Monday, April 28, 2014

Pride and Princesses The Lake House chapter 20

Chapter 20

The Lake House

When I arrived at Mouche’s  house an hour later, Trey was fixing his car. He had his head under the bonnet. The sleek sports car was kind of like Trey – long, old-fashioned and lean.

    “Where’s Mouche?” I asked. I knew Mrs Mouche had either taken the weekend shift (rare) or decided to take Wednesday shopping.

     “She went out, with some guy...better be careful, Mouche is starting to get more than a little big for her boots...”

     “What do you mean?”

     “Well I’m not completely stupid, watching you two girls play whatever dumb little popularity game you’ve got better be careful you don’t hurt too many feelings in the can be cruel.”

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, and started to walk back to my place, reluctantly, to finish my paper.

    “Oh, by the way, Mouche has gone hiking or to play tennis or something with some guy...named after a plane....Jet. Yeah, that was his name: blonde hair, dorky smile...”

    “Thanks,” I said.

    I texted Mouche: need 2 talk now

    She  texted back immediately and I was shocked when she  sent me Jet’s address and also the words can’t talk, come over @ midday, bring swimsuit pls.

    I ran back to Mouche’s  house and ran upstairs to her room. Trey arrived and stood in the doorway going all big brother on me: “where are you guys going?” and “what are you doing?” and “be back before ten pm because you know what your mom’s will say if you are not...”

   “Oh, I’m so not twelve years old anymore Trey.”

   “Then maybe you should stop acting like you are...”

    He wandered off.  

   As I sorted through Mouche’s  belongings I was kind of shocked to discover a few pages of notes where the name Mark featured prominently, notes that Mouche hadn’t  yet added to the diary. At first I resisted reading them because I assumed that Mouche would tell me whatever she  had to say, whenever she  was ready. Then I changed my mind and took a quick snap of the loose pages, to read later. I felt like a spy. Help me. Was the Boy-Rating Diary encouraging me to become a person I may not like? I was certainly more pro-active than I’d ever been and that was surely a good thing.   

   Did I not trust Mouche to tell me about her date with Jet because I still hadn’t  told her about Ethan? Maybe she  just hadn’t  gotten around to it. Was it because Mouche was beautiful that the girls (I noticed the Princesses were trying to be more cosy with me than Mouche) had started to distance themselves from her as we began to integrate the game?

    It really wasn’t fair. Most of the game had been Mouche’s  idea. When I thought about the dates and how the Princesses had secretly been divvying up the spoils and giving me pages on the sly and adding to the locker, I felt Mouche had been somewhat excluded. After all she  was the engine behind the fun. Even though we’d changed the rules slightly to involve the Princesses, which we had once so disliked, it wasn’t fair to exclude Mouche from information and spy on her. It seemed like the Princesses were taking over. Where did my loyalties lie? Mouche, of course, had way more going for her than just looks and charm.

    I pulled out Mouche’s  favorite swimsuit – ice blue with a ruffle across the top and like something from a 1920”s silent film. I figured Jet had already witnessed the bikini reveal and Mouche would now benefit from something more demure. Then I ran downstairs, past Trey and across the pathway between our houses and back to my room to get mine. Once again, all I could find in my wardrobe was my old navy school swimsuit. I reluctantly grabbed it. It wasn’t very exciting, but after all, it would just be Jet and I wasn’t planning on seriously dating him.

     I paused in my girly bedroom. Mouche’s  was more neutral creams but mine was a lot of pink. I read somewhere that pink turns boys off. Suddenly, I decided to look at Mouche’s  recent notes. After all, they were sure to be pasted into the Boy Rating Diary that night.


    This is what the first page said:


    The Princesses have joined the game. Yay! I have no idea why Jet Campbell rang me this morning but I found this in the letter box. I will text Phoebe later. She will be so surprised:


 Dear Mouche

   I am writing to apologize for cancelling our date and not inviting you on the skiing trip. My family had made the reservations weeks ago and didn’t explain that they couldn’t be cancelled. Please accept my apologies. I’d like to invite you and Phoebe to a barbeque at my place this afternoon. You know the address, midday, Hope to see you there. Please forgive me.



     Jet was quite the author. Although I suspected Mark had encouraged him to put pen to paper, Jet should at least have requested Mouche’s cell by now. The Good Girlfriend guide suggests offering your cell number but Mouche and I discussed this. On the subject of “who should request details,” we are sticking by the old-fashioned advice. Boys should be forced to do some work if they really want to date you.

     I was surprised to read such a humble note that I dropped my cell on the carpet as I ran out to check my own letterbox. It seemed old-fashioned but possible.


