Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pride and Princesses The Missing Page chapter 9

  Chapter 9

The Missing Page
    ‘Of course not, you can’t count an audition as a proper date...well maybe just this once,’ Mouche said.

    ‘Great,’ I said. ‘Then it’s your turn next.’

    ‘Of course, I’ve already put myself out on a limb through a series of texts that have resulted in the Fall Fling that can totally count as date three...’

     ‘Ahhh! That’s so exciting. When’s date two?’

     ‘Ah... Jet and Mark want to meet us this afternoon near Santa Monica Pier to go swimming before we drive home...’

    ‘Are you serious? What should we wear?’

    ‘We should go shopping for swimsuits after lunch. I still have my emergency fund from working during the holidays.’

     ‘...mmm...I have exactly ten dollars...but, I have my dance leotard in the car...’

     ‘Okay, perfect. We’re meeting them at 1pm.’

     So, I’m standing at the foot of the escalator, adjusting my boot zipper, checking to see if I’ve developed blisters and thinking it will be a warm day in the South Pole before I get a movie part, since it’s pretty obvious I didn’t get this one. Moving right along though, I’m all excited about the impending date when I see Teegan’s face (upside down) as she brushes by me near the cinema complex.

     Then, when I stand up I bump into Matt and his boyfriend. I say, ‘sorry’ and they say ‘hi’ and Mouche giggles.

    ‘You know, Phoebe, men rarely humble themselves. It says here in How to Date the Undateable @ p8; ‘Men rarely apologize...apologies display weakness.’ So remember that.

     Mouche and I decide to go to a healthy looking cafe for lunch before checking out Victoria’s secret and Macy’s.

     We add extra detailed notes, in the cafe, on all the boys in our diary.

     ‘I can call this The Seduction Cafe in my notes next week...’ Mouche says. I flicked through the previous entries. At that stage we were reading more guides to dating than actually dating but all of that was about to change.

      Always be pleasant and eager – how else do you get what you want?’ I can hear Mouche’s voice reading from The Good Girlfriend (page 19) in my mind as we both collapsed in peals of laughter under the pile of titles such as, ’A Woman’s Guide to Blissful (and Married) Love’ (our mother’s mothers gave them that when they were teenagers). That particular title fell out of Mouche’s tote when the waiter brought us our chicken burgers and fries.

   ‘I thought we were supposed to be eating healthily...’

   ‘This is not so bad, as long as we add ketchup. Ketchup has lots of lycopene which is good for you,’ Mouche said.

    While we were munching away, Freya and Teegan entered the cafe - just to put us off our food. Mouche hurriedly scrunched her notes and stuffed them into her bag.

    ‘Hi Girlfriends,’ Teegan said. ‘I think I nailed it.’

    ‘Two auditions in one week,’ Tory added.


    ‘Busy pretending to be friends again?’ I asked.

    ‘Well of course you nailed it, Teegan,’ Mouche added. ‘Isn’t your cousin the casting assistant?’

     Teegan looked quite put out. ‘Older sister,’ Freya added with a slight giggle and Teegan looked at her and rolled her eyes.

    ‘Well, we gotta go. Meter’s running...’ This was something Mrs Mouche always said when she was trying to get away from bad boyfriends. Mouche thought it might work just as well with frenemies.

    ‘Hey, we thought we could all have lunch together. We noticed that you were...really popular last week with the boys...I mean they were talking to you and we noticed you are both wearing really hot clothes and someone told us you are going to Fall Fling with Jet and Mark...’

    ‘We’ve gotta go,’ Mouche said. ‘C’mon Phoebe.’

     I got up to leave.

     We weren’t ready for a truce just yet. Not when we had planned the year to our social advantage already.

    We grabbed our stuff and left, hastily putting our burgers in their napkins.


    As we were driving into Santa Monica, I realized we had lost something.

   ‘Oh, no!’ I said as Mouche rounded the corner towards the pier.


    ‘A page of our notes – they’re missing...the page with the plan about how we should turn the teenage boys from undateable to dated...’

    ‘But you still have the rules, right?’

    ‘Yeah, they don’t know the rules.’

     Mouche just looked at me in horror. She knew the page had been left in the cafe with Teegan and Freya. It was as if we had armed the enemy with the perfect ammunition: a page of our thoughts about dating the guys at Sunrise High and the back story to each of those guys -  the prequel to the list of rules detailing just enough of our thoughts to lead them to the plan.

