Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pride and Princesses Gossip and Rules

Chapter 4

Gossip and Rules

     That evening, I was finishing my homework in my room when Mouche came over to invite me for a swim. After school I just liked to relax and hang out with Mouche and her baby sister, Wednesday, but I usually had to finish my homework first. Since my mom was at work, I grabbed my suit.

     ‘Don’t bother with the towel,’ Mouche said, and off we went to climb the fence between our houses, like we’d done for the past decade.

      As we lay on our lounges, we considered the merits of our Sunrise News Blog – something we’d been updating for the past year - the live feed anti-snark version of the Princess blog. You could visit the Sunrise News Blog anytime of the day to hear about the daily life of Sunrise High in cyberspace. Princessesbf.com was nastier and more exclusive; fashion tips for the desperate and dateless, unfortunate Sunrise High teachers, that sort of thing. The Princesses always wanted to control the legitimate ‘school blog’, Sunrise News, but Mouche and I (token editors), had other ideas.

    ‘Always have the end in sight at the beginning,’ Mouche began. ‘Planning is the basis of every successful enterprise...’ You could just tell Mouche is going to be a sensational lawyer someday, though I’m not entirely sure what she has in mind.

    We’d been planning for a while.

    The last weekend of vacation was spent watching hundreds of old high school and romantic movies for ideas. It had been a truly amazing summer holiday filled with evenings of swimming, feasting, DVD watching and looking over all our old photographs and letters to each other, written in baby-handwriting in those early years before we gained access to texting and the web.

    Antique memories made us sentimental.

    By third grade, we used to drop off notes before school for the other to read when they got home and thus began our pink leather bound, feather-writing hobby; a rehearsal for the Boy-Rating Diary we would one day co-author.

     We had a secret hole in the brick wall between our fences where we kept my grandmother’s cake tin lined in plastic to protect the letters from the rain. And every afternoon I would sit on my grandmother’s porch (she only lived one street away) and read or write to Mouche – depending on whose turn it was to do either.

    We shared a lot of secrets over those years, stuff that doesn’t seem important now but really seemed to matter when we were eight, and ten and twelve.

    It was our discussion on the third night of junior year that led to the drafting of The Boy Rating Rules - that and our supernatural instincts.

    Sometimes Mouche and I don’t even have to talk to know what the other is thinking and  Mouche can occasionally predict events that haven’t yet happened,  but never for herself, only for others and only if they are good. 

    That night, Mouche had her Tiffany playing cards spread before her. She had made up a different meaning for each card and had amusing ways of applying different people to each of the playing cards which ‘inspired’ her vibes about the future.  For example, the Queen of Hearts was red (light in colour) and represented her and her desire to fall in love. I was the Queen of clubs (dark hair, pale skin) Teegan (Diamonds, light hair (red) but ‘money-orientated’ and Freya the Queen of Spades (a dark haired untrustworthy female - at least, that was the meaning for the cards tonight). Then Phoebe would put all the face cards representing the girls she knew and cut cards (red meaning ‘yes’ and black meaning ‘no’) until she had dealt the final card to answer her question.

     Tonight’s question was, ‘will Mouche meet the love of her life this year?’

    If the cards were dealt until the end and either me or Mouche or both of us ended up with a red card, we would meet ‘the one’.

     ‘Of course, a real teen psychic wouldn’t need cards but sometimes our intuition about ourselves requires a little push along. Besides, I’d never claim to be totally psychic, just kind of telepathic. I can feel when the Princesses are using their negative energy against us,’ Mouche said, spraying essential oils to deflect bad energy.

      ‘Oh, me too. I’m not actually psychic, but I totally read people. I sense it when they like me or when they give me their nasty, jealous vibes...’ I added.

      We’d both been victims of the jealous vibe at HSYL. In any case, our card games were just for fun. We had a rule – never to ask a bad question that we didn’t want to know the answer to and never to dwell on anything negative or mean.

     Mouche was still dealing; she had nine cards left...

    ‘Red, red, black, red, black...and here are the answers for two Princesses: Teegan (black), Tory (black), and Phoebe...’

    ‘Don’t turn it!’ I suddenly screamed.

    ‘It’s just a game Pheebs, besides, you can never be sure of the vibes for yourself...and only God knows the future...’

