Monday, October 31, 2011

PRIDE & PRINCESSES Chapter 1 Arrivals

Chapter 1
    The first time I saw Mark Knightly, my world changed forever.
    That morning began almost like any other. Eyes closed, under a cloud of dark hair, I tried to avoid waking up. I had trained myself to sleep through almost any noise, including the sound of the builders constructing a new house, across the road from my own.  But when the jackhammer rang out for the third time, my best friend, Mouche (pronounced Moosh), screamed. She was curled up in a cashmere blanket on the faux chaise lounge in the corner of my bedroom catching up on her beauty sleep.
     ‘Enough already...’ she said theatrically, throwing her pillow at me as a sliver of light streamed through the open curtains. ‘Another bright and shiny Los Angeles day,’ Mouche added as she flipped off the couch and flicked her blonde highlights off her face. Mouche rubbed her eyes and glanced at the framed photograph of the Statue of Liberty. She gave it to me for luck, for my birthday and because Mouche and I have wanted to live in New York City for as long as I could remember.
      ‘Never give up on the dream, Phoebe,’ Mouche said when she presented the picture to me, ‘New York is a great place to be a triple threat whereas Los Angeles is all about the movies, darling.’
      I glanced at the shifting sky and wondered how Mouche managed to look like a movie star at 8am. I threw the pillow right back at her.
    ‘You have glitter face, Mouche.’ I said as I stretched my legs, ‘and I’m running late. My mom’s plane arrives at the airport in...exactly eight minutes...I promised we’d pick her up. C’mon, we’ve got to be need to get dressed.’
    ‘Touché,’ Mouche said (she’d been listening to French phrases on her iPOD all summer). ‘By the way, you have mascara under your eyes, Phoebe. Better wipe it off before we leave.’
    ‘Okay, but I don’t have time to put on make-up...’
    ‘That could be a mistake.’
     I looked at her incredulously.
     ‘You never know how many casting agents could be at LAX,’ Mouche added as she dragged a brush through her tangles.
      Because we both trained as ballet dancers, we were familiar with the art of stage make-up but I only liked to wear it on special occasions. I grabbed some gloss from the top drawer. I read in a helpful guide to dating called Mrs Robinson’s Advice, that, ‘a girl who can’t be bothered with lipstick can’t be bothered with life,’ and I’d never want to be accused of that.
    Mouche has always been good with make-up tips. You could see the results of our make-up experiments in every far flung corner of my bedroom. The place looked like a local beauty salon. It was obvious my bedroom hadn’t been tidied the whole time my mother was away in London. Oh, that’s something else you should know about me. I was born in England and sometimes I use British-isms like ‘tidy’ and ‘lolly’ and ‘shop’ instead of store.
    ‘We’re practically adults,’ Mouche said, ‘your mom’s going to expect better housekeeping skills...’
    ‘It’s true, this place is a mess, but at least I remembered to stack the cupboards with fresh food from the market,’ I said, as Mouche and I grabbed our sweaters and pulled on our Uggs  in differing shades of caramel and pink.
    ‘Unusual combination - boots and pyjama pants,’ Mouche noted, assessing herself in the mirror. The only part of the glass not covered in used dancing shoes and feather boas from all the school plays we’d performed in, was the bottom right hand corner. Mouche flexed her feet in the light.
     ‘We should go. Better to be unfashionable than late,’ I said using words destined to return to haunt me.
     ‘Uh huh, I’m not so sure,’ Mouche said.
     I gathered my car keys and locked the front door. Mouche gave the builders across the road a V for Victory sign as we drove out of our little gated community. Sunrise is a tiny suburb, not far from Bel Air, but not nearly as posh. Mouche turned the volume of my car stereo up high. Music blared out of the windows as we drove past urban scenery. Suddenly we felt like we were in one of those classic road films (like Thelma and Louise) as Mouche and I sang along with the words.
     We were driving along the Los Angeles freeway for the first time, feeling very grown up, and this was a cause to celebrate.  The fact that we were running extremely late by the time we arrived at LAX, ensured that I was in the right spot at the right time to view the arrival of ‘the hot ones.’
     It’s just a pity that I wasn’t looking my best when I saw Mark Knightly. I was looking, as Mouche said, ‘like a ‘slept-in’ blanket’. But as Teegan, one of the bitchiest Princesses in school, duly noted later, ‘he never would have noticed you anyway...’
    Mouche had dropped me off at the international lounge at LAX and was looking for a car space. I was searching the arrivals board when people started to walk from the customs area to greet whoever waited for them.
    I saw Mark Knightly first, but he was too busy to see me.
    Teegan, who ran with a clique of besties known as ‘The Princesses,’ was also at the airport that day with her family. She noted the arrival of the hot ones (as Mark and Jet became known) in her childish but addictive blog.
