The Oxford Girl

The Oxford GirlImage

Chapter 1 

I had no idea what an anglophile was until Jackson called me one, and that really surprised me since my vocabulary is twice as large as his is.   I wasn’t about to ask  him what it meant—I’d never hear the end of it so I waited 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.

After all, there’s Prince Harry, the blokes of One Direction, and the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch.   I love them all.  With all my heart.  Jackson teases me like crazy about it, 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. 

I don’t know why the 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 finally left for college.  I couldn’t wait for the day that the goading would stop and as payment for all my long-suffering, Wade would bequeath me his room.  It was the least he could do for me.  I mean I’m pretty sure that once I can start making my own health care decisions,  I’ll be getting some serious help for all my emotional distress, thank you very much, Wade.  Jackson just seems determined to run up the bill, and let me tell you something.  Therapists are not cheap.    

So anyway, last Saturday afternoon, Jackson and I were fighting over the DVR remote.  He wanted to watch the Utah Jazz game, and I suggested Sherlock Holmes, which I thought a fairly good compromise, but Jackson, as a rule, avoids anything on Masterpiece.  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 by giving 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.   I mean just because Jackson is tall and has those penetrating blue eyes and sports a set of charming dimples does not mean that he can act like such a know-it-all, especially in an area where my expertise is a little wanting.   

He opened the driver’s door of his old blue Toyota, and rolled out his arm, obviously expecting me to get in.

“Don’t get all Vanna White on me,” I said.

“I wasn’t!” he protested.  “I was trying to be a good footman, m’lady.”

 I walked up to the door and knowing what I was in for, 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 pretty disarming, and they would have won me over a long time ago, if the boy that wore them weren’t so annoying.    

I decided it was worth one more try.  “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 my trembling one and put the car into reverse.  He kept his hand there 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 the lesson 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 which at the moment involved 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.         

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?”  Just so you know, I could have watched Mozart conduct The Magic Flute or danced the quadrille with Captain Wentworth or chopped chives with Julia Childs.  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 you 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 stuff like rocks and stars and dinosaur bones which means that Carbon County is just perfect for him.   His idea of a first date is a visit to the dinosaur museum, and if a girl doesn’t know the difference between the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras by the time they’re done with their little tour, he’s pretty much done with her. Unfortunately, that means that Jackson and I have had far more discussions about the power of a T-Rex’s tooth than the merits of P.G. 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—“ but I couldn’t catch myself in time.

“I know what you were going to say,” he answered.  “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 both like museums,” he said smiling at me. 

“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,” he said as if he hadn’t even heard me.  Typical.  Still,  I could feel myself blushing and try as I might to come up with a good comeback, I was stumped.  “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?  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 Jane.”

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

            “Look, Jackson.  Maybe I’m not going to really try until I’m somewhere I belong.”  How could Jackson, Carbon High’s most preferred man, possibly understand?

            “Oh you mean with 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!”

            “Which is what we call a snob, Lizzie.  Anyway, you know what I think?” he asked as he put the gear into first and turned off the car.  “I think you just act too good for us, but really you’re just scared.”

“Of what?” I asked incredulously.

“Of putting yourself out there.  You don’t want to fail 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’ve got to seriously study if I want even a shot at it so I’m sorry if I don’t have time to decorate for prom.  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,” as he leaned in towards me.

“Do you?” I asked.  He was such a flirt, but I had to be careful.  So many girls had fallen for him, but despite all his antics, he remained a confirmed bachelor. 

“Yes.  But I still think 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.  It seemed a good time to fall 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 just remind myself that Jackson is Mr. Carbon County through and through and that cools me down real quick.  I mean really quick.  This place is not going to pull down my grammar too.

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

            “Oh that’s right.   Your standards are pretty high.  We’re only talking lords, earls, dukes, maybe a backup baronet.” 

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

            “Of course.  You’ll 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 you say you’re not a snob.”  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, but he had a firm grip and didn’t show any signs of letting go. 

            “Jackson!”

            “So what do you say, Lizzie?”

            “What?!”

            “Can you just pretend to like the rest of us?”

            “Oh, classic 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?  Fidel Castro?” 

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

            “Lizzie?“  I nearly jumped out of my seat.  My mom was tapping on the window, and I quickly rolled it down, hoping that she hadn’t seen anything.   Given how dirty Jackson’s windows were, I probably didn’t need to worry. 

“Oh Lizzie, I wanted to tell you before I leave for your brother’s game, Mrs. Winslow is picking up her niece and nephew tonight at the airport.”  It was painful for me to watch her stooping down to talk me.  She’s eight months pregnant and as big as a house.  “They’re going to be living with her for a while.  I thought it might be nice if you could go over and welcome them in the neighborhood tomorrow.  I could bake some brownies for you to take over.”  Great.  So both my mom and Jackson were ganging up on me. 

“Uh, sure,” I said, as Jackson tried to keep his laughter from exploding. 

“I thought you might like them,” she said.  “They’re flying in from England.”       

So as a reminder.

1.  I would love any feedback you have on this chapter.

2.  If you would like to be one of my beta readers, and give feedback on one to two chapters a week, please tell me in your comments, and I will get a hold of you!   I will not be posting additional chapters on the blog, but only sending my chapters to a select few that are committed to the project.  

Thank you!  

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One comment

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