Thursday, August 8, 2013
The dueling debaters were getting ready for class finals. The winning pair would get a much coveted and not-so-Easy A. This looked great on college applications – obviously. Various regional and sectional teams had been beaten along the way. Over the semester the team had dwindled down to these two pairs (yep, you guessed it) Mackenzie and Darcy and Paige and Ryan.
Everyone was given alternate arguments to prepare for many possible topics. These included:
Should the US allow human cloning?
Should the US have a draft for military service?
Has feminism delivered less than it promised?
Darcy’s eyes skimmed over the notes.
Darcy was still reeling from the debacle of his grandfather’s LA vacation cancellation (his grandparents had decided to meet up with the family over summer instead) and break up with his fake girlfriend Mackenzie. Mackenzie had ripped up the contract when she found Darcy checking out a class photo of Paige – yet again… But he liked the topic this time and Mackenzie assured him they could overcome their ‘issues’ and still work as a team.
Wait… Mackenzie was called first. Darcy had also researched both sides of the argument:
Has feminism delivered less than it promised?
Mackenzie folded her gum inside the paper on her desk as she took to the podium, her hair newly curled, her shoes freshly polished, her skirt with just the right amount of pleats. That was the way to drive a man crazy. Darcy was sure to want her back, especially after she threw herself at him that night and they… but wait.
Mackenzie looked up at the classroom stage lights. Strangely enough, she was pleased to be the center of attention. Paige and Wickam looked on intently, their fates hanging onto her every word, she’d better make sense to beat Paige. Darcy chewed the end of his pencil wondering how Mackenzie would play this one.
“Opening arguments,” the teacher announced, “First up, Miss Mackenzie Bingley”
“Good morning Ladies and gentleman,” (Rys’ eyes rolled)
“Oh, I need to stop you there, Mackenzie. We generally end pleasantries before debate starts.”
“Oh, well, I think it’s polite.”
Rys laughed. Mrs Tartt looked on disdainfully.
Mackenzie continued… “Once upon a time I would not have labeled myself a feminist. I Sometimes I think feminism has been bad for women and good for men because… well, the truth is, I think it’s taken away the need for men to do stuff – you know, be nice to us – woo us before they’ve tried to sleep with us (Mackenzie glared at Darcy) not that I’m advocating sleeping together before marriage – but… When I look back at what has been given to girls and women since our struggle towards emancipation started, beginning with… with… the suffragettes way back, like a hundred years ago, I think about the main issue of human rights – equality under the law – which is what all human beings strive for, I’d say here in the US women have been accorded those rights – but we still earn far less than men on average, for doing the same jobs…”
The class, who’d arrived in dribs and drabs, sat in the back row as Mackenzie rolled her gum into a tissue, spellbound.
Mackenzie shrugged before she continued:
“I mean, really. Do we even need to have this discussion? I have to say, I thought this topic was really stupid, but anyway… Equality exists for everyone, right? WRONG! Equality exists for the majority – but there are heaps of peeps, not just women, who live in a great democracy like this one, like The United States of America but don’t get treated equally before the law… for various reasons.” Mackenzie then added, “I think it’s obvious that, like, decades ago, before the 1960s for example – my grandmother worked as a teacher,” at this point Mrs Tartt’s ears pricked up, “but only earned around seventy percent of the male wage for doing the same exact job. That’s so wrong, I’m sure you would all agree. So, obviously, equality is important. Where feminism went wrong is its focus on the small things. Like I said, if a boy wants to open my door for me…” At this point Rys could be clearly heard saying, “like that would ever happen,” under his breath. “For example, when a boy tries to open my door for me or carry my shopping I’m all, sure fine, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do it by myself. It might just mean I don’t want to. I mean, why would I need to if I have a man-servant of my own, for example?”
At this point Mackenzie was starting to weird peeps out with her obvious love of the podium and power and had started to talk more adultly on the topic, even using the word “sexism” at least six times and Mrs Tartt was getting a bit worried the debate topic was getting into senior territory.
