doesn't get doesn't matter. 'So are you going steady with Stephen?'

I smiled at her. So did Jessy. 'That's not exactly what we were talking about, you know. But, for your information, no, I'm not.'

'Ohhh. Did he ask you?'


She nodded, understanding that. 'Does he have another girlfriend?'

I laughed. 'No.'

'Then why hasn't he asked you?'

Lisa is adorable when she gets like this. The first reason is because she has about half of Mother's Anglican Australian accent-- she uses words like 'hasn't' well and never seems to say anything that's not well said, meaning articulately pronounced. The other thing is that she's uncommonly persistent. She doesn't actually nag and she never really becomes a nuisance-- if you just tell her you'd rather stop talking about this she will respect that and stop. But she will ask everything that comes into her mind and she asks it because she really does want to know the answer. She is clearly the precocious product of a brilliant and charming mother, a mature and worldly father, and two older sisters who converse with her like an equal. She is the epitome of the 'triple threat' and will be absolutely terrifying to puerile boys (and the men they grow up to be) some day.

(The 'triple threat' is what Mother calls the concept of being good-looking, intelligent, and virtuous, to the point where most men are completely stymied. Invariably they can accept two out of three. It's that third one that drives them nuts. But, as Mother says, it's what all decent and intelligent men really want. It only falls to the men to figure that out, appreciate it for what it is, and then lift themselves out of the gutter to deserve you. Invariably they can do two out of three. It's that third one that they give up on.)

We got up and with Lisa holding each of our hands strolled back along the lawn towards the chaises. When we were halfway there Daddy came round the corner with the tractor and JJ on the 'copilot seat'. Seeing us he hit the horn and raced the tractor towards us. Lisa giggled, let go of our hands, and ran off towards the trees squealing as though she were being chased. Daddy stopped the tractor and then she approached him, warily, standing a few yards away and hooking her fingers in front of herself and twirlling on her heels like she does when she's being bashful. Before we got there Daddy had put JJ down and the two of them ran hand-in-hand up the garden steps to the house.

'What is it?' I called.

'Nothing,' he said. 'Tea. That's all.'

We both nodded. Jessy paced off towards the steps, not saying anything. I stopped beside Daddy in the idling tractor.

'What's with her?' he asked me.

'She's just being pensive,' I said. 'She says she will miss being here this summer.'

'Well, I don't expect you two to be gone all the time.'

'No,' I said, 'I don't expect us to either.'

'I would miss you,' he said.

I smiled at that. The house at the beach is his house-- he can come and go as he likes. What he was saying is that he would prefer to be here, or at Lewes. He has become gentry-- I hid a laugh at the notion of my father the ex-performer taking the peace of his own 'vine and fig tree'. This is his house and the husbandry of it is what he loves best. So-- is that what we have come to? We are gentry? My father has land, tenants in houses, even a tenant farmer and gardener, so that must mean I am a gentleman's daughter. Well-- there might be worse things to be.


26 May 2009

Janine rocks

Tuesday, May 26th

Prom photos were distributed today during homeroom. Apparently the photographers made short work of that-- though they did have four days, even if it was over a holiday. Of course Jessy and I didn't have any coming. Michelle, the Ladybugs' coach, said she had already framed and hung up the best of the photos taken on home plate the other day, and that's good enough for me.

'Hey,' Becky said to me, 'so how was the prom?'

I looked at her. 'It was all right.'

'Janine rocked,' Vivian said beside us, and I turned and glared at her.

Becky giggled. 'You rocked? How did you rock?'

I shrugged. 'Oh, it was nothing.' The bell went off and the Pledge began.

In the PE cabana a girl called April leaned over and said, 'Oh! Janine! My God-- I couldn't believe it! Poor Stephen! And lucky you!'

Her friend said, 'Awww, Stephen was pretty lucky too.' I blushed at that.

In the corridors people who never even seemed to notice me said hello. Two girls I don't even know came down the gallery once, one after the other, with their hands raised to slap my palm as they passed. It was embarrassing. Did any of this matter this much?

And so all morning a certain tentative engagement nagged at the back of my mind. I really was not sure I wanted to keep it, especially under the circumstances-- But it could not be helped. At lunch I wandered in a little nervously, my eyes flitting all over the place to see if I had been noticed. I had not, other than by the usual crowd, which is now two-thirds of our girls' club. As I sat down with my salad the others all looked oddly at me. 'What?' I wondered.

Then a voice came directly behind me. 'Is this a closed party, or may a stranger join you?'

I whirled round and gazed up at Stephen. Someone else waved him towards the seat beside me and he set down his tray and sat. 'Hi,' I finally said.

'Hi,' he said, and unfolded his napkin. 'How was your weekend?'

'All right....' I was blushing. All five of the others were staring at me in silence. I realised that none of them, save Jessy, had ever seen me with a boy before. And this, of course, was the prom king-- three of the others had not even been there but the story was already widely circulated directly and indirectly, and-- from what I have heard-- thanks to FaceBook, AIM, text messages and even old-fashioned telephones. Rumour even has it someone scrawled 'Janine rocks' in one of the boys' toilets. (And no, it does NOT really say 'Janine sucks'. For one thing, it would be inaccurate.)

Stephen and I did not talk about The Dance. We discussed our other impressions of the prom, the food, the place, the table arrangements... and the Cadillac. He asked and Jessy and I both told him about the weekend spent working Mommy's ice-cream parlour, and he seemed impressed with that, the costumes, the location, staying on our own for two nights, and all. All he had to report from his own weekend was having worked in the distressed-animal shelter over Saturday and Sunday and assisting a 'pretty cool' veterinarian who showed him how to bandage a racoon's leg and then meeting a little girl and her family who were unexpectedly and tearfully reunited with a recovering cocker spaniel they had lost weeks ago. From his telling of it the whole table of girls were sappy with damp eyes and pathetic sighs of 'Awww....' I do not think any of us had expected to find Stephen the talented comedic actor-- and our prom king-- was such a gentle, noble-minded philanthropist when it came to helping unfortunate creatures.

As we cleared off at the bell he and I stood up together. 'You know, Janine,' he said, 'I really wish there was another dance coming up.'

I felt something let go in my tummy-- okay, maybe not my tummy. 'You do?' (Why did I say that?)

'If I had known you needed a date-- if I had thought, I guess--'

'But I had Jessy,' I said.

