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All You Need is Love
The Principles of Love, Book Four
By Emily Franklin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2006 Emily Franklin
All rights reserved.
I currently have the feeling that I'm living in some twisted dream: I keep waiting to wake up and find out everything that's happened in the past days — okay, nearly a week — was just some side-effect of bad sushi.
Except that I don't really like sushi (okay, I like the California rolls, but that's all). And so the chances of suffering a long-term raw fish-induced nightmare session are slim. The reality of my life right now is this: I'm curled up in bed under my plain white sheets pretending to sleep so my dad doesn't make me get up and play a six am game of squash with him. To fight his stress level and possibly to keep his physique in top form for his new girlfriend, he's been all about the cardio activity. He knows my body clock (among other things) is off and once he hears me wandering around up here he knocks on my door with his squash racket and tries to convince me to get court-bound.
"Endorphins help the body relax," he explained during our game last night. The courts were locked but he opened the heavy blue metal door with his master key and held it for me. "Squash is my yoga."
"Sounds like a bumper sticker," I said and proceeded to get my butt whipped (figuratively speaking, of course) by my dad. There were shots I could have hit, and plenty I could have at least made the effort to reach, but I was — am — so distracted I could hardly remember to tie my shoes let alone get my hand-eye coordination to comply.
So now I'm in bed, trying to lull myself back into a REM cycle, but failing. Sleep is my yoga. Except not. I've been here (here=Hadley Hall in all its prep school springtime glory, not my bed) for around a week, having left London and my finally gush-worthy love-life behind, but I haven't succeeded in registering the departure in my brain. Somehow I can't accept that I'm not going back.
Pining for the luxurious yet understated flat I shared with Arabella, my classes that stimulated my mind and thoughts of my future, and the independent life I left across the Atlantic has been draining. Plus visiting Aunt Mable at the hospital have made the days here have the antithetical feeling to Vacation Flyby Syndrome (VFS=that feeling that anything fun just flew by so fast you hardly had time to appreciate it) leaving me with SRS — Sudden Reality Syndrome, where you're sucked back into the normalcy of your every day life. So I've had a big time case of VFS, even though London wasn't a vacation exactly, and I've been way bogged down by an even bigger case of SRS that's left me semi-humorless and hermit-like.
I've been nearly one hundred percent successful in avoiding social run-ins on campus. I feel ghostly visiting there — like I'm semi-seen but since I haven't been a fixture at Hadley for a whole semester, it's like I don't count. Plus, I'm still way jet-lagged. Who knew a five hour time change could mess with my brain state quite so much? I vaguely remember the feeling of landing in London and being overwhelmed with the need for sleep, but coming back is worse.
I'm so tired at night I've gone to bed no later than eight o'clock, and my mornings begin promptly at four, which is nine am in England. I'm living the life of an infant, except no one's singing me to sleep or rocking me as the sun rises. Mainly, this is because I'm not a newborn, but it's also because the person who would have me in their arms isn't here. He's three thousand miles away.
I check my watch. By now, Asher Piece, the English love of my life is probably on his fifth cup of tea at his gallery. I can see him in his oh-so-adorable clothing, traditional button downs that are always slightly rumpled, hair that's determined to misbehave and that smile. That mouth. Those lips. Those lips I won't be kissing for a long time. But before I get carried away with too many scenarios involving Asher appearing at my door and waking me with kisses, my sleep-deprived self arrives back at the true reality of my sudden return to prep school. Plus, I'm already awake, so that pretty much nixes that romantic scenario.
I stare at the ceiling and look for patterns in the plaster the way Dad and I used to look for shapes in the clouds. Mable. Aunt Mable is not doing well. I would say she's doing badly but then I feel like I'm jinxing the situation, so I just tell myself that things are tough right now. Cue mental image of Mable lying in her hospital room, slipping in and out of consciousness, her face bony, her skin sallow and bruised from all the tubes and needles. Tears rush down my cheeks, dampening my pillows and making my nose run. I sit up, look for a tissue, but find none so I use the snot-factor as reason to rise and not-so-much shine as brood.
Out the window, the fields are bright green and empty. The assembly bell won't ring for another hour, and most students are sleeping. Later, the Hadley Hallers will traipse to class slowly, reveling in their springtime-induced leisure. Yesterday, in a quick walk around campus (I've been avoiding putting in too much face time) it was easy to spot the usual signs that spring has sprung, that we're in the last push of the school year: handholding is de rigeur for couples and uncouples, backpacks strewn on the quad, seniors tempting the disciplinary gods by sitting on the science building roof, sophomore girls showing way too much skin as they sun themselves near the LOG. The Lowenthal Outdoor Gymnasium opens its giant garage-style door (it rolls up on nice days) so people can pump up and down on the treadmill half-in, half-out of doors.
