Monday, October 31, 2011
Now before I let you in on the game plan for boy-dating and rating, I should really give you some historical information.
Mouche and I met in first grade which is why, although we don’t condone the Princesses’ prickly behaviour, we do understand the bond fused between them.
There was also a subtle but competitive bond between me and Mouche.
You can really trace the competition between us back to our first day of nursery school when Mouche turned up in the same pink-spotted smock and leggings and immediately noticed a usurper for most fashionable. We ended up having a painting competition that morning. Most of the paint landed on me and we spent the afternoon sitting in opposite ‘time out’ corners.
We bonded after the shared punishment. Then we found out we liked the same things (reading, painting and performing), until Mouche, who didn’t even want to be on Broadway, stole my agent. Well, I suppose you could say my agent (and his Simon Cowell accent) stole her. Anyway, it worked out for the best since Mouche and I started to attend acting auditions after Thom (pronounced Tom) saw us in a school play.
We rarely secured the jobs from those auditions, but travelling into Los Angeles, we still managed to share a laugh and a cab ride back home. Our mothers, Mrs Mouche and Trish, took it in turns to accompany us. They were willing moms but unwilling stage mothers. We literally had to drag them along because we were legally required to have guardians. They just didn’t get the whole acting thing and were wary of their children ‘being exploited.’ Pl-lease. We totally wanted to be exploited (because back then, we didn’t even know what the word meant).
That’s sort of how Mrs Mouche and my mom, Trish, met. After our Daddies ran off together they became slummy mommies and mommies who drink. Incidentally, the other neighbourhood mommies were probably a lot more badly behaved than our mothers. In fact, the Sunrise Golf Club was recently revealed to be a hot bed of suburban lunchtime affairs. But Mrs Mouche and Trish were under the microscope because their men had run off together. Sunrise thrives on low-level gossip and scandal but absent fathering is no reason to brand us as the underprivileged offspring of dysfunctional parenting.
It’s funny how you need ‘more’ community support when something goes awry in your family but people, in our case, gave us less. It takes a village... For example, each of our fathers let our mothers know that ‘education was wasted on girls who would just grow up and get married like they did’ – well, not quite the way they did. Our Daddies might be gay but it doesn’t mean they’re not just as chauvinistic as other men. I mean, what century are we in people, the eighteenth? However, if both our Daddies hadn’t stopped paying our school fees by the time we turned fifteen, we would not have transferred to Sunrise and junior year may never have happened as it did.
Unfortunately, our plans for boy dating and rating were heading for dust once the Princesses arrived at Sunrise High. Although their mere presence inspired us to take notice of the way boys behaved around them, the truth is, even they were shocked by how much the boys seemed to ignore them after their initial surprise. They thought a co-ed school would be different and ‘the cute girls’ would be worshipped by every boy who crossed their paths. But so far, they were wrong. They were being overshadowed by the newbies.
By the third day of the new semester, Mark and Jet made a re-appearance, late, at exactly three minutes past nine in our combined home room class.
The Princesses were sitting in a pack towards the front and Mouche and I were sitting in the corner. I was staring through the window wondering how I’d ever get out of Sunrise when Mark brushed past me to hand a late slip to Miss Tartt who was obviously taken with him. You could tell she thought he was good-looking by the way she fluttered her eye-lashes.
‘You’re late,’ she said, looking up at him from beneath her spectacles. She was clearly appreciating his masculine energy when I noticed the edges of her mouth turn up in a slight smile. You could almost hear her thinking, ‘if only I were sixteen again...’
Mark was quite apologetic.
‘Yes, please excuse me...Miss Tartt. I’m Mark Knightly...’
‘And you are?’ She peered at Jet.
‘Jet Campbell,’ Jet said affably. ‘We had to re-check our schedules.’
Miss Tartt was smiling sweetly by this point. She gestured to the boys to take a seat after she’d ticked the roll.
Mr Sparks was team-teaching with her that morning and in the process of announcing his plans for the play of the year, an updated version of Romeo and Juliet called Rocco and Julie.
‘Oh help us all,’ Mouche mouthed as she rolled her eyes and pulled her beret over her ears.
I glanced at Mark when he wasn’t looking in our direction, wondering if I’d ever have the courage to speak to him. I also considered the possibility that in all the romantic literature Mouche and I had ever read, good intentions were surer if the boy made the first move.
‘My fellow Thespians, this story is about true love. All the best stories are. Auditions will be held at 3pm, Thursday. I want you all there and not just the drama majors – we need the boys for extra credit please. This, our combined junior class production, is sure to be a masterpiece...’
Jet laughed out loud.
‘Any more of that negativity and I’ll see you in detention,’ Mr Sparks said pointedly.
Mr Sparks really believed he could improve on the original script using modern language. Since Shakespeare wasn’t around to tell him otherwise, his word was law. Mr Sparks was our combined home room teacher (and a seriously hard marker) so it paid to find a way to at least pretend to like him.
‘Phoebe Harris?’ Mr Sparks called out my name as I chewed my pencil and looked outside at the fallen orange leaves. I was wondering how in the world Mouche and I could make this year the best ever before the drama of college applications and everything else took over our lives. I raised my hand and noticed Mark glancing in my direction.
It’s true; I subsequently discovered that Mark’s late arrival on his third day as a transfer student was not his fault. His family couldn’t have been thrilled that he was attending Sunrise (he’d applied too late for any private school acceptance), but perhaps the superior tone he used when he spoke again could have been avoided.
