Wednesday, November 5th, 2003 • No Comments on NaNoing the Night Away
I feel like all I’m doing is writing about NaNoWriMo, which is probably true. It is taking up a lot of my free time this week, but I’m still in the first blush of infatuation with this whole notion of writing a book in a month.
I’ve done the book-in-a-week thing a couple of times, but who are we kidding? No one writes a book in a week (okay,
no one) and the entire process is mostly just a writing exercise to get you out of your rut. This, however, is different. Fifty thousand words in a month is entirely do-able. They may not be great words, but I can do that. Of course, I’ve been up until 3 or 4 in the morning every night since Friday, so that’s given me a lot of time to write. We’ll see how that changes come the weekend when I have to work.
Still, if you’re a writer or an aspiring writer, NaNoWriMo offers a great opportunity at making some headway on whatever ideas are churning around in your brain. And if you happen to work best under a deadline (which I do), even better.
Chapter 3 of my still untitled work in progress is below. It’s all crap, but it’s on paper and I can fix it later. Hopefully.
Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any worse, my grandmother insisted I had to dress for her party. I figured that meant changing out of my grungy jeans and into clean ones. But no, she meant I had to actually wear a dress. Ack.
It was bad enough I’d spent three hours dusting every book, knick-knack and piece of furniture downstairs, breaking a nail in the process, I might add, but now I had to actually put on a stupid dress that would meet Grandma’s approval. What were the odds of that?
I stared at my meager wardrobe, annoyed that my mother had made me pack seventy-five percent of my clothing. She’d insisted I wouldn’t need much for the two weeks it took for the moving van to arrive, so I was pretty much limited to jeans and tank tops. I had one dress in the bunch, a hideous pink thing my mother insisted I pack in case Grandma wanted to drag us to church. I was not wearing that in front of my potential classmates, no matter how nerdy and country they might be. Heck, I’d probably fit right in if I wore that disgusting thing and that was not something I intended to do.
“Aren’t you dressed yet?” my mother asked, popping her head around the doorway. “Guests will be arriving in thirty minutes.”
Just then, Grandma screeched, “I need help down here! These canapes aren’t going to stuff themselves.”
I didn’t know what a canape was, but I definitely knew where Grandma could stuff it.
“I have nothing to wear,” I said, trying to maintain calm.
I didn’t even know why I cared. It wasn’t like I wanted to impress Grandma’s stupid friends. But it was my first chance to meet anyone in Truhart and I wanted them to know I wasn’t some hick from the country. I was a Miami beach babe and I was above square dancing and horseshoes, or whatever passed for entertainment around here.
“Just put on your church dress. It’s perfectly fine and you look lovely in it.”
I fought very hard not to make a gagging noise, but I was thinking about it. “Mother, that dress is two years old and I hate it. I cannot wear that tonight.”
She shook her head. “Julia, you’ve been difficult since we got here. Please, I’m begging you, just get dressed and come downstairs. I’m going to help your grandmother before she blows a gasket.”
I was so stunned at my mother using the phrase �blows a gasket’ that I could only stand there gaping as she walked away. Maybe I wasn’t the only one a little on edge about this party.
When I regained my faculties, I remembered that I did have a choice besides the stupid pink dress. I dug through the pile of clothes I’d dumped in the bottom of the tiny closet (what’s with old houses that have fifty gazillion bedrooms, but practically no closet space?) and pulled out my black pleather skirt. It wasn’t a dress, but it would have to do. It was also the wrong season for pleather, but I doubted anyone in TruHick
would know anything about fashion.
I finally decided on the peach blouse that accentuated my skin tone and the highlights in my hair. A pair of ankle boots, a little makeup and I was ready to party. Okay, I was ready to meet the good citizens of the dinky little town my mother had moved me to.
