Tuesday, November 4th, 2003 • No Comments
My NaNoWriMo novel (as yet untitled, which is unusual for me) is progressing. I didn’t do an update here last night because my web page was down for some reason. I think I should do chapter updates rather than bits and pieces, so below are Chapters 1 and 2. Three is almost done and will be up tomorrow.
Pardon the lack of formatting, I don’t have the energy to mess with it. I figure if anyone is interested in reading my sad little attempt at a young adult novel, they won’t mind.
I’m over a thousand words ahead of where I need to be in terms of my daily word count. That’s nice, but it probably won’t last. I figure I need to get as far ahead as I can because I may not get much writing done at all Thanksgiving week. I’m really determined to make the 50,000 mark by the end of the month and I feel pretty good about it now. We’ll see how I feel in 27 days.
There was a funky odor coming from the back seat of the car and I was pretty sure it wasn’t my sneakers. I waited for my mother to notice, but she was concentrating on driving. Which meant that she had her hands at the proper ten and two positions and was peering through her goofy black framed glasses at the road in front of us. The Road to Nowhere, as I’d dubbed it. Because if Truhart, Virginia wasn’t nowhere, I didn’t know what was.
“Mother,” I said, in the tone that I knew was guaranteed to get a response. “Oh Mother, darling.”
She looked over at me, her nose wrinkling and the glasses sliding down a notch. “Julia, do not use that tone with me. You know how I hate it.”
I sighed and tried to keep from screaming. My life had turned into a crazy nightmare and my mother was concerned about my tone? And they say teenagers have screwed up priorities.
“Something reeks and I think it’s Tatiana.”
Tatiana was a Yorkshire terrier and my mother’s pride and joy. My mother is a dog groomer who also shows dogs around the east coast. I hate dogs. I’m a cat lover. Why have some mangy mutt slobbering and stinking up the place when you can have a perfectly clean cat who not only grooms herself but also has bathroom habits that don’t require going outside? Unfortunately, my mother was allergic to cats, which meant my only childhood pets were stupid little show dogs. My opinion of Mom’s raggedy little dog also had something to do with the fact that Tatiana despised me with everything she had in her little four pound body. The feeling was mutual.
Mom practically slammed on the breaks at that news. “Tatiana? What’s the matter with her?” she all but screeched as she tried to peer into the back of the mom wagon for a glimpse of her precious pooch. The car – if you can call a twenty-year old station wagon a car – swerved onto the shoulder of the highway, throwing gravel up on the hood.
“Yikes, Mom, watch the road will you? I’d hate to die before I’ve even started college.”
“Sorry,” she muttered, hands back in their proper driving positions. “What’s wrong with Tatiana? Should I pull off at the next rest stop?”
“Should it bother me that you’re more concerned about your mutt than my poor stomach that has been growling for two hours?”
“Julia.” Sometimes my mother can say my name in a certain way that makes me shut up. This was one of those times.
“What is wrong with Tatiana?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it was that weird soy dog food you gave her. Maybe she has gas.”
Mom made a tsking noise. “Poor baby. This move is really traumatizing her.”
“Traumatizing her? What about the trauma I’m suffering?”
Mom swerved again. “Julia Katherine! Stop screaming before you make me have an accident.”
I noticed it was okay for her to scream as much as she wanted and swerve all over the road trying to see if her dog was all right, but let me so much as raise my voice about a whisper and I was getting the middle-name treatment. I didn’t bother to point out the unfairness of it all. Why bother? I’d been screaming about fair play since my father moved out of our house and into his girlfriend’s apartment three months ago. Who was I to ask for fairness? Just the fifteen year old daughter of a messy divorce being forced to move from her very cool house in Miami to some little shack in the woods in Virginia.
“Julia, are you listening to me or are you feeling sorry for yourself again?”
I hate it when my mother reads my mind. She does that way too much, which makes me worry about what will happen when I finally have a boyfriend. I mean, a real boyfriend. A few dates with Josh didn’t make him my boyfriend, no matter what anyone said. Especially since he was now hanging out on the beach with my best friend while I was on the Road to Nowhere.
“The only thing I’m feeling is hungry. Can we please stop at a Mickey Dee’s or even KFC? I need sustenance.” When she didn’t even bother to respond, I added, “And you can check on Princess Mop Dog back there and see what’s crawled up her butt.”