‘And what might your name be, Sir?’ Mr Sparks said in a most theatrical manner as Mark started to leave the room.
‘Ah, Mark Knightly,’ he replied, sounding ridiculously uncomfortable. Mark had a rich voice. He spoke like a boy with a lot of money who has been told a few too many times he is extra good-looking. I could tell by his tone that he was not exactly thrilled to be repeating junior year in a different time zone. He’d almost graduated high school in England where they even have a separate school for senior year.
I had the opportunity to consider him once more in repose now that he was engaged in conversation with Mr Sparks. Mark was tall and wore his dark hair slightly long and swept across his forehead. He had cobalt blue eyes and a smile that Mouche would later describe as, ‘kind of dangerous.’ He also looked very embarrassed to have been singled out and ignored Mr Sparks when he asked him another question about whether he would sign up for the play. This made Mr Sparks go completely ballistic and he immediately signed up Mark to be stage manager of the new Romeo and Juliet. Mark just cringed in his seat and was the first person to escape when the bell rang.
‘He’s totally hot, what a Franco,’ Teegan said as she flicked her cherry hair in my face on her way to acting class. I was yet to publicize my new phrase in The Sunrise News and already the Princesses were coining the term as their own. C’est la vie. Perhaps copying a trend really is the highest form of flattery.
‘I’m definately going to get the lead role in this,’ Tory added as she pulled down the freshly printed poster announcing the auditions for Rocco and Julie out in the hallway.
‘Just the name sounds totally sad,’ Mouche said, ‘but we are so going to audition because I know one Princess who could do with a little competition.’
‘You said it, Mouche,’ I added, under my breath.
‘The lead role will definitely go to Tory. She is perfect for the part,’ Teegan quipped, smoothing her lustrous locks.
‘Don’t be so sure,’ Mouche added. ‘Phoebe is auditioning as well.’
‘But Tory’s been working professionally all summer,’ Teegan countered. Tory looked a little bit surprised and very annoyed since I’d been the star of the HSYL freshman showcase, when all the agents from Los Angeles came to the school to see if there was anyone who would interest them. That’s kind of how Wednesday (Mouche’s baby sister) and Mouche and I signed with an agency called Thom’s Kidz (but more on him later, I promise).
‘You know everyone is invited to audition, Tory. May the best actress win!’ Mouche replied.
Tory stuck her nose in the air and checked her lipstick a third time before walking down the hall with Freya, Teegan and Brooke. That clique of juniors managed to look down on everyone and anyone and may have even convinced us all (including the teachers who they were super nice to) that they walked on air.
At lunchtime, Brooke, spaniel curls hanging perilously close to her food, could be heard moaning over her jell-o, ‘I just don’t know why there are so few hot guys in our town, even if the population is small. Mark Knightly is so cute he could start a riot around here.’
Freya, who was flicking through the images of her pony club trip via cell, looked up and said as an afterthought, ‘I agree.’
Tory smiled a big, toothy, insincere smile as she checked her gloss.
‘And...he wants to major in pre-med at Yale or Harvard,’ Teegan said, crossing her Barbie legs in agreement.
‘I heard his uncle owns a huge castle in Scotland and his family harbors a very dark secret...’ Tory added, tying her sweaty locks in a ponytail.
‘Shh,’ Brooke said, ‘Mark and Jet are coming over right now.’
The boys gave us wicked little grins.
‘Spreading the love,’ Mouche said under her breath.
Mark slid over onto one of the side tables and pulled out his study notes while Jet started playing some computer game then passed a basketball with his feet back and forth under the table towards Mark while they ate.
They looked over at me once when I was reading. Then, as soon as Mark and Jet had finished eating they ran out onto the playing fields, laughing at all the performing arts girls (us) as they slid out of the room. It was as if they had their own private joke, ignoring us. Well, ignoring almost everyone. Mark walked over to speak as he left, but turned, thought better of it, then glanced at Mouche and me and walked away. Peter was walking across the courtyard at that moment giving Mouche a cheeky grin. They had arranged to rehearse some dance moves.
‘Later, Pheebs,’ Mouche ran outside to greet Peter, who relayed to her a snippet of conversation he overheard as he was doing up his shoes.
‘It’s always the same for me,’ Jet said, as they walked outside.
‘What do you mean?’ Mark asked.
‘Always a feast or a famine.’
‘Petra thinks you’re conceited, now I know why.’
‘Your sister is kind of spacey, so I won’t take that too seriously. I mean, can I help it if a bunch of man-starved hot chicks throw themselves in my path? Have you checked out that cute little blonde girl we spoke to this morning?’
‘Not really. I’m too busy noticing we’re practically in Hicksville. All this culture is really overwhelming. I’d forgotten how much I dislike Los Angeles.’ Mark said.
‘LA is not so bad. C’mon, it’s the City of Angels. Besides, what’s so great about London at 6am? Parts of the city are seriously unclean. I mean, people spit on the streets there. A lot.’
‘Yeah, I guess, but outside of Beverly Hills, we barely walk on the streets here.’
‘I love being home. I love the air and I missed the food.’
‘I guess. There’s no place like home...I’m just kind of worried about my sister. Since our parents died, my aunt and uncle have insisted on sending her to that girl’s school...I just know she’s going to hate it.’
‘It’s kind of a bummer...your sister’s so...’
‘No, I was going to say, shy. Special.’
Mark rolled his eyes. He knew Jet was being sarcastic.
