Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Most Recent Draft of Chapter 14, 15, and 16 of "Descent" (Book 1)
UPDATE: Chapter 16 has been added!
Shadows of the Past
Plains, NY 1931
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 ended, and it wasn’t as though she couldn’t. 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. All through junior year, 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 automobiles being used in the last twenty years, Jimmy had developed an interest in cars from the time he was a little boy. When he worked a few afternoons a week at the family business and was set to go to work full time after graduation. As an early graduation and possible wedding 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 if they didn’t have a parent or older sibling teach them, but Jimmy was one of few kids with his own car, something Linda would constantly gush over. “Now we can go up to the hill in his car! It’s so romantic,” she had said.
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 and he has been working extra in his dad’s shop. I want to have the wedding the summer after graduation. Of course, I want you two as my bridesmaids along with his sister, Amanda.”
“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, Amanda, and I will all 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 décor 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. And Reg is saving up for a car with some of the cash from his job at the grocer’s.”
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. 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, lived with their children: Joseph, Abigail, Ronald, and Matthew. Later in their lives, 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 at eighteen to attend college in New York where he would meet, court, and get married to Elizabeth Winthrop. After 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 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 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 continued staring into her lap at her bare nails, lost in her thoughts. She was wrenched out when she heard Linda calling to her.
“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.
“I swear Linda, you have enough to open up your own five and dime,” Dorothy said, sorting through the bottles of nail color.
“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, all the dances, 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 Siberia,” 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, quickly standing 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 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, studious 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 and worked with Jimmy at Mr. Kratz’s mechanic shop.
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 troublemaker.
What kind of a future would there be with someone like him?
Dorothy was also very observant of people, and as she watched Carl, she thought she could see a softness beneath his tough exterior. Though she couldn’t be sure of it or place it, she found it very endearing. He also still manages to hold down his after school job in spite of everything…
“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.
A pin could be heard dropping as Dorothy peered self-consciously at her two friends, who sat staring at her with their jaws dropped. Her heart pounded as she watched the O of Linda’s mouth spread into a gleeful smile.
Finally, Linda jumped up, clapping her hands and squealing, not seeming to care if she smeared her nail color.
“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 the blonde girl’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. “Look Dorothy, 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 again, 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.
The subject of Dorothy’s crush on Carl would not be brought up again that summer. Dorothy continued listening to her friends recounting their dates, necking sessions, petting sessions, and—when it came to Jimmy and Linda—going all the way. Part of her wanted to be experiencing everything her friends were. Reginald and Gail seemed to be gaining deeper intimacy with one another, and Linda was often very candid about the details of her times with Jimmy. Sometimes Gail would shake her head and scold Linda for revealing too much information, but Dorothy could see the wheels of curiosity turning in Gail’s head. She also had to admit that her own curiosity was also piqued.
When it came to Carl, Dorothy saw much of him around town that summer when she accompanied Linda and Gail to meet up with Jimmy, Reginald, and other kids from school. They would often meet at places such as Chuck’s Diner, Leonard’s Drugstore & Soda Shop, and the Hollywood Cinema. Carl was often among the group, usually arriving with George, Evan, and Bernice (who was now going with Evan). Dorothy forced herself to avoid any eye contact with Carl, and ignored the knowing glances Linda would throw in her direction.
September arrived with the first day of senior year officially in session. The three girls walked to school together, as they had done since the fifth grade when their parents stopped walking with them. And as they had done since Dorothy’s two friends began going steady with their boyfriends, the trio dispersed when Jimmy and Reginald joined them. The two boys greeted Dorothy, who smiled and greeted them back, before they stole Linda and Gail away.
“See you at lunchtime!” Linda called to Dorothy as she walked away with her arm linked in Jimmy’s.
Dorothy gave her friends a small wave as they left with their boyfriends to go to a secluded area for quick, pre-homeroom necking sessions.
She looked toward the group of boys Jimmy and Reginald had come away from and spotted Carl among them. She had a brief impulse to maybe heed the advice of Linda and Gail. What would it hurt to walk passed Carl and maybe try to smile at him a little? Nothing!
In the end, her nerves ended up getting the better of her. She hurried inside the school building, doing her usual best to avoid any possible contact with him.
The first three classes occurred without incident and so far, this first day of school had not been any different from others. After her third period biology class, Dorothy headed toward the lunch room to meet up with Linda and Gail, stopping first at her locker to retrieve her bagged lunch. As she had shut and locked the metal door, a voice from behind greeted her.
