I yawned. It was a beautiful sunny morning in the Keys
and I was headed to Moonbay. Julia, as she had asked us to
call her, had asked me and Lindsay to come over and try to
befriend Emery. But Lindsay had slept in late, and couldn't come.
Cheerful sunlight filtered through the mangroves and palms
surrounding the path, and hibiscus and flowering moss sprang
up around it in a welcoming sort of way. The day before, I had
recruited Roselle and Carrie to help me line the path with stones and
shells to make it more defined. It was indeed an improvement.
When I reached Moonbay, I knocked on the door, humming
and not expecting much of a welcome. Julia answered. A wan
smile graced her lips. “Ah, Carmody.” she said. She let me in
and I sat down in the living room. Julia asked me to wait while
she attempted to fetch Emery.
A few minutes later, Emery appeared in the living room
looking rather frumpy in wrinkled pajamas. Her hair
stood on end as though struck by lightning.
“Why,” she said, in a condescending way,
“Are you sitting in my living room?”
So Julia hadn't told Emery I was coming. Shocker.
“I-I. .” I stumbled about verbally. “Jul--”
“Julia asked you to come, didn't she.” Emery said,
narrowing her eyes. “Some rat she is.”
With a sharp intake of breath, I shook my head slightly.
“You shouldn't say that about her.”
Emery looked surprised that I should counter her.
“Why's that, you little urchin?”
Ignoring the insult, I went on. “She took you in. She feeds you.
She sends you to school. She loves you, she provides clothing
for you. Yet you scorn her. You should be ashamed.”
Emery's face twisted into an expression of anger, fire, rage.
“You-” she jabbed a finger at me- “Can leave.”
“B-” I started
Just then, Julia walked into the room. She smiled brightly.
“Everything going okay, girls?” She set down a tray on the
coffee table, and me and Emery sat on couches on either side.
The tray was loaded with good things.
There were miniature cucumber-and-parsley sandwiches,
more hot tea, and strawberries chopped with basil.
She also set down a plate of freshly baked toffee.
Emery glowered at me from across the table. “Do eat up, girls.”
Julia said in her faded but still notable British accent.
Then Julia sprung out of the room to go sweep the porch
as she said, and me and Emery were left alone.
I timidly took a sandwich and some strawberries.
Emery went for the toffee and tea.
We said nothing. As I quietly chewed my sandwich,
(which, by the way, was delicious) I looked down at
hardwood beneath me. Emery looked towards the ceiling.
Finally, I stole a peek up at her, and thought I might
have seen a stray tear sliding down Emery's cheek.
Emery saw me looking at her, so she quickly
straightened and brushed the tear aside.
“Are you okay?” I asked, a bit shyly. I felt like a mouse approaching a cat.
“Yes, of course I'm all right.” she snapped at me.
But a moment later, she gave a hard swallow, and more
tears spilled down her cheeks like a waterfall.
“Aunt Bree-” Emery sniffed- “Aunt Bree used to m-make toffee.”
She made no effort to hold them back now. Another moment, and
she was sobbing. Her chest heaved she put her face in her hands.
Her plate of toffee and cup of tea fell to the floor. The cup
broke and spilled steaming tea across the floor. Emery
made no acknowledgment.
My own eyes filled at the sight of a girl so stricken with sorrow,
but I managed to hold my sadness back. I leaned across
the table and took Emery's hand. “It'll be alright.” I whispered.
Emery looked up at me, her face red and tear-streaked, and a little surprised.
I stood up to go, but changed my mind. Instead,
I stepped over and sat down on the other couch next to Emery.
“You know-” I looked at the ground. Emery still sobbed.
“You know, when I was nine, my father left.”
Emery looked up again. Her eyes were dark and soft, like that of a fawn.
Her earrings trembled.
“He told my mother that he didn't love life with her—with us—any more.”
“And so he took his leave. The very next day, he was gone.”
“As if that wasn't enough, he took our money, too. Mom looked in the
bank account later that week, and the majority of what they had saved
in the bank was missing. Was gone.”
“It was as if he had disappeared off the face of the earth. Mom tried
to find him, to find the money, but-” I choked up a bit- “He was gone.”
“It was so hard for Mom to care for all of us. She had a new baby,
a five-year old, a nine-year old and a preteen. It makes me so upset
when I think of how he left us penniless. He left her alone.” I gritted my
teeth and sighed.
“So,” I finished, “I've had a share of pain, too. But I want to help you,
Emery. I do, truly.”
And then something extraordinary happened. Emery Wysten smiled.
The next day, I was walking down the beach with Roselle and Carrie.
We had been sent by my mother to go to the nearest town, Captiva.
We could have driven, but Mom said she was too busy to take us,
and besides, she added, the walk would be good for us. It was only
about a twelve-minute walk there. Most of the walk was through the
woods on a large, well-defined path.
Mom needed a box of rice, some carrots and onions, and a few fillets of tuna.
She didn't know of any grocery stores in Captiva, but she said there must
have been some, because as small as Captiva was, (the population was only five hundred)
there must be one. So we were to scout one out for her.
