Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Now before I let you in on the game plan for boy-dating and rating, I should really give you some historical information.
Mouche and I met in first grade which is why, although we don’t condone the Princesses’ prickly behaviour, we do understand the bond fused between them.
There was also a subtle but competitive bond between me and Mouche.
You can really trace the competition between us back to our first day of nursery school when Mouche turned up in the same pink-spotted smock and leggings and immediately noticed a usurper for most fashionable. We ended up having a painting competition that morning. Most of the paint landed on me and we spent the afternoon sitting in opposite ‘time out’ corners.
We bonded after the shared punishment. Then we found out we liked the same things (reading, painting and performing), until Mouche, who didn’t even want to be on Broadway, stole my agent. Well, I suppose you could say my agent (and his Simon Cowell accent) stole her. Anyway, it worked out for the best since Mouche and I started to attend acting auditions after Thom (pronounced Tom) saw us in a school play.
We rarely secured the jobs from those auditions, but travelling into Los Angeles, we still managed to share a laugh and a cab ride back home. Our mothers, Mrs Mouche and Trish, took it in turns to accompany us. They were willing moms but unwilling stage mothers. We literally had to drag them along because we were legally required to have guardians. They just didn’t get the whole acting thing and were wary of their children ‘being exploited.’ Pl-lease. We totally wanted to be exploited (because back then, we didn’t even know what the word meant).
That’s sort of how Mrs Mouche and my mom, Trish, met. After our Daddies ran off together they became slummy mommies and mommies who drink. Incidentally, the other neighbourhood mommies were probably a lot more badly behaved than our mothers. In fact, the Sunrise Golf Club was recently revealed to be a hot bed of suburban lunchtime affairs. But Mrs Mouche and Trish were under the microscope because their men had run off together. Sunrise thrives on low-level gossip and scandal but absent fathering is no reason to brand us as the underprivileged offspring of dysfunctional parenting.
It’s funny how you need ‘more’ community support when something goes awry in your family but people, in our case, gave us less. It takes a village... For example, each of our fathers let our mothers know that ‘education was wasted on girls who would just grow up and get married like they did’ – well, not quite the way they did. Our Daddies might be gay but it doesn’t mean they’re not just as chauvinistic as other men. I mean, what century are we in people, the eighteenth? However, if both our Daddies hadn’t stopped paying our school fees by the time we turned fifteen, we would not have transferred to Sunrise and junior year may never have happened as it did.
Unfortunately, our plans for boy dating and rating were heading for dust once the Princesses arrived at Sunrise High. Although their mere presence inspired us to take notice of the way boys behaved around them, the truth is, even they were shocked by how much the boys seemed to ignore them after their initial surprise. They thought a co-ed school would be different and ‘the cute girls’ would be worshipped by every boy who crossed their paths. But so far, they were wrong. They were being overshadowed by the newbies.
By the third day of the new semester, Mark and Jet made a re-appearance, late, at exactly three minutes past nine in our combined home room class.
The Princesses were sitting in a pack towards the front and Mouche and I were sitting in the corner. I was staring through the window wondering how I’d ever get out of Sunrise when Mark brushed past me to hand a late slip to Miss Tartt who was obviously taken with him. You could tell she thought he was good-looking by the way she fluttered her eye-lashes.
‘You’re late,’ she said, looking up at him from beneath her spectacles. She was clearly appreciating his masculine energy when I noticed the edges of her mouth turn up in a slight smile. You could almost hear her thinking, ‘if only I were sixteen again...’
Mark was quite apologetic.
‘Yes, please excuse me...Miss Tartt. I’m Mark Knightly...’
‘And you are?’ She peered at Jet.
‘Jet Campbell,’ Jet said affably. ‘We had to re-check our schedules.’
Miss Tartt was smiling sweetly by this point. She gestured to the boys to take a seat after she’d ticked the roll.
Mr Sparks was team-teaching with her that morning and in the process of announcing his plans for the play of the year, an updated version of Romeo and Juliet called Rocco and Julie.
