Monday, April 28, 2014

Pride and Princesses Twelve Go Dating

Chapter 22

Twelve Go Dating

     We met on the rotunda near the lake, not far from the riding stables in Sunrise Park. There were two swans paddling together in the water creating an unlikely picture in the foreground, a fantasy image of loving but docile harmony. Perhaps if they’d stayed in view for longer we might have witnessed their territorial animosity.

     Mouche and I were a rowdy pair that morning. All the items had been gathered apart from two disparate ones: the bracelet and a pair of shoes. We’d broken the rules by allowing ourselves to date Mark and Jet more than once, but since that rule was unspoken, we decided it was ours to navigate. Besides, a morning spent at the Sunrise Pony Club was something we all looked forward to and a group date was hardly the same as a one on one encounter. We’d decided another date with Mark would drive Teegan and Tory wild and Mouche was absolutely willing to go riding with Jet (“I can’t believe he is so literate,” Mouche said, “His sweet smile belies a formidable intellect!”) What we didn’t know, was, by the time we arrived, Brooke and Freya had invited Tory and Teegan and all their previous dates along as well. We joked about it in the Boy Rating Diary afterwards, “it was like pony club for teenagers...”

     We arrived at 8am at the Sunrise Stables. The Princesses were dressed in riding outfits from head to toe and had dragged along their unwilling partners. Mark and Jet seemed surprised but amused and Mouche and I were absolutely willing to go with the flow. I was paired up with Mark, because although I had refused to dance with him, I hadn’t refused to ride with him.  We’d since reached a point where, let’s face it, I was seriously interested in him and it was going to be hurtful to have to give him up to others to date. Still, he could always refuse other offers, but I have a feeling he won’t. Men like to be popular (almost) as much as girls, but that’s a whole other chapter.  

     Jet, of course, was very eager to ride with Mouche and make amends for the missed date. Mouche looked very good in her new outfit and she rode quite well. I wore my favorite blue jeans, no ridiculous riding britches for me.

     Teegan and Tory wore navy blue jodhpurs and made a beeline for Mark, simultaneously, ignoring their surprised dates, Jack Adams and Tom Allen.

     “After all,” Tory said, “we can go riding with them any weekend, but it’s not every Saturday that Petra joins us.”

     Petra was brushing her horse and looked up and smiled at us as Tory spoke.

      Mark looked pleased.

     “Is she coming along the trail with us?” Tory inquired.

     “No, Petra wants to finish grooming her horse, Hobbit.” (Hobbit had new shoes and was apparently having some difficulty trotting comfortably). Tory couldn’t resist a snigger when she thought no one was watching. “But, she’s going to meet us when we get back. Why don’t you both join us for lunch? Phoebe and Mouche are coming as well. The more the merrier,” Mark said amiably. He seemed to have channelled Jet’s personality recently.

      “Oh, that would be fabulous,” the girls said because they knew Mark went riding every  Saturday morning after soccer practice and it was important to befriend his sister in order to grow closer to him. They’d seen them both in the club house a few weekends ago. Of course, it’s also possible that self-interest wasn’t paramount in their thoughts. It could be that they just liked Petra and wanted to get to know her better. After all, if she teamed with Ella and Katie and their younger sisters, there would be a whole future generation of Princesses.

     “That would be lovely. We’d love to join you all,” Teegan said a little over-enthusiastically, I thought.

     Mark had already ridden off when Teegan said under her breath as she fixed the saddle, “wonder why she was late arriving this morning?”

     Petra had arrived after us, just as we were all about to set out on the trail ride. 

     “Probably busy barfing,” Tory added under her breath.

     The Princesses were returning to form again.

    “I happen to know Teegan was a functioning bulimic in ninth grade. It’s so typical for her to attack someone else over a problem she secretly has,” Mouche added as we trotted off.

    I rode up alongside Mouche who seemed surprised I could sit a horse, but I’d been going to pony club from the age of six, long after Mouche dropped out. My attendance had been less frequent since Daddy ran off with the family fortune.

   Mark’s Aunt had invited us all for lunch and I was excited that we’d get the chance to explore Mark’s house afterwards. It was sure to be very formal and opulent. 

    Ethan had agreed to accompany Teegan but was constantly ignoring her and glancing over at Mouche, flexing his fingers in between gallops. He’d been practicing “some concerto” for a competition the night before.