When we reached the town, we walked up and down a few streets,
but didn't see any grocery stores. Finally, we saw an old lady,
and asked her. She directed us toward the nearest Winn-Dixie,
which we had only missed previously by a street.
I bought the carrots and onions from a street vendor,
got the fish from another, and got the box of rice from the Winn-Dixie.
“Come, girls.” I said to Roselle and Carrie. “We've got to go, or the fish will spoil.”
“But it's packed in ice.” protested Roselle.
“But the ice will melt.” I said firmly.
So we turned to go. But before we did, I spotted a group of girls
just coming out of the store nearest us, Brittley's Dresses. One of the girls
approached me. She was deeply tanned, had hair the color of the caramel in a
Twix bar, (Except it had purple streaks. Probably extensions.) was very tiny,
and had green eyes. And her eyes were a wonder.
Large, wet eyes, like deep pools of emeralds.
She walked right up to me. “Who are you?” she said, kind of abruptly.
“Um, . . .I'm Carmody.” I said. “Who are you?”
The girl looked me right in the eyes. “Charlie. Charlie Myrtilla Vanier.”
I stood for a moment. “Do you live here?” she asked. “No.” I said.
“We're just renting a beach house for the summer.”
“Which one?” she asked. “Serenity.” I answered.
And then Charlie Myrtilla Vanier nodded. “I know that one.”
“What about you?” I asked. “Do you live here?” Charlie nodded.
“We live in a cottage
just barely outside of Captiva,
on Sunset Rock. The house is called Wavesong.”
She asked for the phone number for Serenity.
I gave it to her, and then she left just as abruptly as she had come.
“Thanks for visiting.” Julia said. “As you may imagine, I don't get many visitors, because I live so far off. But also because. . .Well, at Emery's school, no one likes her. She's not sociable, and she's very rude.”
Me, mom and Lindsay were seated in the living room of Julia's cottage, which, we found out, was named Moonbay. Our cottage was called Serenity. Roselle and Carrie were playing Jungle outside.
Julia had served up some tea and freshly-baked scones, which were delicious. The tea was not very appropriate, I thought, for the weather, but as Julia explained, in England tea was drunk whenever possible.
Em, or Emery, was not actually Julia's daughter, as Julia explained. “Her poor mum, Lydia, when she was young, lived in Liverpool, in England. And when she was sixteen years old, fell in love with a a young man.” Julia started. It was a good thing Emery wasn't around. “But the man she fell in love with. . .he was a miller's apprentice. And Lydia was a very wealthy, well-bred young thing. They knew their parents would never approve of the marriage, so. . .they ran off. To Ireland. Dublin.”
“In Dublin, the couple married, and soon afterwords had a baby girl.”
“Emery.” My mother put in. Julia nodded, a bit sadly.
“Well, right after Emery was born, her father—Who had gotten a job on the docks, in Dublin—Befell a terrible accident. He had slipped on the slimy docks, and hit his head on a lobster pot. He fell into the water.”
“There was a terrible gash in his head. And, he couldn't swim.”
“But-” I interrupted. “How could he work on the docks and not swim?” I hadn't meant to say it like that. My mother shot one of her “looks” at me.
Julia shook her head sadly. “Most of the dockworkers couldn't swim.”
“So,” she continued, “he drowned. None of the other dockworkers were around; they had all gone home.”
“They found him the next morning. The day after, he was buried.”
“Lydia was destitute. She could not support herself and a child by sitting at home. So she began working at a factory.”
“When Emery was four, her mother caught a terrible sickness. She was frail and weak from working in the factory, and had grown thin and pale. So she could not fight the illness.”
“She died swiftly. Emery was passed along to a distant great-aunt, because her grandparents would not accept her. They were shamed and insulted by their children's elopement.”
“She lived with the great-aunt until last year, when the great-aunt died. She had loved Emery, though, and Emery had loved her. So Emery was very sad. They passed her along to me, her mother's sister.”
“I had lived in America for some time at this point. And when Em came to live with me. . .she was bitter and angry over her great-aunt's death.”
“And she resents me.” Julia finished. A tear slipped down her cheek.
“I can't. Mom said we have to share this room.”
“I don't CARE. Leave. This is MY room.”
I walked over to the second twin bed that was in the room and set my purse, suitcase, duffel and pillow on it.
“MOOOOOOOM!” Lindsays was screaming at the top of her lungs. “GET HER OOOUUUT!”
“Lindsay!” My mother walked into the room a second later. “Quiet down, what's the matter?”
“Get her out of my room.”
“You're sharing this room.”
“Lindsay. . .I'm sorry, but you have to. You'll probably only be together here at night, and then you'll be sleeping. I promise, it's fine.”
Lindsay groaned. “I'm going to unpack now.”
My mother nodded. “You do the same, Carmody, dear.”
My mother left.
The room was small. It had two large windows and two twin bunks, each against a separate wall. There were two small dressers, two tiny closets, and two night tables, one of each close to the beds. On the night tables were clock radios and lamps. There was a rug in the middle of the floor, and our bedspreads were some kind of greenish flowery kind.
