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"She was invariably intrigued, but I was certain that eventually she’d make that final bizarre discovery which would end her charitable fascination with me once and for all."

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14 – Repression

Sam invited herself over for the night.  It was an unusual move for her because she did not generally enjoy time spent at my house.  But it turned out to be the lesser of two evils for her.  She was looking for escape while Serena hosted one of her former Laker Girls team members, visiting for the night. Sam would rather stay with me and be herself than pretend to be pleasant for company she didn’t enjoy. 

This would be my first endeavor at hosting a sleepover.  I wasn’t nervous about entertaining her.  She was easy to be with.  What made me nervous was the ‘worlds colliding’ aspect of being around Sam and my mom at the same time. 

Mom’s presence, or more specifically, my behavior in my mom’s presence (pleasant acquiescence) did not always meet with Sam’s approval, and at times it even fired her annoyance.  She was an extremely free spirit, the epitome of self-directed maturity, and my most treasured hero; also my exact opposite. 

My mom’s pleasant but intractable insistence upon healthy eating, limited exposure to television, and everyone getting no less than eight full hours of sleep each night greatly cramped Sam’s style.  The SS Montgomery, however, was a tightly run ship, where self-directed free spiritism was discouraged by the X.O.  Though I knew in my heart that the ranking officer loved me dearly, it was also a certainty that I would always be an ensign in her eyes.

As she came to know me better, Sam developed the conviction that I was suffering from the ill effects of a ‘mommy knows best’ style of parenting.  After my two biggest female influences had their first meeting, Sam made it her new mission in life to set me free from repression.  The crazy thing was that my mom was unaware of her involvement in the battle for my soul.  Because it was clear to her that Sam loved me, she in turn loved Sam, unconditionally.

As we moved into my room for the night, my guest carried in a grocery bag, a duffle bag and something on a hanger. 

“Can I hang this up in your closet?” she asked as she opened the door, not waiting for permission.  The chagrin settled on me while the scene on the back of my closet door settled on Sam.  She stared at it wordlessly for thirty seconds or more.

With a look of pure amusement, especially when she recognized her own image among the others arranged there, she looked over at me, eyebrows raised.

“Wall of Heroines,” I explained, without flourish. 

Though I felt embarrassed, I decided to take a page from Sam’s manual and not act ashamed of my own preferences.  Besides, she deserved to know what she was dealing with.

“This is awesome!” 

She was being genuine.  I felt relief, but not surprise.  She always seemed pleased to unearth evidence of my strange personal preferences, probably because I was so secretive about them.  She was invariably intrigued, but I was certain that eventually she’d make that final bizarre discovery which would end her charitable fascination with me once and for all.   Apparently the collage of my very favorite lady heroes wasn’t the end game discovery I feared it might be.

“Bella and Alice, Arwin and Eowen, Trinity and The Oracle,” she named them off as she identified them.  “Who are these?” she asked as she pointed to some characters in the animation section.

“That’s Red Riding Hood, and Granny Puckett, from Hoodwinked.   And those are Elastigirl and Violet from The Incredibles,” I said. 

“Who is this?” she asked, pointing to a recent photo cut out.

“My driving instructor,” I replied, shrugging. 

I braced for a line of interrogation but she let it go.

“How many are on here?” she asked as she bent down to look at the faces that covered the entire surface of the door, all the way down to the floor.

“Several years’ worth.  It’s been a hobby of mine for a while,” I admitted, then laughing once I said, “Incidentally, Monica does not approve.”  

I knew that would get her fired up.  She didn’t disappoint.

“Why?” 

She was totally indignant.

“She thinks it’s beneath me.  Puerile, I believe, was the word she used.”

“Okay, I’ll take the bait…what does ‘puerile’ mean?”

“Silly, trivial, immature,” I explained. 

She drew breath as though she might retaliate with an insult of her own, but then thought better of it.

Sam spent a gratifying period of time closely observing all the faces on the door, chuckling approval at some, questioning others.  When she was finished with her analysis of a very real window into my psyche, she placed her things inside the closet, purposely leaving the door open, and then moved to my bed.

