Madeleine was heading towards her Monday lunch with Madame Seignet when Vannie stopped her in the hall.
“Maddy,” Vannie called out. Madeleine turned around; she was startled that Vannie would even address her.
“What is it?” Madeleine asked in her usual guarded fashion. Vannie walked up to her.
“I heard that the doctor released you for P.E.,” Vannie said. “You must be doing all right.”
“It is better than they expected,” Madeleine confirmed.
“That’s great. I was wondering if you’d consider coming back on the tennis team.”
Madeleine’s shock was obvious. “I wasn’t aware that was possible.”
“We’ve been looking at the roster really hard,” Vannie replied. “You know we’re going to St. Anne’s this weekend. We need a little extra depth for that.”
“You know I was slated to have your position on the ladder before I became ill,” Madeleine reminded her. “But I am probably too weak for that now. What can I do for the team in this state? It is unbeaten.”
“We still have problems. You might be able to beat Terry out—she was a real oaf last weekend. When she falls, she hangs onto the net while her feet sprawl over the baseline.” Madeleine chuckled at that in spite of herself.
“You understand that Coach Dorr has asked me to help with the Lower Division team,” Madeleine said.
“I do. But she can change.”
Madeleine thought for a second. The pause seemed eternal to Vannie.
“I am sorry, but I don’t think that I can do it. This has been a very difficult experience for me. There will be questions. So I think it’s best to leave things as they are.”
“Suit yourself,” Vannie said. “Sorry you feel that way. But why did you have to go off and help Carla Stanley the way you did? Why couldn’t you do that for somebody here?”
“Because nobody here asked,” Madeleine replied. “You have your clubs, you have your professionals. She had nothing and knew it. But now all the world knows why there is a French Open and not a Verecundan one.”
Vannie was visibly angry at the last remark. “I don’t know about anybody else around here, but I’ll be glad when you go to France to university.”
“Belgium,” Madeleine corrected her.
“You’ve looked down your nose at everybody the whole time you’ve been here. You should have gone to Hallett or somewhere in the East Island. Then you’d have known people who deserve this kind of treatment. Then we wouldn’t have to put up with idiot people running around town bawling that they’ve had a miracle. You’ve messed up everything, and someday you’re going to pay for it.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Madeleine said rather coldly. But then she felt gripped again, the same way she did when performing the miracles. “But your reluctance to allow Terry Marlowe to go to the East Island is justified.”
“What are you talking about?” Vannie asked.
“You—or someone else—do not want her to go to St. Anne’s. If she makes it to the East Island and stays, she will come back to destroy everything that Denise and her father and the CPL and everyone else like them have built. It will cost her everything in the beginning, but in the end it will cost you.”
Vannie looked at her with bewilderment. “Now you’re some kind of prophetess,” she said. “What are you trying to do to us? What have we done to you?”
“The last few weeks speak for themselves,” Madeleine replied, assuming her usual tone. “I must be going to my lunch engagement,” and with that she walked on to Madame Seignet’s room.
Vannie returned to the cafeteria, got her lunch and sat down at Denise’s area with the people who so frightened Carla the previous Saturday.
“Is she going back on the team?” Pete asked.
“She won’t do it,” Vannie answered.
“Prick,” Denise spat out in disgust. “I was afraid of that.”
“What’s her excuse?” Pete pressed.
“Same old stuff—after everything that’s happened. . .” Vannie replied.
“We’re the ones that ought to be complaining,” Denise interrupted.
“But, she said something else real weird.” Vannie continued.
“Now what?” Denise snapped.
“She said that, if Terry ever got to the East Island, your father’s whole movement would get wiped out.”
“Wish!” Denise said. “If anybody’s going to get wiped out, it’s people like Terry—and Maddy, for that matter.”
“Look what we did to Carla,” Pete added.
“And there’s more where that came from,” Denise assured them. But then Denise stopped to think. “So what made her say that?”
“I may have done it,” Vannie confessed.
“How?” Pete asked.
“I told her that she might knock Terry down the ladder.”
“More like off,” Denise added. “She’s dropped down to sixth. If it weren’t for her playing doubles with Alicia, she’d stay home.”
“Maddy also said that somebody didn’t want her to go to St. Anne’s,” Vannie stated.
Denise became wide eyed at that remark. “How’d she know that?”
“Know what?” Pete asked.
Denise looked up at the ceiling with an “I’ve just let the cat out of the bag” look. She went back to facing Pete. “Something funny’s going on here. That’s exactly why I wanted Maddy back on the team. But no one but me knew that.”
“You mean you’d rather have Maddy back on the team than Terry?” Vannie asked, now totally puzzled.
“It’s not me,” Denise finally said. “It’s Mrs. Marlowe. She came up to me after the CPL Central Council meeting last week. She doesn’t want Terry to go to St. Anne’s for any reason. Terry wanted to go there to school after Second Form, but her mother wants her to stay here and grow up like a normal human being.”
“Hasn’t worked so far,” Pete observed.