Lindsay sat on her bed and turned on the radio. Only static came through. She turned the knob to change channels. “Oh!” she said, as she stopped on a song she recognized. She stood up, swayed her hips, and started singing. “Oh, who do you think you are, runnin' round, leavin' scars. . Collecting your jar of hearts. .”
I rolled my eyes and turned to unpack my things.
It was the next morning. I was sitting in my bed, yawning. I threw back the covers and hopped out of bed. Lindsay was still snoring away.
I got dressed in a pair of shorts and a Hollister tee, ran a brush through my hair, and went downstairs.
Roselle and Carrie were sitting at the table with dried cereal, munching away. Mom wasn't in the kitchen, but I could hear her voice out on the front porch. I went out there.
“Yes. . .Not really, actually. Well, I mean, she'd love it, but. . .Yes. That'd be great. Thanks. Bye.” My mother hung up the phone that had been against her ear.
“Honey, that was the neighbors. They live through the woods a few minutes away. They saw lights here last night, and heard noise, and wondered if someone had rented the house. They would like to meet us.” said my mother. “The lady I talked to sounded nice.”
“Oh.” I said. “When are we going over?”
“In about an hour.”
I nodded. “I'm going to go sit by the ocean for a bit.”
My mother smiled. “All right.”
An hour later, we all stood on our front porch. Or most of us, anyway.
“Lindsay!” my mother yelled through the screen door. “It's time to go!”
“I KNOW!” Lindsay hollered down the stairs. “I'm COMING!!”
She banged out the door. I laughed at her. She was wearing a fancy flowered sundress, had her hair twisted into some updo, was wearing a pearl necklace and had on heels.
She pulled out her flowered clutch and put on her D&G shades.
Good grief. I was in a tee shirt and jean shorts. I was tidy, but not all done up, like Lindsay.
“Now,” she said through all her lipstick and makeup, “Now I am ready to go.”
“You're going to go through the forest in that?” Roselle said, her eyes wide.
“Yes, Roselle.” Lindsay said impatiently. “I am.” She clonked noisily in her shoes over to the porch steps, descended them, and immediately tripped on the sand and nearly fell.
“SHUT U-” started Lindsay, but was cut off by Mom. “Lindsay!” said Mom. “No.”
Lindsay glowered at Carrie.
And it was so. Lindsay tromped the whole five-minute walk to the neighbor's in her fancy clothes, through the dense undergrowth and briars and mud. By the time we emerged on the other side of the woods, Lindsay looked very bedraggled. Her hair was mussed and falling out, her dress was spattered with dirt, and her shoes were caked with mud. Needless to say, she wasn't very happy. . . .
“I can't go in looking like this!” Lindsay said. “Well, I'm sorry, dear.” said my mother. “You chose to dress so, and now you've got to pay the consequences. Sorry.”
“Mom,” said Roselle, “Is that the neighbor's house?” We were at the treeline, emerging from the woods. Roselle was pointing to a cozy, little brown cottage with a slate roof. Tropical flowers danced up cheerfully around the porch, and there was a tidy shelled path leading up to the front door.
We all stood there, looking around. Birds chirped in nearby bushes.
Suddenly, the front door to the little cottage creaked open, and a small, sharp face peered around it. The face turned back to the house.
“Julia,” she said in a thick British accent, “Who's here?”
A woman, apparently Julia, stepped out the door, followed the other girl. “Hi, you must be the neighbors.” Julia said in an American accent, breathing out the words in a peaceful, calming way. Julia was a small, thin woman, with dark hair pulled back into a tight bun. She had kind eyes and was wearing an apron with a Kiss the Baker logoprinted on it. She was middle-aged and had sharp, protruding cheekbones.
“Oh, Em.” said Julia, turning to the girl behind her. “I must have forgotten to tell you. I invited them over.”
The girl, Em, was tiny and thin like Julia. She had deep, green eyes that looked like pools of emeralds. Her black hair bounced loosely around her shoulders. Her sharp, cruel eyes glazed critically over the visitors.
“Em,” said Julia, “How about you introduce yourself properly?”
Em shook her head, whirled around, and banged back into the house.
“I'm sorry.” said Julia to my mother. “I don't know what to do with that child anymore.” Julia's hands were trembling, and she was twiddling with them nervously in front of her apron.
“That's all right.” said my mother, smiling warmly. “I've got children too.”
We stood for a moment. Then my mother stuck out her hand to Julia. “Caroline Arlington.” she smiled.
Julia gratefully took the handshake. “Julia. Julia Graven.”
Since my most recent post on my blog page, I expect you all know that my computer had a virus. So I haven't had any time to continue the story about Carmody. So to make up for it, here are some shorts I wrote on my mom's NOTES app on her iPhone while waiting for my brother to finish play practice.
The young woman wandered along next to the seawall, her dress billowing out behind her in the strong salty wind. Occasionally, she'd tap a stone near her lightly with her foot, and as she leisurely ambled along next to the sea, she wondered, Is this all there is to life?
The man bent over the manuscript, muttering to himself in Latin. He brought his finger up to the papyrus paper and trailed it along the sentence he was reading. Confused, he furrowed his brow and reread the passage. As he was slowly brought to understanding, a wan smile spread across his ancient, gnarled face.