 “Tell me the truth, doesn’t your mom drive you crazy, El?” she asked as she stretched out on top of my comforter, with her back pushed up against the pillows at the headboard. 

I shut the closet door and crossed the room to join her, sitting cross-legged at her feet.

“She’s entitled to her opinion.  She’s really not that bad.”

And she wasn’t.  She was always very pleasant in her pursuit of health and happiness and decorum.  I had never been yelled at or spanked in my entire life.  I knew most people, including Sam, couldn’t say the same.

“That right there!  That’s what’s so disturbing!  You’re taking up for her.  You don’t even know how bad it is.”

I sighed.  We had this kind of conversation frequently because she was always pushing me to break the barriers I lived within.  And cowardly as always, I would blame anything I didn’t want a part of on my mom’s rules.

“You’re right.  She’s pretty strict, I know.  It’s just that she’s lost everyone she’s ever loved, well, except for me, and Hoyt.  I understand why she’s so protective.  I don’t mind, for now.  It’ll be different when I’m on my own.  I can be patient with her until then.”

She brightened at that last part.

“Speaking of moving out, I wanted to talk about college, about you and me getting a place together.” 

She was excited.

I sighed again. 

“Sam, I don’t see how that can work out.  There aren’t any Earth Science programs in the schools you applied to.”

“You’re not serious about majoring in Geology, are you?  I’m sorry but that seems like a huge waste of your talents.”

“Which talents are you referring to?”

“Hello, Miss Walking Dictionary.  How do you do?  Miss Coin Aficionado.  Greetings, Miss Exact Ethnicity Guesser.  Good day, Miss Speaks Dead on in Foreign Accents.  Come on Ellery.  Rocks?  Really?  You have so much more to offer.  There’s got to be a better fit for you than rocks.” 

My strange interests lent themselves to employment in a traveling circus perhaps, but nothing purposeful or particularly gainful.

“Minerals, actually,” I clarified.

“Minerals?  How can minerals make you happy?”

“Diamonds are minerals, you know,” I teased.  “Girls best friend and all?”

“Wearing them, El, not digging in the dirt for them!  Please!” she said with a huff.

“You know who you sound like now, don’t you?” I asked.

“No, who?”

“Monica.”

I smiled big knowing that she’d hate being compared to my mom.

“Shut up!”

She laughed and pushed at me playfully with the balls of her feet. Then she was serious again. 

“Ellery, please just consider some alternatives, okay?  Here are the schools I’m seriously considering,” she said as she handed me a folded sheet of paper. 

I opened it up to see a printout of various schools with bullet points about their programs.  I had a feeling that each of the respective admittance offices probably already had applications from me…

 “Look at everything with an open mind and see if maybe there could be something better for you.  I’ll go to any of those schools.  They all have top rate Journalism programs.  Just say the word.” 

Sam’s master plan was to pursue a career in sports broadcasting, with an inside edge as a former child star and connections like her NBA brother-in-law, and who knew how many celebrities from her Nickelodeon days.  Once she got established as a reporter, she would work on producing her own show on cable, possibly a travel show.  That sounded good to me.  I’d definitely watch it. 

I wished I had a master plan like that.  Unfortunately, a gift for strategy was not one of my ‘talents.’

“Are you that sure you’ll be accepted?” I asked.

She was smug. 

“Absolutely.”

“And you’d actually let me decide…for both of us?” 

I was touched.

“Of course.  We’re like family.  We’re going to share a place on our own, just you and me.  It’s gonna be fantastic.” 

“And what about Trevor?”

I was skeptical. There was no way she would choose me over him.

I’d finally called her bluff.  She looked away, avoiding my eyes.

“I don’t know about that part, yet, El.  He keeps avoiding the subject of college, so I guess we’ll see.  Don’t you dodge me too.  I need a straight answer, all right?” 

The look in her eyes was pleading.

I nodded. 

“I’ll think about it,” I said as I scanned the list.  “Maybe you’re right.  I would love to be on my own…with you.” 

With you running my life instead of Monica. 

I laughed at the reversal that would represent.

“That’ll be a valuable education in itself, won’t it?   I wonder if that would count as a minor,” I mused out loud. 