She froze as her heart lurch into her throat. Oh dear God…
Her heart raced as she slowly turned around and found herself standing face to face with the boy she had done her best to avoid. Carl stood by her locker, his hazel-green eyes looking down at her as his lips turned up into a friendly smile.
Her heart beat faster as her ability to speak failed her. This has to be a dream. It has to be. Please let it be…
She shifted her gaze from his eyes to his thick, chestnut brown hair. Her limbs were going soft as she fought to maintain her stance. She could hear the blood racing in her ears as she tried to get control of herself and the situation.
“Hello, Carl,” she managed, cringing at how squeaky her voice sounded.
After three years of simply watching and daydreaming about him from a distance, they finally stood together in the school hallway (with Dorothy using every last ounce of strength to avoid making a fool out of herself).
After a very long and awkward pause, Carl said, “Well, I guess I’ll see you around?”
Dorothy nodded, clearing her throat. “Yes. Yes, of course. Have a nice day.” She was relieved her voice was its normal tone that time.
The dimple in his left cheek deepened as he quirked the corner of his mouth into a half smile before turning and heading back down the hall. Dorothy watched him until he turned the corner.
When he was out of sight, she let out the air she had been holding in as the other students filed passed her. Her knees were still shaking, and she clutched her books and lunchbag, hanging onto them as if they were a life preserver. The girl’s lavatory was only a few feet away. She ran inside and burst into a stall, latching it shut.
She leaned against the wall, shutting her eyes in an attempt at keeping the stall from spinning around her. She crouched down with her head lowered, taking in and letting out deep breaths.
About a minute went by and Dorothy was starting to feel better. She left the stall and caught her reflection in the mirror above one of the sinks. Even with her summer tan, all the color had drained from her face. She turned on the tap and splashed cold water on her cheeks before reaching into her purse to pull out the lipstick Linda had given her. She opened up the tube and stared down at the almost nude shade.
“With your coloring, you can definitely wear this. Especially now that you have a suntan. God, how I wish I could suntan as easily as you!” Dorothy recalled Linda telling her.
She brought it to her lips and heard the final bell ring. With that, she closed the tube back up, threw it back into her purse, and dashed to the lunchroom.
She was quick to spot Gail and Linda, heading straight for their table. The two girls looked wide-eyed at their friend as she collapsed into the seat across from them.
“There you are!” Gail said.
“Honey, what happened to you?” Linda asked. “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost!”
Dorothy took a moment before saying, “You’ll never believe what just happened…I can hardly believe it myself…”
“What?” Linda pressed.
Dorothy took a deep breath. “Carl Turner talked to me! Just like that! Out of nowhere.”
“Well, that’s wonderful, Dorothy,” Linda said, smiling as she and Gail exchanged glances.
“It almost seemed as though he knew right where to find me. As though he were waiting for me,” Dorothy continued. “But why would he do that? I didn’t even think he knew I was alive before today. Or if he did, he didn’t care.”
“I don’t know,” Gail said slowly and shrugged. “Maybe you were just wrong in that assumption of him.”
“But his locker and mine aren’t even close, so he would have to know my schedule,” Dorothy said. “How would he even know my schedule unless…”
Her voice trailed off as a sense of realization hit her with the intensity of a locomotive. She studied her two friends sitting across from her, who seemed to be trying to cover rather suspicious expressions of guilt.
“Wait a minute, what’s going on?” she demanded as Linda shifted in her seat.
“Nothing…” Linda said with feigned innocence. The denial proved futile as the look in her blue eyes said it all.
“It isn’t nothing,” Dorothy said. A feeling of dread pulsed through her as Gail turned her eyes downward. “Oh…please tell me you didn’t!”
“Didn’t what?” Linda asked.
“Don’t be coy, Linda!” Dorothy snapped and lowered her voice to a loud whisper. “You know exactly what I mean! You told him, didn’t you? After I asked you not to!”
“I most certainly did not!”
Dorothy turned her glare over to Gail.
“Don’t look at me,” Gail said. “I haven’t say a word.”
“Well somebody did and I want to know who. Now!”
Linda fidgeted with her fork as Gail turned her eyes to the blonde girl.
“Alright,” Linda said. “I may have mentioned it to Jimmy, and then he might have gone and mentioned it to Carl.”