    A letter was also there (I was beginning to like that he had the hang of this writing habit):


Dear Phoebe

    Jet has sent a note to Mouche by way of apology. I hope you will forgive me for everything we discussed. I know you may not wish to come but please do. BBQ, this afternoon, at Jet’s place.  

   PS. I didn’t realize Jet was so into your friend or I never would have encouraged him to break the date. On the subject of your family and the things I said about you at the dance, please accept my apologies once again. Joel, however, is another story and best left to another day. I know He’s out of town so that information can wait. Till later,



     My head was swimming. The diary entries, which Mouche had held back, were written before we’d joined forces with the Princesses. Mouche had walked in on Teegan and Tory gossiping about me in the cafeteria. Mouche relayed the conversation thus:


    “Phoebe only got the part of Julie because Miss Tartt thinks she’s good enough, but not so good she’ll be competition for her.”

    “I believe,” Tory said to Mark, “when you came over last weekend that you thought she was quite pretty.”

    “Which one?” Mark said, seemingly not caring if anyone around them was listening even though a group of emos actually looked up from divvying up their play lists, “the blonde one?

    “Yes, Mouche Macintosh.”

    “I did,” Mark announced in his deep voice.

    “You also said her friend Phoebe wasn’t much of an actress...”

    “That is true,” he admitted.

    “You seemed to think her less talented, perhaps, than us?

    “Yes, I thought so.”


    My heart was racing, my face almost red with anger. So this is why Mouche had kept these notes secret from me.


    Then, Mark said very loudly so even the mathletes looked up, “but that was before we all went to the dance together...”

    “Yes?” Teegan said gleefully with a knowing glance at Tory.

    “Jet told us how inappropriately Phoebe’s family behaved, when you went to pick them up. I’m sure that must’ve put you off her,” Tory added impishly.

    “It did, almost totally.”

    “So,” Teegan pushed, “do you still think she’s a bad actress?”

    The girls sniggered again then looked up, surprised, as he spoke, offering the immortal words, “not at all...”

    “Really?” Teegan looked less than amused.

   “That was before I got to know her. Now I think Phoebe is one of the cleverest, most talented and prettiest girls I’ve ever met...”

    “As pretty as Mouche Macintosh?” Tory added.


    “I heard Ethan tried to hit on Phoebe so there could be a dent in the friendship right there,” Tory added triumphantly.


    I read this outraged. Was Tory subverting the rules herself? Surely she wasn’t clever enough for that.


    High praise indeed!!! Mouche wrote. I’m not sure if the three exclamation marks were necessary.


    I will pass this to Phoebe this afternoon, she added, her ears must be burning - I can’t wait to tell her. Even though all these “compliments” are backhanded, Mark Knightly is really not the man we thought he was. And Jet? Perhaps I have already forgiven him. As for Ethan? I’m still waiting for Phoebe to tell me about that one...but it is only a game after all and I’d never lose a best friend over some boy. Perhaps Ethan said some mean things that Phoebe wants to spare me from hearing.  I should definitely re-type this and delete a few of the more hurtful phrases...


    I hurriedly put the notes away. I couldn’t wait to tell Mouche what I knew and apologize for not telling her what I didn’t. Does that make sense? I think you know what I mean. I piled the diary and our swimsuits into the car.    

    As I backed out of the driveway in trepidation, Trey wandered over. He had another pre-med exam to study for and thought there would be less distraction off-campus with the house all to himself. Little did he know. He came strolling out just before I nearly flattened the fence with my under-utilized driving skills.

     “Hey, you can’t do that,” he said.

     “Excuse me?” I replied in mock outrage.

     “Drive...” he said.

      Suddenly, I was nervous. I was so eager to check out Jet’s place and socialize it had only just occurred to me that Mark might be there. I’d run off and left him standing there alone in the park. Perhaps it was time to make amends at the barbeque.

      Trey walked alongside me, opened the door and jumped in the car. “Drive,” he instructed, “and wherever you’re going I will come and pick you and Mouche up later.”

     It was only twenty minutes away, but I must admit, even with smudge on his face, Trey looked seriously hot and was obviously dedicated to the wellbeing of his sister. I wasn’t about to argue.

     Trey burst out laughing when I got stuck with the gear shift at the lights, but when the car rolled back he jumped out and opened my door and said, “okay, I’m going to drive...”

     Then, I got this feeling (like I said, I’m a bit telepathic), I could read his mind and he was more worried about my safety than his. Was Trey crushing on me? It was too much. So many boys, so little time to date them all (I had arranged to meet Peter tomorrow although there was no chance of my becoming romantically attached to him!). Besides, if Mark was out of my league, so was Trey, being even older and more experienced than Mark Knightly.

     Trey stopped at the house on the hill, with a sigh.

