Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pride and Princesses chapter three

Chapter 3

Girl History

     Now before I let you in on the game plan for boy-dating and rating, I should really give you some historical information.     

    Mouche and I met in first grade which is why, although we don’t condone the Princesses” prickly behaviour, we do understand the bond fused between them.

    There was also a subtle but competitive bond between me and Mouche.

    You can really trace the competition between us back to our first day of nursery school when Mouche turned up in the same pink-spotted smock and leggings and immediately noticed a usurper for most fashionable. We ended up having a painting competition that morning. Most of the paint landed on me and we spent the afternoon sitting in opposite “time out” corners.

     We bonded after the shared punishment. Then we found out we liked the same things (reading, painting and performing), until Mouche, who didn’t even want to be on Broadway, stole my agent. Well, I suppose you could say my agent (and his Simon Cowell accent) stole her. Anyway, it worked out for the best since Mouche and I started to attend acting auditions after Thom (pronounced Tom) saw us in a school play.

      We rarely secured the jobs from those auditions, but travelling into Los Angeles, we still managed to share a laugh and a cab ride back home. Our mothers, Mrs Mouche and Trish, took it in turns to accompany us. They were willing moms but unwilling stage mothers. We literally had to drag them along because we were legally required to have guardians. They just didn’t get the whole acting thing and were wary of their children “being exploited.” Pl-lease. We totally wanted to be exploited (because back then, we didn’t even know what the word meant).    

     That’s sort of how Mrs Mouche and my mom, Trish, met. After our Daddies ran off together they became slummy mommies and mommies who drink. Incidentally, the other neighborhood mommies were probably a lot more badly behaved than our mothers. In fact, the Sunrise Golf Club was recently revealed to be a hot bed of suburban lunchtime affairs. But Mrs Mouche and Trish were under the microscope because their men had run off together. Sunrise thrives on low-level gossip and scandal but absent fathering is no reason to brand us as the underprivileged offspring of dysfunctional parenting.

     It’s funny how you need “more” community support when something goes awry in your family but people, in our case, gave us less. It takes a village... For example, each of our fathers let our mothers know that “education was wasted on girls who would just grow up and get married like they did” – well, not quite the way they did. Our Daddies might be gay but it doesn’t mean they’re not just as chauvinistic as other men. I mean, what century are we in people, the eighteenth? However, if both our Daddies hadn’t stopped paying our school fees by the time we turned fifteen, we would not have transferred to Sunrise and junior year may never have happened as it did.

     Unfortunately, our plans for boy dating and rating were heading for dust once the Princesses arrived at Sunrise High. Although their mere presence inspired us to take notice of the way boys behaved around them, the truth is, even they were shocked by how much the boys seemed to ignore them after their initial surprise. They thought a co-ed school would be different and “the cute girls” would be worshipped by every boy who crossed their paths. But so far, they were wrong. They were being overshadowed by the newbies. 

    By the third day of the new semester, Mark and Jet made a re-appearance, late, at exactly three minutes past nine in our combined home room class.

     The Princesses were sitting in a pack towards the front and Mouche and I were sitting in the corner. I was staring through the window wondering how I’d ever get out of Sunrise when Mark brushed d past me to hand a late slip to Miss Tartt who was obviously taken with him. You could tell she thought he was good-looking by the way she fluttered her eye-lashes s. 

   “You’re late,” she said, looking up at him from beneath her spectacles. She was clearly appreciating his masculine energy when I noticed the edges of her mouth turn up in a slight smile. You could almost hear her thinking, “if only I were sixteen again...”

    Mark was quite apologetic.

    “Yes, please excuse me...Miss Tartt. I’m Mark Knightly...”

    “And you are?” She peered at Jet.

    “Jet Campbell,” Jet said affably. “We had to re-check our schedules.”

     Miss Tartt was smiling sweetly by this point. She gestured to the boys to take a seat after she’d ticked the roll.   

