It was the autumn of 1971. Two whole years after the Manson family killed the 60s, a year after the Beatles broke up, and just months away from 4 girls’ lives being destroyed.
The cold wind rustled orange leaves outside of my window as I tried on every sweather I owned, which I modeled obsessively in the mirror. I huffed out loud as I tore off my striped long sleeved shirt for the third time that night. I was feeling defeated by the cage of my own teenage insecurities as there was a knock on my door.
“Im indecent!” I called out grabbing the failed sweather and holding it up to my chest, covering my bra. The door opened anyway to reveal my mother, who I relaxed a little with.
“It’s only me.” She assured fixing an earring into her left ear. Her brown eyes scanned my outfit and a smirk crossed her lips if she teased me by asking if that’s what I’d be arriving to the dinner party in.
“Nows not the time, mom!” I said. “I have nothing to wear.” I whined to deaf ears.
A new family had moved in right down the block, and were having a dinner party as a way to meet the neighborhood. I had heard they also had a teenage daughter- my age and everything. And the prospect of having a new student a month after school had started was exciting, especially to a small town girl. My first impression meant everything to me, and the very thought of spoiling it made me lose my appetite to go all together.
“Oh, hush.” My mother waved her hand at me. Having raised six girls before me, she knew the trials of teenage girls like the back of her hand. “Here, why don’t you wear your charming little yellow turtleneck with that orange miniskirt of yours? Throw some tights on underneath and call it good.”
“That’s too plain, I can’t have the new girl thinking I’m plain!” I ruffled up my shoulder length hair that I had set in rollers the night before to give it a cute curl and volume, which I pinned back with a beret.
“Well, you have to wear something. And we’re leaving in 5 minutes so I’d suggest that you find something quick.” She said nonchalantly perfectly timing her exit to the point of getting her message across without leaving me time to argue.
I threw on the recomended outfit and messed with it in the mirror while I looked distastefully at what I thought where broad shoulders and thick arms. But soon I was in the car on my way to meet the new girl in my families distasteful van.
Nothing could be worse, I thought, than showing up in such a plain outfit with my car load of siblings. I came from a big family, a catholic family at that too. At the time Catholics weren’t too keen on birth control, so there was 11 of us. In order it went Jennifer who was married with three kids, Marcia the actress, Vivian who had a kid and a second on the way, Frida who was what my family referred to as a hippie or commie, Angelica the model, Jean who just graduated and was at college(she’d go on to be a very successful business woman), me, Robin, Heather- and finally my father got his boy- or boys. My mother had two twin boys Simon and Dylan before telling my father “Lenord, the factories shutting down!” But my dad was content, finally after over twenty years of trying- he finally had his sons. And my father had been desperate for sons, my mother popped out baby after baby, and each time my dad would proclaim that this was finally going to be the son. But after Heather, he naturally gave up and decided to be content with his nine daughters. But then my mother got pregnant one final time, and with twin boys. Go figure.
Robin, Heather, Simon, Dylan, mom, dad and I all showed up to that dinner party. And when Mr. Chbosky, a lean man in his early forties walked up to us and proclaimed upon seeing us. “Brought the whole school huh?” I had begun to wish even harder that we left the children with Nana at home.
My dad laughed a hearty laugh and nodded. “And this isn’t even half of them!” He said pride thick in his voice for his large family.
“No kidding?” He asked amused. “Dr. Chbosky,” He introduced himself putting out his hand which my father shook. “But please, call me Dean.”
“Lenord Cline.” My father said. Before introducing his wife Patricia, my mother.
“Well, we only have one daughter. She’s starting her junior year up at the high school next Monday.” He said. My eyes beamed at the mention of a daughter, and my age, just as the rumors speculated!
“My Jeneane is a junior over there.” My father rubbed my shoulder as I smiled up shyly at Dr. Chbosky. He smiled a wide perfectly pearly white smile at me. I pulled away from, my father.
“Well, I’m sure Sharon would love to meet you, she’s in the back with the other children.” He said. Being categorized with children stung my underdeveloped ego a bit but it was quickly forgotten when I got an eyeful of Sharon.
