Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Pride & Princesses is set more than a decade before The Hotness and Popular. The Hotness is a bridging story between Pride & Princesses and Popular. It is largely unedited. I wrote it for the readers who asked why Pride & Princesses couldn’t be more like Pride and Prejudice and complained about the ending of Pride & Princesses (&while Popular was in the process of a copy edit!) You might want to check it out if you've read Pride & Princesses, but remember, it's unedited... (so The Hotness is probably just for ma tweeps, lovelies).
PRIDE & PRINCESSES:
When Mouche and Phoebe (BFFs) invent a high school dating game which seems very successful, a group of mean girls called 'The Princesses' want 'in' on the game. The prize? The hottest guy in school - Mark Knightly... (but first, the girls might have to learn a few lessons about dating, friendship and true romance).
The Sunrise stories I have written should be read as follows:
#1 Pride & Princesses, #2The Hotness, #3Popular (or you might just like to skip The Hotness (if you are familiar with Pride and Prejudice) and read Popular:) as The Hotness was uploaded onto my blog as a draft. It’s up to you, lovelies. Popular is a nod to Emma, but then again, it also brings full circle some of the characters that began in Pride & Princesses…
And now? I’m finishing the final draft of a novel I’ve been working on since 2008, finally. It’s about a group of empowered teens and the action takes place over two hundred years on two continents… At the moment, some of it is written in Latin so get ready.
Readers, writers & friends are welcome to contact me here:
email@example.com I try to reply to everyone personally but sometimes it’s not immediate! Thank you for joining my blog and twitter (@summerdaylight) & I've just started another blog here: http://summerdaylight99.wordpress.com I'm also on wattpad (SummerDay9) and Goodreads. (If you enjoy my stories please show my blogs some luv by joining and asking your friends to do so as well. I’m aiming to reach one hundred thousand views and I’m more than half way there; love to all & thankyou MWAHoxo:)
Monday, August 19, 2013
POPULAR by Summer Day (BLURB):
Honey Woodhouse thinks she knows everything, especially everyone’s perfect match. Honey is without a doubt, the most popular girl at Sunrise High School. Ethan Knightly is her hottie next door neighbor – and he might just know a little bit more. This high school story, inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, tells you everything you need to know about how to be… (un) popular.
POPULAR by Summer Day is on: http://summerdaylight.blogspot.com/
POPULAR by Summer Day is on: http://summerdaylight.blogspot.com/
Sunday, August 18, 2013
POPULAR by Summer Day
Prologue by Phoebe Knightly: Former babysitter to Miss Honey Woodhouse
It is said in our street - the laneway that leads from Sunrise Drive all the way up the hill to Beverly Hills - that when Miss Honey Woodhouse was born, fairy princesses attended her every whim. Dressed in pink tulle, they ascended from the waterfalls that surrounded the infinity pool at the base of Honey’s perfectly manicured garden. These fairy princesses granted her every wish and bestowed upon her those qualities - beauty, kindness, intelligence and the comforts of wealth (in fairy dust), which wise people will assure you are rarely bestowed simultaneously and never on one person.
Of course, I’m not saying that beautiful, blonde, popular Honey did not become both slightly conceited and even a little bit annoying by the time she reached her teens, but this is her story and I should never tell the ending just because I have the advantage of knowing it.
Honey’s brother-in-law, Ethan Knightly was the much younger cousin of the equally handsome and extremely sought after Mark Knightly. Ethan was staying with us that year, the year Emily Mouche Knightly (my daughter) was born. But I’m jumping ahead of myself as usual.
I’m Phoebe Harris Knightly. I trained to be a lawyer and before that, when I was a teenager, I was Honey’s babysitter. Presently, I’m her next door neighbor. My husband’s cousin Ethan is staying with us while his parents are in Europe. Ethan is close to Honey’s age. I think they’re perfect for each other.
Other children in the wickedly expensive enclave known as Bel Air, where Honey Woodhouse and the Knightly family grew up, were attended by baby nurses but Honey had a whole team of experts as well: her tutor and babysitter (that was me during the summer I spent at home before I went to college) a nanny, a swimming instructor, a tennis coach and even a riding instructor.
Most of these people came into Honey’s world when she was just eighteen months old.
I grew up in a slightly less expensive enclave known as Sunrise a few streets and an entire social divide away. After my best friend was killed in New York and her husband and daughter stayed in New York City, I wondered what my life’s purpose was. I wanted to help people, but I was also just so over, everything. Finishing law school was more of a chore than a pleasure, and afterwards I returned to Sunrise and resumed my teenage job for a few months over summer. This time I became more of a tutor and friend, less of a babysitter to Honey.