     “Honestly, I’m just surrounded by high-achieving talents. It’s making me quite insecure,” Teegan whispered sarcastically.

     Freya, who’d been pony clubbing since age three, invited us over to her place last week. We consolidated “date-notes” and admired her amazing walk-in closet and riding trophies.  There were hundreds of shoes and boots in the latest styles, all color co-ordinated along with her jackets, and we compared and contrasted fashion. Freya even allowed Brooke to try on her costumes from previous school musicals. Tory and Teegan tried on some of them as well. The rest of us sat on Brooke’s bed, beneath the crucifixes, adding extra notes to the Boy Rating Diary and that’s when Tory and Teegan told us they intended to go riding on Saturday.

     Mouche and I thought our wardrobes were quite extensive but, on the one night we babysat Wednesday last month, we had total access to Mrs Mouche’s closet which is way fancier. Mrs Mouche has loads of her mom’s vintage fashions and hundreds of pairs of vintage shoes.

     However, the walk-in closet to end all walk-in closets really belonged to a most unexpected individual: a girl none of us knew well, Mark’s sister, Petra.

    Petra surprised us all by meeting us half-way. She was an excellent rider and made Teegan and Tory look like amateurs.

    When we met, the boys, Jet (who was his normal charming self) and Mark (minus his usual scowl), had already been riding for half an hour to “warm up the race horses” as Tory put it. I don’t think he’d expected Mouche or me to be so good. We both knew something about riding, even if we didn’t  do perfect little canters and jumps like Brooke and Freya who were in the opposite paddock by now with Tory and Teegan cheering the boys on like homecoming queens.

    They were clapping out of time to the beat and if Jet so much as whispered, they took notes. They knew full well this was an arranged date and although we didn’t totally ignore them, it was a little uncomfortable having to pretend to be inclusive when they rode over to try to get the attention of Jet and Mark, under the guise of preparing for their respective trail rides.

    Mark seemed intent on helping Mouche handle the bridle properly and though Teegan yelled out, “look at this!” Mark only glanced up and seemed vaguely unimpressed. I felt sorry for the Princesses once we’d all actually gone for a gallop. Their behaviour had exposed them as desperate and slightly incompetent.

    At one point Jet was giddying up my horse and Mouche was trotting around the ring on a horse named Flame. Flame took off and Mark followed her. The animal was going faster and faster until Mark grabbed the reins off Mouche in a very timely and masculine way.

    “Whoa,” Mark said.

     He managed to slow down the horse and prevented the possible accident that may have occurred as the horse ran wild into the distance.

    “Here...take my hand,” he said, as Mark offered Mouche assistance.

     Mouche smiled at him gratefully as he helped her down onto solid ground to recover. I was trailing behind them slightly. Mark patted Flame, then looked at Mouche calmly and said in a protective fashion, “are you okay?” to which she replied, “I’m a little cold,” and he took off his own jacket and wrapped it around her.

    My heart beat skipped.

    Mark checked the horse, “Oh look, a rock under the saddle. That is sure to disturb the horse when weight is pressed up against it.”  Mark glanced at one Princess in particular.

    Teegan flushed guiltily.

    Mouche’s face had turned white. The Princesses and their dates had halted their horses behind us and pulled up looking shocked.

    Afterwards there was a bit of a truce as Mark and Jet invited everyone back to Mark’s aunt’s house.

    “I have a prior engagement,” Teegan said, because she couldn’t stand not being the centre of attention and everyone suspecting her of sabotage. 

   “Oh we can go to The Grove later,” Brooke replied to a withering stare from her sister. 

    The other girls seemed to have reverted to their former ways and wandered off with their original group. Tory said they had half the football team lined up for a “skate off” at Sunrise Roller Derby at 2pm anyway.

    At least, that’s what they told us, “trying to make all the boys jealous,” Mouche added under her breath.

    So in the end it was just me and Mouche and Mark and Jet and Petra.

    Because Mouche and I are like sisters, we telepathically knew this would be a great story for the Boy Rating Diary so we jumped straight into Mark’s new sports car. Though Mouche was crammed into the back seat, she said the view of the hills in the distance reminded her of some amazing foreign film, “like a scene from a Bond movie – the one set in the South of France.”

