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I've heard it said that there's a turning point in each person's life, something that totally changes the course of one's existence--
Mims, what on earth are you talking about?
I'm just trying to--
You're sure trying, all right. Look, people, her point is that until the year we're about to tell you about, we were a normal, happy family.
Normal? Did I just hear you say normal?
Well, comparatively speaking. We never argued.
Oh, yeah? Hey, Cat, stomp a little louder, why doncha?
Ignore her. She's referring to a silly little disagreement we had when we were eight years old.
Anyway, we were good, obedient kids.
Yes, we were. We didn't tell lies--
Except when I broke the TV antenna and was too scared to tell Mom and Dad the truth. I said Santa Claus broke it when he fell out of the chimney.
Yeah, but it was September. No wonder they didn't believe you. Anyway, we got along great with our totally cool Mom and Dad.
Well, we didn't think they were so cool when we turned 12 and 13.
Yeah, well, if you're going to be so argumentative, Mimsie darling, I've got plenty of things I could say.
Uh, yeah. Cat's right. We were a normal, happy family. A mother, a father, two great--
Gorgeous (stop it, Cat!) daughters--
You can dish it out, but you can't take it, huh?
--(ssh!) and a really cute puppy--
Named Stan. Oh, and don't forget about the treehouse.
How could I forget it? We have the most incredible tree house. We built it with Dad when we were seven--
--And it's our favorite place in the whole world. We hang out there together, we go there to be alone, to study, to dream.
There's no place like it in the world.
Well, yeah, there is, actually, but they won't know about the other place if they don't read the story.
Well, then, stop talking already.
Okay, I'm done. Just one more thing, and then you can go on to the first chapter. Have you ever seen My Fair Lady? There's a scene where Professor Higgins is calmly describing the sensible, practical, admirable person he feels himself to be. Then the chorus begins, "But let a woman in your life!" Then all sorts of dire things happen to upset his orderly life.
We could sing a similar song, substituting the word "Mormon" for "woman."
Hey! That's what I was gonna say!!
"Cat! Cat! Wait up!" I turned around to see Mims running after me, her dark hair slipping out of the ponytail she usually wore. I paused in the hallway until she caught up with me.
"How did it go?" she asked breathlessly.
"How did what go?"
"Don't play cute with me, missy! Your audition. You know, the professional dramatic debut of the amazingly talented Catherine Barton. I stayed after school specifically to hear all the juicy details while they were still fresh in your mind. So c'mon, are you the next Nicole Kidman or what?" Mims shifted her backpack and glared at me impatiently.
"Sure, Mims." I said. "I've already signed with the William Morris Agency, and I was just offered the female lead in Johnny Depp's next film."
"So, it went pretty well, huh?"
I couldn't tell her. I wanted to, but I just couldn't get the words out of my mouth. The audition was horrible. I wanted to be Juliet in Shakespeare's famous play. Practicing for weeks, I subjected my entire family to a slew of "forsooths" and "I love thees." I rehearsed the balcony scene over and over again in the tree house, wailing, "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" as if my heart would break.
It all crashed down on me at the audition when I overheard David Howe whispering to Celia Pryce (who just happens to be Eastlake High's resident drama queen) that I sounded more like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz than the love-smitten Juliet. That didn't hurt half as much as Celia's gales of laughter.
"Details, woman. Give me the details. Did they swoon over you?" Mims grabbed my arm and smiled at me, her eyes sparkling.
"It was great," I lied. A brief look of concern flashed across Mims's face. "Really, Sis. It was fine. Honest." I avoided her gaze and started walking. I made it almost to the front door of the school before I realized that Mims was still standing in the same spot.
"Are you coming or not? It's time for dinner, and I know it will be edible because it's not my night for kitchen duty." Mims slowly walked toward me, watching me with those piercing green eyes that always see right through to my heart.
"It didn't go well, did it." That was a statement, not a question. She knew.
"It stunk." A tear slid down my face, and then another, until I was sobbing out loud. Mims put her arm about me comfortingly and we headed home.
"So what happened?"
I told her the whole story, punctuating each remark with sniffles. "I did so bad, they probably wouldn't even cast me as a piece of shrubbery growing underneath Juliet's balcony."