“Mom, ” I interrupted. “C’mon, we need a break. Grandma isn’t going anywhere and we’re almost to the state line anyway, you said so yourself.”
My mother sighed heavily, which meant yes. It was a small little beacon of joy in my otherwise depressing and dreary world.
Despite my meager attempts to drag out our McDonald’s stop, we were back on the road in thirty minutes, Tatiana sitting in my lap. The dog hated me, but she hated not being able to see out the window even more. Apparently, being cooped up in her state-of-the-art dog carrier had made her so unhappy she’d barfed. I knew how she felt. I wanted to hurl myself.
“Check the map, Julia, I know we turn up here somewhere.”
I studied the road map over Tatiana’s fluffy little head. My father is a geography and history professor at University of Miami, so I’ve learned a little bit about map reading. More than my mother has, obviously, since the woman couldn’t find her way out of a Winn Dixie without a guide dog and a flashlight.
“Make a right onto Bluebell Way,” I said. “Gag me. Bluebell Way?”
“It’s a pretty name.”
“If you live in Disney World.” I folded the map. “Then go around the next curve and turn left onto Marigold Crossing.”
“That’s her house,” my mother said excitedly.
‘House’ seemed a strange word for something that was as big as the Dade County Library and as decrepit as my mother’s high school cheerleading uniform. “You’re joking, right? We’re going to live in that monstrosity?”
“It’s not a monstrosity, it’s listed on the historical register,” my mother lectured.
“Your grandmother has spent five years restoring this house and it will be a real honor for us to be a part of its history.”
“So why did we wait until we were practically homeless to come here? I mean, we haven’t even visited for Christmas and now we’re moving in?”
My mother was either over heating in the humid Virginia air or she was blushing. Hard to tell. “Your grandmother and I have always had a bit of a strained relationship. Now seems as good a time as any to correct that situation.”
“You mean now that we don’t have a home of our own.”
My mother was oblivious to my disdain. She pulled up in front of the house and killed the engine. All I could hear was Tatiana panting.
“This is it, Julia. The first day of the rest of our lives.”
“Funny, but I was pretty happy with my old life.” I pushed Tatiana off my lap and into the floorboard. “Remember that life, Mom? We had our own house and neighbors I’ve known since I started preschool. And I had a best friend and a spot on the drill team and a boyfriend.”
“I didn’t think Josh was your boyfriend.” Leave it to my mother to ignore everything else and focus on the boy stuff. “Since when is he your boyfriend?”
“Since never,” I said, climbing out of the car. “But he could have been my boyfriend. Could have been if you hadn’t gotten all familial and decided we needed to move to the middle of nowhere and live like hillbillies.”
My mother didn’t get a chance to respond because the front door of the house opened and my grandmother came out. Only, I couldn’t be entirely sure it was my grandmother since I hadn’t seen her since the Christmas I was in eighth grade. That year, she had criticized the blond streaks in my dark brown hair. She must have been inspired by me, because she seemed to have dyed her hair some wacky shade of blue and was wearing an enormous feathered hat on her head.
“Land sakes girl, shut your trap before you scare off the critters,” she said. She came down the front steps slowly, looking at me the way I’d look at last year’s jeans. “What in heaven’s name are you wearing?”
I looked down at my outfit and shook my head. What could possibly be wrong with a tank top and jeans? “What I always wear.”
“Hannah, you let the girl go out in public in that getup? With her bosoms popping out and her hoochie practically showing in those hip hugger jeans?”
“Mother, you know that’s an exaggeration.”
I rolled my eyes. My mother was using the exact same tone with my grandmother that I used with her. Talk about double standards. Sheesh.
“Never mind, never mind. Get your butts inside. I’ve got a pot roast cooking and a fresh pitcher of lemonade.” Grandma gestured at the house. “My girls are home, Clyde.”
As I followed my mother and a way-too-happy Tatiana up the porch stairs, I whispered to my mother, “Who’s Clyde?”
My mother just shook her head and kept walking. “The house.”