    Mr Sparks was team-teaching with her that morning and in the process of announcing his plans for the play of the year, an updated version of Romeo and Juliet called Rocco and Julie.

   “Oh help us all,” Mouche mouthed as she rolled her eyes and pulled her beret over her ears.

    I glanced at Mark when he wasn’t looking in our direction, wondering if I’d ever have the courage to speak to him. I also considered the possibility that in all the romantic literature Mouche and I had ever read, good intentions were surer if the boy made the first move.

   “My fellow Thespians, this is a story about true love. All the best stories are. Auditions will be held at 3pm, Thursday. I want you all there and not just the drama majors – we need the boys for extra credit please. This, our combined junior class production, is sure to be a masterpiece...”

    Jet laughed out loud.

   “Any more of that negativity and I’ll see you in detention,” Mr Sparks said pointedly. 

   Mr Sparks really believed he could improve on the original script using modern language. Since Shakespeare wasn’t around to tell him otherwise, his word was law. Mr Sparks was our combined home room teacher (and a seriously hard marker) so it paid to find a way to at least pretend to like him.

    “Phoebe Harris?” Mr Sparks called out my name as I chewed my pencil and looked outside at the fallen orange leaves. I was wondering how in the world Mouche and I could make this year the best ever before the drama of college applications and everything else took over our lives. I raised my hand and noticed Mark glancing in my direction.

    It’s true; I subsequently discovered that Mark’s late arrival on his third day as a transfer student was not his fault. His family couldn’t have been thrilled that he was attending Sunrise (he’d applied too late for any private school acceptance), but perhaps the superior tone he used when he spoke again could have been avoided. 

    “And what is your name be, Sir?” Mr Sparks said in a most theatrical manner as Mark started to leave the room.

    “Ah, Mark Knightly,” he replied, sounding ridiculously uncomfortable. Mark had a rich voice. He spoke like a boy with a lot of money who has been told a few too many times he is extra good-looking. I could tell by his tone that he was not exactly thrilled to be repeating junior year in a different time zone. He’d almost graduated high school in England where they even have a separate school for senior year.

     I had the opportunity to consider him once more in repose now that he was engaged in conversation with Mr Sparks. Mark was tall and wore his dark hair slightly long and swept across his forehead. He had cobalt blue eyes and a smile that Mouche would later describe as, “kind of dangerous.”  He also looked very embarrassed to have been singled out and ignored Mr Sparks when he asked him another question about whether he would sign up for the play. This made Mr Sparks go completely ballistic and he immediately signed up Mark to be stage manager of the new Romeo and Juliet. Mark just cringed in his seat and was the first person to escape when the bell rang.

   “He’s totally hot, what a Franco,” Teegan said as she flicked her cherry hair in my face on her way to acting class. I was yet to publicize my new phrase in The Sunrise News and already the Princesses were coining the term as their own. C’est la vie. Perhaps copying a trend really is the highest form of flattery.

    “I’m definitely going to get the lead role in this,” Tory added as she pulled down the freshly printed poster announcing the auditions for Rocco and Julie out in the hallway.

   “Just the name sounds totally sad,” Mouche said, “but we are so going to audition because I know one Princess who could do with a little competition.”

   “You said it, Mouche,” I added, under my breath.   

   “The lead role will definitely go to Tory. She is perfect for the part,” Teegan quipped, smoothing her lustrous locks.

   “Don’t be so sure,” Mouche added. “Phoebe is auditioning as well.”

    “But Tory’s been working professionally all summer,” Teegan countered. Tory looked a little bit surprised and very annoyed since I’d been the star of the HSYL freshman showcase, when all the agents from Los Angeles came to the school to see if there was anyone who would interest them. That’s kind of how Wednesday (Mouche’s baby sister) and Mouche and I signed with an agency called Thom’s Kidz (but more on him later, I promise).

   “You know everyone is invited to audition, Tory. May the best actress win!” Mouche replied.

