Sweet Saturday Samples

This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples again comes from Chapter 34 of Adicia’s story, “Changing Lives.” Adicia, her sisters, and their friends have come over to visit Lenore on the weekend, and discover some very exciting news.

Like Julie, my favorite Monkee has always been Davy too, and I also chose him because I thought he was the cutest. Had I discovered them at older than six, I’m pretty sure I would’ve chosen Peter as Ernestine and Girl have, but changing my favorite member of my first musical love would feel sacrilegious. It was like being kicked in the stomach to hear the news that Davy just passed away. There’s a blessing we make when we hear of a death, Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech HaOlam, Baruch Dayan HaEmet, Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Judge of Truth. May your memory be for an eternal blessing, dear Davy, and may your soul be bound up with the bonds of eternal life.

***

The first weekend in October, the girls arrive at Allen and Lenore’s apartment for their first visit since school began.  They’re very eager to hear all about the honeymoon Allen and Lenore took to Oyster Bay in Long Island the first weekend of September.

“Come sit down,” Lenore says, looking a little pale. “I haven’t been feeling so well lately, but I’m feeling well enough to show you our pictures and tell you all about our trip.”

“You’re not feeling well?” Justine asks. “I don’t want you to get sick again.  You can lie down on the sofa bed and we can sit around you as you show us the pictures.”

“You think you caught something in Long Island?” Girl asks. “Maybe you drank bad water or had fish with worms.”

“Does Allen know you’re not feeling well?” Ernestine asks. “I can’t imagine he would’ve just gone off to work had he known his bride wasn’t feeling well.  You know how overprotective he’s been of you since you almost died last year.”

“Enough about me,” Lenore says. “Why don’t you girls tell me about your lives first?”

“I’m here too,” Boy reminds them. “I hate being lumped together with all these girls.”

“Betsy turned us onto a really groovy new television show,” Ernestine says. “It’s called The Monkees and it airs on Monday nights.  Me, Julie, and Girl go over to the van Niftriks’ place to watch it.  We even got Baby into watching it.  She thinks they’re cute and can’t wait till we buy their album.”

“Baby’s really having her first celebrity crush?” Lenore asks. “She was just a little girl when I met her!”

“I’m nine now,” Baby says. “I was five when I met you.”

“Girl and I both like Peter best,” Ernestine says. “It’s like we share a brain.  And it’s the same way with how John is our favorite Beatle; we came to that choice by ourselves, without even knowing the other had made it.”

“I like Davy best,” Julie says. “I think he’s the cutest.”

“That was the same reason you picked Paul as your favorite Beatle,” Girl says. “I think they’re all cute too, but you should have a more solid reason for picking your favorite member of a group besides how cute he happens to be.”

“I don’t think I have a favorite,” Baby says. “I just think all four of ‘em are cute.”

“I wish I could watch that show,” Adicia says jealously. “My new friend Marjani’s parents would probably let me come over to watch it, since they have a television, but I don’t wanna walk alone after dark in Hell’s Kitchen.”

“What kinda name is that?” Lenore asks. “Is she foreign?”

“She’s a Negro, but she and her family don’t use that word.  They call themselves Black. That’s the new progressive word used by Negroes who are into their culture and equal rights.  She, her mother, and her older sister wear their hair in something called cornrows.  They look like tight little braids all over their heads, braided right against their heads instead of loose like Betsy’s braids.  They wear pretty colored beads in their braids.  She said their names are from a language called Swahili, which is used in some Western African countries.  Her name means ‘coral’ and her sister Subira’s name means ‘patience.’  Their brother Zuberi’s name means ‘strong.’  I don’t know if their parents have African names.  They’re just Mr. and Mrs. Washington to me.”

“They live in the tenement?” Boy asks. “I don’t remember you ever mentioning there was a Negro family there, though I know your mom hates that there are Puerto Ricans living there.”

“They live in an apartment about fifteen minutes walking distance away.  I’ve been over to their house a couple of times.”

“Wow,” Ernestine says. “How is Mother handling that?”

“I don’t think she even knows at this point.  All she knows is that I sometimes go to visit a new friend of mine who has a name that sounds a little funny.  Even if she knew, she’d probably grudgingly accept it like she accepts how Tommy always goes to visit his Puerto Rican friends on the second floor.  So long as we don’t bring our non-white friends over to the apartment, she’s okay.”