It figured that I had given up a life any fifteen year old would kill for just so I could move to the backwoods of Truhart, Virginia with my mother to live with my crazy grandmother in a house named Clyde. I decided right then and there I would never forgive my mother for this travesty. I vowed that if I survived the next two years until I could go to college as far away as possible, I would make sure never to put my own children through the nightmare she’d put me through.
“Thinking bad thoughts about your mama will only get you extra chores,” my grandmother sing-songed over her shoulder.
Leaving my friends behind, moving to the country and living with a barfing dog were all bad enough; did I really have to put up with the mind-reading duo, too? Apparently, the answer was yes. Gag me, but I was thinking I might have preferred living with my father and his twenty-six year old girlfriend to this torture.
Subj: Save me!!
Date: 07/15/04 8:43:41 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [email protected]
Seriously, Jeannette, if I ever, ever, ever tell you that I’m going to make my kids move to another state, smack me with my iBook. If the state is Virginia and the town is Truhart (should be TruNightmare!), just go ahead and put me out of my misery.
I cannot believe my mother made me move here. My grandmother is nuts (can you say “Certifiable?”), this creepy house smells like floor wax and mold and Mom’s ratty little dog thinks she’s going to sleep in my bed. What am I going to do??? Can I please, please move in with you? We’re practically sisters anyway. Surely your mother and her new husband (when are you going to start calling him Dad?
Kidding, just kidding) wouldn’t even notice me. I don’t eat much and I can sleep on the floor. Please?
If you care about me at all, you’ll get me out of here. Or, at the very least, keep an eye on Josh for the rest of the summer. I’m still hoping I can talk my mother out of this insanity and move me back to Miami, but in the meantime I need someone I trust to watch out for the skanks who might make a move on Josh. We were this close to being bf/gf before this disaster struck. I’m not going to let one of my mother’s screwy ideas ruin my life.
Gotta go unpack. Gag me.
“Rise and shine, girl o’ mine! Rise and shine and don’t you whine!”
I woke up to my grandmother’s incessant screeching and for one blissful moment, I forgot where I was. For that one second, I was still at home in my house in Miami with my striped Ralph Lauren sheets and the beach just five blocks away. Then reality struck like a Chemistry textbook and I was wide awake.
“Did you hear me, Julia? Time to get up!” Grandma flung the bedroom door open and put her hands on her hips. She was wearing a hot pink apron over a purple dress. It hurt my eyes to look at her.
“Haven’t you ever heard of privacy?” I pulled the moth-ball smelling quilt up over my head. “I’m tired. I had a long day yesterday. Wake me when GH comes on.”
“Honey girl, I don’t know what GH is, but you need to get your butt out of bed. It’s nine-thirty and I have breakfast cooking.”
“GH is General Hospital. Or don’t they have television in TruHick?” Okay, so I was being a little grumpy. What can you expect when I’d gotten hardly any sleep in the lumpy old bed?
“I don’t need your smart mouth, missy. Not if you want to eat my breakfast.”
I didn’t bother telling her I didn’t care about her breakfast. Funny, but I didn’t remember my grandmother being so demanding and mean. The few times I’d seen her, she’d visited us in Miami. She always brought me homemade butterscotch candy and some little doll she’d picked up. It was kind of sweet, actually. Now I was wondering if maybe she suffered from that multiple personality disorder heard about on the Learning Channel, because sweet little Grandma Baker had turned into a drill sergeant.
Thankfully, my mother appeared just then to save me. Or so I thought.
“What’s all the noise?”
She looked like she’d just woken up too, which didn’t surprise me since her room was next to mine. Grandma had made up two rooms for us on the second floor. Her bedroom was on the first floor by the kitchen because she said she didn’t like going up and down the stairs all the time. Which was fine by me. I’d just as soon she stayed downstairs and left me alone.
“You gals need to get used to getting up early. Julia will be starting school next month and you’ve got to get yourself a job.” My grandmother smacked her hands on her hot pink apron for affect. “Now, downstairs, both of you. It’s breakfast time.”
I’m not sure who groaned louder, me or my mother. I waited for her to tell Grandma that neither of us were morning people and that we didn’t eat breakfast. Instead, she just stood there.
“Well be down in a minute, Mom.”
Grandma’s eyes got squinty. “Make it a minute and not ten. Waffles won’t keep.”
She walked away and my mother came into my room and closed the door. She sat on my bed and smiled weakly.