“Oh God…” Dorothy moaned. “I think I just lost my appetite…”
“Look, I’m sorry, okay?” Linda said. “But I think you’re overreacting. This is good! Probably the best thing that’s ever happened to you!”
Dorothy stared at her. “Please enlighten me then, Linda.”
“Well,” Linda replied, “he talked to you. He could have gone running for the hills, and he didn’t.”
Dorothy paused. Linda did have a point. “Alright, fine. But what if he was just doing it out of pity to make me feel better before letting me down?”
Gail groaned. “Will you stop second guessing yourself?”
“Yeah, that isn’t going to get you anywhere,” Linda added.
“Well in your expert opinion, what do you propose I do?” Dorothy asked. She couldn’t help the small trace of sarcasm trickling in her voice.
Linda thought for a moment. “Well, you could maybe walk by him and see if he talks to you again. If he tries to make conversation, you’ll know that his talking to you today wasn’t just a one time deal!”
“I don’t know,” Dorothy said, though she was starting to feel a little better about it all.
“Come on, how will you know unless you do it?” Gail said.
Dorothy sighed. “Okay. Maybe you two are right. But I still wish you would’ve talked to me about your plans for me first.”
“Would you have allowed us if we did?” Linda asked.
“Well, there you go. See? Jimmy and I did you a favor.”
“Alright,” Dorothy said, “but at least let me wait until tomorrow so I can maybe be a little more prepared…”
Linda smiled. “You read my mind! I was just going to suggest my coming over to your house tonight to help you with all that!”
Gail shook her head. Of course Linda was going to use this as an opportunity to play clothes, hair, and cosmetic consultant; Linda’s favorite subjects aside from Jimmy.
“Fine,” Dorothy relented, “come over and do your worst.”
Linda’s smile widened, pleased with herself as she began spinning ideas in her head.
Dorothy picked at her food, relieved when Linda began talking about her and Jimmy again, thus shifting the subject of conversation.
She nibbled on her sandwich while recounting the incident with Carl in the hallway. Her thoughts then turned to anticipating Linda coming to her house that evening after dinner. Then what? How would she approach speaking to Carl the following day? What would she say? And what would Linda have her wearing? Just please don’t make me look like some glamour-puss. I’m a high-school student, not a showgirl.
Dorothy forced down what she could of her lunch, telling herself that this was nothing to be anxious over. There was nothing to be afraid of.
Dorothy walked to the schoolgrounds the following morning with the chatter of Linda and Gail filling her ears. There was much to think about on Dorothy’s end as she mauled over the idea of seeing Carl again.
As promised, Linda had come over after dinner that previous night to help Dorothy decide on her attire, accessories, and makeup for the following morning. She had come over, armed with her powder blue makeup case, a bag of fashion magazines, and even a couple of her own blouses for Dorothy to try on. All seemed to be going well until Linda took out her eyebrow tweezers.
“No!” Dorothy protested.
“Dorothy, I tweeze my brows all the time. It’s not gonna kill you,” Linda said. “Now I’m going to get out one of my brow stencils that would suit you. Then, I want you to stay very still and relax your face. One false move is enough to mess everything up and then we’d probably have to shave them off and draw brows on you.”
Dorothy let out a defeated groan as Linda retrieved a stencil. Shaving off brows and using a pencil to draw them on was being done by many women, especially the ones more daring with their appearance. Gail had actually done it a couple times. I’m not that daring, though, Dorothy thought. She also knew her mother would not take kindly to her doing such a thing.
Thankfully, eyebrow plucking was not as bad as she had anticipated. Linda even gave her the stencil she used.
“I’ll take you this weekend to get your own tweezers,” Linda had said. “Oh, and I brought jars of cold cream and vanishing cream for you.” She reached into her handbag and retrieved two elegant glass jars filled with their respected content. “These are really nice blends my mother has imported from our relatives in Norway.”
“Won’t she miss them?” Dorothy asked.
“Nah. She has a stockpile to last her for years. I also swipe some for Gail all the time.”
“Thank you,” Dorothy said, taking the two jars Linda handed her. “But I think I’ll be fine with soap and water.”
“No, you won’t,” Linda stated. “Do you know how to use cold cream and vanishing cream?”
“I know my mother uses them…”
Linda then went on to explain the difference between cold cream and vanishing cream along with how to use them. Dorothy thought she sounded like a salesgirl selling a product in a beauty salon. You missed your calling, Linda, she had thought.
