Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Pride and Princesses The Fall Fling chapter 13
The Fall Fling
We decided to get ready at Mouche’s place. That night, my mom had arranged to have dinner with Mouche’s mom and their next door neighbours on either side; a ‘younger man’ theology student and a builder who has recently separated from his wife and ‘needed some cheering up.’ All the adults planned to play word and card games for dessert.
‘Well, I hope you don’t get the wrong idea and start playing strip poker or something,’ Mouche warned her mother, ‘and if you do, make sure Wednesday is safely tucked up in bed.’
‘Yes, darling.’ Mrs Mouche replied wearily.
Since her mother had taken to socializing, Mouche had taken to answering the phone at midnight (when Mrs Mouche’s recently separated friends would ring for ‘desperation chats’) and say, ‘hello, this is Mrs Mouche’s brothel,’ which Mrs Mouche did not think was funny at all.
Trey was at college during the semester and only came home to visit on weekends. Thankfully, he seemed to have forgotten all about my retrospectively juvenile attempt to chat him up. He’d taken to ignoring me or being jokey in an offhand way. I must admit the fact that I asked where he was and Mouche gave me a knowing glance made me realize I might actually have feelings for Trey...as well as Mark and maybe, help me, even Joel? I was becoming a hussy in my own mind.
Mouche was formulating another plan as she pulled out the diary notes which were now stowed under her canopied bed, when they weren’t with me for updates.
‘Teegan is totally onto us. I’ve managed to distract her for the evening but only because I suggested we all form a group table so the Princesses can get some attention from Mark and Jet.’
‘Oh, please, I thought this was supposed to be our date.’
‘Well, it was, but a group date is by its very nature, open for negotiation. I really don’t want her to tell everyone we’ve formed a secret dating society that has a list of rules for manipulating boys. That would totally wreck the plan. Maybe we should start pretending we actually like the Princesses tonight – it might be a better strategy.’
‘Uh, okay,’ I said pulling out an issue of Teen Vogue and flicking through an article on the latest reality TV drama.
‘I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next season.’
‘Me either, I so don’t think it’s set up.’
‘No way...at least I hope not. I think they should definitely do a spin off...’
‘I hope they keep filming until they all finish college and get married...’
‘That’d be good.’
I’m trying on shoes when Mrs Mouche brings us in snacks on a tray.
‘ That show seems so addictive, girls...’ Mrs Mouche commented with a raised eyebrow. ‘Here you are...’
Mrs Mouche makes the most delicious party food. It’s like food her mom used to make. She’s brought in an orange with toothpicks stuck all over it and on the end of the toothpicks are delicious cheeses and sausage and pickles – very grown up - and a bowl of chips and another of carrot sticks (‘for vitamins, girls’). To top it all off she brought in her famous banana smoothies with nutmeg and vanilla, ‘just because I don’t like you girls going out without food in your stomachs. It’s not a good idea...’
Mrs Mouche is subtly warning us about the perils of social drinking and roofies. We are all like, ‘you so don’t have to worry about us...’
‘Good’, Mrs Mouche says, looking slightly worried.
I have chosen the blue satin dress that ends just above my knees and blue satin strappy sandals. Mouche is wearing a pink vintage dress with delicate lace sleeves. Oh, plus ankle boots.
‘You look weely nice,’ Wednesday says. ‘I want to come too.’ She’s wearing her fairy wings and gold antennae.
‘No,’ Mouche says, ‘you get to stay here with mom.’
‘C’mon, darling, time for bed,’ Mrs Mouche says, as the doorbell rings and Wednesday starts having a tantrum until Mrs Mouche promises to read her her favourite bedtime story again.
Mouche opens the door and it’s Trey, home early, who introduces Martin.
‘Hi girls, this is Martin. He’s studying to be a priest...’
It’s the theologian from next door. Perhaps he’s coming over to make an honest woman of Mrs Mouche. Don’t you just hate that phrase? ‘How about making an honest man out of the bastard who knocked her up and left her?’ Mouche once stated matter-of-factly.
‘Hello girls,’ Martin says, as we open the door. Mrs Mouche is tucking Wednesday in upstairs.
‘So’, Mouche says, ‘are you training to be one of those priests who can’t get married?’
Martin (that was his name) laughed heartily. He seemed to glow with the genuine joy of one who has found God.
‘Oh, your mother said you were a character.’
Mouche looked at me and rolled her eyes as if to say, you see what I have to put up with?