Here is chapter one of Shruti's story. I decided to call it OVERWHELMED. Hope that's okay, Shruti! Enjoy!
“Well. . .that sounds all right.” I said, in a very light, liberal voice. “When are we going?” “Next week.” my mother hurriedly brushed her bangs out of her face and continued washing the dishes. “For the summer.”
“Well. . .yes.” said my mother, looking up at me with a surprised expression. “I thought you'd be pleased.
“But. .” I trailed off. “But Camille and Diana, and Sophie, and. . .and the mall, and shopping, and dances, and sleepovers. There'll be none of that at the beach. I mean, I need a tan, but for almost three months? Doesn't that seem a little.. .overkill?”
My mother laughed. “Sure all that will be at the beach. Come on, we're going to Florida!”
“To a little shack town where no people go to the beach, and where they get drunk on Saturday nights and run wild around the tiny town on their cheap motorcycles, screaming and hollering?” I retorted.
“Where the town will be named something very cheesy and all the restaurants serve smelly seafood and have bars? Where I'll have no cell phone reception and we'll end the summer being eaten by alligators?”
My mother laughed again. “Will you please stop laughing at me?” I said frustratedly.
My mother sobered. “Oh, Carmody. It'll be wonderful. I promise, you and your sisters will have a lovely time.”
“We'll see.” I said moodily. “But I've got to get to school.”
My mother offered a wave as I stepped out the front door to await the bus.
I jerked my head up to see the face of my teacher, Mrs. Able. I turned red.
“Carmody, I don't think you were paying attention.”
“Recite the eighth and ninth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”
So that was what she had just been teaching about.
“Um, no weird punishments, or too much bail, and, um, oh! Quick trial, or something.”
My teacher walked back up to the front of the class. “Incorrect.”
A slithery hand rose from the seat directly in front of me.
“I can tell you, Mrs. Able.” said a voice so sweet and sugar coated that I nearly smacked the speaker.
The speaker was Margie Ann Ross, and she was the teacher's pet. Everyone else hated her, except for her best friend and also thoroughly annoying person, Marcy K. Hawfield.
Mrs. Able's stand-to-attention expression was broken with a smile at Margie Ann. “Of course, dear. Go ahead and tell us.”
Mrs. Able never called anyone but Margie Ann , 'dear'.
Margie Ann flashed back a fake smile, then stood up from her desk.
The 8th amendment,” recited Margie Ann, “Prohibits excess fines and excessive bail, as well as cruel and unusual punishment. The 9th amendment asserts the existence of unenumerated rights retained by the people.” Margie Ann looked around the classroom with an expression of pride, and looked as though she awaited an applause.
“Oh, Margie Ann!” exclaimed Mrs. Able, “That was wonderful, as always, dear. Come up here and get a lollipop.”
Mrs. Able kept lollipops in her drawer for children who had just done something exceptionally well,and nobody ever got them except for Margie Ann, who of course scored perfectly on every subject.
Margie Ann walked up to Mrs. Able's desk, received a lollipop, flashed some more fake smiles, and sat back down at her desk.
I looked to the desk next to me at my best friend, Camille. We simultaneously rolled our eyes.
“No, Mom. You were supposed to turn right on Heron Road two miles ago.”
“Are you sure?”
“Mom. Of course I'm sure. Turn around!”
“Don't sass, Lindsay.”
Suddenly, my mother jerked the steering wheel and the car swerved, sending Carrie flying across the car and into my lap.
We were on our way to Florida. “We”, meaning my mother, and sisters. Lindsay, who was fifteen, me, at thirteen, Roselle, at eight, and Carrie, at four.
My parents were divorced, and I lived with my mother. I hadn't seen my father since I was two.
So, we were lost somewhere in the Florida Keys, trying to get to our beach, and unfortunately right before we had left our GPS had been taken by a certain four-year-old who had wanted to play register with it, and it had been discovered in the refrigerator, sticky with applesauce. But of course Mom never got mad at Carrie. So we had gotten a map, and apparently it was difficult to use.
“Carrie,” I said, “Get off of me.” I shoved her off of my lap and back into her car seat, and buckled her in. “No, no!” she screamed, kicking the seat in front of her, which happened to be Lindsays. Lindsay turned around, a very angry expression on her face. “Roselle,” she yelled, “DON'T KICK MY CHAIR!” “It wasn't me!” Roselle said. “It was Carrie!”
Lindsay turned to Carrie. “Don't you dare-”
“Lindsay!” my mother said, in a shocked voice. “Don't start at Carrie. Just turn around and give me directions.”
Lindsay rolled her eyes, and turned back around. Picking up the map, she continued to guide my mother.
In case you couldn't tell, my family was very dysfunctional .
“What do you mean, I have to share a room with Lindsay?” I huffed. “She's a bratty teenager.”
“Carmody!” my mother said. “Stop it. She's just . . .going through a phase. And yes, you two have to share a room, unless you” -my mother was looking pointedly at me- “Would rather share a room with Carrie and Roselle.”
I shook my head. “No way.”
“Then-” my mother said, “Why don't you go settle in your room. Lindsay's already up there.”
