Monday, April 29, 2013

TRULY by Summer Day (inspired by Persuasion) chapter Twenty-two "Freedom"

Chapter Twenty-two
It was so clear to me now. He’d returned to let me know how little he’d missed me. This truth betrayed another fact – he must have thought of me, at least once… Confessions of a Post-teenage Hermit
    That evening, my Godmother and I were seated on the swaying chairs on her front porch. We were drinking freshly squeezed juices after returning from the medical centre where I’d had my knee plastered to the tune of, “no permanent damage, unless you count a hard to see scar,” I was told brightly. I did.
    “Perhaps you’ve got it all wrong. It is possible to misinterpret things, Jane. Clearly, I did, once.” My Godmother reminded me, “Jealousy is an affliction most people suffer from, men just as much as women, believe it or not. Don’t try to read too much into Ben Wentworth’s behavior. I think he’s still hurt from the past, which means you must have meant more to him than he’s prepared to reveal. But I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, you need to move on,” my Godmother told me as she patted my hand and we sat together drinking freshly squeezed orange juice.      
    I wished I’d been strong enough in my teens to go against my father’s and Eleanor Russell’s wishes. I wished I’d simply followed my heart but hadn’t Ben’s recent behavior betrayed a point of conflict between us? I’d tried so hard to forget him, yet his memory wouldn’t fade and his re-entry into my life had shaken me.  
    My Godmother and I had dinner together that night after my sisters arrived home raving about what great sailors the Wentworth brothers were. Then Hailee and Keira checked their dating sites and tried to get me involved in one as well. I had tried this game before and it wasn’t for me, I was adamant. Even so, I fielded Keira’s messages because she’d asked me to and I have to admit, it was quite an education. When I got bored with categorizing the messages into must reads, don’t bothers, and read with caution, I prepared for Vacation Day at Wentworth Elementary.
   The school held these informal catch up sessions over summer – one off day camps where kids who weren’t going away could spend a day hanging out doing plays and drama and sporting activities.
    This was held twice a month and I usually volunteered to help out if I was in Wentworth. No problem this year. Tomorrow night, I’d also promised Keira I’d go to hear her sing in a club near the shore.   
     My cousin Keira had had a pretty crazy life thus far, trying to make it as a MAW: Model / Actress / Whatever - with every other person in La La Land. After a squillion auditions she’d been hired to sing in a small bar at night called the Mermaid Hut for the rest of summer.
    I was happy that the friendship between us was still strong. Let’s face it; Keira was more like a sister to me than my own. No matter what was going on in her life, Keira never forgot to call me on my birthday and always sent a gift. These were small but important gestures that I always returned.
    Eleanor and I finished a dress I’d been working on to wear to Keira’s club debut. It was blue and summery like the sky and I’d drafted the pattern in the latest style, long at the hem but scalloped to the knees around the front. I hugged Eleanor after we’d finished the fitting. The dress was just right. We had dinner together before I returned home. That night, I slept restlessly, tossing and turning and thinking about Ben and his real reason for being back in town.
    The next morning, I dressed early.
     Melissa was still staying with us, even though she’d been home twice since she arrived. Now, both the twins and her nanny were also here. The toddlers dodged my feet as I tried to find my way out of the Bel Air house. The manicured gardens were surprisingly quiet although I heard the rustle through the breeze as my Dad and Liz chattered in the distance over drinks about all of the important clients who were coming for dinner.  My former teacher, Lilly Clay, had also been invited. I realized, just as Eleanor predicted, my father had started seeing her. I hoped this situation would run its course without any input from me. Meanwhile, my father barked orders as I walked by.
   “I hope you intend to put on something decent tonight, Jane.”
    “Yes, Dad. I wouldn’t want to wear anything but my best to support Keira.”
    “Keira?” He asked puzzled.
    “Yes, I’m going to see her show tonight,” I said, breezing past him. It was weird. I’d felt lighter within and surer of my step, ever since Ben had come back into my world, even if I couldn’t sleep. Nevertheless, I wondered if a shelter would have been a better bet than my father’s house and my sister’s indifference.
     “Where are you going now?”
     “It’s Vacation Care Day at Wentworth Elementary, dad. I told you, I’m meeting Keira afterwards.”
