Introduction: Good [morning / afternoon]. My name is Josephine Brooks, and I’m a rising senior at Beaumonde Academy. I’m here to apply for the ________ job advertised [in the newspaper / online]. If the position hasn’t yet been filled, I’d like to complete an application and make an appointment to be interviewed.
Experience: Though I haven’t had a job before, my mother is the principal of Beaumonde Academy, and I frequently assist her in various roles involved in running the school. I have also occasionally helped out at my grandfather’s jewelry store on Veteran’s Highway, particularly during the holidays.
Transportation: My mother and I share a car, though since she’s in the education field, she has the summer off and the car will be available to me…
Josephine stopped writing with a disgusted sigh and re-read what was on her yellow legal pad. Pitiful. Was English really her first language? “Complete an application?” “The car will be available to me?”
Josephine had made up her mind a week ago that a summer job would cure her of her boredom. She had thought about taking her grandfather up on his job offer, but she wanted a clean break. So she looked through the paper every morning, during the time between finishing her run and her mother waking up, as she sipped exactly eight ounces of orange juice from a coffee mug. Most of the jobs she found were in the suburbs, and all of them wanted you to apply in person.
The idea of a job interview mortified Josephine. She decided to write out the answers to every question she thought she would be asked, then memorize them. (Perhaps she would even make flash cards.) When the subjects came up, she could just recite her pre-written answers. Unfortunately, even writing the answers made her nervous.
Ellen Hayes, Josephine’s mother, came into the kitchen, adjusting an earring. It was Saturday evening, and she was getting dressed up for a date with Roger. She was even wearing a pair of high heels. Josephine turned her legal pad face-down as slyly as she could.
“I might be out late,” Dr. Hayes said, absent-mindedly. “The play doesn’t even start until nine-thirty. Have you ever heard of such a thing?”
“That’s okay, I’m going to bed early.” Josephine got up at five to run, and so was often asleep by nine. Tomorrow was one of her ‘rest days,’ but she tried to stay on the same sleep schedule even on her days off.
“You should do something tonight. It’s Saturday night, I don’t like you sitting here alone. I’m sure Roger’s driving to the theater, so the car will be here if you want to go somewhere.”
“Okay.” She shrugged.
“Maybe you could go see a movie. Oh, that reminds me: I saw one of your friends at Temple last night.”
Josephine looked up quickly. “Who?”
Ellen Hayes looked at the dim reflection of her midsection in the microwave door. She smoothed down the front of her dress and adjusted the straps tied around the waist. Then she smoothed the fabric out again. “He was there with his aunt…the young one. Melissa? Do you remember her name? It was driving me crazy.”
“Marissa.” The previous school year everyone in The Gang had heard Andre rant passionately about his summer living with Aunt Marissa in Phoenix while his father spent what ended up being three useless months in a luxury treatment center in the desert.
“That’s it! I knew Melissa wasn’t quite right.” Though not technically Jewish herself, or even very religious, Ellen Hayes had attended the synagogue for years with her husband and made a lot of close friends there. After he passed away, she continued going to Temple at least once a month, sometimes with Josephine. “His dad was there, too. Oh, Josephine, he looks so bad. Have you seen him lately?”
“Not really.” Josephine actually had to think about it. They had movie night at Andre’s every week, but she almost never saw Reuben Meyer. Back in the winter, maybe February, there had been a stumbling and cursing in the hallway outside of the large home theater. Andre struggled out of his recliner and opened the door slightly. Only Josephine, sitting in the back, could see the dark silhouette slumped against the hallway, gasping in ragged and wet breaths. Andre spoke in a voice she’d never heard him use before, then closed the door behind himself as he walked his father back upstairs.
“I hadn’t seen him since Joanie’s funeral, and I was really shocked. He was so pale…his hands were shaking so much Andre had to prop up his elbow while he shook my hand. It was really sad.” She glanced towards the front of the house for a second, as though she heard something. “You know, Andre’s had a tough stretch. Maybe you could call him up, get together with him. I bet he’d like that.”
“Yeah, I bet he would,” Josephine mumbled.
Di-di-di-di-ding-dong, the doorbell sputtered quickly.
“I thought I heard someone at the door. He certainly seems impatient tonight. Should I invite him in?”
Josephine turned her palms up and widened her eyes, like: Don’t ask me. This was a loaded question, and she was leaving it up to her mother. Roger had been seeing Ellen for almost two months now, and he and Josephine had a couple of brief and wary meetings. He was an “entrepeneur,” whatever that meant, and he looked like a Victorian adventurer: broad-chested and strong, with wavy hair and a thick moustache. The few times they’d spoken, he’d laughed heartily at everything she’d mumbled, whether it was a joke or not, and this made Josephine want to hide. Once, as he laughed, he even put his hand on her shoulder.
As her mom went to get him, Josephine re-read what she’d written on the legal pad, then removed the top sheet. She wasn’t the type to ball up a piece of paper, but she folded it fiercely many times before putting it in the back pocket of her jeans. She’d throw it away in a neighbor’s garbage can the next time she went jogging.