She smiled hugely at my response, like she’d won or something.

“So what did you bring me?” I asked, looking toward the brown grocery bag that came upstairs with us instead of into the kitchen.

“Your favorites.  Pop Secret with extra butter.  Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough, and for breakfast, Peanut Butter Captain Crunch.” 

“I love you,” I said with deep feeling.

“I know.  And just think how good it’ll be this fall,” she said, trying to tempt my junk food loving inner child.

“Yeah, I’ll miss all my classes while I sleep off the mother of all sugar comas, thanks to you,” I said.  

I scooped up one of her feet and started rubbing her toes with both hands, pulling and twisting them one by one.

“Sam?” I was nervous about asking this next question. 

“Yeah?” she had lain back to enjoy an impromptu massage.

“Do you think you and Trevor will ever get married?” 

I kept rubbing even though she didn’t answer me for a while.

“Absolutely.” 

There wasn’t a hint of doubt in her tone.  I looked up in surprise as my hands dropped her foot on the bed.

“Are you two engaged?” I was instantly unsettled.

She picked up on my turmoil and propped herself up with an arm, turning toward me.

“Does that make you nervous?” 

“You’re engaged!?” I blurted out, definitely panicked.

“I didn’t say that.  But what if we were?” 

She was enjoying herself too much.  I picked her foot back up and tickled it in retribution.  She jerked it away and yelped in playful alarm at the same time.

“Don’t do that to me!  I need lots of notice before you two leave me.  I’m serious,” I warned.

She laughed and scooted to the end of the bed, taking my hands in hers.

“Do you think that when I’m married to Trevor we won’t be friends any more?”

I shook my head. 

“No.  We’ll always be friends, I know.  But things will be different.  I mean…I’ll be totally happy for you and everything.  Trevor’s awesome.  But you two will need time to be…you two…not…we three.” 

I sighed and smiled at her, trying to be reassuring. 

“When I’m on my own more, I know I’ll start wishing I had what you have.  You’re so happy and in love.  I want that too.  It’s hard for me sometimes.”  I laughed and continued, “You scared me just now.  I thought I had lots of time to get used to the idea of Mrs. Samantha Redmond.” 

She laughed too and squeezed my hands.

 “Okay.  Here’s the deal.  He asked me if I would marry him…someday…and I said yes, someday.  There’s no ring, no date, nothing official.  I’m going to go to school, he’s going to work and save up some money.  Then, in a couple of years we’ll tie the knot.  Does that meet with your approval?”

I reached over and hugged her tight.

 “Oh Sam!  That’s wonderful.  I’m so happy for you.  I knew this was going to happen.  The first day he came…I knew it then.” 

She reached up and smoothed a tear off my cheek.  I was surprised at myself.

“These are tears of joy, right?” she asked, unconvinced.

I tried to wipe my face with my forearm and nod in the affirmative at the same time.

“Don’t be sad, El,” she said, hugging me back.  “Right now there’s a boy out there wishing for you just like you’re wishing for him.  You’re both on paths that will cross someday, just like mine did with Trevor’s.” 

My path crossed with one boy’s all the time already.  But it was probably too much to hope for some kind of destiny with him.

She patted my shoulders and then reached up to push my hair behind my ears.

“So here’s the plan:  Keep rolling.  That day will be here before you know it, and when it finally happens, all this fun we’ve had on the way there will be just like hors’douvres before the main course, or like fun stop offs on the road trip of destiny.  You’ll see.  There’s plenty of happy to be had right now, all along the way.  Speaking of which, do you want popcorn or cookies?” 

She reached over and picked up the grocery bag.

“Popcorn.  Is there any Cherry Coke in there to go with it?”  I asked, jokingly.

To my delight, she pulled out a couple cans, still cold with beads of perspiration running down the sides.

“Here’s to destiny,” she said. 

Then she opened her bottle and took a sip. I took a sip of mine too, and smiling big I added, “And sugar comas.”

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1 Comment (Leave a comment »)

  1. This was a completely surprising chapter. Especially the conversation between Sam and Ellery at the end. Very good. :D

    Comment by Branden Dale — July 8, 2010 at 4:27 pm

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