We were at the beach. Our house was pretty, just a little small for five people. It was a small little cottage on the beach. We could walk down the beach to town, and it was about half-a-mile. Also, half-a-mile away was also where all the people were on the beach. Where we were, we were alone.
Our cottage was white, with a wide front porch and lots of windows. It was surrounded by coconut palms and shells littered the front yard. We were about thirty yards from the water. We were surrounded by nature. Nearby canals, rivers and creeks were abundant. There was a forest behind our cottage.
Well, the title says it all. Yay! The Trial is over!!! I just decided to wrap it up into one section. Hope you've all enjoyed it! I can put it all together for you if you guys want it, email me if so. Also, if you'll notice, I added two pictures to The Trial slide on the right.
I'm working on your story, Shruti!
Cleo blinked, unable to speak.
Suddenly, a girl from the table across the room, the smaller one, waved her hand for Cleo to come over there. “Come over here. Sit with us!” she called out. Cleo nodded and hurriedly walked over to the other table.
The girl that had called to her had a shock of long, thin, bright-red hair. Her introduced herself as Sophia Reinhart. “Come along, sit now.” she said cheerfully. “Over there. Next to Elaine.” she said, pointing across the narrow table to a spot next to the girl that her desk was next to in class, with the dark hair and shy manner. Cleo squeezed in next to Elaine, who gave Cleo a wan smile and then turned back to her food.
The girl on the other side of Cleo had blonde hair, cut like a bob, and her name, Cleo learned, was Camden. Camden Shepherd. “Coz' all the people n' ancestors in m' family lived in Cornwall, farmin' till ere' hearts gave out, n' then they moved t' London. No more 'eart problems.” she said in a fluent Cockney accent. Cleo was fairly charmed.
Then, all the girls wanted to know about America, and where Cleo had lived before she'd come. All of them asked questions, except for Elaine.
“Elaine.” Cleo had finally mustered up the courage to speak to her. “Elaine, do you—do you have any questions?”
Elaine turned to look at Cleo. “One.” she whispered. “Well,” said Cleo, “Ask away.”
Elaine took a deep breath. “What are the people like?”
Cleo was somewhat taken aback. “The people?” Elaine nodded. “Well. . .I don't know. Nice, some of them. Some not. We're very modern, though not as much as you Londoners.”
Elaine nodded thanks. “All right.”
Cleo looked at Elaine. “Elaine,” she said, “Would you like to come over after school?”
Elaine stared at Cleo, and nodded very slightly, a very small smile on her face.
Since that point, Cleo and Elaine became very, very close friends. Cleo still emailed Krystal, but then after a while Krystal's emails died off. Soon afterwords, Cleo received news that Krystal had been involved in an illegal smuggling scandal with Adriana Rodriquez.
They had been smuggling in British chocolate.
Cleo had found what Krystal had pressed into her hand at the goodbye, and remembered that she had forgotten to open it. She did so and found a very sweet note, next to a charm bracelet.
She did not wear the bracelet. She set that and the note back in the drawer to leave it be.
After Cleo had been at school for about a year, everyone began to accept her, though Keely Hart was always jealous of her.
TWO YEARS LATER.
Cleo and Elaine were walking around Piccadilly Circus in London. They stopped at the fountain in the middle of the square and sat down. Cleo had bought a cone of hot roasted chestnuts and the girls were going to share them.
“You know,” said Cleo, as she munched on a chestnut, “When I first came here, three years ago, I thought that this place was a hellhole.”
“What do you think now?” said Elaine, tilting her head to the side.
“I think it's home.”Cleo answered, breaking into a grin.
Life had turned out all right, after all.
Wow! Cleo! OMG you emailed! I so wasn't expecting you too. . .But I'm glad you did. Hey, thanks for the chocolate. It was amazing. You know, I looked up on Google© why American chocolate isn't as good, and I found out why. We Americans—well, maybe not you anymore—but anyway, we put lots and lots of wax in out chocolate. The British only put a little, so theirs is better. So, about the French translation. She said to you, “Sors de mon chemin et être poli. Les gens ne sont jamais si rude en France. Américains inintelligente sont. Assez envahissant.” Well, . .um. .It was sort of an insult. But you asked to know, so I'll tell you. “Get out of my way, and be polite. People aren't so rude in France. You mindless Americans are always invading. . .” But anyhow, you know Adriana? Well, it's too hard to forget her, and I didn't mean that in a sweet way. So, anyhow, do you know what she did? When you left, she went over to your house—it's vacant right now—and she threw a party one Friday! That's illegal! So, she got into some real trouble. You know her dad is a police officer and all. . .Well, she didn't come back to school for four days, and then she didn't speak to anyone and her eyes were all red. So I don't know what happened to her but I don't think it was good. I have to go. . .Email back. Love yah.