“It will,” Denise said. “I was hoping that Maddy would help to crowd Terry off of the ladder for good and make it easy on everybody.”
“Terry’s still playing doubles,” Vannie reminded Denise.
“We’ll get Alicia to find someone else,” Denise replied matter-of-factly.
“So what are you going to do now?” Pete asked.
“We’ll just do it the hard way. I’ll just tell Terry that we can’t risk another ‘weak sister’ after what Maddy’s pulled with Stanley.”
“Can we win with all of these people out? St. Anne’s is undefeated,” Vannie noted.
“Who do they compete with? Women in sports is almost unknown out there. We can pull it out. We’ve got some depth. Besides, one virgin traitor on the team is enough—I really don’t need two, and the way things have gone that’s what I’d end up with if Maddy came back. ”
“So what does Coach Dorr have to say about all this?” Vannie asked.
“She’s not happy, but I told her that there were reasons of state. What’s she going to do?”
“Nothing, I guess,” Vannie shrugged.
“Hey, how’s Jack doing these days?” Denise asked Pete.
“He’s okay,” Pete replied. “Slipped to third on the ladder. But he’s spaced out these days.”
“Spaced out?” Denise asked.
“He doesn’t talk much to anybody,” Pete explained. “He comes to practice, does his thing, goes home, shows up to compete, plays, and goes home again. Doesn’t say a whole lot. Really bad the last two weeks.”
“He’s probably still sore about breaking up with you,” Vannie noted.
“He’s probably up to something,” Denise warned. “Keep an eye on him.”
Tennis practice went as usual that afternoon. As it was winding down and after Dorr had just finished up scheduling the challenge matches, Denise came up to Terry and said, “I need to see you for a minute.”
“What for?” Terry asked. Vannie appeared at Denise’s side.
“It’s about this weekend,” Denise said, looking up at Terry. “You can’t go to St. Anne’s.”
“Why not?” Terry demanded, indignant.
“I can’t take any chances,” Denise replied. “After what that slimy little frog did to me, and knowing you’d really rather be a ‘little Miss Muffett’ at St. Anne’s, I can’t take the chance. You’re not going, and crying to Coach Dorr won’t do any good.”
“I thought I was going good on the team, after the Beran Invitational. What’s changed?” Terry asked.
“It was a new day yesterday,” Vannie coolly replied, “but it’s an old day now.” With that Denise and Vannie walked away, leaving Terry both ready to both explode and cry.
Terry and Denise agreed about one thing: it wouldn’t do any good to appeal to Dorr, since the order came from Denise. Terry stormed off of the court, went back to the locker room, put back on her street clothes as fast as she could, threw her tennis gear in her locker with a loud metallic bang, closed the locker door in like manner, and stormed out of school.
She skipped the bus and pouted every metre of the approximately two kilometre walk home. It was a very seasonable day; only very small black puddles remained of the trace of rain that fell earlier. The beauty of the weather could not penetrate the darkness of Terry’s mood, which matched her eyes and hair all too well.
She finally got home. Her mother was in the kitchen, sorting out the groceries from her shopping trip.
“What’s your problem?” Eleanor asked.
“I can’t go and play at St. Anne’s this Saturday,” Terry admitted. She suddenly looked at her mother with intense anger in her eyes. “It’s your idea to do this!” she blurted out. “You were with Denise at the CPL meeting last week. You put her up to it!”
“Blaming me for your failures in life will not make them any better,” Eleanor calmly replied. Terry could see that she was getting nowhere, so she stormed out of the kitchen and up the stairs toward her room.
To get there, she had to pass by her little brother Richard’s room. He could hear her stomp her substantial feet against the floor as she marched up the stairs.
“You have been well, I trust, since we last met?” he asked with a sneer.
“Shut up!” she replied and went on to her room, slamming the door.
Terry thought that putting on a album would help, but her anger and frustration were so great that even the thought of doing that didn’t console her. So she opened the door again, went back down the stairs and, going out the front door to avoid crossing paths with her mother again, went around, got her bike, and took off while hearing her mother scream, “Running away isn’t going to help!” as she pulled into the street and away from the house.
The traffic was thin in the upper part of the Point where the Marlowes lived, thin enough for her to vent her emotions by riding her bicycle down the street. Otherwise, she would have ploughed into a car somewhere. Eventually she ducked onto the side walk, but with her inner being filled with emotion, her navigation was strictly a combination of autopilot and very deep familiarity with the territory.
She eventually made the three and a half kilometre voyage to the Point Collina Park, the end of both her town and in some ways of Verecunda itself. On passing the last street and entering the park, she had only one more hard decision to make: which way to turn. She could turn left and go towards the bay, straight towards the lighthouse, or right to the ocean. She went to the ocean because it looked like there were the fewest people in that direction. Her guess proved correct, as she was able to pull her bike up and sit down on a bench not too far from the street that separated the park from the rest of the town.