Honey’s mother wasn’t at home very much when she was growing up. Her parents separated, then intermittently got back together, until they agreed they were happier apart. This allowed Honey to consider herself, from the age of six, in charge of her father. This was a job she enjoyed. While Honey’s mother vacationed at various clinics in Europe (treating ailments that changed every winter from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to water retention to an overdose of Botox necessitating her thrice yearly trips to Europe and Switzerland), we grew into our own family. It was often just us in the house. Honey’s older sister, Maya, who was far more retiring than the boisterous and decorative Honey was soon away at boarding school. Maya got married soon after college and we saw little of her in Sunrise given that she now resided in New York.
Honey took her role as family organizer very seriously.
After some success, she decided to organize her entire school, her neighborhood, her family and my husband’s younger cousin, Ethan Knightly – a dedicated athlete and high school student who was smart enough to have Honey’s measure since her celebrated birth. Ethan was also nine months Honey’s senior. Honey, at six, had conspired to make Ethan her pram pusher, sunglass straightener and swimming pool life guard – roles from which he had barely recovered.
Elementary school Honey was very self-sufficient; nowhere near as bossy as the fashionable and wise twelve year old she became.
Since I have lived near Honey most of my life, when I reached my teens and Honey needed a babysitter, her parents often called on me. By the time Honey was six and I was eighteen, Honey’s mother had checked into a spa in the Maldives for a two week ‘vacation’. It was decided Honey needed me to stay on as her tutor for the rest of summer. I’d just returned from a vacation in Europe and was undecided about which college I should attend or, in fact, which career path to take. I babysat Honey that fortnight and we’ve remained close ever since. When I lost my best friend in the world, Honey’s laughter got me up in the morning. So I have her to thank for showing me the way forward in order to make the best life possible.
In Honey’s mind, I was her first great triumph. You see, Honey Woodhouse, at the ripe old age of six, had identified my future husband, Mark Knightly and conjured opportunities for us to continue to meet.
All did not go smoothly between Mark and me. But that is a whole other story and belongs in a memoir somewhere between the high school story I wrote, Pride & Princesses and this. Let’s just say, without Honey’s matchmaking skills over the years, I’m not sure our marriage would ever have happened.
I was well into my twenties by the time Mark and I finally got it together in New York City. Honey had decided that after ‘practically raising her’ what I now needed was true love and romance, and I found it. Of course I’d always known Mark Knightly was ‘the one’, but we were both stubborn and took a while to make our relationship official. When I was Honey’s age I was never as sure of myself as her.
Honey started her first matchmaking enterprise between two classmates when she was in first grade at elementary school. Her new friends, Tyler and Jessica, were holding hands a week after meeting but it took a decade to progress beyond that!
Honey agreed a match made in haste could be regretted at leisure.
Wise people say your first success at something tends to make you more enthusiastic to repeat the enterprise.
Honey attracted lots of friends. I’d taught her everything I’d learned in my years of besting the Princesses (a legendary mean girl clique at my old high school) and running my own popularity show as a junior. Honey was always first to remember birthdays, gifts and cards and always ready to give ‘helpful advice,’ both asked (and sometimes unasked).
It’s the unasked part that got Honey into hot water.
By freshman year at Sunrise High School, Honey Woodhouse was already developing her lists, cliques and bossy, pretty girl ways from her bedroom ‘office’ with the full scale canopy bed decked out in princess pink.
She enlisted her computer whiz neighbor, Ethan Knightly, (who was staying with Mark and me that summer while his parents were based in Belgium on business), to develop a computer matchmaking program with her.
Ethan thought it was all a bit of a joke and went along with it, until he realized Honey was taking her game from cyberspace to reality.
I would often read a text or email from her asking me for advice about what to do in various social situations but usually she had those covered. By her sophomore year at Sunrise, she fielded at least a dozen calls every morning (including Saturdays), was constantly texting from her ‘social media platform’ as Miss Matchmaker Teen and was already bossing Ethan around, like a puppy dog.
Tall, dark haired, smart and wickedly handsome Ethan was as bemused and adoring of the precocious Honey as her father (who indulged her every whim), was. Plus, Ethan seemed to have a new girlfriend every week and according to Honey, ‘needed a lot of help to sort out his relationships.’
My husband Mark was a busy partner in his own law firm and on the boards of various companies and was admittedly, ‘not an expert in teen behavior ’ so I was left to counsel Ethan myself.
Ethan’s girlfriends bore Honey’s intrusions and questionnaires only because Ethan assured them that Honey was his best friend. They quickly realized if they weren’t ‘in’ with Honey, they weren’t in with Ethan.