“I’m sorry Grandma’s being a little overbearing, Julia.” She smoothed out the wrinkles in the icky old quilt. “She’s kind of set in her ways and we’re just going to have to adjust.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was pretty much the same speech she’d given me when Dad had moved in with Rachel, one of his grad students. “Why is it me that always has to adjust?”
“I said �we,’ Julia.”
“Yeah, but you meant me.” I flung the covers off and sat up. “I’m sick to death of having to adjust to stuff the adults in my life do.”
My mother stared at my feet and for once didn’t comment on my nail polish. This week it was Rebellious Red. I thought it was perfect for my mood. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I wish things could be different.”
“They can,” I said. “We can move back to Miami and forget this crazy idea. I’ll be back in school in a month and everything will be back to normal.”
My mother sighed one of those parental sighs that told me I was wasting my time. “We have been over this and over this, Julia. I cannot afford to live in Miami on my salary. Your father is a tenured professor and guest lecturer and it was his income that paid for our house, not mine.”
“So? I don’t need a big house, just one in Dade County so I can go to school with my friends.”
“There are no houses in my price range in Dade County. If there were, do you think we’d be here?” Her eyes went wide, like she hadn’t meant to say that. “Honestly, Julia, you’re plucking at my last nerve.”
I would have argued more, but just then Grandma screeched at us from downstairs. “Breakfast! Now!”
My mother jumped like a show dog through a hoop. “Let’s go. We can discuss it later.”
“No buts, Julia. It’s done. You’re just going to have to learn to live with it.”
I didn’t know what had happened to my nice little world, but I wanted it back.
I got stuck with cleanup duty after breakfast. And, since the house was older than Grandma, it didn’t have a dishwasher. Fun. But at least it was better than listening to Grandma nag Mom about getting a job, which is what she was doing all through breakfast, in between asking me what I was wearing. Sheesh. What was the woman’s obsession with my wardrobe. At least I wasn’t wearing some stupid hat. According to Mom, Grandma had taken up hat designing as a hobby. I guess renovating decrepit old houses wasn’t enough to keep her entertained. The two of them had gone off to buy groceries and had left me blissfully alone.
I finished the dishes and wandered around the downstairs. Grandma had shown it to us when we got there, but I wasn’t really all that interested in antiques and dusty books. I still wasn’t, but there wasn’t anything else to do at eleven o’clock on a Friday morning. I was going to die of boredom if I didn’t start making friends and finding cool stuff to do.
I somehow doubted I’d want to be friends with anyone who lived in some dinky little town and I was pretty sure there was nothing cool to do, but thinking about home made me want to talk to someone who would understand. I went upstairs to get my purse so I could call Jeanette on my cell phone. Dad had sprung for that puppy right before we left Miami. Of course, I was only supposed to use it to call him and Mom, and also for emergencies. I figured being stuck in TruBumpkin, Virginia was an emergency and he’d understand. I just hoped Jeanette was up. She wasn’t much of a morning person either.
I dialed Jeannette, then remembered it was long distance and had to redial. I was going to have to remember to update my phone book so that I didn’t have to dial the number every time.
I thought I’d dialed wrong. “Josh? Is that you?”
“Hey, Jules! What’s up? How’s Alabama?” he asked.
“It’s Virginia and it sucks. What’s up with you?” I was a little curious as to why Josh was answering Jeannette’s phone, but I wasn’t going to ask. I didn’t want to look like the jealous almost-girlfriend. Especially not when I was a thousand miles away.
“Not much,” Josh said. “Just hangin’ out with Jeanette and Cara.”
I could hear splashing and giggles in the background, which meant they were at Cara’s house. Cara was the only one who had a pool now that I was gone. “It’s kind of early isn’t it?” I tried to sound cool, but I think I sounded a little suspicious.
“Jeanette had an interview at some boutique in Bal Harbour, so I drove her.” Josh yawned. “And you know Jeanette. She’s not going anywhere without support, so Cara came along.”
I did know Jeanette. I’d totally forgotten about her interview at Chez Chic in my current state of mind. There was a time, just a couple days ago, when I would have been the one holding her hand before a job interview. “Gotcha. Well, can I talk to Jeanette? Maybe I can at least give her a little post-interview pep talk.”
