Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pride and Princesses Apologies and Whispers chapter 14

Chapter 14

Apologies and Whispers

    The year was half over. Mouche and I had not really been on any successful dates, and the treasure chest prizes all came about in unexpected ways. We didn’t mind. The ‘treasure’ was all part of the game. We stopped being so strict about how we obtained the items, which resulted in multiple sweaters and pens hoarded in a spare locker awaiting transfer to the real chest in Mouche’s room. We could sort out what we needed at a later date. I hand washed, dried and ironed the black sweater and sewed a row of sparkling sequins around the edge. It would be perfect for New York. 

    When we arrived back at school the following Monday it seemed obvious that Jet had hooked up with Teegan after we left. We also noticed Tory had her hand hooked firmly into the pocket of Mark’s jeans as they all walked down the hallway together.

   ‘Men can be dogs,’ Mouche whispered.

    I ignored the foursome, but I felt Mark’s stare in the small of my back as Mouche and I walked past them. 

   ‘Hey, Phoebe...’ Mark said as I passed him, trying to disassociate himself from Tory.

    Mark tried to talk to me again during study hall and then at rehearsals but I ignored him. Later, we had dance rehearsal for the part of the play with the musical interlude. I was huddled in the corner of the theatre.

    ‘Now I’d like Phoebe to hold hands with...Mark, can you stand in for Peter?’

    ‘Help me,’ I said under my breath when Mr Sparks tried to pair us up. I stood about as far away from Mark as possible. I looked in his direction only when I couldn’t avoid it.

    Exasperated, Mr Sparks declared, ‘I have an announcement to make. Since Peter injured his foot on the weekend, Mark will stand in for him at rehearsals. He should be fine in a few days.’

    I groaned inwardly. Mark had gone from hero to zero all in the space of a week, in my opinion. A tiny bit of Mouche’s pragmatism had entered my world. It was like I couldn’t be light-hearted anymore.

    ‘I may have had my pride badly injured but I am determined not to let the seriously haughty Mark Knightly get to me,’ I told Mouche.

    ‘Mark’s behaviour puts them both under the microscope,’ Mouche said, glancing at Jet.

    We rehearsed scene three, then during the dance number, Mr Sparks tried to make us touch hands again.

     ‘Enough already!’ I announced, stealing Mouche’s favourite line. I broke away from Mark. Peter barked, ‘stop’ to Ethan Mandel in his stage manager voice, giving the order from a chair to start again. I sighed and even Mark noticed (how could he miss) that I was so over him.

    ‘There is no way I am dancing with the understudy,’ I said loudly to Mouche after Mr Sparks decided Mark and I should dance together since he was the only one left over (Mark had been hiding out in the lighting box trying to avoid his understudy duties). He towered over me, like I told you, and it was easy to avoid his eyes.

     ‘There is nothing in the world that could inspire me to touch his hand,’ I added in a hoarse whisper. ‘In fact, I’d rather not be in the dance number at all.’

      Besides, I had my soliloquy to practice and there was no way he was going to succeed in putting me off my lines.

     ‘Drama queen,’ Mr Sparks added under his breath, ‘while Miss Phoebe-the-Star has her own personal tantrum we’ll just continue with Act Two and come back to the dance scene tomorrow – oh and you two are definitely partners. The tension will create chemistry. You’ll just have to find a way to stop acting like children, start acting like young adults and make it work. Remember, it’s for extra credit.’

    ‘And Mouche, you have to at least pretend you like Jet in the dance sequence.  The play is the thing, Mouche. What will Julliard say if I write on your transcripts, ‘not a team player?’

    ‘I’m going to NYU or Yale, Mr Sparks.’

     Mr Sparks looked surprised.

     ‘But Mouche, you might waste your talent. You have a God-given gift.’

     ‘I’m going to be a lawyer, Mr Sparks. I want to help people and earn lots of money.’

     ‘Ah the evils of finance!’

      Mr Sparks had a point, though - blackmail. It usually worked.

      Mark was looking very sheepish by now. I wondered when he’d grow up to behave like a man and have something to say for himself. Perhaps my expectations had been too high all along.  

     Then Jet started flirting with Mouche without her realizing it and meanwhile Teegan flirted with Mark without knowing she probably shouldn’t be if she wanted his undying devotion. I stood my ground. When Mr Sparks called ‘ten minutes everybody,’ I left the room to find Joel. I think I needed a distraction. 


    Joel was in study hall when we were in rehearsal and we found reasons to meet up more than usual now. Was it possible we’d even started to become friends? He’d started talking to me a lot more ever since the night he dropped Mouche and me home. Suddenly the prospect of dating him seemed tempting. So, when he texted me to meet up with him for ‘a mental health break’, I was kind of glad. I didn’t even mind being texted at the last minute since we weren’t dating and I wanted an excuse to avoid the peeps at rehearsal. Plus, Mouche was working on costumes.