I meanwhile, am holed up in my room like it's still winter. Which maybe, in my mind, it still is. Or rather, I'm still a season back, in London with Arabella and Asher and Fizzy and Keena and my wonderful mentor, Poppy Massa-Tonclair, one of the greatest living writers. Of course the mention of her name (did I mention it? Am I talking out loud? Note to self: seek help) brings to mind all of the work I left behind in London.
But as I look at the photograph on my bureau, the one of me and Mable dressed like trashy extras from a big-hair video circa 1986 I put aside thoughts of my recent past and focus on what's in front of me. The picture is just a tiny reminder of such a funny day — Mable convinced me to don a lycra tube dress so tight she had to roll it on me and she wore an electric blue spandex all in one and we walked up and down Newbury Street — AKA fashion central — and laughed our asses off for no good reason other than it was damn humorous). I put the photo next to my bed and sigh.
I'm glad I'm here. I need to be back here and be with Mable — for better or for worse — she needs me and I need to feel that I'm in proximity to her, even if she's not aware that I'm with her.
Just as I've mustered up the energy to go get some cardio-yoga-love myself, the phone rings. I reach for it and sit at my computer, figuring I can multi-task and print my assignments from London while talking.
"Is this the residence of a Miss Bee-you-cow-sky?" Asher enunciates each syllable so it sounds like he's on slow motion.
"Let me see if she's here," I say in an overly American nasal voice — and manage to convince him I'm someone else.
"Oh, terribly sorry — I thought ..." he stammers.
"It's me, fool," I say. "Just a few days apart and you can't even recognize my voice?"
"Believe me, you don't sound like that normally." Asher sighs. I can hear street noise in the background.
"And how do I sound normally?" I ask and miss him so much it's all I can do to keep myself from ditching everything and hailing a cab to the airport and back to London and into his arms.
"Lovely. That's how you sound," Asher says.
"Where are you?" I ask. "Describe your location so I can picture it."
"Well, let me see. I'm looking around and it appears as though I'm on the corner of ... no — can't quite make out that street sign. Anyway, I'm in Hackney in front of a statue of a rather rude horse and rider. I'm meeting a client for lunch." Then there's a pause. I wonder if it's one of those romantic pauses where we're both thinking back on our time together or remembering kissing in front of a different statue or — if maybe the pause is one of those awkward ones.
"I miss you," I say and then feel like I've put too much on the table.
"I miss you so much, Love. Really, it's crap here without you," Asher says and makes me feel completely at ease, which of course makes me miss him more, but I don't say that.
Instead, I print all my essay and work assignments that Arabella emailed me and say, "So — who's the lucky fellow?"
"Huh?" Asher's phone beeps, signaling another call coming in. The fact that the whole world doesn't know we're on the phone and having an important call is unbelievable to me — who would dare to interrupt? "I'm not going to get that. What were you saying?"
"I said who's the lucky guy who gets your attention over lunch at some swanky but not so put together as to appear over-done café?"
"Very good marks on your description," Asher says and I can hear the low blurble of noise intensify. "I'm in that café as we speak."
"What's it called?" I want to know everything he's doing, what he's eating, his exact locale like having that knowledge will help ease the distance.
"Café Alba. Should be a lovely meal. Cutting edge meets country home food — not too avante guard and not to low-brow. Oh — I've got to run — my client's here!"
"What's his name?" I ask. I like knowing all the names of Asher's up and coming artists, they're the ones I suspect (like he is) who will rule the art world in a decade. Probably Asher's photos will be as famous as the Ancel Adams ones that grace the walls of many a Hadley dorm.
"She," Asher corrects. "Valentine Green. She's a total nutter, but very talented."
I can hear said nutter kiss the cheek of my boyfriend and I grow, yes, Green with envy. Of course, I don't give in to my sudden need to know if Valentine is long-limbed and gorgeous, I just wish him a good lunch. "Talk to you soon?"
Asher blows a kiss into the phone. The fact that he'd do this in public in front of a client makes me blush. "I give you a ring a-sap," he says. "And we'll plan my trip over."
I taught him the expression As Soon as Possible, and its abbreviation, a-sap and it's now said with slightly too much frequency, but right now, it doesn't bug me because Asher is coming to visit! I do a little dance and imagine introducing him to Mable and how she'd clutch my hand and say out loud how incredibly hot he is, just to embarrass me.
"Okay — remember the time change when you call — just so you don't wake my dad."
When you're so used to being around someone the way I got used to being with Asher, it's impossible not to think of what they're doing all the time. If I'm snacking on graham crackers, he's having dinner, if I'm waking up, he's at work.
"I'll talk to you soon," I say, but realize I can't compute soon into hours or minutes or days.
We hang up and I make a pact to get myself together. At least partially.