'Ah, yes, a sister, the perfect backup date,' he smiled. 'Girls are so lucky. You don't know how lucky you are to have each other. You have this nice club, all these good friends, you have each other for company-- Sometimes it's hard being a guy.'

I stood there in the centre of the cafeteria whilst people went round us with their books and food trays, just gazing into his eyes.

'What I mean is-- I think I should have asked you to go with me. If you would have--'

'I would have,' I said bluntly.

He smiled. 'Really?'

I just nodded like there was something rattling loose in my head.

'Well, maybe you would this time, if I asked you to go with me... maybe tonight, like for supper? It doesn't have to be anything special, just--'

'Yes,' I said.

He smiled at me again. I love that smile. 'Really?'

I nodded. 'Yes really. It sounds nice.'

'Well,' he said, looking round himself like he was not sure what to say next, 'that's cool then.' So I told him where I live and he said he would collect me round six. He has a car, an older Chevy, kind of an apple red-- Daddy would like it. In fact Daddy would like Stephen. He's polite and intelligent and articulate enough to hold an actual conversation... and he's going to Eastern Shore for biology before going pre-med.... My head felt light as I turned round to go, but all the girls had gone. That's Jessy-- she has never eavesdropped on me, mainly out of respect, but also because she knows she will get the best of it from me personally anyway. I took one step and felt my knees go weak. Then the bell rang-- I was late for Chemistry.

I suppose some people might say Janine's been late for chemistry for too long.


On polite dancing

Monday evening, May 25th

It's about 11.30. The Memorial Day weekend is come and gone and I type this in the back of the dark-green Cadillac at about 65 miles per hour on Route One in Delaware. Jessy is asleep in the other side of the seat. We closed the ice-cream parlour at about 9.00 and were able to leave right from there with our bags and prom gowns and everything. We're both still in the Colonial gear-- Jessy has loosened her stays (she scarcely needs them anyway) and we're both barefoot, which is common for us anyway.

Daddy and Mother and the little ones are staying at the beach house tonight-- Lisa will miss a day of kindergarten and return home tomorrow. Jessy and I will have school at 7.45 as usual-- Roger will drive us. And Dottie will manage the ice-cream parlour as it goes into that weird schedule between Memorial Day and the end of school, when hours are shorter and the staff are less available till they know what their summer will bring.

I face the next few weeks with some degree of anxiety. I recognise that Stephen respects me, even likes me, for what I did at the prom, which I believed at the time and still believe was only simple human courtesy. Vanessa's moronic date doesn't have that concept. He is like what I assume too many people are nowadays, especially in America-- crass, selfish, without any understanding of the larger issues in life. In fact Vanessa is probably only just like him, though I don't know her very well and maybe that's unfair. But Stephen is different. We all understood why he was elected prom king-- he deserves it for being an all-round nice guy who is smart, entertaining, and mannerly. He is what we should all want to admire about people our age. And it broke my heart when Vanessa's date, a guy whose name we don't even know, stepped on his feelings like that. It's the king-and-queen dance! No one ever said they are a couple! And what is it about dancing in this country that makes people believe it's always about romance? Don't people realise there are many, many, other reasons to have a dance with a guy? Since I have been tall enough to look like a woman I have danced at formal affairs, with guys my age, even younger boys, and also older men, other people's fathers, my own father-- is that about romance? Dancing is just a social activity, it's what you do when you're at a party, especially a formal one. Sometimes-- as it's been with me-- it's been political. Sometimes there are men you simply cannot decline-- to be seen with them makes me look good, makes my family look good, makes my father look good, and may get something accomplished. I have said this to people before and someone actually said it makes me a kind of prostitute-- but when my dad has told me I have to dance with this man or that man I have just got up and done it, because I knew there was a reason. And yes, even since I was about 14, about half of them have propositioned me-- may I say here that most of those were Americans. The British men I have danced with would never have presumed to ask. They recognised it was a dance. And the French men-- I shall not say here, but by no means did I feel awkward round them either. The Frenchman places his hand a little too low on your hip, more like on the top of your bottom. Exactly once did I reposition a guy's hand, but I was a little too immature then, and I came to accept that it's just how they are. The Englishman places his hand on your side, at the bottom of your ribs. It's very proper. The Japanese man does too. The American doesn't know where to put his hand-- he tends to take your lead. If you put your hand on his shoulder, he puts his on your back and pulls you closer. If you put yours on his arm, he puts his on your side and keeps a distance. He seems afraid to look like he's trying something, because inside he really wants to be be trying something, but living in denial about his true motives he has to go to all this effort to make it look like he's not trying what he's really trying to come up with a way to try. He is a teakettle nearly boiling over, and stupidly he holds down that little cap as though that can even work, and the whistle comes out in some other way, usually in the look in his eyes. He looks at you like he wants to possess you, to consume you. When I see that look I just want to get out of there.

And I have danced with many men of my father's generation who were fathers themselves, and they will ask me about school, or about my college plans, or about whom I'm dating-- like the way any father would. When I don't care to talk too much about that I will ask the man about what he does, how he likes his profession, what his goals are, you know. Men like to tell us about that. They think we are impressed. I am usually not impressed by careers and accomplishments and goals and such-- it's only a courtesy to start a conversation that makes him feel comfortable. What impresses me is when a gentleman can have a dance with a girl who is not his daughter or his date and be able to look her in the eye and converse about something of substance. We don't want you to look down at our chest, we don't want you to hold our bottom, we don't want to hear any sleasy pickup lines, and we don't want to look like you possess us. What makes us respect you most is when you respect us. And you've a far better chance of having us want to go off to somewhere private with you if we respect you-- because what girl would go off with a man she doesn't respect?-- and would you really want that girl?

I am resolved-- the very next time Stephen asks me to dance, I will accept.


Memorial Day weekend

Saturday & Sunday

With Dottie, Jessy and I opened on Saturday for waffles and pancakes, closed at 11.00, and got out of there by about 11.30. It was warm and sunny and Jessy and I returned to the house for our swimsuits and took blankets down to the beach. There we basked pretty much all day. We met a few nice girls from some other part of New Jersey who lay near us. Also some guys came by whilst we were standing ankle-deep in the water, and we talked to them for a bit. They were insistent that we join them at some kind of party tonight but we had to work and so were able to get out of it. Daddy and Mother and the little ones got down this afternoon and the first we knew they were here was when Mother, in a beautiful blue-and-white bikini, came down and tapped my shoulder where we stood at the water. 'Surprise!' she giggled.

