Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!—Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room

Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! This year I’m presenting Chapter 54,” Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room,” from my long-hiatused WIP Justine Grown Up. It’s a modern retelling of sorts of Phronsie Pepper, set from 1979–84. Enjoy!

Though visits home have long since become a necessary, irregular evil, Justine and David can’t totally brush off their family. Besides, it almost seems like a mini-vacation from the stress of grad school, and Justine can hardly refuse when her dearest nieces have asked her to come. She and David are staying with Adicia as usual, but Justine quickly goes next door after arriving and depositing her things in their guest room.

“Dad is hopeless,” Irene says, brushing her raven hair out of her green eyes. “He’s begun treating us almost like he treats you. It never occurred to him that we’re old enough to have celebrity crushes.”

Lenore smiles. “You haven’t been here in awhile, Justine. Maybe Irene and Amelia should give you a tour of their room. They recently redecorated, and now it looks like the room of two teen girls. You might not recognize it.”

“Is that good or bad?” Justine asks.

“Just let them show you. You’ll see what it’s all about soon enough.”

Irene and Amelia lead Justine upstairs to their room, where Justine is greeted by the sight of walls almost completely plastered in posters and magazine pictures of men. Gone are the posters of cute animals and stuffed animals that used to dominate their room.

“I take it these guys are famous?”

“Don’t you have MTV or follow entertainment news?” Irene asks.

“David and I only have a few cable channels, and we’re too busy with grad school to watch much TV or even read the newspaper. It’s been awhile since we last saw a movie, and I don’t go to discos anymore.”

Amelia giggles. “You’ve really fallen behind the times. This is Duran Duran, from Birmingham, England. We just got into them a few months ago, but they’ve been around for a few years. All the girls at school like them too. Even little Simone likes them, though not for the mature reasons we do.”

Justine smiles and nods politely as the girls take turns telling her about each member of the band in minute detail, along with a recitation of song titles, chart positions, magazine articles, and media appearances. This kind of thing seems so unlike her nonconformist nieces, but even the most unconventional teen girl has to have a celebrity crush sometime.

“You were right when you said the right first fantasy crush doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone,” Irene goes on. “But for Amelia, Nessa, and I, it’s about a lot more than looks. Only stupid teenyboppers like a band for such a shallow reason. The music has to be good too, and the people in the band have to be intelligent and artistic.”

“I hope you don’t go around talking like that to the other girls at school,” Justine says. “No one appreciates being told she’s immature or silly for only liking a band for their looks. They probably think you’re the nerdy losers for having the exact opposite attraction.”

Amelia smiles. “It does help that they’re handsome. I don’t like ugly people, no matter how talented or nice they are.”

Justine surveys the room, a small lump in her throat. She and her four closest sisters never had the luxury of having teen crushes on celebrities, let alone papering their tiny shared rooms in posters and magazine pin-ups. They always had more important priorities, like where their next meal was coming from or if a utility might get shut off due to their derelict parents. Even Ernestine’s Beatlemania was tempered by the reality of growing up poor. Now there’s finally a generation who takes for granted being able to be normal teen girls. Even if Irene and Amelia were only attracted by looks, it wouldn’t matter. They’ve earned the right to be normal and carefree.

“Would you like to hear some of their music?” Irene asks. “You might like it. We’d never make fun of you as too old to like them. A lot of older people today like The Beatles, and twenty years ago they were written off as only for young people.”

“Maybe you can play it for me later this weekend. I’d like to relax a bit after the long drive. We could go out for sundaes or something tomorrow, or maybe the movies and dinner too.” Justine looks around at the pictures for the umpteenth time. “I don’t think you told me if you’ve got favorites. Even girls who like a band for serious reasons usually have favorites.”

“It worked out perfectly for us. We all have a different favorite, each matching our personality. Nessa, Amelia, and I based our choices on serious reasons. Only little girls and teenyboppers who like whatever’s popular pick a favorite for only looks. That’s as stupid as only dating for looks. A pretty face doesn’t mean anything if the guy is stupid or mean.”

