Sunday, August 18, 2013

POPULAR by SUMMER DAY (chapter eighteen: the art gallery)

Chapter Eighteen
The Art Gallery
   The day of the field trip, a week after Dance Fangdango was the day I committed my second major social crime.  Our combined art and film class were all there, which is why Ethan was along for the ride, literally.
   The gallery was kind of amazing, set in the grounds of some Beverly Hills director’s lush home. There was a park adjacent to the museum complete with water fountains and lakes. Instead of having individual lunches, I’d convinced Ms Dash to get some catering going and we could all have a food happening (i.e. picnic) like in the old days and take photos. It would be a good excuse for everyone to talk and discuss what they saw in the gallery, I argued. Ms Dash took some convincing. She’s not a natural socializer.
   Of course, most students would be more interested in discussing their social lives than the lives of ancient movie stars immortalized forever on film and in art archives, but Ms Dash didn’t need to know that.
   It would also be a good chance for Hilary and Rafe to talk and possibly sort things out, although I was wondering if that was a good idea. I’d noticed neither of them even looked at each other as we got on the school bus. They sat separately too, and although Hilary remained loyal to me, I had to ask myself why. The dance hadn’t been anything like I’d expected it to be although most of the students and teachers labeled it a resounding success.
    But I’d moved on.
   Ms Dash and Mr Henry were chatting on the bus. My ‘teacher love match’ project was coming to fruition.
    At midday, after we’d finished the morning tour, (complete with interactive film on the history of rom-coms and spaghetti westerns), the entire group went outside.
    At lunch, Rafe and Ethan were sitting opposite us, discussing an article they’d read about a new computer game. I thought, in the interests of socialization, Hilly and I would try to join in. Hilly smiled sweetly and so did Rafe but I noticed they didn’t talk as they munched on the delicious sandwiches and fruit salad I’d organized. Students were lolling about on the manicured ground and the whole midday scene resembled one from the cafeteria – just transported to a different place.
   Yes, you guessed it, peeps were becoming a bit cliquey.
   I noticed Ms Dash glance lovingly over at Mr Henry. He was silent but gave her a slight smile. Mr Henry then got up and wandered off to nowhere. Even though I encouraged Ms Dash to change her glasses over to contacts, wear shorter skirts and paint her nails, I noticed she really hadn’t taken my advice. Her man was in danger of straying…
   I was lolling on the steps after finishing my orange, when the conversation around me was obviously lagging in general. Princesses looked bored and Ms Dash suggested we pack up to go back to school early.
    Hester groaned and so did Flynn – they both liked any excuse to stay out of ‘structured environments’ which is why I would have thought Ms Dash’s art class would have been perfect for them. So, to avoid imminent transportation, Flynn was all like, “Ms Dash, you should wait until we’ve finished our game of truth or dare – c’mon Ms Dash , we’d love it if you played too, we need an extra person.”
    Jessica got to ask the first questions.
    “Truth,” Flynn said, like his words were of national importance.
   “Let’s see… what’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?” Jessica giggled.
    “Mmm… Let’s see; Oh not dancing with Hilary and Honey at Dance Fangdango  – I still regret it.”
    Hilary looked like she believed him. It was so obvious he wasn’t sincere. Hilary looked at the picnic blanket and I blushed. It was Flynn’s turn.
    “I was thinking about asking Honey something but she’s not really talking to me so… Ms Dash, please name the silliest thing you’ve ever done… there must be something…”
    Ms Dash colored up as well. She wasn’t used to being included in student games.
    Flynn looked at me and I turned the conversation back to Ms Dash.
    I suppose all adults have regrets – some more than others in the case of Ms Dash who has clearly been let down by love if the ripped hem of her skirt and lopsided reading glasses were anything to go by – but I really should have learned to keep my mouth shut after the previous weekend.
   Instead, I opened it to deflect comment and said, “Oh, but Ms Dash will be limited as to the amount since the game requires only one stupid thing…”
   I looked around expecting laughter to greet me but no one was smiling, except Flynn.
    In retrospect, Flynn’s smile was more like a smirk, even he knew I’d made a huge social gaffe that went beyond being marked low on my next assignment. Plus, I knew, even though the downcast and humiliated look on Ms Dash’s face told me I’d been mean, that Ms Dash would never let her personal feelings interfere with her work.
    The look on my teacher’s face spelt utter humiliation.
    Ms Dash looked so upset. As she stood up she announced, “yes, Honey, I suppose you are right. All these years I’ve spent helping other people’s children when I could have been raising a family of my own, I really must seem like quite a… foolish woman.”
   Ms Dash stumbled over the last words and I realized of all the lame-o things I’d done recently, from my stupid matchmaking blog to the re-education of Ethan Knightly, this was clearly the stupidest. But not only was it stupid, my comment was mean. I was suddenly the meanest girl in the school.  One of the groups had even filmed what I said.
    Ethan took the lead and stood up. He looked really cute in the mid-afternoon sun.
   “Ms Dash,” he said, changing the subject, “I’m completely over this childish game. I’d much rather talk to you about that lesson you gave on Picasso before he went weird – could I walk with you back to the bus? Your comments are so insightful.”
   Ms Dash smiled gratefully as Ethan moved over to her side of the circle and walked back to the bus with her.
   Everyone else in the party was silent until Rafe Martin said, “Well, I’m going to go back now too. This game sucks. I’m over it.”
   Even Hilly got up, looked at me regretfully and said, ‘Um… I think I’ll go too.’
   Flynn was left smirking by my side when he returned to gather his notes.
   “Wow, good one Honey. You sounded like a real nasty piece of work. Good to see you becoming the woman you were meant to be.”
   “Thanks very much,” I said, “you can talk.”
   “Too true, Honey, but I think you’ll find society by and large far more tolerant of the inadequacies of males than females. I don’t know why; it’s just the way the world is.”
   Honestly, he was acting so superior. Flynn was way more interested in seeing me brought down a peg than giving me good advice.
   I got up, just as Ethan was stomping back up the hill.
   “I forgot my cell. C’mon, Honey, everyone is leaving.”
   At first I thought he had forgiven me but the scowl on his face said he hadn’t.
   As we walked back to the bus he started talking and wouldn’t stop. “I’m really ashamed to be your friend right now, Honey. That teacher has been your mentor since you were in grade school. She’s always talking to my cousin about how she loves teaching us and how much it means to her. You are so… so privileged and full of yourself you should set a good example, not a bad one.”
   Ethan turned away from me and I never felt more alone in my life. Honestly, it was like I was Eponine on stage before she sings On my Own; I was that alone.