      My father raised his woolly eyebrows. He had no right to ask, really, but I played along. A part of me wanted to shock dad (easily done) and say, “to meet up with my secret boyfriend and continue with our clandestine relationship,” but we had no real closeness so it was barely worth my humor. Instead, I added dutifully, “I have the costumes finished for the Day Play and there are also meetings with a couple of teachers and parents about next semester. Then, after I go to hear Keira sing, I’m spending the night with my cousins in Wentworth.”    
     “With your bulimic cousin?” he asked.
     “Keira’s not bulimic, dad. She had depression and she’s getting help. Her therapist said it was partly brought on by family pressures…”
     “Well, that’s not what Serena Collins told me,” Liz added judgementally. I’d forgotten they were friends. I was truly beginning to feel like Cinderella so I ignored my family’s derisive comments adding, “Okay, so, see ya.”
     My father looked at me in disbelief.
    “You mean, you’d give up an important dinner with your family to go and socialize with a bunch of bulimics and losers in Wentworth?” My father looked shocked.
     I responded with equal outrage, “If you’re talking about Keira again, she’s not bulimic, she’s hardly a loser and she’s your niece, dad.”
     Let’s just say my father wasn’t very fond of his younger brother (my uncle). They were never close but were even less friendly now that my uncle had begun to earn more than my father. My uncle also managed to do it with a better attitude. As a result of this disconnect, daddy now disregarded his “flippant” nieces in retaliation. Dad had behaved a lot worse towards his brother since the financial collapse. Just goes to show, you never really know a person’s true character until things go badly for them.
    “Just wait a moment, Jane. I was hoping you’d be here tonight. I’d like all of my daughters at home.”
     I stood my ground.
     “Well, dad, you should have told me in advance because I’m not cancelling out on Keira.”
     Elizabeth shrugged, continuing to finish her newspaper puzzle with the twins squirming around her feet, whilst Melissa started to giggle as she handed some unfolded baby clothes to the nanny who had already unpacked some puzzles in the upstairs nursery. They lay in wait to “keep the children quiet” at my father’s request. Honestly, if Dad hadn’t been so wealthy (and everyone still thought he was), I think his influence would have faded by now.
      “I know why Jane wants to go to Wentworth…”  Liz said mischievously.
      I could never expect my younger cousins to keep a secret.
      “Jane’s former fiancĂ©e is back in town… turns out it’s his sister renting the beach house…” Melissa added.
     “I told you both, I have to go to school and help out!” I was exasperated. “You might all be interested to know I’ve moved on. I’m even enrolling in college next semester, if my scholarship comes through.”
     “At the fashion school, with your cousins?”  My father asked, unimpressed.
    “Not necessarily. There is more than one campus and although the fashion course is partially online, I could transfer if I decide to finish my education degree.”
     My father shrugged.
    “Oh, Jane,” Liz said, “you know what happened last time. Perhaps you’re not really the college type.”
    “That’s true Jane, and you shouldn’t let Ben Wentworth make you feel inferior just because he’s a high achiever now...” Melissa continued.
    “You can talk! He was always a high achiever as you put it, and so was I!”
     “Ben Wentworth?” My father added. “Isn’t he the loser we all talked you out of marrying years ago?”
     I was both breathless and speechless at my father’s relentless impropriety. Finally, I’d had enough. I just could not get out of the door without saying what I thought – finally.
     “Dad, you know nothing about him. He’s now an officer in the Air Force and soon he’ll commence training to be a fighter pilot.”
     “Oh yes, daddy, he’s practically a war hero and a pilot,” Melissa said excitedly, as if she were sixteen instead of in her twenties.
    My father just grunted, “very dangerous job…” and shook his head.
    He was right of course. I didn’t want to admit that. But even if Ben and I were still together I could never talk him out of doing what he loved most. I had no right to do that. I knew now, I could not hope to control my own life, let alone his. 
    Arguing with Dad was both exhausting and pointless.  I stopped in my tracks, gathered my pretty pink summer cardigan from the back of a summer chair, (it would go well with my new dress), and slammed the front gate behind me after I left.
     Driving along the freeways in the afternoon light was liberating. I had been swimming laps that morning, early, in my father’s swimming pool (another extravagance he could not afford). Although the exercise kept me sane, driving totally cleared my head. The roads were pure escapism. The only place I never drove to now was Wentworth Canyon. I’d never returned there since Jenny was killed and I was pretty sure no one else that was with me that night had either. I’d never, never go back there. That was one of the few truths I was sure of.