“I feel kind of bad for you that you never got to have a favorite band or celebrity crushes,” Amelia says. “I guess it’s not the same to do that at your age. It probably doesn’t feel as special as when you’re young.”

Irene indicates a somewhat androgynous-looking member of the quintet. “I chose Nick as my favorite. God forgive me, but I wasn’t entirely sure what he was the first time I saw him. Then I realized that’s a normal look for a New Romantic, and that I was pretty ignorant for assuming a man in makeup with a pretty look has to be a cross-dresser. I like how he’s not afraid to be himself, no matter what people might assume. My parents always taught me how important it is to beat to your own drummer. Different is good.”

Justine takes in Irene’s favorite. “I kind of agree with you, but I’m not sure I’d know what to think if David came home one day wearing eye makeup, styled hair, and feminine shirts.”

“I like that look on the right man. A man who’s not afraid to look pretty in public is really sure of his masculinity. He doesn’t need silly things like leather jackets or a motorcycle to prove his manhood.”

“Yeah, but there’s a lot of ground between wearing mascara and being a Hell’s Angel!”

“I was never interested in jocks. I always liked artistic types, like the guys in art, film, dance, or music clubs. I don’t know how girls in the old days could be attracted to things like crew cuts, letter jackets, and square jaws.”

Amelia points to one of the brunets. “My favorite is Roger, the drummer. Most of the girls at school have other favorites, but I don’t care. I guess I just like that he’s quiet like I am. My favorite guys at school are the quiet, shy ones.”

“You can never go wrong with a quiet one,” Justine agrees. “I think it’s safe to say that the average introvert isn’t using that as a façade for a jerkish personality. What you see is what you get.”

“And it adds mystery. Plus when a quiet person does speak, it’s usually pretty deep and profound. Everyone always underestimates us, but you know what they say about the quiet ones.”

Justine smiles at her. “Yes, I sure do, even though I’ve never been guilty of being too quiet and shy. Is he one of the brothers?”

Irene vigorously shakes her head. “None of them are related, though a lot of people assume that at first. It’s just one of life’s funny coincidences that three out of five share the same last name. I’m glad we’re Troys and don’t have that problem of an overly common name. Well, you’re a Ryan now, but Ryan isn’t overly popular.”

Amelia continues pointing. “Nessa chose Simon as her favorite. She likes his poetic lyrics, and you know how much she loves books and poetry. It’s kind of unusual that she likes him best, since normally she doesn’t like blondes all that much. Did we tell you he’s part Huguenot just like us?”

“No, you didn’t,” Justine says, starting to feel like a fish out of water with her teenage nieces. She’s not even a generation away from them, but suddenly they seem like they have less in common. They have mainstream teen girls interests now, as opposed to how they often used to talk about deep things like indie films, current events, and classic literature.

“Little Simone likes John best,” Irene concludes. “She thinks he’s the best-looking. No deeper reasons. What else can you expect from a ten-year-old? She’ll learn when she’s a little older.”

“You and Nessa are only five years older, and Amelia is only three years older. Not so long ago, you were ten and had a similar childish mindset.”

“Are we really that close in age? It seems like a lot bigger gap at our age.”

“It always does. Things level out once you’re both adults. David only started to see me as more than a friend when I was twenty and he was twenty-five.”

Amelia puts on a begging look. “If they’re ever nearby, could you please drive us to the concert? We’ve never been to a real concert before, and we’d spend our own money and everything. We’d be so thankful to you forever.”

“Yes.” Justine doesn’t even take time to think about it. “You girls deserve all the best things in life after everything our family went through to get out of poverty. But you’d have to let me know well in advance so I can arrange my schedule. It’s asking a lot for a grad student to take off personal time to chauffeur her nieces to a concert.”

