Finally, the volleyball match. Not much to say, but it introduces something my daughter wanted to put in the story: the rules of cool. We get to see Julie trying to figure out what it means to be cool. Some foreshadowing for...
My life so far, Episode 10: Ribs and Revelations
Letters : 13921 Words : 2628
Sorry for the little pause in publishing. This is a pivotal moment for the relationship between Julie and her mother. It's also an important growing up moment for her.
We dry ourselves and slowly walk to Mindy's house. Why slowly? Well, we rode our bikes, played in the pool, played pinball and were under the sun all day.
All without glancing at any clocks. We were both a little hungry, but could wait.
"You know how during summer vacations, time sort of slows down and you get to just be lazy all day long?", says Mindy.
"You mean that it's so fast that the days fly by?"
Mindy laughs. "That too. But it's like, to do everything like our 6 or 7 hours of school, the bus, homework, a shower, time to relax, and eat, we need to run all day"
"Oh, I know that"
"Well, on summer vacations, each moment is slower. Like, we might have played only one game of pinball, but we were in no hurry to finish. When we were in the pool with Lucy and Clark, how awesome was that, right?"
"Right", I admitted
"Well, at that moment, nothing was forcing us to leave early or hurry along and the only reason they left, I hope, was the stupid contact lens"
"They might have grown tired of us"
"Maybe", I said.
"So we didn't do much so far, but we did each thing taking our time."
"We did what, 5 things?", I said, counting the lunch prep, the ride, the picnic, the ride back, the time with Lucy and Clark
"Yeah, the ride, the picnic, the ride back, the pinball and the pool with them"
So, she didn't count the meal prep, where she did almost nothing, but split the pinball and the pool time? Interesting. We came up with the same number, but with a different list.
I didn't tell her. She was happy we saw things the same way.
In all cases, she returned to her original point.
"Well, here, on weekends, it's like a summer vacation. Each time. When when it's too cold to be nude outside"
"Yeah, winters must be rough"
She looks around, and lowers her voice.
"In the winter, the place is deserted, right?"
"So my parents and I put boots on, and take walks in the resort"
"We only put boots on"
"Holy shit, even on the few days when there is snow?"
"Especially. I love making nude snow angels"
"You are crazy"
"We took a winter vacation once in Vermont to cross country nude in the forest. My mom isn't a fan and dressed back up, but my father and I didn't"
"I could never do that"
"Never say never. It's reinvigorating. The lake in the winter helps a lot with blood circulation"
"You are joking, surely, you are"
"I have pictures. I'll show you".
I'll be honest, it took a while for me to see them, and until I saw them, I didn't believe her.
When we got to her house, both fathers were outside, around Peter's barbecue.
"Hey, girls, can you come here?", Peter motioned.
We walked to them.
"After supper, we'll play volleyball with another group. Just to warn you", said Peter
But Mindy decided to complain like a child.
"They can wait until later or tomorrow Mindy. I know you want to do everything at once, but you just got Julie back."
"It's not fair", she says, sulking. You both got inside and saw that Clara and my mom were busy marinating the rack, with Clara giving instructions to my mother, who was noting them in a small notebook.
I told you, this was before smartphones were very popular.
I followed Mindy, who sat on her bed. I wanted to reassure her so much, but she said she wanted some time alone.
"Just as I managed to get close to them, thanks to you, my stupid dad puts a stupid volleyball match. We'll miss them, and our change will fade away. Don't you see it?", says Mindy
"Is that so bad?", I ask, naive
"Fine, take his side. They are the cool teens. Don't you see it? I am the only one who knows that they can show us how to be popular?"
"Are they that cool?", I ask
"You weren't there this summer. Lucy got some of her friends to come here, on clothing optional day. Can you imagine how popular you have to be? And some bathed in the nude to please her. She's a queen bee at her school. I am sure of it"
"And you think she can make you popular?"
"US. not me, you and me"
I laugh at her. "Pffft. Yeah, right"
"Hey, you never know. She might have the secrets of the universe. Who knows? And Clark, I mean, come one, he is way out of her league. What a hunk!", she says, dropping on her bed.
But I don't see it. Not at all. In fact, if anything, I feel like Lucy is out of Clark's league, but maybe I say that because I don't know them as well as Mindy does.