“To conclude, I have to agree that feminism has delivered less than it promised by taking more than we expected. Many women are now forced to raise children and earn a living because men either can’t or don’t take their responsibilities seriously. However, let’s all agree that feminism has delivered much to teenage girls. I’m proud to call myself a feminist! I’m proud to have the rights I have – to wear what I like and be who I am. I expect equal pay for equal work and to be treated equally under the law of this great land. Because aren’t some women allowed to rule the world now? We could even become President… one day, couldn’t we? One day… just not to-day. That is why feminism has promised less than it has delivered... so far.”
The class was silent. Then, they started to clap. Reluctantly Paige and Ryan joined in.
“Well, thank you, Mackenzie, we were all quite.. surprised by your… argument.”
“I wasn’t finished Miss Tartt,” Mackenzie smiled sweetly.
“I think we all get your point. Step down now.”
“I hadn’t realized, until today, how much of a feminist I am,” Mackenzie hissed under her breath.
“You may laugh but any female who accepts that she should be treated equally before the law is a feminist by association!”
The class was stunned by Mackenzie’s speech.
“Let’s see you do better, Rys,” Mackenzie hissed.
Rys was next. He was slightly embarrassed to have to speak on this topic. Female subjects in general were quite irritating, but to see Darcy’s smug face was really the limit.
The older Bennet sisters slept in until their younger sisters woke them the next morning. It was a Saturday after all and the girls were filming Rys’ video at Venice Beach that afternoon.
Paige and Shiloh were lying in opposite beds talking about who they’d like to go to Prom with as the younger girls shrieked and ran along the hall when they heard the car horn honking outside. Rys had kindly offered to pick them up and take them along to the set.
Paige tried not to worry about what Darcy had told her.
Besides, Shiloh was already planning the next dance. The Masquerade Prom was the highlight of the end of semester social calendar and every junior and senior attended.
“Maybe I’ll go stag,” Paige said.
“Maybe we both will if Ryan doesn’t ask me!” Shiloh replied.
They both laughed.
“We could always go together. Two sad sisters side by side.”
“Or with Wickam,” Shiloh said. “though I’m a bit bothered by what you told me.”
They heard the car screech off into along the road as the horn honked.
“Oh, I just remembered. They’re filming the video in Santa Monica today.”
“That’s right,” Paige said. “I wonder… if it’s such a good idea?”
“Well, they have adults on set the whole time,” Shiloh shrugged. Surprisingly, Rys had offered to pick the girls up and Mrs Bennet was very impressed.
Paige suddenly worried about the girls spending so much time with Rys. Some of what Darcy had told her had really sunk in, and she started to wonder if someone as serious as Darcy, and as arrogant, was also the only one telling the truth.
Sure, Rys Wickam had always been friendly to her and not a creep, but wasn’t he friends with everyone? So much so that Paige had ignored his reputation as more than just a flirt. He had supposedly slept with at least three seniors – none of whom were still his friends. Paige thought this was seriously easy of him.
Man sluts were so irritating.
She’d put Darcy in that category at first, though he seemed exclusive now – with Mackenzie. Paige rolled her eyes as she brushed her teeth. She wasn’t sure what was worse - a single Darcy or a Darcy with an accomplice.
When Paige went down to breakfast that morning, her mother had a smile on her face.
I have a prom date for you Paige.
“Amadeus! I suggested…”
“Are you serious?”
“Paige, dear, he’s here with us until then – you know his other family decided to stay in Europe. Now, Amadeus has something he wants to ask you….”
Amadeus hadn’t said a word to Paige since his arrival. He had spent some time studying her profile. He’d also offered to pass her the butter at the dinner table on more than one occasion. This morning he was looking decidedly worse for wear.
“He-llo Paige,” Amadeus said hesitantly, as he looked up from sending a text to his parents.
“Good morning, Amadeus.”
