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Piece, Love, and Happiness
The Principles of Love, Book 2
By Emily Franklin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2005 Emily Franklin
All rights reserved.
End of Summer
With a name like mine, signing letters has never been easy. If I write Love, Love, I sound either redundant or drunk, and if I go with From, Love, I feel like I'm passing out third grade Valentine's Day cards (and not in that ironic way), and sincerely sounds neither sincere nor friendly. So, though I've only gotten as far as scripting a letter to Jacob in my head, I haven't committed the words (or anything else, for that matter) onto paper. I'm using not knowing how to sign it as my excuse. Besides, Jacob's still in Europe, pouting in France or doing whatever it is people do in Belgium — and I'm here.
Here being a train en route from Boston to Providence to visit Brown University-attending Lila Lawrence (AKA Shiny Perfect Blonde Girl). After summering in Newport, I'm sure Lila's a tan ten, and probably she's been granted an enormous suite with other freshmen of her ilk (emphasis on ill). But I have to say, I'm psyched to see her. Since I pretty much lived in the editorial offices of Music Magazine this summer, staring out at a New York City I hardly ever got to experience, I've been missing actual human contact. Sure, there were other people in the office with me, but they were mainly of the tank-topped and toned hip set (of which, despite my internship, I was not considered one) and then forty-year-old editors who never knew who I was. One of them actually called me Thingy (ie "You there — Thingy — could you just run out and get me a soy macchiato?" or — even better — to the infamously cool guy rock star from Northern England whose wallet wound up lost in an uptown cab, "Don't worry about canceling the cards — just have Thingy do it."
Hi, I'm Thingy I wanted to say when I came back to Boston with my crumpled clothing (can I just say how much doing laundry is NOT like in those sexy ads where hot boys always seem to lurk by the fabric softener machines?). Back at my house, Dad was as remote as I'd ever seen him; tucked in his study filing papers or just sitting there at his desk.
"Hello?" I'd tried standing in the doorway, shifting my weight and scuffing the hardwood floors to get him to turn around, but he hadn't. Finally, I went over to him and hugged his shoulders.
He tipped his head back to face me. "Hi, Love." I've lived with my father and no one else for all of my nearly seventeen years, and I can honestly say that I'd never heard his voice so drained. Not even last year when I'd been in trouble at school, not even when I'd pissed him off by repeatedly wanting information abut my mother, not even in our early years before his somewhat cushy position as headmaster at Hadley Hall.
"Want to tell me about it?" I asked, trying to be the parent in an after school special (worst title ever = Is Jenny Smoking The Dope? No, Jenny, Don't do it! — Lila and I found the grainy video from 1981 in the library last year — this summer, we reenacted it when I'd visited her in Newport, though substituting "The Pot" with one of her mother's clove cigarettes, in a 1920s Art Deco holder, no less).
Dad didn't pick up on my light tone. Instead, he turned back to his desk, shuffled through some papers and — when he saw me snooping over his shoulder — turned whatever he was reading face down. "Are you going to the Vineyard with Mable?" he asked. "It's so nice there this time of year." His face had that look of remembering something, but he didn't offer to share whatever was mulling around in his mind.
I shook my head. "I was going to, but Lila's got her second weekend at Brown — classes don't start until Tuesday, so I thought it'd be ..."
He cut me off, which — being a principle and convinced students and teenagers will spill their guts without being asked if they're just allowed to ramble — he hardly ever does. "Well, have fun."
"So I can go?" He didn't even mention the lack of supervision, the fact that I'm a soon-to-be Junior heading off for a college weekend. I didn't wait for him to reconsider.
Outside my Amtrak train's window, Providence is in view. I don't mean providence, like some devine intervention, but I'm not ruling that out. I mean the little city south of Boston, population 173618 (10.34% in the 15-19 year old age bracket — yes, I do spend far too much time on line with my God of choice, Google, but what can you do).
