Seth’s arrival back from weekend
(Life in the Palace: Chapter 9)
My alarm went off but my eyes stayed shut. I knew it was Monday; the day of the final exam of the summer. In a week, the semester would start for real and the sleepy summer campus would suddenly surge with people. I’d be an official freshman. I could start living the college fantasy. Except I was quite pleasantly living a different fantasy right now.
Even as sleep slipped away, I could feel myself lying in Seth’s arms. The next night, I really would be. We’d made plans to meet at his house after my exam was over. That way he could recover from the trip and I could have a clear head for the exam.
A light breeze blew across my face. I opened my eyes. Before I could breath, Seth’s lips were on mine.
“Good morning,” he said, pulling away with a smile.
I sat up in bed, panicked. “Did I miss the exam?”
Seth pulled me back down to the pillow, “Nope. Not unless they scheduled it for before seven am.” He murmured into my neck.
I put up no resistance, but I offered no participation.
“What are you doing here?”
“We got back early. At the end of our last set, the crowd turned into more of a battlefield than a dance party. We decided to slip out while we still had all of our limbs and our gear was intact.”
“How did you get in?” I asked and then thought better of it, “Wait, I know. Once again, Simone was your willing accomplice.”
Seth shrugged guiltily. “She did suggest that it was about time I got my own key.”
“Do you want one?”
“It would beat sitting on your doorstep at six am.”
Now I had almost no will left to get out of bed. “I have to go to my exam,” I protested weakly.
“I know, but you have ten more minutes before you really have to get out of bed because you always set your alarm fifteen minutes fast. So come over here so I can enjoy you before I have to kick you out of bed.”
I was going to protest the suggestion of being kicked out of my own bed, but talking seemed like a waste of my ten minutes.
After the bar on Frosh week
(Life in the Palace: Chapter10)
I let myself into Seth’s front door. At least I hadn’t lost the key. I didn’t even bother to look to see if Josh was home. I just laid down on his bed and watched the room spin. I’m not sure how long I’d been asleep when my phone rang. Thankfully, it was in my pant’s pocket so I actually found it in time before it went to voice mail.
“Where are you? Your place or mine?” Seth asked.
“Your’s. Mine was too far to walk.”
Seth laughed, “Yeah that extra half a block makes a real difference. I’ll see you in a minute.”
It must have been out cold by the time he got back because I don’t remember anything until I woke up in my underwear.
I just had time to notice I was semi-naked before more pressing needs made their presence known. I flew into the bathroom, silently thanking Mrs. Wilks for deciding that each of her children required an en-suite.
Seth brought me a glass of water as I hugged the toilet bowl. About fifteen minutes later, I emerged. Seth was sitting up on his bed with his legs stretched out reading the paper.
“Feel better?” He asked.
“I think I might have left a few internal organs in there as well. I’ve never vomited so much in my life.”
“Welcome to college. The perfect place for broadening your horizons and trying new things.”
I ignored him. My head hurt too much for sarcasm.
“What happened to my clothes?”
“They’re over there.” Seth pointed to a neat pile on the chair. “I didn’t think you really wanted to sleep in them.”
“Thanks. Last night did we…?”
“While you were passed out drunk? No. We did not. And possibly, you owe me for that little stunt in the bar. Although, maybe we’re even after the time Karen spat beer on Amir.”
I was still standing trying to get my bearings.
Seth motioned me over to the bed.
“It hurts to move” I whined.
He put the paper down and pulled me into his arms. One arm stayed wrapped tight around me while his free hand traced the contours on my face and stroked my hair. It was very relaxing. I could feel the toxins washing away.
When I sighed peacefully, Seth took it as a cue that I was recovered enough for conversation.
“Did you at least meet nice people?”
“It’s very hard to tell at these orientation things. No one is being themselves and everyone is looking over their shoulder to see if there’s someone better they could be talking to. There were a couple of people that seemed ok. There was this chick from Alberta, Emma and Tess from Ottawa. I could be friends with them.”
“Who was the giggly chick with the black curly hair last night?”
I groaned slightly, “That was Alex from Edmonton. She is very giggly. I hope I don’t have to be friends with her.”
Seth smiled and kissed the top of my head. “You don’t have to be friend with anyone you don’t want to.”
“Are you working again tonight?”
