Monday, April 29, 2013

TRULY by Summer Day (chapter two: "Fangirl")

Chapter Two
I remember our summer together like it was yesterday… Confessions of a Post-teenage Hermit
     As a girl, I’d always looked up to Ben, not just because he was a year older than me. Ben was his own person. He didn’t need the approval of others to make a decision. For that, and so much more, I admired him.
    Even so, after all my on paper admiration, you should know that Ben didn’t look up far enough to see me standing there that afternoon. He didn’t meet my eyes and for that I was grateful. My ex-boyfriend didn’t even notice me. He was too busy reading the Vacation Care notice.
      Ben Wentworth had been more than unavailable over the years. The non-emails, the forgotten telephone numbers, the changed addresses, the lack of social networking sites between us weighed heavily on me in that moment.     
      I wore little make up and I was tired. My jeans were faded; my shirt was splashed with paint and a huge glittery star from the stage scenery I’d helped my class finish making that afternoon. I’d brushed my hair from my wan face and tied it in a bunch on the top of my head. I felt more than a decade older than my early twenties. Although I hadn’t seen Ben in almost six years, I had thought of him every day in absentee; his graceful walk, his blonde sun-kissed hair, his warm chest.
    My cell beeped. It was Keira.
    His brother and sister are vacationing with him – that’s all I know… so far!  The child is his nephew – dodged a bullet there. But he has a girlfriend of course… a flight attendant! Keira added in her next text. I blocked out the words and thought of the man.
    All of this flashed before my eyes in that one image I had of him. Boyfriend, first kiss, first love, only love, love lost; a true officer and a gentleman. I was grateful for the silence after that text. It meant I could gather my thoughts.
    His walk was familiar but the secret thrill of seeing him again was tempered by the fact that, once more, I was watching him leave. He was tall and his shoulders were strong, like his face. I recognized his walk long before I saw his smile. His right hand, the large one holding the child’s, was scarred and the way he rubbed his sandy, sticking up fringe with his palm  were all recognizable characteristics of the person I’d loved.
    As he collected the young boy from the classroom opposite mine, I remembered why we’d parted. I saw the younger teenaged faces of our friends from high school: Harley, Jenny, my sisters, even Serena Collins (mean girl extraordinaire). 
     What does his new girlfriend have that I didn’t? I texted.
     Quick as a flash Keira texted back: Familiarity! Plus, her family R probably a LOT nicer to him than yours was! And remember YOU dumped HIM
    Not exactly.
    I thought about the big questions of life. Does true love really wait? The answer was obvious. Is reclaiming love or ever replacing it even possible? I didn’t think so. How do you forgive someone for choosing someone else? 
     You don’t.
     That afternoon, I watched the children leave, one by one, with their backpacks – and their parents. As I packed up the day’s toys and placed them in a box, the hush of the empty school was eerie. The air was quiet and damp. The cleaning staff arrived as I collected my purse, stuffed full with children’s drawings.
    As I got into my car and turned on the ignition, I noticed it was getting dark. I’d had more work to finish for vacation care than I’d realised.
   I had no idea I’d feel this bad the day I saw him again. I switched on the ignition and drove, relieved that I was at least heading to my favorite place on the planet.
   When I arrived at my family’s beach house not far from Wentworth Boulevard, there was a note for me on the front door from Liz, my older sister.
    We’ve finally managed to rent the place at the price we wanted! Don’t panic; Melissa says you can stay with her and you’re always welcome at home with me and Daddy! Talk soon, Liz.
    After her name my older sister added a huge, smiley face.
    Was she kidding?
    There went my summer plans. Keira and I had even planned to go to Mexico for a few days (after vacation care had finished), then hang out at the beach house. Keira wanted to prepare her auditions for an acting course she planned to enrol in and I wanted to work on a piece I was writing for my blog about online dating. Of course, to write about it I’d have to try it and I hadn’t done that yet. Either way, we’d planned a blissful summer to look forward to and now those plans were in ruin. 
     Deep down, I knew there was more to Liz’s note than met the eye. My father was heading downhill financially and all of his properties had to be sold or rented out. Of course they’d decided to start with the property the rest of the family barely used – my current place of residence. It had a sign on the door Kellynch.  Pl-lease. I have no idea which pretentious relative of mine would bother to name a house but somehow just reading the name always brought me comfort. There was more valuable real estate with an even more exquisite view of the ocean higher along the cliff edge, but this place was familiar. This was home.
