Monday, April 29, 2013

TRULY (inspired by Persuasion) chapter Twenty-four: "Mermaids and Margaritas"

Chapter Twenty-four 
Mermaids and Margaritas
My glamorous cousin was ready to rock and roll, glitter on her eyes, preparing to impress the world, or at least the audience… Confessions of a Post-teenage Hermit 
    I arrived at Keira’s place at six that evening. The performance at the school had been memorable but I didn’t stay to talk with Ben after. Enough was enough.
    Keira was warming up her voice, working on her scales when I opened the door.
    “I got it!” Keira said.
    “What did you get?”
     “The new commercial for, wait for it - Caramel Crunchy breakfast cereal! Things are looking up. I auditioned last week. It’s a speaking part! I get to play the older sister and the manager said I can have a spot every Friday night singing at the Mermaid Hut if tonight goes okay!”
      “That’s great, Keira,” I replied.
      “And the best thing is, there is a top record producer scheduled to come and see me next Friday. So, I texted Lia and Hailee and they’re coming too. I also texted Ben and Harley, I hope you don’t mind.”
     ‘Of course not. That’s great.” I said. “Wow.”
     Keira continued, “I think I actually get treated with more respect working as a singer than I ever did working as a personal shopper. But I don’t mind managing the café and let’s face it, commercials are pretty lucrative…”
     In a way, I was in awe of her enthusiasm.
    “Now, I still have a ‘virtual shopper’ client on call. It’s his wedding anniversary tonight; so, if I have to excuse myself to go to the bathroom, do not be alarmed. I promised he could run the seating plan by me. Honestly, it’s time I got out of the virtual shopping industry. The husbands get so needy. Soon they find it hard to do anything by themselves,” she giggled, “who knew this would become so lucrative: helping out the helpless husbands of Beverly Hills!”
     I laughed.
     Keira was like light relief compared with my own family. She’d been trying to run her own business and recently work had started to pick up. As Keira put it, “in this world, you have to create your own perfect job.”
   “Tell me all about it,” I said. “I’m thinking of finishing my degree, going to online fashion school…”
    “Well, I think that’s great. Just remember everything we’ve learned from being in minimum wage jobs, they don’t teach you in college!”
    Keira was funny and smart, and she had a point. A college education would not necessarily lead me to happiness. Happiness was earned in different ways for different people. And some people didn’t even appear to earn it.  
    ‘So, tell me about Ben being back in town?”
    “He brought Harley with him as you know, and I think they both like your sisters.”
    “Well, unlike Ben, who clearly got over me a long time ago - and is paying some serious attention to Lia if you hadn’t noticed - Harley still hasn’t really moved on from the past.”
   “Pining is a bad thing… he needs to get over Jenny.” Keira knew the whole sad story.
   “Jenny’s gone, Keira. That’s a hard thing to get over.” 
   “Even so, she would have wanted her friends to lead extraordinary lives and by that, I don’t mean you have to be rich and famous. Just to be happy in the internet age is some kind of accomplishment. All we have around us is envy and people telling us from their websites we’re not good enough. You know I am so over those girls from school who only post the pictures that make them look so delusionally self-satisfied,” Keira said, dragging my hand.
    “I told you to stop looking at that old Social website…”
    “You should just read what the Princesses are up to…” Keira had gone to The High School For Young Ladies for a whole semester.
    “I have some idea…”
    “Anyway, we both have the wow factor, since there’s sure to be some hot guys tonight for you to meet,” Keira said as she checked her outfit in the hallway mirror. “Rock n’ roll,” she added as she turned down the music, and we shut the door behind us as we left.
    The Mermaid Hut was a club that had been opened only recently. It was a few streets back from the café and lit up the night with extra lights through the trees. There was an area where the lights were low but the music was also, another for serving coffee and soda to under-age customers and yet another where people could just talk. There was an area where local twenty-one year olds could dance until dawn. The stage was in the middle of the dining area; that’s where we headed.
    “Okay, so it’s a bit like ‘dinner theatre’ for twenty-one year olds, but it’s a start,” Keira said.
     I took a table on the side as Keira got ready.
     Tom Winchester arrived first. He wasn’t with Liz but he said she’d be arriving soon. Obviously, Keira had invited the whole family. For once, Melissa had opted to stay at home with her children. Tom bought me a drink which I gratefully accepted. Tom, it must be said, had improved with age and responsibility, and I smiled at him, happy to be in his company.
     I knew he was only being nice to me to impress Liz, but it was kind of endearing. We were pressed close together talking (the music was loud) when Ben arrived with Harley following close by. Ben looked at us and his face fell. Good, I thought, let him think Tom and I are having a moment (not likely).
     The music played.  Harley and a blonde vixen named Serena Collins along with her frenemy, Dana, arrived with a flourish. I was momentarily stunned.
     You have to be kidding, I thought. How could he? He knew I really disliked those two, even at school. Besides, Ben said Serena was in Singapore. I smiled tepidly at Tom as we waited for Liz and the intruders looked over.
     One partitioned section had tables with old-fashioned telephones linked to other tables, to connect. It was known as “fast dating.” A stranger called, you got to chat for a few minutes before a voice spoke over the line and asked if you both wanted to connect in real life. It was all kind of cute and funny, but it didn’t seem very funny tonight. I was glad Ben had seen me and Tom talking. He’d never know Tom was with Liz and I got to save what was left of my fragile self-esteem. 
    Meanwhile, Serena the flight attendant was looking tall, thin and glamorous. She had poker straightened her hair and wore the highest heels imaginable.
   I cringed inwardly. Would I stay and talk or run and hide? I stayed to hear Keira sing and I noticed Ben being monopolised by Serena until he took her arm and they went to a corner to chat. Why had they come? Keira was my cousin and I had every right to be here but I didn’t expect this.
   I wondered how much more I could take as I resolved to stay and face the music, literally. After Keira’s opening song finished, something truly frustrating happened. As Tom leaned over to whisper something in my ear and I laughed, unexpectedly, Harley glanced over at us. He made a move to walk over through the crowd but Ben gestured for him to stay. Serena took Ben’s arm, stared over at me as if we’d never met and in the moments I took to look away and glance back, the group who were supposed to be meeting us left to go to the upstairs eatery. Typical, I thought, he’s still trying to pay me back.