“I’m afraid so. Frosh is busy season for us. It’s all hands on deck. Also I need the weekend off in a few weeks so I’m trying to ingratiate myself to the boss.”
I turned my head slightly so I could see his face, “But Alec will give you the time off won’t he?”
“He will, but it pays to stay in his good books. He’s a nice guy, but he’s still the boss. Also, the money comes in handy. All of these drunken froshies tip well.”
“Ok. Well just make sure that no one else asks you to kiss their drunkenness away.”
Seth stroked my cheek, “I’m sure soon everyone will know that I’m taken and that you’re the lucky lady.”
Little did I know how prophetic his words would prove to be.
Hanging up posters (aka how Tess met Josh)
(Life in the Palace: Chapter 12)
I was waiting outside the Arts building for my poster buddy. Jen came over and smiled.
“Tess is coming in a minute with the posters.”
I looked at her and laughed, “You too? I wasn’t sure you were that impressed after the jam session the other night.”
Jen shrugged but smiled, “The jam session was fine, but on Tuesday I bumped into Noy and we hung out for a while. It sounds like the services this weekend will be really cool, so I thought that the least I can do is hang up a few posters.”
What you’re not saying is, I spent the afternoon in the Palace and now I’m wondering if there’s a bit more to all this stuff than I always thought.
I let Jen keep to her delusions. If she was going to take up the Service it was her business and not mine.
“Hey Tess, got the stuff? Let’s go. I think the goal is to hit every poster board on campus.”
“I’m not joking…that’s what Tal told me and she can be really serious sometimes.”
Tess’ eye twinkled, “Yeah, I get that about her. Are you staying here for the Day of Accounting, Jen?”
“Yep. I heard them practicing last night. It’s going to rock.”
“I’m gutted I can’t stay.”
I looked over at Tess, “Why not?”
“It’s a big deal in my family. My life won’t be worth living if I don’t go home and do my duty.”
Jen nodded sympathetically as she held the poster for me to staple.
“What about you?” I asked her over my shoulder.
“My mom doesn’t expect me to go home. She hardly does anything. When we were kids she tried. We used to go to services and she’d make two types of cheesecake, but now she might pop in for an hour or so, certainly not the whole time. I think she buys cheese Danishes from the bakery.”
“That’s sad,” Tess sighed.
Jen didn’t seem to care, “My brother’s in Nepal, he’s definitely not coming back any time soon. She sent us to camp and made sure we knew about our ethnic heritage. She did her part, what else is left for her to do?”
Tess seemed to think that there was lots left for Jen’s mother to do, but she studiously didn’t mention it.
“Which camp did you go to?” Tess asked as we walked to the next notice board.
“Oh, my cousin went there. Dani Ells.”
“Is he the one with an unreasonable amount of red curly hair?”
“Exactly.” Tess seemed really excited that Jen knew her cousin. What difference did it make?
“He was in my brother’s bunk two years running, Tom Stef.”
“I’ll ask if he remembers him. Your brother’s travelling?” Tess took a turn to hold up the poster while I stapled.
“He’s living the whole finding himself in Asia cliché.”
“Did he? Find himself?”
Jen cracked up, “Not unless his inner self is expressed through a new tattoo and a large supply of cheap dope.”
“That doesn’t sound very good.” I’d been thinking the same thing as Tess.
“Nah, he’ll be fine, He’s not into anything serious. When his money runs out he’ll stop partying and come home, get a job and live in some trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn like everyone else.”
“Are you from a big family?” Jen asked like she assumed the answer was yes.
Tess smiled, “I’m the youngest of five, so big but not huge. I have three brothers who are chiropractors and my sister is at U of T studying business administration.”
“Is she allowed to do anything so radical? The girls don’t need to be chiropractors?”
I looked at Tess, it sounded like there was a huge new level of parental pressure in place over there but she seemed chill.
“No one ever said that we had to become chiropractors…”
“It was just assumed?” Jen finished for her.
Tess struggled not to smile, “Put it like this, my sister will probably use her degree to manage the family practice.”
I shook out another poster, “What are you going to do?”
Tess looked dreamy, “What will I do or what do I want to do?”
“Want,” I said without turning around.
“There’s a new thing, well it’s not really new, but it’s just becoming mainstream; craniosacrial therapy. It works with the fluid in the spine and the bones in the scull. It’s a very gentle manipulation unlike chiropractics.”