‘Oh help us all,’ Mouche mouthed as she rolled her eyes and pulled her beret over her ears.
I glanced at Mark when he wasn’t looking in our direction, wondering if I’d ever have the courage to speak to him. I also considered the possibility that in all the romantic literature Mouche and I had ever read, good intentions were surer if the boy made the first move.
‘My fellow Thespians, this story is about true love. All the best stories are. Auditions will be held at 3pm, Thursday. I want you all there and not just the drama majors – we need the boys for extra credit please. This, our combined junior class production, is sure to be a masterpiece...’
Jet laughed out loud.
‘Any more of that negativity and I’ll see you in detention,’ Mr Sparks said pointedly.
Mr Sparks really believed he could improve on the original script using modern language. Since Shakespeare wasn’t around to tell him otherwise, his word was law. Mr Sparks was our combined home room teacher (and a seriously hard marker) so it paid to find a way to at least pretend to like him.
‘Phoebe Harris?’ Mr Sparks called out my name as I chewed my pencil and looked outside at the fallen orange leaves. I was wondering how in the world Mouche and I could make this year the best ever before the drama of college applications and everything else took over our lives. I raised my hand and noticed Mark glancing in my direction.
It’s true; I subsequently discovered that Mark’s late arrival on his third day as a transfer student was not his fault. His family couldn’t have been thrilled that he was attending Sunrise (he’d applied too late for any private school acceptance), but perhaps the superior tone he used when he spoke again could have been avoided.
‘And what might your name be, Sir?’ Mr Sparks said in a most theatrical manner as Mark started to leave the room.
‘Ah, Mark Knightly,’ he replied, sounding ridiculously uncomfortable. Mark had a rich voice. He spoke like a boy with a lot of money who has been told a few too many times he is extra good-looking. I could tell by his tone that he was not exactly thrilled to be repeating junior year in a different time zone. He’d almost graduated high school in England where they even have a separate school for senior year.
I had the opportunity to consider him once more in repose now that he was engaged in conversation with Mr Sparks. Mark was tall and wore his dark hair slightly long and swept across his forehead. He had cobalt blue eyes and a smile that Mouche would later describe as, ‘kind of dangerous.’ He also looked very embarrassed to have been singled out and ignored Mr Sparks when he asked him another question about whether he would sign up for the play. This made Mr Sparks go completely ballistic and he immediately signed up Mark to be stage manager of the new Romeo and Juliet. Mark just cringed in his seat and was the first person to escape when the bell rang.
‘He’s totally hot, what a Franco,’ Teegan said as she flicked her cherry hair in my face on her way to acting class. I was yet to publicize my new phrase in The Sunrise News and already the Princesses were coining the term as their own. C’est la vie. Perhaps copying a trend really is the highest form of flattery.
‘I’m definitely going to get the lead role in this,’ Tory added as she pulled down the freshly printed poster announcing the auditions for Rocco and Julie out in the hallway.
‘Just the name sounds totally sad,’ Mouche said, ‘but we are so going to audition because I know one Princess who could do with a little competition.’
‘You said it, Mouche,’ I added, under my breath.
‘The lead role will definitely go to Tory. She is perfect for the part,’ Teegan quipped, smoothing her lustrous locks.
‘Don’t be so sure,’ Mouche added. ‘Phoebe is auditioning as well.’
‘But Tory’s been working professionally all summer,’ Teegan countered. Tory looked a little bit surprised and very annoyed since I’d been the star of the HSYL freshman showcase, when all the agents from Los Angeles came to the school to see if there was anyone who would interest them. That’s kind of how Wednesday (Mouche’s baby sister) and Mouche and I signed with an agency called Thom’s Kidz (but more on him later, I promise).
‘You know everyone is invited to audition, Tory. May the best actress win!’ Mouche replied.