      I wasn’t sure what I’d do now as I unlocked the door and went inside. I glanced at the unexpectedly formal haul of family photographs (piled on top of the baby grand piano), as I threw off my shoes in the doorway. I’d taken the piano with me from the Bel Air palace I’d been raised in. It was the only keepsake I’d had removed. I looked around the now-shabby but perfectly positioned property and mentally kissed it goodbye. The financial crisis had hit my family hard but how could my father honestly expect sympathy? How could I? Dad had been so rich for so long… all my childhood. He was so entitled even I didn’t feel sorry for him.
    I flicked through the rental notice on the kitchen bench and wondered how I’d managed to screw everything up so badly. As I poured myself some water, I downed it quickly, as if I couldn’t breathe. The fact that I’d allowed my savings to be mixed up with the family’s resources meant that I had no money in reserve. I was flat broke. Well, it was just too bad. No one deserves a free ride, but I’d been caught unawares. I felt choked, and quickly pulled open all the windows in the room to let twilight in.
    Apart from the financial collapse of the family company, I had little to be truly miserable about. Money had never really meant anything to me. If it had, I suppose I would’ve been more career orientated. I’d probably be studying futures trading or something like that.
    I flung open my substantial wardrobe. Already Liz had ‘helpfully’ tagged items of mine that she thought needed to be sold on e-bay or put into storage until I could find a home for them – and myself.
     Thankfully, my pets, Sable and Muffin, had a place to stay. My cat and dog hovered around my feet as I prepared their dinner and took their bowls out to the porch. They were already familiar with the family home in Bel Air which overlooked the gated community of Sunrise. Sable and Muffin had lovely little homes of their own in my father’s back yard.  Since it was obvious my father preferred them to me, he’d always kept their animal houses ready for them.
     It was true, I had barely enough savings for gas let alone a rental, but I’d have my summer job and that would be enough to get by on as long as I moved back home or stayed with Melissa in Venice Beach (a fate that had depressing implications).
    I knew, but dreaded the thought, that if all else failed I’d have to go and stay with Melissa and become weekend babysitter to her three month old twins until I could get on my feet again. As I thought of this possibility, I shuddered. My cousins already had a full house. They’d invited a family they’d summered with in Europe once to stay and “even floor space would be hard to find,” as Lia (my younger cousin) said. “But of course, we could offer you a closet.”
    I laughed.
   Finding sanctuary with my cousins this summer was not the best solution.
     Afternoon turned to evening as I sat in silence on the couch trying to distract myself by re-drafting the first lines of my latest blog entry.
     Lol (short for love of my life) has returned, I typed. He’s practically invaded my town, my school. Head is upside down... meanwhile house is not my own. I’ve just been evicted by my own family. Panic setting in at the thought of returning to a certain sister’s abode…. Must take summer job as waitress, it’s not so bad and the only job I’ll find quickly enough… Goodbye Cabo, hello Wentworth… Night. Confessions of a Post-Teenage Hermit
      Before I hit post, I uploaded a photograph of the view from my window.
A few bloggers clicked Night. I keep my blog semi-anonymous, of course, with just enough information to make it sound real (it is).
     Writing is something I’ve done on afternoons and evenings since I first held a pen and kept a diary. At high school, I was into writing. A few people read my blog, but not too many that I don’t feel I’m just writing notes for myself; a diary with pretty pictures and colorful headings. I guess it makes me feel present in my own world.
    I know there are others like me out there in cyberspace, love starved hermits who care and can’t give up on their first love, even when they know all hope is gone.
    Okay, time for a confession. I’ve only googled Ben a few times over the years. I try to limit myself which is why, although I have the basic information about his life, I didn’t know he was in town until I saw him.
    I shut the lid of my lap top; moonlight streamed weakly through the edge of the curtain. I found what I was looking for in the drawers of my desk and suddenly pulled out an old shoe box, feeling once again like a spoiled teenage girl.
    A faded photograph album, full of tucked away people and inside, the most hidden of all, the one photograph of Ben that I’d found bearable enough to keep. He looked so cool wearing blue jeans and a smile. I touched the film that covered the slightly tacky surface and kissed the image of his face.
   Stuck to the photograph, I found a birthday card he had given me for my sweet sixteenth, “whoever loved that loved not at first sight.” My older sister Liz had made a gag reflex when she found that. It was part Valentine joke; part declaration. I tucked it safely away inside my t-shirt drawer.
    Ben had done everything he said he would. He’d gone to college and graduated as an officer. I admired him for that. I looked around the room. Silently, I said goodbye to all that was familiar. I felt weightless, as if I’d started life a whole human being but slowly, surely, these particles, these molecules inside me, had been taken until there I sat, in a bay window, fragile as a shell.