The boys had moved to the basketball court and began to shoot hoops.
‘After our parents died she stopped eating and became so introverted. I think she needs friends.’
‘From what I hear, she’s not going to find them at the Young Ladies Academy.’
Jet shot a near perfect hoop.
‘Great, that’s what I thought.’
Mark took over and bounced the ball, keeping it from Jet with his right palm.
‘I mean, we just saw the results. Did you see the way those girls were all jostling each other for the last diet soda at lunch? Apparently they got expelled from The High School for Young Ladies.’
‘Shouldn’t hold that against them, we got thrown out of Loratio Academy, remember?’ ‘Yeah, but those women are vicious, man. If you’re considering introducing them to Petra, I’d think again. The Queen Bee...’
‘Which one’s that?’ Mark was yet to learn girl-speak and found the language faintly irritating.
‘I think her name’s Teegan.’
‘Oh,’ Mark said contemplatively.
‘Like I said, I’d think again...’
Peter continued, ‘then the newbies went back to the basketball court; more physicality, less conversation. Guys are comfortable relating via sporting analogies. Jet was probably shocked that Mark had even mentioned his sister. Men don’t reveal their emotions easily...’ Peter told us dramatically, I’d joined them both outside and listened intently.
Mouche was taking it all in.
‘Thanks Peter. Your take on the situation has been enlightening...’ Mouche said as she jotted down a few notes to expand her love theories later.
I looked around at a bunch of students weaving through the courtyard.
‘Are all of these students going to grow up to become adults and what will they take with them into the big wide world?’ I mused quietly.
‘The same bigoted, self-centered personalities they’ve displayed here,’ Peter said.
Mouche smiled. I laughed in agreement. It seemed most of the sixteen year olds I knew had personalities designed to last a lifetime. They certainly hadn’t changed in the twelve months I’d known them - some of them hadn’t changed since first grade.
Last year we’d heard snippets of love conversation flying past us in the halls. That was when we were the semi-anonymous newbies and nobody seemed to care if we heard their scurrilous talk.
‘Didn’t those two hook up?’
‘Yeah, that’s what I heard’
‘So, did he get some?’
‘Yeah, I think so.’
‘The new student teacher is totally hot...’
Ah, hello, the new student teacher is male but drama boys can always be relied upon to be somewhat artistic in their choices.
‘Did he get some? The new student teacher? Are they dreaming? I mean, there’s romance combined with delusion for you there, right there.’ Mouche said.
‘Obviously, we are focused on our career plans with good reason.’ I replied.
There’s also another reason. When we first arrived for sophomore year, our cousins, Ella and Katie (who are slightly younger than us) had been here since freshman year. They’re not our besties but we are still blood relations and that means something. Our cousins were actually asked out on a sort-of double date with Alex Miller and one of his friends, Tom Allen.
Prior to last year, we’d never really spent much time with our cousins. Ella and Katie (who’d started to call themselves Elle and Kate) preferred to hang out with each other which suited Mouche and me because they were super-giggly and boy-crazy. Not so boy-crazy that they’d do anything illegal in the back of the Sunrise bowling alley, though.
The day after their ‘big date’ my cousin Ella and Mouche’s cousin Katie told us that Alex and Tom spent most of the evening trying to outdo each other and Tom even ‘forgot’ his wallet and made them pay for everything.
Ella continued, ‘then, after ignoring us for an hour and conversing with each other, they tried to get on us in their car so Katie and I mutually decided to end the ‘date.’ The girls had been learning karate and had apparently had to get tough with those badly behaved boastful pre-men.
‘So I guess you could say we double dated at the bowling alley. It was kind of fun, but not as much fun as Alex Miller and Tom Allen say they’d had.’ Katie added.
We were surprised to learn via the Alex-Allen web site that ‘hanging out’ with Ella and Katie had evolved into a full on scandal the following week. Even the Princesses got to add their ten cents worth. Ella and Katie had morphed from nice to seriously heinous and slutty. Then, because the words of males seemed to hold more value than the words of females, the students in general believed the boy’s version of the story.
‘People need to learn a lesson,’ Mouche mused, ‘a lesson in social etiquette.’
‘And we are just the ones to teach them,’ I realized. We wanted to challenge ourselves to motivate these pre-men and women; to interest them in the romantic trysts of another era; without them realizing they were part of our game - a game we could turn into fun with quotes and helpful hints and even a treasure hunt.
That’s how the plan for the Boy-Rating Diaries came into existence and was ultimately turned into a dare.
Mouche once said, ‘sometimes I think we belong in a Jane Austen film or a Bronte novel. When I was little, like twelve, I thought my first great love affair would be exactly like Wuthering Heights.’
‘Except you don’t need to die at the end,’ I replied.
‘Of course not,’ Mouche said, ‘but not all the best stories have happy endings.’
Best Friends and Sisters
When we arrived at school the next morning, Mark and Jet were nowhere to be seen. The boys were hanging out in packs. The girls had already formed their own little cliques: the usual stuff - sporty, indie, nerdy, skeezie, emo-wearing black. Study an ancient DVD of Some Kind of Wonderful or Heathers and you’ll get the idea. The Sunrise High general studies stream was a fusion of select public school purgatory. Only the fittest would survive.
