Lisa was concerned. Mandy didn’t seem to want to talk about school. And not wanting to talk about something – anything really – was not like Mandy. She’d had problems at school before, in other locations and at other ages. There seemed to be phases where schoolchildren had spurts of viciousness, and the internal politics of whose group you were in – or not in – were more labyrinthine than Machiavelli at times. But before tis Mandy would wax lyrical about it all. She was a contemplative girl who liked to share her thoughts.
But she wasn’t sharing now.
Any attempt to get her to talk about her experiences so far were greeted with the monosyllabic responses Lisa had heard other parents experience from their teenage children, but it was foreign territory in this home. Still, a query of how the day had gone, or what the other students were like, or her teachers, elicited no more than an ‘okay’ or an ‘aright’, with the occasional extra generosity of a well thought out ‘I suppose’ or ‘I guess’ a few seconds later.
To Lisa this bought a sense of foreboding. Generally Mandy fitted in with he peers. She did ride the waves of schoolyard allegiances a bit, and she was never one of the popular ‘It crowd’ – being a bit too clever and bookish for that group and a little too un-coordinated with sport – but she was generally well liked overall. Lisa suspected she was experiencing something different here, and she worried about her friend’s warning about how people responded to the street hey lived in and its sad, grisly history. Could that shadow have fallen upon her so undeserving daughter?
The only thing that seemed to rouse her from her general distance was the prospect of their dinner invitation at their neighbour’s house. If the street they lived in was the cause of problems for her at school it didn’t lessen her curiosity and excitement at the prospect of meeting the new neighbour. Like Lisa, it seemed the very existence of an inhabitant at the house had given the whole thing an extra gloss of excitement. What sort of man would live there in defiance of its history?
“He seems a very balanced man,’ Lisa told Mandy the evening after she had met him at the bookstore. Then when he quickly followed through with the formal dinner invitation, via a lovely handwritten and embossed card he left in their mailbox a day later, ‘and very polite’ was added to the initial assessment.
‘Did he talk about the history of his place?” Mandy asked, with the first traces of real life and interest in her eyes that Lisa had seen for days.
‘Not really, except to say that he considers the past is part of the past,’ she replied and Mandy looked slightly disappointed but not enough to dampen her excitement at their invitation.
It struck Lis suddenly, as she saw her daughter fuss over her dress and makeup for the evening, that Mandy hadn’t yet really talked much about boys, and the absence of her father from her life now was probably another anchor to the male gender gone for her. It might be the prospect of a dinner with a man now held a kind of frisson for her that straddled both her slowly emerging womanhood and her loss of being daddy’s girl. Not that daddy was around enough to really give her that sense in the first place though, Lisa considered darkly.
“ I got a box of chocolates to take with us” Lisa said, hovering near the fridge to take the offering out..
‘Not wine?” Mandy asked, disappointed.
“You are a bit young to be drinking wine on a school night, “ Lisa remarked, “And wanted you to be part of whatever we brought to share.’
‘Genna drinks wine every evening with her family,’ Mandy commented, reflecting on her best friend from her last school. Genna was a nice girl, but rather sophisticated with very ‘liberal’ parents. Lisa wasn’t really sure she entirely approved, but the bond of the girls had been genuine and strong. She knew that Mandy missed Genna a great deal, and no amount of Skyping made up for real face to face contact.
‘Nevertheless,’ Lisa responded, ‘Chocolates will do. We don’t really know our neighbour yet, so let’s take it a step at a time.’
If Mandy was frustrated it passed quickly. She smiled and nodded and fussed some more with her mascara, a girl excited for the evening ahead.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved