Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friday - Fun with Fiction! White Trash in the Snow, Chapters Twenty-Four and Twenty-Five

 By Allison


Hanging out in the garage after school, Cristol and Sparkler were sharing weed and gossiping about classmates.
“I heard Sara Luna’s pregnant.” 
“About time, she’s been tryin’ for half a year, hasn’t she?”
“Yup, at least.”
“Who’s the father?”
“She hasn’t said.”
“Think she knows?”
 Sparkler took a drag, and passed the joint to Cristol. “Your Mom hasn’t noticed yet?” –
“Nah, she’s too distracted.”
"Distracted?  How can anyone be that distracted?"
Cristol just shrugged. She had always been average size but fluctuated depending on level of activity.  She was almost thin by the end of a summer of swimming and hiking, but somewhat plump after a winter of watching television.  Her sophomore year had been kind to her; she developed  nicely, and last  June she’d been thrilled when boys commented on  a MySpace bathing suit photo she posted. "Sexy bitch” and "HOT!" were exactly the kind of responses she'd been seeking. 
Mellowed and nostalgic, she remembered the heady sense of opportunity and entitlement she'd enjoyed when wearing the skimpy suit around those boys in early summer. Good feelings swept over her, partly from picturing favorite scenes from summer, partly from inhaling.  Picturing herself in a red two-piece, she unconsciously ran her hands down her tummy, directly into a bunched up center pocket of her hoodie sweatshirt where she'd stuffed tissues to try to camouflage the size of her belly.   Suddenly, June seemed like a very long time ago.  
            "What about Field? He hasn't said anything either?" Sparkler asked. 
            “Nah. He's trying to spend as much time as possible with his girlfriend before he leaves. Brianna's at college, you know.  Left last week.  So he goes up there all the time."
             "He's probably afraid she'll find a new boyfriend when he goes away."
            "Probably. She's too good for him anyway. Minister's daughter with a loser like my brother - it never made sense to me."
             They sat and thought about Field and Brianna. 
            Cristol hadn’t fully forgiven her brother for that episode last spring. Who was he to snitch on her for using drugs?   This was her turn to do the same things he'd done and she wasn’t going to miss it. Before she knew it, she’d be old, too.  Old and a teen mom. She took the joint from Sparkler and put it to her lips.
            "So, he hasn't seen you, or hasn't noticed?"
             “He hasn’t paid any attention to me since he came back from Michigan, except to make trouble. Fuck him. Now it’s all about him getting ready to go away. Army this, boot camp that…mom and dad don’t talk about anything else. Well, not any other family stuff – they always have time for mom’s work," she said with clear resentment. "Anyhow, it's keeping mom and dad preoccupied while I figure out how to tell them."
              “I’m hungry, let’s go to McDonald’s,” Sparkler suggested. “I could go for some burgers, fries and guys."
              “Sure,” Cristol agreed.”I could go for a Big Mac and fries. Giant fries. I’m eating for two.”

Though Cristol didn’t realize it, Rachael had noticed the sweatshirt phase and chalked it up to an identity statement, thinking that maybe Cristol was trying to look like the other kids.  Most families couldn’t afford to shop like the Saplins. Neiman Marcus and other high-end stores in the city were pricey, and most Azzolla shoppers were Wal-Mart clientele.  
The other possibility Rachael considered was teenaged rebellion. That thought almost made the governor happy. If it was rebellion, it was  a quiet rebellion, lots better than the stuff Field put  them through, she thought.  At least they'd never have to force Cristol into joining the Army. 
In the end, hoodies were nothing to make into a “flippin’ big deal.” She told  Tad exactly that, and warned him against getting into anything with Cristol about her attire.  That would just be a distraction, and Rachael and Tad couldn’t afford distractions.
Tad had agreed. He never had any intention of starting something over what the kids wore. It was no concern to him.  He had his priorities.  “We’ve got to stay focused on promoting your career, no silly   distractions.  Hoodies? Why would that matter to me?”
 Cristol's clothing became an unexpected gift to Rachael in one way.  It gave her mother something to talk about to boost her  image as a concerned and involved parent. At  a birthday lunch for one of the Elite Seven, Rachael brought up Cristol’s sweatshirt phase and asked for advise.  One friend suggested maybe Cristol needed to have something in her life over which she had complete control.  "If that's what it is, it's wonderfully harmless and it sure beats other choices, like becoming bulimic or anorexic.”  The Elitist then turned the direction of the conversation toward herself, and reminded the group that her niece had been hospitalized twice for anorexia. Rachael hardly pretended to listen, she was distracted with thoughts of food, now that food had been introduced into the discussion.  
She played with her Ceasar salad and wondered if she should be worried that Cristol was plumping up.  But, no. Rachael herself had been a large girl in High School. Thick thighs  helped her compete in track meets and intimidate smaller girls on the basketball court.   Even in her Miss Azzolla days she carried extra weight. Cristol probably was beginning to show a hereditary tendency toward a solid build. That was all, wasn't it? That, and the need to control something were conspiring together to put a few extra pounds on her.  It was annoying for Rachael, but nothing to lose sleep over.
After that, whenever Cristol’s intentionally sloppy attire began to irritate Rachael, she reminded herself that Cristol had found two relatively harmless  ways  to deal with her teenage issues. Some day soon she would reject baggy sweatshirts and want to get her weight under control. She just needed time.  These thoughts allowed Rachael to stop worrying and be thankful.
Tad and I are lucky. Some kids give their parents much more to worry about.


