Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chapter 14 of the Most Recent Draft of "Descent" (Book 1)

Shadows of the Past
Plains, NY 1931

Chapter 14

Dorothy Blake had entered her senior year at Plains High School as part of the Class of 1932. She had grown up in the township of Plains with Linda Parker and Gail Carr as her closest friends.
Dorothy was what some would call a late bloomer; as Linda and Gail became interested in boys shortly prior to entering high school, Dorothy opted for reading books instead of fussing over which boy she thought was the cutest.
In their sophomore year of high school, Linda began going with Jimmy Kratz, a boy from their graduating class. Jimmy was a running back on the school’s varsity football team, and Linda was smitten from the beginning. The two of them going steady would lead to his friend, Reginald Johnson, taking an interest in Gail. During the summer before junior year, Reginald and Gail began exclusively going together.
Jimmy, Linda, Reginald, and Gail often went out together on group outings and attended the school dances. Of course, Linda and Gail would try convincing Dorothy to come out and join in on the fun, but Dorothy would usually decline. The times she would give in, she usually ended up feeling like a fifth wheel.
Dorothy still hadn’t had a boyfriend or even been on a date by the time their junior year was over, and it wasn’t as if she couldn’t if she wanted to. Many did find Dorothy to be a very pretty girl; she had wavy dark hair and a peachy complexion set off by the grayish-blue eyes she inherited from her father’s Irish heritage. Her high cheekbones were courtesy of her American Indian great grandmother, a trait Linda often claimed to be openly jealous of.
“Honey, if I had your cheekbones, I would be accentuating the hell out of those,” Linda always told her.
“Well, then thankfully you’re not me,” Dorothy would reply.
Linda had come to own her ‘Blonde Bombshell’ looks that often got her compared with Jean Harlow (a comparison she completely ate up). She knew how to emphasize her best features and took it upon herself to make Dorothy her personal project that summer. In Dorothy’s opinion, her friend was wasting her time, but while she would never admit it out loud, there were times she questioned whether or not Linda was at least partially right. 
What if there is just something wrong with me?
She had watched Reginald and Gail become close, and Jimmy and Linda were even discussing getting married after high school. Jimmy had given Linda his class ring and football lettermen’s jacket right before the junior prom, which was only a step away from an engagement ring. Linda often share her experiences of “parking” with Jimmy, and Reginald and Gail had started doing a little of that themselves. Jimmy’s father owned a mechanic shop in town and with the growing number of vehicles being used in the last twenty years, Jimmy had developed an interest in cars from the time he was a little boy. He was set to go to work for his father’s shop after graduation and as an early present, his father had given him a black 1930 Chevy. Several students had taken the driver’s education course their school was beginning to offer (or had a parent or older sibling teach them), but Jimmy was one of few kids with his own car, something Linda would constantly gush over.
Toward the end of junior year, Jimmy and Linda had ‘gone all the way’ during one of their parking encounters on a Friday in late April. The following night, Linda and Dorothy went to sleepover at Gail’s house, where Linda did nothing but go on about her and Jimmy’s first time together.
“I think he’s going to get me an engagement ring for Christmas this year too!” Linda beamed as she painted her fingernails a pale pink color. “We’ve been talking about getting married for a while now. I want to have the wedding the summer after graduation.  Of course, I want you two as my bridesmaids.”
“Do I have to wear pink?” Gail asked as she paged through a fashion magazine Linda had brought. 
“Yes,” Linda replied. Pink was Linda’s favorite color, something that was very much reflected in her all pink and white bedroom. 
“Then count me out,” Gail said.
Dorothy did her best to suppress a laugh as she sat re-reading The Call of Cthulu in the February, 1928 edition of Weird Tales magazine. The story was written by one of her favorite new writers, H.P. Lovecraft.
Linda stopped polishing her nails and stared at Gail in disbelief. “You’re not serious?!”
Gail snorted. “Of course I’m not serious, Linda. I shall wear the wretched color just for you. Even though Dorothy and I will look like a couple of washed out ostriches.”