Mouche and I had first walked the halls of Sunrise in sophomore year. We were transfer students and dance majors from the academy we attended in Bel Air: The Los Angeles High School for Young Ladies. Back then, we wore uniforms that made us look like little nuns. Public school was a big contrast. Huge. We barely had a dress code but were well acquainted with the Princesses when they appeared in the hall: a mirage, as if like magic.
‘Magic? They are clearly bad girls in disguise,’ Mouche stated.
‘Just bad, bad, bad,’ I reiterated. ‘I think boys like bad girls though, don’t you?’
‘Probably,’ Mouche conceded. ‘But who knows what the boys in this place are looking for?’ Mouche said as we observed a Harry Potter obsessive adjusting his fake glasses and etching a lightning scar on his forehead with charcoal in preparation for an acting class. Mouche and I had lain low as transfer students and couldn’t believe how unlucky we were when Teegan, Tory, Brooke and Freya were expelled soon after we were politely shown the door at the Los Angeles High School for Young Ladies. Oh, did I say ladies? It's not the most appropriate word. The Princesses were fairly considered to be the most evil teenage girls Sunrise had ever produced; two sets of non-identical twins with plans to take over their new school, safe in the belief that since their fathers owned half of Sunrise, the school was theirs for the taking.
‘This place is wild,’ Mouche said as we rounded the corner that led to a row of lockers.
‘At least it’s cheap,’ Brooke chimed in with mock consolation.
‘I can’t believe the Princesses have ended up at the same school as us....I heard they were expelled from HSYL....big surprise...’
Then Teegan morphed into our world, like dry ice, her red hair as shiny as her lip gloss.
‘It’s less shameful than not being able to afford the fees,’ Teegan sniggered.
‘Oops,’ Mouche said, placing her newly painted fingernails across her mouth as if she wasn’t sorry she’d been overheard. ‘I’d forgotten her extreme sensitivity during lunar eclipses.’
Peter Williamson, meandering behind us, laughed out loud. He considered Teegan a hormonal witch on a good day.
I ignored the Princesses and began searching my locker for the greatest scene study text ever written, An Actors Guide to Method Acting.
Then, out of the dank and dull drudgery of morning classes, the boys from the airport appeared.
They looked stunning.
Mark had his sunglasses in hand, his dark hair freshly washed and he smelled like Boycandy aftershave. Endearingly, he also looked lost as he tried to establish class locations. When he paused near my locker, looked up flustered, then looked back down again, I was totally lost for words. Mark managed to find six.
‘Hello,’ he said hesitantly, looking at Mouche. ‘I’m looking for room...three...’
He was at least a foot taller than me (so was Jet) and I thought I had more right to be shy since they were total man models in disguise. I thought Mark was hotter, though, simply because I had been reading Austen and decided I liked dark haired men. But really, both of the boys were super hot.
Also, Mark was smart. Perhaps I was already a little intimidated by his grey matter. He was carrying a physics text after all. Mouche and I were clearly missing out on something (‘some higher level of boredom,’ Mouche observed), because we did not understand physics, nor did we wish to.
Jet was quite garrulous for a boy and politely interrupted Mark. ‘I’m sorry, we’re new, obviously, and we’d like to know where room 308 is located...’
I looked down at my folder then inched another glance beyond the paper towards a confused Mark Knightly. He looked so adorable in his black jacket and hot vintage punk-era jeans. He definitely resembled a young James Franco. (Thereafter, pre-men like Mark will be known through the famed halls of Sunrise High, as ‘Francos’.)
But it was Mouche who led the way, ‘You can follow us if you like,’ she said.
‘Most men would never admit they couldn’t follow directions,’ Mouche whispered later.
‘Oh...thanks,’ Jet said, giving Mouche a genuine smile, which she returned in full, ‘We might even have some subjects together, if you’re lucky,’ Mouche said mischieviously. ‘Mmm...doubt it,’ Jet replied, ‘I don’t take...acting.’
Mouche was slightly put out by Jet’s comment and Mark was silent on the subject.
‘Actually,’ Mouche added, ‘the mainstream academic students are combining with the performing arts majors this year for English class.’
‘Well good,’ Jet said, ‘then we’re sure to see each other again...’
They talked on. It was obvious Jet liked Mouche and he was trying to make up for putting his foot in his mouth.
‘I just realized,’ I told Mouche as we walked to class, ‘I forgot my schedule.’
‘Okay, see you in ten...’ The small group walked on. I ran back to the hall and sorted through my locker, disappointed that neither of the boys took any of my subjects but hopeful Mark would be in my English class.
Peter Williamson, my sometime dance partner, was searching through his locker.
‘Hey, Pheebs,’ he said.
‘Who are the newbies?’
‘Two words,’ Teegan interjected, ‘no chance. They’re straight.’
‘Mmm...’ Peter said, probably just to annoy the Princesses, ‘I believe that was more than two words. A boy can dream...’
I looked at Peter and smiled. He raised his eyebrow and gave me a knowing glance. On cue Teegan snapped at us.
‘As if,’ Teegan said trying to retrieve a twisted ballet ribbon that was stuck in the fold of her civilian shoes, ‘real men don’t dance.’
Peter Williamson looked at Teegan with distain and curled his lip and flicked through his iPOD playlist.
‘Do you like my skinny jeans, Teegan? I got them from the girl’s section...’ Peter said, just to freak the Princesses out.
Teegan looked a bit scared.
‘Easily shocked,’ Peter mouthed. Peter’s been into Glam Rock forever. I smiled then turned my back on the lead Princess.