She was a tall skinny girl, with long straight light caramel hair. Her hazel eyes glittered with a bit of innocence as she spoke and laughed with a group of eager peers, all wanting to figure out this newcomer. I was a bit envious at her dainty long fingers and chub-less arms, but I was snapped out of it when a felt a hand on my shoulder. There was one of my best friends Linda Miplin. A small girl of 16 with the body of a seventh grader. She was no more than five foot two, and was a skinny little thing. But she was stunning, with willowy sad eyes just like Twiggy. Her chopped hair added to their likeness, which though she’d never admit to, she was proud of.
Before I could greet her properly she cut me off. “Is Anika coming?” She asked. I shrugged, though I knew she’d be there to scope out the fresh meat, so to speak. And sure enough just then I saw Anika Salinger’s wavy long dirty blond hair amongst the heads of chattering guests. She was dressed fashionably in denim jeans, a t shirt and a courdoroy jacket with fur trimming the hood. She was a tall girl, with the body of a model. And everyone expected her to become the next big thing. Even my sister Angelica, the model, would give her tips whenever she came home. It was a bit insulting that she never paid me much mind in that department.
“What do you think?” She asked the minute she walked up to us, she peered at Sharon like a vulture waiting to swoop in on the dead carcass of a water buffalo.
“You think I’m gonna squirm by all that white trash for some bitch?” Linda asked. Anika just rolled her eyes and grabbed both of our arms. She jerked us both in the direction of Sharon.
“Useless.” She muttered under breath as we caught up to her pace. When we came people parted a bit to let us through, well more like Anika. Sharon looked up and I could tell by the smirk that tugged at the edge of her lips she was impressed by the dominance and superiority that radiating.
She was sitting on one of the beach chairs and Anika raised her eyebrow, like a stray dog beckoning a fight, waiting for the other to strike.
“Hey,” Sharon smiled, her teeth were big and perfectly straight like her dads. “I don’t think I saw you, did you three just get here?”
“Nah.” Linda replied for the trio. Anika nodded.
“Not much is going on so I thought we’d pop over here and see if there was a change of pace.” Anika said, offering a smirk. Sharon smiled a bit and tucked her hair behind her ear.
“Wanna sit?” She gestured towards the two beach chairs beside her. Melanie Johnson and Sandra Gray were sitting in the chairs but once we made our way to them they got up. There would’ve been no point in putting up a fight when your hostess wants to replace you.
“So how are you liking it here?” Anika asked.
“Stinks doesn’t it?” Linda asked. The three of us giggled so Sharon joined in.
“Well it’s a change.” Sharon said. Anika asked from what, and Jessie Lynn but in.
“She’s from New York.” She chimed.
“Gee Sharon,” Anika said a bit loud, letting Jessie know she wasn’t wanted. Sharon giggled a bit amused. “New York?”
“Groovy.” Anika smiled. She went on about how she wanted to move to New York to become a model, and mid explanation Sharon cut in. We were all a bit taken back by her sudden bold move.
“My mom was a model.” She said. “Well, and a poet. And an artist. I think she’s taken up yoga now or something. I can never keep track.” She waved that off. “The real woman of interest is my Grandmother. Ambrosia Leroux. She was a French and American actor, she was a big deal way back when. But now she just sits in her little mansion out in Hollywood. We sometimes visit her during the summer.” We would soon discover that Sharon’s mother was serverly depressed and trying desperately and failing at climbing out of her mothers shadow.
“Jeneanes sister is a model. Angelica Cline.” Anika said. I felt a little proud that she would use something of mine in an attempt to one up Ambrosia Leroux.
“And her sisters Marcia Cline is an actress.” Linda added. “And Anika’s mother was almost a big model but she got knocked up with her.” This earned her a glare from Anika but Sharon was looking at me in shock.
“You’re related to Angelica and Marcia Cline?” She breathed. I shrugged humbly, despite enjoying the attention.
“It’s a big family.”
“No kidding!” She breathed. “I loved Marcia Cline in Love and Unrest, it’s my favorite. And Angelica is just gorgeous. I don’t know how I didn’t see it myself, I can really see the resemblance.”
I smiled, my chest filling with warm pride at being compared to my two prettiest sisters. “They’re coming home in a couple months for Christmas, they’ll be here for a week. You should stop by for dinner one night.” I offered. She waved it off.
“No, I wouldn’t want to intrude!” She said. “I doubt they’d want some fan gawking at them.” She smiled sheepishly.
“No it’s fine really. You’ll see they’re just like everyday people.” I assured her. She nodded.
“Well, alright.” She giggled excitedly. “Think, I’ve only been here a few days and I’m already lined up to meet two celebrities. And I’ve already practically have already met one.” She tapped Linda’s thigh making her jump a bit.
“Has anyone ever told you, you look exactly like Twiggy?” She asked. Linda smiled and shrugged.
“Yes, but I don’t see it.” She said, fishing for more.
“No really.” She said sincere thick in her voice. “I was hoping you were gonna chime in and say she’s your sister, I love Twiggy.”
Linda was eating it right up.
We chattered some more until I could tell Anika growing bored. But I didn’t mind as I found our new friend very interesting. That was until Anika said that we should take Linda’s car and go get sodas.
“I’d love to,” Sharon apalogized. “But, I have to stay at the party.”
“No worries.” I said, smiling warmly at her. “We’ll see you at school Monday, right?”
She nodded and soon we said our goodbyes and left. Linda’s house was within walking distance so we strolled to her house giggling about how that Jessie Lynn had the audacity to but into our conversation. Teenage girls really are picky and meticulous things. Insecurity pumped through our veins and pettiness kept our hearts beating.
“And did you see the look on Melanie and Sandra’s face when we took their spots? I’m surprised they didn’t die of embarrassment right then and there.” I giggled reminiscing over the intoxicating taste of power. Linda and Anika laughed along with me.
“So what do you guys think about that Sharon girl?” Linda asked.
“I like her, she’s nice.” I said. Linda nodded in agreement.
“She’s a suck up.” Anika muttered. Linda rolled her eyes and laughed.
“You’re just mad because she wasnt sucking up to you or impressed by your knocked up reject model mother.” Linda giggled.
“At least my parents are still married.” Anika shot back. “How about you send a postcard to Mathew and Betty and they’re replacement baby for me.”
Mathew was Linda’s dad and Betty was his wife. They lived all the way in California with their baby girl Magnolia, or Maggie, which at the time felt worlds away to Michigan in the 70s.
Linda held her tongue, you had to give able to take shots and give shots to tango with us. And it wasn’t as if we had much of a selection of friends in this small town, or that’s what it felt like at least. But really I loved Anika and Linda, they had been my best friends for as long as I could remember. But the prospect of adding a new girl to our trio seemed a delicious way to spice things up, and spice things up it did – in ways I could have never imagined.
“I think we should give Sharon a chance.” I said not ready to change the subject. Anika rolled her eyes.
“Why? She already gets on my nerves, she never stops talking.” Anika said. “And her nose is weird.”
It was at that moment that I got the impression that Anika was jealous or at least intimidated by Sharon. Something I thought impossible, as Anika had always been the top dog around this junk yard.
“It is not.” Linda said. “She was just nervous, I talk a lot when I’m nervous too.”
“I’ll say.” Anika mumbled.
“So I say Monday we take her with us to lunch Monday.” I pressed on. Linda looked over at Anika hopefully, and feeling our eyes glued to her Anika’s gaze shifted defeatedly to the ground.
If I could go back I would have forced myself caved into Anika and save everyone this mess. But I didn’t. And when Anika muttered “Whatever.” Under her breath, fate was already taking its course.
That Monday morning we gave Sharon an invitation to come with us to my fathers grocery store for lunch that day. She seemed happy to accept and ditch her previous plans with Jessie Lynn, Melanie Johnson and their clan.
We drove Anika’s car over, and on the way we discovered that Sharon’s family moved here because they were tired of the city life.
“How could you ever get tired of the city?” I asked, pictures of bright flashing lights, fashionable men and women in bell bottoms and turtlenecks strolling the streets as an endless array of boutiques welcomed them in danced across my eyes.
She shrugged sheepishly, and looked as if she wanted to say more, but decided against it. “We needed a change, that’s all.”
“Well, I wouldn’t get your hopes up.” Anika said from the drivers seat, glancing at Sharon and I through the rear view mirror. “Its boring as hell around here.”
Sharon was quiet and took to looking at the window. She looked as though hurt by Anika’s remark that I found decently innocent enough. Especially compared to her past bites I had fallen victim too, this was a gentle nuzzle.
“Sharon,” I asked. “Did you want to move here?”
She looked over at me with big brown eyes, a bit glazed with tears. She smiled through it though, and shook her head.
Sharon invited us all to her house for dinner after school had ended.
“I’ll have to run home and check to make sure it’s alright with my mom first.” Linda said as they waited for me to pack my bag.
“You can use our telephone if you want.” She offered. I smiled at her and asked if I could use it too, she nodded and asked Anika if she needed to use it too. Anika laughed and shook her head.
“No, my parents don’t care.” She said. Anika’s lack of parental guidance was the envy to all us girls. While we were stuck with lying and sneaking, Anika could just walce into or out of her home at 3 in the morning no questions asked. But the older I get the more I’m thankful that my mother wanted me home by 11 o clock.
So we all went over to Sharon’s home, which was even nicer on the inside than it was on the outside. It looked straight from the magazines my mother bought and drooled over fantasizing for when us kids were out of the house so she throw out our old fashioned ‘safety’ couch. It was clean and calming, no fights for the tv remote being held by the tv, no loud stereo blasting your old Beatles records- the home of an only child.
The mouthwatering aroma of meatloaf hit us the minute we got in, as Sharon’s mother called out to her from the kitchen.
“Sharon is that you?” She asked. Her mother was a beautiful woman, tall and lean with blond hair and red lipstick that looked as if it were manufactured just for her. Her voice was warm and inviting and reminded us of our own mothers- or what we wished she sounded like.
“Yeah,” Sharon said. “I brought some friends over for dinner.”
Her mother looked a bit puzzled at us, her brow furrowing, and suddenly the power trio felt not good enough in their own territory. “I thought you were bringing along those girls from the part-” with a glare from Sharon she stopped before resuming her warm smile. She asked for introductions which we gave eagerly to.
“Well, Dr. Chbosky should be home shortly and we’ll be having dinner by then. Do you girls need to phone home?” She asked. Linda and I nodded and after we called our parents (my mother was eager to have one less mouth to feed, and Linda’s was eager to have a nice super with her boyfriend.) we went back to the front door only to discover that Sharon and Anika were gone.
“Oh they’re probably up in Sharon’s room.” Mrs. Chbosky said as Linda and I both shot each other a nervous look. “Up the stairs, second room on the right.”
We went and when we opened the door, Anika was laying on Sharon’s bed giggling with her as she sat on a chair by her desk. I smiled, happy to see Anika finally warming up to her.
We talked about Sharon’s first day of school, and how she liked it. Anika listened with a forced politeness, her almond shaped eyes squinting a bit as she studied some piece of lint on the floor to pass the time. When she decided she heard enough she looked up at all of us.
“Did you get invited to Chase Onstead’s bonfire?” She asked. Linda and I nodded, he asked us both in English. Anika grinned and moved to her belly on Sharon’s bed, already marking her territory.
“I say we spend he night at my house and go.” She proposed. Sharon laughed lightly with a hint of embarrassment evident in her sweet giggle.
“My parents would never let me go.” She said. “Some parents had warned him about the Onsteads at the party.”
We laughed at her innocence. “Neither would mine.” I said. Linda nodded in agreement.
“That’s why you don’t tell them.” Anika grinned a devilish grin, like a shark smelling the smell of blood- she thirsted for the spill of innocence. “Just say youre coming over to my house and leave it at that.”
Before Sharon could muster an argument from her unsure lips, her mother was already calling us down for dinner. We all hopped up, just now feeling the grumble in our stomachs for food.