“They’re not touring in the area now,” Irene reassures her. “We just wanted to know for in the future, and we wouldn’t make you take us if someone else could do it. Our dad probably wouldn’t hear of it, since he thinks we’re too young and innocent for musician crushes, but our mom might. It’s not like we’d be going there as groupies.  We’re good girls.”

Irene and Amelia lead their aunt to their desks and show her the scrapbooks they’ve begun compiling. Each girl has nearly an identical scrapbook, though there are a few minor differences in layout, order, and focus. Justine thinks back to the bulging scrapbook of The Four Seasons Betsy probably still has in storage somewhere. This pursuit must be taking quite a bit of time away from more constructive things like homework and studying, but her nieces will only be young once.

“Would it be stupid if we reorganized the walls every so often?” Irene asks. “We plan on getting a lot of new posters and pinning up new magazine pictures, and it might be nice to change which goes where. It could get boring if they stay in exactly the same place for the next few years.”

“Years?” Justine teases. “Why don’t you wait more than a few months and see if you still like them so much? Or you might still like them but no longer want to have them all over your walls.”

Irene considers this. “Yeah, we probably will organize our walls a bit differently when we’re a little older. We’d never want anyone to think we’re not maturing past teen crushes. But when you first really like a band, you want everyone to know it. And we need time to develop our fandom.”

“Are you sure you’re only fifteen? You don’t sound like any other teen girl I’ve ever known outside of our family.”

“Amelia and I aren’t teenyboppers. We were never part of the crowd falling for whatever teen idols we were told to scream for. If we’re lucky enough to go to a concert and you’re taking us, we promise we won’t scream like maniacs. Sure we’d be excited, but we wouldn’t act like animals. We’d want to hear the show. It’s about the music for us, more than looks.”

“You don’t need to keep telling me that. I believed you the first time. But remember, you might like other bands too, later on. Most people don’t have the same favorite band forever.”

“We know. We don’t expect to. But right now, we just want to have some fun. This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to being like the other girls our age.”

Justine has one final look around the newly-redecorated room before heading back next door to Adicia’s house. As she settles into the guest room, with David in the shower, a funny feeling takes hold of her. She doesn’t know what to make of it, or what it means, but she can’t help thinking that Irene and Amelia’s sudden move into young womanhood may have just helped to pave the way for her to finally prove once and for all to their family that she’s an independent, capable adult woman and not an overgrown Phronsie Pepper. But only time will tell how this might unfold. All that matters is that the three of them demonstrate they’re not the cute little kids everyone remembers them as.

With her nieces’ status as real young women at stake, suddenly her long-simmering cold war with their family just got a whole lot more serious and significant.

Unexpected Neighbors

Here’s another post originally intended for the long-gone Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop, which I wanted to move out of my drafts folder already. Originally scheduled for 8 September 2012, it differs somewhat from the published version.

***

This week’s excerpt is the point where I’ll be ending my excerpts from Little Ragdoll, since if I went much further, it would give too much away. In the future, I may feature some excerpts from earlier in the book, or some future excerpts that don’t give anything vital away.

In Chapter 52, “Unexpected Neighbors,” Justine says she notices the next door neighbors finally pulled into their driveway last night. As she and Adicia are wondering who their neighbors on the end of the cul-de-sac might be, the doorbell rings, and everyone gets a shock in more ways than one.

Thank you all so much for your kind, encouraging comments on Little Ragdoll and its characters! I’m so glad I finally went back to this long-hiatused story from scratch and memory 16.5 years later. The way it ultimately turned out was a story I couldn’t have written at 13-14, when I was working on the (beyond-awful) discontinued original first draft.

***

Adicia opens the door and takes several steps back in astonishment.  Allen, a very pregnant Lenore, and their two daughters are standing right in front of her, all of them looking just as stunned.

“What in the world!” Allen says. “What in the world are you doing in the house next door to us?”

“We didn’t even know you’d come up here!” Lenore agrees. “Did you come by while we were on vacation at Lake George?”