‘And where are you both off to tonight?’ Martin asked politely.
‘The Fall Fling,’ I say helpfully.
‘And what is that, exactly?’
‘Well, it’s like a dance held part-way through the year to prepare us for the actual prom...’
‘Oh, that sounds like fun...’ Martin smiled enthusiastically.
Suddenly a Mercedes pulled up outside Mouche’s house and the boys got out.
‘Jet is dressed in a very funky suit - maybe it’s European. Mark looks more formal. He’s even wearing a tie,’ Mouche said.
There was a knock and after we raced down the stairs, Mouche opened the door. Mark looked straight at me then at my mother. Mrs Mouche walked down the stairs in her ‘dinner party’ dress – a floor length cotton sundress with billowy sleeves and Indian print that her mother wore to ‘entertain guests’ in the 1980s.
‘Wow’, Martin said, ‘you look really hot.’
Raising an eyebrow, Trey excused himself to go upstairs and study. Meanwhile, Mouche looked a little apprehensive as Mark and Jet hovered at the door.
‘Hello boys,’ Mrs Mouche said. At this point Trish, my mom, arrived with her dinner ‘date’ and Mouche and I realized this was the right time to make a getaway. Mark had barely looked at me, again, but Jet said appreciatively, ‘you both look really nice.’ He’s going to be the mother’s favourite - I could just tell.
Mark was behaving like the ‘strong, silent and socially uncomfortable type’ in family situations. He’d give me something to write up in the dating guide, that’s for sure.
Mrs Mouche pulled me aside, ‘sweetie, I thought this was a group event.’
‘Oh, it is Mrs Mouche. We are all sharing a table with some other juniors.’ I think Mrs Mouche can sense Mark is dangerous.
‘Mmm...well, he certainly is good-looking,’ she whispered disapprovingly. ‘Now make sure you are both home by 10.30pm.’
‘Can we make it 11pm, just this once?’
‘No, I remain firm on that.’
My mother was very particular about curfews whereas Mrs Mouche usually trusted that Mouche would come home when she was ready and text her if she was not. But not tonight.
Mark still hadn’t said a word.
He didn’t look very impressed by the surroundings. He was actually fidgeting when we moved to the door.
Mouche stated the obvious and said, ‘you both look like gangsters.’
I forgot to mention the post-prom party at Jet’s has a gangster theme; gangsters as in 1920’s gangsters. I thought it was cool that the boys bothered to pick us up, even though Mouche insisted upon it and it was in the dating rules.
‘It’s really the kind of thing a girl should expect, not be thankful for,’ Mouche stated, quoting Mrs Jones again.
You could tell they’d taken the gangster thing seriously because there were sawn off toy shotguns on the back seat and when Mrs Mouche saw them she must have looked alarmed because Jet said, ‘oh don’t worry, they’re fake.’
Then Trish came over and said, ‘boys, you just can’t go around like that. Anyone might think you were packing a - what do they call it in those crime shows?’
‘Packing a piece?’ Jet said, helpfully.
‘Yes, packing a piece.’
The boys loaded the toys into the trunk of the car.
‘That’s better,’ my mother said.
Martin came out and took photographs which made Mouche and I want to cringe and Mark was looking seriously uncomfortable when he leaned on the porch and a piece of panelling fell off the surrounding fence.
Then the dog from a neighbour’s backyard escaped, ran wild, started barking and nearly savaged Jet. Suddenly Wednesday felt it timely to attempt cartwheels on the front porch even though she was supposed to be in bed – she didn’t seem to be bothered about showing off her cartoon character underwear but I didn’t think it was at all appropriate. And then Ella and Katie arrived with their mothers and their dates. The cousins started giggling and chewing gum. It was wildly embarrassing as they all waved goodbye to us when we walked to the car. Mark glared at me as if I was pure trailer trash.
Jet was smiling and still his good-natured self. And I may have imagined it, especially since both our moms were treating Jet and Mark like princes, but Mark actually looked bored when we got into the car. Or was it worried? Either way, this really annoyed me. I thought even Joel might have had a sense of humor about the whole thing and I wished he’d invited me instead.
Mark saving my life in the alley, was no reason to feel indebted, forever. Besides, he’d hardly spoken to me tonight and I wasn’t responding well to being ignored. I wondered if, realistically, I was at all suited to the strong and silent type. Still, I was pleased to see he’d made an effort. His hair was extra shiny and his shirt freshly ironed. I wondered if he had a housekeeper because I couldn’t imagine him doing menial tasks himself.