I finally found my schedule. Peter made a victory sign and stuck his tongue through his fingers, muttered, ‘later,’ to me and made a cat’s claw gesture behind Teegan’s back as he sauntered off to class.
‘Well, look at you Phoebe. Haven’t you smartened up your image,’ Tory, (the second in line to Teegan’s throne), noted as she shut her locker door. The hinge metal was lined with faux pink fur and pictures of all the narcissistic celebrities Tory idolizes. At the moment her hair is bleached blonde in homage to Jen from Gossip Girl.
‘Our dream, people, is to be famous for being famous,’ Tory announced to her girl posse that morning. It was hardly news to those of us who knew her well.
The Princesses were usually too self-focused to pay any attention to me although they were more wary when Mouche was around. Alone, I was fair game.
‘Wonder where the sister is?’ Teegan mused aloud, her thoughts still trailing the newbies.
‘Petra is nowhere in sight. She hasn’t been seen for days. Rumor has it she’s being home-schooled.’ Brooke (the third Princess) shuddered in a hushed tone.
‘Why? Tory asked.
‘Because she’s a freak,’ Teegan whispered, already jealous of Petra’s close proximity to Mark.
‘Ew, she’s his sister,’ Freya remarked during assembly, a little late to catch the crux of the conversation.
The girls all looked up and rolled their eyes. I wondered who the real freaks were and it seemed like Teegan and Tory were sure to fit the bill. What a surprise.
I hurried to class thinking about what Mouche told me over the summer.
Being practically psychic, Mouche predicted a month ago that some ‘nasty girls that we already knew were going to cause trouble’ and ‘two hot boys’ would arrive for junior year.
I prayed the second part of her prediction would come true and now it had. The strange thing was, after almost a whole school year as ‘creative transfer students’, Mouche and I had managed to fly under the radar, but everyone knew the names of Teegan, Tory, Brooke and Freya from the minute their well-manicured feet stepped through the polished halls of Sunrise Performing Arts High School. They actually wore colour co-ordinated sweaters that fell below their crotches and were belted tightly above their waists that first day they arrived - just to get noticed. It worked.
‘Those girls are fashion criminals,’ Mouche stated when they sauntered down the hall like a posse of Bratz Dolls. The Princesses had been expelled from HSYL for ‘undisclosed reasons’ but were passably talented so they ended up here. Their primary focus in life seemed to be driving a wedge between other females and boasting about their popularity with the male species. I could’ve told them jealousy and bitterness were wasted emotions but they’d never have listened.
Instead, I did my best to ignore them.
At lunch, Mouche and I sat apart from the Princesses, trying to work out some on-paper choreography for dance class. We overheard them speaking about Mark and Jet in the lunch queue, though.
‘Three words...Mark. Knightly. Franco.’ Teegan over-enunciated loudly, stealing my pet term. ‘I actually witnessed Mark Knightly’s arrival at LAX when I touched down from Eye-bee-tha.’
‘She knows how to pronounce Ibiza,’ Mouche whispered. ‘We can all sleep well tonight because Teegan has learnt how to pronounce the name of an island off the coast of Spain,’ Mouche said. Mouche was way smart.
‘Mark Knightly totally wanted me when he arrived in Bel Air,’ Teegan continued, adding, ‘we locked eyes in Barnes and Noble. Oh well, girls, you can’t rape the willing,’
The Princesses laughed.
‘I didn’t know she read,’ I whispered to Mouche.
‘Teegan’s love of literature is well-known,’ Mouche stated loudly as she gestured towards Teegan’s copy of Teen Vogue.
Admittedly, we both loved Teen Vogue but Mouche was out to prove a point.
‘Teegan just loves an audience,’ Mouche said, as Tory continued.
‘...And Jet was undressing me with his eyes this morning, in the hallway before homeroom.’
Brooke rolled her eyes, ‘Everyone wants the pretty,’ she said smugly, ‘I bet I could even turn Peter straight.’
Freya looked doubtful. I turned my head to glance over at the new boys, hopefully without them realizing it. To my dismay, they were looking at the Princesses who smiled gleefully right back at them.
‘Wishful thinking,’ Mouche mused as she ate her sandwich.
‘Oh please, those girls are disgusting,’ I said, wondering if what they said was true about how much all the boys wanted them.
‘How they are so secure about their popularity with guys, I don’t know, since there were no males at all to practise on in our previous school,’ Mouche added.
‘Maybe they did a summer internship,’ I added.
‘C’mon,’ Mouche said and we wandered off to the gym to prepare our shoes for the prospective year. We pulled our pink ballet slippers, newer than they would ever look again, out of our individual tote bags.
At the gym, we began rolling the moistened, darned tips of pink satin shoe in chalk in preparation for class. We smacked the ends on the gym floor to soften the toes. It was quite a long process and one we started at the beginning of the school year and repeated many times. We had to soften the soles, but not too much. There were a few other dance majors in a huddle with us. They all had good posture and acted friendlier than they really were.
Although Mouche and I want to go to New York one day, I’m very focused on high school life and training to become a triple threat, whilst Mouche concentrates on dance, acting and her academic majors.
Our day goes something like this:
As you can see, my schedule beats the usual academia from nine to three plus I managed to drop math and science, which is a good thing because I am totally driven. Even though I might seem shy, I’m never shy onstage, when I’m pretending to be someone else – living in the moment, so to speak.