“I. . . .I'm Cleopatra. Um . . . .Halifax.” The girl with the black hair gave her a quick once-over. “Why are you here? Oh, wait, you're that new girl, aren't you?” Cleo nodded. “Well, I'm Keely Hart.” said the girl. “People just call me Cleo.” Cleo said, still hung up on introductions. “Got it. Well, if you think I'm going to befriend you then you're wrong. I don't like new people.” said Keely, suddenly. “So leave me alone, and find a desk as far away from me as possible.” Surprised, and a little taken aback, Cleo wandered about the small room, looking for an open desk. She spotted one at the front of the class- room, and walked back there to sit down. “Hey! Don't sit here! It's Janie's seat. She's gone today, but you can't have it.” said a girl with dirty blonde hair and sharp eyes who was sitting at the desk to the right of it. “Oh.” said Cleo. “I'm sorry.” Cleo looked around some more, then finally saw one at the very back of the classroom. She walked back there and sat down. She was next to a girl with long, brown hair. The girl looked away as soon as Cleo sat next to her. Cleo shrugged and looked down at her new desk. It was clearly quite undesirable, as there was no light near it, and it looked old and had scratches in it, made from fingernails. Little messages were engraved all over it. Cleo looked down to inspect some of them.
WhY diD I CoME HerE??
SumMeR SCHool 1981
ThIS DesK iS RottEn.
In truth, Cleo was a bit freaked out. This desk is rotten? Cleo wondered. Well, it can't be a huge mystery. I'm sure it is. She looked towards the shy girl next to her. “Excuse me.” Cleo whispered. “What's your name? I'm Cleo.” The girl looked towards Cleo, her eyes widening in fear. She swallowed and made a slicing motion across her throat, shaking her head vehemently. Cleo's brow furrowed in confusion. “What? Are you not allowed to talk?” When Cleo said this, all heads in the classroom turned back to look at her. The girl next to Cleo bent down to her work. “Were you talking?” said Keely, her eyebrows raising. Cleo nodded, a bit scared. “That's not allowed here. If you do it again I'll tell Ms. Tilden. Then you'll be in real trouble.” Keely turned back her work. All of the other girls follwed her example. Oh, I see, thought Cleo. Keely is the teacher's pet. The spoiled brat. She's like the teacher when Ms. Tilden isn't around.
Cleo waited for Ms. Tilden to come back so she could work on something. When she finally did, she said that Cleo's mother had left. “Now, girls, here is your next assignment.” said Ms.Tilden, handing everyone a sheet of paper. Write a two-page essay on a famous woman who was born in London between 1780-1850, was the heading. Oh, no. Cleo didn't know what to do. “Um, Ms.Tilden.” she said, waving her sheet of paper in the air. “I don't know this.” Ms. Tilden looked up. “Surely you do. You Americans must have learned something of Britain in your history class at home?” “Well,” said Cleo, “Actually, not much.” “You still have to do it. You can think of somebody, surely.” said Ms. Tilden, making it clear that the matter was over. Cleo bent down to her paper, thinking and thinking. Suddenly, reaching inspiration, she headed the page:
By Cleopatra Halifax
Cleo had learned all about Florence Nightingale at home. This would be easy. She took her pencil and started writing hurriedly.
“What do you mean, I failed?”
Cleo stood in front of Ms. Tilden's desk. The other girls had just been dismissed to the lunchroom.
Ms. Tilden folded her hands across the top of her desk. “Miss Halifax, Florence Nightingale was born in Italy. She didn't move to England until the following year.” “B-but. . .” Cleo trailed off. “Miss Halifax, go claim your lunch. I will discuss this matter later, with your mother.” said Ms.Tilden, waving her arm in air at Cleo, as if to shoo her. Cleo nodded—sadly, though—and walked out of the schoolroom.
She followed the smell of food down the hall, and into a room on the left. She walked in. It was small and old-fashioned—and without windows, like the other room—but still nice. There were two large mahogany dining tables in the center of the room, and a polished counter against one of the walls, also mahogany. On top of it was plates, food, drinks, napkins, and forks, spoons and the like. All the other girls were already crowded at the tables, just beginning to eat.
Cleo walked over to the counter, grabbed a tray, and opened a crock pot holding food inside them. As soon as she opened the first one, she shrank back. There was a kind of red, bloody pudding inside. “Ulg. Ew.” said Cleo, replacing the lid and moving on to the next crock pot.
Inside the next one were some green mushy peas. “Well,” Cleo said to herself, “These look all right.” She carefully scooped some out and moved on. There were two crocks left. The next one held a kind of stewed meat, which Cleo took some of. The last one held rice pudding, for dessert, and Cleo took some of that too. She grabbed a roll, a fork and a spoon, and a napkin, and headed off to find somewhere to sit.
She walked over to the first, and largest, table. She stood at the head, contemplating where to sit.
“What are you doing here?” said Keely, moving a book bag on top of the one empty seat at the table. “Go away. You don't belong here.”
Nothing to say. Here it is. Enjoy.
Cleo clicked the SEND button. She closed out of her email account, shut the lid to her laptop, and rolled back in the office chair. Yawning, she looked at the clock- 8:57 P.M.- curled up and closed her eyes.
And soon, she fell asleep. But her dreams were not pleasant. . . .