     Thoughts of teenage romance were superseded by the possibility of our friendship. I studied Joel as he walked towards me carrying his guitar. Would dating a true man-slut ever really be a good idea? It seemed like our friendship was doomed from the start. I know what Mrs Jones would say: ‘men and women can never be friends; the possibility of romance always gets in the way. Avoid Romeos like the plague. Man-sluts will always play the field and one woman will never be enough to satisfy their lust for female attention and popularity...’

     ‘Hey Joel.’

     ‘Hey, Phoebe,’ he said casually when we met up at the intersection of school hallways.

      Words were unnecessary. Joel was on a break from detention again and I was obviously not enjoying rehearsal.  I was impressed with his musical interests, though. He’d just released a single on his website but was too cool to ever appear in the school play.

      We sat together near the vending machine while Joel tuned his guitar and ninth graders stopped to shyly ask him for his autograph. After they left, we considered silently where the day had taken us. Before Joel finished his drink, he gave me a suggestive little grin and said, ‘okay, gotta motor, see ya later...’

      I put Joel out of my mind and began thinking about Mark as I wandered back to the auditorium. I felt like I needed to lick my wounds and take a break from the game. Even if Mark and I were never meant to be, I was glad to finally be standing up for myself, going with the moment, so to speak. I’d previously stood off stage in my own shadow.  If Mark hadn’t dissed me, I’d never have possessed the courage to disrespect him in public. But then, I’d never have needed to. I was beginning to enjoy annoying him. Just mentioning Joel’s name seemed to make Mark flinch.

     Before I left rehearsals that day, he came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t know you were friends with Joel Goodman.’

   ‘Well, I tutor him,’ I said hesitantly, ‘not that it’s any of your business.’ I was so angry I’d spoken to him directly but he caught me unawares. I thought Mark deserved the silent treatment a little longer but he had forced my hand.


   ‘Besides, it’s nothing to you how I spend my after-rehearsal hours.’

   ‘I know, I didn’t mean anything by my comments. It’s just that I don’t think he...’

    ‘He’s already told me about you and what your family did to him. You really don’t need to elaborate.’

     I turned and flounced off leaving Mark totally gobsmacked.


    So that was the state of our boy-rating plan by November, the month of the play. Teegan and Freya and Brooke and Tory had been hunting around open lockers and portals of blogs and discarded pages of The Sunrise News (ones that they’d even contributed to) searching for the missing parts of a puzzle they felt sure were somehow important to them, but they couldn’t quite put all the pieces together. They’d noticed we dressed sharply and boys talked a lot more to us, boys they’d once envisaged being more interested in them. 

    They had confronted us recently inside the girl’s changing rooms.

    ‘We need to talk,’ Teegan said. ‘Soon.’

    ‘We’ll schedule a meeting,’ Mouche said. ‘How’s next week?’



     Teegan had no idea what we had in mind. 

    ‘Better to keep them wondering for as long as it takes us to decide exactly how to play this,’ Mouche said.

      Our dating diary was filled with all the tiny mishaps and possibilities of the previous months. We didn’t want to let them know more than was necessary. 

     Way back at the beginning, we counted the note from rehearsal week one as a love letter. And we included the diagram of a movie set. Matt sketched it on a script at my audition (I found it discarded in the wastepaper basket) along with the word Star. We included it because the little house made of squares and circles and triangles and a few scribbles was meant to represent the ocean at Venice Beach where he was telling the other casting assistant he once lived. We think that vision is one we aspire to even if dating Matt never really happened.    Star is a word that we love and the beach is a place we both like. So you could say we’ve learnt to take the good from every mishap; and write it all down. We can learn from it.

    Of course it had been a busy time, what with Mouche studying and working on the costumes for Rocco and Julie and her dancing perfection. Meanwhile, Mark noticed neither of us were very friendly towards him. Though he was once on top of our list, he was now at the bottom, especially as he appeared to be letting Teegan (who was all over him like a rash) flirt with him. But we could have told her she’d have problems reeling in the catch. Teegan was pawing his arm, fawning over him and making him ‘special’ lunches, but you could tell it was just making him more uncomfortable.  

     Jet was busy ignoring Mouche after she stopped talking to him because Mark had insulted her friend (me) which was very loyal of her. ‘Besides,’ Mouche said, ‘I’ve totally moved on.’

     And her dancing? It was spectacular! I caught Mark watching us both practice our solos from backstage, with more than a spark of interest.