It's weird those choices you make in life that usually end up making the differences; I could've gone to Martha's Vineyard with Aunt Mable and had a whole group of experiences that I'll never know now, but I made the decision to come here. Just like my decision this past June to go to the infamous Crescent Beach grad party where — amidst the sand, sweat, and seniors, I managed to alienate Jacob. Jacob, one of the highlights of my sophomore year. Jacob with the tousled ringlets and green eyes. Jacob with the extensive knowledge of lyrics from every decade, who actually cared about what I had to say and wanted to travel around Europe with me.
Jacob who somehow thought he saw me making out with someone in the dunes at said Infamous Crescent Beach party. Lila said shit like that happens every year; someone gets dumped, or throws up, or confesses four years of love or lust. And every year, someone goes home heartbroken. This year, I was that person.
"It's The End of Something emotions," Mable explained to me when I met her for coffee at Slave to the Grind after the party's fallout. She'd cut way back on her hours there (even after calling off her engagement in the spring, which I still don't fully understand) claiming fatigue (fatigue=boredom?) — on Sundays to bake caramel grahams and oversized krispy treats.
"Huh?" I wasn't particularly eloquent that afternoon, having been up virtually the entire night, dealing with a frantic Lila at Crescent Beach (Frantic=Will I make friends at Brown? How the hell can I cope with my crazy mother this summer? Oh my God — I loved my years at Hadley Hall — I can't believe I'm done with high school! Will I make friends at Brown? Umm, you already said that, Lila. And so on, in a vicious cycle of questions and reassurance).
Then, right when I'd calmed Lila down, I'd gone for a quick walk with Chris the MLUT (huge Hadley Hall male slut) and was enjoying actually conversing with said slut in the quiet dark of the dunes (we were hunched over, shielding our eyes from the massive wind and sand gusts) when I spotted Jacob, who hadn't even planned on showing up for the festivities, claiming they were lame/for drunk seniors/too far away. He marched over to us in a state of total guy-pissed-offness (could I be any less grammatical?). He had that look like he'd caught me in the act of something terrible, and put his hands on his hips, twisted his mouth, and raised his voice (okay, probably this was due to anger and the fact that he had to in order to be heard over the wind, music blaring, and shrieks).
"I don't believe you," Jacob said. He looked around the tiny cove as if there'd be evidence — a ripped condom wrapper, mussed sheets, or smeared lipstick — none, none, and none (I don't even like lipstick and I can attest to never having ripped a condom open except in sex class — which, at Hadley Hall, is called Options and Information; A Health Journey — um, yeah, sex — and the second part of it — what the students call "Advanced Sex" is coming up — heh — next year. How thoughtful of the academic planning committee to save that choice morsel for senior year).
Chris the MLUT stood up, somehow totally in tune with the situation, and tried to calm Jacob down (Chris is English and always sounds calm — or debonair, which I admit wasn't helpful in this scenario).
"Listen, Jake," Chris said. He brushed the sand off of his shorts and raked his hand through his floppy hair (floppy=sexy British, not Viagra-esque).
"Jacob. Not Jake." Jacob the Aggitated corrected.
"Jacob," I said and went to hug him. "I didn't think you were coming."
"I'm sure you didn't," he said. He backed off from my hug and swiped my hand away when I tried to clasp his.
"Look," Chris said, "I don't know what you thought you stumbled upon here, but I assure you ..."
"You look," Jacob said to both me and Chris. "Save the bullshit for someone else. Clearly, I misread you this year, Love." My heart was racing, I opened my mouth to talk, but Chris spoke first.
"Dude, you're totally over-reacting. We were talking."
"Oh," Jacob said, TV-sarcastic. "You were talking." He stretched out the word and pointed his finger dangerously close to my chest. I looked down. Top two buttons of my buttondown had popped open. So much for shopping cheap in the boys' section.