She was in a lily field. She did not recognize it, nor did she care, and she was busy plucking lush, full lilies from the soft dark earth. Suddenly, a slight rustling came from behind her. She turned around. It was Krystal. Krystal had dirt smeared on her face. Her eyes were sharp and narrow. “Why? Why did you do it?” Krystal asked. “Krystal? W-what did I do? Why are you here?” said, Cleo, dropping the lilies in shock. I'm here because I'm here. And what did you do?” Krystal let out a rough laugh. “You left.” she said, “You left. And now-” she lifted her head up to the wind and let out a shrill whistle- “You will meet my new friend.” Suddenly, an enormous eagle, larger than both of the girls put together, flew down from somewhere in the sky and landed next to Krystal. It looked intimidating, with a sharp beak the size of Cleo's head, and a devious glint in its eye. “I won't get you this time, but beware. . .” said Krystal, who had begun to back away. And then, suddenly, a flash of lightning hit the ground, the sun disappeared, and it began to rain. Krystal had somehow changed into a snake, and slithered away. The eagle let out an ear-piercing screech and took off into the dark sky. And Cleo was all alone.
She dreamed other dreams that night, but I do not have time to go through them all. But none of them were comforting, I can tell you. . .
Cleo awoke gasping for breath. The last dream, about the eagle. .It had seemed so real. . . “But it was only a dream.” she told herself. “I'm fine.” Cleo looked around. Her mother must have put her into bed, for that was where she was. She glanced at the clock. 2:40 A.M. Cleo sat up in her bed and thought about what was going to happen the following day. She was going to go to school for the first time here in England. She was nervous, and worried. “What will happen to me?” she whispered.
The next morning, Cleo slept later than usual and was hustled by her mother. “Cleo, get up now. I don't even know where this place is, and I need to find my way around the city. . .”
So Cleo got up. She dressed in a new, strange uniform—a blue-and-black checked skirt with stockings, a light-blue linen shirt with buttons, and a checked ribbon—to match the skirt—for her hair.
Once she was dressed, she walked down the narrow hallway to the kitchen. She popped some bread into the toaster and sat down at the small table to read the paper, The London Times. She was reading an article about recycling when her toast popped. She buttered it and sat back down. She had been in London for almost two weeks now. Though it was the start of September, when Cleo would normally be in school, Mrs. Halifax had wanted to give Cleo a little time to settle in. “Cleo! Hurry now! It's time to leave!” Cleo's mother rushed into the room. “Up, out, now!” The women hurried out of the apartment, and waited under the building's awning outside until Cleo's mother could hail a taxi.
They both hopped into a taxi car. “Aye, ladies, and where might you two be goin'?” said the taxi driver, who was a friendly old man with a graying beard. “Notre Dame R.C Girl's School.” said Cleo's mother, reading a scrap of soaked paper from her pocket and struggling with the wording. “Aye, right away, ma'am.” The taxi took off into the rainy streets.
Cleo stepped out of the taxi cab and stared at her new school. It was very small, very narrow, and brick. The outside was deserted. “Hey, mom,” said Cleo, “You sure this is right?” “One minute, dear.” said Cleo's mother, who was paying the taxi driver. Cleo sighed. She thought about how different England was. . . “Yes, dear, what?” said Cleo's mother, who came to stand beside her under the umbrella. “Mom,” said Cleo, “Is this the right place?” Mrs. Halifax glanced at the rain-soaked paper scrap. “It's got to be. Come along, we'll ask.” They walked up the narrow front steps and rang the bell. “This looks more like a house then a school.” Cleo commented. Suddenly, the door was opened, by a middle-aged woman with dark hair and a pinched face. “What?” “Um,” Cleo's mother began, “Is this the girl's school?” The woman looked surprised. “Well, yes,” she said, “But school started an hour ago.” “Oh, you must be Ms. Tilden, then.” said Cleo's mother. “We spoke on the phone.” said Cleo's mother. “Oh, you are Mrs. Halifax, then?” said the woman who had opened the door, who, apparently, was named Ms. Tilden. “Yes.” Cleo's mother said. “Oh, come right in.” The woman motioned for them to enter. They stepped inside. “The girls are in the other room, studying.” Ms. Tilden said. “And you,” she said, looking at Cleo, “Must be Cleo.” Cleo nodded. “Well, go right on into the study room. It's over there.” The woman motioned to a room across the hall. “Go find a desk while your mother and me work a few things out on paper.”
Cleo walked across the hall, and went into the room. There were about twelve other girls, sitting at dark mahogany desks, working away. The room was nice. It was covered in dark red carpet with dark wood paneling along the walls. There were no windows, but lots of wall lights, lamps, and ceiling lights. All of the girls looked up when Cleo walked in. “Who,” asked a girl with black hair, “Are you?”
Part 5. Yay!!