“Um… ah… I believe it’s the custom… ah… I wanted to ask you if you would like to come to prom with me…”
“Ah…” Paige didn’t know what to say. Could she tell him she was hoping a boy who ignored and insulted her would ask?
“Um…” Paige couldn’t think of an excuse without lying or saying something mean. At that point, her friend Coco walked into the kitchen. Paige had forgotten they’d decided to work on debates and then go shopping that morning.
“Hey, Paige. I’ve been waiting outside in the car. I just texted.”
“Hi. Just on my way… out…”
“Hi Amadeus, what’s up?”
“Oh, um, we were talking about prom.”
“Oh, right, well, I’m putting a group together of all the exchange students if you wanna join?”
“Ah…” Amadeus shrugged. “Sure… if it’s okay with Paige.”
“That’s great. Perfect. You’ll get to meet everyone that way.”
Amadeus didn’t look too disappointed.
Paige realized this that morning: Friends like Coco were gold.
To Paige, Amadeus was the last person she envisaged as a boyfriend but Coco seemed to find something interesting in him. Although Paige was quite surprised, she was also glad.
“I’m really just planning on going alone or in a group,” Paige said when her mother asked about Amadeus that night whilst they stacked the dishwasher.
“Are you serious Paige? You may regret that. It’s the junior prom.”
“I don’t really mind, Mom. I have more important things to worry about.”
“Well, I can’t believe you let your friend steal a perfectly good available male – now you could end up going alone and looking as if no one wanted you.”
“Oh, mom, that is so 1998. I am fine with being single and going by myself if it comes to that.”
“Well, your sisters won’t be – Shiloh already has a date planned.”
“Really? You mean Ryan asked her?”
“Not exactly, but he will ask her. Oh Paige, sometimes I worry about you. Shiloh is so sweet and kind and beautiful. And you are very pretty also, but you are so forthright and studious, I fear you may miss out…”
“Well, better to miss the prom than miss my travel trip to London, England. Prizes are announced next month.”
“Even so, Paige, I think you should go upstairs and tell that boy your plans have fallen through and you can go with him.”
“No Mom, no way.”
“I’m going to speak to your father, I think you have to stop staying in and studying and start socializing.”
“Mom, don’t worry about me, it’s Rebel and Sia you need to worry about…” Paige had a habit of being right about these things.
By midnight, everyone was leaving. The lights were low, the music played softly and tons of people were paired off, eating, drinking or playing party games in the pool. It was obvious Bingley and Shiloh were the school’s hottest new couple. They sat together at the edge of the pool. Bingley kissed Shiloh’s hand as everyone else was talking or finishing off their drinks.
Darcy noticed this out of the corner of his eye and didn’t like it. He’d been pretending to be into Mackenzie but it was only to keep up the sham and make Paige jealous.
The whole evening was a disaster.
He’d been blanked by Paige after she’d played hot then cold all night. What did she expect? Of course he was going to walk off to make her jealous.
The truth was, after seeing her dancing with Rys, he was the jealous one. He’d never admit it. He still had his pride. His pride had been hurt. He’d never really had to make the first move for any girl and Paige was really getting to him. Just to spite him, she’d made moves to leave with her sister – and Rys Wickam in tow.
Mackenzie also saw her brother kiss Shiloh on the hand and looked at Darcy.
“Maybe it’s time I did something about this. Just because we invited the riff raff in doesn’t mean we have to let them stay!” she said, just softly enough so only Darcy could hear.
Paige blew her party whistle.
“It’s over everyone, time to help with the clean-up.”
People started to leave, quickly.
“I knew that would get them going,” Mackenzie said. She was quite sober by now and thinking clearly.
After most people had left, Mackenzie ushered Amadeus out. He complimented her garish house on all the great sculptures and how bangin’ it was to be at an American Party. He was quite out of it too and Paige and Shiloh rolled their eyes.
“Oh that’s nothing compared with Darcy and Blair’s place in Australia,” Mackenzie said sweetly. “That place is a real mansion,” Mackenzie said pointedly.