Jet kept trying to touch Mouche’s knees in the car and was attempting to play footsie with me which I found pretty immature. Mark sat still, making little effort to converse and staring out the window. Meanwhile, I was adjusting my corsage, an old fashioned touch which Mouche and I had been presented with upon the boys’ arrival. The corsage was a timeless romantic teen motif and we were secretly thrilled at the complimentary colour scheme of our peonies. Jet swigged something out of his flask and Mouche looked at me as if to say, ‘this is going to be a long evening.’
When we arrived at the school gym, the Princesses were taking turns to hand out punch. We knew we all had to put in an appearance for at least an hour at the dance, then we could head to the post dance party at Jet’s mansion.
Now it was true that Mark looked quite cute in repose, wearing his gangster’s suit, but he hadn’t said a word to me all evening. The silence was beginning to seriously annoy me since half the night was already over. Playing cool certainly wasn’t getting the desired response. Then Jet spiked his own punch and pulled his jacket off and dragged Mouche with him onto the stage. The band played hits from previous decades. My toe started to tap on the dance floor. My date appeared to be unaware of my presence.
Meanwhile, Teegan, who was wearing the latest designer rip-off from the famous Sunrise store, Fake, put down her glass of punch and walked boldly up to Mark, who seemed busy ignoring me and texting on his cell, and said, ‘hi Mark. Do you want to dance?’
‘Um...I don’t really dance,’ he replied in a very uptight, distracted way. One of the decorations fell from the imagined sky as he spoke and a little piece of tin foil streamer played in Teegan’s hair, irritating her more than the rebuff.
Teegan blew the foil off her face and fronted Mark squarely. She looked defeated but tried once again, ‘uh, okay, but why don’t we make an exception to that rule? I could teach you.’
‘No thank you,’ he said, and walked off, brushing past me in the process. He didn’t even ask me if I wanted a drink, although the queue was long and I was totally parched. And though men were few, men who were taller than girls were even fewer, so when Teegan mimed to me, ‘we-eird-o!’ I found myself grudgingly in agreement.
‘Mark was standing about a metre in front of me texting someone, I’m not sure who. Probably his girlfriend back in England or wherever,’ I told Mouche later.
‘Ru-ude,’ Mouche agreed.
I danced with Joel who’d arrived with two girls, dressed as gangster’s molls wearing drop-waisted dresses with tassels on the hems. Joel walked up to me and took my hand. We had about five minutes on the dance floor until the music became so wild that Joel and his girlfriends (whom I happen to know also ‘tutor’ him, that is, do his homework on alternate days) kind of joined in until there was very little space left on the dance floor for me anyway, so I walked off.
Brooke was standing on the sidelines, looking uncharacteristically alone at the punch bowl. She had her curls tied in a bow at the side of her face and her nails freshly painted a fluorescent shade of pink. I wandered over to finally get something to drink.
‘Mmm...’ Brooke sighed, ‘Mark is so cute. I wonder if he likes spiked punch...’
Mark had finished texting at this point but was still busy ignoring me.
Jet had stopped dancing with Mouche and was walking towards the punch table to get his flappers a drink. It looked for the entire world like an old-fashioned 1920’s dance, piquing my imagination.
However, what happened next really was unexpected.
‘Mark,’ Jet said, ‘what are you doing?’
‘I’m texting Petra. I’m worried about her. We shouldn’t have left her home alone.’
‘Petra will be fine. Your aunt came home before we left. Besides, how could we bring her? She doesn’t even go to this school. You know we had to check our IDs at the door. Besides, we’ll be home in half an hour and Petra can join in when we get there.’
‘So Petra is either the sister or the girlfriend,’ I said to no one in particular.
‘She’s the sister,’ Mouche replied. ‘What’s with Mark?’
‘I don’t know. He hasn’t spoken to me all night.’
‘This is so not in the rules,’ Mouche said, raising an eyebrow.
‘Not everything goes by the rules. Besides, I don’t even know what to say to him.’
‘Shh,’ she said. ‘did you hear that?’
Beneath the drone of the music, a quite audible conversation could be heard.
Jet started it.
‘I think this is the best school dance I’ve ever been to,’ he observed.
‘As far as I can tell, it’s the only school dance you’ve ever been to...’ Mark replied.