     ‘Oh..okay,’ I was ready to look with one hand covering my right eye ‘...red.’

     Phoebe smiled.

     ‘Now it’s my turn... you know what? I’m not going to look!’

     ‘You promised!’ I yelled.

     ‘The future is what you make it; it can change every second...I’m going for a swim.’

     Just as Mouche stuck her card in the middle of the pack, a corner hung out. When she turned her back to dive into the water, I sneaked a peak.

     The card was red. It was the Ace of Hearts. True love.       

    ‘Our Game will make junior year the most memorable yet,’ Mouche declared over ice-cream, after we’d cleared away our playing cards, runes, tea leaves and crystals.

     Mouche dragged me back into the pool. We lounged under the night lights on Wednesday’s huge, plastic, floating goldfish. Mouche dragged me around with her until we were playing whirlpool and before we knew it, we were having a water fight about whose ideas ruled.

     Have you ever been swimming at night in the heat? It’s amazing, even though Mouche’s older brother, Trey (the grouch), kept yelling at us from the study window to turn it down when we started playing Muse.

    Trey was studying pre-med and was a total brainiac with no time for the absurdities of two teenage girls, even if one of them was his sister; especially if one of them was his sister. 

   ‘Hey, quiet!’ he shouted. ‘I’m trying to study and Wednesday’s supposed to be asleep.’

    Admittedly, we’d slipped one of Mrs Mouche’s cocktail mixers into our sodas and were feeling extremely giddy; however, we realize teen drinking is not okay and so wrong (especially when near water or highways) and would never recommend it to our readers.

    We had serious hangovers the next morning. Mrs Mouche locked up the liquor cabinet when she found out and Trey promised never to leave us entirely to our own devices again.

    After dancing to retro music dressed in the 1920’s outfits we’d worn in last year’s version of Guys and Dolls, we collapsed in a corner, embraced sobriety and resumed our discussion about the perfect junior year.

    Our ideas were all pretty...ordinary: film club, blog page additions, debate club, a musical, an entire month devoted to writing up the play rehearsals, a fashion show, a themed prom (that would be left to the Princesses in the end) until Mouche and I started talking about how the mainstream boys at our school were very romantically de-motivated, and most of the artistic majors were obviously more than a little gay.

   None of the males at our school behaved the way males in great romantic literature and films behaved (like Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights or Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre). And maybe that was a good thing. But in some ways, the fact that chivalry is dead, is bad. I mean, I can open my own door but when I have a heavy bag and props, couldn’t the man of my dreams open it for me? And shouldn’t he want to? Of course, I can buy my own movie ticket but wouldn’t it be nice if my perfect man wanted to buy it for me? Just to prove his devotion? I could return the favour, of course.

     Mrs Mouche says to hit them in the hip pocket because money matters more to men than to women. I’m not sure if that is true at our age but it might be the case when you’re older. Mrs Mouche has definitely instilled a good value system in her children. Even though Wednesday (Mouche’s baby sister) can barely talk, she is very good at sharing, and Mouche actually has a social conscience. For example, there was a documentary about world famine on television as we were preparing some dinner.

    ‘Why are most of the world’s poverty stricken women and children?’ Mouche asked.

    ‘Because the men at the top are greedy and take everything,’ Mrs Mouche replied as she left the house with her carry-on trolly bag, giving Wednesday and Mouche a kiss and making us promise to go to Trish’s ‘unless Trey is here.’ 

    ‘See you later girls,’ she said with a twinkle in her eye. 

    ‘Love you Trey,’ Mrs Mouche yelled. She was all dressed up in a fancy suit and looked very glamorous. Trey came to the top of the stairs as Mrs Mouche deposited Wednesday in his arms. Mrs Mouche is a flight attendant, if you hadn’t already guessed.


   ‘Now be good for Trey,’ Mrs Mouche said. Mrs Mouche was flying all the way to New York and back. It would be the longest time she had ever spent away. Normally she just flew to the next state.

    Wednesday smiled, she seemed to love being with her big brother, even though after her sleep we intended to play dress-ups with her as well. She clapped her hands as Mrs Mouche kissed her. Mouche’s little sister loved it when Mouche and I and my mom (Trish) and Trey looked after her.