By this time Terry was numb, torn between anger at her mother and Denise that made her want to scream and pain that made her want to cry. She just sat there for what seemed to be an eternity as the sun worked its way to set over her right shoulder and into the place where she came from.
The noise of the waves had a soothing effect that slowly drew her into a more mellow mood. Like the freighters and cruise ships that rounded the point and headed onward to their continental destinations, her thoughts went away from her present malaise. Sometimes they would retreat into her past and good times she had, especially with her father. Less often they went into a future away from where she was, but those only made her feel worse as a deep sense of helplessness came over her. In either case she was lost in her own world, not willing to allow the beauty of her surroundings—too familiar, perhaps, because it was all she had ever lived in—to penetrate the depression that had taken root in her deepest self.
Her oblivion was so complete that she didn’t notice the distinct sound of her father’s DB-4 coming up the street and stopping only about fifteen metres from her. The only thing that broke her self-imposed isolation was Dick Marlowe’s voice.
“It’s too bad your grandmother isn’t here with her er-hu,” he said, referring to the traditional instrument that made sad songs—a staple of Chinese music—even sadder.
“Very funny,” she replied. However, she scooted over and Dick sat down next to his dreary-mood daughter.
“Now, tell me what’s going on,” Dick asked.
“Denise and Vannie called me over after practice,” Terry began. “Denise told me I couldn’t play at St. Anne’s this weekend.” She looked at her father; he could see the pain on her face. “Daddy, I really wanted to go—I’ve always wanted to go.”
“So you could ask them how to transfer there?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Terry admitted. “But why is that a crime? It’s a good school. And I don’t have a boyfriend here, so I could go there and not have to be reminded of that every day. I can’t help it because I passed the 180 centimetre mark and look Chinese.”
“And won’t do what a lot of these guys want you to do, either,” Dick added.
“I didn’t want to think about that,” Terry said. “But what’s the crime about that? I’ve tried to live the way you wanted me to.” She started crying again.
Dick gently wrapped his left arm around Terry’s shoulder. “I’m proud of you about that, you know that. It’s takes courage to do that these days. I know you’re under a lot of pressure.”
“From mother!” Terry snapped, reversing from sadness to anger once again.
“Let’s not talk about that,” Dick admonished her. “We’ve had that discussion before. You just have to do what you know is right.”
“I’m tired just ‘doing what’s right’”, Terry protested. “I know! I could quit school and work for you all the time! They like me at the office. I’ll be sixteen in September. I’ll learn everything. Then I can travel for you. And I won’t have to look at all the creeps at school any more.”
“You can’t do that,” Dick replied. “This world is too complicated for a school leaver to make it in. If you’re planning on holding up your half of heaven, you’re going to need to finish school first. Then you really need to go to university.”
“Here? Why? I’ll just have to face Denise all over again. And I’ll still be ‘the giraffe,’ ‘slanty-eyes,’ and ‘the Virgin Terry.’ Don’t you think that hurts? Don’t you care?”
“I do care,” Dick said. “And it does hurt. I’ve had to deal with prejudice ever since I’ve lived here. I had to work hard to overcome it. It’s not easy, we both know that. Besides, by then you’ll be eighteen. That’s an adult—you can vote, drink and have your own life. You could go live with your Aunt Evelyn while going to university in Canada. Or you could go to university in Hong Kong or Singapore, or even England—I’ve got contacts there. You’ve got a great life ahead of you, but you’ve got to go through some tough times first. Everybody does. Look at me,” he stopped. She looked up at him almost blankly. “You’re the product of two great civilisations. It’s written on your face. You’ve got what it takes for success, whatever path you choose to get there.”
Terry looked at her father for a long time, then recited the following:
“But now I have cast off my official robes
As cicadas shed their skin;
I wash my feet in the limpid stream,
And in idle moments fill my cup with wine,
And call in a few new friends to drink with me.
A hundred years are soon gone, so why despair?
Yet immortal fame is not easy to attain!”
“You’re too smart for your own good sometimes,” Dick said, and they both laughed at that.
“I memorized that for English class,” Terry said. “Mr. Hancock wasn’t happy with the way we were doing. So I recited that to show that his class was an exercise in futility. Shu Yi used to read it to me when I was little—well, younger. He didn’t like that very much.”
“I heard about that at Parent’s Day,” Dick recalled. “We need to go home; your mother’s probably thinking we’ve fallen off the end of the Point.”
“Daddy, can I ask one thing?” She looked at her father with a plaintive look that signalled to him he was about to get a tall order.”
“Can I go have dinner with Shu Yi? I can’t face Mother just yet.”
He wanted to turn her down, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. “Do you have much homework?”
“Not a whole lot.”
“All right. I know she’ll be happy. Let’s go.” He hugged Terry as he gently lifted her from the bench, then took her bike and they both went to the car.
Terry always marvelled at how her father got her bicycle into the trunk of the DB-4. Once that was done, she got into the left door, he the driver’s, and they headed off to Terry’s grandmother’s house.
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