Amadeus tried to lean on Paige and Shiloh and Darcy saw this and didn’t like it. Paige heard Wednesday say through the window as they walked to their ride, “Blair would have come if it weren’t for the presence of Rys. I heard Darcy Donovan telling Mackenzie. Now I totally understand why everyone says he’s the hottest guy on the planet.”
This made Paige think again. Perhaps there really was something not quite right with Rys. Maybe even Mackenzie was telling the truth, for once.
The Truth About Rys Wickam
Mackenzie’s pool party was in full swing by midnight. Her publicist and all the paparazzi had left the premises. Paige was starting to think the Mack and Darcy relationship was fake by the time she got the tip off from Wednesday – bringing Darcy down a bit further in her estimation. She’d noticed they only kissed or smiled when other people were looking or photographs were being taken.
Outside, in the cooler air, the infinity pool was lit with colored lights and people were playing games and blowing whistles and dancing on the patio.
Bingley and Shiloh, oblivious to the other joys that surrounded them, were talking between tentative dance moves. Paige was being monopolized by Rys. Darcy had noticed this in between being constantly monopolized by Mackenzie Bingley and each of the Princesses who asked him in turn if he wanted to party.
Mackenzie finally dragged him on to the dance floor, whispering, “so uptight neighbor. I think it’s time to get your freak on Darcy,” when she was sure all the other Princesses were in full view.
Darcy shrugged her off when the song finished. He noticed Rys and Paige dancing on the other side of the dance floor and wondered if he should ignore them or take the high road.
By the next song, Darcy thought, perhaps it’s time to take a moment and make her notice me.
He had the cool factor, he definitely had the hotness. Even Paige, who looked up from her discussion with Rys, noticed it. The chandeliers and lava lamps glimmered and the party music seemed to be noticeably louder, even the lights had been softened along with the DJ’s rendition of a slow eighties lurvve ballad. Everyone was mellow as Darcy made his way through the crowd, interrupting Paige’s conversation with Coco.
“So then he said, ‘I haven’t seen any good looking girls since I got here… Honestly if I never had to speak to him again, I’d be happy. I certainly would never boogie with him…’” Paige added. “Oops,” Coco said, gesturing behind Paige. Darcy ignored what Paige had said and took the high road – he smiled.
Rys noticed Darcy noticing Paige and stepped forward but Darcy reached Paige Bennet first, and spoke. “Paige, I’m wondering if you want to dance the next one… with me.”
Paige was stunned. She’d vowed never to talk to Darcy again (she’d already broken that promise) but she never imagined this moment.
Usually quick with a reply, Paige faltered. For once, she was stuck for words.
“Um… I… have…” Paige looked around but Rys had been side tracked by Rebel jumping up and down and grabbing his hand. Then Coco appeared to be in deep conversation with Wednesday and Honey, suddenly.
Paige didn’t know where to look, much less turn. She wanted to remain cool, “Sure,” Paige said, hesitantly.
Two Princesses gave Paige mean looks, but Wednesday, Shiloh and Coco smiled at her.
The music changed up and Paige was surprised to see that Darcy had rhythm. He even knew how to do some funky moves which made people laugh, not at him but with him. It was a revelation to Paige who, having attended so many gym classes and recitals, also had rhythm.
But the two clashed verbally. When the music went slow and Darcy actually attempted to hold her hand, Paige was reluctant. She kept her distance and Darcy appeared to be losing both interest and patience.
Paige hadn’t forgotten she had sworn to loathe him forever.
“You look good in a dress,” were the next words to come out of Darcy’s mouth.
“Thanks. Your costume suites you too,” Paige added. It was hard work, this dance of mutual compliments.
“Are you enjoying the party?”
“Of course, it’s fun and a lovely venue.” Paige looked straight at Mackenzie, “I feel unexpectedly welcomed.”
“Well, we aim to be good neighbors.”
“Really?” Paige asked sarcastically.
