Monday, April 28, 2014

Pride and Princesses Family Secrets chapter 23

Chapter 23

Family Secrets

    Petra looked really shy and very skinny, although not totally anorexic, as some might have said.

    She smiled up at me. Petra was sorting through her wardrobe, then she  spoke in a reserved way, becoming more animated as she  made her suggestion, “I was hoping we could all go down to the skating rink next Saturday. I was going to text you.”

    “That’d be great,” I agreed. I loved to skate even though I was less than perfect at it. I enjoyed getting all dressed up in wintery clothes although it was nowhere near winter weather.

    “I’m trying to find something nice to wear. We don’t often have visitors since I’ve been here and my aunt tends to sleep in the afternoons.”

    “Oh, really? Why?”


    “Right,” I said, not knowing whether to laugh or commiserate. Let’s face it, all did not seem entirely “normal” in the Knightly household and I was glad to be going home to my mom’s place and also to have Mrs Mouche’s warm and loving home as a refuge. If ever I get married and have kids, I’m going to remember love is more important than money.

    “I suppose they keep her happy,” Petra said this almost like a warning. “Anyway, take a look at my stuff; I’m trying to find this shirt I bought from Selfridges.

    “Oh, you like to shop?”

    “Of course.”

    “Me too.”

     Petra continued, “But I got this in London. I love to go to Kings Road. I miss our old home.”

    “Wow, you have the most amazing closet.” Honestly, it was fit for a real Princess – well, maybe a young Queen.

    “Just like Hannah Montana,” she replied, with a hint of her brother’s wit.

    “I suppose.”

    “You’re right, I’m lucky. Come in, check it out.” Petra turned on all the lights and she had the sort of fashion haul to do those teen envy reality shows proud times a thousand.

     “You even have proper stage lights around your mirror. I love that.”

     I placed my hand on the right shirt and jeans for Petra in minutes; then I got an idea. I found some sort of vintage suit covered in plastic and said, “Hey, do you ever wear this?

     “Actually, I don’t. It’s too big for me. My aunt bought it for me to wear to a wedding I didn’t attend.”

     “Oh, you must really like it then.”

     “Not really, I’m thinking of giving it to Goodwill.”

     “No, don’t do that.”

     It really was the most perfect vintage suit I’d ever laid eyes on, exactly right for my character to wear in the final scene of the play, and also for our treasure haul.

   “Why don’t you have it,” Petra suggested.



     I offered to reserve Petra a seat in the front row on opening night. It’s amazing how kind people become when you are working towards a common goal. It’s like the universe steps in to offer possibilities. One of our spiritual guide books to dating, Astral Planet Loving, elaborates on that.

    After giving Petra a make-over, we entered the dining room together only to find Jet inching closer to Mouche. When we arrived he let go of her hand and started to act really cool and Mouche glanced over to me with a, “I think It’s time to go,” look on her face.

     We noticed Mark’s uncle hovering over the drinks tray in the corner of the room wearing a business suit and tie. He must have arrived home early. Mark looked worried as he introduced us to him.

     “Hello, girls,” Mr Knightly said in a slightly too-friendly way.

     Mark’s aunt introduced herself with a dismissive, “and who are your little friends, Mark?” as if we couldn’t speak for ourselves. She also looked at our clothes with a distasteful expression on her face as if what we wore was shabby. We left just as she was asking us what our fathers did for a living, what kind of car they drove and if we summered in the Hamptons.

     Poor Mark. He had wanted to leave immediately after lunch but his relatives arrived early. He looked embarrassed as we gathered our jackets to leave.

     “My parents were never like this,” he said.

      Jet interjected, “oh, Phoebe...Mark forgot to tell you should know about Joel.”

      I was in a hurry to leave. Mark’s uncle was creeping me out and Mark seemed hesitant to speak loudly, so I jokingly said, “you should put it on paper.”

     “Uh, okay,” Mark replied. He looked surprised that Jet had spoken on his behalf when usually it was the other way around.

