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April 15, 2024

Transitions 50

By Sand Pilarski

Fifty: Honesty

At no point did any of the adults say, "No, you may not stay" or "No, you have to go." I was a little surprised by that, to be honest. I thought that if I was matter-of-fact about my desire to stay, it might throw Mother off balance long enough for me to come up with more reasons, though wanting my suite to be livable was really one of the top three current goals in my life. No, I'm not going to put into print the other two goals.

I'd like to think that Aunt Sully didn't object because I was her favorite and that she'd prefer to have me around; I suspect that Mother didn't object because it meant that the more I took control over the running of the estate (along with Aunt Sully) the less she would have to mess with it.

Mother loves the power that she has as owner of the estate, but she hates being tied to it. Unfortunately, that's obvious to all of us. Sorry, Mom, if you read this some day, but we know it's true. You live for your career, not the Reich Estate.

I guess I'm different. I love this place. Maybe it's because I see my father's echoes everywhere; maybe it's because this has been my haven from the rest of the world for as long as I've lived.

The bottom line was that it was accepted that I'll stay behind when Mother and Aunt Andersol and Uncle Bodie and Oesha, Michel, and Kelsa and Grandmother leave at the end of the semester.

And Aunt Sully is going to move here permanently!

"I'm glad it's so cold," Oesha said as we boarded the bus on a Monday some days later. "Makes wearing these baggy sweatshirts and pants worthwhile." In keeping with her plan of misdirection, she'd switched from fitted shirts and jeans to men's-sized hooded fleece and pants that were about four inches too big for her waist. She adopted a puffy down vest as topwear, a garment that would make even a fashion model look chunky around the middle. "The thing is, I'm getting spoiled. You wouldn't believe how comfortable these pants are."

"You look like a gang chick," Marca told her irritably. Marca was not pleased that she'd be separated from her twin for nearly six months, but although their bond was deep, it was not enough to make her want to give up her sports. I could understand that. What would she do at a remote villa to assuage her need for fierce physical exercise? She'd go nuts with inactivity and drive all the rest nuts with her fury.

"We can make a tattoo for you in ball point pen. You could just wrap it in plastic when you shower -- it'd stay for weeks! People would think you went right over the edge from respectability to baby-momma! Then when you were tired of it, you'd just give it a few squirts of hair spray and presto -- you'd be Miss Ingénue a wash later. How about it?"

"I'm supposed to be hiding something, not making a statement, Roach-Boy. Tattoo yourself and call it performance art or something and see what Mother does to you."

Michel cackled with glee. "Kelsa, take a note, would you? Remember to pack some colored ball-points when we leave. Mom will be too pregnant to take notice, and the staff at the villa will simply think we are Americans Gone Wild."

"I'm your sister, not your secretary, so shut up."

He wrapped his scarf around and around his mouth and hummed loudly, until Rachel boarded the bus and took her accustomed seat next to me. Then he pulled down the scarf and began to sing, "I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers -- " Kelsa clapped her hands over his mouth and they tussled, with Rachel and me and about a third of the front of the bus joining their crazy laughter.

"Pipe down!" roared the bus driver.

Exiting the bus, a senior football player chucked Michel under the chin with a forefinger. "See you after school, Woman."

"Ah, you call me 'Woman' now, but wait until I reach my full height -- then you will call me ... 'Lady.'" He made kissy sounds at the older boy.

Marca grabbed his arm. "What are you trying to do, get beat up by one of those Neanderthals?"

"Eldest sister, let him think what he may. I am not going to be here in a month, and he will not remember anything when I get back, so I have not the tiniest care what he thinks. He is but a corn kernel after a barbecue shit."

Rachel brayed with laughter and leaned on Marca's shoulder, which triggered Marca to laugh, too. Michel, of course, always laughed loudly at his own jokes, with Kelsa echoing him. I felt a twinge of jealousy -- in humor, was Michel surpassing my wit, or was I just slowing down with adolescence?

As I chuckled at the foul repartee, I looked at Oesha, who was grinning. She caught my glance and said, "It's going to be okay, Owen, stop stressing."

"I'm not."

"Yeah, you are. You've been as somber as a monk ever since we decided on the Italy thing."

I shook my head. "No, I haven't." I started off towards the school, leaving my siblings behind, but after only a few steps, Rachel bounded to me and flung her arms around me, proclaiming loudly, "Noooo, my Promised One! You cannot leave me behind like this, now that we have plighted our troth!! Trighted our ploth? What am I supposed to be saying?"

"Uhhh, 'Kiss me, you fool'?"

She unhanded me like I was a sudden snake, staring at me with her electric blue eyes.

Marca piled into her. "Let's go! Danielle Lumbrosk put a gone-over potato into Halley Sunol's locker on Friday! Let's see if she's noticed it yet!"

They ran off together, leaving me to ponder not only my blurting of what I desired, but also the nature of my relationship with Rachel.

I had assistance in this matter. Rachel's attention to me was an object of gossip and curiosity among my classmates. "Is it true about you and Rachel Owen getting engaged?" Tom Bisrain whispered to me before Math.

"We prefer the term, 'betrothed.'" I said, unable to resist tormenting him.

"She's not wearing a ring," he said suspiciously.

"Ah, she's such a modest thing. She felt that the size of the stone was far too large for wearing to school. She said the last thing she wanted to appear was ... vulgar."

"You're shittin' me, man, aren't you? Anyway, bitches like that will do anything for money. You better hope you never get poor." He turned away and opened his textbook.

With my face hot enough to fry shrimp on, I opened my own, and promised myself that the very next story I wrote would be violent and humiliating, and in it, a character based on him would be squashed like a bug, perhaps by a giant space lizard, that would puree him in a blender, sample him like a pesto, and spit him out for the foul taste he left in the beast's mouth.

What I really wanted to do was to beat him senseless, but the family would not tolerate another one of us getting into fights. A bright light shone in my mind. "Tom, I can't wait to tell my sister Marca what you said. I'm sure she'd have some thoughts on what you think of her friend." I had the satisfaction of seeing him cringe a little.

"Sorry, Owen. Don't tell Marca, okay. I didn't mean it, only, just watch out, you know, you're funny, but maybe she sees you as a big dollar sign, I mean ... "

"Forget it," I muttered. He was an idiot, a bigmouth, but on the other hand, had I really been ready to use my sister as an enforcer?

After school, Marca was staying for soccer conditioning practice, and I was a little put out that Rachel whispered, "I'm going to sit with Oesha today, Owen. She looks like she needs some company." Of course the seat beside me remained empty, and I was annoyed that the bus driver kept looking at me in her mirror, with -- was that pity? -- in her eyes.

I waved and mumbled, "See you tomorrow," to Rachel as she left the bus at her stop.

As I sat at my desk in my father's office that night, chewing on the top of my pen, I thought about the day, and tried to be honest with myself. I've been thinking of Rachel as a girlfriend, even though she and I have never spoken words of romance. To the outside world, we were just friends -- or freakishly betrothed, depending on the audience and the hour -- but I was frankly nuts about her, and spent a lot of time thinking about going on dates with her, putting my arm around her, wondering how to go about kissing her.

And though I tried to tell myself that I wanted to stay behind from Italy to secure my future abode, and to have Aunt Sully to myself for planning the future, the real reason I wanted to stay in California, at the Estate, was to be sure that Rachel wouldn't, the moment I left, find someone else to ride the bus to school with, and forget me.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-03-08
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