“Do you always talk while you dance?” Darcy asked.
“Only when I’m asked questions, but generally I prefer to be anti-social and intolerant,” Paige said taking a dig at Darcy’s behavior during debate class. He had hoped she’d forgotten and took the high road.
“I’m not used to girls like you?”
“No… smart. I mean, of course, I’ve met smart girls before, I just, never had to mix with girls… I went to an all boys’ school and this is the first co-ed one I’ve ever attended.”
“Oh,” the music softened.
Darcy smiled as they moved closer to one another.
“I’m getting used to it.”
“That’s good. Practice makes perfect,” Paige said snarkily. “I’m sure Mackenzie will benefit from your practice.”
Paige pulled back. Darcy frowned. “About that…” but Paige turned her head. He was tempted to explain everything – she was just doing him a friendly favor but Paige clearly wasn’t interested.
She went to sample the punch when the song ended and Darcy tagged along.
“I… I saw your sisters, your younger sisters in Century City the other morning.”
“That must have been thrilling. They were at a casting for some new music show that Rys and his dad are producing.”
“Don’t tell me you’re jealous you’re not in it.”
“No, not at all… It’s just that…”
“He’s popular for a reason, Darcy. He’s helpful. He makes an effort. People like him and not just because his family have money. My sisters think of him as an older brother.”
The music changed pace but Darcy stopped dancing.
“You don’t need to elaborate…”
“You need to get over yourself, Darcy.”
“Oh, you can talk,” Darcy retorted.
The music stopped. The dancers jumped up and down and clapped, things started getting wilder.
“Excuse me,” Darcy said as he left Paige standing alone with her drink and walked purposefully over to Mackenzie, who looked stunning in her red velvet dress and blonde hair under the light. She glanced over at Paige as if she were not a rival worth having.
Mackenzie then laughed when Darcy spoke to her as if he had had just told her the funniest joke in the world.
Typical, Paige thought.
THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (chapter thirty-two: conversations & considerations )
Conversations & considerations
Rys whined, “Honestly? I considered not coming once I realized Darcy was going to be here.” Paige looked at Darcy then and Darcy glared back.
“Well, it’s kind of close to where he lives…” Paige added with a look of disbelief on her face.
Meanwhile, as Mackenzie tweaked Darcy’s collar, Darcy couldn’t believe Paige was “so into” Rys Wickam.
“Don’t worry about that little climber, Darcy. (*Mackenzie called the Bennets ‘climbers’ - as in 'social climbers' - but Darcy knew differently).
If Paige and Shiloh were really social climbers, surely they’d be into him?!
If only she knew the truth, Darcy thought as he changed into his suit in his room which overlooked the barbeque being served outside the Bingley mansion. If only she knew that in a few weeks he’d need a fake girlfriend to secure his future and with that security he intended to not just help himself, but others as well.
It had been bugging him; every time he’d gone to a certain part of his neighborhood, he’d met the same old, homeless guy. He’d instructed the housekeeper to take him a box of food but he knew there had to be more he could do for him. But, of course, he’d never tell other people about his sudden sense of community obligation.
But of course, Paige would never believe him anyway. She always seemed to think the worst of him now that they were in competition with each other and he was supposedly dating Mackenzie.
Oh, Mackenzie! What was he thinking? What had he been on when he agreed to this sham?
Just a moment ago, she’d tried to follow him up the stairs and smother him with kisses when there was no one around. He’d had to use all his strength to pry her pink fingernails off of him.
What was the point of really getting with Mackenzie? Even her own brother didn’t know that she was nowhere near as together as she pretended to be.
Just a day ago, they’d made an appearance at a club organized by his manager. Sure, they’d ended up with their photo on the web, but it was pretty embarrassing to have to hold her hair back afterwards, after she’d drank too much or taken too much of something he’d been unaware of – until she later vomited in the bathroom. It was all his fault – he should never have agreed to this. Surely a stranger would have been a better idea?