“Oh, Lenore, I got you and Allen a present,” Ernestine laughs. “It’s a single by some British group.  I thought of yous guys when I heard it, since it’s about a couple who meets the same way you met.”

“Someone actually made a song about a couple meeting at a bus stop?” Lenore asks in amusement. “Does the boy’s mother also accuse him of soliciting a hooker like your mother did?  I don’t know what kind of bus stops that woman has been hanging around if she’s so convinced the only reason to be there is to buy drugs or pick up girls of ill repute.”

“I think she’s smoked too much cocaine,” Adicia says.

“Excuse me for a moment. I think I’m going to be sick again.”

“Let me help you,” Ernestine says. “If you need to throw up, I can hold your hair back for you.  You’ve got so much of it.”

Lenore bolts into the bathroom and runs the water so they don’t have to hear her throwing up.  Girl and Ernestine rush into the kitchen to make chicken noodle soup, while Adicia puts some crackers on a plate and pours a glass of ginger ale.

“Are you gonna be okay?” Infant asks when Lenore comes back. “Why don’t you sit down and we’ll bring you some food as soon as it’s done being made.”

“Do you think it’s a stomach bug?” Julie asks. “I hope you’re not contagious.”

“I’ve been feeling really tired in the middle of the day, besides starting to vomit lately.  At least I’ve never thrown up when Allen’s home.  I’ve been having some weird dreams too.”

Girl looks at her with a slight grin. “Not that I was ever around her that much before she left, but I was five when my mother was pregnant with Baby and seven when she was having Infant.  I remember her getting tired in the middle of the day and throwing up a bunch.  She used to complain that morning sickness was the wrong name for it, since she didn’t only get sick in the mornings.  Do you think it’s possible?”

“I’d better not be.  That’s the last thing we need, after we spent a pretty penny on our wedding and just had a five-day honeymoon.  And I’m not even working now, though I did get my GED over the summer.”

“When did you last menstruate?” Ernestine asks. “For all anyone knows, maybe it really is a stomach bug, but you are newlyweds. I’ve heard stories of newlyweds getting careless with their birth control, since they no longer have to worry about a scandal if something happens.”

“August. But it’s normal sometimes to skip.  It’s only the first day of October now.”

“When in August?” Girl asks. “Can you remember?”

“Probably earlier in August.  I actually did forget my birth control pills when we went on our honeymoon—“

“What! How could you forget them, particularly when you don’t want a kid right away?  Were you thinking with newlywed brain?”

“I always keep them in the medicine cabinet, not my purse.  It slipped my mind to check the medicine cabinet for anything we needed to take.  This was during the last active week, and then came the week where you’re supposed to have your menses.  I just thought it was a little late in arriving.”

“Honeymoon babies are so romantic,” Girl says. “They’re like wedding night babies, a special reminder of how in love newlyweds are.”

Sweet Saturday Samples

This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is another sample from Chapter 33 of Adicia’s story, “Four Graduations and a Wedding.” It’s 29 July 1966, and Adicia, her sisters, and their friends are getting ready for Allen and Lenore’s wedding. They’re gathered in the dressing room of Father and Mrs. Murphy’s church in Midtown, the Episcopal Church of Christ Our Friend and Savior. I’ve included the processional music.

***

“Isn’t it nice to be a girl?” Adicia asks as they’re changing into their dresses. “The guys in the wedding party don’t get to wear pretty dresses and have their hair done all special.  All they’re doing is putting on suits.”

“We get our own special entrance too,” Justine says. “The guys are only entering by a side door and don’t even get their own special march up the aisle.”

Ernestine, Lucine, and Emeline start doing their makeup after they’ve put on their dresses.  Adicia looks at them wistfully, wishing she were old enough to wear makeup, while Girl cares less to put any on in spite of being fourteen.

“Why are you putting on makeup, Lenore?” Baby asks. “Allen says he likes you just the way you already look, with no makeup.”

“Makeup shows up better in pictures, and it’s fun to wear it on special occasions.  I’m not anti-makeup, just that I was never that interested in caking it all over my face to try to look prettier.”

