Diva Dismayed 14

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Diva Dismayed: Chapter 14 – When is a date…
Sure enough, the following morning, after a somewhat restless night for me, we set off for my ex-fiancé’s house. On the well-tried principle that knowing I was well-dressed would bolster my confidence, I took longer than usual to get ready. It also served to delay the evil hour of an encounter which I didn’t relish in the least. I’d brought with me the dress I’d worn to my last medical appointment. It was my current favourite so I felt it was a good choice for today’s visit.

“Will she be expecting us?” I asked anxiously. I really didn’t fancy the interview ahead of me at all.

My parent was seemingly unfazed by the prospect ahead of us and could make light of it. “No! And you should be glad about that. It will mean you have the element of surprise!”

The maid who answered the door was a stranger to me. Evidently she was Maria’s replacement. There was a lengthy wait and I began to wonder if we would not be admitted. I’d screwed my courage up for the ordeal and started to entertain feelings of disappointment which alternated with those of relief. After the delay we were shown into my ex’s stylish drawing room. I looked around at my well-remembered surroundings. The thought that I might have been able to call this sumptuous house mine, in name at least, didn’t afford me any regrets. It would have come at too high a price.

Madeleine rose and greeted us rather stiffly, but I was prepared for that.

“We have called to apologise” began my parent. “Jennifer has something she would like to say to you.”

I took the lead directly. “Madeleine, I want you to know that I feel very bad about running away like I did. The way I broke off our engagement was inconsiderate. I’m ashamed that I could be so unfeeling when you have always been so kind to me. I hope that one day you can be generous enough to forgive me.”
I’d rehearsed this little speech in my head beforehand, but I meant every word nonetheless. I waited miserably for my intended spouse’s response.

The attitude Madeleine chose to adopt had less honesty and openness than I was hoping for. Perhaps I had been expecting too much but her reply didn’t augur well for the outcome of our visit. “My dear, you mustn’t reproach yourself. Feeling the repugnance you clearly do for me and, blossoming into loveliness as you are, why would you be bothered with a worn-out old creature like myself?”

Unfortunately, today her words tallied with her appearance all too well. Without advance warning of our visit the woman was ill=prepared for once. She actually looked dowdy although observing that didn’t help me in finding a suitable reply. It would have been impolite to agree with her and also counter-productive if there was to be any sort of reconciliation between us.

The reality was that before today I had viewed Madeleine as a style icon and now was startled by the change in her. She was wearing a black silk camisole under a striped pant suit, but the latter seemed shapeless and the former did nothing to support her bust which in the absence of a bra sagged unflatteringly downwards. She was adorned with a quantity of jewellery which was too flashy to be tasteful at that time of day. Her hair was styled as it always had been but, though I used to be fascinated by the way it cascaded luxuriantly over her shoulder, the style was too young for her. I began to wonder what I had ever found remarkable or attractive in her.
I stood there, uncomfortable and wondering what to say, when fortunately my mother intervened. She was not to be outdone in courtesy, sincere or otherwise. “Madeleine dear, don’t speak in such a way. It goes without saying that both Jennifer and myself always hold you up as completely à la mode with a degree of stylishness that few can approach. Please remember how young and inexperienced my child is. How she has behaved has been reprehensible but please make an allowance for her years, or I should say, her lack of them.”

While the offended party didn’t appear to be mollified by these honeyed words, at least she seemed prepared to listen. Mom continued. “Over the next few years the girl has important decisions ahead of her. As you realise, her situation is quite unusual and the life choices she is faced with will have drastic implications for her adulthood.”

Madeleine inclined her head attentively and seemed to thaw a little.

“Perhaps when she is a little older she will be able to approach your and her relationship with greater maturity. I have always thought of you one of my closest friends. Can I impose upon that friendship and ask you to forbear and give her the space she needs? Perhaps in the meantime we can regard the engagement as on hold rather than broken?”

My intended spouse apparently softened at this suggestion. She put her hands on my shoulders and actually smiled. “Jennifer, Jennifer! You will never know how much heartache I have suffered in these past weeks. I have been so anxious about you, wondering where you were and how you were living. I worried that, delicately placed as you are, your fragile beauty might have suffered irrevocably.”

“As it is” she continued serenely “I can see that you have grown lovelier and more womanly than ever.” A gesture indicated that the manner of growth of my swelling body more than met with her approval. “Of course I can wait, though hopefully for not too many months, if you need that time. I only ask that you don’t forget me. Let us begin a regular correspondence right away.”