Here is an example of Honey’s first questionnaire – she has definitely refined it over the years:
Terms of Agreement
I, as ‘the matchmaker’ agree to introduce you to up to six favorable matches; ones I deem ‘suitable’. In exchange for this I require feedback in the form of an anonymous questionnaire (no parties shall be named) and information shall not be disclosed to a third party.
Anonymous questionnaire as follows* (all answers must be G rated please!):
Favorite activities: (G rated please)
Do you believe in marriage, dating or just ‘hooking up?’
Ideal boyfriend / girlfriend:
As she grew up, Honey would refer ‘hesitant matches’ to her sample questionnaires.
By the time she reached her mid-teens, Honey was set in her matchmaking ways. Honey felt ‘matchmaking’ in this age of ‘busy teens’ was the way of the future. Her style was more personal than the internet and far more subtle. Honey’s father and cousins merely laughed at Honey’s suggestions.
She had tons of ‘helpful’ advice even for Mark and me – and I think the way she conjured excuses for us to ‘run into each other’ when we were both in New York definitely sped up our romance, which as I said, had its ups and downs in the beginning.
For example, I remember Honey advising me one day in Farmers Markets when she was in elementary school, “Oh Phoebe, it’s very clear Mark’s workaholic personality would not be a deal breaker if he actually liked you, which he so obviously does. I mean, I may only be a kid but I know a thing or two about both love and people,” she assured me.
“Well, we dated when we were teenagers,” I explained, “but then…real life got in the way. We went to separate colleges and… stuff happens. Perhaps we weren’t meant to be. Mark always acted snobbish and boring. He even snubbed me at our first high school dance. Mouche and I dressed up to the nines to impress Mark and his friend Jet and it all… went wrong,” I added.
“Mark insulted me. He told his friend I wasn’t pretty enough to dance with.”
“I’m sure it was a misunderstanding, c’mon,” Honey tugged my hand as we went to buy strawberries dipped in chocolate at the fruit stall.
“Oh look! There he is. I think you and Mark are both a perfect match,” she whispered.
Honey was an adorable child and could not be ignored. Mark was with Ethan and Honey started talking to him, creating an excuse to bring Mark and I together.
When my husband and I returned from our honeymoon on the Greek Island of Paros, Ethan came to stay with us and Mark became his guardian. Business interests had forced his parents to relocate to England for the year and because Ethan wanted to attend a summer program at UCLA and stay in the Bel Air school district, we were happy to have him.
He spent most of his time at Honey’s house (next door) just ‘hanging out’ as he put it. By then, Honey was a sophomore. Ethan was about to transfer to Sunrise High where Mark and I attended school, so long ago. It was kind of a coincidence because the boys, like Honey, were from one of the richest families in Bel Air, but you’d never have known it.
Neither of them were particularly interested in money, as it turned out. Mark helped out as an advocate at an environmental law firm and with my former clients who were, for the most part, ‘at risk’ teenagers. His values were one of the many things I cherished about my husband.
In fact, Mark and I were far more compatible than we realized.
It just took Honey to prove it.
The story of the matchmaker of Bel Air really did begin at the Farmers Markets… and I think, it’s probably time for Honey to tell you what happened next.
How to be Popular by Honey Woodhouse
Finding a match
My entirely wonderful matchmaking plans were born in Beverly Hills although Phoebe is sure to tell you they were born at Farmer’s markets.
The sun shone through the stained glass windows of the Church of Beverly Hills on Phoebe’s and Mark’s wedding day, inspiring me along with their spoken vows.
It had taken ten years but I’d made it happen. I had created plenty of ‘opportunities’ for them to date and told one how highly the other person thought of them and vice versa even when they’d told me no such thing. I’d even written a list of compliments in the form of a dialogue that Ethan observed me writing over my shoulder once, but that’s a whole other story.
“Honey, what are you doing?” Ethan had asked.
“Nothing you need to know about,” I replied (quite huffily, I admit). It’s rude to read over the shoulders of others.
Ethan raised his eyebrow.
He and Wednesday (the younger half-sister of Mouche - who was Phoebe’s best friend) often came over to swim at my place when we were little kids. Then Wednesday’s career as an actress really took off. She started by doing commercials but now she spends part of the year in Wilmington filming a teen television series. She enrolls at Sunrise when she’s back home.
Without a doubt, the marriage between Ethan’s hot older cousin and my babysitter was my greatest matchmaking moment.
Phoebe and Mark were exchanging vows one week before I was due to start at Sunrise High. Wednesday was filming in Georgia so I was mentally preparing exactly how I’d establish myself in my freshman year – alone, without my best friend - and even the outfit I’d wear to my new school on my first day. I’d left The High School for Young Ladies after sixth grade. It was way snobbish there. I needed a new scene and Phoebe suggested Sunrise. Sunrise was like a breath of fresh air and I quickly became friends and part of a group of girls (generationly known as ‘the princesses’). I couldn’t wait for sophomore year to start. I had so many plans. But first of all, I had to decide what to wear.
