Thursday, November 13th, 2003 • No Comments on Still plotting… or is that plodding?
Something smelled good when we walked in the house. Grandma, for all her annoying yelling and nagging, was a good cook. I was still a little wary of all the fried food, but it was nice to have home cooked meals. Mom was usually too busy with work or at a show to cook and Dad didn’t even know where the kitchen was, as far as I could tell. I’d been too busy with school and extracurriculars to bother cooking.
“Pot roast for dinner,” Grandma called when we came in. “New potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onions and peppers. And cornbread, of course.”
“Smells good, Mom,” my mother said. She sounded tired. “Can we do anything to help?”
The only time my grandmother ever seemed to be truly happy was when she was puttering around the kitchen. “Wash up, set the table, put the butter out,” she ordered. “Time to eat.”
The house phone rang. “Get that,” Grandma said, taking the pot roast out of the oven.
I answered it.
It was my father. “Hey, Dad. What’s up?”
“I thought I’d call and see how you’re doing. Grandma making you crazy yet?”
I looked over to where she was carving the pot roast. “Oh yeah,” I said.
Dad laughed. “Sorry. I don’t know what possessed your mother… Oh, never mind about that. I just wanted to see how my girl is.”
“I’m fine,” I said, even though I wasn’t. I desperately wished for a cordless phone so I could go upstairs and tell Dad I wanted to move back to Miami. Now. But like every other modern convenience, Grandma seemed to have missed the invention of the cordless phone. So I stood there in the kitchen wrapping the stupid phone cord around my hand, very aware that both my mother and grandmother were hearing every word I said. “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too, sweetheart. Maybe I can get up there for a weekend before school starts.”
“That would be great. Or I could come there,” I said hopefully.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Dad said. I could hear Rachel in the background. “You need to get settled in there.”
“I am settled.” I let the phone cord unravel from my hand. “I miss my friends.”
“You’ll make new ones.”
Here we go again, I thought. The same old lecture. Funny how no one had asked me what I wanted to do.
“I’ve got to go,” I said. “We’re having dinner.”
I barely said goodbye before hanging up. Mom came over and put her hand on my shoulder. “Did your father say something to upset you?”
I shrugged her off. “I’ve been upset since I got here. I hate this place.”
I didn’t wait for the tears to start, I made a dash for the stairs. I heard my mother call me back, but I ignored her.
“Let her be,” Grandma said. “The girl has been through enough.”
I slammed my bedroom door hard enough to rattle the windows and waited for someone to yell at me. For a change, no one did. No one even cared what I did anymore, as long as I stayed in Truhart.
I must have fallen asleep because I woke up to see my mother standing by the bed.
“Hi, sweetie,” she said in that apologetic, sympathetic, aren’t-you-pathetic voice. “How are you doing?”
I rubbed my eyes and sat up. I hate being woken up. “I’m fine.”
“I spoke to your father.” A different look crossed her face, which more closely resembled my feelings about Truhart. “He said you were upset you couldn’t go back for a visit before school starts.”
“I don’t understand why—” I started.
“You’ve only just go to Truhart,” Mom interrupted. “You need time to settle in here, make some friends before school starts.”
“I don’t want to settle in,” I said, smacking my hand on the bed. “And I already have friends. In Miami. Where I belong.”
Mom sighed and sat on the edge of my bed. “Honey, we’ve been through this. For the forseeable future, this is home. It’s not ieal, but we both have to make the best of it. I’m sorry it happened this way.”
I felt bad. Mom probably wasn’t enjoying living with Grandma anymore than I was. “I know,” I said finally. “I just miss home.”
“I know, baby.” She patted me on the shoulder. “But your father and I came up with a compromise.”
I perked up at that. “What?”
“Well…” She smiled. “We were thinking we’d speak to Jeanette’s mother and maybe a couple of your other friends’ parents and see if they would let them come up for a long weekend.”
My heart sank. “No, I don’t want that.”
“Why not? I thought you missed your friends?”
I didn’t know how to explain to my mother that I didn’t want Jeanette, or anyone, to see me in Truhart. I didn’t want them feeling sorry for me or going home and talking about poor little Julia who had to live with her Grandma in a decaying old house without a swimming pool. I didn’t want them to see the little hick town I lived in. Most of all, I didn’t want them to know I didn’t have any friends.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. It just isn’t the same.”
Mom sighed again. She was doing that a lot lately. “Julia, I don’t know what to do for you. I thought this was the perfect thing to make you feel better. After all, you’ll be sixteen in a month and what better way to celebrate than to have some of your old friends here with your new friends?”
My mother was clearly delusional. “Mom, in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t have any friends here.”
“What about Kaitlin?”
I rolled my eyes. “She’s in ninth grade.”