I laughed. "Ooops. Sorry." I quickly did the buttons up, but then the top one popped again. "Guess it's a little ..."
Jacob stuck his hands in his pockets. "Forgive me, then, if you were just talking. I hope you remembered a condom for the conversation." I'd never heard this kind of tone from Jacob. He always spoke in a mellow, hushed kind of way. Part of me was annoyed about how annoyed he was, but part of me — I don't know — is it weird that I was attracted to him being bothered? To his credit, he didn't bring up the intership at Music Magazine, or my choice to accept that rather than his invite to Europe (I believe his exact words were — "I'll always be here for you, and so will Europe — except the parts like Venice that are sinking — but you might never get a chance to work at that kind of place again).
And just like that, he stormed off. Of course I chased after him; he was too much a part of me to just act cool and let him, but of course he just didn't want to hear my explanation. Chris the MLUT even tried to defend my honor — a bit too frantically, actually, but nothing worked.
So that's where Jacob and I had left things; he'd gone to Europe and I'd frolicked in New York (frolicked=was editorial muffin slave). The best part of the summer had been writing a two-sentence blurb in Music Magazine (which sadly was cut from the final printing), meeting some bigtime music execs whose business cards I still have, and visiting Lila in Newport. Ah, good times.CHAPTER 2
From my backpack, I pull out a slightly wrinkled photograph of me and Lila on the beach in front of her palatial waterfront house. You can see Hildgaard, the maid, a speck way in the background. What you can't see is the tray in Hildagaard's hand — a tray thoughtfully prepared with Long Island Iced Teas a la Lila's mother (read: way sweet but totally alcoholic). We spent the weekend flirting with the double-breasted blue blazered set; Edward the III this, Petey Duckworth Livingston, Jr., etc. (etc.=bizarre nicknames like Bean, Chuck-o, Cricket), swimming, and generally goofing around. And never once, despite still feeling a tiny morsel of it inside — did I feel like the ugly stepsister. I felt like I belonged.
I only know that the train conductor is announcing our arrival into Providence — right near Brown University campus — because I recognize the view — and because I can see Lila jumping up and down, flailing her arms like a deranged cheerleader. I crack up. The lady across from me on the train raises her eyebrows, probably thinking I am one of the disturbed teenagers she's reading about in her Time magazine. This just makes me laugh harder.
I sling my bag over my shoulder, pick up my mini duffle, and clumsily make my way off the Amtrak and over to Lila. She whips off her hat and shows me her newly cropped head. Short at the back, the blonde bangs cover the side of her face.
"You are the only person I know besides Gwenyth Paltrow who can pull off that cut. You look amazing!"
"Oh my God, I 'm so glad you're here!" She throws her arms around me before I've dropped my bags and this makes me so off-balance I fall over, pulling her with me. We're collapsed in a heap, her kind of lying sideways on my legs, me toppled onto the cushion of my duffle. Two guys walk by and shout "Girl Fight! Yeah!" like we're topless or squelching in a pudding product or something.
"You wish!" Lila says back to them, laughing.
"Could we be any dorkier?" I ask. We don't even bother to stand up until one of the train station porters tries to get by us with a massive cart and can't.
"We should go," Lila says. We start walking toward the exit, and she takes one of the handles of the duffle so it swings between our hands, lighter for each of us.
"I can't wait to see your room," I say. "And meet your friends. And see the campus. The only time I ever really spent in Providence was that day last year ..." She finishes my thought. "The day with Jacob, you mean?"
"Yeah." We dodge the oncoming passengers, swaying together so we don't drop the bag or bump anyone.
"Do you miss him?" Lila adjusts her baseball cap. It's a pink one with the Boston Red Sox logo on the front. Of course, she looks sporty and adorable at the same time.
"I do." I stop for a minute. I can picture his face so clearly, the way his mouth turns down at the sides. How his hands felt on my face. And I didn't even get to feel them that much — but everything about him is so easy to recall. "I wonder what he's doing right now."