My timing was perfect. Just as I was putting on a second coat of mascara, I heard the doorbell ring. Good. Grandma would be so busy with her guests, she wouldn’t have time to freak over my outfit. And since my mother was so busy trying to make my grandmother happy, I figured she’d just be thrilled I was dressed and present.
I got an attack of the butterflies as I came down the stairs. It was ridiculous to be nervous, I told myself. Maybe it was just hunger. I hadn’t had much to eat since I’d gotten there since Grandma seemed fond of fried and breaded food. That stuff will kill ya.
I heard voices in the parlor and made my entrance, careful to toss my hair back just as I walked through the door. It was supposed to improve my posture and give me a last minute boost of confidence. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I really needed it to work tonight.
“There’s Julia,” m mother said to about six people standing around. I could tell by her tight little smile she wasn’t happy. “I thought you were going to wear the pink dress?”
I could fake smile as well as she could. “No, Mother, I said I was going to pick something else to wear.”
I kept my smile plastered on my face as I looked around. There was definitely a couple of blue hairs, a woman about my mother’s age, a girl who had to be in middle school and two guys who looked like they might be close to my age, maybe a little older. One of the guys looked awfully yummy in jeans and an Old Navy T-shirt, the other looked about like what I expected TruBumpkin teens to look like, complete with a ball cap that said John Deere. The girl barely looked at me, she was busy staring at the yummy guy. She was wearing a dress that looked an awful lot like the hideous thing upstairs on my bed. The boy in the hat said something to her and she looked in my direction and giggled.
I didn’t have time to analyze that because the doorbell rang again and another mini-herd came through. In about twenty minutes, the entire parlor was filled, which was saying something since it was about the size of my old house. I lost my mother in the crowd and Grandma seemed to have barricaded herself in the kitchen because I kept hearing people asking for her.
There were a bunch of people my age or close to it, but no one bothered to say hello. I thought maybe they were waiting for me to do it, but then I figured it wasn’t even my house, so why should I have to make the first move? I mean, when a new kid started at Miami High, they were usually the most popular kid in the class for awhile. As far as I could see, they should be making the effort to be my friends, not the other way around.
I made my way to the edge of the room where the drink table was set up. I’d made sure to put out my favorite sodas, all diet. I really just wanted to disappear into my room and not come out until the crowd went home, but I figured I’d hear about it from now until I graduated. Hopefully everyone would go home and I could watch a couple episodes of Buffy and decompress, as my dad’s girlfriend Amanda is fond of saying.
I was pouring a glass of diet Pepsi when someone bumped me from behind, spilling my cup down the front of my peach blouse. “Geez, watch what you’re doing, will you?” I said, mopping at my blouse with a napkin. I’d have to change now. The blouse was a thin fabric and the soda had made it almost transparent. Which might have been great if Josh was there, but I wasn’t feeling all that generous with the boys from Truhart.
I turned around to see the fox from before. Well, at least he was a fox by TruHick standards, I amended. “I’m going to have to change,” I said, annoyed that he hadn’t even apologized.
“Yeah, I was thinking it was a little early for you to be dressed like that,” he said with a grin.
I didn’t like the way he was staring at my chest, fox or no. “Dressed like what?”
“Like a pumpkin. Halloween isn’t for another three months.”
I just stared at him. “I do not look like a pumpkin,” I informed him. “This is peach, not orange. Not that you’d know the difference here in TruHick, Virginia.”
He just laughed at me, flashing a row of perfectly straight, white teeth. “I’m just messing with you, don’t get your panties in a twist.”
“Excuse me, will you?” I said as coldly as I could manage.
He did this kind of fake bow thing and stepped out of my way. “Sure. Wouldn’t want you to ruin your Halloween costume.”
I stalked past him and into the hall. Someone grabbed me and for a minute I thought it was him. I spun around, ready to use a couple of kickboxing moves Jeanette’s brother Eric had shown me, but it wasn’t the jerk with the pretty white teeth. It was his buddy, the ball cap wearing hick.