"So do I go or do I stay with you?"
"Can you give me until supper alone to calm down, I'll be better then, but if you stay, I'll just get pumped talking to you. Sorry"
"That's okay. I'll go see what our mothers are up to"
I begin to leave, but then, Mindy talks to me.
"Julie, I want to make something very, absolutely clear between us"
My heart tightens. Did I do something wrong?
"You did nothing wrong. This is me, pissed off at my parents for filling my schedule when I was promised I could spend time with you"
"But we'll be playing volleyball together", I said
"When we could have played pinball with the coolest teens in town, trying to set a new high score. We can play volleyball anytime, but cool teens, don't normally hang out with tweens like us"
"And when I am angry, I isolate myself. You are caught in the explosion, but I'll be okay"
"I am sure you will. I'll be there when you are"
"Thanks", she says, and I leave her, closing the door behind me. I can hear her crying, but she made it clear she wanted to be alone.
I get to the kitchen. I still have my towel, but it's wet. I am not sure what to do with it.
I want to sit down at one of the barstools in front of the kitchen counter where Clara and my mom are marinating the ribs, but all I have is my wet towel.
Something must have shown, because suddenly, without saying a word, Clara picks a hand towel from a drawer, and gives it to me.
I look at her and she smiles and nods.
I put it on the stool, and try to follow their conversation.
They are merely talking about ingredients, and taste balance and other stuff going way over my head.
"You know what you are doing", said my mom.
"I sure hope so. I am a cook after all"
"Wait, you are?"
"Oh yeah. Assistant Head chef and all. I create the menu, cook during the week. I sometimes work weekends, but the boss usually does. He wants the lucrative nights and leaves me the scraps, but I don't care. I get to experiment and we make enough money between the two of us"
"Wait, so the head chef doesn't prepare the menu?", asked my mom
"Heck no. He is way too lazy", Clara says, laughing
"I was a sous-chef a long time ago. My father was a chef"
"Oh, right. I remember. I was still studying. I used to be a secretary, but I didn't like it."
My mother laughs.
"You were a secretary, and made assistant chef, and I was a chef's daughter and couldn't cut it"
"Hey, sous-chef is really hard. I almost didn't make it. Didn't your father tell you?"
"I think he forgot his roots"
Now it's Clara who laughs
"If he's anything like my boss, I would see it. It's his third restaurant in town. Can you believe it? Each time, he gets an investor to pay the opening cost of the restaurant, he stays in business for a few years, closes, and opens a new one with a new sucker, transferring only the employees he likes. I was hired on his second one, and got promoted as his assistant on the current one."
"That must be stressful"
"Oh yeah, I spotted him recently looking at a newly closed Italian place and he wants to visit it. I think he is about to open his fourth one and close his, making his partner lose a boatload of money"
"But why not just fight to stay open?"
"Have you seen the town? Each new restaurant is smaller than the previous one. We are in a downwind spiral. "
"Yeah, we've seen that. We make more money only because we can rent our two most recent warehouses for so cheap"
"Wait", I asked my mom. "We have two warehouses?"
"Oh, sorry, we don't talk to you about the business, but you are growing up. Maybe we should. We have five warehouses in town, two of which are so cheap, we are considering closing our original one even if it means paying to move our inventory"
"We have that much?", I said.
"We buy in bulk, import it, and then slowly sell it over months or years. Don't worry about us, kiddo, we are doing ok. "
"Could I visit one of the warehouses to see?"
"What?", I say
"No windows, so we can work in it nude"
I look at her, and he is smiling.
"You do?", says Clara.
"Sometimes. Mainly when doing inventory. When actually moving stuff, we need our own equipment. Hey, we have forklifts, you are too young officially to operate it, but maybe we have fun riding them in an empty part? What do you say, kiddo?"
"I could ride a forklift?", I said, with wide eyes
"Slowly, and with me or dad with you, but yeah"
I pumped my fist saying "Awesome", and putting a smile on my face
"You'll have her offering to work in the warehouse in no time"
"In this state, she's too you to drive the forklift, but she could help with inventory"
"Is it that complicated?", Clara says
"No, but it's boring to us. I mean, our accountant makes us do it, even if nothing ever went missing or in surplus"
"We are always missing stuff in the kitchen"
"I know! But sometimes it's miscommunication, a sous-chef hiding they burned something or the jerk owner not noting that he made a meal for his mistress", says my mother.
