Monday, April 29, 2013
TRULY by Summer Day (inspired by Persuasion) chapter Fifteen: "Tall, Handsome, not a stranger"
Tall, Handsome, not a Stranger
I knew it was ridiculous, but I persisted in thinking about him. I thought of him on my way to The Beach Shack. I thought of him standing behind the counter. The thought of attending the bonfire party I’d been invited to with my family made my stomach churn. I kept re-reading the newspaper article and wondering, as I worked the morning shift serving coffee, if he’d changed… Confessions of a Post-teenage Hermit
My cousin, Keira, had been trying to be an AMW (Actress, Model, Whatever) for about six years now. Keira assured me she was going to do an internet search on Ben after she’d refined her own dating profile.
Pls don’t, I texted from behind the counter after I’d started to unwrap one of the fortune cookies on a glass jar on the counter. Do not need any more info!
I glanced at the cookie message: Invitations to socialize are sure to be fun. Accept them! Wow, that’s original, I thought.
My cell buzzed with Keira’s text, Guess what – he’s not married.
I know. He has a girlfriend - went to school with her.
Friend or foe?
Foe. I checked.
Oh, was all I texted, though inside I was elated that he wasn’t married. Of course, if you truly love someone, you are supposed to be happy for their happiness. It doesn’t really work that way though.
I wiped the counter bench and took in the amazing view of the beach.
I couldn’t believe how differently I now felt, in comparison to the way I’d been persuaded to feel when I was younger. Now, I’d never listen to anyone. I’d follow my heart without question. My Godmother was right about one thing, though. I needed to get over it. Start hanging with someone else. Start dating again.
I’d read somewhere that a writer has two choices: to obtain the perfection of a story or the perfection of a life. Neither was possible, of course, but obviously I’d chosen the former, since my life was clearly lacking in love, social connections and job satisfaction, according to everyone else. Besides, I wrote in my blog and I’m not sure I’d define myself as ‘a writer’ because of that. I wasn’t happy, it’s true, but happiness was a choice and I resolved myself to a kind of contentment. Combining working and blogging would not be a wasted summer.
Working at The Beach Shack was almost as good as summering in Wentworth; and summering in Wentworth was almost as good as living here. Far from the hustle and smog of Los Angeles, the small community had become my own over the commute of recent years.
Mornings at the café went quickly; there were all the usual joggers and housewives with children and pets. We had a lovely little porch outside where the animals were served treats. This pleased the owners almost as much as the pets. Sometimes parents I knew from school would come in. My students mostly said “hi” and looked excited to see me. Occasionally, they brought me cute little drawings they’d done that I could post on the wall behind the counter dedicated to “Miss Elliot.” These children were also staying here for their summer vacation. We had that in common, for sure. Other people, like the girls I’d gone to school with, came and went with their families. I did my best to tune out when they smiled to my face and made casually cruel remarks behind my back.
The former Socials from my junior year, were the only people I wasn’t particularly happy to see. They’d all married young, like Melissa, and moved to Wentworth with their husbands. Their husbands generally worked in Los Angeles during the week which left these ‘ladies’ to lunch together (generally at The Beach Shack – just my luck.)
On Monday morning, after a hectic weekend, they’d come in for their mother’s meeting and to make pointed comments within earshot of me about “women who’d been left on the shelf.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew for a fact that at least two of the women who pitied unmarried “college drop outs” (like me), had husbands who were being investigated for financial crime and spousal abuse. The husbands of two of the other women regularly came into the café with their girlfriends in the evening when they knew their wives were at home.
Most women stayed in abusive relationships for the love of their children or money, or to “keep the family unit together;” but I had to wonder at the hypocrisy that surrounded my peers. What had happened to their dreams? I knew women were now being encouraged to get their men to “put a ring on it” earlier but the pressure to be part of a couple at any price was verging on ridiculous. There seemed to be no dignity in being alone in the eyes of the selfish people I met, yet I wondered how much self-respect people like Dana (ex-Social and former friend of Serena’s until Serena stole her twelfth grade boyfriend) really had. Dana’s husband regularly appeared in the Wentworth gossip columns on the arms of other women.
It was mid-morning and after serving three breakfasts, I was revising a new blog post behind the counter when I looked up to hear my name being called.
My younger cousins, Lia and Hailee, who were both in their first year at Fashion College, were dressed to the nines in head-to-toe designer clothing. It’s true that they were trust fund bunnies but they also had good value systems and very sensible parents and it was impossible to resent them.
“Jane, when do you have your break?”
Lia and Hailee both stood in the morning sun looking like they’d just returned from a week in Hawaii (they had). I was used to them interrupting my work days, and glad of it since they were both fun. At eighteen and nineteen, they had none of my hesitation towards the adult human race in general.
“Oh Jane,” Lia said in a loud voice. So loud in fact that the entire ex-Social mother’s group looked up. “We’ve just been walking Georgie along the beach – he’s outside…” Georgie was their Rottweiler, the opposite of his breed’s reputation, a fierce protector but also a kitty cat with the ladies. His greatest trick was carrying tennis balls in his mouth – or trying to.
“I’ll get him a drink,” Hailee interrupted.
“Anyway, we practically ran into the guy on the front page of the paper this morning. Ben Wentworth… He’s really hot,” Lia added.
“It says he went to Hallowed Halls School so we figure you must know him…”
At this point the mothers’ group swung around in their chairs almost simultaneously. I was pretty sure Dana hadn’t forgotten, but I didn’t want to make a big thing of it.
“Oh, Jane you never told us that.”
“I knew him way back, you were both still in grade school...We were friends, it was nothing.”
“Well, he’s staying at the beach house. We saw him out walking with his nephew this morning, along the beach. We got talking and told him about this place so you should expect him to come by.”
My cheeks went red. I was ashamed that I’d even considered the prospect that after all these years a connection still existed. I even seemed pathetic to myself.
“He’s not married,” Hailee added mischievously.*
“Certainly a step up from high school boys,” Lia added enthusiastically.
“And you know how cute he is,” Hailee added as she came back to sit in front of the counter.
It was obvious my efforts to avoid him were going to be in vain. He seemed to be staying in Wentworth and according to Lia, who knew everything about our small community, was now a minor celebrity.
“Anyway, I got talking to his sister at the store and she mentioned that she’d invited us, the whole family, including you, Jane, to her bonfire party tonight. Apparently the decorations and catering are going to be quite extravagant because it’s also a party to celebrate her brother’s graduation from Officer Training School.”
At this point, Tom Winchester entered the coffee shop. He looked like he’d been out for an early morning swim. He also looked hungry.
“I gotta go,” I whispered to Hailee, reminded of the fortune cookie.