A giggle escaped from Dorothy. Linda was very much outnumbered in her love of the color pink. Gail had a dry, sarcastic sense of humor that Dorothy really enjoyed, especially when it was used to counter Linda’s over-confidence. Gail’s bold, almost vampish style also countered Linda’s soft, feminine appeal. Her dark hair and eyes were courtesy of her mother’s Italian-Persian heritage, and her pale skin came from her father’s German-Scottish side.
Red was also Gail’s favorite color, reflected in her bedroom d├ęcor and a lot of the clothing she wore. Even on days she would skip makeup, Gail always seemed to have red lipcolor on hand. She wore her hair cut short, in a style similar to a flapper’s which left her slightly resembling Louise Brooks or Clara Bow. 
Linda rolled her eyes at Gail and continued. “Well, the color scheme is going to be pink and white,” she stated matter-of-factly.
“Big surprise,” Gail said tossing the fashion magazine aside. “I’m sure Jimmy will be thrilled with his pink wedding. Hey Dorothy, did you bring anymore of those pulps?”
Dorothy looked up from her copy of Weird Tales and said, “Sure,” before she reached into her bag and pulled out another issue to hand to Gail.
Linda grimaced. “How can you two read that stuff? That’s all Jimmy has on his shelves, too. Besides, I wasn’t finished with telling you guys about him and me last night!”
“Linda, aren’t you worried about…you know…getting in trouble?”  Dorothy asked.
“Jimmy and I talked about that,” Linda answered, “and we do take precautions. Jimmy says he will always use protection and has access to getting what he needs. Anytime he can’t, he has no problem withdrawing. But if all fails and that happens, we’ll just get married sooner than planned.”
“I’m glad you figured that one out,” Gail said with a dry tone while she read the open copy of Weird Tales in front of her. “To be honest, though, if Reg didn’t have to borrow his old man’s car, who knows if we would be doing a lot more than we are? We have talked about it.”
Linda brightened. “Really? Please, tell. How far have you two gone?”
“Petting,” Gail said. “Bordering on heavy petting.”
Dorothy watched her two friends from Gail’s bed. Linda was seated at the vanity table squealing over Gail’s confession. Gail sat on the floor, paging through Weird Tales until she found a story that drew her interest. A small tray of dark nail colors, among a few other cosmetics, sat on her vanity table, though Linda had brought her very large makeup case which was packed to capacity.
Dorothy leaned her back against the wall, glancing down at her own plain fingernails as her friends continued their chatter. She was partially listening, but her mind began to wander. Reading wasn’t her only interest, contrary to what she put out to her friends. Like many girls her age, Dorothy did have an interest in boys, and there was one in particular from school she did like, quite a lot. But she was more than certain there was no way he would ever take a liking to her. Not in a million years.
Dorothy’s quiet intelligence balanced Linda’s sensual feminity and Gail’s sharp wit. She sometimes wished she was able to be more like her two friends and have a little more confidence in herself. She also wasn’t one to easily share personal details about herself; even Linda and Gail were unaware of the crush she had on Carl Turner.
The only boy her age Dorothy had ever been close to was her cousin, Cletus, the son of her father, Matthew’s older brother, Ronald, and his wife, Eunice. Most of the Blake side of Dorothy’s family still lived in Illinois and Iowa, but some, like her Uncle Ronald and Aunt Eunice lived with their sons Chayton, Raymond, and Cletus in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area.
When her grandfather, Gerard Blake, married her grandmother, Violet Hyland, they had purchased a plot of land in Tennessee and there, they had their children: Joseph, Abigail, Ronald, and Matthew. Later in their life, they would move back to Illinois, into the house Jonathan had built for him and Kimimela. Gerard’s eldest, Joseph, would also move with his wife into the house of Charles and Emma as Chaska (who had lived there with his now late wife when Emma was in her final years) aged. Matthew, the youngest of Gerard and Violet, left a rural life to attend college in New York where he would meet, court, and get married to Elizabeth Winthrop. After briefly graduating college, and marrying Elizabeth (or “Liz” as he called her), Matthew was hired at a publishing firm that would merge with Livingston Publishing in late 1929. The merge had occurred as a means of allowing the two companies to stay afloat through the looming Recession. 