I found myself enfolded in an intimate embrace which I did my best to reciprocate. The suggested postponement was definitely not something I welcomed. Helpless to alter the outcome, I could only smile my as best as I was able. There was another awkward pause.

My mother’s next suggestion was aimed at easing the tension of the moment. “Of course, we can’t let you bear the financial burden of the wedding arrangements which you have incurred on behalf of Jennifer. You must allow me to repay you every cent of what it has cost.”

Knowing my mother’s resources were likely to be stretched to breaking point already, I felt horrified to hear her words. I glanced at Madeleine, half expecting that she would want “not to hear a word of this” and reject the proposal out of hand. Up to now, she had been pleased to assume the role of the rich benefactress, but there was no debate on the subject and before I knew it, Mom’s offer had been accepted. Not long afterwards we took our leave. I was treated to another lingering embrace and then after we’d made our exit, could breathe a sigh of relief.

I doubted that the fruits of this visit provided much to be pleased at. While it had ended cordially enough, I would have preferred a clean break with my ex. My mom had a more definite view. “The nerve of the woman! I cannot recall when I’ve had to put up with such an insincere display. You will not write to her if you have any sense. I can see that in future we will need to have as little to do with her as possible.”

Mom’s resolve suited me just fine, but I wondered if there might be further unwelcome consequences nonetheless.

“As to repaying her, that will take some doing. I will have to work some extra shifts, I can see.” The goal of accumulating the sum in question sounded unattainable to my horrified ears.

“I’ll help you, Mom. I’m earning good money now” I assured her.

My mother looked at me doubtfully then laughed and hugged me. “That’s sweet of you honey, but you’re supporting yourself as it is, which is a real blessing, and quite enough help. Thank-you all the same.”

Nevertheless I made a resolve there and then to do much more for her than the little she expected.

The following afternoon Rachel called to collect me as arranged. My mother had been able to pack an additional case of clothing to take back with me so I wedged it in the trunk with the rest of the luggage. It would be good to have a wider selection of clothes, especially if they included some items of an ‘everyday’ more practical nature. It might mean that I need not be continually overdressed, if I so chose. The parting wasn’t easy and neither Mom’s eyes nor mine were dry. Tom, naturally, rolled his own upwards at this display of feminine emotion, but I was surprised and amused to get a quick hug and peck on the cheek even from him, accompanied by his use of my femme name. “’Bye, Jennifer.” That was a first!

The following day I was waiting in line at the bus stop as patiently as I could. A grey overcast filled the sky, I’d had a busy time at the salon and my feet were sore. I couldn’t wait to get out of my shoes. My mind had drifted far away when a screech of brakes and a beep on a horn brought me back to reality with a jerk. I turned to see a bright red pick-up which had stopped at the kerbside a few yards further down the road. Hanging out of the window was a male figure, waving and wearing a familiar grin. Harvey!

“Jennifer! Want a ride?” he yelled.

The other folk at the stop immediately turned and stared at me. I found myself blushing in confusion. What could be the reason for that, I wonder?

Gathering my wits, I eagerly nodded my acceptance and ran towards the vehicle, smiling all over my face. Simply to be out of public scrutiny would be a relief.
I pulled the door open and hastened to get in, remembering at the last minute to park my butt on the seat and neatly swivel my legs inside in an attempt to display the most ladylike manner. Yes I know, but little things count! If you are going to do something you might as well go all the way. My spirits lifted immediately. After a long day at work it was a real treat to get a ride home, and especially with a good friend. We could have a cosy chat all the way.

Harvey, however, was a little tongue-tied at first and it took a while for our conversation to get going.

“Been busy today?” I asked, just for something to say.

“Oh, I’m always busy. If I’m not delivering laundry there’s always something that needs moving somewhere.”

“I can see you’re much in demand” I encouraged.

“That’s me!” he laughed.

“Does it pay well?”

“I get by. You might think my job at the hospital is not a great career choice right now, but in time I want to start my own business. I plan to have a bunch of guys doing all the hard work while I sit back and rake in the dough!”

More laughter, then another lull in our talk ensued. This time my driver broke the silence. “Have you plans, after college I mean?”

I thought for a minute. “I’ve mapped out nothing definite. I guess I might open my own salon, I don’t know. That would be the obvious choice, but I’ll have plenty of time to decide. Two whole years.”

“You’ll be eighteen, by then?”

