At the dining table at the Cruise’s, the table was scattered with papers, bent over them three heads, belonging to Jennifer, Alex and Nick. As soon as Jennifer told them of her plan, both screamed in unison, ‘No freaking way!’
Jennifer had invited Nick to her house to plan their next move. He had gladly agreed, and Jenny had started liking his company very much. He always knew the appropriate thing to say, and when not to. He cracked okay jokes when the atmosphere got too tense. He also contributed good ideas, however crappy they may seem later.
Yet, so far, they had had nothing. Each of them gave ideas which were rejected by either one of the two. And Jennifer was tired. ‘Come on guys, we can’t be hopeless?’ she cried at 7:30 evening by the watch.
‘Yes we are. Listen, it’s getting late. I think we should all sleep over it and think of what to do,’ Nick said, gathering his stuff of the table. ‘Listen, Jules is your sister after all. Maybe you can take some tips, about you know, how to do this.’
‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ she said irritated. Then seeing the expression on his face, she said dejectedly, ‘I’ll think about it,’ she groaned, ‘okay! But this one last time.’
‘Cool, I’ll see you tomorrow at school. Are you leaving too Alex?’ he questioned.
‘Yes, just five minutes. Jenny, I’ll do some research off the internet and see how this is done. I may even talk to Earl,’ her neighbour, who had stood in the city elections as an independent, ‘and I’ll call you later.’
She stood up and left with Nick, who was waiting patiently at the door.
Tired but so, she made her way her way to Jules’ room grudgingly. Her and Adrian’s room was entirely pink, pink carpets, pink walls, pink sofa, pink bed sheets. She felt as though she was entering a parallel universe which was only pink. The main feature of their room was a mirror that covered up the entire wall facing the room, and a small wooden slab that extended along the breadth of the mirror. The slab was littered with bottles of perfumes, nail polish, combs, curlers, and all sorts of beautifying cosmetics ever invented. As she entered, she saw Jules sitting on a small stool, in front of the mirror, straightening her hair. Jules saw Jennifer enter.
‘Aren’t we in the wrong room?’ she commented.
‘No we aren’t. I wanted to ask you something,’ she replied awkwardly, ‘I know we don’t talk and all, but I want to ask you something.’
‘What? Your T-shirt back? I don’t have it,’ she sarcastically said.
‘Well, I’m sorry for that. I was just irritated when you had come, and so I was bad. Listen, how, I mean, what do you do-’ she hesitated, ‘I’ll get straight to the point.’ Rushing forward she said, ‘I have given my name forward to something social. I want to know how you do that. Become popular, that is. Because what I’ve done needs public attention immediately.’
‘What have you done?’ she asked suspiciously.
‘Well, I have, um, offered my name, um for the elections in school. And this can only be done, once I am popular enough to get voted to win.’ Long silence prevailed while Jules digested this, with Jen standing in front of her, her face on fire, literally. She had already hung her face so as to avoid all the color, that had nonetheless, come. Once she felt that the danger had passed, she allowed herself to peek. Jules looked shell shocked, a frown resting on her face, and arms folded above her chest.
Finally, Jules said in an eerily calming voice, ‘You did that on purpose, right? You couldn’t bear to have me enjoy my share of popularity this year now, could you?’
Her words stung, not only because of what she said, but also because of what she meant. However, before she could dwell further on the matter, her sister ordered, and her voice as hard as steel, ‘Get out. Get out before I do something terrible.’
An assortment of emotions made themselves present while Jennifer made her way across the room. On the way to her room, she saw sprawled on the bed, watching the television. Feeling the day wouldn’t be worsened if she talked to her; she went inside, ‘Mom!’
‘Hey, are your friends gone?’ she asked nonchalantly.
‘Yes.’ After some deliberate thinking on the pretence of watching the TV, she asked, ‘I haven’t had the chance to talk to you for a long time now. Everything fine at work, at Jules’ school?’
‘Of course. In fact, things couldn’t be better at the job, and my elder daughter seems to be paying attention to what her mother is saying today, which is as good as a gift that anyone can ever give. Besides that, Jules seems to be getting her mind off the puberty changes and seems to be putting her popularity to good use. So it’s great going for me,’ she informed. After a while, she asked softly, ‘What about you?’
‘Oh I’m fine, just the usual high school drama,’ she answered vaguely, but her mind had stuck on to one sentence that her mother had said, “and seems to be putting her popularity to good use”. She knew she had to ask. ‘Uh, mom. What did you mean about Jules putting her popularity to good use?’
‘Well, she is going to contest the school elections this year. She got herself written down today, with some Okra woman. She said there is another senior girl who has signed, but she’s pretty confident of herself. She told me that the posts for the treasurer, the secretary and the editor were the most preferred. She said that Mrs Ohra-’
‘Okra,’ Jennifer corrected.
‘- had told her that her chances are pretty high as the other girls are not like her, pretty, smart, popular too.’ She suddenly started, ‘You know, when I was your age, popularity was not important. What mattered was that how good the good was, excelling not only in academics, but sports and drama as well. There were a few things that were a must in the kids selected. Loyalty,’ she counted them off the fingers, ’team spirit, sincerity, integrity, laborious, and lastly, honesty.’ She held up a reminiscent finger, ‘Oh those were good days, they were. No responsibility, no prohibitions, no seriousness, all of us were children that time. I wish you had been there too; you would have enjoyed that time a lot more than you do this one. With everyone loving you for you who are, not who they want you to be. I admire you for that, for your uniqueness. ’ She moved back to the TV.
‘Yeah, me too,’ Jennifer whispered.