“Just say you’re coming over for a sleepover and leave it at that.” Anika coached in a hushed voice to Sharon as we shuffled out of her room.
The table in their dining room was fixed up like they were expecting the queen to come over for a bite of meatloaf. Mrs. Chbosky was finishing up fixing everyone’s plates while inquiring Dr. Chbosky about his day.
I felt a bit pushed to be on my absolute best behavior, but the normal respect and fear of someone’s parents was heightened with the doctors status.
But Dr. Chbosky was an easy going man, who inquired each of us about ourselves- which coming from an older attractive man was flattering to 3 hormonal teenage girls. He was charming, and playful, and by the end of dinner he had us all belly laughing. And thus the awkwardness melted away and we all felt at ease.
“Oh Darling,” The doctor said, making our focus go to his sullen looking wife who picks mindlessly at a bit of meat. It was then that I realized that we were the only ones under his charismatic charm, and I suddenly felt a bit uncomfortable. “Do cheer up, we have guests.”
She laughed a bit as she touched her cheek lightly with her hand. “Im sorry dear,” She said. “I was just lost in thought a bit.”
Dr. Chbosky was quiet for a moment, he took a sip of his wine and forked up a piece of meatloaf. “It must be all that yoga-hoo-ha you’ve been doing,” he chuckled. “It’s making you drowsy.” He glances over to us to see if his joke stuck.
We giggled a little, yoga seemed so exotic; something misplaced in the predictable organized life of a housewife. The thought of my own mother practicing it seemed ridiculous. But a part of me felt envious for a mother who did something
After dinner I rode home with Anika and Linda. The whole way there we chattered about how much we like Sharon, and her dad.
“He’s gorgeous.” Anika said. We gasped and I slapped her shoulder.
“Anika, you can’t think Sharon’s dads hot!” I said, mortified at the thought. Even for Anika this was pushing it.
“Why not? He is.” She laughed, and Linda giggled along too. “He’s loaded too, did you guys see how nice that house is?”
“You have a nice house too.” I said.
“Not as nice as that.” Anika said, and picking apart my sensitivity cooed. “Imagine- Anika Chbosky-“
“Can it!” I punched her shoulder laughing. The three of us giggled as Anika reached back as swung her palm at me.
“Don’t get your panties in a bunch, I’m just kidding, man.” She giggled that cute adorable coo that made boys ears perk up. It was the opposite of my howl that made even the dogs whimper.
When I got home I opened the door only to be snapped to the reality of my home. The stained reliable couch sat in its mismatched glory to the rest of the living room, as Dylan and Simon raced about the house playing Cowboys and Indians pretending to shoot guns and bow n arrows at each other. My old Beatles records were blasting upstairs in Robin and Heather’s room. My dad was sitting on the couch watching the News on his worn out lazy boy. A stark contrast to Sharon’s picture perfect living room with breakables like glass and chine for decoration instead of stepped on comic books and nail polishes without their caps.
Like I said we werent poor, but we were smart enough not to have nice things that are just going to end up broke or stained.
“Honey, was that Jeneane that just came in?” My mother called from the kitchen. My dad turned to face the kitchen as he squinted his eyes.
“Huh?” He called as Simon and Dylan continued going ‘Bang, Bang!’ and crashing against walls.
“I said, was that Je-“
“Yes, im home!” I groaned going into the kitchen. My mother had elbow length yellow gloves on as she scrubbed dishes with an old sponge. She smiled when she saw me and turned down the radio that had previously been playing Elvis.
“So,” She grinned. “Was it a dream inside, or what?” My mother like me dreamed of a nice house once, but she grew more practical with age.
“It was wonderful,” I sighed reminiscing over her house. “It looks like a magazine cover in there, so clean, so quiet-“
“The opposite of here, huh?” My mother laughed.
“You’re telling me.” I said. She just smiled and shook her head.
“You’ll grow to miss it one day, you know Jean’s already phoning and saying that exact thing.” She said. Of course I couldn’t see it then, but those years spent in that house were going to be the best of my life.