As he pulled on a fresh shirt, he could still feel her lips on his skin and had to wipe her pink lipstick from his neck.
Besides, Mackenzie was so needy. He had to tell her she looked pretty all the time. He still couldn’t believe he’d been so quick to agree to her offer. He’d kind of been joking. Well, this is where a joke got you.
“Darcy? Where’s my little smexy Darcy…”
Oh, no, Mackenzie had followed him with her little slurring baby voice…
“Mackenzie,” Darcy began… “I don’t think…”
Mackenzie reached up and put her finger on Darcy’s lips.
“Don’t say another word. If you say another word there’s gonna be tears, Darcy and you don’t want to ruin my party do you?”
Darcy just shook his head. They only had one week left of this sham.
Since his grandfather was emailing him (a lot) about a possible summer vacay, he was feeling pretty stressed. She’d have to put on a better act when his grandfather was around, maybe set aside all of this sham relationship rubbish. He’d have to speak to Mackenzie when she was sober about the terms of their contract.
Meanwhile, he couldn’t get Paige out of his mind, but he knew she’d never have agreed to a sham arrangement.
Of course, it was up to him to take the high road. He could always call a truce about debate club.
Darcy thought back over the week as Mackenzie fussed over his jacket.
Sharing detention with Paige the previous afternoon hadn’t been as bad as he thought it would be. Paige had walked so near him and been told to take a seat beside him – even though she clearly wanted to be in the opposite corner of the room. She chewed her pencil when she studied and always seemed to be thinking truly, interesting thoughts. Paige really was an outstanding debater. He had to admit to even slightly… admiring her.
The girl wouldn’t look or even speak to him but he got a chance to study her in repose and hated to admit to anyone just how taken he was with her pert nose, creamy skin and intelligent blue eyes. Her hair was draped high in a ponytail and he couldn’t help but wonder just how annoyed she’d be if he pulled on it as he left, just to get her attention. He didn’t because it was probably harassment at his advanced teen age. Besides, he knew she’d be even madder with him than usual.
…And so, the afternoon had worn on, but it was the best (only) detention he’d ever had.
As Darcy combed his hair that night of the party, after changing into the clothes Mackenzie the control freak had picked for him, Paige’s face played over in his mind, like a film reel that never ended. He was glad he’d taken photography as an elective. He dreamed of being a film director and in that moment saw Paige’s face in the final reel. Snap out of it, he thought, as he hurried down the stairs. He could never tell his father he wanted to be a film maker. His father was sure he’d study to be a lawyer, like him, then run take over the companies and buy some of his own. Still, Los Angeles would be the perfect place to get creative.
Mackenzie tugged on his hand.
“I have a surprise for you,” she said in her little girl voice… “I hired my own publicist.”
A camera flash went off in his face.
Darcy put his thoughts aside as Bingley’s sister looked up at him adoringly and fake smiled.
Paige smiled, determined to enjoy herself as Rys Wickam arrived and walked straight over to her. By this time, Shiloh had been offered a drink by the host himself.
Ryan Bingley smiled widely when he noticed Shiloh arrive. This was his chance to ask her out properly, but he wanted to play it cool. He knew it was important to get it right.
Mackenzie rapped on her glass with a spoon. “Attention guests, it’s time to change into your formal attire.”
Paige looked exasperated but relieved as she went into the bathroom to put her new shimmery ice blue summer dress on. All of these costume changes were ridiculous but she’d promised her sister she’d enjoy herself and she had to admit the Bingley mansion was some kind of fun.
Ryan contemplated how to speak to Shiloh, again. He’d considered taking notes from his much cooler friend, Darcy, who always had girls ringing him at all hours of the day and night. But Darcy had jumped the fence to go and get changed at Mackenzie’s insistence. He seemed to be under the thumb there. Ryan knew Darcy and Mackenzie would never be a real couple. He just hoped Mackenzie realized that. Of course Mackenzie was getting fame (being attached to Darcy on the web had doubled her Twitter followers in just a few days) in return but Ryan was concerned Mackenzie had deeper reasons for offering to be Darcy’s pretend girlfriend for a month – the month that would incorporate the school debate class trip to Oxford for an entire week. Of course, only those rich enough or smart enough could go. Just the winners of the district competition would be paid for outright, the rest would have to raise the funds.
