Wednesday, November 5th, 2003 • No Comments
I broke 10,000 tonight on my NaNoWriMo book. Woooo. 40,000 to go.
Chapter Four is below. I think I’m starting to flouder. It’s too early to flounder. I can’t start floundering until I’m 3/4ths the way through. Oh well. Can you tell I’m not exactly thrilled with what I’m writing right now? I think it’s just a mood. Hopefully some good stuff will come to me soon. In the meantime, I’m just glad to make my daily word count.
After my desperate e-mail to Jeanette, I stripped off my blouse and hung it on the doorknob so I could rinse it out and threw on my robe until I could figure out what to wear. Of course, it wasn’t like I had a lot of clothing options. I didn’t care if Grandma yelled at me in front of the entire population of Truhart (and how many could that be, really?), I was not putting on that ugly pink dress.
I had come to the conclusion I was going to have to wear jeans and risk Grandma’s wrath when someone knocked at the door. I figured it was my mother, so I hollered, “Come in, if you dare.”
The door opened and the girl who had been with Wade and Darren came in. She was carrying a white plastic bag. “Um, hi. I’m Kaitlin.”
“Hey,” I said, wondering if this was some sort of country initiation thing. Was she going to douse me in red paint and then run back to tell her friends? “What’s up?”
She closed the door behind her and just stood there. “Well, I heard your grandmother yelling at you.”
I made a face. “I think everyone in the room heard her yelling at me.”
Kaitlin nodded. “Probably everyone in Truhart.”
She said it so seriously, I couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah. That’s my Grandma. Leave it to her to embarrass me in front of thirty people I don’t know.”
“Well, so, your mom said something about how you didn’t really have many clothes and I felt bad.”
I held up my hand. I had to set this girl straight. “I’ve got clothes,” I said. “They’re just on a moving truck on the way from Florida.”
Kaitlin looked sort of flustered and being flustered seemed to make her talk a mile a minute. “Oh, gosh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that you didn’t have clothes, of course you have clothes, it’s just that you don’t have any clothes with you and I thought maybe you might want to borrow this.” She thrust the bag at me, but I was standing across the room so I had to go take it from her.
I looked at the bag suspiciously. It was nice thought and all, but I was afraid of what might be in the bag. A church dress? A pair of overalls? Who knew? But I didn’t want to be rude when she’d been so nice, so I looked inside. “What is it?”
Kaitlin laughed. “It’s a dress. Mom took me shopping in Richmond today and I bought that. We haven’t been home, so it was still in the car.”
“Oh.” I pulled the dress out of the bag and was pleasantly surprised. The fabric was okay, some sort of rayon blend, and the bluish-green color was nice, if not something I’d pick out. I held it up to me and it looked like it would come right about my knees, which wasn’t too bad. I had been expecting some sort of floor length nightgown-ish thing. “Thanks.”
“It’s probably a little small for you,” she said, blushing, “because you’re bigger in the chest and all, but it should be okay for tonight, don’t you think?”
I looked at the frumpy yellow and white dress she was wearing and compared it to the soft, flowing ocean colored dress in my hands. “Um, yeah. But can I ask you something?”
Kaitlin seemed very happy that I’d agreed to wear her dress. “Sure. Anything!”
I wasn’t sure how to put it. “Well, this is an awesome dress and all, but why do you look like you’re going to church when you obviously have taste?”
That didn’t seem to hurt her feelings, which was good because I really didn’t want to hurt someone who’d been so nice. “Oh, this?” She made a face. “We visited my great aunt at the nursing home on our way to Richmond and she made this for me. I wanted to go home and change, but Mom said we didn’t have time.”
That made sense. “Thanks, Kaitlin. You saved me.”
“Well, Wade said—” She stopped mid-sentence and turned beet red.
“What did Wade say?”
She shook her head. “Just that he didn’t think you’d borrow anything from me and that I’d be crazy to come up here.”
It was starting to make sense. “He dared you?”
“Yeah, sorta. But I wanted to loan you the dress. Honest.”
I believed her. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”
She left me alone and I put the dress on. It didn’t go with my boots, but I had a pair of platforms that looked great with it. There was absolutely nothing wrong with how I looked, but I prepared myself for more of my grandmother’s screeching when I went downstairs.
My mother was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. “What a pretty dress. Kaitlin seems very nice.”
I’d been in Truhart for two days and my mother was already snooping in my life. “She is very nice and I’m glad she had something I could borrow. Maybe Grandma will stay off my back now.”
As if she’d been waiting for me to say her name, I saw Grandma come barreling up behind Mom, with a tray of some sort of tarts or pies or something. “Well, that’s better. Awful proud of them knockers though, aren’t you? Everything you wear is tight.”