    Then there were Mouche’s designs for the play which were so gorgeous even Ethan Mandel commented on their gloriousness. Maybe that’s because I’d caught him trying to kiss Mouche behind the stage curtains one afternoon. Love had given him extra incentive to be sweeter and more enthusiastic.

     Mouche got some ideas for the play the day we took Wednesday to the local vintage store for research on the costumes of the punk era. We also went online. There were some amazing photographs of punks and clothes from the 80s all over the web. We also had the Trish and Mrs Mouche family photograph albums for historical reference. Mrs Mouche’s family were from the South originally and full of old Southern traditions. For example, manners were big way back then and being ‘ladylike’ was held in high regard. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ were important words. Perhaps some of the boys could learn that – especially Mark. Our mothers held tea parties when they were our age instead of nasty girl gossip fests. All very civilized.

     Our moms told us, ‘we could never discuss anything with our mothers, we are so lucky we have you girls for advice, to set us straight.’

     Wednesday clapped her hands in approval, ‘wet us wait,’ she repeated in her cute baby voice.

     Someone else who needed to be set straight was Mark, but it seemed the opposite was occurring.

     Although the scheduled meeting with the Princesses had distracted us, it was with sheer disbelief that I discovered a note from Mark one day in my locker.

     ‘What took him so long?’ Mouche asked.

      It was, I suppose, a letter of apology because Mouche had told Tory who’d told Jet who’d told Teegan who’d told Mark that I was ignoring him because I’d heard him dissing me at the Fall Fling. I promptly stuck the note in the glory box guide, after passing it to Mouche to read.

    The letter was surprisingly humble. It read:


Dear Phoebe

    I just wanted to write to say I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings at the Fall Fling. I was having a bad evening. I was worried about my sister, Petra, and I said some things I shouldn’t have. I didn’t want people to think I liked you. For what it’s worth, I think you are a really good actress and perhaps it is me who is lacking in social etiquette, not you.

 My apologies

 Mark Knightly


      ‘Mmm. Quite the backhanded apology.’ Mouche said, obviously shocked.

      He, ‘didn’t want people to think he liked me?’ What was wrong with liking me? I wondered.

      ‘What an arrogant nightmare. I’m glad to be rid of him.’ I said.

      ‘Still, it was quite unexpected. From another era even,’ Mouche replied.

      ‘Perhaps the Neolithic one,’ I added.

       I stuck the note straight in the Boy-Rating Diary under the heading Phoebe’s love letters. Pleased with my work, I highlighted the headings with glitter glue, ‘I think that almost counts, don’t you?’

     Mouche laughed and said, ‘I think it’s kind of beautiful; an apology, even if it was poorly worded. Maybe we’re too young to have hearts of stone.’

     Meanwhile, the hole in the brick wall between our houses had grown bigger because our locker was one third full and our little treasure chest was filling up with items and secrets.

     For a week or so, the dating game took a back seat as study and school life and the general business that became a game of dodging Princesses (before the meeting) took over.  Mouche and I, after our initial surge in popularity, struggled with how to proceed. 

     We had a page about all the boys on our list, and had put off the ‘secret meeting’ with the Princesses for as long as possible.

     Trish and Mrs Mouche’s first post-break-up dates were successful enough to encourage them to start dating properly again, but nothing memorable had happened for them in the form of love letters, or anything else (except dinners).

    In the meantime, both of our moms were on vacation for a week and during that time they threw themselves into self-care (manicures, hairdressers, deep tissue massages) and mothering which we admired.

    Trish began to cook again using her mother’s recipes. Together we had mother / daughter meals which were both memorable and delicious. Mrs Mouche even invited Martin around to share in the meal as a return for the night he took her bowling and let her win. He had a son named Eli as it turned out who was two years younger than me and very studious. Eli seemed quite interested in being friends which was flattering, but he was too young to date, although quite the reader. In fact most of the boys on our list at Sunrise were such a mismatch for me, that I started wondering what it would be like to properly date Joel or Ethan or even Mark; the guys I’d initially been attracted to but who for obvious reasons, hadn’t really worked out thus far.        

     Meanwhile, Mrs Mouche was dating an accountant from her work whom she’d decided was, ‘boring boring boring, but at least he’s teaching me how to organise my taxes.’

     *Note to self: men who teach you something useful...especially about money and boy stuff (ie. mechanics) are good to know (because a lot of women don’t know as much as they should and being unknowledgeable about money and cars leaves you open to financial abuse....). That is a direct quote from Mrs Mouche.

       In any case, work and socializing were keeping our mommies who drink very busy these days. We were also indulging in a social whirl. Our moms were too pre-occupied to check up on us which was perfect because we hadn’t really refined our dating game properly; and the best was definitely yet to come.