    ‘We have to focus,’ Mouche said

    ‘Yes, focus,’ I replied.

    ‘There’s nothing we can do right now,’ Mouche assured me. 


     Jet was waiting at the pier with two snow cones when we arrived in Santa Monica. Mark was nowhere to be seen.

    ‘Hey Mouche, hi Phoebe,’ Jet smiled in the most affable manner and I could tell Mouche smiled extra wide when she noticed the t-shirt he wore advertised a band that she liked. 

    ‘Mark had to go...park the car but he said he’d meet us here in ten minutes.’

    ‘Great,’ Mouche said. ‘Hey, I love your t-shirt. That’s my favourite band,’ she added, sounding just a little over eager if you ask me.

     We walked down to a sandy area reserved for ‘safe swimming’ where Jet had arranged to meet Mark. The weather had turned a little and it seemed our beach party idea might have to prematurely end before it started as the sky went from bright to cloudy all in the space of a few minutes.

    Mouche and Jet seemed to be having a great time though, splashing each other in the shallow water, as I read over my script sitting on a blanket. Mouche wore an eye-popping pink, polka dot bikini. I’d managed to find my regular navy blue leotard, which could double as a swimsuit. I’d left it in a school bag in the glove compartment of Mouche’s car. It was a pity not to wear it. Besides, as the afternoon wore on, it seemed the other half of the date wasn’t going to happen.

    I looked up from my script when some little kids on the beach kicked sand in my face. I considered the benefits of changing into my regular clothes and waiting in the car instead of being the third wheel. As Mrs Jones said, ‘being the third wheel on a date is a form of torture. I’d advise any girl being forced to witness the budding romance of her friend up close and personal...to go shopping.’

     Jet and Mouche were laughing in the shallows and although it was good to see them having so much fun, I was becoming a little exasperated. Feeling thirsty, I stood up, pulled on jeans and a t-shirt and yelled out, ‘I’ll be back in ten minutes!’ to Mouche.

      ‘What?’ Jet replied, until both he and Mouche seemed to understand. 

      Go shopping. It was the one piece of Mrs Jones’ advice I maybe shouldn’t have taken. I was suddenly extra thirsty and wandered up to the boardwalk to buy a drink. As I was turning to pay, I felt a tug on my purse strings. Not just a tug, a pull and in the time it takes to scream, a small boy ran off with my bag.

      He was as fast as lightning but I was also pretty quick and followed him for what seemed like minutes, through a tiny maze of backstreets until I was thoroughly confused and the boy seemed to have disappeared. I was desperate for a phone to call my mother but I didn’t want to worry her. Besides, what could she do all the way out in Sunrise? It was darker, later, and I’d been away from the beach for at least half an hour. Mouche would be starting to get worried.

     I dusted my jeans off then sat in the curb for a few minutes. Searching for a friendly face to ask for help was probably not the best idea. There was only one business open in this particular side street, and no people. The store looked dark and cramped, but beggars can’t be choosers or so the saying goes. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so hasty.


     Meanwhile, Mark had arrived in Santa Monica. He was late after attending the last of his ‘counselling’ sessions. Mark was required to visit a psychologist after crashing his car into a shop window two years ago and driving without a licence. No one had been hurt, but still, it was a requirement for him to be able to drive without restrictions or Mark never would have attended the ‘sessions’, he later told me. He didn’t generally discuss his problems with strangers.

    The psychologist’s office was not far from Santa Monica but he’d been stuck in traffic.  Thoughts of the planned afternoon in Santa Monica were making him impatient. He really did want to get to know Phoebe and Mouche better. He wanted to introduce them to Petra as well. His sister had hardly left her room, except for school, since they’d arrived.

    When he’d asked Petra about her first day, she just burst into tears and ran up the stairs.

    ‘That bad?’ said Jet, ‘I told you those HSYL girls are nasty...’

    ‘If my aunt and uncle weren’t such snobs she could’ve just come to Sunrise with us.’        Mark was thinking about all of this when he noticed a girl who looked a lot like me, running up from Santa Monica beach after ‘a little street urchin.’ This alarmed him because he knew the area was not safe if you were by yourself. He knew it was later than expected, but he followed his instinct that all was not okay and tailed me into the laneway.  

