Thursday, May 05, 2011
On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Chapter 1
Okay, so first, a note: The characters, places, and situations created for the Baby-Sitters Club series are the property of Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. (If they were mine, you know Logan Bruno would have two illegitimate kids by now.) Everything that isn't real life and isn't Ann M.'s is mine, and if you violate my copyright, I will cut you. On with the show.
In our last episode... nothing really happened, because it was the prologue.
I’d dusted the living room three times, which was three-times ridiculous: I hated dusting, Dawn wouldn’t care, and we never used that room anyway. But I had to do something. I was excited—not unusual for me—about seeing Dawn for the first time in over a year. And I was nervous—definitely not unusual for me—about seeing Dawn for the first time since Dad and Sharon separated.
The front door opened, and I spun around.
My stepmother Sharon flew in like a tornado of shopping bags and dry cleaner’s plastic. Her huge purse, bags, and dry cleaning went on the dining room table, but she carefully hung her garment bag on the top of the doorframe. That was going to have to come down before Dad got home.
“Hey, Sharon,” I said.
She jumped a little. “Um, hey, Mary Anne.” Awkward silence. “Dawn not here yet?”
“Nope. There was some weather over the Midwest, so her flight has probably been delayed.”
My best friend and stepsister Dawn—my onetime best friend and current stepsister—was supposed to be in from California any minute now. It was strange to think that we’d been friends for more than half my life, and now I was worried about us liking each other.
My mother died when I was just a baby, and for the longest time it was just me, my dad, and eventually my kitten Tigger (now an old and somewhat crotchety cat Tigger). We were all we had, and Dad was unbelievably overprotective—it was kilts, pigtails, and early curfews my entire childhood. And as much as I struggled to join my best friends Kristy and Claudia in anything approaching young-womanhood, I was also kind of afraid to leave my father’s protection, even if it was only symbolized by knee socks. Finally repainting my pink room almost felt like betraying him and my mother. It also felt like breaking free from a Beatrix Potter prison.
When Dawn, Sharon, and Dawn’s brother Jeff moved to town, it didn’t take long for me to latch on to this fresh, relaxed new individual and for my tidy, conservative, damn-near-ritualistic dad to latch on to her fresh and scatterbrained mother. It turned out there was a backstory: Sharon had been Dad’s true love from back in high school, before Dad moved on to someone his parents deemed more suitable. Before we knew it, Dad and Sharon were married and our small family had doubled in size. Suddenly, Dawn was both my best friend and my sister. And now I was worried that we’d have nothing to talk about.
I tried not to be mad at Sharon for putting us in that situation.
Sharon, for her part, was trying really hard, and I appreciated it. She was doing her best not to cause waves in the type-A Spier household—at the moment, she was bustling around the kitchen, stuffing groceries haphazardly in what were at least the right cabinets. Her movements were about as tense and hurried as my thoughts, and the tension in the air was palpable.
She pulled out a bottle of wine. “It’s not too early, right?”
Absolutely not. “Absolutely not. Not at all.” She found glasses, I found the corkscrew, and soon we were sitting at the dining room table with a half-empty bottle of merlot and three shopping bags spilling over with Sharon’s honeymoon wardrobe.
“We have to get all this hidden before the guys get back,” Sharon said. Dad and my husband Stephen had been out kicking up divots on the golf course all morning.
“What, is it bad luck for the groom to see the bikini before the honeymoon?” I dangled a particularly scandalous striped bikini top from one finger.
She snatched it away and stuffed it back in the bag. “It’s bad luck to let the groom see the clothes before the credit card statement comes in.”
I sobered somewhat. Great. “Is that a good way to kick off your recommitment?”
Sharon was quiet. “Mary Anne, I feel awful about what happened with your dad,” she said. “I want you to know that I love him more than I can say, and he and I are both working hard to make this thing stick.”