Hair braided at the side? Too Amish? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but I am not Amish, obviously.
Sailor suit top tailored over jeans? Too Glee? Too Sound of Music? Maybe. Again, not necessarily a bad thing.
Gloss or pale lipstick? Both make a statement. Both say, I made an effort but I don’t think looks are more important than developing a personality. Sure, I know most girls don’t get rewarded for having a personality but trust me, one day it will pay to have one.
Now, shoes or boots? Shoes say “here I am, and I’m a conformist.” This is probably a good thing to be on your first day at a new school. Boots say, “I’m making a statement!” Especially my adorable just over the knee ones. They’re saying, “Here I am, a fashion diva, ready to friend but don’t mess with me.”
I was very eager to consolidate my group of BFFs with a new member or two. It takes an army to make a village… or does it take a village to make an army? Whatever it is, it takes more than one person to appear popular and without popularity, you have no influence. Influence is how the world – especially my teenage world, turns.
Now, if I can’t influence someone like Ethan – how could I possibly influence anyone else? Look at him on my group photo screensaver. Pitiful, huh? He’s cute, obviously, but he has no style. He needs my help but he won’t ask for it.
Ethan is probably a bad example of me wielding my power, eager as he is to listen intently to everything I have to say, laugh and inevitably do the opposite. Not only does he disregard both my feelings and my opinions but he ignores almost totally my fashion sense. That flaw is the hardest to accept.
For example, I put on a new skirt to show Maria (our housekeeper) the other day. Ethan just happened to be indulging in one of her chocolate cakes (he eats like a horse and maintains an athlete’s muscle tone) and he just ignores my style completely.
“Was it too far above the knee?” I asked Phoebe. Phoebe smiled and shook her head.
Ethan didn’t even glance in my direction. It’s so offensive when ignorance breeds that kind of superiority complex. Generally, if I’m being obnoxious my father sends me back to my room while Ethan just sits in the study with Daddy going over the latest stock reports or whatever, once again paying me scant attention.
Oh, there he is now.
Maria hands him an extra piece of cake.
I’m reminded… of Phoebe’s wedding…
At Phoebe’s wedding reception, I was seated alone admiring the gorgeousness of the wedding cake, the venue and the cleverness of my matchmaking handiwork – the house with the fairy lights lit up the garden as all of the guests (including Wednesday who had managed to get the day off from filming Teen Daze – the television show she’s in) were huddled together. I had encouraged my two best friends to dance with two juniors I’d invited without realizing I’d be left at the table for the first ten minutes of the evening.
That’s when Ethan, dressed from head to toe in exactly the suit I recommended he wear, came up to say hello. His dance partner (who knew he even danced?) was hanging onto his hand like her life depended on it. I always encourage women not to appear so needy, but whatever. I’m not sure what I’d encourage Ethan’s potential girlfriends to do since they had the dubious taste to set their sights on Ethan in the first place.
Ethan is barely twelve months older than me but he already thinks he knows everything. He’s seriously not the wisest of men where girls are concerned. I mean, I’m so much more mature. He just has no idea. For example, most women are not interested in the robotics and engineering elective he’s considering taking at UCLA alongside his political science major.
Tonight, he seems to barely notice the girl he’s with, so I’m sure she’ll wise up soon. He’s way too busy talking to the group of little ones surrounding him. The whole room is lit up like a fairy castle (again, my influence, the real wedding planner wanted to go tribal!)
Ethan is seated with the youngest bridesmaids who are listening rapturously to his magical story.
He’s hidden the final treasure hunt prize in his jacket and the whole room looks at him as if to say, “aww,” except me.
“Honey!” He says as he looks up.
He was pleased to see me, I could tell, but he’s already about to give me some advice about my ‘matchmaking’ activities because he clearly disapproves of them. I pretend to be extremely engrossed in my conversation with Phoebe’s former teacher Ms Dash (wearing a dress two seasons out of date), before he can catch my eye again. Ms Dash could definitely use my fashion advice but she’s far too interested in encouraging me to ‘excel’ in art class, which is admirable, but she shouldn’t neglect her manicure.
I was trapped between a rock and a hard place as Ethan introduced his new girlfriend to me.
“Honey,” he said, “I’d like to introduce you to Gigi.”
“Nice to meet you, Gigi,” I said and I meant it even though Gigi’s smile was unwelcoming, a few of her parts looked fake (isn’t sixteen too young for plastic surgery?) and her fashion sense was completely underwhelming.