And she might have pushed us in, but the water was too cold. We all hugged and Jessy and I started to tell her about the last two days but there was too much to talk about. She and Daddy had taken Lisa and JJ over to see the Ladybugs game-- I told her then that during dinner at the prom I had got a message on the phone that they had won-- and so she was happy to hear (from Jessy of course) about the 'developments'. Apparently someone had rung the house for Jessy too but she had not got name or message. This is all exciting news for Mother, naturally.

We closed the parlour at 11.00 and walked back along the beach in our Colonial clothes, carrying our shoes and stockings. Jessy wanted to dip her feet. I didn't. For some reason I have been feeling very humble and modest-- and not because of the parlour or the clothes, which actually make me feel a little too provocative. Things have happened and I am not quite comfortable with what's been going on. I feel like I shouldn't be this person, that I may be getting away from myself, and that I just want to go back to the way it once was, when Jessy and I were just nice little girls without people paying so much attention to us. I don't know if that's appropriate but it's just a thought I have been having.

Back at the house we got out of our Colonial clothes and turned in. To be truly authentic you don't wear panties under this gear-- elastic-waisted panties really don't show up before 1920. Neither Jessy nor I do, even working in the parlour (unless it's necessary, you know). So we have been sleeping naked in our beds, in the same room, which is NOT that weird since we are sisters (and please don't go anywhere else with that). In the middle of the night I found myself awake, facing a 7.00 shift without going to church in the morning, and I went down stairs for a cup of tea to settle myself. I put on no lights, only the stove and the kettle and the little light under the cabinets, but apparently I was obvious because next I knew Daddy was ducking his head in. 'Are you all right?'

I turned round, standing at the stove, and blushed a little-- not because I was naked but because I was up in the middle of the night. 'I couldn't sleep,' I told him.

He nodded. The kettle was about to whistle and I turned it off and poured into my cup. 'All right,' he whispered. 'You're on in the morning, right?'

I nodded, watching as I swirlled the tea bag round in the cup. 'I'll be fine.'

'Okay. Good night.'

'Good night, Daddy.'

He left. I took my tea out to the front parlour, which faces the ocean, and sat there in the dark sipping my tea. It was hot and we had left a few windows open for the breeze. When I finished the cup I folded some pillows under my shoulder and sighed, staring into space for a while....

'Hey,' she said, 'get up. I can't believe you're down here. What happened to you?'

It was daylight and she was poking my arm, and I was still on the couch, curled up naked with the pillows. 'Oh,' I said. And I got up and got dressed for the morning shift.


Coming right up

Friday, May 22nd

We arrived at the beach house at about 3.05. Roger had driven well but avoiding the ferry in the dead of night he was left with mainly back roads, especially though New Jersey. He carried up our bags and checked over the house for us and ensured that we set the alarm again, and then he took the car over to his own place on the mainland for the night. Jessy had wanted to get changed in the car, or at least to get out of her gown, but I dissuaded her and now we got out of everything and let down our hair and turned in, in the attic bedroom that was once our regular room when we were much littler.

We had set no alarm and I got up at about ten. It was sunny and bright, already very warm, and without putting on anything I went down stairs and put on tea for myself. Jessy remained in bed past noon. I typed up the bit about the prom then. My mobile phone had about six messages, all from people asking how it had gone. I answered a few of them by telling them to read the blog when I got back! --well,that's what it's there for. The closer friends got a short text message-- 'It was fun. Jessy says there are developments. Talk when we get back.' They all know we are here for the weekend and will likely be here all summer. I hope to invite some people here for the odd weekend or so as the season progresses.

I rang Dottie, who is the manager this year, and in mid-afternoon Jessy and I got dressed and walked down the street in our Colonial-era costumes to the ice cream parlour. Dottie was already there, in her pale green bedjacket and dull tan work skirt. I had on my rose-pink ensemble and Jessy her navy-blue bodice and pale-blue skirt. Everyone here wears costume, even the kitchen staff in their work shirts and sailor slops (loose short pants). Dottie went over the schedule for the weekend and we sorted our inventory and got ready for 5.00. Normally the hours are 7.00 till 11.00 in the morning for pancakes and waffles, and 7.00 till 11.00 at night for ice cream. That's it. The girls all like it because they can hold down a real job, working one shift or the other, and still have valuable beach time. During the day sometimes some of them work the day shift in the bookstore next door. That's a job I want-- I prefer literature to serving food, you know.

Today we opened at 5.00, according to the sign and our advertisements. It was not slow, as people arriving at the shore for the weekend often expect some little treat for their having arrived here. Dottie made sure she introduced us both to everyone she knew. It has been over two years since Jessy and I last worked here and few of them recognised us. Dottie's younger daughter, going into her second year at university, worked with us. We made a good team and all went well, and we closed at 9.00 pm and cleaned up.

I cannot even look at this building, or think about it, or especially work here without thinking of Mommy. This was her pride and joy, the very dream she always had as a little girl, running her own shop, a happy place where people crave to come and enjoy sweet treats and an unique atmosphere. Then when Mother was our au pair and nanny she worked here too, lending it even more colour with her cute accent and her old-fashioned manners and aristocratic pretensions. And though it was always somewhat theatrical, Mother made it even more like acting, a four-hour improvisational show, in which nothing is modern and everything is like a veiled joke. Like, she would complain about the menu-- 'Orange juice! No, of course there is none of that! We have not got a ship in from Barbados in weeks! I do apologise. I can offer you some weak tea-- how will that be instead?' And all the while there would be four gallons of orange juice in the 'fridge, you know. But the customer would get weak orange pekoe tea, and he would laugh, and consider it part of the fun.

Dottie is less theatrical herself, but she always encourages it in the rest and mainly from Mother's teaching has got really good at being able to instruct the wait staff in period-accurate comments. For example a 1700s-style ice cream parlour would seem like a contradiction-- but the French had ice cream in Louis XIV's time and it was always considered a delicious delicacy-- and so our higher-than-average prices are justified. We always put a fine point on its being a kind of anachronism-- 'Ice!' Mother used to exclaim. 'We have got ice! And this being July! Can you imagine!' I mean how would they have ice here in 1740? --it would have been dug out of a river in winter and stored under ground packed in hay, and there are no basements here on a barrier island and hardly any hay-- you know. But it is part of the fun that this place doesn't seem to exist at all.