I nodded, took a deep breath, and poured myself another glass of wine. She obviously cared, I was a little hypersensitive, and to be honest I’d been known to shove the occasional shopping bag under the bed before Stephen could see it. “And there's no better excuse than a wedding to splurge a little on clothes,” I said brightly. “Is that your dress in the bag over there?”
“Yes! Yes.” She was nearly bouncing in her seat. “Do you want to see it?”
I hesitated. “Will Dawn be upset that I saw it before she did?”
“Nah,” she said. “She knows what it looks like. She helped me pick it out. Look.” She grabbed the garment bag off the doorframe, laid it out on the table, and dramatically pulled down the zipper.
The dress was perfect. It was knee-length taupe silk—this was her third ceremony, after all, and white wasn’t going to fool anyone—with a boat neckline and a flowy, drapey skirt that would flatter her slim figure. Claudia and Stacey would be able to appreciate it with a connoisseur’s eye, but at least I knew “really pretty” when I saw it.
“It’s gorgeous,” I said. “You’re going to look great in it.”
“Whatever,” I snorted. “Of course you will. Look at you. Look at it.”
“It’s not too young?”
“You’re tiny. You have legs like Tina Turner,” I said. “There might be legal issues involved with you covering them up.”
Sharon gave me a huge hug. “You’re my favorite stepdaughter.”
The front door opened, and Dawn walked in, followed by two girls, blonde and slender as their mother. The look she gave us made me feel like Sharon and I had been consummating a torrid affair right there on the table, but she didn’t say anything, just set her purse down on the kitchen counter.
Oblivious to the tension in the room, my nieces thundered over to Sharon with gleeful squeals. “Grandma!”
“Babies!” Within moments, Sharon had six-year-old Calantha attached to her leg and four-year-old Teal in her arms. “Did you have a good time on the plane?”
“Teal barfed,” Calantha announced.
“I always barf on planes, too,” Sharon confided. “Who wants some ginger ale?”
“Mom,” Dawn said, and Sharon rolled her eyes.
“Fine. What, then?”
“There’s ginger root and gluten-free crackers in my purse.”
“Um… yummy,” Sharon said. “Girls, let’s go have some… ginger root. And gluten-free crackers.” Shooting us a look, she ushered the girls into the kitchen.
Dawn and I stared at each other.
“You made it,” I said finally.
“Yeah,” Dawn said. “We sat on the runway in Oakland for an hour.”
Silence. “Did Brent come with you?”
“He’s checking in at the hotel.”
Silence. “You look really good.” She actually looked too thin, in my opinion, but I wasn't about to say anything.
“We’re vegan now.”
Silence. “Glass of wine?”
“I don’t drink.”
Jesus Christ. “Dawn—”
“My little girl is home!” The girls settled in with their tree roots and cardboard, Sharon flew out of the kitchen and wrapped herself around her daughter. “How was your flight? Oh, who cares—how are you?”
Dawn visibly relaxed and hugged her mother. “I’m good,” she said. “I’m really good. How are you?”
“I’m great,” Sharon gushed. “Did you know I’m getting married this weekend?”
Dawn laughed. “You’re already married.”
“I know! That's why it's great I get to do it again!” Sharon was verging on giddy, and we couldn’t help but get excited along with her. Another huge hug for Dawn. “I’m so glad you were able to make it.”
“How could I miss this?” Dawn said. “It’s my mom’s special day.”
“Whatever,” Dawn said. “Doesn’t matter. I’m here because this is important to you.”
“It is, and so are you,” Sharon said, looking Dawn in the eye. Her solemn mood couldn't hold for long, though. “And I have my dress! Do you want to see? It’s perfect.”
“You have a great eye,” I added. “It’s really pretty. Totally Sharon.”
Silence. “So you’ve seen it already.”
This weekend was going to be awesome.
Coming up: You know what's coming up. What's always in Chapter 2? Come on, you know what's always in Chapter 2.