Sunday, August 18, 2013

POPULAR (chapter fifteen: Shop till you drop)

Chapter Fifteen
Shop Till You Drop
The next day, we were all due to meet Flynn at the mall to go shopping.
    Hilary and I got to our meeting place (a busy cafĂ©) early, because I wanted to stress the importance of table manners to Hilary who looked a bit stressed out. I couldn’t blame her, really, with so many guys after her. Ty and Jess arrived also and we all talked about TV, shops, Dance Fangdango,  who we’d take (I announced that being head of the committee made it perfectly acceptable for me to attend alone – since I was in charge of being social). Other peeps who turned up without a partner, well, I couldn’t be responsible for the way high school society would judge them. Jess gawked at me and even kicked me slightly under the table when I expressed that sentiment.
   The Sunrise Mall is a bit like a mix between Farmer’s Markets and Century City. It’s way exclusive and new and only locals like us congregate there.
   Daddy doesn’t go shopping, of course. I do. I have a list with all sorts of healthy food stuffs on it. I intend to purchase the food at the organic market before it closes. I make a mental note then put my ring on the wrong finger to remind me. That’s what I always do to remind myself of stuff I might forget.
   My ring is a small pink stone that Ethan picked out for me when I was turning eleven and he was turning twelve. It’s so cute but I happen to know Mark helped him choose it.
    I remember saying, “it’s totally inappropriate to give a girl a ring unless you’re getting married to her,” and he just said, “well, I didn’t choose it and I wasn’t going to get you anything so take it up with my cousin.” Mark just laughed at our childish ‘spat’ as he put it and said, “take it up with the shop assistant, she thought it was a good choice.” 
   Of course, I didn’t believe the ring had no meaning. Even then, I wanted him to divulge his true intentions but he wouldn’t. I guess it’s hard to have true intentions at almost twelve.
   At the mall, Hilary was doing so well socially, holding fort and talking to the older Princesses. I was very proud of her.
    After drinking our milkshakes, we all went our separate ways to go shopping.
    We had arranged to meet Flynn outside my fave fashion store Girls Zen Now which Mrs Teegan co-owns. She used to model for Teen Vogue. We get an awesome discount and there are so many items to choose from that we never double up on the same styles. Mrs Tory (co-owner) keeps a record of who in our group bought what, where and how they are going to wear a particular item. I double up on my laptop just to be safe and add it to my matchmaking file. Mrs Teegan and Mrs Tory (those are actually their first names, I just add the Mrs to be polite) often shake their heads at my behavior. I have no idea why.
   I nudged Hilly when Flynn arrived. He was wearing hot jeans and cool sunglasses. He could teach Ethan and Rafe a thing or two about style, I thought. He was so excited to see Hilly he was all, ‘hi ya babe,’ n’ all that. He was very busy on his phone though, as we went about trying on dresses but way attentive when we modeled them. His eyes lit up when I said I was trying on Hilly’s dress as an alternate because I’d already chosen mine. It was as if just the mention of Hilary’s name turned on a light bulb inside him.
   Then, when Hilary was in the changing room, he gestured to me to come closer.
   “Hey babe, gotta show you something.”
   I knew he was going to show me the image of the framed photo of Hilly, so I walked close. Flynn was all smiles and charm as he pecked me on the cheek and said, “check this out.”
   The photo looked amazing.
   “Wow,” I said. “You should surprise Hilly, she looks amazing.”
  “I didn’t have it framed for Hilary. You took the photograph. You’re an amazing photographer, Honey. You shouldn’t underestimate yourself so much.”
   “Oh, sure. Thanks.”
   Was he kidding? No one had ever accused me of underestimating myself. Of course it was true that my photo was aces even if someone’s hand was slightly cropped, but what about the image of Hilly?    
  To be honest, I was a little bothered that he hadn’t asked my advice about how best to ask Hilary to Dance Fangdango, but I reasoned that he was just a seasoned expert and probably didn’t need my advice with women. These things are hard to admit but occasionally true. 
   Then it occurred to me as Hilary struggled with her fashion choices in the change room, that Flynn was staring… at me. Actually, he was staring at my chest. Doesn’t it annoy you when boys do that?
  “My eyes are up here,” I reminded him. 
  He averted his gaze and smiled.  
  Then I realized.
   Flynn liked… me! Of course. How stupid could I have been? I froze as he took my hand. 
