The Oxford Girl

A bit more of my YA novel.  You may have already started the first part, but I finished the chapter this time.  

I had no idea what an anglophile was until Jackson called me one, which was really surprising given that my vocabulary has got to be twice as big as his is.   I wasn’t about to ask  him what it meant—I’d never hear the end of it so I had to wait until he left before my dictionary could tell me just how seriously he had insulted me.   Anglophile:  n.  someone who holds an extremely romanticized view of the English.  Well then, that’s exactly what I am.Image

After all, there’s Prince Harry, the blokes of One Direction, and the entire cast of Downton Abbey.   I love them all.  With all my heart.  Jackson teases me like crazy about it all, and he especially thinks it’s a riot that I plan on going to Oxford. 

“What are you going to do?” he asks me.  “Marry an English lord?”

Actually, that’s exactly what I’m planning on doing, but I’m not about to tell Jackson this.  It will just send him rolling off the sofa and right out my front door.  Not that that would be a bad thing.    

I don’t know why they boy is so determined to give me such a hard time.  I’m sure he picked it all up from his best friend and my older brother, Wade, who much to my relief finally left for college.  I couldn’t wait for the day that the goading would end and as payment for all my long-suffering, Wade would finally bequeath me his room.  It’s the least Wade could do for me.   I mean I’m pretty sure that once I can start making my own health care decisions,  I’m going to need some serious therapy for all the emotional distress Wade has caused me.  Jackson just seems determined to run up my bill, and let me tell you something.  Psychiatrists are not cheap.    

So anyway, last Saturday afternoon, Jackson and I were fighting over the DVR remote.  He wanted to watch the Jazz game, and I suggested Sherlock Holmes, which I thought a fairly good compromise, but Jackson, as a rule, avoids anything on Masterpiece Classic.  Since I live with four brothers, the back of the remote’s was missing as were the batteries so neither one of us got what we wanted.   

Jackson wasn’t very happy about it, and after he rummaged through our junk drawers and still came up empty handed, he decided it was time to torture me, i.e., give me a driving lesson. 

I know that most girls at our school would die to get in a car with Jackson, but I’m not like most girls around here.   For one, I really don’t like it when Jackson acts like such a know-it-all especially in an area where my expertise is wanting.  For two, I’m dealing with some serious post-traumatic stress due to an incident that happened a year ago, an incident that Jackson unfortunately witnessed.  He feels it his duty to remind me about it every week and usually throws in a few guffaws for good measure.

  A year ago, our family went up to visit my uncle’s cabin.  Wade invited Jackson as always.  I had this crazy idea that while the boys nailed each other with ice balls and stuffed each other’s shirts down with snow, I would curl up with a George Eliot novel and a cup of white hot chocolate. 

Nobody had warned me about the snowmobiles. 

Before I knew it, my dad put me on a Polaris, gave me a thirty second course on how to drive it and then zoomed up the mountain on his own snowmobile.  Wade and Jackson were right behind him on their snowmobiles which they seemed quite adept at driving.  Unfortunately, I was not.  I got the brakes and the throttle completely mixed up and raced right towards a lovely thicket of Aspens, lovely until I plowed into them.  Since it took them a while to figure out that I wasn’t following him, I was left all alone, a poor damsel in distress, smoking coming out of the engine and neither a Mr. Knightly or a Mr. Darcy in sight.  It was most upsetting.  And my dad got mad at me, saying I wrecked his best friend’s toy.  Jackson and Wade were standing behind him trying not to snort, while my dad continued to rant with such aplomb that I learned a few words that were not found in my unabridged Oxford dictionary. 

So excuse me if grinding Jackson’s gears right in front of him doesn’t get me all excited, especially since I know I’m just giving him fodder for more jokes in the future.    

Jackson drives an old blue Toyota corolla and rumor is that he paid A.J. Rasmussen twenty-five dollars and a pair of rollerblades for it.  He opened the driver’s door for me and knowing what I was in for, I decided to dish it to him while I still could.  “Oh.  Have Hansel and Gretel been through here?” I asked as I brushed away a bunch of crumbs off my seat.     

He smiled as he tossed me the keys, which I dropped because his dimples were distracting me.  Seriously, his dimples are absolutely charming, and they would have won me over a long time ago, if Jackson wasn’t so annoying.    

“Jackson, I’m really not in the mood to drive right now,” I said, pushing my hair behind my ears like I meant business.  

“Are you ever?”

I reluctantly put the keys in the ignition and tried to put the car into reverse.  Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get the reverse and 4th gear mixed up in a blue Toyota Corolla, and corollas are not about to let this kind of thing go unnoticed.  Finally, after the car had protested long enough, Jackson put his hand over mine, which was trembling over the stick shift, and put the car into reverse.  He kept his hand on top of mine while I slowly backed out of the driveway, and when I finally got out onto the street, he moved my hand into first gear and said, “Well, Lizzie, why didn’t you tell me you were going to take so long?  I could have finished my calculus assignment.”  