‘Well, I’ll do anything to impress Mouche - she’s totally hot. But I don’t understand why you’re not dancing.’
‘Perhaps it has something to do with you monopolizing the only hot girl in the entire room.’
‘Are you serious? The women of Sunrise High are known for their...special qualities. Why don’t you get together with her friend?
‘What, you think she’s hot?
‘Sure, have you seen her in rehearsal? She’s smokin’...’
‘You hooked up with the only girl in the room I would describe as ‘smokin’. To be honest, I just don’t find her friend that attractive...’
I spluttered into my punch as Mark said this. I was standing right behind him but he didn’t seem to realize and I have to admit, though his comments were hurtful, they were truly compelling...
He continued, ‘I mean, she’s pretty enough, sure, but I just don’t think I like girls who are that outspoken and rude and she’s such a show off at rehearsals.’
‘Well, she does have the leading role.’
‘She doesn’t seem like a leading lady to me.’
‘I think she’s quietly confident - not really as outgoing as Mouche but I like girls who speak their mind.’
‘You might call it confidence, but where I come from ...well, we just call it common...she has shopgirl manners!’
‘Shopgirl manners! I’m way proud to have worked part-time at a clothing store since I turned fifteen. I hated that I had to stop after summer to concentrate on my studies. And how could I be labelled ‘pushy’ just because I scored the lead role in the school play? I mean, after all, I am a drama major. He should have been so lucky to dance with me. I could have at least taught him the steps,’ I whispered to Mouche.
Determined not to let him see me cry, I flounced past him with a slight smile on my face. He’d offended me to the core. Mouche followed me outside.
‘A movie rejection, a mugging and being called ‘common’ (I intended to google the term when I got home) plus a date rejection, all in the space of a month, is almost too much for me to bear.’
I burst into tears on the pavement outside the auditorium.
‘Here,’ Mouche said, handing me a clean tissue.
I think maybe Joel was standing near enough, holding hands with one of his girlfriends, to hear.
‘I have certainly been brought low in my own little world and I’d gone to so much trouble to dress up and hold my tongue and do all the rules on our stupid list,’ I told my friend.
Mouche looked at me. Horror and embarrassment filled her eyes. Although I looked Mark in the eyes as I passed him and he looked embarrassed when he realized I’d heard, he didn’t turn away.
‘It’s like he was missing a sensitivity gene,’ I told Mouche.
‘C’mon,’ Mouche said. ‘let’s just leave. I don’t want to go to their stupid post-fling bash anyway. Who ever heard of such a lame idea? Some boys think they are so entitled. It’s time girls took a stand.’
Mr Frames was standing at the school gate as we left, chatting to the future Mrs Frames who was also checking IDs. He was about to ask her to slow dance in the moonlight and I was really glad we were leaving now that we were surrounded by all this lovey-doveyness.
‘Something wrong, girls?’ Miss Love asked.
Mr Frames added, ‘you are both looking extra nice. Why are you leaving so soon?’
‘We just need to get home early to...babysit my little sister,’ Mouche replied.
‘Couldn’t your mother do that?’
‘Probably,’ Mouche added making us both sound slightly stupid.
‘We gotta go,’ I said.
Mrs Mouche always made sure we had enough money for a cab but just as Mouche was dialling the number on her cell, we noticed someone tall and dark-haired walking out from under the entrance street lights. It was Joel.
‘Hey, Phoebe,’ he said, ‘where to so soon?’
‘Home,’ I said, wiping my cheeks. I was grateful he pretended not to notice.
‘This is not exactly our idea of a rockin’ time,’ Mouche added sarcastically. We could see Jet and Mark walking out to the top of the driveway wondering where we’d gone. Jet had been oblivious to the overheard conversation but Mark had noticed me as I fled. He could fill Jet in on all the details.
‘You so shouldn’t be smoking, Joel. It’s bad for your lungs.’ Mouche added.
‘So is incorrect grammar, apparently,’ Joel replied. ‘Phoebe taught me that.’
‘Very funny,’ I said. Then I looked at him with scorn and derision but he didn’t seem at all offended.
‘I have younger sisters,’ he said. ‘I know how cruel girls can be.’
‘Not just girls,’ Mouche said.
‘Sounds like you both had a bad night.’
‘You could say that.’
‘Well, I’m at your service ladies. Unless you have a better offer,’ Joel said with a vitriolic intonation as Mark and Jet stood atop the hill like statues.