Justine hears their familiar voices and rushes over. “You live in our new neighborhood?”

Lenore hugs both of them. “However you came to be here, I’m so glad to see you’re safe and sound.  And you came in time for my baby to be born.  It’s due in September.”

Allen turns around and looks at the dark red Super Beetle in the driveway. “Adicia, when did you learn to drive, and where did you get the money to buy or lease a car?”

“I haven’t learnt to drive yet.  I’ve been waiting to find a teacher who’ll come to the house, or for you or Lucine to come back from vacation so I can start learning.”

“So then how and why did you get a car?  Am I about to hear something that’ll make me very upset?  And how did you know Lucine’s on vacation?  Did you run into her and she never told us in the few days our vacations overlapped?”

“How did you get such a nice house?” Lenore asks. “Are you renting a room here?  Don’t tell me you took up squatting.”

“The house is paid for in full, as is the car,” Adicia says.

“Where in the world did that kinda money come from?” Allen asks. “Boy, I never expected to come back from my summer vacation at the lake to find my youngest sisters moved into the house next door.  Is this legit money you used to pay for all this?  This furniture I’m seeing just in the living room doesn’t look cheap either.”

“I have enough money in my bank account to afford to live comfortably for awhile to come.  There’s plenty of money in there for Justine too.”

“Since when did you get a bank account?  And how in the world did you already manage to stash so much dough in there that you’d be able to support yourselves long-term?  Who gave you that kinda money?  Is this clean money?  Who’s your sugar daddy?”

“I don’t have a sugar daddy.  I’m not that kinda girl.”

“Why don’t we sit down so we can catch up?” Lenore asks. “We came over here to meet the new neighbors, and even if we already know them, we can still have a proper visit.”

“Would you like something to eat or drink?”

“No, we’re fine.” Lenore sits down on the overstuffed brown leather davenport. “Nice furniture.  I wish we had leather upholstery.”

Irene crawls onto Adicia’s lap and smiles up at her aunt. “We missed you.  You missed my fifth birthday last month, but you won’t miss my first day of school.”

Amelia is captivated by the sparkly sapphire on her aunt’s left hand and pulls her hand closer to her face. “Your ring is pretty.”

“Do you like my other ring too, the one with the flowers?” Adicia asks.

Allen stares at Adicia’s rings and grabs her hand away from Amelia so he can examine the rings himself. “Who’s been giving you this kinda expensive jewelry, Adicia?  I have a sick feeling in my stomach that this has something to do with that rich boy Warrick, and if you tell me he’s the one who’s been plying you with money, houses, cars, jewelry, and other expensive presents, you’ll have a hell of a time convincing me not to go give him a piece of my mind for using you like that.  You’re a respectable girl from a poor and working-class community, not some kept woman to be kept in a gilded cage for the entertainment of some limousine liberal who was born with a diamond-encrusted silver spoon in his mouth.”

“You can’t do or say anything to Ricky right now, since he left on Thursday morning for boot camp.  They drafted him, and he’s being forced to go to Vietnam.  His number was eighty-eight, and since he withdrew from Columbia, he lost his student deferment.” Adicia looks down, overcome by sorrow at having lost her husband so soon.

“Wait, that guy was living with you?  And Justine was here in the house too?  Please do not tell me you did anything with him.”

“He was drafted?” Lenore asks. “Come over here and sit by me, sweetie.”

Adicia gently pulls Irene off her lap and goes over to Lenore, leaning against her as Lenore puts her arm around her and gives Allen a dirty look.

WeWriWa—Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!

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Yes, I really sleep under this framed poster, yes, it is kind of heavy, and no, it hasn’t fallen down and conked me on the head in the middle of the night yet.

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. In honor of today’s special holiday, I’m sharing a piece from my hiatused 1980s historical Justine Grown Up, from Chapter 54, “Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room.”

It’s sometime in early 1983, and Justine is getting a tour of her teenage nieces’ room. Gone are the stuffed animals and posters of cute animals which used to dominate their room. Thirteen-year-old Amelia and I have a common interest.