Linda continued with fixing Dorothy’s makeup, and Dorothy ended up being pleasantly surprised at the final result.
“Why shocked expression?” Linda asked.
Dorothy looked at her friend sheepishly. “To be honest, I was afraid you would make me up to look like a Burlesque girl. I really don’t think I’d be able to pull that off without looking like a fool, and I very highly doubt my parents would allow me to leave the house looking like that anyway.”
“I just gave you a softer, more feminine look while highlighting your strongest features,” Linda replied. “You know I’ve been dying to do something with your cheekbones for the longest time. So here is what you’ll need to do this tomorrow…”
Linda had still been in Dorothy’s bedroom at ten ‘o’ clock, when Matthew and Liz Blake were about to get ready for bed. Dorothy’s father drove Linda home, and Dorothy slowly got ready for bed. She had fallen into a restless sleep that night, having the type of dreams that were so bizarre she couldn’t begin explaining them to anyone, even if she tried. All that was explainable were the parts where she saw herself with Carl. Dorothy chalked the dreams up to simply being the result of nerves.
Dorothy had to admit that Linda did do a good job, and she was feeling a little better about herself. But the butterflies in her stomach began to scatter throughout her body as the three of them approached the high school. Her core was in knots as Linda tried preparing Dorothy for when she would Carl.
“You know that Carl is always in the same group of boys in the morning as Jimmy and Reginald,” Linda said. “That means you are likely going to see him well before homeroom and as soon as we arrive at the school grounds. Are you ready?”
“Not really,” Dorothy replied. All that was on her mind in that moment, was focusing on not hurling her partially digested breakfast onto the school grounds. In front of Carl, no less.
“Well that’s not a very positive attitude,” Linda said. “Especially after all the work I did last night!”
Dorothy absently twirled a dark curl of her hair around her index finger as Linda continued on with her instructions. “Now remember, you don’t want to appear desperate. Men like to feel needed, but they don’t want to be smothered. And honey, please leave your hair alone! It looks perfect, so don’t ruin it!”
Dorothy released the curl from her finger as Gail said, “Dorothy, try not to think about it too much. Carl talked to you yesterday and I’m sure he will again.”
Dorothy clutched her books and lunchbag. “Easier said than done. And I may not even have a chance to talk to him today.”
Despite the assurance her friends were trying to give her, Dorothy still felt anxiety brewing inside. What if she made a fool out of herself and this was all done for nothing? What if Carl decided she was such a chucklehead yesterday that he decided to not even speak to her again?
“Yes you will,” Linda said, “and I’m letting you borrow one of my best blouses, so I don’t want to see you after school until you have spoken to Carl.”
The school grounds were in view, and Dorothy could feel her heartrate picking up speed.
“Almost there,” Gail whispered to Dorothy, giving her friend’s hand a squeeze as they approached the building.
Dorothy tried to appear confident, giving her friends a small smile. She looked ahead to the grounds across the street and saw the group of boys at their usual spot, underneath a tree near the front steps that led into the school. Of course, Carl was among the group.
Linda called to Jimmy as she, Gail and Dorothy crossed the street. He turned in their direction, waved, and headed toward Linda with Reginald trailing close behind him to meet Gail.
The two boys happily greeted their girlfriends before saying a quick hello to Dorothy. She smiled back at them, still a little embarrassed knowing Jimmy, and possibly even Reginald, knew about her feelings for Carl. She dreaded the thought of not being able to face any of her friends again if she blew it.
Her eyes fell back to the group of boys under the tree. Carl was carrying on what appeared to be a very amusing conversation with Evan and George. She looked away as Carl was gazing in her direction as he talked with his friends. She swallowed, hoping he hadn’t caught her staring at him like some gaping idiot.
As Linda and Gail headed off with their boyfriends, Dorothy got a wink from Linda and a reassuring smile from Gail.
Dorothy sighed, acknowledging to herself that she was, in fact, tired of being the fifth wheel to her friends. She drew in another breath and steeled herself.
I’m not going to avoid Carl on purpose…
She held her head up, kept her face forward, and began walking passed the tree where Carl and his friends were. Stay calm…he’s just a boy…
Dorothy managed to keep her breathing under control, and even slowed her steps as she began passing the group.
Then, she heard that familiar voice call to her again.
She stopped and turned around, letting out a gasp as she saw Carl break from the group and head toward her. She nearly melted when she saw him giving her the same warm smile he had given her the previous day. Dorothy could also see the other boys in the group watching knowingly.