“Hold on a sec.”
I could hear Josh telling Jeanette I was on the phone and then some more giggles and Jeanette said something. Then it sounded like Josh dropped the phone. I drummed my fingers on the table beside the bed. Why wasn’t Jeanette coming to the phone?
“Jules?” It was Josh again. “Hey, Jeanette’s in the pool and she doesn’t want to get her phone wet. Can she call you back?”
“Sure, that’s fine�”
Lots of splashing and a shriek from Jeanette that sounded like, “Don’t drop my phone!”
“Gotta go,” Josh said.
“But�” He hung up before I could tell him to call me when he got home.
I tossed my cell phone back into my purse and wondered what had happened in two short days to make my best friend and the guy who supposedly had told two of my friends that he wanted to be my boyfriend forget all about me.
“Julia? Are you up here?” My mother stood in the doorway, hands on her hips. “I’ve been calling you for ten minutes.”
I rolled my eyes. “How am I supposed to hear you in this cavern you call a house? Did you remember to get my conditioner? This stupid country water is ruining my hair.”
My mother shook her head. “There isn’t a salon in Truhart, so you’ll just have to use my conditioner.”
“Great. Now I not only have to live here, I have to go around with bad hair.”
“Goodness, Julia! Can you stop thinking about yourself for one minute and listen to me?” I’d never heard my mother raise her voice, so that pretty much shocked me silent. “Your grandmother is having some people over tomorrow night so we’re going to need your help cleaning the downstairs parlor.”
Parlor. In Florida we had patios and lanai and Florida rooms. Here in the country, we had a parlor. Joy and happiness.
“What people?” I asked, visions of overall wearing farmers and their wives with curlers in their hair. Or worse, a bunch of blue hairs like Grandma. Of course, she’d given new meaning to the term �blue hair.’ According to her, it was supposed to be a burgundy rinse. I figured the awful water was to blame.
Mom smiled, but I could tell it was forced. “Oh, a few neighbors, some friends of hers from church.”
“Gag me. I’m going to have to spend my Saturday night with a bunch of church ladies?” My life was getting worse by the hour. “Can’t I skip out on this little rave of yours? You can drop me at the nearest mall and pick me up when it’s all over.” I figured that would be about seven-thirty, since Grandma was big on getting up early.
“No, you cannot. Besides, the nearest mall is in Richmond and that’s almost two hours away.”
Hell on earth. That’s where I was. “Fine. I’ll just stay in my room and watch the Buffy DVD Dad bought me.”
“Your television is on the moving truck with the rest of our stuff and that won’t be here for a week.” My mother was starting to get that small mouth she got when she was really ticked. Normally, that look was reserved for my father. I was starting to get a little worried that now that he was out of the picture, I was going to be the lucky recipient of her misery. “Besides,” she said, attempting another smile, “your grandmother said there are a few kids your age who will be coming. Maybe you’ll make some friends before school starts.”
More joy and happiness in my life. Teenagers from Truhart, here to be my friends. Just what I needed. That and a plane ticket back to Miami.
I flung myself back on my bed and closed my eyes. Maybe, if I was really lucky, when I opened them my life would be back to normal.
“I’ll take that as a sign of contentment,” my mother said. “Why don’t you go look around the grounds? It’s a beautiful day outside.”
I didn’t bother to open my eyes. I knew what I’d see. A hideously decorated bedroom and one very clueless mother. I sighed. I didn’t have to open my eyes to know nothing had changed at all.
Subj: What’s up??
Date: 07/16/04 2:29:27 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [email protected]
What’s up?? Why haven’t you called me back? I know you’re interviewing for jobs and showing off your new bikini, but your best friend NEEDS you. Things keep going from bad to worse here. Now my mother has informed me that I have to play little miss hostess to a bunch of TruHick nerds who are coming to some party my grandmother is throwing. Can you believe the nightmare that is my life??
Thanks for keeping an eye on Josh for me. I was a little surprised when he answered your cell phone this morning since I didn’t know you were going to be hanging out, but I guess I can’t blame you for forgetting to tell me when you were soooo excited about your interview. So, how did it go?? Will you be getting a discount? I’m so jealous.
E me when you get a chance. PLEASE. I need my best friend to keep me from going stark raving crazy.