      After Mrs Mouche left, we were examining the ideas in our pink diary for our new blog entry and Trey was checking out our laptop over Mouche’s shoulder, having seated Wednesday in her high chair.

    ‘Enough already’, Mouche said. ‘You so can’t see this, Trey. It’s for our eyes only.’

    ‘Oh, please,’ Trey said laughing, eating a mouthful of cereal over his physics text, ‘like I care what two little girls think about the world...don’t stay up too late,’ he said as he ran up the stairs.

    ‘Why? Is your girlfriend coming over?’ Mouche giggled.


    ‘Why not?’

   ‘I think asking her over at ten pm might be a little obvious.’

    Trey was a classy guy for an older man (eighteen).

   ‘So what do you think about who should pay on dates, Trey? Do you think girls should pay?’ I asked quizzically.

   ‘Phoebe, if a guy likes you, he’s going to try to impress you at least on the first date. Take my advice, let him offer, and if he doesn’t, pay, but don’t date him again.’

    Who knew that Trey could supply us with our advice for the month? Even Mouche was impressed.

    Trey left the room but not without flicking the light switch on and off three times just to annoy us. He’s very sweet sometimes, but I’d never tell Mouche that I’m crushing on her older brother. I happen to know she worships him but I think she’d find that information slightly disconcerting. 

     We looked back at our highlighted notes, our rules and ideas about dating, our slim experiences and profiles of the boys of Sunrise thus far.        

Mouche glanced at me sceptically then looked at our prospective boyzamples and said,            ‘Yes, no, yes, no, no way, yes...’

    ‘But this should be a realistic guide to dating at Sunrise High and an expose of just how few guys are the total package.’

     ‘Package meaning?’

     ‘Intelligence, kindness of heart, personality...’

     ‘How about tall, dark and handsome like Mark Knightly,’ I ventured. ‘Although, when he came into class he seemed very arrogant and rude,’ I qualified my reckless remark, but Mouche was too quick.

     ‘Oh my goodness!’


     ‘You like him. I can tell. I mean you more than like him!’

      It was hard to lie to Mouche.

     ‘You’re practically in love with him...ew...you wanna have his babies!’

     ‘Oh please, that is completely over the top. I have barely spoken to him! I so do not love him. Besides, he’s totally an older man. Isn’t he just repeating junior year for kicks? I mean, who has the time and money to be in Europe for a whole year. He seems like a total weirdo.’

    ‘It’s true. You love him.’

     I relented, ‘me and everyone else at Sunrise.’

    ‘Not me. He seems really haughty.’

    ‘Perhaps it’s just his manly exterior,’ I joked.

    Mouche laughed, ‘what dating guide did you get that expression from?

    ‘Actually, it’s in Mrs Jones Gives Advice.’ I glanced at the dating guide stacked amongst a few others on Mrs Mouche’s coffee table, then continued, ‘it’s just that he is kind of different but everybody likes him. It’s like ‘cute boy’ radar. Everyone always likes the cute boys. Still, he’s hardly spoken to anyone since he transferred from Loratio and arrived back here.’

    ‘Mmm...well, he spoke to me.’


      I tried not to be jealous of this small but scintillating fact.     

     ‘To tell you the truth...I think his friend Jet is just as cute.’

     ‘Now, who likes who?’

     ‘The difference is, I can freely admit it.’

     ‘Well maybe that’s because he clearly likes you and you have a huge chance.’

     ‘Oh my gosh, Phoebe, Mark would be an idiot not to fall head over heels in love with you. Sell yourself short and everyone else will be quick to agree. Just because our Daddies abandoned us doesn’t mean every other man will. Listen, I heard Teegan and Freya are drawing straws to decide who should ask the newbies to the Fall Fling. Mmm...straight guys don’t usually like dancing, unless they’re on drugs! I bet they don’t even want to go...we should get in first.’

    ‘So true.’

    ‘Geez, we have to learn to treat ‘em mean and keep ‘em keen. It says so right here in A Ladies Guide to Adultery. Anyway, that’s what my mom used to say...and she should know. Loads of men in aeroplanes hit on her. Perhaps we should cast our net wider than Sunrise High...’ Mouche said.

    ‘Or change the guys already there...’ I added.

     For example, Alex Miller, the only boy who properly dated a girl at our school for the entire month of May last year, had a reputation for being a true man-slut whose older girlfriend cut school with him just to go watch midday talk shows on cable every day and indulge in his desire for a meaningless fling.