"My boss does the same! And his wife loves him. I think he just wants to feel powerful seeing younger women"
My mom seemed to forget I was there, for she said.
"I think Enzo hired me so I would be his next one, but when he realized I wouldn't put up, I got stuck as sous-chef, with no opportunities to rise"
"Wait, Enzo Carpinello?", says Clara, stunned
"He's my boss!"
"Get out of here. What are the odds!", says my mom
"Actually, pretty good, he is the only one trying to open sit down restaurants. Everything else is pizza parlors and fast food chains"
"And diners", added my mom
"Right. If you want to cook veal, or risottos, you need to work for Enzo"
"And you made it?"
"I guess. Did he fire you?"
"The restaurant closed"
"Right, his first swap. I think only Carmine survived it"
My mom laughed. "Oh my God, Carmine was his mistress then"
"Oh, that explains their fight then. Wow. I took her place. In the kitchen, not in his bed, you know?"
"I think they actually did it in the kitchen most of the time".
Wow, my mom talking gossip about sex? In front of me?
"He never tried to take advantage of me", says Clara.
"You never seemed weak to me. I think Enzo was a predator", says my mom.
"He still is. But he needs me. He is losing it. I fear he won't be able to make his next swap and I'll lose my job", says Clara, sad. My mother put her hand on her shoulder, and Clara hugged her, crying.
Like I said, the restaurant did close, and instead of Enzo opening his 4th restaurant, his partner, who was supposed to be scammed, opened a new restaurant, importing a new head chef from out of town and re-hiring most of his crew. Until it couldn't survive either.
"Can I ask you a stupid personal question. Perhaps away from Julie?", asks Clara, still crying a little.
"Unless it's intimate, in which case I probably won't answer anyway, ask away. I am now trying to be wide open with my daughter. The years of lying are behind me", she says, looking at me, and smiling.
I mouth, "Thank you" to her.
You have no idea how good I felt at that moment. I wasn't a woman physically yet, but I was treated like an adult. I felt respected.
"No, sorry, I shouldn't ask. Peter said not to say anything. It's none of our business"
"Clara, we used to be good friends, and our daughters were best friends. Spill it. I can't imagine you asking anything I would be ashamed of"
But Clara cries some more.
"Spill it Clara, is it about Enzo?"
"Your son. It's about your son"
My mom suddenly looks stunned and white. And I just jumped out of my seat.
"I have a brother?"
My mother took a deep breath.
"No, Julie You don't. I lost him", she says, crying. This time, it's Clara who hugged her, but I took the queue and joined them. It felt appropriate.
How do you lose a son? Did he go missing?
"I am so sorry Kylie, I shouldn't have asked"
"It was a miscarriage. Third semester, not viable."
So my mother was pregnant, and lost my brother?
"Oh, that was after you stopped coming"
"Two weeks later. For years, I thought it was the stress, but my doctor reminded me that it just happens. Not to worry about it. That sometimes it's just bad luck"
The hug ended and I returned to my seat.
"But you didn't try again?"
"We didn't try then. He was a happy accident. Our business hadn't picked up, so we were trying to just have the little bug there", she said, smiling at me. I smiled back. Calling me her little bug went on forever, but lately, because of my attitude, it had stopped.
She still calls me her little bug sometimes.
"Yeah, we knew we couldn't afford a second one.", says Clara.
"It's tough raising kids", says my mom.
"Amen to that!"
Mindy came out of her room, in a better mood, soon after, but the adult conversation had come and gone. By the time she joined us, the crying was over, the personal sharing was done and the "adult" moment had passed.
This talk was very formative for me. It helped me grasp what being an adult was about, how empathy could be expressed and how, well, to treat other people. To confide in your problems.
Kids often laugh at the misfortune of others, but that day, I learned that you can open up to a friend without being humiliated. I'd say that a big portion of my shyness evaporated that day. Oh, people didn't see much difference because I still picked who I would talk to. But now, it was because I would choose, not because I was just scared.
Parents, don't hesitate to talk to your kids.