    “Do you and Mouche know this guy well?”

    “Of course, chill out. He’s friendly with the Princesses. They’re all neighbors.”

    “The older one, what was her name? Melissa?”

    “Missy...she’s seriously conniving...”After all it had been Missy who’d conspired to help me lose my Teen Alien audition.

   “Oh,” he said.

   “Why do you ask?”

   “I went to school with her,” Trey said.

   “Really?” I said, suddenly more interested than I should’ve been.

   He looked at me with a knowing smile and said, “Yeah, her family seemed okay.”

   “You met them?”

   “Sure,” Trey changed the subject. “So, look, I will be back to pick you up at six.”

    He drove off, very fast, breaking his own speed limit which was way more dangerous than any of my driving if you ask me.

    The path between the driveway and the actual house was long, and although the house was quite garish, the grounds were nice, although not as nice as those surrounding Mark’s house. The porch overlooked the lakes, which is why the surrounding homes were known as Lake Houses. Jet’s house also had a swimming pool, quite a large one with a waterfall and a spa overlooking the woods beyond. The house below his, which just happened to belong to Brooke, glowed in the foreground. The house opposite belonged to Teegan and Missy. There was a lot of loud music blazing out across the driveway. I wondered if the whole school had been invited to what was morphing into more of a pool party than a barbeque. 

    I stared at the largeness of Jet’s place, past security gates, towards the house. The ground was damp, muddying my shoes as I hiked to the entrance. Mud splashed the edges of my jeans and my hair was wild. I looked like fright night. I’d have to clean up in the bathroom when I went inside.

    Then, as I rounded the corner, to my horror, Mark Knightly, climbed out of the pool. Steam misted atop the heated water. Mark looked up, saw me, grabbed a towel and walked off towards the changing room.

    Just as I’d decided he was going to ignore me, he came running out half-dressed, drying his hair. 

   “Hey, Phoebe, I wasn’t sure you’d come...” he said.

   “I...brought Mouche’s swimsuit...” It sounded stupid and it was all I could think of to say, because Mrs Jones always said not to look too eager. Of course, another guide totally contradicted that (the one Tory was following) so who knew what was what until we consolidated strategies later in the week.

    As if he could read my thoughts, he seemed surprised and genial as he took the towel off his head and pulled on his long-sleeved cotton shirt.

  “Right this way,” Mark said amiably.

   I followed his lead, navigating manicured gardens.

  “We didn’t actually realize we were going to have a barbeque until this morning, but I would’ve invited you in the park, if I’d known.”

   Even after I’d insulted you? I thought.

   “You got my note?” he said suddenly.

   “Ah...yes,” I admitted.

   Then something happened that was rare. He smiled. One of the most beautiful, sincere smiles I’d ever seen and I was suddenly very happy. I smiled in return, and it might have been the start of something save for Teegan and Tory running down the lane and yelling out, “Phoebe! Phoebe! Did you bring your swimsuit?”

    Honestly, those girls acted like I was their new best friend. The dating game was bringing us closer together.

    We shared secrets.

    Neither of them had, so far as I knew, manoeuvred “the” date with Mark – but we all had our social diaries full up for most of the next month. There was also the wedding between Mr Frames and Miss Love coming up. Oh, my head was just filled with possible social complications.

    “C’mon”, Mark said, “I want to introduce you to my sister”.

    Together we all walked up the garden path towards Jet’s house which seemed less garish in the afternoon sun. Jet met us at the door with a welcoming smile.

    Nobody’s parents were there and it seemed like Jet’s neighbors were on their best behaviour, though I was a little surprised they’d been asked. Although I’d only taken piano lessons for a few years before turning to dance, I was impressed by the beautiful (and tasteful) Steinway in the corner of the lounge room overlooking the garden.

   “Do you play?” Jet asked in a friendly manner, whilst leading me through the living room to meet Petra.

    “Not very well.”

     Mark’s younger sister seemed to appear from the shadows. She was standing in a cream, summer dress with a sweater draped over her shoulders, like a beautiful ghost. Her skin was pale but she was not as thin as I’d been led to believe. She smiled at me from the stairs she walked down, and glanced with relief at the face of her brother.

   “Oh, Phoebe, I wanted to introduce you to my sister, Petra.”

   I liked the way he said my name. Mark’s sister smiled shyly and said “hello” in a neutral voice. 

   I felt like I should take the lead in any conversation between us as her shyness was obvious and Mark seemed so concerned that we would like each other.

    “My brother,” she hesitated, “told me that you play piano Phoebe.”

    “I took some lessons once, but I play quite badly.”

    “Yes,” Jet said, “she’s a much better actress.”