Being the only child of Matthew and Liz, Dorothy regarded Cletus as being more of a brother than a cousin. He was a year younger than she was and like Dorothy, he had gotten some of the best of his gene pool when it came to his physical appearance, though he lacked the confidence in working his charm with the opposite gender. He was especially shy if he happened to really like the girl and at age sixteen, he had only been out on one date. Cletus also had friends after him about why, at age sixteen, he still didn’t have any real experience with girls. It also didn’t help that his older brothers, Chayton and Raymond, seemed to have no problem with courting girls they were attracted to.  Chayton had just gotten married that spring, and Raymond had a steady girl that seemed to be headed for a permanent arrangement. As for Cletus and Dorothy, the only regular “dates” they had been on were the times the two cousins would go to the cinema and see a picture or to a soda shop when one family would visit the other.
Dorothy looked forward to the trips to Tennessee to visit her Uncle Ronald and his family. They were also a musical family, Ronald taking an interest in the guitar when he was a young boy. Cletus and Uncle Ronald had taught Dorothy a little guitar, and while she hardly considered herself as good a player as her cousin and uncle, it was something else she enjoyed. She also found out she didn’t have a bad singing voice, either. It was rather strong and contrasted her quiet personality. She was pretty shy when it came to singing and playing guitar around her friends and normally kept it to the privacy of her bedroom. 
Dorothy was still staring into her lap at her bare nails, lost in her thoughts. She was wrenched out when she heard Linda calling to her. 
“Yoohoo! Dorothy!”
“What…?” She looked up to see Linda and Gail staring at her as they sat with their nails drying. 
“I was asking you if you wanted a nail color,” Linda answered, “I think you should try this peachy color I have in my makeup case.”
“Sure,” Dorothy said. She got up and reluctantly headed over to the powder blue case Linda kept her cosmetics in and began sorting through the bottles of nail color. 
“I swear Linda, you have enough to open up your own five and dime,” Dorothy said.
“Tell me about it,” Gail said.
“Hey, looking pretty takes work,” Linda said. “It’s how I landed Jimmy.”
“Really?” Gail said, “I thought it was your grace, charm and wit that got him.”
Dorothy let out a snorted laugh and Linda stuck her tongue out at Gail before blowing on her drying fingernails.
“My point is,” Linda said, “Dorothy, it is senior year. You missed out on homecoming and the prom last year.  This year you’re going if I have to knock you out with a club and drag you there in a sack.”
Dorothy slowly picked out the bottle of peach nail color.  Here we go again…
“Dorothy, I actually have to agree with Linda,” Gail said.
“Et tu, Brutus?” Dorothy said.
“Dorothy, it’s not as though we’re asking you to hike across the Sahara,” Gail replied.
“Actually, I’d rather do that then what you two are suggesting,” Dorothy said, avoiding eye contact with either of them as she rummaged through Linda’s case.
“Dorothy, come on,” Linda said. “Don’t sit this year out. You need to have some fun before we graduate!”
Dorothy frowned. “What are you talking about?  I have fun.”
“Dorothy, you’re always reading,” Linda said rolling her eyes. “The only male figure you seem to spend any time around is James Livingston’s statue outside the library.”
“Hey! Hello, I like to read too,” Gail retorted, “and Reginald doesn’t see it as a bad thing.”
Linda sighed. “I’m not saying that it is. But you also have to let boys know that you’re interested and available to them. Otherwise, they are going to pass you right by just like they have been all throughout high school.”
Dorothy kept her eyes lowered as she felt the heat creep up to her face. “Thanks a lot,” she muttered, and quickly stood up while holding the bottle of peach nail enamel.
“Linda,” Gail said, shooting her friend a warning look.
“Hey, I’m just telling it like it is. I’m just trying to help. Dorothy, come on. There has to be a boy you’re interested in.”