The costumes, though, are a big part of the fun, and hardly as expensive as you might think. We take advantage of commercial makers of these clothes, but they are always authentically hand-stitched and correct in design and sensible in material, mostly cotton, some linen, little wool and always summer weight, and NO manmade fibres. Without air-conditioning it's actually quite comfortable. You sweat, but you have got powder on and everything near your skin is lightweight cotton and breathes well enough. My biggest complaint is my stockings sliding down when my legs get sweaty. Jessy rolls hers right down on top of her shoes-- you're not supposed to show an ankle anyway. And then there is the bonnet-- I have half a dozen, one bought, one made by Mother and the rest by me, and though they are all well-used now I still love them. You must never show too much hair either-- it was considered heinous flirting if you did. So Jessy's hair, which never stays in place, is always falling out one side or the other, and we tease her by calling her 'hussy' and 'trollop' and so on. This draws attention from the patrons which is the effect it should have. Even as girls in swimsuit tops and short shorts are coming through the place for ice cream, we get noticed for a glimpse of stocking.

And the best part of all is that guys, especially younger guys, absolutely rave over girls dressed like this. The dresses are nothing if not exquisitely feminine, with things tied and cinched here and there and subtle pleats and darts to accentuate the shape underneath. And of course, in the mid-1700s style was to show off as much bare chest as God-fearing women should dare to. The stays wrap round your ribs and lace up at the sides in an effort to make your upper body sort of like a cylinder, which really means that if you have got anything at all up front it's lifted up and out and very nearly has to be restrained! If your waist is well-defined then, too, the result is pretty dramatic-- it's an excellent look for anyone who has got anything of a figure at all, and if you haven't got one it will make you look like you do. I only wish other girls believed me. The eye attention from the opposite sex could almost be enough to bring this stuff back into fashion all over!


The prom

Thursday, May 21st

Of course I had decided that I would just go. It got tedious explaining to people that I was not going because no one asked me. I felt like I was complaining, trying to pick up sympathy-- 'Poor me, no one loves me!' Actually that has never motivated me at all. I come from an entire family that doesn't know what it means to want to be like other people. My mother was even like that, marrying early and marrying someone in the entertainment business! --what was she thinking? --and my stepmother broke all new ground, settling in a foreign country and marrying someone over twice her age at the time! --was she throwing the rest of her life away? Some decisions get made for reasons that other people don't have to agree with and might never understand. I'm not going to prom to look popular, or conventional, or just pretty. I'm going to prom because it's a party, and if it's one thing this family does well, it's show up and have fun at a party.

Daddy has been at me about holding up the family reputation, which is kind of funny considering that the family reputation is about not caring what other people think. But he is sensible and conservative now and he knows the value of society, especially for Jessy and me. So I took out the deep-blue gown I had for the dinner we attended at UEA last spring. The colour is majestic, really-- it's what's known as heraldic blue, the colour on flags, and it appears on the coat-of-arms on Daddy's side. And it's very staid and traditional, more like something from the 1950s-- it's pared away at the shoulders and closed at the neck, with a high waist peaked in front and draped straight to the ankles. The back is open but not enough to keep from wearing a bra with it, which helps, you know. And I felt very pleased with myself for being able to open my wardrobe, put on a dress, and say I am ready for the prom.

Jessy's is a little more typical, in a light shade of sapphire with a straight neck and spaghetti straps. She wore her silver strap shoes with it. I wore my navy-blue pumps which have 3" heels. I usually do not go for anything quite so high but with these at least I know I can dance in them! I did her hair and she did mine. For her I just pulled it all back-- her hair has got so much body and such a natural curliness to it that there's almost nothing you can do with it. I envy her for it-- she's always got this almost-wild look, billowy hair all over the place-- it will fall past her shoulders if you brush it all the way down, and fifteen minutes later it's up about her ears and dropping down in her face. I clipped it up with a not-so-little silver hair clip and folded the rest over on top with pins. She looked like a just-tamed jungle girl trying to fit back in with society! --but with the silver clip and studded pins and her good silver cross round her neck she looked stunning-- if I have to say so myself!

She did mine too, just putting it all upon top in kind of a swirl-- my hair's got plenty of body too, and is generally wavy, but I have got nowhere near the thickness she's got and I really have to rely on the hair spray to hold it in place. Jessy dug out a little tiara-- not too gaudy, honest-- that held it down and with a couple of pins it worked pretty well. With the closed neck I wasn't going to wear any jewelry-- and I should say that neither of us has our ears pierced, and aside from a few (usually whimsical) clip-on earrings we never wear anything but a necklace. Daddy pointed out once that in the original TV version of Rogers-and-Hammerstein's 'Cinderella' she appears at the ball in nothing but her shoes and the dress-- and there is something beautifully pure and elegant about that. If the girl makes the dress, the accessories start taking away from that. I never accessorise beyond good sense as a rule.

Of course we had Roger to drive us, and he appeared at the foot of the steps in a lovely black tuxedo with the dark-green classic Cadillac. Mother insisted on taking photos, but our first stop was only round the corner at Castle Field, where the Ladybugs had a game scheduled. The plan was that they should all arrive early-- 5.30-- for a photo with me on my way to the prom. Roger drove the car right up to the back of the tower and let us out, and all the girls ran over to fawn over the dress-- and Jessy's too of course (they know her, but she coaches the younger group). The photo was set up with me standing on home plate surrounded by the team in all their red-and-white livery, a few bats and gloves in place for good measure. We took about six or seven, with Jessy directing us in a few varying poses, as well as a few with her in them too. People had started coming in to watch the game and so we were something of a spectacle for parents and siblings, at least one local news reporter, and a troop of Brownies from down the coast somewhere. Then it was 6.00 by then and time we should be off. I exchanged hugs and kisses with all the girls and wished them luck in the game without me-- 'We'll win this one just for you!' they promised. And Roger handed us into the car again and we were off.

'I think my shoes got dusty,' Jessy observed in the car.

Mine had too. We got out some Handi-wipes and took care of that.

At the hall Roger pulled up at the kerb and let down the window. 'All set, ladies?'

'Yes, of course, Roger,' I said. 'Really it's only a party.'

He nodded, as though knowing better, and got out.

