Excerpts for After the Kiss


Camille

new house #6

pulling in the driveway all you can think is that this is the kind of house they were trying to duplicate back in charlotte: the real southern living deal--a big beautiful old (but newly renovated) house in an area they are calling the virginia highlands, with no hills to be seen and two states separated from virginia. there are brick-based columns across the wide front porch and a real swing and deep white rockers next to huge pots--vats really--full of what you are sure will be hydrangeas come springtime. it's so stereotypical south (and so very, very far from the noisy cold of chicago) that you want to laugh, but inside the floors are real, dark, smooth, polished aged wood--not parquet like in dc or tile like in houston--and the rugs are just as lush as in the sf penthouse. there are no long hallways to slide down in your socks like the chicago apartment, but rooms leading onto rooms opening into other rooms like a russian treasure box or an alice in wonderland maze. you cannot believe how much space there is here: wide-wide everything so wide. how your dad's company finds these places and what they pay for you to live in them you still can't get dad to answer, but you are grateful and astonished every time. this will never be your real home, but it (like the last one, and the one before that) is certainly beautiful, and you know your new friends will (like always) be jealous of where you live, can already hear them (whoever they are) saying i wish i could be you in that gushing-awed way that leaves you cold, because no one ever wants the thrown-around rag doll with the threadbare smile. no one wants to be a girl who's picked out her own embroidered heart, string by string, and left it for the birds to tangle in their nests.

new homeroom #5

the eyes have it. seventeen pairs of them already turning as you come through the door. you could be argus great defender of juno with all the eyes you have, the eyes you've collected from all these new homerooms, these new schools, these new doorways you're always having to step through. you always wonder what you really look like to them, wonder what it would be to see out of all those different eyeballs ogling--green hazel blue brown brown flecked green--to get a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of yourself: forever always repeating only the surface and never having to look further in.

new french teacher #3

is a man this time which interests you because usually they are the same type of used-up-looking woman: a woman in a floral-print skirt with espadrilles or else dansko sandals, with pale skin that is smooth and soft-looking but also thinning and with its own share of wrinkles (sometimes about the eyes, sometimes about the mouth, always the furrow between the brows), blue eyes usually and long or short hair it doesn't matter it is always dark and shot with gray. (and if she is blond, she doesn't have fun.) but no today you walk in (the eyes all upon you) and you are bonjoured to your seat by a (blue-eyed, dark-haired, bearded) monsieur. tall and smiling (with wrinkling hands and pink but thinning cheeks) in his floral tie, he welcomes you with a nod and asks en francaise how comfortable are you with the language and when you answer back with your prepared little speech about reading camus in the original french this summer on your own for fun you see the same little glance of delight you always get with teachers: like a boy with a marzipan frog that has just leaped to life.

the sunshine girl

new-school day so far pretty smooth. there have been plenty of curious stares but no one's snickered or snubbed, which you take as a good sign. two seconds into your third period though and the bright blonde in front of you whips around, sticks out her hand like a company CEO and chirps, hey i'm ellen. this class is awesome. there's a waiting list so it's amazing you got in. you're going to love it. you hear yourself tell her your name is camille, you just moved from chicago, and then there's something in the way she's said it--something in her bright frankness--that just by looking at her yachting good looks and her hemp-bead bracelets you know that she's right--that you will love this class, and not just because it's about mid-twentieth-century literature. by the time the teacher starts, you have programmed each other's numbers. by the time class is over, she has her arm linked in yours and is showing you the best shortcut, explaining what to expect from the rest of your schedule, saying it's weird you're the new girl in their final semester, but that everyone will love you. that you're going to have fun. by the time the day is over, you have plans for the weekend, and--somehow--with nothing like the herculean efforts required in chicago, the role of atlanta bff is--just like that--filled.

on being the new girl: atlanta rules

it's not a bad thing that mom aims for smarts, beauty, and popularity in you. be glad for private school and advanced classes and intelligent teachers and the lack of neanderthalism in general. volunteer after school like last time. keep up the appearance, too. as was the case in sf and chicago, being good-looking still makes everyone want to know who you are, which means, at least, you don't have to eat by yourself, and you have something to do on weekends.

interchangeable friends: from chicago to atlanta

bff roxy becomes bff ellen. paula and gregor become jessica and flip. mrs. haskell is mrs. capriola and mr. fenway is ms. clary, for sure. betsy is autumn and olive is now connor. there's a gracen to avoid instead of a stephanie to sidestep, but also look out for bryce and her flock of straight-hairs. dorie and willow are eager to include you just like molly and lucy. sam-paul-jordan-ted in photography class are just like whatever-their-names-were--football guys, enough said. and though it's not like you're looking, he-who-shall-not-be-named is still neither duplicated nor replaced, because there will never (you are certain you will make sure of it) be somebody like him again.

© 2010 Terra Elan McVoy

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