By the time the Princesses - Teegan, Tory, Brooke and Freya - arrived in the gym, it was pretty obvious they thought they were slumming it at Sunrise High. The girls had an air of superiority which clung to them like cheap cologne. Their dance ensembles were still colour co-ordinated, but mercifully their matching black leggings were covered by mini-skirts in various styles (bubble, pleated, ruched and vintage A-line). They were so psyched about not having to wear the HSYL uniforms, they kind of went overboard in the fashion department. The Princesses thought dance class was a beauty pageant.
They thought they were totally it.
‘We’re going to get with so many guys this year,’ Teegan snarled as she whipped off her skirt and re-tied the satin ribbons on her ballet shoes. She stuck her foot close to the bar next to my hand.
‘I was warming up,’ I said.
‘Excuse me!’ Teegan snarled haughtily.
I inched my fingers out of the way as Tory walked over, claimed her spot on the bar and began to flex her ankles.
It wasn’t that Tory was a bad dancer, but she was certainly uninspiring. Although the Princesses never planned on careers in the entertainment business, it didn’t make them any less bitchy about women who did.
Tory found her spot on the wall and began her mechanical pliĕs. Brooke fumbled around in her tote bag searching for her hair clip. Teegan abandoned the bar and applied extra gloss to her ample mouth and Freya pulled her hair into a tight bun, keen to look the part even if she couldn’t dance it. Wow, now I’m starting to sound like a Princess.
Besides, I’m giving you the wrong impression.
The Princesses aren’t the main characters in this story. They are just the featured extras, the minor players. They may highlight our plot from time to time but I can’t say for sure how big a part they’ll play as the story progresses.
For now, this tale is really just about me and Mouche and Mark Knightly and his best friend Jet and all the teenage boys we determined to transform from geeks to our personal princes in the course of a year.
This story is also about the plan of action that became a guide we intended to modify as the year progressed. The plan that became the Boy-Rating Diary.
‘I’d give them a 9.9,’ Teegan said as she performed a reasonable arabesque.
‘I’d give them a 9.8’ Mouche replied after she did a perfect pirouette. ‘There’s always room for improvement.’
‘I think you’re talking about the same men,’ I said under my breath as I pointed my toes and leant over the bar.
‘Game on,’ Mouche replied with a smile.
‘But we haven’t even worked out the rules,’ I whispered under my breath.
‘A minor detail,’ Mouche replied.
‘Not necessarily,’ I said.
Everyone stopped talking when Mrs Stefanovich, the dance teacher, arrived.
Mrs Stefanovich was Russian and very strict and even the Princesses were careful to tow the line with her.
‘Okay girls, ve are ready now...begin...’
But the whole class, I was thinking about how we’d devise the plan. And as I looked across at Mouche’s furrowed brow, I could tell, so was she.
PRIDE & PRINCESSES
The first time I saw Mark Knightly, my world changed forever.
That morning began almost like any other. Eyes closed, under a cloud of dark hair, I tried to avoid waking up. I had trained myself to sleep through almost any noise, including the sound of the builders constructing a new house, across the road from my own. But when the jackhammer rang out for the third time, my best friend, Mouche (pronounced Moosh), screamed. She was curled up in a cashmere blanket on the faux chaise lounge in the corner of my bedroom catching up on her beauty sleep.
‘Enough already...’ she said theatrically, throwing her pillow at me as a sliver of light streamed through the open curtains. ‘Another bright and shiny Los Angeles day,’ Mouche added as she flipped off the couch and flicked her blonde highlights off her face. Mouche rubbed her eyes and glanced at the framed photograph of the Statue of Liberty. She gave it to me for luck, for my birthday and because Mouche and I have wanted to live in New York City for as long as I could remember.
‘Never give up on the dream, Phoebe,’ Mouche said when she presented the picture to me, ‘New York is a great place to be a triple threat whereas Los Angeles is all about the movies, darling.’
I glanced at the shifting sky and wondered how Mouche managed to look like a movie star at 8am. I threw the pillow right back at her.
‘You have glitter face, Mouche.’ I said as I stretched my legs, ‘and I’m running late. My mom’s plane arrives at the airport in...exactly eight minutes...I promised we’d pick her up. C’mon, we’ve got to be ready...you need to get dressed.’
‘Touché,’ Mouche said (she’d been listening to French phrases on her iPOD all summer). ‘By the way, you have mascara under your eyes, Phoebe. Better wipe it off before we leave.’
‘Okay, but I don’t have time to put on make-up...’
‘That could be a mistake.’
I looked at her incredulously.
‘You never know how many casting agents could be at LAX,’ Mouche added as she dragged a brush through her tangles.
Because we both trained as ballet dancers, we were familiar with the art of stage make-up but I only liked to wear it on special occasions. I grabbed some gloss from the top drawer. I read in a helpful guide to dating called Mrs Robinson’s Advice, that, ‘a girl who can’t be bothered with lipstick can’t be bothered with life,’ and I’d never want to be accused of that.
Mouche has always been good with make-up tips. You could see the results of our make-up experiments in every far flung corner of my bedroom. The place looked like a local beauty salon. It was obvious my bedroom hadn’t been tidied the whole time my mother was away in London. Oh, that’s something else you should know about me. I was born in England and sometimes I use British-isms like ‘tidy’ and ‘lolly’ and ‘shop’ instead of store.
‘We’re practically adults,’ Mouche said, ‘your mom’s going to expect better housekeeping skills...’
‘It’s true, this place is a mess, but at least I remembered to stack the cupboards with fresh food from the market,’ I said, as Mouche and I grabbed our sweaters and pulled on our Uggs in differing shades of caramel and pink.
