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Abby Creelman (68 years), Eva Barthelet (38 years), Paloma Creelman (14 years), Linny Barthelet (4 years),
(Oliver McCarthy – 15 years)
previous update: fall 2010
narrated by Eva Barthelet
Linny turned four, and it reminded me of her dad, Nicholas. I can’t believe it’s only been four years since he died so unexpectedly. It seems longer since I’ve been with someone, all the memories are foggy along the edges that it doesn’t always seem like it was my life.
Mom retired years ago, but with Linny starting school in the fall, she decided to get a job. She took out a loan to refurnish the downstairs living room, it’s been without furniture since we were robbed in 2008. I can’t pay the loan and our bills off on my income, and I make good money for a hostess. Oliver came over to help her navigate the want ads, she has it in her mind that she wants to be a hostess too.
With the rest of the loan money we went out to buy a car. When I was a kid we owned a car, we lived in a nice house, and us girls fought with each other over who got to play with the newest doll. Then Dad died, then my sister, and Mom sold everything to pay debts. Nicholas, my Nicholas was supposed to be a good start. But our oldest daughter, Paloma is one month shy of turning fifteen, and it has never been magical for her.
It’s Mom’s loan, but she wants the car to be mine. She doesn’t like the car I like, she insists I should get a van. We get into it at Juan’s Dealership in front of the girls.
I don’t know if all girls are as sensitive to arguing as mine are, but we make it a point to disagree in private. Part of me thinks they should get over it and realize that people disagree, but then I think of the loss they’ve experienced, and I soften for them.
Cesar, not Juan, shows me the cars on the lot. I tease him lightly about the sign being a lie, and that it should say Cesar’s Dealership. He informed me that his Dad spends his time at the fancier car lot, across the road, these days.
I wrinkle my nose at him when he shows me the mini van. Mom would be pleased if I went with it, but I insist that I’m not that kind of mom, and he shows me the wagon. I want to say that I’m not that kind of mom too. But I don’t. When I look the car lot over, I really don’t feel that I’m the kind of mom to buy any of these vehicles. The pick up truck isn’t half bad, but I can’t fit both my girls in it, let alone my mother. I let him give me the speech on the wagon, while I look across the street at the fancy cars. They sparkle as if covered in glitter, the people browsing them are dressed nicely, and I feel like I should be one of those moms.
“… It’s really got the space, and we just put in a new transmission. Should be good for another 100,000 miles.” I caught the last half of his speech.
“Another 100,000, like it already has that many?” Nicholas wasn’t knowledgeable of cars, if he was here, he’d think I was brilliant for that remark alone. I miss feeling brilliant. I sigh, and his face softens.
“Look, I can cut you a deal. Instead of $4,000 I can sell it to you for $1,700. When my parents came here from Brazil, a man believed in my father’s dream of a dealership and gave him the loan. None of this,” he held his arms out, encompassing the three different lots, “would have been possible without him. Let me pay that forward to you.”
“I’ll take it.” Even Mom can’t complain for that price, the sticker on the mini van was over 5,000. I follow him inside the small building covered in 1980’s decor, it makes my skin itch.
He passes me the paperwork, and I get it all filled out. The girls come inside from playing rock, paper, scissors and sit down in the chairs. They keep kicking their legs against the seat, and I want to snap at them to knock it off, but I keep my focus on the paperwork.
While he rings up the total cost including the license and title transfer, I overhear the girls giggling. I only catch snippets of the conversation, but it’s enough to shock me.
I’m too upset to even consider discussing what I overheard, other than to tell Paloma to never talk about that stuff with Linny. She’s way too young to know anything about that nonsense, and in my opinion, Paloma is way too young too.
Mom had told me she was suspcious of Paloma and Oliver being intimate, but I was adamant that Paloma would tell me when that time came. She told me when she was experiencing changes, she told me when she failed her math test and when she had her first kiss with Oliver. Surely she would tell me when she was thinking of the next step.
She didn’t though, and I’m watching her like a hawk now. I told Mom about it, and she just clicked her tongue in an, “I told you so,” kind of way. Paloma has always been my dreamer, and I worry about her growing up too quickly.
Mom talked to her about meeting new people in college, and that she’s too young to know who she wants to be with for the rest of her life. I may be thirty-eight, but even I know that teenagers feel grown up, and mature. She doesn’t know what a twenty-eight year old knows, and that kind of logic doesn’t work with teens.
I briefly consider locking her away upstairs, or even demanding she break up with Oliver. I know none of that would work though. She’d just do it more, I’m positive of that.
Instead I embrace that my daughter makes her own decisions, and I am going to make sure she takes the precautions she needs. I schedule an appointment for her to get on birth control.
“Linny isn’t going too!” Paloma screeched. “That’s too embarrassing Mom!”
I ignore her, and get in the car. Linny has to go, because my Mom isn’t home to watch her.
“I get to go, I get to go,” Linny chants as she skips to the car.