“So? She’s been nice to you and she seems to like you. You’ve got six weeks until school starts and I’m sure there will be all sorts of opportunities for you to make friends.” When I didn’t respond, she went on, “Just promise me you’ll think about having the girls up? We don’t have to get the airline tickets right away, but your father has promised to take care of it and I think you’ll have fun if they’re here.”
“I’ll think about it,” I said, knowing the only answer could be no. “Thanks.”
Mom smiled, as if I’d said something wonderful. “You’re welcome, sweetie. I just want you to be happy.”
*** Subj: Friends?
Date: 07/19/04 11:15:54 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
I don’t know what’s going on between us, but I feel like since I moved to Virginia you don’t want to have anything to do with me. I hope that’s not true. I miss a lot and tonight my mother said she and my father were working on a plan to get you up here for my birthday. I told them that won’t work, but now I’m thinking it might be fun. Maybe you and Cara could come up? I doubt seriously I could get my mom to let Josh come up, but maybe Dad might think it’s okay. I don’t know.
Anyway, let me know what you think about this idea. I would rather come home to Miami, but it would be a great birthdayif you could be here.
I was annoyed with myself almost as soon as I hit ‘send’ on Jeanette’s e-mail. After that weird phone call with her while I was at Buckler’s, I just knew she’d be laughing at how lame I was. But I’d sent it and there was nothing I could do about it except go to bed.
I woke up the next morning and checked my e-mail (make sure to add references to computer earlier in book; also references to Tatiana). There was a message from Jeanette.
I’ll talk to Mom and what’s-his-face about coming up for your birthday. Cara, too. It would be good to see you.
I’m sorry I haven’t written or called much. It’s weird having you gone. Nothing is the same, Josh is acting funny. I don’t know. I just figured you’d want to be left alone since you’re making new friends. I think you’re kind of lucky to get to start over. You can be anyone you want!
Gotta go, Cara is here and we’re going to the beach.
I didn’t know what she meant by Josh acting funny and that made me worry a little bit, but I was so happy to hear from Jeanette, I practically bounced down the stairs when my grandmother screamed it was time for breakfast. Weird how I was getting up earlier and earlier now. Of course, I wasn’t up until two o’clock on the morning talking to Jeanette or Cara or Josh on the phone, so that probably had something to do with it.
My grandmother was flipping pancakes went I went downstairs. Mom was no where to be seen, which was unusual.
“Your mother had an interview at 8:30,” she said.
“I hate it when you do that.” I picked a piece of cripsy bacon from the plate on the table. I was almost a vegetarian, but I couldn’t resist crispy bacon.
“Do what?” Grandma asked.
“Read my mind.”
She laughed. “Most people do. It’s not good to have other people know your thoughts, is it?”
I could feel my cheeks get warm. Considering some of the stuff I’d thought about my grandmother since I moved to Truhart, I’d have to say I agreed.
“Your mom tells me you took a driver’s education course last year.”
I popped another piece of bacon in my mouth and decided I’d better quit or I’d never be able to get into my jeans. “Yeah. I guess it’ll be awhile before I’m driving here, though.”
I’d researched the driving laws in Virginia and I’d have to be sixteen and six months (?) before I could drive alone. That pretty much sucked lemons, as far as I was concerned.
“True. But you get in some practice.”
My mother had been running Grandma’s errands for her since we got to Truhart. I hadn’t seen a car anywhere and I knew my mother would never let me drive her precious, ancient station wagon. Dad was the only one who trusted me enough to drive his car, but maybe that was because he had been teaching me.
“You could drive me around,” Grandma said.
“Mom won’t let me use her car,” I said.
“You can use mine.”
She put the last of the pancakes in a stack on a plate and put them on the table. There were enough pancakes and bacon to feed a dozen people.
“My car,” she said. “Sit. Eat. It’s been at the mechanic’s for a couple of weeks. He called yesterday and said it was ready.”
It figured. It was probably as old and decrepit a heap as Mom’s car. But at least Grandma was willing to let me drive it.
“Cool. What was wrong with it?”
Grandma finished chewing her pancake before she answered. “Stupid thing. A tree got in my way.”
“You hit a tree?” I wonder if Mom knew about this. She must, that was probably why she was running errands for Grandma.
“No, I just didn’t see the tree and it was in my way.” She gave me that narrow-eyed look of hers that dared me to argue.
I knew better than to ask any more questions. I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to drive, even if it was some old horse-and-buggy era car. “Thanks.”
“You’ll have to take me shopping and to doctor’s appointments,” she warned. “Don’t thank me. It’ll be boring.”
“But at least I’ll get to drive, right?”
I heard the front door open.
“Don’t tell your mother,” Grandma whispered. “I’ll need to butter her up.”
Weird. Wasn’t I the one that was supposed to be keeping secrets from my mother?