So apparently the whole school knows. Thanks, Linda.
But Dorothy was feeling more relaxed than she originally thought she would be.
I suppose it’s now or never.
She put a smile onto her glossed lips, and returned Carl’s greeting. “Hello,” she said, only a little breathless this time.
“Hi,” he replied.
The two of them stood silent for a moment before George gave Carl an encouraging—though rather obnoxious—yell from over by the tree.
“Can it, George!” Carl called back.
Dorothy could hear George, Evan, and some of the other boys laughing at Carl’s response, and was surprised at how unaffected she was by them. Carl was here. He was talking to her, and smiling at her in a good way. At that moment, this was all that mattered to Dorothy.
“May I walk you into school?” he asked.
Dorothy felt her heart swell at Carl’s gentlemanly gesture. She then remembered Linda’s advice of not appearing too eager or desperate. She was able to maintain her composure, and answered Carl by saying she would like that.
The two walked side by side up the stairs and before they entered the building, they stole a glance at one another.
“You look beautiful, by the way,” he said.
She bit her lip. “Thank you.”
By the day’s end—as it always happens in high school—word on the newfound relationship had spread. Carl had walked Dorothy to all of her classes that day, regardless of how far out of the way it was for him. Some were surprised by the pairing, but most seemed happy for both of them. It was also exciting for her to walk with Carl to the drugstore & soda fountain to meet up with the rest of the group after school had let out. Carl had paid for his soda and her strawberry sundae. They sat next to one another among the group, their hands and forearms occasionally brushing one another. She also caught site of the joy in the eyes of Linda and Gail. Told you, their eyes said.
Yes, you did…Dorothy thought, stealing another glance at Carl.
Matthew had answered the phone when Carl phoned Dorothy that evening after supper. Dorothy was unable to mask her excitement when her father handed her the phone, his eyes questioning over Carl Turner calling for his daughter. Carl was polite enough to Mr. Blake, but Matthew was also aware of the reputation Carl had. Despite his concern, he allowed Carl to speak to Dorothy that night. And every other night that week.
Friday night of that week, Carl and Dorothy made plans to go see a picture show with Jimmy and Linda at the Hollywood. Dorothy was nervous about Carl picking her up, as she knew her parents wanted to be there to greet Carl and then see them off. She was relieved when the meeting between her father and her date went rather smoothly.
They walked side by side to the Hollywood where they met up with Jimmy and Linda. The four were attending a screening of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring John Barrymore. Carl, Dorothy, and Jimmy very much enjoyed horror pictures and always looked forward to their screenings. While Linda was more for romances and not a fan of horror, she did enjoy seeing them with Jimmy, as they gave her another opportunity to have him put his protective arms around her.
Dorothy was taken by what a gentleman Carl was, and she was able to get a closer look at the softness she always thought she saw beneath his the-devil-may-care exterior. During the picture, he surprised her with a rather nervous kiss on her cheek as Jimmy and Linda were occupied next to them. She shifted her eyes over to him. In the glow of the picture on the large screen, he was looking at her in a way that was unreadable, but it was a look that made her heart flutter.
As John Barrymore transformed into the malevolent Mr. Hyde, there seemed to be a magnetic pull between her and Carl, as though either some outside force or something within their own beings was trying to pull them toward one another. In that moment, Dorothy thought she felt something softly brush by her ear, feeling almost like a soft whisper. She felt her heart race as she saw a shift in Carl’s eyes. A shift that occurs before a person is about to take a chance and lean in for a first kiss. But for a reason only known to Carl in that moment, he blinked it away and instead, brushed his hand over Dorothy’s. Heat rushed through the depths of her core as she allowed him to lace his fingers through hers.
As they turned to watch the rest of the picture, Dorothy saw a pair of dark eyes flash in front of her. She gasped and jolted backward, her heart racing. A feeling of terror pulsed through her, one similar to how she felt that night when she was only seven…
“Are you all right?”
She turned to see Carl regarding her with concerned eyes. Dorothy drew in a breath, attempting to calm her equilibrium, and nodded.
Carl looked as though he was going to reply, but instead, he gave her a gentle smile before slowly raising an arm to place around her shoulders. She felt her body relax, and leaned her head on his shoulder, taking in his scent.
In that moment, she would not have minded if, for the rest of he life, the two of them would just remain sitting that way. There was no telling what lay ahead for them on the horizon.
Or just around the corner.