    Mark frowned at Jet.

    “Well, my brother said you play and sing beautifully.”

     My cheeks flushed. I smiled.

    Mark and Jet had gone to organize lunch by then. I looked over at the boys, surprised. 

    Then Mouche walked in with Teegan and Freya. As Mark looked up along with Jet and Petra, I must admit I think I saw his eyes flicker slightly at the stunning sight of Mouche and her “back-up” singers wrapped in the sarongs Teegan’s mother had brought back from Hawaii. They all looked like cover girls and the edges of my jeans were thick with mud. Was it just me or did anyone else notice Teegan sniggering?

   I excused myself to change into my swimming costume and Mouche gave me an excited smile when Jet and Mark had turned their backs to ready the lunches.

   “A man who can cook,” Tory said, looking at Mark in the kitchen, “now that’s a rare find...”


     Petra sat on the edge of the pool, wrapped in a huge towel, sipping a drink and smiling, looking very glad to be in company. She had offered to play “something special” on the piano for me before I left and I was looking forward to it. I suddenly wished I’d kept up my lessons, although it doesn’t pay, according to Mrs Jones” advice, to “best everyone else around you at everything. This can be overwhelming to a man, and galling for other girlfriends.”

     Teegan whispered something, then giggled as we observed Mark and Jet flirting with Brooke and Freya who had just arrived to join Jet’s neighbors. This didn’t make us feel special, so Mouche sent a quick text out and before we knew it two new boys from our acting class showed up with towels and soda and a bag of pretzels.

     Mark and Jet looked surprised. Mouche said, “I hope you don’t mind, we thought it would be nice to add some more people to the mix, since you guys don’t know everyone yet at Sunrise.”

    Jet seemed mildly put out, but then reverted to his usual friendly self. He made sure everyone had soda and snacks and talked soccer with the boys. Mark socialized as well and before we knew it, the barbeque evolved into a full on party that Teegan and Freya would write up in their diaries and turn into another social scandal that wasn’t.

    After we’d finished swimming and eating the delicious food Jet made, I showered and dried off. When I entered the sitting room Petra was playing the piano, a tune slightly more advanced than I’d been used to hearing, Allegretto.

    It was beautiful. When I looked up, Mark was watching me listen to the music. Suddenly I felt embarrassed to be feeling more than I had resolved to feel. It was hard to admit, but perhaps the boys deserved another chance. Mark seemed too proud until he let his guard down and Jet was so amiable as to risk being used for his innate hospitality.

    We were more than happy to let Teegan or Tory or Brooke or Freya reel them in, using all the scheming dating methods of bygone eras. We only had to get one of them to take us to the ball. 

    The game of love was a game of chance and ours to manipulate, or so we thought.

    I felt stupid and a little bit mean; almost like Teegan, except I was sincerely crushing on Mark and he couldn’t understand why my interest ran hot and cold.

    “I know it would be a foolish guy who thought that a simple apology was enough,” he started, “but you know, before I spoke to you I didn’t realize how wonderful you were.” He said this just as we were about to leave. I was so flattered I could barely speak and almost fell out the door after Mouche went off to say goodbye to Jet who offered to drive us home. But that wasn’t necessary. Teegan’s older sister Missy made an appearance just as Trey buzzed the gate and after speaking to all of us girls quite rudely about not forgetting to shut the pool fence, was all niceness and politeness to Trey, who seemed quite taken with a made-up Missy in her bikini top.

    “Oh, Trey, isn’t it?” Missy betrayed the recognition in her face.

    “Hi Missy, I’ve just come to collect Mouche and Phoebe.”

    “So, weren’t we sophomores together?”

    “Yes, before you left to go to HSYL.”

    “School wasn’t the same without you. We should catch up sometime,” Missy said, not even trying to play hard to get. Missy was one of those girls who sucked up to boys but was mean to other women. Even the Princesses noted this and thought her behaviour completely unnecessary.

    “That’d be great,” Trey replied.

     Mouche looked at me with an exasperated expression and said, “well, must fly, study awaits,” and dragged Trey unwillingly by the hand as I said “thank you” and “goodbye,” on my way out the door. Mark lounged in the window seat with Freya as I was leaving but got up and stopped me as I walked along the cobbled path to Trey’s car.

    “Listen, just an idea, but I thought you and Mouche might want to come horse riding with me and Jet next week.” Before I could say, “I am otherwise engaged,” as per an old Ladies Journal of Dating circa 1926 (what to do with disagreeable men) I’d almost changed my former opinion of Mark and stumbled into the car, as Mouche said, “we’d love to.”

    In the car, Mouche giggled.

   “Mark’s not as big a Tool as I thought,” she said, and we sped off.