A tube of trees surrounding the road protected Birdie and her family from the rickety trucks delivering groceries into town, the lights of the outdoor parlours and cafes and the melodic noise of the French countryside. She remembered, when she was younger sticking her head out, like a dog, the wind pushing her whole face against the glass, her hair flown backwards, eyes squinting against the air, the heat beating on her skin. She wished she could do that now, but the confinement of her age stopped her from being so childish. Settling, she leaned her head against the back of the seat, her short cloak of hair collecting the wind, that flew across the open top car, her ears filtering music from the radio and her vision uncontrolled but focused.
As the turned the corner, joining the back roads, her gut dropped with dread. Couldn't they just reverse? To return to her home, get on a plane back, to BrownHall Close. The suburb was filled by a gaggle of forty to fifty-year olds and one newly-wed couple, arranged much like the seven villas in the French court. Although she must admit the owners of the villas, had much more interesting hobbies, than her neighbours back home, and more lucrative and perverse careers. They were painters, writers, poets, specialising in history, theology, philosophy and so forth, which although were bases of society, hardly housed 'true' careers. Subsequently, they found themselves often forming unions of their own, discussing everything without conclusion; drinking wine without becoming drunk and smoking, while keeping a youthful glow. They were all muses, effervescent yet insouciant, damaged yet hopeful, sensual though pure – something Birdie could aspire to be.
This was the one place Birdie felt herself, she felt more herself with these artists than when she was alone. Maybe it was the distance from college, and the people she had been surrounded by every day for years. Or the age difference, the pain of life these people had suffered made them true, made them kind.
One thing was different this summer though, a family would be staying in the house with them. The Halls had visited the villa for fortnight, for a few years now, often staying with Josie Peel – a renowned sculptor and nudist, along with her miscellaneous toy boys. When they mentioned buying the cottage across the road, everyone rejoiced, another couple of eccentrics at the table. What people had not been expecting was the damp, that claimed half of their ceiling, and, conveniently, would not be mended until the end of the summer. And of course, Birdie's parents being the kind-hearted, polite souls that they are, and Josie only having a spare bed and two questionable loveseats, offered them the guest bedrooms.
The Halls were pleasant enough, the parents Henriette and John, were long friends of Bridget and her brother Peter's parents, from University (St Andrews). The four, coincidently, both took up residence in Sussex. John was an architect and was known to present a prepared gallery, of new Cathedrals or Country estates he'd been working on - after extended periods without acquaintance, which, for their parents, was no more than a tedious month. Sheila: short, dainty, who often smelt of lemons, has what used to be described as 'character'. Her presence awoke the weird and wonderful in the room, she drew something out of person, which could normally only be achieved by hard drug use or alcohol consumption. These people, Bridget would not mind spending a week with, they were in common with the court occupants, and with her parents social and dinner party prone lifestyles, she had become accustomed to much worse guests.
Such as the McCall's: haughty, ignorant, smelt of mothballs, and luckily too busy on a leisure filled business trip in Cancun to come. It was the Hall's sons, however filled her with an unknown dread.
Their oldest Dylan, eighteen, had taken a more hands on approach to his father's career, by becoming a "grafter", and was more logical than artistic, something arguable more useful as a career trait. Someone, who from experience, Bridget would assume, hate her before even speaking to her. Yet since they had known each other since her birth, and their parents were each other's godparents, he had gotten the time to know that despite her shy exterior (which most of his friends would take as being weird), she was an alright person to talk to – when she was slightly tipsy, and more parts Bridget than of anxiety.
Understandably he would not be the first person she would choose to speak to, if a stranger. Not because she would not want to, but she would assume people like him (confident, outgoing – conventual) would dismiss her. It sometimes felt like she let off a radar, which emitted "stay away". So, when anybody did speak to her, her mind would be jumping to find things to impress them, so much so, she'd come across as an absolute freak. She made this conclusion a short while after she came into her second year of secondary school. So, she would not speak until spoken to, hold herself to her chest until it felt safe. Everything felt like a competition, who had the best clothes, most followers, prettiest friends, when Bridget felt it was better to just live to be the kindest. Overall, he was a nice person, apart from the fact he follows reality stars on twitter and would not shed an ounce of public emotion if it killed him. She did not want to bump into him first thing in the morning, pre-shower.
Their youngest son – the same age as Bridget – was something left to the imagination, which she often found herself doing in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
Finley. Finny to his mother. Fin to everybody else.
From discrete social media stalking, she learnt, he liked The Smiths, David Attenborough documentaries, and cable knit sweaters. Yet everyone who saw him could tell he was something more. He had soul which radiated off him from metres away.
She often found herself, at her parents' dinner parties, perched on the stairs, with her best friend Nomi; her attention wandering from their conversations, to Fin. He as well brought a humanoid safety blanket to theses fated gatherings, Paulie They had not spoken much since we were twelve (they were now seventeen, going to the same college, both taking English Literature, yet in different classes – how inconvenient). They messaged once or twice, either laughing at a joke on each other's social media or complementing the others taste in movies – he liked Wes Anderson. Of course, he liked Wes Anderson.
Yet, the main difference between the two was that he was a functioning person. He could make what the mortals call "small talk", something which Birdie had been practising for weeks to act over the breakfast table. He wore clothes as something to cover his naked body, in an aesthetically appealing way, not as armour, or to portray his whole personality in material because his mouth cannot say it. He did unique in the normal way.
She hated to say she was "different", because, circumlocutorily, she was saying she was in some way special. Yet the nagging feeling that she was on the outside of everything circulated her, as if there was some sort of chalk line which she couldn't cross. Maybe everyone felt like this? It certainly didn't look it. Whenever the question "What celebrity would you invite to dinner, alive or dead?", no one seemed to conjure up an idea of discretely flirting with gentleman, with Oscar Wilde, or theorising the theory of anything and everything with Stephen Fry – who Bridget believed was a reincarnation of the former anyway. Or at least played him in a film with Jude Law, which was satisfactory at least. No one seemed to get that emotionally attached to Holden from Catcher in the Rye, that they physically miss him when they finish reading. And no one seemed to appreciate her niche taste in late 20th century, independent Belgium films.
Yet to mark herself as such pariah, was so pretentious, it even caused her to look back at herself with a sense of loathing. To think someone is special, and not in the generic way someone is special, just because they liked things not everyone liked or knew, was the worst compliment. She knew deep down she was from a different dimension, just in the same way as everyone one is. The contingent being: a person. People are all intertwined in a game of consequences, and acquaintance, and unless completely psychotic, they all harbour the same emotions, loneliness, and depth – although some's could be described as flour compared to spice.
There are people who love The Importance of Being Earnest and QI. There are people who hope with all their heart that Holden's parents won't beat the living day lights out of him when he returns home from his three-day bender. And there will be people who when she mentions Christiane F, will reply "Wow! I loved the David Bowie soundtrack on that movie." – there are people like this other than her and her best friend.
She just needed to meet them that is all.
Gracias por leer!