‘Unusual combination - boots and pyjama pants,’ Mouche noted, assessing herself in the mirror. The only part of the glass not covered in used dancing shoes and feather boas from all the school plays we’d performed in, was the bottom right hand corner. Mouche flexed her feet in the light.
‘We should go. Better to be unfashionable than late,’ I said using words destined to return to haunt me.
‘Uh huh, I’m not so sure,’ Mouche said.
I gathered my car keys and locked the front door. Mouche gave the builders across the road a V for Victory sign as we drove out of our little gated community. Sunrise is a tiny suburb, not far from Bel Air, but not nearly as posh. Mouche turned the volume of my car stereo up high. Music blared out of the windows as we drove past urban scenery. Suddenly we felt like we were in one of those classic road films (like Thelma and Louise) as Mouche and I sang along with the words.
We were driving along the Los Angeles freeway for the first time, feeling very grown up, and this was a cause to celebrate. The fact that we were running extremely late by the time we arrived at LAX, ensured that I was in the right spot at the right time to view the arrival of ‘the hot ones.’
It’s just a pity that I wasn’t looking my best when I saw Mark Knightly. I was looking, as Mouche said, ‘like a ‘slept-in’ blanket’. But as Teegan, one of the bitchiest Princesses in school, duly noted later, ‘he never would have noticed you anyway...’
Mouche had dropped me off at the international lounge at LAX and was looking for a car space. I was searching the arrivals board when people started to walk from the customs area to greet whoever waited for them.
I saw Mark Knightly first, but he was too busy to see me.
Teegan, who ran with a clique of besties known as ‘The Princesses,’ was also at the airport that day with her family. She noted the arrival of the hot ones (as Mark and Jet became known) in her childish but addictive blog.
‘Fresh off the boat and new in town,’ she wrote. Then she proceeded to dissect every item of clothing both the boys and the girl who travelled with them wore.
‘Even the sister could be a mini model if she just wore some make-up,’ Teegan sniped in her blog, ‘but the boys...’
They lit up the scenery as they spoke and I should know. After they entered the public arrivals area, they stood slightly in front of me. The boys paused and looked around them, speaking as they waited for the girl who trailed slightly behind. I was waiting for my mother, trying to hide my out of date boots and messy hair, behind a pole. So, although we never spoke, I think fate played a part when I saw Mark and overheard him talking first...
‘Seems like the locals are pretty tame after the recklessness of Ibiza,’ Mark said languidly.
‘I can’t believe your uncle is such a tightwad he made us fly commercial.’ Jet replied.
‘He’s trying to teach us how to rough it,’ Mark mused sarcastically, using an expression he’d picked up on his travels.
‘Never mind, the food was great and the flight attendants were hot...’ Jet said, focusing on the upside of any given situation.
As the boys walked through the arrivals lounge, Mark Knightly looked at his surroundings with disdain. The thought of what he imagined his new home to be, an expanse of satellite suburbs beyond the hustle and smog of Los Angeles, seemed to fill him with distaste.
Suddenly Mouche appeared alongside me, breathless from the carpark.
‘Hey Phoebe, I managed to find a parking space...whoa...who are they?’ Mouche whispered.
‘The new boys in town...I guess,’ I replied.
Mouche acted swiftly. She whipped out her cell and took a few photographs of the hot ones.
‘Quick, you take some from another angle,’ she added. ‘Why can’t guys that hot ever go to our school?’
The new arrivals were dressed like stylish English hippies in dark sunglasses as they met with the girl, collected her luggage and strode towards a fancy car.
‘Nobody even came to greet us,’ we heard the girl say sweetly.
‘She sounds a bit...’
‘Lost?’ I added.
‘I was going to say, vacant,’ Mouche whispered.
The dark haired, slightly taller boy took her arm in a brotherly gesture of solidarity and gave the younger girl a ‘make the best of it,’ smile.
Yes, they were soon to be Sunrise High’s newest and most talked about ‘poor little rich kids.’
‘But so fashionable,’ Teegan remarked in her blog.
It’s true that Mark and Jet wore cool, faux leather jackets (‘friends of the wildlife,’ Teegan told Tory who told Freya who told Brooke who told Mouche, who told me).
That was all I saw that day because my mom arrived about three seconds later and scooped me up in a mom hug.
‘Hey girls, I hope you were good while I was in Europe!’
‘Of course, Trish,’ Mouche replied like the worldly-wise best friend she was. Mrs Mouche sells houses for a living and for exceeding their half-yearly targets, her entire sales team had been gifted a whirlwind summer vacation culminating in Florence, Italy.
‘How exotic,’ Mouche had remarked when we both received photos the previous week, via email, of Mrs Mouche standing outside the Uffizi Gallery. ‘I love exotic places,’ Mouche remarked.
Later that day Mouche and I were lounging in Mouche’s pool before classes started on Monday. We flicked through the cell phone images of the boys’ arrival at LAX, deleting all but the best ones.
‘It’s ridiculous to be fans of guys we didn’t know,’ I said.
‘...who aren’t even famous.’ Mouche agreed, but she couldn’t resist the standard comment, ‘mmm...yummy...’ and I totally agreed.
‘His friend’s hot too. Sometimes blondes have to stick together,’ Mouche replied.