‘We have no plans for the rest of the evening,’ I said.
‘Mmm...we can change that. I was thinking of leaving early anyway.’
‘Really?’ I said. ‘Well, that’s okay, we were going to take a cab...’
‘That’d be great,’ Mouche interrupted.
So we piled into Joel’s mom’s old station wagon and sped off as Mark and Jet wandered out of the school gate looking for their manners.
We stopped off at the only hangout still open in Sunrise after 9pm – the Sunrise Cafe which was on the corner of Main and West Streets in the centre of the town square. Joel knew the waitress because he worked there and gave her a tip in return for the best booth in the place overlooking Sunrise library. When we ordered she looked around for the manager (he was absent) and said, ‘on the house,’ and Joel gave her a wicked smile.
When we were seated, Joel told Mouche and me how much he’d taken to reading, ‘all the classics’ lately and, ‘all the stuff on the senior English class list – I couldn’t have done it without Phoebe’s help,’ he beamed.
‘And Tory’s and Brooke’s,’ Mouche added under her breath. It was still only nine-thirty, so we had plenty of time to eat and go home. Mouche texted our moms just in case they were worried. It turned out after a late game of cards the ‘boys’ were going home and ‘could we please be quiet when we arrived so as not to wake Wednesday?’
We’d have a lot to tell Trish and Mrs Mouche the next day because the night hadn’t exactly gone to plan.
‘We had plenty to write about in the dating diary, that’s for sure,’ Mouche whispered optimistically, after we’d ordered.
When Mouche got up to ‘play a song on the old-fashioned juke box’ Joel took my hand which I thought was a little bit bold and said, ‘so, what’s with your dates for the evening?’
I pulled my hand back.
‘Oh, Jet and Mark weren’t really our ‘dates.’ We were just together as a group – sort of.’
‘That’s good because I’m not really Mark’s hugest fan.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, my mom used to work for his dad’s company and his father ripped her off, then gave her the sack. We were homeless and had to live in our car for a few weeks because his family behaved so badly.’
‘That’s terrible, no wonder you’ve had trouble staying in school.’
‘Well, my brother, who’s three years older than me, left home and went to live with our father in New York. You know, I could blame my family’s break-up on the whole business fiasco with the Knightlys. They really treated my mom harshly. It was kind of a shame because Mark and I grew up together. My parents ran the office of their company in Bristol for a while. His Dad was my Godfather.’
‘Really? That’s amazing...so, you’re from England?’
‘Yeah, kind of. I mean, I wasn’t born there, but my family is from Europe so we lived there for a few years. My Dad is Croatian but we’re American citizens now.’
‘Wow,’ I said.
‘Must be why your accent’s weird sometimes...’ Mouche added.
‘Mouche, don’t be rude.’ I whispered.
‘No offence intended. Hey, what happened to your dates?’ Mouche asked.
‘They got a better offer,’ Joel replied.
‘Oh,’ Mouche replied.
‘So how’s Petra?’ Joel asked me, changing the subject.
‘Yeah, Mark’s sister, we all used to be friends until Mark got his head up his...’
At that point Mouche came back to our booth and the music started playing.
It was some slow dance of a song that Mouche liked.
After our food arrived, and since Joel ate quickly and Mouche didn’t eat much at all because the dates had ended so badly, I was really happy when Joel held out his hand to both me and Mouche in a very debonair manner and said, ‘anyone wanna dance?’
Mouche looked over at me.
‘Okay’, Mouche said, jumping up. The waitress started clearing the tables as the last of the customers left. Even the chef pulled off his chef’s apron and joined us as the juke box played one of my mom’s favourite songs from years ago. We all danced for a few minutes in the half-light and then the chef started closing up the shop for the night.
‘Uh, oh,’ the chef said, as he opened the door to let us out only to find a huge bundle of what looked like old clothes in a garbage bag on the doorstep.
‘It’s for the Sunrise goodwill shelter, right next door. For some reason the stuff is always left at the wrong address.’
I shivered. It was late and getting cold. Tonight hadn’t been at all what I expected.
‘Here,’ the chef said. He was young and smelt like food.
The chef handed me a black sweater, in good condition, just like the one we wanted; the one on our list.
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yeah, take it. No one will miss it and it’ll keep you warm.’
‘Thanks.’ His hands were freezing cold when he gave it to me. I remembered my grandmother once described a good person as having, ‘cold hands and a warm heart.’