Ethan whispered, ‘be nice,’ behind her shoulder.
“How could you imagine I wouldn’t be?” I asked as he touched Gigi’s arm and she dragged his uncoordinated feet onto the dance floor.
At least Phoebe, Mark and Wednesday seemed to be enjoying themselves as Wednesday, Ty and Jessica (my friends) pulled me onto the dance floor and we all started to dance in a circle around the happy couple. After the song ended, Phoebe and Wednesday were talking animatedly and admiring each other’s gowns. Wednesday had brought a yummy looking dude from the film set who at one point joined the band. Wednesday told me after, like most people he wanted to be something he wasn’t. He wanted to be a guitarist not an actor.
“Acting’s not all I thought it would be but I’m making a great college fund. Mouche would be proud,” Wednesday added. As I mentioned earlier, Mouche, Phoebe’s best friend, was Wednesday’s half-sister.
I agreed. I vaguely remembered Mouche – I was only tiny, like Wednesday, when Mouche was killed. I’ve seen photos of her though and her beauty is legendary around here. Phoebe once told me what a fun and talented person Mouche was and I see that in her photographs and in Wednesday’s smile.
As I surveyed the world, my world, I noticed in that moment, all was right with it.
I could never have known where my next social challenge would take me.
The Boy Next Door
The night after Phoebe’s wedding, Ethan arrived at our house for dinner as usual.
I was sitting glumly at my desk, the one overlooking the swimming pool, trying to resolve a difficult match, when Ethan snuck up behind me, put his hands over my eyes and said, “Honey! What scheme are you working on now?”
“It’s very rude of you to sneak up on me, Ethan. I thought you’d be busy impressing your new girlfriend...”
“First of all, your dad said I could come up. Second of all, Gigi is not really my girlfriend… yet. And you are extremely judgmental, Honey Woodhouse. I expect better of a girl who has been given so many advantages.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Besides, you’re the one who left the door open, practically inviting me in,” he added.
“You know you always have an open invitation to raid our pantry and play repeated versions of Star Trek on the flat screen. Even so, a gentleman would knock!”
“Honey, sometimes I wonder what century you live in. I’m not trying to be ‘a gentleman’ as you put it.”
“Well, that’s good Ethan because it says here in an online etiquette manual circa 1888 that, ‘a gentleman always knocks and opens doors for a lady.’”
Ethan looked at me and smiled.
“Mmm… Since Phoebe and Mark are on their vacation… What’s for dinner?” He asked.
“Well, Daddy needs his nutrients so I was thinking of making him vegetarian lasagna but as it happens, he’s going to be working late and won’t appreciate a home cooked meal tonight. So, in Maria’s absence, I thought I’d order take out.”
Ethan often came over for dinner. His favorite food is pizza, mine is Thai but we both like Chinese; a happy compromise.
Daddy came in to collect something he’d forgotten, just as I was ordering.
“It’s good to see you, Ethan,” my Dad said as he grabbed his cell. He was still in his office suit. Daddy is quite old but he still rushes around like a much younger man. He has a strong work ethic. He owns some big financial firm and they’ve been very busy recently trying not to lose their client’s money. I don’t know a whole lot more than that. Still, I wish Daddy would take it easy. I worry about him all the time.
Ethan and I were slumped on the couch when daddy rushed out again. An old movie was playing on television: How to Marry a Millionaire. Marilyn looked so pretty in that – all the girls did then. I love old movies but Ethan likes it more when there are car chases and stuff blows up on screen.
I began working on my dating plans during the commercial breaks as we waited for the food delivery.
When the take out arrived, I snapped shut my dating journal – filled with notes I was taking to formulate my plan of action for the month.
Ethan smiled with self-satisfaction.
“I didn’t want you to dine alone for the first night in six months.”
I smiled at Ethan. He was, it has to be said, kind of cute in repose.
The dining room table had been set especially by our housekeeper Maria who always set a special place for Ethan. Now that Ethan’s cousin had married my babysitter and neighbor, I felt we were officially non-blood relatives and Ethan acted all protective and critical sometimes – just like I imagined an older brother might.
Of course, I rarely approved of the girls he chose to date but until he asked my advice (something I was hoping he might do soon) he’d just have to suffer in silence. Without a plan of action, well, Ethan was just like a swimmer in an ocean or a driver without a map. He needed me. He just didn’t know it, yet.
I served the first course: mini-vegetarian crispy spring rolls with extra soy sauce - delicious.
The whole meal was full of the best Chinese food I’d ever tasted: wantons, crispy chicken, duck pancakes and even delicious vegetables with noodles. Ethan seemed intent on watching television all through the meal. After we finished eating, I moved to the couch to plan my first day of the new semester on my tablet.