Sitting in the right rear seat means I get in last and out first-- one must never cross over someone else in the car. (The exception is when one gentleman rides with two ladies-- but none about that now.) I stood up and stepped aside for Jessy and just then a garishly long limousine arrived and began disgorging about eight people, most of whom were in one way or another ill-dressed. I thought I recognised a few of them and then turned my back as Jessy stood up beside me. 'Thank you, Roger,' I said quietly. 'We'll ring when we're ready.'

He smiled at me and nodded reverently. 'As you wish, Miss. And may I say-- you two look lovely tonight.'

'Thanks, Roger!' Jessy smiled.

'Thanks,' I told him, touching his sleeve, and then we turned to greet our public.

Even in this short time the people from the huge long limousine were already skipping immaturely in to the building. I counted three boys and at least five girls-- how many people did that thing hold? By contrast we had our conservative older car made for five in a pinch. As we strode in I thought how that seemed to represent the difference between us and most people round here. We live a quiet life, our own way-- though we are essentially friendly and pleasant people (I think) we don't intermingle so much with others. Though I have often disparaged that phrase from Frost that is so often misinterpreted-- 'good fences make good neighbours'-- we do live with a fence, a wall, really, and there are fences round most of the other parts of our lives too. We stay separate. That's deliberate. And I know that seems snobby-- it really isn't meant to be-- but it is more a result of how we have had to live than anything we chose to begin with. What is it that St James says? --'good religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to visit widows and orphans in their affliction, and to keep one's self unstained by the world.' And we do live in that way, just like that. And there is nothing in that about mingling in society so much that the society's standards become your own. 'To keep one's self unstained by the world' sometimes requires a wall round your house. It is a wall behind which everyone who wants our company is welcome-- but it is still a wall to keep what is unwelcome out. If that makes me an inaccessible princess, then I am sorry-- but maybe what makes me inaccessible is your standards and not mine.

The prom was fine. I mean, it was a prom. There were tables with food and there was dancing and there were people we knew, and we said hello to everyone and mingled politely. Most of the people we know were happy to see us, and I was commended for coming with my sister anyway. She is always popular and did locate a few 10th-grade classmates who had come with older dates. And there was drama-- some long-standing couple had a tiff and someone walked out, and there were more than a few spills of food, possibly owing to preexisting inebriation, and there was too much bad language and much too much poor manners. But, we endure. The real drama occurred when it came time to announce the king and queen of the prom.

I imagine that, for people who have attended a school long enough, these decisions are never much of a surprise. I do not know the 12th-grade class so well and was only gratified that one of the nicest guys I knew of it was crowned prom king. Stephen stood up by himself with the hokey-looking crown on, waiting for the announcement of queen-- he had come with a girl who is really a good friend, which I think is the best way to share your last school dance anyway. Then they named Vanessa queen. Whoops and cheers-- and wolf whistles! --went up from the assembly. She was crowned and then they were invited to dance the king-and-queen number, respectfully slow and not too intimate, you know. So they did.

Then Vanessa's date, an exceptionally scruffy-looking guy in a bad suit who attended some other school, reached his low threshold for tolerance of someone else getting attention and-- I do not make this up! --rose out of his chair and cut in on the king-and-queen dance so that his girlfriend, never mind that she was our school's prom queen, should not dance with anyone else. I swear people sat there openmouthed in disbelief. Poor Stephen stood all by himself, five feet from his assigned prom queen, not knowing what to make of it. Later someone suggested he should have swung a punch at the guy, who held Vanessa in an exaggerated embrace with his head down on her shoulder.

Jessy nudged me-- but I already had made up my mind and pushed back my chair. Stephen looked up and saw me coming. I guess everyone else watched me too, but I really did not notice. I stopped one step away from him on the dance floor and offered my hand. In that one instant his face changed, as he went from feeling like the biggest stepped-on loser at the prom, in front of all his classmates, to being someone whose company was desired and valued.... oh, you know what I mean. And then we were dancing.

'You looked like you needed a partner,' I said quietly to him.

Other people were getting up to dance by then too. We were not so conspicuous now. 'I don't know what happened,' he said to me.

'There's no accounting for bad manners,' I told him.

He held me a little closer then-- not to be forward, but because he really wanted to. Then he said, 'Thank you.'

Later when Jessy told our parents about it, she called it 'noblesse oblige'. 'Janine was my hero!' she said.

And Daddy said, 'That is exactly the type of behaviour I expect from you girls.'

Stephen brought me back to his table-- which of course was not Vanessa's table-- and introduced me round. We know each other from the musical, and he was Sebastian in 'Twelfth Night'. I had never seriously thought of him as anyone I would have much to do with beyond the usual pleasantries, you know-- we have some things in common but my stature is just nowhere near what his is and I would never have presumed-- Never mind that. Back at our table Jessy sat with Rosie and a few others and chatted away, like she is capable of doing, and a chair was pulled out for me and I sat beside Candy, Stephen's date/friend and found myself visiting with 12th-graders. One of the other boys asked me to dance. When I returned from that Candy told Stephen she liked how we looked together-- she is a friend-- and made us stand up again. So we danced again.

By this time I was not feeling like a stranger from somewhere else. Sean, who is in choir with me, asked me to dance. Then Brett, whom I dated in November, asked me too. A few of the 11th-graders asked Jessy too-- and at least one 12th-grader did as well. Jessy really is the prettiest beauty in the whole school and in spite of being still only 15 she has a certain approachable grace that I don't have and tends to deserve more attention.

At the end of the night we were out stepping into the car and Stephen left his crowd and called to me. At the car door I turned and he handed me a corsage. 'I just wanted you to have something,' he said personally.

I tried to avoid Roger's eyes then and accepted it. 'Um, thanks,' I said.

'This is your car?' he asked, just now noticing it.

I shrugged. 'It's Daddy's car.'

'Nice,' he said, and then looked at me. 'Well, I wanted to thank you, for, you know--'

'Don't mention it.'

'Well, it meant a lot.' We sort of smiled at each other then. Then he asked, 'Do you have plans this weekend?'

I swallowed. Really? 'Um, yes, I do. We're working--' I sort of turned round to Jessy, sitting in the car, then-- 'up in New Jersey. Just for the weekend.'

'New Jersey! All the way up there? When do you have to leave?'

'Well... tonight, actually.' I smiled and then looked at Roger who was still holding the door. 'Are we all ready?'

'Whenever you like, Miss.'