    Tory stuck her nose in the air and checked her lipstick a third time before walking down the hall with Freya, Teegan and Brooke. That clique of juniors managed to look down on everyone and anyone and may have even convinced us all (including the teachers who they were super nice to) that they walked on air.

      At lunchtime, Brooke, spaniel curls hanging perilously close to her food, could be heard moaning over her Jell-O, “I just don’t know why there are so few hot guys in our town, even if the population is small. Mark Knightly is so cute he could start a riot around here.”

     Freya, who was flicking through the images of her pony club trip via cell, looked up and said as an afterthought, “I agree.”

     Tory smiled a big, toothy, insincere smile as she checked her gloss.

    “And... he wants to major in pre-med at Yale or Harvard,” Teegan said, crossing her Barbie legs in agreement.

    “I heard his uncle owns a huge castle in Scotland and his family harbors a very dark secret...” Tory added, tying her sweaty locks in a ponytail.

    “Shh,” Brooke said, “Mark and Jet are coming over right now.”

     The boys gave us wicked little grins.

    “Spreading the love,” Mouche said under her breath.

      Mark slid over onto one of the side tables and pulled out his study notes while Jet started playing some computer game then passed a basketball with his feet back and forth under the table towards Mark while they ate.   

     They looked over at me once when I was reading. Then, as soon as Mark and Jet had finished d eating they ran out onto the playing fields, laughing at all the performing arts girls (us) as they slid out of the room. It was as if they had their own private joke, ignoring us. Well, ignoring almost everyone. Mark walked over to speak as he left, but turned, thought better of it, then glanced at Mouche and me and walked away. Peter was walking across the courtyard at that moment giving Mouche a cheeky grin. They had arranged to rehearse some dance moves.

      “Later, Pheebs,” Mouche ran outside to greet Peter, who relayed to her a snippet of conversation he overheard as he was doing up his shoes.

     “It’s always the same for me,” Jet said, as they walked outside.

     “What do you mean?” Mark asked.

     “Always a feast or a famine.”

     “Petra thinks you’re conceited; now I know why.”

     “Your sister is kind of spacey, so I won’t take that too seriously. I mean, can I help it if a bunch of man-starved hot chicks throw themselves in my path? Have you checked out that cute little blonde girl we spoke to this morning?”

    “Not really. I’m too busy noticing we’re practically in Hicksville. All this culture is really overwhelming. I’d forgotten how much I dislike Los Angeles.” Mark said.

    “LA is not so bad. C’mon, it’s the City of Angels. Besides, what’s so great about London at 6am? Parts of the city are seriously unclean. I mean, people spit on the streets there, and worse.”

    “Yeah, I guess, but outside of Beverly Hills, we barely walk on the streets here.”

    “I love being home. I love the air and I missed the food.”

    “I guess. There’s no place like home. I’m just kind of worried about my sister. Since our parents died, my aunt and uncle have insisted on sending her to that girl’s school. I just know she’s going to hate it.”  

    “It’s kind of a bummer... your sister’s so...”

    “What? Weird?”

    “No, I was going to say, shy. Special.”

     Mark rolled his eyes. He knew Jet was being sarcastic.

     The boys had moved to the basketball court and began to shoot hoops.

     “After our parents died she stopped eating and became so introverted. I think she needs friends.”

    “From what I hear, she’s not going to find them at the Young Ladies Academy.”

     Jet shot a near perfect hoop.

    “Great, that’s what I thought.”

     Mark took over and bounced the ball, keeping it from Jet with his right palm.

     “I mean, we just saw the results. Did you see the way those girls were all “jostling each other for the last diet soda at lunch? Apparently they got expelled from The High School for Young Ladies.”

      “Shouldn’t hold that against them, we got thrown out of Loratio Academy, remember?”  “Yeah, but those women are vicious, man. If you’re considering introducing them to Petra, I’d think again. The Queen Bee...”

     “Which one’s that?” Mark was yet to learn girl-speak and found the language faintly irritating.

     “I think her name’s Teegan.”