I love my fashion app and started ordering clothes online while I ate dessert (delicious fried vanilla ice cream with real caramel syrup and added berries for goodness – yum). I was onto my second last mouthful before I was due to swap for some healthy fruit salad when Ethan got up from the couch and started reading over my shoulder.
“I can’t believe you order clothes without trying them on first!”
I shut my tablet down really quickly. Ethan thinks I’m fabulously extravagant but I do earn my own money (babysitting and working at the shelter) – at least enough to make a contribution.
“It’s on sale,” I said, reluctantly deleting the image of a fluffy pink coat as a possible purchase. “And I can’t believe that along with your private school education you haven’t learned any manners. At my school, the boys would never do that.”
“Mmm…” Ethan said, “That’s good to know.”
Reading over a person’s shoulder is just plain rude. How often do I have to tell you this? No girl is going to respond to your impolite behavior.”
“Well, as it happens many girls already have.”
I pulled a face, so over Ethan’s boasting about what a chick magnet he is.
Ethan smiled and shrugged as my father’s kind voice interrupted Ethan’s harassing one. My father had arrived home earlier than expected.
“Ethan has some news for you, Honey,” my father explained as he cleared his throat.
“Oh really? Has Gigi absconded and splashed photos of him falling asleep in class with drool all over his cheek on Twitter?”
“No Honey, I’m coming to spend my junior year at Sunrise High.”
“You can’t be serious?”
I sat up straighter than usual on my couch and adjusted my designer boots.
“Excuse me? Do my ears need cleaning? Am I hearing right? Perhaps I need to check my audio…”
“Honey, don’t be rude. Ethan is going to need your friendship. You should help him fit in on his first day, too. Aren’t you heading the social committee?”
Ethan laughed out loud as if to say, it’s Honey’s help I could probably do most without!
“Why are you invading my school?” I asked, trying desperately to remain calm. It was clear, in such close proximity, Ethan would be all over my social plans like pasta sauce. He’d see right through every one of my matchmaking ideas and decide I was far more scheming than I really am. He wouldn’t understand at all how my friends have come to rely on my good opinions; recommendations about what to read, what to see at the movies and of course my fantastic dating advice.
“My physics teacher is transferring to Bel Air. Since he’s a great teacher and physics is important to my grades, I thought I’d save my parents the extra tuition and transfer along with him for junior year. Gigi is transferring from HSYL. She likes the drama program.”
“Gigi? What sort of name is that?”
“The name of a future star. Jealous?”
“Whatevvs.” Ethan knew I wasn’t totally into the drama program but it’s where I made a lot of contacts. I had no desire to actually act, of course. I was far more interested in real life.
“Are you seriously coming to Sunrise?
He put on a glum face and nodded.
“Then you should know, my group is all about socializing. You’ll be like a pariah if all you want to do is talk about boring stuff like math and science. Do you even listen to music, Ethan? Are you into fashion? Reality TV? I just don’t think you’ll fit in with my crowd.”
Ethan laughed again as he stood up, “I’m a junior. I don’t wanna ‘fit in’ with your crowd,” Ethan laughed. “Either way, I think I’ll survive.”
“Yes, but will I?” I asked under my breath.
My father was all impressed by Ethan’s dedication to study and had so many references and internships lined up for him he made me look positively under-busy.
I had the entire month of October planned down to the finest details - everything that led up to Dance Fangdango (This year the autumn dance had a vampire theme – original, I know). The dance was the highlight of the school social calendar during the first half of the year. I hadn’t anticipated the Ethan factor.
“Now play nice, children,” Dad said jokingly as I placed some snacks on the couch for us while Ethan swapped computer games. Seriously, does he really think I’m going to sit here and clap while he gets the highest score?
“Aren’t we a little old for that Ethan?”
“You might be, I’m not.”
After he reached a high score he texted his friend Ariel.
Ariel lives close by but has headed so far down the emo road she may not ever return. I’ve barely ever seen her wear an actual color. She’s not open to a makeover even though I’ve tried to help her.
“She’s coming over,” Ethan announced.
“Great,” I added, even though it wasn’t great.
Ariel is a science geek who also likes computer games and I think she has a crush on Ethan although he seems blissfully unaware of it. They’ve known each other since grade school. It’s really quite nauseating to be around them since they practically finish off each other’s sentences.
“Oh Honey, I hope we won’t miss Phoebe too much while she’s on her vacation,” my father said as he headed up to his study. “I hope she and Mark return soon. They are far more than neighbors now since your sister married Mark’s other cousin – they are family.”
Did I mention I have a much older sister, Maya? Yes, I did. Well, she’s married and lives in New York with yet another Knightly, Mark’s older half-brother, Harris, who he didn’t grow up with and barely knows.