“… and, Cristol, don’t wear that dress you wore for the Christmas picture, that brown thing wasn’t flattering on you.  When did it get so tight?  Put on that sweater I picked up for you last week in New Orleans. The color looks great on you, and the paper might run the pictures in color."
As always, Rachael told  each family member what to wear to be photographed for publicity shots. This time a reporter was coming to the house, and Rachael wanted  the “just normal folks” look. Cristol had tried to convince her mom that one of her hoodies would be appropriate (the hooded sweatshirts with the front pockets -her everyday wear for a couple weeks now) but that hadn’t worked. She dug into the back of the closet and found the new sweater in a heap of discarded tops– right where she threw it after trying it on the afternoon her mom gave it to her.
The soft sea-foam green was her favorite color, and normally a size medium fit well. But she wasn’t her normal size any more. She tugged the V-neck sweater over her head and pushed her arms through the long sleeves. One look in the mirror confirmed her fears. Her boobs stretched it out above, while her tummy challenged the side stitching at the waist, more than hinting at her condition.  Maybe, with a t-shirt underneath, it would look layered. Layered stuff gets tight sometimes, right?
“Cristol! Get down here!”
She hastened to remove the sweater, put on a white t-shirt, and get back into the sweater before her mother came up to see what was going on.  It seemed a miracle that neither her Mom nor Dad had yet  said anything about what, to her, were obvious changes in her body - clothes getting snugger and snugger.
Today could be the day.  Okay, if this is what brings it on, so be it.
“Cristol, get down here RIGHT NOW!”
Cristol stuck her tongue out; it was a natural reaction. Impudence, even unobserved, made life more bearable.
She posed one last time in front of the full-length mirror. It was no use.  There was no way to stand, pose, or position her hands  that would hide her baby bump. The best she’d come up with was to clasp her hands low in front – definitely not up high, that really accentuated the protrusion. Letting them hang down loosely at her sides wasn’t any good, either. And, besides, that felt awkward. No, she would have to lightly clasp them under the curve and pray that God would somehow make this bump invisible to the camera.
 Broadcasting her bad attitude by clumping down the stairs, Cristol resentfully joined the rest of the family gathered in the kitchen.  Tad was combing snarls out of Pride’s hair and she was whining. Rachael was re-applying lipstick. Maple was eating cold Kraft macaroni and cheese.
Cristol’s phone notified her of an incoming text.  It was from Wrangler.
 “ luv  u  &  r   secrit  2 ”  
“He’s here!” Rachael announced.  "Tad, stop doing that. Pride looks fine. Come with me, we should open the door together."
Cristol quickly  texted “U 2” and stuffed the phone into her back pocket.  Okay, she told herself. I can do this.