Mouche and I had always been in competition. We had opposing hair colour. As you may have gathered, mine’s dark, Mouche’s is light, but our major contrasts were not just cosmetic. We had different but complimentary personalities.
‘Mmm...I said as I applied Spf30...’
‘We’ve been friends since we were six and I want you to know there is something truly comforting about this.’
‘Uh huh,’ I said. ‘What’s with the deep and meaningful conversation?’
‘Well, you know the sweater I borrowed and haven’t returned yet?’
‘My Hong Kong Burberry?’ I asked.
‘...yeah. It got caught in the dryer and...shrank.’
‘How could you? It was never supposed to go in the dryer in the first place!’
Mouche looked mortified.
‘I know. I’m so sorry. I’ve been trying to think of a way to tell you.’
‘I wanted to wear it tomorrow...’
After a few seconds, I smiled.
‘I suppose I could wear something else...’
‘I promise I’ll get you another one when I can afford it.’
Money had been tight since our fathers absconded.
‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way we could just snap our fingers and get anything we wanted....’
‘You mean...conjure up a treasure chest or something? Yeah, that’d be great.’
Like sisters, Mouche and I have shared the spoils of our wars all through grade school and now high school. It’s bound to happen in our first year of college. We even worked part-time at the local Gap all summer in order to save money for the ultimate dream – New York. One day, I aim to be a triple threat on Broadway; Mouche wants to be a lawyer. I have no idea why. Mouche loves James Spader in Boston Legal.
Both of our mothers are bachelorettes and quite young and wild and get along famously since they are the only ‘single’ Moms in our tiny street. You can see them now, sitting on the porch together ‘catching up’ on life in Sunrise over the past month, looking like they invented that famous phrase ‘mommies who drink.’
I jumped out of the pool and grabbed a towel. Mouche dived under the water and emerged with a piece of gold – a ring had been left in the water – with a tiny dolphin on it. It probably belonged to someone at last night’s party – we’d walked over to Mouche’s house (next door to mine) to go for a swim.
‘Finders keepers,’ Mouche said with a glimmer in her eye, but I knew she’d hand it in to lost property at school the next day. That’s just the type of person Mouche is – loyal and trustworthy.
If it weren’t for the amazing competition Mouche and I feel at times, our friendship would be truly perfect.
I mean, we really are there for each other.
We both studied fashion and theatre design at the private school we attended in Bel Air until tenth grade (before our deadbeat dads had financial collapses) and we went loco (meaning local – to the performing arts school in Sunrise). Our daddies also turned gay for each other around that time and that’s when our sisterly friendship became - how do they say it in those old English films? Very handy. Yes, that’s right, handy. We might have needed some major therapy when Daddy Mouche and Daddy Phoebe ran off together, if it hadn’t been for the strength of our friendship. We leant on our sisterly bond in our darkest hours and focused on the pastimes we enjoyed, swimming, dancing and talking about boys.
Fate played a part in our simultaneous transfers to Sunrise High, after our parents split up. Even at grade school Mouche had saved me from the evil, fashion-challenged bullies who tried to steal my lunch, my purse and our collective sanity. Those nasty girls morphed into a select group known locally as The Princesses and they inhabited Sunrise High, as luck would have it, around the same time as us.
But before I tell you more about the people, I should describe the place.
Near Los Angeles you can locate the gated community of Bel Air (where Mark Knightly would later reside) and at the foot of the hill, our world – a tiny little satellite suburb known brightly and only as Sunrise, population three thousand and nineteen people, exists.
Amongst these people there were the usual small town individuals: the local dentists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, diner and shop owners, as well as a fair array of eccentric teenage characters, many of whom attended Sunrise High. The school was known for its ‘Centre of Performing Arts Excellence,’ the program in which Mouche and I and twenty-eight other students were enrolled.
Six of these so-called ‘creatively gifted’ students were boys. I’d kissed all six of them but only because we’d participated in ‘scene studies’ for different plays we’d workshopped in theatre class over the past year.
‘We’ve never kissed anyone as hot as Mark and Jet,’ Mouche said, taking another glance at the image of Jet on her cell (she’d sent me the one of Mark). Mouche had at least six photos of the boys from LAX taken from as many different angles.
‘That’s bordering on obsessive,’ I joked to Mouche, knowing we’d both faint if anyone found out we’d taken pictures of boys we’d never even met.
‘Touché,’ I replied using Mouche’s newly acquired French, ‘I’ve never really kissed anyone I was totally into.’
‘It’s all about the kiss,’ Mouche said, ‘the kiss has to live up to your expectations or it’s just never going to happen. I’ve been doing some private research. Some of the boys didn’t want to be used for practice, if you know what I mean. Some were shy, some were confused or just bored or uncertain of the right way to go about it....I’ve been thinking there should be a manual...’
‘You mean, like Teegan’s blog?’
‘Not really, I mean, Teegan’s blog is just gossip. I think we need more actual research less filler...’
‘You mean, like a dating manual for teenage girls?’
‘Something like that, but more Sunrise specific...’
‘You mean, like a date and rate?’
‘Or maybe like a date and run. Remember when your mom went on her first date after the divorce? And the guy was such a sleeze she excused herself to go to the ladies room and crawled out of the bathroom window?’
‘How could I forget?’
‘Well, since we haven’t had that much dating experience we should be open to research – our own and other people’s...’
That was the first time we discussed the idea of a dating manual for teenage girls. But we never expected, in the course of our ‘research,’ that we’d actually fall in love with Mark Knightly and Jet Campbell.