Let’s just say that things did not go well.  Parallel parking between a Suburban and a minivan is not my idea of fun, and when I killed the car at a green light and couldn’t get it to start again, he finally had to run around the car and shove me back into the passenger seat.

            “I told you this wasn’t a good idea,” I said.  He just snorted at me and took over the steering wheel as only the highly competent Jackson can.  He can be so annoying sometimes, but I have my own ways of getting under his skin—opening up his glove compartment and fishing around.

            “What do you need?”  he asked kind of testily.  Honestly, the boy is so predictable sometimes.

            “Just a paper and pencil,” I said, “I guess the back of your bank statement will have to do.”  He let out a mild snort, but I just started writing.

Sparta, Greece—1000 B.C.   

 

Vienna, Austria–1791

 

Bath, England–1814

 

Paris, France—1949

           

            “What’s that?” asked Jackson, as he looked at my list while driving the car, only increasing my chance of imminent death.

            “A list of all the times and places I wished I had been born,” I said.  “Don’t you ever sharpen your pencils in this car?” 

Seriously, I could have launched a thousand ships for Troy or watched Mozart conduct The Magic Flute or danced the quadrille with Captain Wentworth or chopped chives with Julia Childs.  I mean, these are my people. 

It doesn’t change the fact though that I was actually born in Carbon County, land of the dinos, coal mines, and purple Laundromats.  At one point it had been a lush, grand central station for the T-rexes and triceratops, but now all we’ve got is wind and dust, and a wide selection of prehistoric bones.  That’s how far back you have to go to find something worth sticking in a museum.

“Oh come on, Lizzie,” Jackson said.  “Don’t you like it here? I mean just look at all the space we’ve got.”

“Yeah, well that’s because no one else wants to live here,” I mumbled.

“Well I do.” 

“Of course,” I said.  “What other county would give him two days off from school for the deer hunt?”       

He laughed. “Hey,” he said as he nudged me.  “Our skies are always clear. You can go out at night and see every star in the Northern hemisphere.  That’s got to count for something.”

“For you, it does,” I said.  Hector’s really big into earth stuff like rocks and stars and dinosaur bones which means that Carbon County is just perfect for him, especially if he winds up becoming a paleontologist like my dad.  His idea of a first date is a visit to the dinosaur museum, and if a girl doesn’t the difference between the Paleozoic and Mezozoic eras by the time they’re done with their little tour, he’s pretty much done with her.  I know far more than I could ever want to know about the brontosaurus and the brachiosaurus, and I will say that Jackson and I have had far more discussions about the power of a T-Rex’s tooth than we ever have about Emily Bronte or P.D. Wodehouse. 

“You don’t really want to go to Oxford.  It rains there all the time.”

“What are you talking about?  It’s never raining on–“ and then I stopped before I made a fool of myself, but Jackson caught right on.  

“I know what you were going to say.  It never rains at Downton Abbey or at Mr. Darcy’s ranch.”

“Estate, Jackson.  It’s Mr. Darcy’s estate.”  Jackson smirked at me, and I realized he was just messing with me again.

“I bet you that they have to film all the outside scenes on the one day of the month that it’s not raining.  That’s why they have to be inside their fancy houses most of the time.”

“You don’t know anything, Jackson.” 

“Quit acting like you’re so much smarter than I am.  We have more in common than you think.”

“Like what?”

“Well for starters, we’re both smart.”  I rolled my eyes at him.

“And we both like museums.”  

“That’s a stretch,” I said.  “You’re rather see a raptor and I’d rather see a Rembrandt.” 

“And then there’s the fact that we’re both so good looking’” I could feel myself blushing, and try as I might to come up with a good comeback, I was stumped into silence.  “Although,” he continued, “You try to hide it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“Oh come on, you’re always pulling your hair back in that pony tail and you’ve got your head down in a book all the time—“   

“I do not!” 

 “How do you walk and read at the same time between class periods when there’s so many people in the halls?  How do you not run into people?”  I blushed again because running into people is sort of a problem for me.

“You’re acting like I’m a hermit.  I have friends—“  It was starting to get warm in the car, but Jackson didn’t seem to notice. 

“Friends?  Oh. Are you talking about the angry girl with purple hair?”

            “Her name is Janna.”

            “Whatever.  Anyway, she’s exactly the kind of friend you end up with when you don’t put out any effort.”

            “She’s nice.  It’s just—“

            “It’s just what?”                                                         

            “It’s just that I need to be somewhere where I belong.”  How could Jackson, Carbon High’s most preferred man, possibly understand?

            “Oh you mean, with like British royalty?” 

            “No—-“

            “Well you come off that way.  People think you’re a total snob you know.”  

            “I’m not a snob at all, it’s just that I just don’t belong here!”

            “And that’s what we call a snob,” he said as pulled up to my driveway.

            “Stop it Jackson!  You twist everything I say,” as I slapped him across the arm with the back of my hand.   