Well, I promised to email, so here I go. This place is ENORMOUS. I can't even leave the apartment building without getting lost, so far. The apartment building is nice, I guess. It's called the EYE OF LONDON APARTMENTS. Our room is so small! Everything in England is small, actually. Our fridge is about half of my height! And my bed is tiny. So I start school in less than a month. OMG, I just know I'll die with all those accents around me. I'm sure I'll sound really dumb. But the weather's fantastic. I mean, back in LA, it was like one hundred degrees or higher every day. It's about eighty-nine on the temp. right now. The w.c is a whole other matter. Oh, I suppose I'm using British terms already. Or are they English? Anyway, the w.c stands for Water Closet, which is the bathroom, which they shorten to w.c. So, guess what? This is ridiculous: Minna (The cat, duh) has to be quarantined for, like, four months so she doesn't bring in any American diseases, or something like that. We're pretty lucky, though. Sometimes animals have to be quarantined for a year. But Minna's pretty healthy. And I go visit her a lot. So, yesterday I was following Mom around the street. We were both lost, and looking for the bake shop where we were going to pick up some sweets or something. Well, I bumbed into this French chick, and she said to me something like: "Sors de mon chemin et être poli. Les gens ne sont jamais si rude en France. Américains inintelligente sont assez envahissant!" Ashamed to admit it, but I've forgotten what this means from my French lessons. I know that your mom is French, so I was wondering if you could tell me what the woman said. Anyway, the chocolate over here is pretty awesome. So I bought some for you and put it in the envelope. I hope you like it. Anyway, I have to go. Email back or I'll kill you.
Well. Here it is. Whew! My hands are sore from all that typing. Enjoy!!
Cleo tried to relax, but that was hard to do on a plane, especially while there was a lot of turbulence. So she curled up in her chair and thought about all that had happened during the last two months.
Krystal hadn't taken the news well, at all. She had actually passed out when Cleo had broken the horrible news to her. She had fallen on a 14-year-old student, who dropped her water and then screamed bloody murder, which had all the teachers and principal come running. Krystal had broken her arm when she fell, by banging it on a nearby locker and then falling on top of it, and then half of the football team ran to help her but had slipped on the 14-year-old's spilled water and then fallen on top of Krystal, further damaging her arm.
Krystal had gotten a cast before that week was over, but had not been to see Cleo at all. The day before Cleo and her Mother were supposed to leave, they heard a knock on the door, and who was there, but Krystal. “Cleo! Someone here to see you!” Cleo started down the stairs and saw Krystal waiting. “Um. . . I'll go take down the drapes, I suppose.” Cleo's mom said.
“Um. I—” started Cleo. “Well—here, I—” started Krystal at the exact same moment. Both of the girls stood there for a minute.
“Look.” Krystal finally started. “I'm. . .really sorry. You know. . .for how I acted and . . .all that.” “No.” said Cleo. “I'm the one who should be sorry. I mean. . . .your arm. . .” she trailed off. “My arm will heal.” said Krystal. “For right now, though, I came by because. . . .well, you're leaving and all so. . .I wanted to take you out to town and hang out, you know. . . .one last time.” That brought tears to Cleo's eyes. “Come on. Don't cry.” said Krystal. “Today, we enjoy ourselves. Tomorrow, we cry.” She led Cleo out the front door of the house, took her down the front walk, and then both of them got into Krystal's car. “Where are we going?” asked Cleo, after Krystal had backed the car out of Cleo's driveway and started down the street. Now, Krystal was about eight months older than Cleo, and had just turned sixteen, and so could drive. Cleo, could not yet, however, because she wasn't even fifteen and a half.
“Oh. .you know. . .out and about.” Krystal said mysteriously. “Oh, tell me. Please.” Cleo begged. “Fine. We're going to the mall.” “The MALL?” Cleo asked. “Yes. You'll need a brand-new wardrobe if you're going to live in England.” As much as Cleo protested, she could not change Krystal's mind, and so the girls did end up going to the mall. In fact, Cleo was wearing a brand-new, Forever 21© top right now, on the airplane. Cleo looked down at it. It was indeed stylish. Krystal had insisted on paying for all of Cleo's new clothes, though Cleo had really not felt comfortable with that, as Krystal needed to save for college.
After the girls went shopping, Krystal had told Cleo to change into one of her brand-new outfits, though Cleo didn't know why. As soon as that was over, Krystal had driven Cleo to a surprise, good-bye party at the Terynn Game Hall. Cleo hadn't gotten home till late, and was awakened early by her mother, rushing her and stressing out about getting to the airport on time. A taxi had been waiting outside their house, and as Cleo and her mother piled all of their suitcases into it, Krystal came up. “Cleo? You have a second. . .before you leave?” “Only a moment.” said Cleo's mother. “I won't take hardly any time at all, Mrs. Halifax.” Krystal assured Cleo's mom. She turned to Cleo. “I'll miss you.” she said. “A lot.” “Me, too.” said Cleo. The girls stood for a moment, then fell into each other's arms for one last hug. As they parted, Krystal pressed something into Cleo's hand. “Don't open it until you get there.” she said. And then, she gave Cleo a faint smile. “I have to get to class. Remember to email, ok?” Cleo nodded. “Bye.” “Bye.” And then Krystal started back down the street, towards the school, her shoulders drooping. As she watched Cleo's taxi pull away, she thought she saw a tear slide down Cleo's cheek.
Cleo sat up. The headrest on her seat was much too high for her, and her neck was bothering her. A flight attendant's voice came over the loudspeaker. “We'll be at London/Heathrow airport in three hours, ladies and gentlemen!”