Dorothy fidgeted with the nail color bottle as her heart began racing. Perhaps she should just come out, confess her crush on Carl, and let that be the end of it. Linda obviously wasn’t going to leave her alone until she got an answer.
But then what happens if I do tell them? Will that simply be the end of it? Gail may respect her boundaries, but Linda was another story…
Dorothy’s crush on Carl Turner was a classic case of the shy girl loving the school’s bad boy from afar. He was known for being a wise guy, something of a daredevil, and was a regular in detention for a variety of stunts pulled around school with George Kolinski and Evan Frasier. Carl was also a friend of Jimmy’s and Reginald’s. Dorothy figured that like Jimmy, Carl could have his pick of any girl in school and feared embarrassment should the truth come out. While they had all known eachother since their Playgroups as children, Dorothy took real notice of Carl upon entering high school. She tried to not feel envious of any girl he went with and reasoned that Carl was too much of a wiseguy and troublemaker.
What kind of a future would there be with someone like him?
Dorothy was also very observant of people, and the more she watched Carl, she saw a softness beneath his tough exterior. Though she couldn’t be sure of it or place it, she found it very endearing.
“Dorothy, come on,” Linda begged. “You have to like someone. I won’t believe you for a second if say no one.”
Dorothy drew in a breath. Perhaps I should tell them. They are my friends, after all. What could possibly go wrong? “Fine. I like Carl,” she muttered.
“Who?” Linda asked, leaning in closer.
“Carl!” Dorothy said, much louder this time. She then realized how loudly it had come out, and hoped no one else in the house had heard it.
Dorothy peered self-consciously at her two friends, who sat staring at her with their jaws dropped. Her heart pounded as she watched as the O of Linda’s mouth spread into a gleeful smile.
Linda jumped up, clapping her hands and squealing, not seeming to care if she smeared her nail polish.
“Carl Turner,” Gail said looking satisfied with the answer.
“I knew it!” Linda cried, throwing her arms around Dorothy.
“You did?” Dorothy asked, slightly horrified.
“Well,” Linda replied pulling away, “not specifically that you liked him. But I knew there had to be somebody you were mad for.”
Dorothy rolled her eyes and said, “Please don’t get carried away, Linda. I’m not mad for him. I just find him to be good-looking and I like his personality.”
“Well, we have to get started on this!” Linda went on as though she hadn’t heard a word Dorothy said. “Carl and Jimmy hang around together. Maybe I can put a word in—“
“No!” Dorothy insisted, cutting Linda off.
A startled expression on Linda’s face turned into one of disappointment. All were silent for a moment before Gail spoke up.
“Dorothy,” Gail said gently, “I don’t see how it could hurt. You like him and I don’t see why he wouldn’t like you.”
“Yeah!” Linda chimed in. “You just have to make it more known that you’re available to him.”
“Girls, I don’t think so,” Dorothy said. “Bernice Chaconas was the last person from school he went with and before her, he supposedly went with some twenty-year-old vamp from a speakeasy, so I highly doubt I’m his type. Look, I gave you the answer to your question. Now can we just forget about it? Please?”
“Dorothy,” Linda scolded, “sooner or later, you’re going to have to get out of this nun rut you’re in.”
Dorothy raised an eyebrow. “Nun rut?”
“You know Linda, you’re just the queen of tact,” Gail said.
“Hey, I’m just trying to help her by telling it like it is,” Linda said.
“Look Dorothy,” Gail interjected, “there are subtle ways you can let a guy know you’re interested. You’re a gorgeous gal. I’m sure plenty of boys at school, Carl included, would be happy to have you as their girl. Besides, what’s the worse that could happen?”
“Let’s see,” Dorothy replied. “I die of embarrassment, am the laughing stock of the school, and end up having to be homeschooled for the remainder of my senior year because I can never show my face in public again. Now can we please forget about it?”
Linda thought for a moment before conceding. “Okay, fine,” she said. “But only for the time being.” And Linda would keep her word on that.
For the time being.

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