“Why isn’t that what you will do?”
“Because as far as my father’s concerned, I might as well do reflexology if I’m going to get all fruity and new aged.”
“Could you do both?”
Tess nodded but looked unconvinced. “First, I’ll get through my undergrad and then I can worry about following in the family footsteps. What do your parents want you to do?”
“Graduate, stay out of jail,” I laughed. “I don’t think my mother’s harboring any secret dreams of me coming home and taking over the family business. My future is not in floristry. I always say I’m planning on doing Chemical Engineering, but I’m not so sure anymore. Right now I’m just hoping I manage to pick a major before I’m a Junior.”
We rounded a corner and nearly walked straight into Josh.
“Are you stalking me?” I asked as we managed not to collide.
“You’re the one who keeps coming to my house,” Josh laughed. “What are you doing lurking in the Arts building anyway?”
Tess offered him a poster.
“I heard this place was cool. Too bad I have to go home and endure the annual torture session.”
“Where’s home?” Jen asked.
“Boston. Hi, I’m Josh Wilks.”
“I’m sorry, Josh Wilks, this is Jen Stef and Tess Adle.”
They all smiled at each other as you do when you just met the friends of your friends.
Josh started walking with us.
“Who told you about the Ghetto Chapel?” I asked.
“Ethan, he was there last night. He might try to sneak downtown while his mom’s not looking. Seth and I are leaving tomorrow.”
I nodded, the date was already marked in the calendar. Unnecessarily, as I was unlikely to forget when my boyfriend was out of town but it made me feel better to see that it was just for four short days.
“It sounds like it’s going to be cool,” Tess said smiling at Josh.
“Anything is better than my grandparent’s Temple back home with Guide ‘halitosis’ Hess. His son has to sit next to him and make sure he stays awake through the whole service.”
Tess giggled, “In our Chapel they post the page number at the front, but some years the Day of Accounting coincides with the World Series. The men don’t want to miss out so we only turn a page when someone scores.”
“What about my Aunt Lil sitting at the back with her cronies scanning the crowd for any eligible bachelors and cooking up these crazy matches, except now they’re all a bit hard of hearing so the unlucky candidates have to hear them weighing up their dating resumes.” Josh flashed his best Colgate grin. “Are you going home too?” He asked Tess.
“Yep, but my mom’s double chocolate cheesecake makes up for it all.”
“Double chocolate?” Jen and I said in unison.
Tess nodded, “You have to be a Knight to eat more than one piece. They say it’s the reason my Great Uncle Larry passed away in the middle of Services.”
I looked at her with horror.
No one else seemed that shocked.
“It supposed to be a great honor to die on the Day of Accounting,” Josh said seriously.
Tess shrugged, “He died happy, though. He’d had three slices.”
I couldn’t tell if she was being serious.
We were up to our last poster. Jen looked at her watch. “Perfect timing, I’ve got Psych 101 in ten minutes. I want to make sure I get a seat in the actual lecture hall and not the overflow classroom.”
“Is it really worth it? Who wants to take a class with 700 other people?”
Jen gave me a look, “Some of your science classes are pretty big. But really, I hear by the third year most of them have dropped out.”
“Have fun,” I waved her off.
“I’d better take these things back to the Chapel,” Tess said glancing at Josh “Do you want to come and check it out.”
“Sure, it’s about time I see what all the fuss is about.”
“Chloe?” Tess shot me a look.
It was one of the least inviting invitations I’ve ever received. Wild horses would not have made me join them.
“I’ve got a serious date with a textbook before a more lively date with Seth, so I’ll give it a miss.” It wasn’t a lie, as soon as I left them I buried myself in the library.
Up on the mountain before Day of Accounting
(Life in the Palace: Chapter 13)
Winter hadn’t quite arrived. It was threatening us, but Seth had brought a blanket so I was warm as we watched the moonlight flicker on the lake’s surface. Sometimes we were talking, sometimes we just watched the water.
I tilted my head to the right so Seth could move in to kiss my neck. “Have you heard from Stacy recently?” he murmured.
“She started school down there. She sounds pretty content.”
“So all’s well that end’s well.”
“I’m not sure if she’s talked to Mom and Dad yet, but at least there’s no beef between us. Mom sounded relieved that I’d heard from her. At least she’s not working as a call-girl in Vegas or anything.”
“Would Rob really have let her do that?”