            “You know what I think?” he asked as he put the gear into first and turned off the car.  “I think you’re just acting too good for us, but really you’re just scared.”

“Of what?” I asked incredulously.

“Of putting yourself out there. You’re afraid that nobody will like you so you reject us before we have the chance to reject you.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

            “Is it?” 

“Yes, Jackson!  For your information, it’s very tough to get into Oxford, and I need to get a scholarship on top of it all.  I’ve got to seriously study if I want even a shot at it.  Why don’t you offer a little support for a girl’s dream, Jackson?”

His mocking face softened, and he turned towards me in all seriousness.  “Actually, I think it’s incredibly cool that you want to go to Oxford.  Way cool.”  Finally the boy is giving me a little respect around here.  “ And maybe you deserve to be a snob since your so much smarter than the rest of us—“ I smacked him again.

“No, Jackson, I’m not.  I just know what I want.”

“Do you?” he asked as he leaned in towards me.

I bit my lip.  He was such a flirt, but I knew better than to take him seriously.  So many girls had fallen for him, but despite all his antics, he remained a confirmed bachelor. 

“Yes, Jackson.  I think I do.”

“All I’m saying is that you need to take some risks sometimes,” he said as he pushed my hair behind my ear.  “Maybe if you did, you’d surprise yourself.”  He was so close to me that I could smell his cinnamon gum, and for a moment, we froze, but then I fell back into my seat.   

            “Look Jackson, I’m sure E-Harmony couldn’t find a guy within a 75 mile radius of here that would be compatible with me.”    

             “And I’m sure Oxford will have about 34 eligible men per square mile.” He falls back into his seat too and pulls his hands through his hair.  I hate it when he does that, when he does things that are so totally hot and he doesn’t even know it.  Fortunately, I’m not one to get too distracted by this.  I just remind myself that Jackson is Mr. Carbon County through and through and that cools me down real quick.  I mean really quick.   

            “Actually, there’s probably only about 23 eligible men per square mile,” I answer.

            “Oh that’s right.   Your standards are pretty high.  Let’s see that would be four lords, a couple of earls, a duke, maybe a backup baronet.” 

            I smile at him.  “Baronets are completely out of the question.”  

            “Of course.  You’re probably snag Prince Harry while you’re out there, but don’t you think you’re going to have to practice on some of us red necks out here before you hop on over there and land yourself a title?”

            “Absolutely not!  You’d ruin me!  I’d get over there and start spouting off double negatives and scratching my, oh never mind.“

            “Scratching your what?” 

            “Your derrie–You get my point!  Just talking to you is corrupting me!”

            “And you say you’re not a snob.”  I press my hands into my seat and look right at him.

            “Fine, you got me.  I’m a snob. What are you going to do about it?”   He looks back at me, and smiles, leaning in towards me and for a second, I think he’s going to kiss me.  But then he pulls back.  No wonder so many girls accuse him of being a heartbreaker. 

“I’m going to ask you one more time.  Are you sure that deep down you’re not just a little scared of putting yourself out there?”

            “Then prove it.”

            “What are you talking about?!”

            “Pretend like you like us.  Maybe we aren’t as bad as you think.”   

            “Whatever,” I say as I laugh.  “Like how?”

            “Close your books.  Look out at the world.  Smile sometimes.”

            “Sheesh, Jackson, that’s almost poetic.”

            “And that’s coming from a red neck.”

            “Imagine that—“

            “Oh, and the other thing you might want to try is a little bit of make-up.”  I looked at him in shock, but he looked at me like he was completely serious.  

            “What?!”  I lifted up my hand, ready to slap him in the face, but he grabbed it before I had a chance.  I tried to wrestle it free from him, but he had a firm grip and didn’t show any signs of letting go.  “You know I finally think I’m getting somewhere with you, and then you go off and show just what a male chauvinist—-“ I say.

            “Look, Lizzie.  It’s the way boys are made.  Some might have to hide it, but that’s the way we are through and through.  You’re lucky you have me to clue you in.” 

            “But you said that guys didn’t like make-up caked on girls.”

            “Not caked on, but a little icing would be nice.”  I tried to pound him with my other hand, but he grabbed that one too.  He held them both down on the seat. 

            “So what do you say, Lizzie?”

            “Oh, classic you Jackson.  Try to get me to agree to something while both my hands are tied.”

            “A few coercive measures never hurt anyone.”

            “Oh really?  Who’d you learn that from?  Hitler?  Castro?” 

            He let go of my hands.  “Nope. You’re brother.”

            “Of course you did.  Anyway, you’re on.  You just watch me.  I’ll have the lot of you charmed by the end of the week so you better get used to sharing me. I might not always be so available when you drop by at our house when your Plan A and B and C and D have fallen through.”  He look at me surprised and then frowned at me.

            “I know I’m your Plan E.  For Elizabeth.  Just wait, Jackson.  That’s all going to change.”     

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2 comments

  1. Mom! Way to many words. I also think that Tortoise Girls is way cooler… like it has a much cooler style.

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