“Can I wear a little too, just this once?” Adicia begs as Lenore puts on green eyeshadow. “I don’t wanna look like a little kid in the photos when I’m twelve.”

“You can take the stuff I’m supposed to wear,” Girl says.

“You have to put on makeup, Girl,” Ernestine pleads. “How can a teenage bridesmaid not wear any?”

“I cracked about wanting to wear a girly dress.  I ain’t cracking about the makeup.”

“Just this once?” Julie asks. “I’d like to wear makeup too.”

Adicia fiddles with the lapis lazuli bracelet she got as her bridesmaid gift. “We don’t have to look like girls of ill repute if we wear a little makeup.  I am going into junior high in the fall.”

“Okay, I’ll help you,” Lucine says. “I have blue eyeshadow for Adicia and a pale plum shade for Julie, to match your dresses.  You can wear a little lipstick too.”

“Your hair is pretty, Lenore,” Baby says. “I’ve never seen you wearing it up before.  It looks a lot nicer in that up style than that horrible beehive thing Gemma wears her hair up in.”

“Don’t say that to Gemma’s face when you see her today,” Lucine warns. “I think the beehive thing is heinous too, but I won’t tell her.  She’s always been about the latest fashions and won’t change her mind if someone tells her her hair or clothes look stupid.”

“I feel like a clown,” Girl complains when Emeline comes over and starts putting lipstick on her. “I’ll never wear this junk again after today.”

“I’m not really into makeup myself, but it’s nice to play dress-up once in awhile,” Emeline says.

Twenty minutes later, Infant goes to the door and peeks out toward the hall.  She can see the guests starting to arrive.  Gemma and the van Niftriks are among them.  When it looks as though everyone is in the church and seated, the cheerful trilling strains of Handel’s “Water Music” start to fill the air.

“It must be time to line up!” Ernestine says nervously. “Does everyone remember her place?”

“Take your bouquets,” Lucine reminds them. “It doesn’t matter which one, since they’re all identical except Lenore’s.”

Adicia grabs her small bouquet of baby’s breath, irises, and gladioluses and rushes to take her place second in the line.  There’s a brief moment after “Water Music” ends, and then Ernestine starts slowly walking up the aisle as they hear the starting notes of “Benedictus.” When Adicia hears the first few syllables of the word Benedictus starting, she begins her walk, remembering to make eye contact and smile.  Julie starts her processional at the word “qui,” Girl starts up at “in nomine,” Baby begins at the first repetition of “in nomine,” Infant begins at the second repetition, and Emeline makes her entrance as the maid of honor at the third “in nomine Domini.” Giovanni goes up at the final “in nomine,” and finally Justine makes her entrance as the flower girl at the final line, one final “in nomine Domini.”

Adicia smiles at them when they’re all at the altar, not only happy to be a bridesmaid at her beloved big brother’s wedding but also to have been escorted down the aisle by such a beautiful, angelic-sounding song that didn’t make her feel afraid or nervous.  A part of her almost wishes her mother would know about Allen and Lenore’s choice of music, since it wouldn’t be a bad thing if such a miserable woman and disgrace to motherhood really did have a double heart attack at the thought of her own offspring selecting a song taken from the Latin Mass and sung by two Jewish musicians.

Everyone stands up and turns when Lenore’s processional song starts.  Allen falls in love with Lenore all over again when he sees her carrying a bouquet of wildflowers, wearing makeup for the first time since he’s known her, a long lacy veil down the back of her hair, her hair worn in a soft updo, faux diamond barrettes in her hair, and wearing the ivory velvet gown with chiffon sleeves, which makes her look like a Medieval or Renaissance princess.  He doesn’t even care if the entire congregation and the wedding party see him tearing up in public.

Lenore smiles at him and joins her hands in his when she reaches the altar, handing her bouquet to Emeline.  She and the bridal party exchange smiles too before turning their attention to Father Murphy as he delivers the opening benediction.

Sweet Saturday Samples

This week’s edition of Sweet Saturday Samples is taken from Chapter 33 of Adicia’s story, “Four Graduations and a Wedding.” It’s mid-May of 1966, and everyone’s going to Long Island for oldest sister Gemma’s graduation from Hofstra. Adicia is very excited to take a bus across the Brooklyn Bridge, even more excited to ride a real train, and most excited of all to go to a real beach.