I turned by head sharply to look at him. I could just make out his eyes sparkling with amusement. It did not have a calming effect.
“He ‘let’ her drop out of an Ivy League college.”
“I haven’t met your sister, but from what I know of the Diaz family, I can’t imagine she asked his permission. Everyone seems quick to trash this Rob guy but no one’s actually met him. Could be he’s a decent bloke just trying to do his best.”
I wasn’t ready to concede the point just then, “Can I reserve my judgment?”
The corner of his eyes wrinkled as he smiled, “You can.”
I leaned in and kissed him so he couldn’t think I was mad. With one hand he stroked my hair as he pulled me closer with the other.
He whispered in my ear, “I’m going to miss you.”
My heart missed a beat. It always sounds romantic when it says that in books, but in real life it’s quite uncomfortable when it happens. I didn’t know how to respond. I was going to miss him, but I’m an overly emotional girl trying very hard to avoid all the mistakes of gushing young love.
“I wish you were coming with me.”
I still couldn’t respond.
He pulled back slightly from our embrace and caught my chin in one hand to look into my eyes. One tear glistened and threatened to overflow. He whipped it away with the tip of his finger.
“Do you think after a lot of years this becomes normal? Do you just get used to living with such perfection? I don’t want to think it just fades away into a swamp of bills and doctors’ appointments. It can’t just be something you keep in a back drawer together with my Little League glove and our wedding album.”
My voice was horse, “I don’t think it fades. I think maybe it becomes the soundtrack.”
Seth nodded. He liked my answer. A life lived to the rhythm of love appealed to him.
“The base line,” he murmured as he bent his lips towards mine again. “Everything stands on the base line.”
Tess gives Chloe clothing advice
(Life in the Palace: Chapter 13)
I was standing in my room with half my wardrobe strewn over my bed. I picked up my phone and Tess answered straight away.
“I’m sorry, I know you’re doing your whole family thing, but what am I supposed to wear?”
Tess giggled, “It’s ok, right now my Mom is arguing with my Aunt Cee Cee about the correct spicing for the soup. I have a few minutes before I have to turn my phone off. You want a skirt and a long sleeved top. Nothing too low cut or sleazy. Smart casual will do, it doesn’t have to be a suit or anything.”
“A suit? I don’t even own a suit. Everything I own is black and white. Does it have to be colored?” For the first time, my wardrobe didn’t seem so mix and match. This was worse than going to see Grandma Mary.
“No colors are required. As long as you’re basically covered you can wear what you like, but no pants.”
“No pants,” I muttered to myself. “Ruffled white cotton shirt with black straight skirt and emergency cardigan for the evening?” I asked Tess.
“Sounds lovely, what cardigan?”
“I’ve got this one from Zara with bead work on the front.”
“That goes without saying.”
Tess might have been laughing at me, but she’s a sweet girl so I gave her the benefit of the doubt.
“Which shoes?” She asked.
“Shoes are easy. I’ve got those black pumps with the big buckle on the toe.”
“Good thing the snow didn’t start yet. It sounds like you’re all set. I’m sure you’re going to have a really nice time. May you be designated for life.”
I was about to hang up but I did a double take. “What? Designated for life?”
This time Tess really did laugh. “That’s what People say at this time of year. You wish the other person another year of life.”
“Isn’t that a little bit morbid?”
“I never really thought about it, but that is kind of the point of the Day of Accounting.”
“I thought you had to go to Chapel and eat a lot of food?”
“That too, but the point of it all is that you get your new assignment.”
“Yeah, I know that bit.”
“So that includes whether you live or die. You wish People that their assignment brings them to life.” Tess explained patiently.
“That sounds kind of serious.” I struggled into pantyhose with the phone still in one hand.
“It is, that’s why we do all the praying.”
“Maybe I should warn Seth.” I didn’t want him dying on me due to lack of forethought, or any other reason for that matter.
“For as much as it’s worth, he probably already knows. Don’t worry about it too much. Everything will be fine, but I’m afraid I have to go now. I’m turning my phone off so I’ll call you when I’m on my way back.”
“Sure. Have a good one…er…May you be designated for life.”
“May all our blessings be revealed.” She rang off.
These people are weird. It must be the stress of all that life and death stuff that pushes them over the edge. I’m beginning to get why Seth isn’t in such a rush to sign up and go collect his regulation sword.