Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Company You Keep, January 13, 2009

Prompt: Write about being in the company of women.

1 comment:

Jill Hudgins said...

Appearances

“Did you see what she was wearing?”

Joanie jerks her feet up inside the stall, turns her ear.

“Yeah, I know, right? Where did she get those shoes, the Dollar Store? And the dress, oh my God, the dress. She looks like she just wrapped herself in curtains.” Giggling.

Joanie recognizes the voices and laughs. Nancy and May. The self-nominated fashion cops of Valley Boarding School. They’re from Manhattan. Joanie asked when they met, “Oh, is that in New York?” She’s from the South, only knows suburb and town, hasn’t encountered a city borough.

She remembers that day. The looks, the leans, the way Nancy and May tilted their heads, squinted their eyes, a synchronized sizing up of the new girl.

“Where did you get those?” May asked, pointing down at Joanie’s toes, scrunching her face like she smelled something rotting.

“I don’t know. Target maybe.” Joanie was wearing regular sneakers. Or at least she thought she was wearing regular sneakers. Turns out they were all wrong with the outfit, which was all wrong with her body type and facial structure. Joanie would learn in time. Would discover names like Louis Vuitton and Marchesa. Words like bodice and charmeuse.

Her parents sent her to Valley to clean up her act. Basically, they caught her smoking pot, staged a full-on intervention, said they’re not going to tolerate a junkie in the family. Not another one anyway. Uncle Lou’s a total garbage head: he’ll smoke, snort, or inject anything that fits in his mouth, nose, or vein. Once, when Joanie was eight, she walked in on him snorting confectioner’s sugar. He looked up, said, “straight sugar’s better, but it’s too grainy.” Joanie poured herself a bowl of cereal.

Maybe her parents were afraid she was following in Uncle Lou’s footsteps, but Joanie was miles away from addict. The day she caught: just her second joint ever. And her only drinking experiences were a few Friday night Buds and Wine Coolers. She’d hardly even been buzzed. Besides, Joanie an addict? Not with her self-control. She had a better chance of developing an eating disorder, but even that was a stretch because Joanie didn’t much care how she looked. Which was evident to Nancy and May the day she walked in here.

And now at Formal, here she sits. On a toilet, hips cramping from holding her feet up, petrified of these two girls. Joanie decides she has had enough. Stomps her feet down, throws her curtain of a dress over her knees as she stands and slams open the door.

“Joanie?”

“My shoes and my dress are none of your business. Don’t you girls have anything better to do than insult people’s fashion choices?”

“Joanie…” May tries to answer.

“And another thing. If you’re so fashion forward, so hip, so New York, what the hell are you doing here in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana?”

May starts to tear up. Nancy looks on concerned. Several seconds pass, and May sighs, swallows, and says, “My parents don’t even care. They just wanted to get rid of me so I won’t be in the way.” She breaks down into tears.

Nancy follows, says, “It was either here or a foster family.” Joanie edges over as May and Nancy collapse onto the pink tiles. She doesn’t say a word, wraps up the fashionistas in the fabric of her dress. They wipe their tears and in between sobs, Nancy grabs Joanie’s arm, says, “Your bracelet is cute.”

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