'You're leaving now? I mean-- are you getting changed, or--?'

I smiled. 'We're pretty much leaving right now. I'm sorry.'

'Oh,' he said, and looked really disappointed. For a moment I was too.

'But we'll see each other in school, right? Tuesday.'

'Yes,' he said, then, as though that was a good idea. 'Tuesday. Sure.'

'I have fifth period lunch,' I said.

He nodded. 'I know. I've seen you.'

I smiled at him. 'See you at lunch, then.'

'Yes. All right. Have a safe trip, Janine.'

'Thanks. We will.'

We stood there, not wanting to leave, and then someone from his carload called to him. He looked, and then turned back to me and I was standing right in front of him. So he leaned in and kissed me, just a little, on the cheek. And he whispered to me, 'Thanks for the dance. You're a princess.'

'Oh,' I said, but I was blushing. He turned to leave. 'Good night....'

'Good night, Janine,' he said, and then turned and hurried over to his car.

Roger made a smug little smirk as I turned and and ducked into the car. I was beet-red.

'Well,' Jessy said in the car, 'that's a development.'

'It is hardly a "development",' I said.

'Hm, I don't know.... Prom king saved from certain humiliation by pretty little princess from nowhere, and then makes a lunch date sealed with a kiss.... I could develop that into a development.'

I batted my hand at her.


21 May 2009

The truth comes out

May 20, 2009

I have been feeling a little down lately about the prom which is tomorrow night. Well, of course no one asked me. It was subtly mentioned to me a few times, mostly by other girls with whom I am not so friendly, people who need to know what the status of everyone else is. And Janine remains dateless. Well-- there are perfectly sensible reasons for that-- the first is that there are significantly more girls than boys at this school in every grade, and all the 9th- and 10th-grade girls are competing with the upper classes to get invited to the 11-12 prom. And the nice guys in the theatre programme all get taken pretty quickly. Next come the boys in the choir, outnumbered about four to one by eager girls who know how to bat eyes and get invited to prom early. Then there are the dynastic couples who have known each other since nursery school and even though it doesn't look like they're dating, whenever an important event comes up they're locked together at the elbows like Siamese twins. And then there is the guys' point of view, because the farmboys and gearheads and jocks know for certain that they can have their choice of girls for anything they want them for... which is usually unsavoury anyway, although the girls are so glad to be chosen that they'll do anything for it. So, why should any of these guys want to go for the preachy prissy chick from a different country who lives in an unassailable castle?

I really did not expect to be asked. It will be a long time before Jessy and I live down the 'new girl' stigma. But I really did expect a little too much from these local people.

The conversation I heard about was that two or three guys in a certain friend's class were talking about whom to ask to the prom and I got mentioned as a possible candidate. But someone said, 'You don't want to mess with her dad.' And someone else said, 'She would probably think you weren't good enough.' And then of course one of them said something about my legs being glued together. And they very promptly moved on to the next girl.

And although she is absolutely the prettiest girl in the entire school, my sister Jessy didn't get mentioned in that conversation at all-- possibly for being in only 10th grade... but who can be sure?

I discussed this with my friend Becky, who in spite of being somewhat shy and far too moral and modest for some people is actually pretty well aware of what goes on socially in this school. And she said what I expected someone to say-- 'You don't need them, Janine. You're better off without them.' That was not what I wanted to hear. Then she told me that a couple of boys with whom I have always been friendly here said, in other company, that they thought I was 'scary'.

'What do you mean, "scary"?' I wanted to know.

'They think you don't want to have anything to do with them,' she said.

'Since when did I ever say that?'

Becky made a face and looked down as we walked. 'I think they don't want to go out with someone who's, you know.... Well, I think they think you would judge them.'

'On what?'

'On being... you know. Poor.'

I stomped my foot. 'My God. Have I ever judged anyone? I can't help who my father is.'

'A guy's ego is a delicate thing,' she said. 'I mean-- if a guy showed up to take you to prom in a pickup truck--'

'My God,' I said. 'Do they really think I would judge that?'

'Maybe they're just afraid of feeling, you know... not good enough. Like they have to be something else, other than what they are.'

'What a man has to be is comfortable with what he really is,' I said. 'Modesty is always better than dishonesty.'

She looked at me. 'You really believe that?'

I made a face. 'Becky, this is me, remember.'

She laughed. 'I wish I were going with you to the prom now. I would love to see their reaction.'

I shrugged. 'It will be as expected. No one will applaud or anything, Becky.'

Becky's family are taking advantage of the extra day off this weekend and going away. I kind of envy her. But Jessy and I have lots planned this weekend too. 'You've got to let me know how it turns out,' she said.

'Oh... I'm sure you'll hear about it.'

I was able to draw on enough self-confidence and enough of being comfortable with who I am to actually look forward to tomorrow night. But I can't say I expect it to be a stunning night all round.


The old-school girls' club

Tuesday, May 19th

When Gran was here she left a few issues of this nostalgia magazine called 'Reminisce' here for my dad, because he gets a good laugh out of it sometimes. In one there was an article about the 40th reunion of a girls' club from southern California. It seems that in 1965 these 9th-grade girls started a club, just to hang around together and stay friends. And they had rules, like-- you must like to dance, or you must be popular but with a good reputation. It was adorably cute. And they found that everyone thought it was really corny and immature, till they started hosting dances in and around school and actual artistes showed up, the famous and soon-to-be famous, and by 11th and 12th grade they were rightfully the most influential and popular girls in the school. They raised money for charities and sponsored community activities (like babysitting-- it was 1965) and the club came to be so important to their lives that when they held a 40th reunion in 2005, all the former members showed up for it.

I mentioned it to Jessy, and she read the article too and declared, 'We should start one.'

I made a face. 'Who would join it?'

She looked at me like I had no clue at all. 'Everyone,' she said. 'I know at least four people who will join it right now.'

I think I knew the same four people. 'But six girls isn't exactly a club. It's just a clique.'

'Then we'll do something, like those girls did. Hold a dance. Do a car wash. Read to little kids.'

This was about three weeks ago. As of tonight, May 19th, 2009, there is an actual club.