***

“Did you all bring your bathing suits?” Julie asks. “Mrs. van Niftrik took us shopping for them.  I don’t think any of us besides Ernestine has ever even gone swimming.”

“Lenore took Justine and me up to Macy’s to buy them,” Adicia says. “Mine is a pretty blue with yellow flowers, and Justine’s is pink with blue flowers.”

“Might the future Mrs. Troy be wearing a two-piece bathing suit at the beach?” Allen whispers to Lenore.

Lenore blushes. “It’s a one-piece green swimsuit with a skirt attached, so it doesn’t show off too much of my body.”

“You really didn’t have to take us with you on your beach trip to see your oldest sister,” Girl says. “Folks from our social class don’t come by that kinda dough overnight.  You’ll hafta work overtime now to get it back.”

“It’s my treat,” Allen insists. “When you grow up poor and come into a little bit of money when you’re a grownup, you wanna indulge yourself from time to time.  I still have enough set aside for the basics.”

When the bus stops in Long Island, Adicia, Justine, and Ernestine pick up their schoolbags and Ernestine’s friends pick up the pillowcases where they packed enough clothes and entertainment to last the weekend.  Allen and Lenore have packed their things in actual suitcases.  Adicia wonders if she’ll ever be able to pack her things in a suitcase, or if she’ll ever own enough things to fit in a normal-sized suitcase.

“It’s a real train!” Justine shouts when they walk up to the train station. “Just like in the old pictures I’ve seen in my schoolbooks!”

“It’s a modern train,” Allen says. “Those pictures you’ve seen were probably old-fashioned steam locomotives.  Trains have come a long way since then.”

“1966 really is our best year ever!” Adicia declares as the train comes into view. “The only way it could get better would be if Justine and I moved out of our parents’ house and back with you and Lenore!”

“Can I give you and Lenore the seashells I wanna collect?” Justine asks. “Knowing Tommy, he’d smash them and laugh in my face if he found them.”

“Of course you can, sweetie,” Lenore says. “We can even search for shells together.”

“There are also a lot of pretty rocks on the seashore,” Ernestine says. “I hear some people have a hobby of collecting rocks.”

“Can we take back any little animal friends, like hermit crabs, fish, or seahorses?” Baby asks. “I’d like a pet.”

“It’s not very nice to take strange animals away from their homes and families,” Girl says. “How would you like it if you were a hermit crab and some child on vacation kidnapped you?”

“Maybe someday we’ll have some kind of pet,” Ernestine says.

Adicia excitedly scrambles aboard.  After she, her sisters, and their friends have put their luggage in the baggage compartment above their seats, they start wandering the aisles and exploring their new surroundings.

“You might wanna keep seated,” Allen calls. “Hempstead isn’t too far from here.  It’s not like we’re going all the way out to the Hamptons.”

“Who are the Hamptons?” Baby asks.

“They’re not people,” Girl smiles. “The Hamptons are a bunch of villages on the east end of Long Island.  A lot of rich folks have beach homes there.”

“You mean we’re not allowed to wander around the train?” Infant asks sadly. “When will we ever get to take another train ride?”

“You’re not forbidden to walk around, but I think they like people, particularly kids, to stay seated,” Allen says. “Besides, with the train stopping so soon, we don’t wanna get separated.”

They reluctantly take their seats and try to compensate by people-watching and looking through the windows.  Adicia thinks Long Island’s a lot prettier than Manhattan.  The streets aren’t crowded with high-rise buildings, and the residents aren’t forced to be crammed on top of one another. People here also live in houses and have their own yards where they can grow flowers and fruit trees.

“Do you think someday we’ll have our own houses?” she asks as the train pulls into Hempstead.

“You bet,” Lenore says. “I want my kids to grow up with a yard to play in and a real house that’s all their own, not some apartment you have to share with a bunch of neighbors and pay to live in every month.”

“I’d like a mansion if I ever get enough money,” Justine says. “It’d have twenty bedrooms, so we all could live there together.”

“How are we getting to our hotel?” Girl asks. “I don’t think this city has a beach.”

“You’ll see,” Lenore says.