***

Amelia points to one of the brunets. “My favorite is Roger, the drummer. Most of the girls at school have other favorites, but I don’t care. I guess I just like that he’s quiet, like I am. My favorite guys at school are the quiet, shy ones.”

“You can never go wrong with a quiet one,” Justine agrees. “I think it’s safe to say that the average introvert isn’t using that as a façade for a jerkish personality. What you see is what you get.”

***

Synopsis for Justine Grown Up:

Justine’s jealous feelings at the birth of Julie’s first child are quickly turned around when she reconnects with David, now twenty-five and a Ph.D. student at SUNY Albany, with the five-year difference between them suddenly no longer so inappropriate. Unfortunately, her older siblings and their friends have a hard time seeing her, after years of being the precious family baby, as a grownup woman who’s old enough for marriage, motherhood, and moving out with her new family. But then, when her young nieces become Duranies, an unexpected opportunity opens up for Justine to finally prove once and for all to her family that she’s a responsible, capable, mature adult.

This near-death experience of 10 August 1985 is the reason for this holiday. I love when he says, “God, this one life we’ve got, it’s so fragile.” I had a terrifying near-death experience myself on 19 August 2003, and I too believed I was about to exit this fragile life. Luckily, the Angel of Death passed both of us over.

Resurrection Blogfest II—Appreciating Life

Mina Lobo is hosting the Resurrection Blogfest for the second year in a row. Participants are reposting something they wrote between now and the last Resurrection Blogfest. For full rules and prize information, just click on the badge above.

Since most of my posts remain very serious and intellectual, even if I’ve managed to get my average post down to under 1,000 words these days, I thought it would be fun to revisit one of my more lightweight posts. It originally went live on 10 August 2013, entitled Sweet Saturday Samples—Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! I briefly went back to a hiatused WIP just to write the chapter this scene comes from. (Note to regular readers: The woman who runs SSS has been taking a break to recharge her batteries. If and when she resumes the weekly hop, my pre-scheduled Saturday posts will return.)

***

This week, for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m returning to my hiatused WIP Justine Grown Up, set from 1979-84, in honor of today’s special holiday. If you had told me three years ago I’d soon know that 10 August is a real holiday, Duran Duran Appreciation Day, I probably would’ve laughed in your face. It just goes to show you never know what interests you’ll develop as you go through more of life.

Before my excerpt, I’d like to share a video that touches on the reason for this day. This particular date was chosen because on that day in 1985, Simon (the lead singer) almost died from drowning. You never know when you’re living your last moments. Always appreciate the gift of life, since you never know when it might be about to be taken away.

If you don’t want to watch the whole interview, the part about his near-death experience ends at 1:40. For some reason, the first half later repeats, but then continues to the rest of the video. I completely understand when he’s talking about how he thought those were his last moments, since I had a near-death experience too. Mine was on land, though, not at sea, and I was run over by a car and pinned underneath, 10 years ago this 19 August.

This is taken from Chapter 54, “Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room.” It’s early 1983 (probably about February-March), and Irene is 15 and Amelia is 13. They’re giving their 23-year-old aunt a tour of their room, along with a little lesson on their new favorite band.

***

Irene indicates a somewhat androgynous-looking member of the quintet. “I chose Nick as my favorite.  God forgive me, but I wasn’t entirely sure what he was the first time I saw him.  Then I realized that’s a normal look for a New Romantic, and that I was being pretty ignorant by assuming a man in makeup with a pretty look has to be a cross-dresser.  I like how he’s not afraid to be himself, no matter what certain people might assume.  My parents always taught me how important it is to beat to your own drummer.  Different is good.”

Justine takes in Irene’s favorite. “I kind of agree with you, but I’m not sure I’d know what to think if David came home one day wearing eyemakeup, styled hair, and feminine shirts.”