"Probably getting ready to go back to Hadley."
"Maybe." I picture him in Paris, or Rome, and wonder about all the amazing sights he's seen. If he's seen them with someone else.
"God, that's really far off," Lila sighs. We keep moving.
"The whole high school thing. Hadley Hall." This doesn't come out wistfully, more snooty.
"It's not like it was that long ago, Lila," I say and semi-snort. Pretty. "You only graduated three months ago."
She shrugs. And then, just as I'm about to make a joke about her being SO much more mature than I am — just a soon-to-be-lowly-Junior — two amazon-tall women ( blur of dark denim, tweed, flowing hair) come by and say bonjour; ah, Euros (Euros=the titled and the wealthy wannabees. The kind of people who keep their passports in their pockets everyday — never know when you'll be invited to someone's chateau or decide to do a day trip to Bruges). Seeing the two women makes Lila immediately drop her side of the duffle, and makes me go flying onto the ground.
"Part two of the Dork Olympics!" I shriek up at Lila. But she's not laughing. She's looking at the Euros and then back at me — and — I don't think I'm imagining this — she looks like she's embarrassed to be seen with me.
"This is my room," Lila shows me her digs. She's part of a sextet (and, yes, having seen her other roommates, I think the emphasis is on the sex part. Three gorgeous women and three even better looking guys — hello, reality show?).
"It's nice," I say. It's fine. Just a bed, a dresser, and a small window. Lila hasn't unpacked yet. Her suitcases and bags are all unzipped, partially undone — clothes everywhere. For some reason, I thought she'd have gotten settled before I visited. Or at least cleared a place for me to sit.
"Just push the clothes onto the floor." I sweep my arm dramatically over the end of her bed, sliding two dresses and a shirt onto the rug in the process.
Lila's pissed. "Not those. I just had those cleaned." She huffs and picks the dresses up, cradling them like a day old baby, and puts them carefully onto hangers and into the closet.
"Sorry," I say.
"No, I'm sorry," she sighs. "They're just dresses. Nevermind." Sheepishly, she takes off her hat and turns to me. I stare at Lila's new hair cut. Aunt Mable always said that when women alter their hair — either color or cut — or both — it means there's something brewing emotionally. I've never really done much with mine — it's been stick straight and copper-toned forever. But with Lila, I'm seeing Mable's words come true.
Four hours later and we've skipped dinner (since when did Lila eschew a good burger? She didn't even want a handful of Captain Crunch that was on offer in the dining hall), and my stomach is making hissing noises while Lila sips her fifth martini-esque drink.
I'm sitting with Lila and Dominic Der Pashmina (I'm making up that last part, she slurred when she introduced herself, but close enough) and a variety of Brown University preps and poshes.
Lila grabs my arm hard enough to leave a mark. "Oh my God, there he is!"
"Who?" I ask. Lila rolls her eyes and Pashmina does the same.
"My plan B," Lila says. "You know, like if I can't get Hans Hecklefranz, my first choice guy, I'll go for him."
"His name is Giles, I think," Pashmina says. She's talking to us but also into her incredibly small cell phone. "Shut up! Mitin!" This last part she's yelling into the phone (Mitin=More Information Than I Needed — an oft-used expression by Lila and her suitemates).
Lila turns to me and smiles, normally, not like the college-android she's turned into. "But enough about Giles, I'm so getting Franz." She pronounces Giles in French, jeeeluh.
"I thought you said his name was Hans."
Lila's annoyed. "Yeah, but everyone calls him Franz."
I picture where I could be right now; home in bed watching My So-called Life on dvd, or writing songs I won't sing, or actually finishing an email to Jacob, or just hanging out on Martha's Vineyard with Mable. Then I feel rude, so I try to join in on the fun.
Excerpted from Piece, Love, and Happiness by Emily Franklin. Copyright © 2005 Emily Franklin. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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