Paloma gets in, her jaw tight. “We did it in a photo booth at the mall.” She practically shouts at me. I could tell she was going to have an outburst, but I wasn’t expecting what came out.
“Why couldn’t I have had sons.” I say to myself.
Linny opens the back door, and I threaten Paloma in a low menacing voice, “Not another word young lady.”
“I get to go, I get to go,” Linny is still chanting as she hops in the car.
When we get back from the appointments, Paloma storms inside before I’ve finished putting the car into park. Linny and I had stayed in the hall to give Paloma her privacy, though I spoke with Dr. Morgan Russo in private before and after the appointment. I was pretty sure that Paloma was just really embarrassed by the entire thing, and not actually opposed to the birth control.
When she stomped into the house she huffed to my mom, “She put me on birth control!” As if my Mom wouldn’t be able to believe it, and stomped up to her room.
In my attempt to keep Paloma busy, I took her up on her offer to get a job. She was adamant to have one when she was twelve, but she was only a month shy of fifteen, and perfectly able to start saving for college. There wasn’t anyway she was going on my buck, as I could barely put a roof over our heads. I hope she can get the Dannon Local Business Award, and there’s no reason she needs to wait until she’s sixteen if I can get her a job at The Red Mill with me.
My boss, Eric Ellsworth, agrees to give her an interview, and Paloma is actually really excited over it. And nervous. She complained of her palms sweating the entire drive in.
I could only see from the entrance, but it seemed to be going well.
And she got the job. She can’t start until the next month, and he explained that there will unemployment check for the month of February while he shuts down and does upgrades.
Paloma is thrilled to begin. I’ve never seen a person so excited to turn fifteen, she’s also decided she needs her learner’s permit, but I’m not ready for that yet. I’m still recovering from the birth control.
Paloma is growing so quickly these past few years, that I’m grateful for Linny. Once she outgrew her crib, she moved to my bed. There isn’t room in the house for another bed, so we share. I enjoy snuggling with her, and reading bedtime stories, and listening to her snore softly after she’s fallen asleep.
I always knew that Linny would be my last, since Nicholas died before I knew I was pregnant with her. I never expected to have more, but after some time had passed, I did hope to find a companion.
The girls keep me and Mom on our toes. Not to mention the other oddities that befall us, like the skunk that won’t go away. It sprayed Paloma when she went to get the newspaper for Mom.
And later it got Pirate.
Thankfully, Oliver was over, and he agreed to bathe Pirate for us. Once in a while I’m not traumatized to think of Paloma being a woman and married, and I think how Oliver would be a wonderful son-in-law. He helps us so often.
I watch them from the porch, as he washes Pirate, himself gagging a little, Paloma covering her face theatrically. “I think I’m going to puke.” She chokes out, and Oliver agrees that he’s going to as well. Even I can admit that they are a cute couple.
Then there’s the oddity of our neighbor, Regina Russo. She turned us in for not raking our leaves in a timely manner. I understand that raking the leaves in the winter seems really late, but our tree didn’t lose it’s leaves until Thanksgiving weekend.
I want to throw darts at her as she runs by while I’m raking. I’m sure she’s very satisfied and smug to see me doing the work.
When she stops running to come up to me, I really want to just run inside and hide from her. She makes me feel sick and weak in my knees when I see her, I don’t know why, but she makes me feel like a kid being sent to the principal’s office.
“Ah, Eva. I see you are bringing your yard into the civilized world.”
“Yeah, we’ve been busy lately. Did you hear Paloma got a job?”
“As a waitress I hear?” She always talks in a polite tone, but I can hear the disdain in the word waitress, it almost sounds like a swear word when she says it.
“Yes, at The Red Mill. She’s taking Lorelei’s position, since she went to college.”
“I didn’t stop to chit-chat. I heard from Norma Millett that you put your daughter onto birth control? Is this true?” She stepped closer to me, and I felt like I’d been caught in a lie.
“Yes, they decided to be active, and I …”
“I get it, you wanted to make sure she was safe from offspring. Truly, I applaud you for being pro-active in this, many people of your class do not bother to put their daughter’s on birth control. That was all, then. I just wanted to say, well done. She’s a young girl, she may think she’s in love, but she doesn’t really know what that means yet, I’m afraid.”
She turned and continued running down the street, I wanted to get in my wagon and plow her down. Instead I left the leaves, I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of a civilized lawn, and stormed into the house like my daughter was prone to do.
Mom was helping Linny with her toy brick, and Paloma was feigning to be too tired to finish her homework, while Oliver sat in the back corner fixing the computer that broke yet again.
“I hate your friend.” I spat towards my mother once I was all the way upstairs. I wanted to stomp my foot for good measure, but didn’t.
“My friend?” She asked surprised. “Whatever happened?”
Linny turned to look up at me, and I couldn’t say any of it in front of her. I didn’t want her to think she was a lower income girl, that the Russo family was better than us just because they didn’t have our hard times.
So I clenched my fists and spoke through my teeth, “Regina.”
It was all I needed to say, and Mom came by my side. “Don’t listen to her, she has very strong opinions, and no sense to keep them in her head.”