We have nine members-- like the girls in 1965 had. It's Becky, Rita, Josie, Anna, Paulette, two other girls and Jessy and me. Three of us are in 11th, four of us are in 10th and one is in 9th. We figured we wouldn't even mention it to seniors, you know. We had our first meeting tonight and this is what we have resolved. When Jessy and I get situated at the beach house we're having a nine-girl sleepover for a weekend there as an initial social event. We can do a lot of planning then. Our first scheduled activity is a fund-raising car wash after Memorial Day. Anna's father has a hardware shop and we're holding it in the car park. We'll use the money to host a slightly bigger event, probably a party, near the end of the summer-- we can advertise it using a club FaceBook site and email. We are getting shirts made for summer and jackets for the autumn, and Jessy wants me to help her write a club song. I am the president-- there was no vote, they just all agreed. Jessy is the social secretary and Becky is the treasurer.

I know half the school--- no, about three-quarters of the school-- is going to think it's corny and immature. We will get accused of playing clubhouse or being a clique or being gay (people here love to throw that one round). But there is also a great opportunity to do some good things for other people, which is the only real point of a social club anyway. And once we have some idea of where we're going with it all we will invite new members. We will be very discerning--there will be initiation rites and a pledge taken. But we're not going to have dues. It's all about commitment, and money isn't the best way to define that.

Of course we're not advertising it to the whole school at this point. We have all summer to come up with a plan for that. But we intend that by September we will be able to stand tall and say we're a part of something that means something. Some of the girls suggested we host a Sadie Hawkins dance in the beginning of October. That will probably be the event that makes or breaks us... but we'll see.

Wish us luck!


07 May 2009

A change of seasons

Monday, 4 May 2009

I got to homeroom almost late and the teacher wasn't even in the room yet. Becky sits in front of me. She watched me step over her cumbersome backpack and sit down and then turned round to lean on the front of my desk. 'My God,' she said, 'how can you look gorgeous on a Monday?'

I laughed. 'What?'

'That skirt.... I swear you have a bottomless well of clothes.'

'I do not! I've had this a long time.'

I like the charcoal-on-white toile skirt. But I try not to do the monochromatic thing too far-- today I had on a navy top with the white shirt tied over it like a shrug and the black pumps... and NO hose. Well-- in spite of the rain it's still spring. I crossed my legs below the knee like Mother always reminds us to do and Becky sighed. 'So you got it in England?'

'The skirt?' I nodded.


Beside me, Vivian looked me over and then said, 'I like the skirt too, Janine. I wish I could get something like that round here.'

I shrugged. The teacher came in, the bell went off, and then we had to stand for the Pledge. As we all sat down Becky leaned over the front of my desk again. 'That reminds me-- if I can go out shopping this week, will you come with me?'

I nodded at once. 'Of course. It would have to be Wednesday, though. Where do you want to go?'

'Oh, like, whatever's around--'

I patted her hand on my desk. 'We'll go down to Lynnhaven. They have everything there.'

'Oo, that long way?'

I smiled at her again. 'I'll have the car. Think nothing of it.'

The teacher came in then. Beside me Vivian was still looking at the skirt.

At lunch I sat with Jessy's usual posse. It must be remembered by now that this was once Rita's posse... and Jessy has emerged as the indisputable princess of the tenth-grade girls, with not only the concession of but the full support of Rita, gorgeous Rita, herself. Half of them were there when I arrived with a dish of salad and an iced tea. Becky hurried up just as I sat down and drew out the chair next to me. 'Hi,' she said breathlessly.

'Hi yourself,' I said.

'Janine-- did you get asked to prom?'

I looked at her. 'No... why? Did you?'


Jessy looked up at once. 'You should go together,' she said.

I wrinkled my nose. 'Oh-- that is so trite. Girls going with each other because they don't have dates--'

Rita slapped the table-- not loudly, but we all looked at her. 'Janine! No one's asked you?'

I shrugged. 'So what?'

Josie said, 'They probably all think someone else has asked you. You should--'

'What? Advertise?' They laughed. 'Come on-- it's only a dance.'

Jessy pouted at me. 'But you should go.'

'So? You're not going.'

'It's a junior-senior prom,' she said.

I shrugged. 'Well, you could go with one of the junior guys who is not asking me,' I said. 'Besides there are enough people in this school who think I'm queer as it is; I'm not going to--'

They all laughed. 'Janine,' Becky said, 'NO one thinks you are queer.'

I looked at her. 'Well, I thought that--'

'Totally not,' she said definitely.

'Triple threat, love,' Jessy said to me, and I looked at her then. 'You're the princess. And we all know why none of them has asked you yet.'

Becky smiled. 'There are no princes at this school!' And they all giggled at that.

But there aren't. I've already noticed that. None of them seem willing to step out of what they are and aspire to be something better. They all actually believe that this little peninsula is the alpha and omega of their existence. But of course-- they've never been to other countries, seen other people, done other things. If you don't count eastern Maryland (20 minutes north) then I would say that most of them have never even been out of this state (and that includes Delaware, 90 minutes away). Oh, I know that travel alone does not make someone one thing or another. But my point is that I shouldn't expect them to welcome and warm to someone who is so obviously different from the way they are. The guys have got to have some idea of what to expect if they went out with me, and you've got to admit that a lot of guys would rather go to prom with at least a chance of getting something out of it to make the tuxedo rental worth it. There are plenty of easier girls at this school besides me. Why should they bother?

And wouldn't it just be the perfect piece of humiliation for the superior little bitch from somewhere else anyway?

Rita-- beautiful, uberpopular Rita, the one going with a junior guy to the prom, said then, 'We're having a pool party at our house the day after. All of you are invited.'

Becky looked at me, caught my arm excitedly, then let go. She never gets invited anywhere. 'Rita,' I said, 'you don't have to--'

'But it's already planned,' she said simply, and I wondered if it really was. 'I'm sorry I didn't say so sooner, that's all.'

People started talking about their expectations of the pool party. I started my salad. Becky let five minutes go and then leaned in and said, 'Steve doesn't have a date. His stupid girlfriend dumped him.'

I nodded. 'Probably already going with someone else,' I said.

'No. He isn't-- Oh, her. Yes, probably. But he likes you, and--'

'He scarcely even knows me.'

'Well, he would like you, if--'

I patted her arm. 'Thanks, Becky. Now what are we shopping for this week?'

She brightened. 'Oh! Anything that makes me look... better.'

I laughed. 'Well-- we'll see.'