     Fresh off the boat and new in town,’ she wrote. Then she proceeded to dissect every item of clothing both the boys and the girl who travelled with them wore. 
    ‘Even the sister could be a mini model if she just wore some make-up,’ Teegan sniped in her blog, ‘but the boys...’
     They lit up the scenery as they spoke and I should know. After they entered the public arrivals area, they stood slightly in front of me. The boys paused and looked around them, speaking as they waited for the girl who trailed slightly behind. I was waiting for my mother, trying to hide my out of date boots and messy hair, behind a pole. So, although we never spoke, I think fate played a part when I saw Mark and overheard him talking first...  
    ‘Seems like the locals are pretty tame after the recklessness of Ibiza,’ Mark said languidly.
    ‘I can’t believe your uncle is such a tightwad he made us fly commercial.’ Jet replied.
    ‘He’s trying to teach us how to rough it,’ Mark mused sarcastically, using an expression he’d picked up on his travels.
    ‘Never mind, the food was great and the flight attendants were hot...’ Jet said, focusing on the upside of any given situation.
     As the boys walked through the arrivals lounge, Mark Knightly looked at his surroundings with disdain. The thought of what he imagined his new home to be, an expanse of satellite suburbs beyond the hustle and smog of Los Angeles, seemed to fill him with distaste.
    Suddenly Mouche appeared alongside me, breathless from the carpark.
   ‘Hey Phoebe, I managed to find a parking space...whoa...who are they?’ Mouche whispered.
   ‘The new boys in town...I guess,’ I replied.
    Mouche acted swiftly. She whipped out her cell and took a few photographs of the hot ones.
   ‘Quick, you take some from another angle,’ she added. ‘Why can’t guys that hot ever go to our school?’
    The new arrivals were dressed like stylish English hippies in dark sunglasses as they met with the girl, collected her luggage and strode towards a fancy car.
    ‘Nobody even came to greet us,’ we heard the girl say sweetly.
    ‘She sounds a bit...’
    ‘Lost?’ I added.
    ‘I was going to say, vacant,’ Mouche whispered.
     The dark haired, slightly taller boy took her arm in a brotherly gesture of solidarity and gave the younger girl a ‘make the best of it,’ smile.
      Yes, they were soon to be Sunrise High’s newest and most talked about ‘poor little rich kids.’
    ‘But so fashionable,’ Teegan remarked in her blog.
     It’s true that Mark and Jet wore cool, faux leather jackets (‘friends of the wildlife,’ Teegan told Tory who told Freya who told Brooke who told Mouche, who told me).
    That was all I saw that day because my mom arrived about three seconds later and scooped me up in a mom hug.
    ‘Hey girls, I hope you were good while I was in Europe!’
    ‘Of course, Trish,’ Mouche replied like the worldly-wise best friend she was. Mrs Mouche sells houses for a living and for exceeding their half-yearly targets, her entire sales team had been gifted a whirlwind summer vacation culminating in Florence, Italy.
    ‘How exotic,’ Mouche had remarked when we both received photos the previous week, via email, of Mrs Mouche standing outside the Uffizi Gallery. ‘I love exotic places,’ Mouche remarked. 
     Later that day Mouche and I were lounging in Mouche’s pool before classes started on Monday. We flicked through the cell phone images of the boys’ arrival at LAX, deleting all but the best ones.
     ‘It’s ridiculous to be fans of guys we didn’t know,’ I said.
     ‘...who aren’t even famous.’ Mouche agreed, but she couldn’t resist the standard comment, ‘mmm...yummy...’ and I totally agreed.
     ‘His friend’s hot too. Sometimes blondes have to stick together,’ Mouche replied.
     Mouche and I had always been in competition. We had opposing hair colour. As you may have gathered, mine’s dark, Mouche’s is light, but our major contrasts were not just cosmetic. We had different but complimentary personalities.
     ‘Mmm...I said as I applied Spf30...’
      ‘We’ve been friends since we were six and I want you to know there is something truly comforting about this.’
      ‘Uh huh,’ I said. ‘What’s with the deep and meaningful conversation?’
      ‘Well, you know the sweater I borrowed and haven’t returned yet?’
      ‘My Hong Kong Burberry?’ I asked.
      ‘...yeah. It got caught in the dryer and...shrank.’
       I scowled. 
       ‘How could you? It was never supposed to go in the dryer in the first place!’  
       Mouche looked mortified.
       ‘I know. I’m so sorry. I’ve been trying to think of a way to tell you.’
       ‘I wanted to wear it tomorrow...’
       ‘I know...’
        After a few seconds, I smiled.
       ‘I suppose I could wear something else...’
       ‘I promise I’ll get you another one when I can afford it.’