He was quick and professional. Twenty minutes after introductions, the shoot was almost done. The digital camera had already stored 30-40 variations on the same theme: The Saplin family is wholesome and happy.  The bucolic setting of the lake at sunset was too good to pass up and all the pictures had been taken outside, some on the lawn and some at the airplane dock.  Everyone had worn jackets, and Cristol was sending mental thank-yous to Jesus when the photographer said, “Let’s take a few more inside.”
In the kitchen, he grouped them in front of the picture windows, still using the lake as a backdrop even though it was getting dark.  Pride positioned herself front and center, but he asked her to move to her left, which put her front of Cristol. 
Thank you, Jesus.  Tense, but surviving, Cristol held her breath.
"Beautiful. Look right here. Hold it..” The camera whirred and clicked in rapid succession, indicating three shots taken.
Cristol smiled. This hadn't been so bad after all.
Then, something inspired the reporter to move Pride slightly toward Maple, leaving Cristol completely exposed.  “Okay, everyone, this is it. Look right here.”  He held a finger in the air, then snapped four more shots. 
“Thank you all. I really appreciate all the time you’ve given me. I’m sure there are some great shots here. Thank you, Governor Saplin. Thank you, Tad. This was very generous of all of you.  You have a lovely home and a lovely family.”
“Of course, our pleasure, and be sure to mention in the story that I’m getting national attention and Newsweek and Vogue are both gonna interview me –“
“Of course, Governor, I’ll work that in. Thank you again, and good night.”  It was over! Cristol made a straight line for the stairs and closed herself in her room.  She had promised Wrangler a call as soon as the photographer left, unless, of course her parents had something they wanted to talk to her about. 
“Hi Babe!” Her bright greeting told him what he needed to know. The baby was still their secret. He was relieved, and yet, he wasn't.  Deep inside, he hoped he would never have to have a formal sit down with Mr. and Mrs. S.   If they discovered it themselves,  while he wasn't over there, it would be so much better - 
"Isn't that funny?"  she asked.
"Yeah, Babe. Sure."  He had no idea what he'd missed.  Nevertheless, he got away with it, and she kept on babbling. He made himself actually listen while she told him about being able to wear a coat for some of the pictures, and how Pride stood in front of her in others.
“Only at the very end did I have to worry. That' s where my bump was probably noticeable, but he won’t want those pictures.  I made sure of that.   I didn’t smile and, you know how it is - they only like smiley pictures. And, besides,  we were all worn out. Everyone else must have looked pretty tired by then, too.  That's bad in photos.  My mom always has a fit if they print pictures that aren't flattering.  They know not to do that. They wouldn't dare. My dad would call them up and..."
Is she ever going to shut up? Wrangler wondered.
Finally, she said,  "So, anyway it’s all good. How was hockey practice?”
Wrangler bragged a bit,  and then they talked about another  couple they'd seen publicly and viciously arguing in the cafeteria at lunch time resulting in the breakup of a long-term relationship. “I can't believe they broke up after all these months.  I would never break up with you, Wrangler,” Cristol promised. “You are perfect for me. And I know you are going to be the best daddy ever. What we are going through right now – all this, umm...this stuff ?  I just know it will help us stay a strong couple forever.  You know what I mean?"
Wrangler understood exactly what she was saying. They had something good.  Even if there was a baby on the way, that was just a bonus. 
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Nothing’s ever gonna break us up.”  

Later that evening, the photographer selected the photo to accompany the story about Governor Saplin and her lovely family.  Her lovely, smiling family. Something drew him back more than once to the final picture of the group.  The oldest girl wasn't smiling, but it was a great shot in composition and lighting, and there was drama in the darkness of the sky and lake beyond the window.  He studied the  look on the teenage girl sensing something deep going on, something much more interesting than a smile could ever be. 
When he submitted his work to his editor, he made his pitch for the picture he liked best – the very last one. “Sunsets and lakes are great if you don’t have interesting subject matter, ” he said, “But look at this one. See it? The  teenager with serious eyes juxtaposed against the carefree smiles on the younger girls; the parents kind of above it all. I tell you, there’s something intriguing there.”  
The editor agreed and the article was scheduled for the Sunday magazine section.    

* * * * * * * 
Thank you for being here, friends.  If you've missed any previous chapters, there are links provided below.  Have a wonderful Friday.

Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. It is an original work, written by Allison, and published for the first time on the blog The Palin Place. 

All rights reserved.



Anonymous said...

It keeps getting better and better. Glad I caught it tonight as tomorrow is busy and would be tempted to come read and I can't afford the time. I can just see that green sweater and the bulge as you wrote! It's just like de ju vu! :-) Good work!!!

Anonymous said...

The high-end store in the city would have been Nordstrom, not Neiman Marcus.

AKRNHSNC said...

That pic with the notorious green sweater bulge is quite memorable and really showed a difference between the Governor's oldest daughter and the rest of the family. "Someone" was not happy-go-lucky at the time it was taken.

Of course, it's all "fiction". Thanks for such a great story that reminds us how the trashy Saplins can easily become reality.