Really I am not disappointed. I have not even thought much about it. I can come up with a hundred things to do that weekend that don't include going to prom, or even that would get in the way of going to prom. I've never been big on these formal dances. I don't dance freestyle that well and I don't like pretending I have to be loyal to some guy who's only asked me because all the other girls were taken. At HOH we had formals twice a year-- it was an all-girls' school and so most girls didn't have dates. We just looked at it like an event that we should attend, maturely and politely, not just as an excuse to be seen with some boy. Sometimes girls showed up with dates-- about four times as many didn't. It wasn't an issue.

Oh, and it's not that I don't have a dress-- I have several. I've been to enough formal things in my life that I have a collection, none of which the people at this school have ever seen. I could show up in anything and look like a princess. Well-- if Jessy will, I will. I would rather go with Jessy than with anyone. She's only in 10th but a 10th-grader is allowed to come as my 'date'. We'll have the car and Roger to drive us. We'll show up and look like princesses, like two girls who don't quite belong here... which is what we are. Well-- maybe that then. I haven't decided.

I got home from school and got out of everything (except panties) and curled up under the comforters on my bed. It was cloudy and there are no lights on. It's gone very chilly. I don't like feeling alone.


When almost is good enough

Sunday 3 May 2009

Over the weekend it was warm enough to... get comfortable [wink]. The team had practice on Saturday and I rushed home looking forward to a pleasant day on my chaise in the garden, and it began to rain. I growled and the rain got worse. I ranted about it and it got worse yet. So I shut up and went online, as I am often wont to do, and complained to people there about it. And it rained all weekend.

So mostly I was in my room, but that didn't mean I didn't have to be... comfortable [wink]. Mother came up on Sunday afternoon and asked if I was coming down for tea. She likes to have proper tea at 4.00, after school and especially on Sundays. I said I would and put on my pale blue cover-up shirt, buttoned at least some of it, and put on a little silver belt round it to hold it down, you know. And I stepped into my silver shoes, just because. Well-- it was like 80 degrees in the house. When I descended Mother took one look at me and giggled. 'Oh, Janine! I might have guessed!'


Then she told me two of the ladies from church were coming. In fact a car pulled up outside as I stood there. I stomped a foot and went back up stairs.

I met Jessy in the gallery. She had on a t-shirt and panties and I said, 'Not enough. We have company.'

As I passed her she stomped her foot too and turned to go back to her room.

I was frustrated from not getting to lie out back. At least Jessy and Lisa had been out there playing, earlier-- I have had no sun since Tuesday afternoon and then only a little. So I just pulled on the grey HOH skirt I had worn for church and went back down. Mother smiled at me-- was that a wink? Daddy came in and started a conversation and we all got wrapt-up in politics and no one paid much attention to what I had on. I didn't care.

Jessy kept trying to meet eyes with me from across the table. She'd put on her stuff from church again and looked nice. By contrast I looked like a slob with the shirt hanging out over the little grey skirt. I didn't care.

'I can't believe you did that,' Jessy said quietly to me in the gallery, after they had gone.

I just shrugged. 'So--? It doesn't matter.'

She looked at me. I knew what she meant-- I could have had on a bra, but-- 'Well,' she said, 'maybe it doesn't.'

I smiled at her. 'You think--?' I stood up straight.

She gave me one look. 'Um-- No.'

Oh, well.


03 May 2009

Thank God I brought my laptop

morning in April....

The ocean is blue now. It is the dry, pure blue of no humidity, that sparkles in the sunlight, the rich cobalt blue of every story that ever mentioned the deep blue sea. Line after line of wet white waves curl and cascade upon the shore. The pristine sand, blown and battered smooth by the endless waves and untouched by footprints extends a mile to either side of where I stand on this deck with the startlingly crisp, clear east wind tearing tightly at my hair and collar. This sky is not the aenemic atmospheric aspect of summer but dense and brilliant, reflected from the bright blue of the ocean, so true-blue that if you could scratch it with your fingernail it would not show white underneath like an antique glass Christmas ornament but be blue all the way through. In the sharp white laser-light of the morning sun everything looks pure and unspoilt, the railing of this deck, the dunes pricked with dead evergreen branches, the grey beach grass and the sand beyond, the white rollies of the shorebreak, and the ocean, all of the ocean, from here to Portugal, a breathtakingly beautiful blue that shall be lost to indistinct greenish-grey as the spring wanes and the season warms. But it shall not be forgotten by me.

The ocean is waiting.


All undressed and nowhere to go

Sunday afternoon. 3 May 2009

I HATE this rain!!! When will it end????


02 May 2009

The Jonas Brothers are idiotic

Saturday, May 2nd 2009

... but they are on TV right now, so that meant both of my sisters are in some weird TV zone in which they don't even notice people coming into or walking out of the room. I walked out. I mean I can only take so much stupid humour. The Jonas Brothers go past my limits for tolerating stupid humour. In fact they reinvent the whole concept.

But try to tell this to Jessy.

It was pleasant today and when I got home from the game (and we are 5-3 now-- yay) I had a shower and then, of course, didn't put anything on. The whole time the game was on, the sky was clearing and it was getting hot. By 1.00 pm it was grey again. I complained, and I stayed in. Jessy got back from the Ladybits game across the township and went right out with Lisa. The two of the frolicked naked out there all afternoon. I didn't feel like frolicking. I just wanted to lie out. I got a little sun over last weekend but that's all the sun colour I've had since that one weird day in February when Jessy and I were actually lying out in the chaises.

At what point did the world decide the Jonas Brothers could sing, anyway? -all right, I will close Jessy's door now.

I have not been online much recently. Someone insulted me and I have been avoiding him. The way we left it, I expected him to stalk me. Fortunately he has apparently left me alone. I am not brooding. I am just naturally cautious.

Okay, Joe Jonas is cute. I will leave it go now.

While I was talking to my cousin on the phone, Lisa came in and pushed the 'on' button on the computer. The computer was already on, so what she did was turn it off. I lost a couple of conversations in process. They probably think I shut them off deliberately. It serves me right for not typing 'BRB' or putting on the away message.

And yes, I did consider putting Lisa in a small cage and hauling her up to the top of the flagpole till dark. But I just didn't have a cage the right size.

It serves me right also for even going into Jessy's room when I knew she would have on Miley Cyrus anyway. So I am guilty of indulging them both. I'm only glad I have survived it so long before my brain has turned into moosh. ('Oh yeah!')

Mother says there is a bit more ice cream left. I shall have it. Perhaps I will be on later....