The depot is full of people, but Adicia manages to spot Emeline, Lucine, and Gemma in the crowd.  She and Justine run over to them, tugging the others with them.  Gemma is wearing a bouffant hairstyle and a skirt showing her knees, while Lucine and Emeline are wearing sundresses going to their mid-calves and wearing their hair long, loose, and natural as always.  Adicia thinks it looks like Gemma’s got a beehive on top of her hair and can’t understand why this is such a popular hairstyle.  Ernestine and Girl meanwhile think it’s very daring for her to show her knees, and wonder if they can start wearing skirts like that.  They’ve heard women used to be arrested for showing so much skin, and feel very lucky they’re growing up now instead of fifty or a hundred years ago.

“We’re parked a short walk from here,” Lucine says. “Gemma will take Allen, Lenore, Adicia, and Justine, I’ll take Ernestine, Julie, Girl, and Baby, and Emeline will take Boy and Infant.”

“You know how to drive?” Ernestine asks. “When did that happen?”

“When you live on the island, you need to know how to drive,” Gemma shrugs. “Lucine got driving lessons her freshman year at Hunter and got her license on her nineteenth birthday.  Emeline didn’t learn to drive yet, so you two will be going in a taxi with her.”

“You own cars?” Boy asks.

“They’re rentals,” Lucine says. “I wanted to learn to drive while I was still young enough to learn it well, and have that skill before I move outta the city.”

“We’ll be going in real cars?” Baby asks. “I’ve never ridden in a car before!”

“I rode in a police car once,” Adicia says. “Emeline, Tommy, Justine, Allen, and our mother were there too.  It was when that cop was taking us to see Carlos in the hospital after his accident.  I even got to wear a seatbelt, since I sat in the front seat.”

“These cars have seatbelts in the front seats too,” Lucine says. “You can put your luggage in the trunks.”

They all take in the fresh air as they go to the parking lot.  It’s a pity they’ll only be here over a weekend and then have to get back to reality in Manhattan, but it’s nice to get away for a little while.  Adicia tells herself that if she ever gets enough money, she’ll always take a vacation to a beach at this time of year, and stay there longer than just one weekend.  Justine, Baby, and Infant meanwhile are so overcome with excitement at the thought of staying at the seashore that they don’t even care they don’t have any beach toys to play with.  It’s enough that they’ll be going in the water and feeling the sand between their toes.

Lucine’s rental is a blue Volkswagen Beetle, and Gemma’s is a yellow Chrysler.  Boy and Infant don’t even care they’ll only be riding in a taxi, since to them a car is a car.  They try to remember their false names as they get into the cab with Emeline.  Infant is still overcome with fear at remembering how to spell her new name.  She knows the average person will probably assume she’s saying Eva with a lisp, but she’ll never be able to remember that funny Irish spelling Girl showed her.  It doesn’t make any sense to her to have three vowels in a row.

“I’m David,” Boy says. “That’s my sister Aoife.  We have two other sisters, but they’re going to our hotel in other cars.”

“Pretty name,” the driver smiles back at her. “I think you’re the first blonde Eva I’ve ever met.  All the Evas I’ve known had dark hair.”

“I’m Irish.  It’s the Irish form of Eva.  At least, I’m part Irish.  I don’t know enough about our family history to know if we’re Irish on both sides all the way back.”

“I’m not surprised.  It seems like about half the population of Manhattan is of Irish ancestry.  I have an Irish great-grandmother on my mother’s side myself.  Your older friend said she’s half French and half Belgian.”

“Our last name is Ryan,” Boy says. “ Our mother had an Irish name too.”

The girls in the other cars wave at them as the three cars pull out of the lot and start driving towards the hotel on the beach.  Justine stands up in the backseat and waves her rabbit’s paw at them too.

“That’s my best friend Justine,” Infant says. “Someone at a mission in my old neighborhood gave her that bunny at Easter when she was thirteen months old.  It’s been her friend ever since.  It’s just like in some story Emeline told us once, about some little boy who gets a stuffed rabbit for Christmas and loves it so much that it eventually turns into a real rabbit.”

The Velveteen Rabbit,” Emeline provides. “Isn’t that a beautiful story?  When someone loves you enough, even if you’re run-down and shabby-looking, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you.  You’re beautiful and real to the people who love you.”