Mims laughed, then her face darkened. "Celia Pryce and David Howe are such jerks. They'll probably get cast in the leads, because they always do." Mims affected a snobbish drawl, "Dahling, really ah am so good, ah absolutely shock mahself, David Honeybuns. And now we are doing Billy Shakespeare. Ah feel sooo inspired and artistic. Ah am sooo grateful to have this puhfectly mahvelous opportunity to grace the little people of this school with mah amazin' talent."
Mims wrinkled her nose and rolled her eyes. "Nobody likes her," she continued, "and she doesn't even care. She already likes herself enough for everybody else. And she's also about as smart as a brick wall. Besides, if you got to play Juliet, you'd have to kiss David Howe. Would you really want to kiss David Howe--you know, Troutboy? I wouldn't want to kiss him, I'll tell you that!"
I laughed in spite of myself. "I guess I wouldn't want to lip lock Troutboy. But that's not really the point, Mims. I made such a fool of myself. I looked stupid. I really hate looking stupid."
Mims smiled sympathetically. "Cat, you worry too much. Especially when it comes to looking stupid. Everybody adores you, remember? Since when did you ever care what people like Celia and Dave think of you?"
"I don't care, not really. It's just that I really wanted to do this. Now I'll probably never get a chance."
"Never?" Mims raised one eyebrow, a talent I've always envied. We were home by then, but instead of going inside Mims led the way around back to our tree house. Dad had built the house in the limbs of an ancient pecan tree when we were six years old, making us the envy of every kid in the neighborhood. It was fully decked out, including a window that overlooked the next-door neighbor's backyard. Before we climbed up, Mims gave me a big hug. "At least you tried. Lots of people wouldn't even do that much. It takes guts."
We sprawled out on the floor of the tree house and attacked our homework. After a while Mims looked up. "Hey, Cat."
"Do you remember last year when you tried out for the part of Laurey in 'Oklahoma!'?"
"Yeah, what about it? I didn't get that one, either, if you will recall."
"I do recall," Mims replied dryly. "You were cast as Ado Annie."
"I know, I was there. Remember?" I chewed on the end of my pencil and pretended to concentrate on my geometry homework. I hoped that would discourage this conversation from going any further. Naturally, Mims saw right through my feeble attempt at evasion.
"You know, Sissy, I think your talents lie in the comedic realm instead of the dramatic. Everybody loved your Ado Annie."
I snorted. Small consolation. I wanted to be the next Marie Dressler. The next Sarah Bernhardt. The next Uta Hagen. "Anybody could play Ado Annie," I muttered grumpily.
"Not likely. Can you imagine me playing Ado Annie?"
I snickered. That was a far stretch. My sister is the most beautiful person in the world. She has long, flowing chestnut hair and emerald green eyes. She is breathtakingly stunning--I've seen people literally do double takes when she walks by. And she even has a dry sense of humor. But Ado Annie? Not! "Besides, there's not a comedic part in "Romeo & Juliet." Well, there's the nurse, but ugh!"
Mims didn't give up easily. "What's the spring play?"
"Um, I think it's 'You Can't Take It With You.'"
"There you go!" she said triumphantly.
"Huh?" I was on a linguistic roll that afternoon.
I thought about it for a moment. Yeah, Penny was a good role, but I'd rather be Alice. I'd like to play a romantic heroine just once.
Mims read my face. "You know, Sissy, a good comedic actress can steal the show. It's worth thinking about."
I crossed my eyes and stuck out my tongue at her.
Just then, Mom poked her head out the back door. "Girls! Dinner's about ready! Come in and get cleaned up!"
Our puppy, Stan, came running out the back door. He was so excited to see us that not only was his tail wagging, but his whole bottom was wagging as well. He raced like a bullet train to the foot of the tree house, and jumped up and down impatiently.
Mims stuck her tongue out at me. "Last one to the back door has to kiss Troutboy!"
I shoved Mims out of the way and practically went down the tree headfirst. She tumbled down after me and stuck out her leg. Not being the most graceful person in the world, I naturally tripped and landed face-first in the grass.
"Troutwoman!" I screamed. Mims took off running, but I grabbed her ankle and brought her down. "Yeah! The winnah!"
"Troutwoman, yourself!" she retorted, as she shoved me in the ribs. She puckered her lips and made kissy noises. "Better run back to Troutboy and give him the old, smoochy fish-face."
Mom stood at the door laughing. "Hey, troutgirls, get in here!"
We scrambled back up, grabbed Stan, and shoved our way into the back door at the same time. We couldn't believe the mouth-watering aroma that filled the kitchen.