Tory stuck her nose in the air and checked her lipstick a third time before walking down the hall with Freya, Teegan and Brooke. That clique of juniors managed to look down on everyone and anyone and may have even convinced us all (including the teachers who they were super nice to) that they walked on air.
At lunchtime, Brooke, spaniel curls hanging perilously close to her food, could be heard moaning over her jell-o, ‘I just don’t know why there are so few hot guys in our town, even if the population is small. Mark Knightly is so cute he could start a riot around here.’
Freya, who was flicking through the images of her pony club trip via cell, looked up and said as an afterthought, ‘I agree.’
Tory smiled a big, toothy, insincere smile as she checked her gloss.
‘And...he wants to major in pre-med at Yale or Harvard,’ Teegan said, crossing her Barbie legs in agreement.
‘I heard his uncle owns a huge castle in Scotland and his family harbors a very dark secret...’ Tory added, tying her sweaty locks in a ponytail.
‘Shh,’ Brooke said, ‘Mark and Jet are coming over right now.’
The boys gave us wicked little grins.
‘Spreading the love,’ Mouche said under her breath.
Mark slid over onto one of the side tables and pulled out his study notes while Jet started playing some computer game then passed a basketball with his feet back and forth under the table towards Mark while they ate.
They looked over at me once when I was reading. Then, as soon as Mark and Jet had finished eating they ran out onto the playing fields, laughing at all the performing arts girls (us) as they slid out of the room. It was as if they had their own private joke, ignoring us. Well, ignoring almost everyone. Mark walked over to speak as he left, but turned, thought better of it, then glanced at Mouche and me and walked away. Peter was walking across the courtyard at that moment giving Mouche a cheeky grin. They had arranged to rehearse some dance moves.
‘Later, Pheebs,’ Mouche ran outside to greet Peter, who relayed to her a snippet of conversation he overheard as he was doing up his shoes.
‘It’s always the same for me,’ Jet said, as they walked outside.
‘What do you mean?’ Mark asked.
‘Always a feast or a famine.’
‘Petra thinks you’re conceited, now I know why.’
‘Your sister is kind of spacey, so I won’t take that too seriously. I mean, can I help it if a bunch of man-starved hot chicks throw themselves in my path? Have you checked out that cute little blonde girl we spoke to this morning?’
‘Not really. I’m too busy noticing we’re practically in Hicksville. All this culture is really overwhelming. I’d forgotten how much I dislike Los Angeles.’ Mark said.
‘LA is not so bad. C’mon, it’s the City of Angels. Besides, what’s so great about London at 6am? Parts of the city are seriously unclean. I mean, people spit on the streets there. A lot.’
‘Yeah, I guess, but outside of Beverly Hills, we barely walk on the streets here.’
‘I love being home. I love the air and I missed the food.’
‘I guess. There’s no place like home...I’m just kind of worried about my sister. Since our parents died, my aunt and uncle have insisted on sending her to that girl’s school...I just know she’s going to hate it.’
‘It’s kind of a bummer...your sister’s so...’
‘No, I was going to say, shy. Special.’
Mark rolled his eyes. He knew Jet was being sarcastic.
The boys had moved to the basketball court and began to shoot hoops.
‘After our parents died she stopped eating and became so introverted. I think she needs friends.’
‘From what I hear, she’s not going to find them at the Young Ladies Academy.’
Jet shot a near perfect hoop.
‘Great, that’s what I thought.’
Mark took over and bounced the ball, keeping it from Jet with his right palm.
‘I mean, we just saw the results. Did you see the way those girls were all ‘jostling each other for the last diet soda at lunch? Apparently they got expelled from The High School for Young Ladies.’
‘Shouldn’t hold that against them, we got thrown out of Loratio Academy, remember?’ ‘Yeah, but those women are vicious, man. If you’re considering introducing them to Petra, I’d think again. The Queen Bee...’
‘Which one’s that?’ Mark was yet to learn girl-speak and found the language faintly irritating.
‘I think her name’s Teegan.’
‘Oh,’ Mark said contemplatively.