Gemma’s car is the first to arrive at the hotel.  Adicia and Justine scramble out and gaze at the seashore, only a short distance from the hotel.  They impatiently wait for Allen and Lenore to get their luggage and go into the main office to check in, so eager are they to put on their swimsuits and head down to the beach to swim, bask in the sun, and feel the warm sand underfoot.

Sweet Saturday Samples

This week for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m featuring the end of Chapter 32 of Adicia’s story, “Wedding Preparations.” Shortly after Easter 1966, Adicia, her sisters, and their friends pay a visit to Upper East Side Beautiful Brides to find a wedding dress for Lenore and bridesmaid dresses for themselves. The owner of the salon, Mrs. Marsenko, is one of my favorite secondary characters in the book. Ever since the miserable Mrs. Troy and her unhappy daughters first marched in there in June of 1960, she’s never forgotten them, and this time she was pleasantly surprised to discover Mrs. Troy isn’t there and this is for a wedding everyone wants, not an attempted forced marriage. She appears in five chapters and the first section of the Epilogue.

***

“That first wedding dress you all liked so much is one hundred,” Mrs. Marsenko informs them as an associate starts ringing up the purchases. “The dresses for the maid of honor, bridesmaids, and flower girl are between twenty and thirty each.”

“Wow, that’s an awful lot of dough,” Baby says.

“Have we decided on the wedding dress yet, or will you need to come back to look at more?”

“Wear the first one!” Adicia insists. “Take this blue one off and try the first one on again and see if you like it more.”

“I’ll handle paying,” Emeline says, taking Lenore’s pocketbook off her arm. “Just try on the first one again and see how you feel the second time.”

Lenore follows an associate back to the dressing room while Emeline counts out the cash Allen put into Lenore’s pocketbook.  Almost his entire monthly salary is there.  Emeline marvels at how her brother has moved up in his station sufficiently enough to be able to spend so much money.

“It still seems wasteful that we can’t wear these dresses to any other events,” Ernestine says. “We’re not uptown girls who go to parties and society functions every week.  It’s like throwing money away, just so we can look nice on one day.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll be able to wear them at four other events this spring,” Lucine smiles. “We’ve got four graduations coming up in this family, and you always wear nice clothes at a graduation ceremony and party.”

“Four?” Adicia asks. “There’s my graduation from elementary school and Ernestine’s graduation from junior high.  Who else is graduating?”

“I’m graduating high school!” Emeline reminds them. “You’re all invited to the ceremony and my party in Yorkville in June.”

“And you can all come down to Hempstead in May for my college graduation,” Gemma says. “I’m in my last year at Hofstra.”

“Isn’t your school in Long Island?” Ernestine asks.

“Yes it is.  I’ll be the first person in our family to graduate from college, after I was already the first to graduate from high school six years ago.  Wish I’d been able to graduate two years ago, but the past is what it is.  My friends and I are going out to supper at a nice restaurant that day, and if you want, you can go down to onea the beaches on the island.”

“A real beach?” Justine asks. “With warm sand, pretty shells, lighthouses, and pretty blue waves?”

“I can’t wait to go to the beach!” Adicia says. “You’re a neat big sister.  You got a lot nicer since we last saw you.”

Lenore comes back out in the first dress, this time with a veil over her hair and a pair of white leather shoes with a slight thick heel.  Everyone stops to stare at her in awe.

“Now you look like even more of a bride!” Adicia says. “Please get this dress!  Allen is going to fall in love with you all over again when he sees you!”

“Who’s walking you down the aisle, by the way?” Lucine asks. “I suppose Father Murphy will escort me when I get married someday, though I don’t know if he’d be allowed to do that since he’d be performing my ceremony too.”

“Do I have to be escorted by someone?” Lenore asks. “I see it as Allen and I giving ourselves to each other, since we don’t have decent parents to give us in marriage to each other.”

“Our parents aren’t invited to the wedding,” Emeline says. “But in the meantime, are you or aren’t you gonna buy this gorgeous dress?  You look like a Medieval princess, like Ernestine said.  Allen will feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be marrying such a beautiful bride.”

“Please get this one!” Justine begs.

“Even I think it’s beautiful, and I don’t ordinarily get into alla that girly stuff,” Girl says.

“All you need is a bouquet and you’ll look like the perfect bride,” Julie says.