As I gather up my printed matter and try not to panic at the amount of work I need to finish (finish=start) I make a POA. My Plan of Action for this week is as follows: LOG for some much needed flabercise (read: no running, wine-drinking, and lovely English puddings have made my jeans just a bit too tight), hours and hours of solid work at the library, visits to Mable at Mass General, and my much-dreaded meeting with Academic Affairs (why does the office have such a romantic name when it's just a holding pen for failure??) to determine the fall-out from leaving London early. Then I'll probably see my dad for dinner and crawl into bed by eight again.
Maybe tonight I'll make it until nine. Which is two in the morning in London. When will I stop computing the time change and wondering what's happening there, what I'm missing? Maybe when the doors of reality open and welcome me inside.CHAPTER 2
The doors of reality in this case are the large double arches (no, not of artery-clogging fast food) of Master's Hall. Set back from the main campus, Master's looks small compared to the grand pillared style of the ivy-covered brick buildings used for classes. Once the Headmaster's office (once=1790-something) and is now the site of formal investigations into academic doings or undoings. Not to be confused with the Discipline Committee that meets elsewhere (and with my father, I might add), the Academic Committee (or the AC as they're known) of one small room that, despite its ventilated name, is known for its intense humidity.
As soon as I walk through the doors, I'm sweating. Droplets of perspiration make their way from my workout bra to my belly button and I hope I don't look nervous — just overheated.
"Please, take a seat," says Mrs. Hendricks, the remarkably non-sweaty ACC. "I've elected to handle your case myself as George Humphries is dealing with another matter." Not sure what that "other matter" is — I'm too out of the Hadley Gossip Loop these days — but I'm thrilled to have Mrs. Hendricks. She has a reputation for being kind and gentle with her cases.
"The fact that I have a case seems really unsettling," I say. Last semester, a senior in my ethics class realized she was three semesters shy of completing her math requirement, and once she explained her situation to Hendricks, all she had to do was some Saturday tutorials. I'm hoping for something easy, too, given the circumstances.
As if she reads my mind Mrs. Hendricks says, "Given the circumstances, I believe you did the best thing." She gives me a small smile from across the desk and I notice her pink ribbon pinned to her sweater. Everyone knows someone or is connected to someone with breast cancer and it's comforting not to feel so alone.
"I'm so glad you see my point of view," I say. "My aunt is — she's very important to me as I'm sure my dad explained. So there's really no way I could stay abroad and miss ..." my voice starts to crack. I will myself not to cry.
"Love — I understand the circumstances and as I said, I agree with you. Were I in your position I would likely do the same thing."
I sigh, glad I won't be penalized. "Great. So do I just make my college counseling appointments and audit classes?"
Mrs. Hendricks shakes her head. "I'm afraid it's not that simple, Love. LADAM won't give you credit because you're not actually attending their program."
I lick my lips and feel the sweat gather in my bra. "But they gave me assignments. My friend Arabella Piece — the exchange student who was here — emailed me all the work I've missed and I can do it all here and send papers back ..."
"But LADAM won't accept all of them!" Mrs. Hendricks allows her voice to get stern. "You don't seem to grasp the full situation, Love."
"No, I guess I don't. I left London really suddenly and no one told me about the problems that would cause." My hair slips from its loose knot and the red of it covers my eyes. I quickly tuck it behind my ears and try to think fast. "Can't I do the Hadley work?"
"You're not a registered student at Hadley this term," Mrs. Hendricks explains. She looks for something in one of the antiquated files that form a u-shape into which her desk is tucked.
"So basically, I'm a woman without a country, with no school and yet lots of requirements to fulfill," I say. "And since Hadley has no summer school, I wouldn't graduate for a year and a half? Nothing I did in London would count?"
"Yes, I should think that sums it up rather well. In the fine print of your application to LADAM, it states that work must be completed in full and in person in order for any of the credit to count." In her cotton cardigan and sensible skirt, Mrs. Hendricks comes around to my side of the table. "Now, ordinarily, I would be the first to tell you that you've made your academic bed and now you must lie in it. But due to the nature of your decision to come back, I think we need to find a solution."
I manage a smile. Maybe I won't have to be the oldest senior ever at Hadley. "Suggestions?"
"I've taken the liberty of speaking with ..." she looks at the paper in her hands. "Poppy Massa-Tonclair. Quite a name. Anyway, she gave you such a glowing review that I asked her to sponsor you in an ISPP." She pronounces this last term iss-pee, like a snake with a bladder problem in the punch line of a joke, but I refrain from commenting on it.
"I've never actually known anyone who did an ISPP," I say. "They're sort of mythical on campus." Rumor had it that one guy Something Something Addison (one of those cool boarding students of legendary status) who graduated years before got one for doing a non-profit project, but until now I assumed it was campus lore.
"They're extremely rare. For extenuating circumstances only and I believe this qualifies." Mrs. Hendricks hands the paper to me and I look at the paragraphs that describe my project.
"PMT — I mean — Poppy Massa-Tonclair said she'd do this? Really?"
Excerpted from All You Need is Love by Emily Franklin. Copyright © 2006 Emily Franklin. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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