Father said, “if, and when that comes to light, we will address it. In the meantime, it’s good to have dreams and goals. Face it, our lot dreams of the good life and money, and making more money. If Martina wants to fantasize about college life, I say let her. She’s fairly intelligent and frankly, I think it would be good to see her try. She will fail of course, and when she does, she will, as you say, have a better appreciation of her social standing and its importance.”
Mother stood up and slammed her hand down on the table. “I forbid this nonsense!” Father said, “you will not forbid it. You must forgive my vulgarity, but Martina is our only child, and if she wishes to briefly see the world through fecal-colored glasses as it were, she has the right.”
“You have to remember, there are princes and princesses who go to land mine sites and visit war-torn countries, all in the name of good-will. They do it, and still retain their prestigious status.”
“And one more thing. This is Martina’s home. If she wishes to have Callie visit, you will welcome her without qualification or prejudice. Do you understand? The harder you try to push her away, the closer you are going to pull Martina toward her. It’s human nature. Now tell me that you understand, and then go talk to Martina.”
Mother went to Martina’s room but before she said anything, Martina stood up and said, “I am not going to listen to a lecture, mother. You can posture all you like about how Callie isn’t good enough, and her parents aren’t rich enough, and cleaning toilets is gutter work. We’re never going to be on the same page as far as what you perceive as an appropriate acquaintance. We’re not even reading the same book, but Callie is my friend, and you will not tell me who my friends can and cannot be.”
Mother crossed her arms and said, “are you finished?” Somewhat fearing what her mother would do in response to her unexpected, bold statements, Martina quietly said, “yes.”
Mother said, “good. I was actually going to apologize and tell you that Callie is welcome here any time she wishes to visit. I was wrong, and I probably need to try to be a little more sensitive to you and your needs. I never want to say things out of anger, although it may seem so. I just want the best for you.”
“I understand,” Martina said. “But what you think is best for me is really what’s best for you. Being seen with a girl like Callie, to you, is a huge social blunder. If you would just take the time to get to know her, I think you would find that she is funny, kind, smart and wants a better life than her parents have. She may be a bit unconventional but she’s the only person who has ever treated me like I was more than just ‘the rich girl’ and I don’t think she gives a whit about my ‘social standing’. She’s never asked me for anything except to come out of my shell and see my true worth as a human being. To see that there is more to life than knowing how to sit properly, or carry on a conversation with boring people who know nothing of the real world.”
“Don’t you see, mother? She thinks I can be something special, and I want the chance to see if she’s right.”
Callie continued to come to the house, and Mr. Bradley continued to show, in his polite manner, his utter contempt. One afternoon, mother again strolled into the parlor. She sat down and smiled as she said, “Callie, dear. Tell me a bit more about your people.”
Cool as a cucumber, Callie said, “as I said, my father works at a convenience store. My mother works at a motel, and I find it truly remarkable that they were able to come so far in life.”
Mother, a little confused, asked what she meant.
“Well,” Callie said with a delightfully devilishly twinkle in her eye, “as soon as my father was paroled, he walked into that convenience store, and was hired on the spot. I think people find him irresistibly charming. And when my mother became a bit too old to turn tricks anymore, she was able to land that prestigious job at the hotel, and let me tell you. Not everyone can fold the corners of a bed sheet with her expertise.”
Mother, clearly not amused, said, “you remind me somewhat of my dear lamented mother-in-law. They say that she was, as I suspect are you, a bit of a rebel who balked at tradition, but she was eventually tamed. Then, unfortunately, she did something extremely rude.”
Martina, looked at her mother and asked, “what did she do?” Mother smiled and said, “she died.”
Callie being Callie, said, “you want to know what’s even more rude than dying? Not living while you’re still above ground.”
Mother said, “I imagine you are referring to Martina’s life, or what you perceive to be Martina’s life.” Callie said, “she could be someone. Don’t you see?” Mother said, “Martina IS someone. She is a member of high society.”
Callie’s voice softened to almost a whisper when she said, “yes. And she’s numb. Just like you.” Mother raised her voice and said, “who are you to come into my house and speak to me that way? And I must warn you to choose your next words very carefully.”
Callie asked, “has she ever had a skinned knee? Has she ever had a dirty face? Has she ever had a crush? Has she ever known how it feels to have a broken heart? You have a home full of butlers and maids. You have a home full of things that money can buy. Things that are mostly invisible and only get attention when they need a quick dusting. Things. That’s what Martina is. Her life will become as mundane as yours…worrying about which china to choose for dinner, or which candelabra to place in the center of the table, or which expensive silk dress she’ll wear to the next party. All she has ever known is how to just be another ‘thing’ and not everyone wants to be TAMED.”
As if dismissing everything Callie said, Mother said, “you have quite the vocabulary, Callie. Tell me, do you have unnatural feelings toward my daughter?” Callie looked at her and said, “tell me, ‘MOTHER’. Would you be asking that same question if I was a card-carrying member of the blue-blooded money club?”
Mother smiled politely, got up and left the room. Taking a page from her playbook, Callie acted as if nothing had been said.
“We need to start applying to colleges,” she said. “The National Field Archery Association Foundation is offering scholarships, but there’s only one drawback.”
“What?” asked Martina. Callie said, “it is only granted after two years in a community college, but your acceptance into a University is guaranteed as long as you have a 2.5 grade point average. I know I can beat that, and so can you. What do you think your mother and father would think about you going to a community college for a few years?”
Martina looked down and said, “father will hate it, and mother will forbid it.”
Callie said, “you will be eighteen as soon as we get out of high school. You can do whatever you want without their permission or approval. Not only will you have the right to make your own decisions, you have an obligation to yourself to at least try to be something more than just an echo of them. Isn’t that what you want?”
When Martina didn’t answer, it was suddenly and painfully clear to Callie that old tradition and money and expectations had been too ingrained into Martina. She had tasted a tiny bit of freedom in being a part of Callie’s world, but Martina had never known how to dream of what might be, or what might have been. Her world of privilege was all she had ever known and there was comfort, albeit pedestrian, in that affluent world. The outside world…Callie’s world…was too frightening for someone who didn’t even know how to make her own bed, and fear of the unknown would take Martina too far from her comfort zone, even with Callie as her muse.
When Callie gave Martina a hug, she felt a slight resistance. She seemed to instinctively know that it was a goodbye hug. Maybe not forever, but she and Martina would soon drift apart as Callie spread her wings, and Martina’s slowly fell to the ground.
To be continued_______________________