Still, he wanted to enjoy himself tonight. If he could just convince Shiloh to dance with him to his favorite rap song, that would be a start. Then he noticed Amadeus was jumping up and down, out of time to the music, very enthusiastically.
Paige was left to smile and chat and even dance with Rys, who’d arrived with two girls on his arms but only had eyes for one – Paige.
Come to think of it, Rys’s entrance was when Darcy had left.
Wednesday and I were decorating cupcakes in between dancing when we noticed this. I think Wednesday is going to re-claim being the narrator of this story soon, although she says I’ve done such a good job she’ll only take over when I’m ready… We stood in a corner like freshman wallflowers but at least our feet tapped in time to the music.
We noticed everything as Mackenzie brought us over a plate of food and told us how good we were being (like pets!) Wednesday giggled after she left when I told her all about her ‘arrangement’ with Darcy.
“I’m not surprised,” Wednesday said. “All along he’s been into Paige but she won’t give him the time of day. Hello. Strategy. Men are so clueless.”
“Agreed,” I replied tapping those words into my cell under the glittery rhinestone shimmer that stated my name: HONEY WOODHOUSE. The ‘grown up’ conversation continued…
Get your party on
Other juniors and some seniors had started to arrive in groups and began walking up the pathway. Paige and Shiloh were not the first girls to arrive, which was a relief to both of them. Everyone was dressed to party. Some of the boys were dressed as football players and mascots, others wore sunglasses and beach towels.
There was a long trestle table in the middle of the mansion, so long in fact that it lead from the kitchen all the way up to the pool area, covered in food of every type. People stared when the girls entered the room, a few people said “Hi” but everyone was pretending to be cool. At the end of the food table was Darcy, wearing board shorts and a shirt and sunglasses. The table ended in a grill and Darcy was helping with the barbeque. It was pretty surprising. He looked very casual. His sunglasses pushed up his hair and for the first time in ages, Paige could see his face which was warm and handsome. Darcy obviously wasn’t into the whole dress up scene which Mackenzie had insisted upon but he’d made an effort. Clearly, Paige and Shiloh had too.
Nobody expected this.
“He looks so…”
“Down to earth,” Shiloh said.
Paige turned her head, her pride getting the better of her.
Darcy certainly looked hot with his shirt hanging loose and his apparent ability to cook all manner of food on the barbeque. The food just kept on coming, even though there was a chef and a dozen waiters to take care of it.
Paige stood in a corner and sipped her drink while the band started up and a few of the dance majors hit the dance floor, lit up in the dark with lights. This was quite tempting to Shiloh, who stood next to her sister playing with her hair and tapping her feet.
Mackenzie, who was acting like the perfect hostess, kissed Darcy on the cheek as she took her drink then, dressed in a red satin mini cheerleading skirt and black spikey pumps walked over and hugged Shiloh. “You guys look amazing. Don’t you just love the decorations?”
Shiloh nodded. The other Princesses had turned up dressed in matching pink cheerleading outfits and were dotted all over the room, “like candy floss” according to Paige. Paige wasn’t really into fancy dress but she’d barely had a choice.
“Oh Shiloh, your skin looks amazing. I told you Miss Sara’s Salon for Sumptuous Complexions is the place to go. We should be BFFs forever. You are like a sister to me”
Shiloh smiled, she wasn’t sure if Mackenzie had just given her a compliment or an insult but Shiloh, who always looked on the bright side of everything, couldn’t help but agree that Mackenzie had exceptional taste in beauty salons. Shiloh had only managed to walk by this particular one as she couldn’t afford to go in.
“Oh, look,” Shiloh whispered to Paige after Mackenzie had socialized onto another group of guests. “Darcy is leaving.”