“You know Allen won’t be satisfied with anything but the best for his beautiful bride,” Adicia says. “All you have to do is change back into your clothes, pay for the dress, and let Mr. and Mrs. van Niftrik store it at their place so Allen won’t be able to see it till your wedding day.”

“And then we can pick up my brother and go out to eat, if you’ve got any money left,” Girl says. “I kinda wish I was a girly girl right now, since I’d love to play dress-up and look like a princess for one special day.”

Lenore looks around at the girls, then turns around to look at herself in the mirror for the umpteenth time. “It is a really beautiful dress.  I suppose I deserve a gorgeous wedding dress like this after what I’ve been through.  Okay, it’s the one.  I’ll get this dress.”

Emeline pulls out five twenty-dollar bills from Lenore’s pocketbook as she goes back with the attendant to change into her street clothes.  The younger girls are all smiles as they take their boxed dresses and sit down in the lobby to wait.

“Do you think I’ll be lucky enough to bag a nice guy of my own someday and wear a pretty dress like Lenore’s?” Adicia asks. “Surely our brother can’t be the only nice guy in the world.”

“You’re a pretty girl,” Emeline says. “I’m sure any nice boy would love to be your fellow when you’re old enough.  And even if you have to wait awhile, there’s no shame in being a dark horse.  You’ll just find your fellow later than most girls, and when no one expects it.”

“What’s a dark horse?”

“Like an underdog. The one no one expects to win the race, the one everyone underestimates.  I guess all of us Troys are like that, at least all of us except Carlos and Tommy.  No one ever expected us to come up in society and do as well as we have.  Gemma’s graduating from college, Allen graduated high school and got a cake job in a nice neighborhood, Lucine’s in college, I’m gonna graduate high school, Ernestine’s going to high school in the fall, in a nice neighborhood, and I’m sure you and Justine will do well for yourselves too.”

“So it’s like someone who sneaks up on the other horses and wins at the last minute?”

“Yes, the one no one pays much attention to ‘cause they think he’s of no account anyway.  I think it’s good in a way that we’re a family of such dark horses, since we’ll get an even better last laugh on the people who made fun of us all these years.  They won’t even see it coming when we make good.”

Sweet Saturday Samples

This week’s installment for Sweet Saturday Samples is the opening of Chapter 31 of Adicia’s story, “A New Year Full of Hope.” This is one of the shortest chapters, and it was really cute and fun to write.

***

“You are not,” Julie insists. “You are not going to call up the radio station with the van Niftriks’ phone and ask them to play a Beatles’ song with your name in it.  The disc jockey would either think you were joking or wonder where your parents are and try to get them arrested for not giving you a proper name.”

It’s the first day of 1966, a Saturday, and Adicia, Justine, Ernestine and her friends, and Betsy are sitting around in Betsy’s apartment, having snacks, and playing records while Mr. and Mrs. van Niftrik are out visiting friends for the New Year’s celebration.  Girl has been beside herself with excitement since they all got their own copies of Rubber Soul for Christmas and found a song called “Girl” on side two, sung by John, her favorite Beatle.

“It’s my name, ain’t it?  I’m proud of my name.  I know it might not be my name forever, since I’ll be a woman eventually and it’d seem silly for a woman to go by Girl, but it’s my name now.  Why can’t I ask that my special song be played on the radio just for me, as a cool treat for the New Year?”

“I like the song and all, but it’s not exactly about the nicest girl in the world,” Ernestine says. “The girl in the song is really mean to him.”

“Why don’t you lie and say your name is Michelle, if you really want the disc jockey to play a new Beatles’ song with a girl’s name in it?” Julie asks.

Girl laughs. “How many Michelles have you ever known?  It might be more common in France, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it on a girl here.  If it does ever get more common, you can bet it’ll be onea those names that gets really popular all of a sudden and then probably seems old hat in another generation or two.  Take your mother’s name.  Didn’t you say it was Susan?  That name’s so popular among girls our age right now that you can’t throw a stick without hitting five of ‘em.”

“My mommy’s name was Suzanne.”

“I like that name,” Justine says. “Our next door neighbor Mrs. Doyle told us her real name is Suzanne.  I think it has more personality than Susan, even if it does sound almost the same.”