    There were huge gates outside Mark’s mansion which were even taller than the gates around Jet’s place. There was also a moat and a bridge we drove over to reach the house which was surrounded by manicured gardens and staff to open the door for us when we reached the entrance. There didn’t seem to be any other adults apart from the butler and housekeeper who helpfully took our jackets. 

    “All very gothic,” Mouche said.

    “The wing my sister and I share is really warm. We have a huge flat screen television and all the mod cons (Mark sounded seriously British when he said this). You should have seen where we went to boarding school in the South of England, originally.” Petra gave a shiver from the remembrances of previously cold times and I felt her pain. Mouche did also, although she noted in the Boy Rating Diary, that what she felt for Mark at that point was more of a sisterly, rather than future girlfriend, kind of feeling. 

    Mark was very tall and hot but, let’s face it, he wasn’t exactly spontaneous. Mouche didn’t seem to mind as she leaned forward from the back seat, paying intense interest while he spoke of his days playing “football” in the mud and wet of Windsor.

   “Hey, isn’t that where the Queen lives?” she asked.

   “Yes, but only on weekends. As a matter of fact you see Windsor Castle not far from my old school.”

    “Wow that’s almost like being related to royalty,” Mouche said sarcastically.  

    “Totally,” I agreed but I noticed when Jet tried to put his arm around her she moved apart from him.

    Mark’s sister took us on a tour of the indoor pool and library. We walked beyond the Knightly family crest and ancestral portraits on the wall. Petra was two years younger than Mouche and me but dressed with more fashion sense than we had at her age. She also seemed more mature. Perhaps it was her upbringing and early loss.

    “Are those jeans Vintage?” I asked.

    “Yep,” she said sweetly, “they were my mother’s. She ordered them off the internet.”

    Mark suddenly looked very sad and said, “Come and join us for a late lunch.” He was acting so polite it was hard to believe he was the same person. Jet suggested they go and play pool while lunch was being prepared “by the housekeeper.”

    “Okay, we’ll be down in a minute,” Petra called out.

    Mark said he’d give us a tour of the house. His uncle was, “away in Europe on business, but due back soon...hopefully after we’ve left.” Mouche laughed at his joke, perhaps a little louder than me.

    “I’m afraid my Uncle is...a bit different.”

    “You could say that,” Jet added bemusedly.

    Although the house was seriously ritzy, I got to tell you Mouche didn’t look very impressed. Her mood lifted when lunch arrived. We both loved food (although we tried not to eat too much junk) and this was delicious - platters of sandwiches and little silver trays of fruit salad and ice-cream for dessert.

    “Wow, this is wonderful,” I said.

    “Totally,” Mouche agreed.

    “As good as the Sunrise Diner?” Jet asked.

    “Definitely,” I replied.

    “Maybe even better,” Mouche said, smiling at Mark. I noticed he smiled right back at her.

    After lunch we had a tour of the huge house, “more like a mansion,” I whispered to Mouche.

    Mouche whispered back to me in the “library” as Mark was stoking up a real fire place,

   “Ethan and I went ice skating last night...”

   “You mean you went on a second date without telling me?”

    “I have learnt to keep my options open. Besides, he rang me a few days ago, obviously, because it says in Mrs Robinson’s guide never to ring a man. I texted him back. One thing led to another and before I knew it we were at Town Square Ice Rink.”

    “Did anything happen?”

    “Not really, well, we kissed...and I scored a pair of ice-skates to take to the Rockefeller Centre in the’s coming back.”

     I was starting to think Mouche was playing the field a little too well.

    Jet entered the room and smiled at Mouche. You could tell he really liked her. I wasn’t too bothered. I mean, I had other ideas. I wandered off to find Petra’s room which was located in an old converted ballroom. Petra had the most amazing bedroom I’d ever seen although the size of the room itself appeared to engulf her and she seemed happy to have company.

     Besides, leaving Jet and Mouche alone for a few minutes was, I thought, the right thing to do. 

    “Hey Petra, It’s nice to see you again.”

    “Hi Phoebe.”

     There was an extravagant doll’s house in the corner.

     “Mouche’s little sister would be wild about that,” I said.

     “It’s just for decoration. My aunt installed it. You should bring Mouche’s sister over sometime,” Petra said congenially.

    “Uh...Okay,” I replied.