“Hey, wait,” he said.
I gave him a withering stare. “Take your hand off me or you’ll lose a knee cap.”
He let me go and took a couple steps back. I resisted the urge to smile. “I just wanted to apologize for Wade. He can be a jerk sometimes.”
“Sometimes?” I asked, practicing the one eyebrow raised look.
“Yeah. He’s an okay guy once you get to know him. I’m Darren, by the way. Wade’s cousin.” He held out his hand. When I ignored it, he left it fall. “Anyway, I just wanted to meet you. Not many people move to Truhart.”
“I bet an awful lot move away, though.”
His grin kind of faltered. “I don’t know. I think most people like it here.”
“I’m not most people.”
Darren kind of stared at me for a minute, like I was speaking a foreign language and he was trying to translate it. “Gotcha. I guess Wade was right.”
I put my hand on my hip. “About what?”
“Well, he said you looked like a snooty little princess who thought she was better than everyone else.” Darren shook his head. “I told him you were probably just shy and needed to get to know us first. But I can see Wade was right. Have a nice stay in Truhart. Maybe if you’re lucky your mom will pack you up and take you back to Miami where you belong.”
It was my turn to stare as he turned around and walked away. It was little comfort to see that he was wearing Wrangler jeans. Somehow, being insulted by someone who had absolutely no sense of fashion was just as painful as being insulted by someone who did.
“Sweet God in heaven, what are you wearing girl?”
My grandmother’s screech cut through the party chatter like a dagger to my heart. I’d made it up four stairs to my room when she spotted me. I wanted to just run the rest of the way, but I had a mental picture of her screaming after me and the whole crowd staring. It seemed easier to just talk to her for a minute and let her know I was going to hide in my room for the rest of the night.
“I got soda on my blouse. I’m going to change.”
“You sure are,” she said, wiping her hands on that painfully bright apron she always wore. “Has your mother seen you?”
“Of course,” I said, a little snappier than I intended.
“And she let you come down here like that? Looking like some street walker?” Grandma shook her head. “I thought she raised you better than that.”
Have I mentioned how my grandmother’s voice carries? I could practically hear a pin drop behind me in the parlor. I just knew everyone was standing there staring at me as my grandmother decided to play grand matriarch of Creepy Manor.
“Grandma, this outfit is very fashionable in Florida,” I said calmly, working my way back up the stairs. I would not, under any circumstances, look behind me. I refused to let anyone in that room think I cared what they thought. “But now I need to go change.”
Grandma huffed and puffed until I thought her cheeks were going to burst. “Put on something that won’t embarrass your mother and me, would you? Your mother has suffered enough humiliation and I’m too old to be explaining to people why my granddaughter looks like a floozy.”
I didn’t dignify that with a response. Never mind that no one had used the word floozy in probably fifty years, but I didn’t really like the way she talked about my mother, especially in front of a room full of people.
I slammed the door to the bedroom a little harder than I intended and waited for more screeching. Thankfully, there was none. Maybe Grandma would go chew out the jerk who’d spilled soda all over me.
Subj: Can you say humiliation?
Date: 07/16/04 8:02:03 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Okay, so I’m barricaded in my room and I refuse to come out until someone slips a plane ticket to Miami under the door. Yes, it’s that bad. I hate this place, I hate these people and all I want to do is go HOME. There is a crowd of people downstairs who just witnessed my humiliation at the hands of my grandmother and now I’m supposed to go back down and face them. No, I can’t do it. I refuse. Not even if one of them is a stone fox.
I miss you. I miss Josh. I miss the beach. I miss my pool. I even miss my father, believe it or not. I do not miss Amanda, not yet anyway.
I need e-mail. I need a lifeline to the real world. Call me tonight, I’ll be up late making an escape ladder out of bed sheets. I am so not joking.
Tuesday, November 4th, 2003 • No Comments on More NaNo
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]
To: [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]
To: [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.