‘Like I said, I’d think again...’
Peter continued, ‘then the newbies went back to the basketball court; more physicality, less conversation. Guys are comfortable relating via sporting analogies. Jet was probably shocked that Mark had even mentioned his sister. Men don’t reveal their emotions easily...’ Peter told us dramatically, I’d joined them both outside and listened intently.
Mouche was taking it all in.
‘Thanks Peter. Your take on the situation has been enlightening...’ Mouche said as she jotted down a few notes to expand her love theories later.
I looked around at a bunch of students weaving through the courtyard.
‘Are all of these students going to grow up to become adults and what will they take with them into the big wide world?’ I mused quietly.
‘The same bigoted, self-centered personalities they’ve displayed here,’ Peter said.
Mouche smiled. I laughed in agreement. It seemed most of the sixteen year olds I knew had personalities designed to last a lifetime. They certainly hadn’t changed in the twelve months I’d known them - some of them hadn’t changed since first grade.
Last year we’d heard snippets of love conversation flying past us in the halls. That was when we were the semi-anonymous newbies and nobody seemed to care if we heard their scurrilous talk.
‘Didn’t those two hook up?’
‘Yeah, that’s what I heard’
‘So, did he get some?’
‘Yeah, I think so.’
‘The new student teacher is totally hot...’
Ah, hello, the new student teacher is male but drama boys can always be relied upon to be somewhat artistic in their choices.
‘Did he get some? The new student teacher? Are they dreaming? I mean, there’s romance combined with delusion for you there, right there.’ Mouche said.
‘Obviously, we are focused on our career plans with good reason.’ I replied.
There’s also another reason. When we first arrived for sophomore year, our cousins, Ella and Katie (who are slightly younger than us) had been here since freshman year. They’re not our besties but we are still blood relations and that means something. Our cousins were actually asked out on a sort-of double date with Alex Miller and one of his friends, Tom Allen.
Prior to last year, we’d never really spent much time with our cousins. Ella and Katie (who’d started to call themselves Elle and Kate) preferred to hang out with each other which suited Mouche and me because they were super-giggly and boy-crazy. Not so boy-crazy that they’d do anything illegal in the back of the Sunrise bowling alley, though.
The day after their ‘big date’ my cousin Ella and Mouche’s cousin Katie told us that Alex and Tom spent most of the evening trying to outdo each other and Tom even ‘forgot’ his wallet and made them pay for everything.
Ella continued, ‘then, after ignoring us for an hour and conversing with each other, they tried to get on us in their car so Katie and I mutually decided to end the ‘date.’ The girls had been learning karate and had apparently had to get tough with those badly behaved boastful pre-men.
‘So I guess you could say we double dated at the bowling alley. It was kind of fun, but not as much fun as Alex Miller and Tom Allen say they’d had.’ Katie added.
We were surprised to learn via the Alex-Allen web site that ‘hanging out’ with Ella and Katie had evolved into a full on scandal the following week. Even the Princesses got to add their ten cents worth. Ella and Katie had morphed from nice to seriously heinous and slutty. Then, because the words of males seemed to hold more value than the words of females, the students in general believed the boy’s version of the story.
‘People need to learn a lesson,’ Mouche mused, ‘a lesson in social etiquette.’
‘And we are just the ones to teach them,’ I realized. We wanted to challenge ourselves to motivate these pre-men and women; to interest them in the romantic trysts of another era; without them realizing they were part of our game - a game we could turn into fun with quotes and helpful hints and even a treasure hunt.
That’s how the plan for the Boy-Rating Diaries came into existence and was ultimately turned into a dare.
Mouche once said, ‘sometimes I think we belong in a Jane Austen film or a Bronte novel. When I was little, like twelve, I thought my first great love affair would be exactly like Wuthering Heights.’
‘Except you don’t need to die at the end,’ I replied.
‘Of course not,’ Mouche said, ‘but not all the best stories have happy endings.’
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.’
‘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.
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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:
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?