    Meanwhile, Mouche was worried and on the verge of panicking.

    Her senses were in overdrive. Although she’d never admit it to Jet, she had been having very intense dreams lately and had woken up that morning with the idea that something might go wrong during the day if she and I were separated.

    ‘I just can’t imagine where she might have gone. We should go look for her. Phoebe would never go off alone and stay away without saying goodbye,’ Mouche said, as she and Jet dried off and hastily pulled their clothes on over their damp swimsuits. Then she had a vision of a CD outlet and said, ‘hurry, we should go up to the business centre beyond Santa Monica Boulevard...’

    ‘How do you know?’

     ‘I just...remembered, Phoebe said something about...buying some CDs...’

     So, I guess you could say, by the time I entered the small music store I had three people already searching for me, which could only have been a good thing.

    There was a grungy looking man sitting behind the counter, at least ten years older than me, wearing a t-shirt advertising dog fights. He was sort of creepy so I hovered near the entrance, wondering why this store had to be the only one open for business on a Saturday.

    ‘Hi,’ he said, and looked up. Music blared out.

    ‘Hi,’ I said hesitantly. I hope he couldn’t tell just how freaked out I was about losing my purse, or rather, having it stolen from me. ‘I’m just wondering which direction the pier is? Someone...a little kid, stole my purse.’

     He looked concerned.

    ‘Hey, do you wanna use the phone or something?

    ‘Uh, okay,’ I said hesitantly. I was glad I had committed Mouche’s cell number to memory. As I took steps forward, he moved off his chair and opened the latch that led to the area behind the counter.

    ‘It’s back here.’

    Suddenly, I was wary.

    ‘Can I use your cell? I’ll pay you.’

    ‘No problem, except I don’t have one.’

    Who doesn’t have a cell? I was backing out the way I came in when I heard a child screech. I looked above me to the open loft in the upstairs section of the store. A child looked down at me, I saw his reflection on the television screen. He was playing a computer game. It was the kid that stole my purse.

    ‘That’s him! That’s the kid who has my stuff.’

     It may have been unseemly but I actually pointed towards him.

    ‘Really?’ the man said innocently, ‘He’s my nephew, I don’t think...’

     Suddenly, I had this odd feeling Mr Music Store owner was running some kind of pickpocket racket when suddenly I took a step back into another person and turned around to see the face of Mark Knightly.

    ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ he said in his rich, low voice.

    ‘That child stole my purse.’

     Quick as lightening, Mark said, ‘wait outside,’ and pushed past me to race up the stairs.

    I heard a child throwing a tantrum and about ten seconds later Mark emerged with my tote bag in his hands.

    ‘Is this what you were looking for?’

     He didn’t say anything for at least three minutes as we walked back through the alley way, me trailing along behind his manly strides.

     ‘You shouldn’t be hanging out in this area,’ he felt the need to chide me. He seemed angry.

     ‘Excuse me. It’s a free country last time I looked.’

      I would’ve said ‘thank you’ more profusely by now but he barely seemed to notice me. He was distracted by a text from Jet.

      ‘Everything’s okay, we have to get back to Sunrise. I’ll drop you home. Your friend is going ballistic, seems she thought you’d been kidnapped. You shouldn’t have just wandered off like that alone.’

      I was stunned by his near total lack of empathy.

      ‘Well...if you’d been where you said you were going to be, I might have gone swimming and never had my purse stolen in the first place!’

     Mark looked annoyed.

     ‘Do you want to report this? I mean, to the Police.’

     ‘What’s the point, they’ll just deny it.’

      ‘I’ll get my aunt to make an anonymous complaint to child protection. It’s probably better that way,’ Mark said.

      ‘Why do you say that?’

      ‘Well...um, I’m sort of on probation and that guy had a gun under the counter...’ 

   We arrived back at Mouche’s house late-afternoon. Mark hardly said a word to me except, ‘put your seat belt on,’ on the way back. He was treating me like a child and I really wasn’t impressed. It was a thrill to be in his sleek car but I wasn’t sure just how much more of his conceited personality I could tolerate.

    I was relieved when we pulled up at my house. Mark deposited me in the driveway before I could say ‘thank you’. Mouche arrived about ten seconds later. Jet followed behind in his car. Mouche waved to him as we opened the gate and the boys drove off without even bothering to come inside.