“Well, of course Darcy is leaving,” Paige said. “I thought his grilling skills were being over-extended. He’s reverting and being completely anti-social as usual. Don’t look, he just wants fans.” Darcy was actually climbing over the fence taking the easy route to his house, “besides, he was so obnoxious in debate class a few days ago we both got detention and I never want to speak to him again.”
“It’s not funny Shiloh. I can’t afford to get a single demerit if I’m going to win that debate scholarship. Remember, they only give it to two students.”
That night, the night of the pre-summer pool party, Shiloh repeated the story to Paige as their younger sisters ran up and down the stairs throwing popcorn at each other, supposedly getting ready in the process.
Shiloh was trying a new look and thread hundreds of little diamantes into Paige’s dark curls, draping some behind her ear to one side. The light offset the dark perfectly. Their skirts were hot pink and baby blue but they suited the girls more than they knew. Paige looked amazing, so did Shiloh. Neither knew it as they were not wild about their designated ‘cheerleader’ costumes but the invite said: cheerleaders, jocks and beachpartybongo. It had to be fun, right?
Rebel and Sia, who had finished arguing about dessert and flinging their shattered meringues through the hall, stood in awe of their older sisters as they stood in the doorway.
“I wish we could come,” Rebel said.
“Well, you can’t, the party is just for juniors and seniors.”
“I never get invited anywhere interesting,” Sia complained.
“Well, when you are as old as us, I’m sure you’ll be invited everywhere,” Paige assured her.
“Oh, please,” Rebel said, “I am so over being a freshman. Do you know any movie stars who even finished high school?”
Paige and Shiloh looked at each other and smiled, “Plenty,” they said in unison.
That night, their father offered to drive them to the Bingley mansion.
“I insist, girls, and… put on your coats. It’s cold out.” The girls giggled.
Mr Bennet wanted to have a word with his oldest sisters. Paige sat up front with her father. They’d always had a good relationship and could talk about everything, especially things her mother and younger sisters were rarely interested in discussing. Topics such as politics and current news affairs and the economic crisis were all things that Paige and Mr Bennet had discussed on their frequent drives to school.
Shiloh turned some music on as Mr Bennet made sure both his girls had cab fare home, “just in case.”
Paige thanked her father, she knew extra money was scarce and Mr Bennet had to take a second mortgage on the house. Mrs Bennet had to work longer hours. Yet both of their parents were always so generous with what they had.
“You both look so lovely tonight. I am so proud of my girls.” He turned to Paige, “I’m worried about Rebel though and Sia just follows everything she does. They are such frivolous girls…”
“What do you mean Dad?”
“Well, your mom, whom I adore, seems to think it’s okay for the girls to get into this music business and I’m worried about how shallow Rebel and Sia are already.”
“Oh mom isn’t taking them to the Maximum Sound casting call at century city, is she?”
There had been casting agents stalking the school halls looking for freshman to star as dancers for some new music channel.
“Yes, don’t you agree it’s a bad idea?”
Mr Bennet was pulling into Sunrise Drive at that moment. The entire road was lit up with fairy lights and the Bingley mansion looked like a palace of light in the dark.
“Yes, but… Wow,” Shiloh said. Paige and her father just stared.
Paige turned to her Dad, “Um, yes, I do think it’s a bad idea because both of my youngest sisters are a nightmare. But I’ll ask Rys to keep an eye on them. He’s my debate partner and his mom is the casting agent for that music show. I think he’s going to be at the auditions too.”
“Well, they won’t listen to me and your mother seems to think I’m holding them back… so, I’d never want to stop them having fun.”
“Don’t worry dad,” Shiloh said, “Paige will sort everything out.”
“Do you want me to walk you to the door?”
Shiloh and Paige laughed.
“It’s not the nineteenth century, Dad.”
“You never stop worrying about your children.”
“Thanks Dad,” Shiloh and Paige smiled in unison as their dad drove off.