     “Oh,” Mark said contemplatively.

     “Like I said, I’d think again...”

      Peter continued, “then the newbies went back to the basketball court; more physicality, less conversation. Guys are comfortable relating via sporting analogies. Jet was probably shocked that Mark had even mentioned his sister. Men don’t reveal their emotions easily...” Peter told us dramatically, I’d joined them both outside and listened intently.

      Mouche was taking it all in.

     “Thanks Peter. Your take on the situation has been enlightening...” Mouche said as she jotted down a few notes to expand her love theories later. 

      I looked around at a bunch of students weaving through the courtyard.

     “Are all of these students going to grow up to become adults and what will they take with them into the big wide world?” I mused quietly.

     “The same bigoted, self-centered personalities they’ve displayed here,” Peter said.

      Mouche smiled. I laughed in agreement. It seemed most of the sixteen year olds I knew had personalities designed to last a lifetime. They certainly hadn’t changed in the twelve months I’d known them - some of them hadn’t changed since first grade.

       Last year we’d heard snippets of love conversation flying past us in the halls. That was when we were the semi-anonymous newbies and nobody seemed to care if we heard their scurrilous talk.

    Boy talk.

    “Didn’t those two hook up?”

    “Yeah, that’s what I heard”

    “So, did he get some?”

    “Yeah, I think so.”

    “The new student teacher is totally hot...”

     Ah, hello, the new student teacher is male but drama boys can always be relied upon to be somewhat artistic in their choices.

    “Did he get some? The new student teacher? Are they dreaming? I mean, there’s romance combined with delusion for you there, right there.” Mouche said.

    “Obviously, we are focused on our career plans with good reason.” I replied.

    There’s also another reason. When we first arrived for sophomore year, our cousins, Ella and Katie (who are slightly younger than us) had been here since freshman year. They’re not our besties but we are still blood relations and that means something. Our cousins were actually asked out on a sort-of double date with Alex Miller and one of his friends, Tom Allen.

    Prior to last year, we’d never really spent much time with our cousins. Ella and Katie (who’d started to call themselves Elle and Kate) preferred to hang out with each other which suited Mouche and me because they were super-giggly and boy-crazy. Not so boy-crazy that they’d do anything illegal in the back of the Sunrise bowling alley, though.

    The day after their ‘big date’ my cousin Ella and Mouche’s  cousin Katie told us that Alex and Tom spent most of the evening trying to outdo each other and Tom even “forgot” his wallet and made them pay for everything.

     Ella continued, “Then, after ignoring us for an hour and conversing with each other, they tried to get on us in their car so Katie and I mutually decided to end the ‘date.’ The girls had been learning karate and had apparently had to get tough with those badly behaved boastful pre-men.

     “So I guess you could say we double dated at the bowling alley. It was kind of fun, but not as much fun as Alex Miller and Tom Allen say they’d had.” Katie added.

      We were surprised to learn via the Alex-Allen web site that “hanging out” with Ella and Katie had evolved into a full on scandal the following week. Even the Princesses got to add their ten cents worth. Ella and Katie had morphed from nice to seriously heinous and slutty. Then, because the words of males seemed to hold more value than the words of females, the students in general believed the boy’s version of the story.

    “People need to learn a lesson,” Mouche mused, “a lesson in social etiquette.”

    “And we are just the ones to teach them,” I realized. We wanted to challenge ourselves to motivate these pre-men and women; to interest them in the romantic trysts of another era; without them realizing they were part of our game - a game we could turn into fun with quotes and helpful hints and even a treasure hunt.

     That’s how the plan for the Boy-Rating Diaries came into existence and was ultimately turned into a dare. 

    Mouche once said, “Sometimes I think we belong in a Jane Austen film or a Bronte novel.  When I was little, like twelve, I thought my first great love affair would be exactly like Wuthering Heights.”

    “Except you don’t need to die at the end,” I replied. 

    “Of course not,” Mouche said, “but not all the best stories have happy endings.”