I closed my eyes and pleaded for the ground to open up and swallow me. It didn’t happen. The only thing that kept me from stalking out of the house was the fact that the party had gotten a little louder and I was pretty sure no one but Mom had heard her.
“Can we just please get through this night without any more arguments or criticisms?” my mother asked.
Grandma looked at me and raised one eyebrow perfectly, just liked I’d been trying to learn. “I don’t have to argue,” she said. “I’m always right.”
She headed off to the pantry and I exchanged a look with my mother. We weren’t the closest mother and daughter I knew, but at that exact moment I could have sworn I knew what she was thinking.
“We need to get out of this house as soon as possible,” I said, taking a guess.
She just looked at me and nodded.
Thankfully, the party ended without anyone spilling anything on me, laughing at me or otherwise embarrassing me. Mostly because Grandma holed up in the kitchen with some of her cronies while the people Mom’s age stayed in the parlor. Everyone under twenty eventually ended up outside on the porch. I pretty much stayed quiet and listened to them talk about what they’d been doing over the summer and decided that Truhart was a million miles away from Miami. Which meant it was a million miles away from where I wanted to be.
“Honey, what are you still doing up?”
I had changed out of Kaitlin’s dress and was wearing a Miami Dolphins jersey my father had gotten for me on my last birthday. I shrugged. “Waiting for Jeanette to call. She promised she’d call me tonight.” That was a little fib, since I hadn’t heard from Jeanette since I left Miami. That was starting to bug me, but I wasn’t about to tell my mother that.
“Well, you need to get to bed. It’s been a long night.”
I didn’t respond and she closed the door. It was only a little after midnight, so I dialed Jeanette’s cell phone. I still hadn’t remembered to add the area code to my speed dial numbers.
Jeanette answered, finally. “Hey, girl,” she said. “I was just getting ready to call you.”
“That’s weird, because it sounds like you’re half asleep.” I was grumpy and taking it out on Jeanette, but it was her fault for not calling me. I needed her to help me get through this insanity. “Where have you been? Aren’t you checking your e-mail?”
“Whoa, Jules. Stop with the twenty questions, I’m tired.” Jeanette yawned loudly. “I was up early for that interview, which you knew about and didn’t bother to call me and wish me luck.”
I curled up on my bed and tucked the phone between my ear and my pillow. “I know and I’m sorry. You wouldn’t believe how awful it’s been since I got here. First my mother has gone psycho and this town is like something out of the 1950s and my grandmother, don’t even get me started about her—”
“Geez, Jules, suck it up already. I mean, I had to listen to two months of this while you were here.” Jeanette took a deep breath. “I’m sorry it sucks lemons there, but things aren’t great here, either.”
She was making me feel like the worst friend in the world and the truth was, she was right. I had been obsessing about moving to Virginia from the moment my mother had gotten the hair-brained scheme into her head. But still, it felt like I needed Jeanette even more now.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t have anyone else to talk to,” I said, hating how pathetic that sounded. “I figured you’ve got a whole crew of people to whine to and I’ve got just you. And Josh, if he’d ever call me back.”
Another yawn from Jeanette. “Yeah, well, I’m sorry. I’m just really, really tired. Can I call you back tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” I felt like crying. I really needed to talk to her, but I wouldn’t ask again. “I’ll probably be out back plowing the field or something.”
Jeanette laughed. “Oh, Jules, you crack me up. I’ll call you tomorrow. Promise.”
I tossed my cell phone on the table and squeezed my pillow into a tiny little ball under my cheek, refusing to let myself cry. It didn’t work. I hadn’t been gone a week yet and I already felt like I was losing my best friend.
The weekend was a bust of wandering around looking for stuff to do and trying to avoid my grandmother. She seemed determined to make me into some little doll she could dress up and show off to her friends and I was having none of it.
My mother rescued me on Monday and said she’d drop me off in the downtown area of Truhart and let me walk around while she ran errands for Grandma. I’d begged her to take me to Richmond, but she said that would have to wait until next weekend. Walking around Truhart seemed like a slightly better option than staying home alone with my grandmother, so I grudgingly agreed. If nothing else, maybe I could find some decent conditioner.
As we drove into the downtown area of Truhart, I felt like I was in some old- fashioned movie, except everything was in color. There was a little grocery store called Minnie’s Grocer and a pharmacy called Buckler’s. A laundromat, a bakery, a farm and feed store (whatever that was), two antique stores, some sort of fabric store and, thankfully, one hair salon. Of course, with a name like Belva’s Hair Palace I wasn’t expecting much, but I was hoping they’d at least have some good conditioner.
