They would never have thought that she’d move away from Manhattan in a pre-owned red pickup truck, adopt a full grown mutt from a shelter, or cut up all of her credit cards just a week after they were sipping Cosmopolitans at Maxim’s.
KiKi’s clique were all trust fund babies whose family trees could be found in the Social Register. And she was expected to marry into a family whose tree was older than hers. All the training. From a young age she was trained in the social graces. French classes at age five, cotillion dances at Knickerbocker’s, coming out party where she almost tripped, walking down the majestic stairway, arm and arm with her father, for the “presentation.” Teenage boys eyeing the girl mother and father would approve of. It was all a matter of what was “correct”.
None of the women in her family were addressed by their birth name. Her mother, Edith, was DeDe. Aunt Susanna was DooDoo. She never knew what to make of that! Her maternal grandmother, TaTa. And the Jack Russell Terrier went by the name of PooPoo. When her sister’s first boyfriend came to the home, the first time for formal introduction, he botched it all up. He extended his hand to Aunt Susanna and said “Glad to meet you PooPoo”. You could hear darling tittering in the living room. But DoDo promptly sat down, head held high and continued sipping her sherry. KiKi, otherwise known as Charlotte, had lost it right then and there, receiving mother’s familiar look of disapproval. And disaster continued on at the dinner table. He was not invited back. Her sister cried for weeks.
The truck was a sturdy old girl. Chipped a little here and there with a missing passenger's headrest but she liked that about this truck. She was so tired of "perfect". So suffocating, she thought, which reminded her to roll down the window. The breeze on her shoulder felt odd in a way. A city girl who always hailed cabs is now being touched by nature's breath. It was a sensual feeling, finer than her silk sheets at home. Home? Not a home, really. Just a house.
She gave thought to her two names. Neither would do. She decided on Char. Char. A fine name for her from now on and she said it many times over just to become acquainted with the sound of it. Yes. It suited her. It sounded like what it is. She tried to remember? An onomonopia? Nevermind, it was hers now. Nothing had never really been just hers before. Not even her name.
She had a hard time keeping her eyes on the road, passing cornfields, old fruit stands, the remains of old barns. She smiled turning up the radio when Born to be Wild came on the oldie’s station while Ruff was ruffing away in the back, taking in the brush of the wind. Something new to him, as well. An extraordinary day for them both. Free of the cage, they’d be in Mannersville in a short matter of time.
The town smelled like old leather. She collected scents like some people collect stamps. Paris smelled like a Cotton Fresh candle just blown out. Morocco had the aroma of Jasmine. It just went that way with her. She quickly noticed the sidewalks were cracked. Big Betty, the town gossip, wearing little Edwardian-like shoes, was swiftly strutting along the street, stopping now and then to peak into the shop windows. Then bash! She tripped on a wide crack in front of Claudia’s Dresses, hauled herself up on the ledge, hurriedly brushed down her floral dress and continued on her way in a huff with bit of a limp. Char laughed, Ruff barked. She hadn’t laughed in such long while. Yes. This was the town she wanted. But would they want her?
She parked in front of the General Store and managed to get out of the truck though not all so gracefully. And there she stood. In fitted burgundy shift, hair in French twist and wearing Jackie O sized sunglasses. Audrey Hepburn if there ever was one. She just hadn’t quite got the hang of how to dress for this new life. Hadn’t thought of blue jeans, plaid shirts or boots from L.L Bean.. She just wanted to get on with it.
A little bell chimed as she opened the door. The plump older woman at the cashier said “Can I help ya fancy lady? I’m the owner so I can tell ya just bout anything in the shop. And where ya hail from? Look like one of those gals from, what’s that show called? Oh yeah, Sex in the City. Love that show. My husband Burt loves it too! His nose right up to the TV. Have to Windex that screen every damn time!” And she let out a large self satisfied hoot. Char smiled. “Might I just look around a bit?” Mrs. Duffy chucked. “Might? Then the little bell chimed and in hobbled Big Betty. She spotted Char, turned to Mrs. Duffy then back to Char who was looking at the magnet rack. She took in one delicious deep breath, cleared her throat and said, liltingly, “Miss? Is that your red pickup out front with that precious dog in the back?” Char could not but help recognize her and smiled amusingly. “Why, yes. And you ask because…?” Big Betty sung “Just curious”. This would keep her busy for weeks to come. She quickly left the store and swiftly waved to Becka across the street who was nagging at her husband, again.
The trailer park was a ways off North Country Road, set off just far enough. Char was pleased with her purchase. The trailer looked like a small house and had a nice screened-in porch area. And the immense oak tree on the small property was a plus. She owned a tree! In her new grey and black plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers (her boots were on order) she drove over to the antique warehouse, the next town over. She saw it. Just what she had in mind. A large crystal chandelier and in mint condition. Old Jack Crowley, who owned the warehouse, was more than happy to help her hook it up after he finished work.
Char had already put up white Christmas lights, neatly strung across the roof’s base, around window frames and the front door. They were to remain there all year long. Crowley got to work on the electricals, then brought out a hefty ladder from his van. Done. The chandelier was now hanging from a high sturdy branch on the oak tree and she could not hardly wait for evening. Char offered to pay Old Jack Crowley but he would accept no money from her. This would not happen in Manhattan unless there were strings attached, she thought. “Novel” Crowley said, as he drove away “Novel, indeed!”
She kicked her feet up on the old wood coffee table outside on the porch while Ruff jumped up on the couch nudging his snout under her armpit as he had taken up to doing lately when wanting her undivided attention when resting. Char gazed at her glorious, hand fashioned moon, hung in the black of night. She leaned her head back against the couch, her hair now long and cascading, wondering if anyone in Manhattan missed KiKi. There were so many of them to choose from.