     ‘That’s so deeply unromantic,’ Mouche said. ‘I’m so over man-sluts.’

      ‘Yeah, I agree. Alex is just nasty. Girls are so taken in by him because he’s kind of hot-looking. Face it, romance has died and gone to heaven in our little satellite town.’

     ‘The boys at our school aren’t really into dating at all. It’s just hooking up. They’ll line up all weekend to go to the opening of some bromance but when the time comes to woo women they show zero interest. I think teenage girls have been sold a lie for centuries with all this romance stuff.’

    Mouche argued on the side of Girl Rights: ‘Is there something in the water of this town?  Has hanging out replaced true romance? And have we, as pre-women, been lied to?’

     Mouche had a point.

     Observe the boys during sophomore year sitting in their packs at lunchtime; they’re hanging out playing computer games, the most athletic of them running on the track team in a pack or playing basketball; and we don’t dissuade them from that. Any smart teenage girl likes her man athletic as well as clever but (excepting Mark Knightly and Jet Campbell) the two don’t often form the complete package. Of course, there were a few mathletes in the library and a group of optimistically titled musicians creating noise pollution in the temporary classroom overlooking the playing fields, but women or teenage girls like us just didn’t seem to figure in their worlds.

    Mrs Mouche once told us, ‘men don’t change and women always make the mistake of trying to change them.’ Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps the pre-men we have in mind are more open to negotiation.

   ‘You have to get them while they’re young.’ Mrs Mouche told us.

   ‘Get ‘em while they still have muscle tone,’ Mouche joked. ‘Past eighteen is seriously past it...’

    Trey rolled his eyes.

    ‘Could my sister be any more sexist?’ Trey said proudly.

     Although I’ve never been exactly boy-crazy, at sixteen, I was inclined to agree. Eighteen was plenty old enough for us and maybe even a little too old as I later discovered.

    ‘We have to psyche ourselves up for Fall Fling...’ Mouche said. ‘It’s the perfect place to network and prepare for the social event of the year, junior prom.’

    We were determined not to be wallflowers for the ultimate social occasion; the school formal.

    ‘Fall Fling is just for practice. It is hardly social suicide for besties to attend together. As the social monitors of the Sunrise Blog, we will be armed with cameras,’ Mouche said, ‘though it would be nice if we could take along Jet and Mark...just to make the Princesses jealous.’   


That night we finalized the rules for the Boy-Rating Diary:


This diary shall remain a secret. The object of the diary is for Phoebe Harris and Mouche Macintosh to create a dating manual that may be of use to future generations (and to have some serious fun in junior year).

1.     The boys of Sunrise need to learn what our heroes of yesteryear knew – respect for women.

2.     Therefore, a kiss is the culmination of the romance, not the beginning.

3.     A date must consist of a beginning, middle and end and we have to practice a few dates for ourselves before we encourage other girls (i.e. the Princesses) to embrace our personal philosophy of self-respect.

4.     Proof:  there needs to be proof of the date in the form of photographs, gifts (to be gathered via a treasure hunt – gifts of red roses are not permissible since they can signify a bad end to a relationship).

5.     Affording us some tradition, the boy needs to make an effort to impress the girl.

6.     The ultimate love token comes in the form of a love letter. Whoever gets the most love letters and shares the best advice as well as the date of her dreams for junior prom (i.e.: Mark Knightly), wins the competition and gets to keep the gifts we gather during our dating journey.

7.     All details must be shared in the old-fashioned form of a written diary; contributions to be made by both parties, with an overview and progress report due on the last Friday of every month.

8.     Remember, knowledge is power.

9.     The Dating Game shall remain a secret even if and when we decide to involve other people in our game.


      It didn’t occur to us that night, after we swam in Mouche’s brightly-lit pool with sparkles of water playing on our skin, that our plan would drive a wedge between us as friends and highlight our competitive natures more than ever; a quality people don’t normally seem to approve of in girls. For example, Mr Sparks, my drama teacher, once asked me rhetorically, ‘Are you ambitious, Phoebe?’

     ‘Of course’, I thought, but I was too shy to actually say it. He seemed to be inferring that being ambitious for your life is not okay if you are a girl. How wrong was he?