      I knew guys didn’t usually write letters, but I thought this might prove added commitment.  Mark looked like he wanted to come with us but was forced to stay when his aunt told him his Latin tutor was due to arrive in ten minutes.

     Turns out Mark’s uncle had arrived back from Brussels and was pouring himself a drink. He actually asked us if we wanted one as we were leaving.

     Petra excused herself to “walk the dogs,” after giving me a “see you soon” smile. Mouche pinched another sandwich on the way out as Mark’s uncle gave both her and me a long glance from head to toe.

   “Eww.” Mouche said.

   “I know. Mark’s uncle is super lecherous.”

    “He must like younger women.”

    “Much younger.”

    “Gee, that’s original,” Mouche said.

    “I know, poor Mark. Do you think he even noticed?”

   “Definitely. Besides, he never would have invited us home if he realized his uncle was going to be there.” Mouche said. “What a sleaze.”


   “You can’t choose your relatives.”

   “Unless they’re your friends,” Mouche added. 

    Surrounded by lush grounds and with the majestic mansion framed by sunset falling, we finally understood why so few people had ever been to visit Mark’s place.


    The next day a letter was hand delivered to my house.

    Mark’s chauffeur embarked from the car and rang my doorbell. I sleepily answered in my pyjamas and robe, rubbing my eyes.

   “Miss Phoebe Harris?”


   “I have a letter for you, young lady.”

   Even the chauffeur sounded like he was from another country.

   I took the cream paper, sealed in a gold envelope with my name on it, and immediately thought of our treasures (letters from so many boys, growing daily), but only a few from Mark thus far.

   I read the letter with interest as I poured milk into my breakfast cereal. My mother arrived in the kitchen fully dressed in a suit and ready to start her realtor day with a showing in Mark Knightly’s gated community. I considered myself lucky to have such a good relationship with my mother and considered Mark and Petra’s situation in a reflective light.

    “Good morning sweetie,” my mom kissed me on the top of my head.

    “Hi mom.”

    I pulled out my cell and texted Mouche.


    You need to come over right now P.  


    Mouche arrived ten minutes before we were due in home room. She was breaking some cotton with her teeth (“I know, it’s totally not the done thing in your stupid Mrs Jones Etiquette tome, but I’ve just finished hemming our dance costumes. There.”)

   “Check this out,” I said. “It’s the longest letter He’s ever written!”

   Waving the letter in front of her I ripped it open and read aloud:


Dear Phoebe

 There is one subject that I should enlighten you about – the subject of Joel Goodman.

  Although he is from the very best of families and my father and mother were great friends with his parents, Joel was always economical with the truth, from the time we played together as small boys. When my father died, he left Joel (as his Godson) a sum of money for his college education and Joel managed to hoodwink his own family into letting him have access to this money which he then spent in a seriously disreputable manner. But this is only money, which I have never thought was something worth arguing over.


“Mmm...” Mouche raised her eyebrow, “a man with a good value system,”

“Finally!” I said, wickedly.

“Read on, I can’t wait to hear the rest. He has this haughty British tone on paper.”

“Not just on paper.”

“Keep going!”


What really led to our falling out was an incident that occurred during the summer holidays when he came home from the prep school he’d been sent to by his parents. This was the first time he tried to get close to my sister. He basically made an attempt to seduce her. They were both under age and my Uncle threw Joel out.  This has led to my sister being quite unsociable and at one stage she suffered from anorexia (thankfully recovered, but she is still quite fragile).


Mouche interjected, “actually his love for his sister is really quite touching!”

I looked at her incredulously.


As for Joel’s parents, when the company they ran was sold, they both received enough money to live on comfortably for the rest of their lives. It is Joel who is lying, not me, and I just wanted you to know this, so that we can be friends.

Mark K.


“No loving exclamation marks?” Mouche asked

“No,” I said, stating the obvious.

 “Maybe we have been way harsh on him. I’m sure he didn’t mean to separate me and Jet.”

“He’s certainly tried to make up for it since.”

“Well, I’m beginning to see how complicated relationships can be...”

Mrs Jones always says good ones don’t need to be.”

“Well, I think, just this once, Mrs Jones is wrong.