“Now, don’t wake me up too early in the morning. Goodnight Honey,” Daddy said as he kissed the top of my head. “Night Ethan, say hello to Ariel. Try not to spill any of Sugarplum’s food on the couch, Honey.”
Sugarplum is my French bulldog rescue dog. She was rescued just as some horrible mean ignorant person started trying to rip one of her toenails out just to watch her cry and yelp in pain. Thankfully she was saved because of the Bel Air School District Rescue Squad of which I am a founding member. It’s called We Love Dogs but now we help cats as well, so we’re changing it to: We love Animals. I’m going to brainstorm my socials once we start school. We totally need to cast our net wider – there are all sorts of endangered species that need our help.
The minute I saw Sugarplum abandoned near a garbage bin yelping in his cardboard box, paws bloodied, I just had to have him. His paws were cleaned and bandaged and eventually they healed.
He needs extra love (which he definitely gets from me) but on special occasions I get his toenails painted bright blue (with non-toxic doggy friendly nail polish) so he only has to look up at the sky to remember how special he is. Of course, Ethan had to tell me that dogs don’t see color but I choose not to believe that.
Sugarplum nuzzled into the crook of my arm as dad left the room.
“‘Night Daddy, don’t worry about me,” I said.
“Oh, it’s not you I’m worried about Honey, it’s Ethan; I fear you might eat him alive while I’m asleep.”
“Of course I won’t, Daddy. Ethan is used to my argumentative ways. At least I have an opinion. You taught me that.”
“Exactly,” Ethan said, “it’s good training for the United Nations…”
He laughed at his own joke. I bet Ethan doesn’t think I’m smart enough to get into the United Nations. Well, I could just show him.
My father leaned over and kissed me goodnight on the cheek again in his kind and warm way. He is the best father I know and I am extremely blessed to have him.
Meanwhile, Ethan decided to try out my dad’s Xbox again and ate more dessert while waiting for Ariel to text him. He totally acts like he owns this house, and I don’t really blame him. We’ve been hanging out together my whole life, even longer than him and the wonderful Ariel. He’s like the carpet, honestly.
“Ariel can’t wait to hang out – with both of us. You really have to try to stabilize those mood swings, Honey,” Ethan said, pressing the remote control. “You need to get over your sister getting married before you.”
“My sister is ancient but who ever thought your eldest brother would settle down?” I spoke as if I was thinking aloud. “Of course, I’m happy that she’s married even if I think the match is unsuitable. There is no spark between them in my opinion. But, at least they’ll be loyal to each other. After all, she’s boring and so is he. Perhaps like really does meet like but there is little comfort in having conjured up the match myself,” I snapped to Ethan.
I was annoyed I’d played cupid with Ethan and Ariel, too. After all, I’d introduced the pair of them, unwittingly, in elementary school. When Ariel and I were fighting over a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Ethan interceded. That’s how they met. They were so unsuited, romantically. I think that’s why Ariel is relegated to the ‘friend zone.’ I’m going to have to speak to her about that, explain to her that Ethan just isn’t the one. It’s been obvious in recent months that Ariel thinks of Ethan as more than a friend when, he’s just not that into her.
“I would never have introduced you and Ariel had I known how wrong you’d both be for each other,” I mused.
“Boo hoo Honey. We’re just friends and Ariel’s cool with that. So am I. There’s nothing lost, but your sister and my brother? That was just a lucky guess.”
“It was not. You can’t overlook the role I played as matchmaker even if they are seriously boring as a couple. I was integral to their union.”
Ethan flicked the channel as he munched on a piece of watermelon.
“Doubt it, they were into each other from the moment they met. I caught them bumping uglies in the closet a year ago.”
“Too much information.”
Ethan laughed and switched channels.
“Well, you can’t deny I got Phoebe and Mark together. Right from the start I pointed out all of Phoebe’s perfectly lovely qualities.”
“Things Mark was no doubt aware of from the start,” Ethan said under his breath as he sipped his drink. “You made nothing more than a lucky guess, Honey.”
“Well, we shall see about that. This whole month is all about the lead up to Dance Party Fangdango – everyone gets to take someone and it’s so much better if that someone is fun and a good match. I have my eye on couples I’d like to see together already. You should know I don’t think you and Gigi are going to make it.”
“Well, maybe we already have.”
“And what would you know, Honey? You give all the good advice but you’ve never dated anyone.”
“I’m not dating until I’m sixteen. I like to keep my mind clear of distractions. Anyway, I’m waiting until I’m older to meet college boys. I want Mr Right, not Mr Right Now.”
Ethan nearly choked on his soda.