       ‘That’s okay...’
        Money had been tight since our fathers absconded.
       ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way we could just snap our fingers and get anything we wanted....’
     ‘You mean...conjure up a treasure chest or something? Yeah, that’d be great.’
      Like sisters, Mouche and I have shared the spoils of our wars all through grade school and now high school. It’s bound to happen in our first year of college. We even worked part-time at the local Gap all summer in order to save money for the ultimate dream – New York.  One day, I aim to be a triple threat on Broadway; Mouche wants to be a lawyer. I have no idea why. Mouche loves James Spader in Boston Legal.
     Both of our mothers are bachelorettes and quite young and wild and get along famously since they are the only ‘single’ Moms in our tiny street.  You can see them now, sitting on the porch together ‘catching up’ on life in Sunrise over the past month, looking like they invented that famous phrase ‘mommies who drink.’   
     I jumped out of the pool and grabbed a towel. Mouche dived under the water and emerged with a piece of gold – a ring had been left in the water – with a tiny dolphin on it. It probably belonged to someone at last night’s party – we’d walked over to Mouche’s house (next door to mine) to go for a swim.
     ‘Finders keepers,’ Mouche said with a glimmer in her eye, but I knew she’d hand it in to lost property at school the next day. That’s just the type of person Mouche is – loyal and trustworthy.
     If it weren’t for the amazing competition Mouche and I feel at times, our friendship would be truly perfect.
    I mean, we really are there for each other.
    We both studied fashion and theatre design at the private school we attended in Bel Air until tenth grade (before our deadbeat dads had financial collapses) and we went loco (meaning local – to the performing arts school in Sunrise). Our daddies also turned gay for each other around that time and that’s when our sisterly friendship became - how do they say it in those old English films? Very handy. Yes, that’s right, handy. We might have needed some major therapy when Daddy Mouche and Daddy Phoebe ran off together, if it hadn’t been for the strength of our friendship. We leant on our sisterly bond in our darkest hours and focused on the pastimes we enjoyed, swimming, dancing and talking about boys.
    Fate played a part in our simultaneous transfers to Sunrise High, after our parents split up.   Even at grade school Mouche had saved me from the evil, fashion-challenged bullies who tried to steal my lunch, my purse and our collective sanity. Those nasty girls morphed into a select group known locally as The Princesses and they inhabited Sunrise High, as luck would have it, around the same time as us.   
     But before I tell you more about the people, I should describe the place. 
    Near Los Angeles you can locate the gated community of Bel Air (where Mark Knightly would later reside) and at the foot of the hill, our world – a tiny little satellite suburb known brightly and only as Sunrise, population three thousand and nineteen people, exists.
    Amongst these people there were the usual small town individuals: the local dentists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, diner and shop owners, as well as a fair array of eccentric teenage characters, many of whom attended Sunrise High. The school was known for its ‘Centre of Performing Arts Excellence,’ the program in which Mouche and I and twenty-eight other students were enrolled.
    Six of these so-called ‘creatively gifted’ students were boys. I’d kissed all six of them but only because we’d participated in ‘scene studies’ for different plays we’d workshopped in theatre class over the past year.
     ‘We’ve never kissed anyone as hot as Mark and Jet,’ Mouche said, taking another glance at the image of Jet on her cell (she’d sent me the one of Mark). Mouche had at least six photos of the boys from LAX taken from as many different angles.
     ‘That’s bordering on obsessive,’ I joked to Mouche, knowing we’d both faint if anyone found out we’d taken pictures of boys we’d never even met.
    ‘Touché,’ I replied using Mouche’s newly acquired French, ‘I’ve never really kissed anyone I was totally into.’
    ‘It’s all about the kiss,’ Mouche said, ‘the kiss has to live up to your expectations or it’s just never going to happen. I’ve been doing some private research. Some of the boys didn’t want to be used for practice, if you know what I mean. Some were shy, some were confused or just bored or uncertain of the right way to go about it....I’ve been thinking there should be a manual...’
     ‘You mean, like Teegan’s blog?’
     ‘Not really, I mean, Teegan’s blog is just gossip. I think we need more actual research less filler...’
    ‘You mean, like a dating manual for teenage girls?’
    ‘Something like that, but more Sunrise specific...’
     ‘You mean, like a date and rate?’
     ‘Or maybe like a date and run. Remember when your mom went on her first date after the divorce? And the guy was such a sleeze she excused herself to go to the ladies room and crawled out of the bathroom window?’
     ‘How could I forget?’
     ‘Well, since we haven’t had that much dating experience we should be open to research – our own and other people’s...’
     That was the first time we discussed the idea of a dating manual for teenage girls. But we never expected, in the course of our ‘research,’ that we’d actually fall in love with Mark Knightly and Jet Campbell.