   “I got the photo framed ‘cos you took it, not because Hilary is in it.”
   “But that’s impossible, you’re supposed to like Hilary not… me.”
   Flynn laughed.
   “I do like Hilary, totally, she’s your… project and you’ve done… amazing work with her. I mean, I think I could probs just snap my fingers and bam… she’d be in my bed yesterday but babe, you are totally the one for me.”
   Uh, how gross! Yet another egotist. How could I have been so dense? He continued, “I mean, I told everyone we are going to the vamp dance together. You should smile. You are one lucky girl.” He actually touched the dimple on my cheek in that moment. I was not smiling when I spoke.  
   I brushed his hand away.
   “Uh, how could you? You know I’m practically in charge of prom and matchmaking is my hobby and…I can’t take anyone. Besides, you seemed so into Hilary.”
   Flynn laughed. “Only to impress you. You and me – that’s hot. Me and Hilary? That’s not. Have you seen where she lives? The car her dad drives?” Flynn shrugged and changed the subject, “So, you coming to the Fangdango Dance Party with me or what?”
   Fixing a serious social gaffe is never impossible, is it?
  “Flynn,” I whispered, trying to see in him the man I’d thought he was just ten minutes ago, “I’m going with myself – I’m in charge, remember?”
   “Oh, yeah, right. So, change the rules.”
   “I can’t. You should totally take Hills… she’s expecting you to ask her.”
  “Are you crazy? Socially, Hilary is a zero. Without you, babe, she’d be nobody. ”
   I was taken aback.
   I had no idea Flynn was such an elitist person. Mr I think so Highly of Myself I Make all Girls swoon. Arghh!  Flynn Elton was a snob, plain and simple. Anyone with real class would never be a snob. Did my association with him make me the same?
   Exasperated, I stomped my foot and headed back to the changing rooms. After I got out of my clothes and into my jeans, I dragged an unsuspecting Hilary out of there. We made quick purchases of our chosen dresses (Hilary’s was pink and mine was blue) with Daddy’s credit card – it was the least I could offer, and left the store.  Flynn was still talking on speaker phone like he was the most important person in the world.
   Turns out he was talking to his Dad.
   “Hey,” he called out to me as I was walking out the door, “I only asked you out because my Dad wants to do business with your Dad – he told me to make friends with you so don’t think you’re so special Miss Fancy Pants! I already have Keesha on direct dial… and she’s way hotter than you. Plus, she puts out.”
    Don’t you hate it when boys who don’t get what they want feel the need to put you down and try to make you feel worthless?
   Miss Fancy Pants? He had to be kidding as well as insulting. It occurred to me how wrong was I? Flynn might be hot but he was not chivalrous in any way. He was not polite or even funny. He was not respectful and he was definitely not kind. Suddenly he didn’t seem anything like the man I thought I knew.   
   “What is he talking about?” Hilary asked me as we walked along the pavement.
   I had to hold back tears. I was so frustrated, so stupidly socially inept. So… wrong. The only thing left to do was to come clean.
   I stopped walking and turned to her on the pavement, “I’m so sorry Hilary.”
  “What do you mean?”
   “I’ve been so… misled.”
   “Did you send the letter to Rafe?”
   “I did what you told me to do.”
   I shook my head and told her the story.
   “Flynn Elton is not who I thought he was.”
   I elaborated and Hilly sniffed a little and wiped her eyes at the end. 
   Then, she did something unexpected. Hilary smiled and gave me a hug. She was a true friend. A better friend than I had been, even if I’d meant well.
    “C’mon,” Hilary said, “Let’s go get cookie dough and caramel ice-cream. That makes everything better.”
   Afterwards, we sat eating our cones on the sidewalk waiting for our ride, looking seriously dejected. Even our skirts and tops were a little crumpled in the unseasonably humid atmosphere.
  “Never mind,” Hilary said. “At least I still have your friendship and that has meant so much to me, Honey. You couldn’t imagine.”
   I could. If only she knew the extent of my interference. Hilary was such a good person, so true and kind. I had to put this situation back on track.
   But how?
   I’d make Dance Fangdango the best dance ever regardless of dates or non-dates.
   We hugged. I didn’t deserve her forgiveness but she gave it to me anyway. I knew Hilary was a special person. At least Ethan was wrong about that.