“But, I have someone in mind for the new girl…” ‘The New Girl’, I’d just heard about via text from Jessica was named Hilary and had just arrived from San Francisco. “Doesn’t one of daddy’s friends have a son who’s transferring along with you?” I hinted.
“If you’re thinking about Flynn Elton , you should be warned. He’s not what you think. His older brother was in my class. My father worked with his father in Singapore… Flynn’s younger than me but I heard he’s a player. He only dates girls with money from the right social climbing families…”
Ethan’s family had always been one of the wealthiest in Los Angeles and he’d never seen any sense in only talking to people because they had money. But he’d noticed not everyone had as good a value system as him. He really thought people like Flynn’s mom were kind of a joke. Flynn’s mom warned her son only to date girls whose father’s owned companies, according to Ethan.
“There is nothing wrong with being wealthy,” I said, “as long as you use your wealth to do good things.”
“Oh, ho hum, the voice of teen wisdom speaks.”
“At least I have values,” I argued.
“You should stay out of other people’s love lives and worry more about your own. You’ve been single your entire life, Honey. I think there’s a reason for that.”
“Yeah, ‘cos like, I’m barely sixteen. I have other matches to make before my own.”
“Whatever. My point being… you don’t know anything.”
“I’m very perceptive if you hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh, I’ve noticed. Even so, Maria met her husband when she was sixteen, she was telling me all about it yesterday. You’re getting up there,” Ethan joked.
“A single girl of good character who keeps her finances in order is always welcome at any party…”
“Mmm… Where do you get all of your awesome advice? Jane Austen?”
Ethan just smiled sarcastically.
“Perhaps it’s time you played matchmaker for yourself. You should get busy with your own dating plans or you’ll have no one to take you to Dance Fangdango.”
“As it happens I’m on the committee, so I don’t have to take anyone.”
“Well, color me in!” Ethan said sarcastically.
“No thank you. You are not on my short list.”
“Newsflash; I think you’re going to find most sixteen year old guys are more interested in finding legal ways to get wasted than being on your ‘shortlist’ Honey.”
“Not at all. I already have at least half a dozen messages in direct connection to this topic: Who is Taking Who to the winter dance?”
I flicked on my web page just to prove it.
“I cannot believe there are starving people in the world and you think this stuff is important.”
I could tell Ethan was jealous.
“Of course, that’s true Ethan, but why do you always have to be such a killjoy? You know full well I founded an animal shelter and last year the Princesses raised funds during a bachelor and bachelorette auction that went towards building a school in South East Asia for abandoned children.”
“South East Asia? I thought it was Brazil.”
“Well, that too,” I said, “I spread myself too thin.”
“Not likely,” Ethan said, helping himself to another bowl of dessert as Ariel knocked on the door.
“You should eat up. No man likes a skinny woman.”
“Oh please,” I sighed.
“Anyway, what makes you think you could find the right person for Flynn?”
“I’ve already found her,” I said as I circled Hilary’s name on my short list of new arrivals at Sunrise High. (I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, how did I get hold of that? I volunteered to help Mrs Myers organize the school office, it’s not my fault really that I was privy to some private stuff – I’d never tell anyone.)
“Honey, I’m pretty sure Flynn knows how to fend for himself in matters of romance.”
He said the word ‘romance’ like he was making fun of it.
“I think we can both be assured teenage boys know very little about finding their perfect match.”
Ethan just shrugged and said, ‘get real Honey – open your eyes. Some girls might be obsessed with relationships but guys are only interested in one thing… maybe two,” Ethan shrugged.
I wondered what the second thing was.
“You need a reality check,” Ethan added, before continuing with trying to reach his highest game score ever.
There was a buzz at the door just as I was considering the appropriate response.
It was Gigi. Ariel was with her. They had arrived for Ethan’s gaming group and to basically interrupt our discussion.
Ethan was at the door in a nano-second.
Though I have to admit Ethan Knightly comes from a lineage of extremely hot Bel Air bachelors, he clearly isn’t the least bit interested in dating anyone for longer than about a week. Poor Gigi. She smiled sweetly, I smiled in return.
In the light of the gaming screen, Ethan Knightly is seriously not bad – his looks verge from cute boy to seriously ridiculously cute boy: dark hair (it runs in the family), blue eyes, hot and muscular chest from all of his athletics training and swimming at the beach during summer and not too much gaming...
Snap out of it Honey Woodhouse, I thought. You have far more important work to do than re-imagining your neighbor is hot. The world, your world, the cul de sac of Bel Air that leads to Sunrise and the halls of Sunrise High School – they all need you.
Of course, I was slightly deluded but it is only in hindsight that this became apparent to me. I guess that’s what ‘delusion’ is.