“You got your neighbor to tell you her real name?” Baby asks in surprise. “I thought it was supposed to be rude to ask a grownup her real name.”

“We were looking at her engagement ring in the candlelight during the blackout, and it was inscribed on the inside with her and her husband’s initials and the date they got engaged,” Adicia says. “So we asked what they stood for.”

“What are your parents’ real names, Betsy?” Julie asks. “I guess grownups really do have their own names they use when they’re with other grownups.  I know in some places, all grownups call each other Mr. and Mrs. even when there are no kids around, but I don’t think we live in a place like that.”

“My mom’s name is Gloria Ruth, and my dad’s name is Arthur Lawrence.  My mom’s maiden name was Reinders.  That’s a Dutch name too.”

“Is your real name Betsy?” Infant asks. “I mean, is it short for Elizabeth?”

“Just Betsy.  My parents must’ve liked how it sounded on its own.  Not all nicknames work by themselves or sound grownup when you get older.  Did you ever think of what name you might like for yourself when you get older and might need a true name?”

“I never thought about that.  I’m only going on seven.  I won’t need a grownup name for a long time.”

“I think I can get away with being called Baby forever,” Baby says. “At least that sounds like a respectful nickname for someone.  And your mother once said there’s a French name that sounds like Baby, some name a couple of actresses from the olden days had.”

“Bebe,” Girl supplies as she inches closer to the phone. “I remember one of the women at the squat saying there was an actress named Bebe Daniels that she really liked.  She said she also got the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Truman for her war efforts.  I’d assume she and those other famous Bebes were going by nicknames, though, since it just means ‘baby’ in French.” She raises the receiver from the hook.

“You’re not really doing it,” Ernestine protests.

“I have the number memorized from how many times they announce it on the air for folks who wanna make requests,” Girl brags as she begins dialing.

“What if Betsy’s parents get mad at an extra charge on their phone bill?” Boy asks.

“I’m so glad we don’t need to talk to an operator and ask to be connected anymore when we place phonecalls,” Girl says as she waits for the disc jockey to pick up. “No more middlewoman.”

The other children sit back in suspense as they hear someone responding on the other end of the line.  She surely can’t be so stupid as to publicly admit on the air that her name is actually Girl, and thus invite a lot of questions about her parents and maybe even birth.  None of the Ryans have birth certificates, not having been born in the hospital or even attended by a midwife. Their parents knew they could never get away with it if they put down the names Girl, Boy, Baby, and Infant, and admitted they hadn’t been born with any qualified birth attendants in sight.

“Hi.  My name is Colleen Ryan, and I’m calling to request my new favorite Beatles’ song, ‘Girl.’  I like it so much ‘cause it’s sung by John, my favorite, and my name means ‘Girl’ in English.  I like to pretend he’s singing to me when I hear it, even though I know the girl in the song isn’t so nice.”

“Your wish is my command, Miss Ryan,” the disc jockey tells her.

Girl smiles at them after she hangs up. “See?  I told yous guys I could pull it off.  You just have to know how to say the right things, use proper English, make up a convincing story.”

“Where’d you dig up the name Colleen?” Julie asks. “Does it really mean ‘girl’?”

“Yup.  No one in Ireland would use it, of course, but Irish-Americans who don’t know jack about our language or heritage don’t balk at using it.”

“Maybe you should really pick an Irish name when you have to get a legit name,” Adicia suggests as they hear the disc jockey starting to announce the request on the air. “It’s nice to have a name that shows off where your ancestors came from.”

Girl sits back with her eyes closed dreamily as the radio plays “Girl.” Julie, Ernestine, Betsy, and Adicia like the song too, but still wonder why in the world she’d enjoy having her name in it so much when the lyrics describe a girl who makes her boyfriend feel so poorly and uses guilt to keep him around every time he tries to break up.  None of them would ever dare treat a man who loved them so meanly.  They’d be too happy just to find a guy to like them and treat them special that they’d never mistreat him or take him for granted, unless of course he were some abusive creep like Francesco.  Adicia hopes there are more than a few guys in the world like her big brother Allen or Mr. Doyle and Mr. van Niftrik, and that not all men are as grotesque as Francesco, Carlos, Jacob, Julie or Lenore’s fathers, or her own father.