Callie looked at the huge Grandfather Clock in the corner of the massive room and said, “holy shitballs! Look at the time. Can you get Jeeves to call the driver to take me home?” Martina laughed at Callies’ colorful language and then smiled and said, “his name is Mr. Bradley, and he will get cross if you don’t call him that.”
Callie laughed and said, “I know. But isn’t it fun to kind of stir the pot? People don’t have to be so serious all the time. They need to live a little. They need to break the rules now and then. They need to be playful once in a while. When we’re old, there will be time to be all formal and goody-goody, but when you’re young, you should act young. Believe me, one day our youth is going to disappear like boiling water in a tea kettle, and we don’t want wake up one day and ask ourselves where all those years have gone.”
It wasn’t long before Callie became a regular fixture at the Hamilton house, and it was almost a month before Martinas’ mother happened to walk through the parlor when she was there.
Martina stood up and said, “mother, I would like to introduce you to my friend, Callie Streeter.” Martinas’ mother looked Callie up and down as if she was approving the new kitchen maid, and Martina could see the disapproval in her eyes. When Callie mockingly curtsied, her mothers’ eyes were full of disdain.
In a haughty voice her mother said, “charmed, I’m sure,” then quickly turned to Martina. “Please tell your friend that she must excuse us now. We’re having visitors tonight and you must get ready.” In surprising defiance, Martina said, “mother, she is not deaf.”
After an angry gaze, her mother left the room. Martina said, “you have to overlook her. She’s a bit staid and a lot snobbish.”
“You think?” Callie said. “Quick. Call Jeeves and tell him to take your mother a drink.” When Martina asked what she meant, Callie said, “she needs something to loosen up that bug she has stuck up her butt.” Martina said, “you mustn’t speak that way about mother. She can’t help the way she is.”
Callie said, “that’s just it. She could if she wanted to, but she chooses not to. You have to get it into your head that you don’t have to live like that. You don’t have to be her clone.”
That night at dinner, Martina’s mother took her aside and asked about, as she put it, “that Callie person.” Martina said, “she’s my friend. Actually, she’s my only friend.” Martina’s mother curtly said, “you don’t need friends, and you certainly don’t need that kind of friend.”
Martina showed a resistance that her mother had never seen when she raised her voice and asked, “what do you mean…that kind of friend? Do you mean because she’s not like us?”
Martina’s mother asked, “where does she live?” Martina said she didn’t know. “What do her parents do for a living?” Again, Martina answered that she didn’t know. She said she only knew that they both worked. Martina’s mother said, “I’ll have to speak with your father about this.”
“Why?” Martina asked. Mother said, “obviously the only reason this urchin is being your friend is because your parents are wealthy. She’s not one of us and that should be obvious.”
“What I see,” said Martina, “is a girl who has befriended me and speaks not of wealth, but of dreams and possibilities, and the future. She speaks of wanting to go to college, and she wants me to go with her.”
“Oh, I see,” said her mother. “And who is going to foot the bill for this elusive college education you both seek?” Martina said, “Callie is smart and she makes good grades. She’s working hard to get scholarships.”
Martina’s mother smiled wryly and said, “and I imagine she is hoping for quite a large “scholarship” to come from the Hamiltons, which I can assure you will not happen. You will not have her over anymore, and you will end this inappropriate friendship.”
Martina, again raising her voice said, “I won’t.” Her mother said, “you will, and there will be no further discussion.”
Martina decided to plead her case to her father. He had always been a bit more accepting than her mother, but he was still capable of being a bit “uppity.” She also knew that it would annoy her mother if she “went around her,” but her mother was placid, and all but disappeared around her father.
Her plan worked. Her father told her to invite Callie for Friday night dinner. Martina wasn’t sure if her mother had mentioned Callie to her father, but she intended to have Callie capture her father’s affection with her quick wit and indubitable charm.
When Callie arrived, Mr. Bradley, obviously bewildered at the prospect of this young, fiery girl supping at the dining table with the Hamiltons, hesitantly ushered her in.
While dining on delicacies that Callie had only read about in novels such as “The Great Gatsby,” the conversation shifted to her.
Father said, “I don’t believe I’ve heard of the Streeters. Where exactly do you live, Callie?” Callie, with no detectable shame said, “I live in the Edgewater Knoll Apartments. To be exact, I live in Unit C, number 38.”
Clearing her throat, mother gave Martina a look that could only be interpreted as an, “I told you she was trash,” look.
When Martina’s father asked about Callie’s parent’s profession, Callie, with the same nonchalance said, “my father works at a convenience store, and my mother works at a motel, you know, scrubbing toilets and making beds.”
The silence in the room was deafening, save the slight metallic sound of silverware suddenly being put to rest at four o’clock on the plates.
Martina’s father stood up, told Callie it was a pleasure to meet her, and motioned for Mr. Bradley. “Please have Mr. Morton bring the car around to take Miss Callie home,” he said.
Martina walked down the long hallway with Callie, and apologized for the way her parents had treated her. Callie said, “do you think this is the first time anyone has tried to make me feel less than them? That doesn’t bother me. I’d like to think that I’m better than one of those little lizards we see running around everywhere, but I’m not sure I am. They’re in their place and I’m in mine. The difference between people like your parents and me, is that just because I think I’m better than one of those little lizards, doesn’t mean I would stomp on them.”
Martina said, “my parents don’t want us to be friends anymore.” Callie said, “yeah. I got that impression, but you have to decide. Do you want to be like them, or do you want to spread your wings? Between you and me, I’m not going to settle for life among the lizards.”
After Callie left, Martina overheard her mother ask her father how he could possibly consider allowing Martina to be friends with such a low-class creature? “I mean, this Callie person may be a nice girl,” she said, “but she’s no better than trailer trash. Really. Her father works at a convenience store, and her mother scrubs toilets? How much further down the food chain can you possibly get?”
Martina’s father said, “you’re being a little harsh, don’t you think? Not everyone was born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and Martina needs to be somewhat exposed to regular people. Besides, this is her last year of school, and this unsuitable misalliance will soon have run its course.”
Mother angrily said, “I raised Martina to be proper and appreciative of her social standing, and this girl is filling her head with notions of unreasonably unobtainable things like…a college education. How ridiculously selfish is that?”
Father said, “College?”
“Yes. College!” Mother said. “You know the only reason this girl has latched onto Martina is because she is smelling money. She comes from nothing. She is nothing. She will always be nothing, and she thinks that if she ingratiates herself to Martina with her grand notions, we’ll foot the bill. Like I said, ridiculously selfish.”
Father said, “I don’t think it’s ridiculous, nor do I think it is selfish, and who mentioned ‘footing the bill’? Did Martina or Callie ask for money?” Mother said, “no. Not yet, but I feel it will be forthcoming.”
To be continued_______________________