Mom dropped me at the corner of Main Street and Tinwhistle Lane, right in front of the big brick town hall building. “Be careful and call me on your cell phone if you want me to come pick you up. Otherwise, I’ll meet you in front of the pharmacy at five. Be careful. Truhart is a nice little town, but you’re still a fifteen year old girl.”
“I hear you, Mom.” I looked around to make sure no one was hearing this little lecture. “See you at five.”
She drove off and I started walking. I didn’t know how in the world I was going to kill four hours in Truhart’s little metro-center, but it beat hanging out with my grandmother. I hit the hair salon first. The bell over the door jingled as I went in. There were two women under hair dryers with their hair up in big curlers and one woman in a chair, getting her long hair cut by another woman with really short hair. Not one of the women in there was younger than my mother.
“Hey sugar, have a seat and I’ll be with you in a minute,” the stylist said. “Gracie called in sick and it’s been just me all day.”
I didn’t know who Gracie was, but I was quickly learning that people in small towns really liked to tell you stuff. I sat down in one of the chairs by the window and leafed through an old copy of Self. I heard laughter and looked up to see a four girls walking by outside. Suddenly, I felt like an outcast. I hadn’t really wanted to accept the fact that I was actually living in a new state, but Mom had made it pretty clear we weren’t moving back to Florida. Which meant for the first time since kindergarten, I was going to start the school year without friends.
It was enough to make tears come to my eyes and I brushed them away angrily. I was funny, I was smart, I had lots of friends in Florida. Even if Truhart was the last place in the world I wanted to be, surely I’d make a couple of friends.
“Okay, sweetie, what can I do for you?” It figured that the stylist chose that moment to walk over. “You all right, darlin’?”
I blinked my eyes quickly and tried to smile. “Allergies.”
She didn’t look like she believed me, but shrugged. “I hear ya, mine are usually bad in the spring, but summer is nasty, too.”
I didn’t really want to discuss my non-existent allergies. “I was wondering if you carry Bed Head conditioners?”
She wrinkled her nose at me. “No, can’t say that I do.”
“How about Catwalk?”
She shook her head.
“Well, what do you have?” I asked, after she said no to my third, fourth and fifth favorite conditioners.
She led me to the back of the salon and showed me a shelf of hair care products. “Here you go.”
Other than Paul Mitchell, I didn’t recognize any of the names. I picked up one of the PM’s and handed it to her. “I guess I’ll take this one.”
“Oh, honey, you don’t want that. Not for that beautiful curly hair,” she said. “Try this.”
She thrust a bright yellow bottle at me. “You will love what this does for your hair.”
“Curl Magic,” I said, reading the label. “Guaranteed to give your curls the life and bounce you deserve.”
The stylist nodded. “It’s the best.”
Clearly, I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I was starting to think my grandmother’s bossy behavior was a trait shared by a lot of the women in Truhart. “Okay.”
“Say, are you Tess Baker’s granddaughter?” she asked as she rung me up.
I nodded. “Yeah, how’d you know?”
“You’re the spittin’ image of your grandmother. Tell the old witch I said hello.”
I was still reeling from the idea that I looked like my grandmother and it took me a minute to respond. “What’s your name?”
“Oh, I’m Belva,” she said with a laugh. “I own the place. And since I do, you need to come back in a week for a cut, on the house. That mane of yours is a little unruly.”
I didn’t bother arguing with her. Joseph at Hair Asylum was the only one I ever let touch my hair. There was no way I was going to let anyone else cut my hair, even if I had to wait until Christmas break to get a trim.
“Thanks, ” I said, making a quick escape. I wasn’t looking where I was going and ran smack into someone. “Oops, sorry.”
“Julia! Hey!” It was Kaitlin, with two other girls.
“Oh, hi Kaitlin. Sorry about that.” I smiled at the two other girls, but they seemed to be doing their best to ignore me. “Hi, ” I said. “I’m Julia Carmichael.”
“This is Melanie and Jenny,” Kaitlin said when neither girl responded. “They’re sisters.”
They both kind of rolled their eyes. “C’mon, Kaitlin, I’m starving,” said Melanie. Or maybe it was Jenny. Hard to be sure when Kaitlin hadn’t made it clear which was which.
“We’re going to Buckler’s for milkshakes,” Kaitlin said. “Want to come?”
Maybe it was because I already knew Kaitlin, sort of, from my grandmother’s house. Or maybe it was because Melanie and Jenny were making it very obvious they didn’t want o me to go. Whatever the reason, I nodded and said, “Sure. Sounds great.”