“Yes” and thinking of my doctor’s words, “I’ll need to have made some big decisions by then.”

And how!

Just a few minutes later as we were approaching apartment block, Harvey asked the question I’d been dreading, or looking forward to, I wasn’t sure, or how I would answer if he did… ask the question, I mean.

“About that coke, would you still like to meet?”

“I don’t mind!” my attempt at feigning indifference was spoiled by the consciousness that my cheeks were burning. “Yes, okay. When?”

“How about tomorrow night, 8pm?”

Any confusion my new friend might have been feeling was ably covered by his being occupied by pulling up at the kerbside, stopping the engine and applying the parking brake. He was doing better than I at assuming a nonchalant stance. My brain seemed to have frozen!

“Okay, I guess” was all I could think to reply.

“Okay then. Looking forward to it.” Harvey alighted and held the door for me.

“Thank-you kind sir” I bobbed. After a few steps I turned and gave him a dignified wave in a lame attempt to appear calm and in control. “See you tomorrow! Bye!”


Next minute he was gone and I entered to building with my head in a whirl. Telling myself “It’s just a drink, it isn’t a date” over and over as I slowly mounted the stairs, I tried to combat the giddy feelings of joy which had overtaken me. At the very least, I knew I had to get rid of the ear-to-ear grin from across my face before I met anyone.

Get a grip, for heaven’s sake!

Before bed that night I had some decisions to make. Earlier when I’d told Rachel about the invitation, although she had been careful not to allude to my forthcoming meeting with Harvey as a date, she’d managed to impress upon me the necessity for setting the appropriate tone if we were to meet just as friends.

“What are you thinking of wearing?” was her first concern and it soon became mine. “You like to dress prettily but I’d advise nothing too romantic. That could lead to assumptions being made about your intentions.”

“But I don’t have any intentions!”

“No, but Harvey won’t know that. Smart and feminine but sensible will maintain your advantage.”


“Yes. You have the advantage of knowing that he likes you enough to want to spend time with you, whereas he won’t know what you feel about him.”

“Actually, neither will I, so that will make two of us!” I pointed out, jokingly.

Though we both laughed, the remark was based on a serious concern.

Rachel could sympathise. “You’re all mixed up over this, aren’t you? Let’s see. What do you want from Harvey?”

I shrugged helplessly.

“Well if you can’t be sure, the best thing for both of you will be to play it cool.”

Sound advice, but carrying it out might be easier said than done. I came away understanding that in the immediate term I needed to make some mature decisions regarding my choice of dress. After undressing down to my underwear, I opened my closet and took stock. Now that my wardrobe had been augmented by the contents of the additional suitcase packed up by Mom, I was treated to a much wider selection. How to begin?

I reckoned that wearing something new would provide a welcome boost for my morale so I would steer away from depending on my old favourites. I knew that my parent had been busy sewing and created a couple of new dresses so they would be the first ones to try on. The prettiest of these was an above knee frock in a delicate peach chiffon. The material swayed and floated around me when I moved. I immediately fell in love with it. It felt heavenly to be attired in something so flimsy and feminine. I danced across the room and spun myself around revelling in the way the silky fabric moved in response. The thought that the feelings which had overtaken me were strange ones for a teenage boy stopped me in my tracks and I checked the mirror, remembering Rachel’s words of caution.
My image looked back at me disapprovingly. While the dress itself was divine… I mean it was okay... the effect it achieved was the opposite of what I had been advised to go for. The cut of the bodice was low and the hemline well above my knee. It was totally frivolous and romantic and calculated to create entirely the wrong impression. Disappointedly I took it off and turned to the other new item.

This one looked more promising. In a yellow chequered cloth of a heavier weight, it was at once more formal and more practical than the first. True, the skirt was a little on the short side but I reckoned I might get away with that. I turned around and back, pleased with the flow of the skirt as I moved. I liked this one. A lot! Once again, however, a critical second glance in the mirror heralded the demise of this particular choice.
The neckline was way too revealing for my intended purpose especially as the little sleeves refused to sit upon my shoulders. They left the latter bare and drew attention to the overall décolleté style. Harvey wouldn’t know where to look, or rather, the poor guy would know exactly where not to look and he’d have to spend the evening trying. That was no good, unless I planned to seduce him. I didn’t, of course! At least I think I didn’t! It was hard to be sure of anything in my undecided state of conflicting emotions.
Why was this so difficult? Aargh!

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