“Oh, I like that look on the right man.  A man who’s not afraid to look pretty in public is really sure of his masculinity.  He doesn’t need silly things like leather jackets or a motorcycle to prove his manhood.”

“Yeah, but there’s a lot of ground between wearing mascara and being a Hell’s Angel!”

“I was never interested in the jocks anyway.  I always liked the artistic types, like the guys in art, film, dance, or music clubs.  I don’t know how girls in the old days could ever be attracted to things like crew cuts, letter jackets, and square jaws.”

Amelia points to one of the brunets. “My favorite is Roger, the drummer.  Most of the girls at school have other favorites, but I don’t care.  I guess I just like that he’s quiet, like I am.  My favorite guys at school are the quiet, shy ones.”

“You can never go wrong with a quiet one,” Justine agrees. “I think it’s safe to say that the average introvert isn’t using that as a façade for a jerkish personality.  What you see is what you get.”

“And it adds mystery.  Plus when a quiet person does speak, it’s usually pretty deep and profound.  Everyone always underestimates us, but you know what they say about the quiet ones.”

Justine smiles at her. “Yes, I sure do, even though I’ve never been guilty of being too quiet and shy.  Is he one of the brothers?”

Irene vigorously shakes her head. “None of them are related, though a lot of people assume that at first.  It’s just one of life’s funny coincidences that three out of five share the same last name.  I’m glad we’re Troys and don’t have that problem of an overly common name.  Well, you’re a Ryan now, but even Ryan isn’t overly popular.”

Amelia continues pointing. “Nessa chose Simon as her favorite.  She likes his poetic lyrics, and you know how much she loves books and poetry.  It’s kind of unusual that she likes him best, since normally she doesn’t like blondes all that much.  Did we tell you he’s part Huguenot just like us?”

“No, you didn’t,” Justine says, starting to feel like a fish out of water with her teenage nieces.  She’s not even a generation away from them, but suddenly they seem like they have less in common.  They have mainstream teen girls interests now, as opposed to how they often used to talk about deep things like indie films, current events, and classic literature.

“Little Simone likes John best,” Irene concludes. “She thinks he’s the best-looking.  No deeper reasons.  What else can you expect from a ten-year-old?  She’ll learn when she’s a little older.”

WeWriWa—Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This weekend I’m taking a little detour to the Eighties in honour of Duran Duran Appreciation Day, which is a real holiday on 10 August. If you have the time and interest, you can read yesterday’s post for Sweet Saturday Samples, where I briefly explained the history behind the date chosen and shared a longer excerpt from Justine Grown Up. It’s a hiatused WIP set from 1979-84 in Upstate New York, a contemporary historical retelling of sorts of Margaret Sidney’s Phronsie Pepper, the final book in the hugely popular Five Little Peppers series.

Today’s snippet comes a bit before Saturday’s, when Justine’s nieces explained why they chose their favorite bandmembers. Justine has just come to teenage Irene and Amelia’s room for the first time since they redecorated, in early 1983, and has to be told by her nieces who the people in their wall-to-wall posters are. She’s admitted she doesn’t have MTV and doesn’t even follow the news much anymore, since she’s so busy with grad school.

Her nieces repeatedly reassure her that they’re still the serious, nonconformist girls they’ve always been, and that, unlike most of their classmates, they’re not only into the band for their looks. Thirteen-year-old Amelia speaks first.

***

“You’ve really fallen behind the times.  You were the first one to tell us about New Romantic music and fashion, and now you don’t even know about some of the most famous adherents.  This is Duran Duran, from Birmingham, England.  We just got into them a few months ago, but they’ve been around for a few years.  All the girls at school like them too, including Nessa.  Even little Simone likes them, though not for the mature reasons we do.”

Justine smiles and nods politely as the girls take turns telling her about each member of the band in minute detail, along with a recitation of song titles, chart positions, magazine articles, and media appearances.  This kind of thing seems so unlike her nonconformist nieces, but even the most unconventional teen girl has to have a celebrity crush sometime.

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