I was still livid when I went to work that evening, but forced myself out of it. Paloma insisted I wear the black dress she bought with me a few months back. I definitely felt too old to wear such a short dress, but all the guests seemed to admire me in it, and that put me in a brighter mood.
I ended up covering for Jace, the bartender, for the last hour of the night, he had special plans with his girlfriend and needed to leave early. I felt even more self-conscious bending over to grab liquor bottles.
“Hostess and bartender? You are quite a woman of many trades.”
I looked up to see Gideon. He came in regularly, flirted with me in a noncommittal way, and went about his life. He couldn’t be older than thirty, I suspected a few years younger than that, but I couldn’t ask. There was no way I could allow flirts from someone a decade younger than me.
“That’s me. Nothing I can’t do.”
“You look.. great.” He said, giving me a look over. He paused on my legs, and I really wished I’d worn my normal knee length dress.
I fidgeted with a few strands of hair that tickled the back of my neck.
“Do you think, we could get a bite after your shift?”
I could tell he was nervous. We’d always had a light banter, this is a fine restaurant, not a diner or the bar. I’d never put any serious thought into getting food with him, or seeing him outside of my work.
“You know.” I pressed my lips together for a moment, “I can’t. What you may not know is that I’m old.” I whispered the last part, still light in my tone, “And, even worse, I have two daughters. So thanks, but no.”
“Really?” He asked as I turned to wipe down a table. “That’s what I get after warming you up to me for months? After gathering all my nerves to bite the bullet and ask you out, you just say no, and walk away?”
“I’m thirty-eight, my oldest daughter is about to be fifteen, that’s old.”
“Doesn’t that bother you?”
“Do I look bothered?” He didn’t look bothered, he looked nervous as heck.
“Drive thru only.”
He rode in my car, and when I told him that the bus didn’t come out to Millwood this late at night, he insisted he didn’t mind paying for the taxi. We stopped at South Soda Shop, as there wasn’t any respectable drive-thru in town, and I tossed the food onto his lap. It’d been ages since I ate salty, chili cheese fries. We ate as we made the drive to Millwood, each of taking turns asking questions.
“Ever been married?” he asked at one point.
“Barely, he died on our wedding night.” There was an uncomfortable silence for a mile before he began again.
“Ever go to college?”
“I did. Required for my line of work.”
He laughed a little, like there was an inside joke to this before he responded. “I hunt for algae. One day I’ll be a great natural scientist, but for now, I capture algae. Hey, happen to know someone with a pool in need of a clean? Maybe I could gather some of their algae.”
I laughed with him then, “Sounds miserable.”
“I don’t mind, it’s better than working at a record store, hoping to get lucky and land a great job. At least now I’m working towards my dream, and not everyone can say that.”
“No, they can’t…. I can’t.”
“Sorry,” he said softly after another block. I gave him a sideways glance, and he didn’t look like he pitied me, which I appreciated.
I pulled into my driveway, the light on the porch lit waiting for me, all the other lights in the front of the house were off. “Well this is me. When’s your taxi going to get here?”
“Five minutes. Mind if I sit on your porch to wait?”
I shook my head and he followed me to the porch.
“I had a nice time with you, Eva.” His hand hesitated by my cheek before he put it down. He chuckled nervously, “I’m not good at this stuff, sorry.”
“Me ether, we can suck at it together.” I didn’t mean it the way he took it, and I immediately bit my lip.
He moved in closer, and pulled me up for a light kiss, his hand made my shoulder tingle. For the first time in years, my body warmed from another man’s touch.
I gasped, pulling myself back. “I..I can’t.” I stuttered. “I’m sorry.” I backed away into my house, and locked the door behind me. I left him standing there for a few minutes before I heard the taxi arrive and drive off.
I stood in the darkened living a moment after, before going up to bed.
Sweet Linny was nestled in the bed, the end table lamp was on so I could find my way in, and as a night light for herself. She was afraid of the dark when I wasn’t there to snuggle with her. I pushed her hair back and kissed her forehead, her eyes fluttering under her pale lids and long lashes.
I couldn’t help but wonder what she would think of me dating a guy. It felt like a betrayal to Nicholas to even consider it, but I couldn’t deny that my shoulder still felt hot from his fingers.
Abby got the want to get a job in the culinary field, so all three girls work in the food business now. I’m going to redecorate the Red mill and update some salaries/uniforms. Jessica Picasso works there too, along with Barbara Gray (Corbin’s wife).
Quick recap of Eva’s life: Dad and sister died from sickness, and her oldest sister disappeared from the game. They moved to apartment #1, she met Nicholas, and they started dating. He moved to South Port, and they all moved to apartment #2, they saved and saved to pay his fees to leave in South Port legally, and had Paloma. Got married, and on their wedding night, the ghost of her sister killed her husband. She conceived on their wedding night with Linny. They took out a loan and moved to Millwood…
This is my last entry while I’m away on vacation, I’ll be back to playing and then posting after Father’s Day.