“Why Josephine, look…you have a gentleman caller,” her mother announced, in a terrible impression of a Southern belle.
It was David Sebastian, carrying a messenger bag. “I do declare!” he said, sitting down across the table from Josephine. He gave her a friendly wink, and she replied with a facial expression that her friends knew to interpret as ‘a warm smile.’ David looked back up at her mother. “Oh my god, Ellen, since when do you two lock your door? I almost broke my nose.”
“Oh, I had to get the doorknob replaced because it kept jamming, and the new one can only be opened with a key. The locksmith says it will give me a break on my insurance, but I just think it was the only one he had in his truck that day.” As she was talking, she reached on top of the fridge and found a small manila envelope. She removed a bright new key and delivered it to David’s already-waiting palm.
The doorbell rang again, and suddenly David looked excited. “Did you girls order pizza?”
“Why would you think that?” Josephine asked, but David wasn’t listening. He had seen Ellen Hayes suddenly primping nervously, and he put two and two together with frightening speed. He stood up and twirled her quickly, then grabbed the straps tied around her waist and yanked them to the side for a jauntier look.
Josephine’s mom started to touch her hair, but David gave her a forbidding look. “Don’t. It’s perfect. Now go break his heart.”
With something almost like a giggle, Dr. Hayes went to the front door. Josephine rolled her eyes at David. “Let’s go to my room,” she said.
“Is this still Roger the smoker?”
“Oh, I wanna see!” David said, pretending to crane his neck out into the hallway as he sat down on Josephine’s bed. He kicked his Sambas off and sat cross-legged on the edge, with his messenger bag in his lap but still slung over a shoulder.
Josephine pushed the door most of the way closed and turned her desk chair around. She had a lot of time on her hands this summer, and she kept her room as spotless and—to her eye—as lifeless as a room in one of her mom’s home decor magazines. It looked like a dollhouse bedroom.
David was digging in his messenger bag. “When you hear a doorbell ring, your first thought isn’t ‘Somebody ordered pizza!’, really?” He looked up at her. “Huh. I guess that says a lot about the differences between our families. Here, I brought you a present.”
Josephine took his present, which was really just something wrapped up in a Target bag. She opened the bag suspiciously and peered inside, then looked up at him with a smile that would have been recognized even by strangers. “David…”
Inside the bag was a three-pack of generic white cotton socks, still in the wrapper. Josephine loved brand new socks, the way they felt the first time she pulled them on and how they nuzzled her feet for hours afterwards. She only wore them around the house as slippers, and never with shoes. Once they’d been worn and washed the first time, a significant part of the magic was gone, and she often handed them down to her mother or David after wearing them only a handful of times.
In a life of stoic self-discipline, these were her one of her only indulgences, and Josephine tried not to overdo it. She didn’t want to get so used to the sensation of new cotton socks that she became immune to them, so she only allowed herself one new pair of socks every three weeks as a reward for fifteen solid workouts. (Only one new pair a month wasn’t nearly enough, but she thought that every two weeks seemed decadent.) Josephine never told anyone about her sock fixation for fear of sounding affected, and only someone who’d known her since grade school would have thought to bring her such a gift.
He shrugged. “I didn’t have time to make you a peanut butter and jelly smoothie.”
A few tentative high-heeled steps were heard in the hallway. “All right, kids, I’m leaving,” Ellen Hayes called. “I’ll be in late, so…don’t wait up.” This last was said with enough sarcasm that bellowing laughter exploded from the foyer. Josephine winced, then stuck her head out into the hallway.
“Bye, mom. Enjoy the play.”
“I’ll be home around one. Shut your door when you go to bed so I don’t wake you up.”
“Okay. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Back in her bedroom, David was peeking through the blinds at the driveway. “Homeboy drives a Jag.”
“Yeah, I know.” Josephine picked up the package of socks and gave it a gentle squeeze. “They met at the mechanics.”
David had apparently gotten the look he wanted. “Oh my god…that’s Roger? Seriously? Hellooo, daddy!”
“You go, Ellen!”
David sat back down on the bed as the sound of the Jaguar moved away from the house. “You really don’t like him?”
“I don’t know him. She seems to like him,” she said. “He’s fine, I guess. He smokes.” She put the socks back on her desk. “It doesn’t really have anything to do with me.”
David nodded. “Have you heard from Alexander? Or Lillian?”
“No. Why, have you?”
“Naw. I don’t know, I thought for some reason he might have called you.”
They could have moved back out into the house now, but they were both comfortable, so they stayed in her bedroom. Josephine hadn’t really seen David since the Budds left town, and she certainly hadn’t seen him well, so they spent a long time catching up in the peculiar lopsided way they’d always had.
David loved to talk, and did so often, but he wasn’t particularly good at having a conversation as such. He asked Josephine how she was doing, but then proceeded to tell her how he was doing. He asked her what her plans for summer were, then listed his in great detail before she could answer. He even jokingly asked about her love life, if she were going to be having any passionate whirlwind affairs this summer, then interrupted her denials with news of his upcoming trip to Chicago to visit Patrick and, oh yeah, his uncle.
Josephine didn’t mind any of this. In fact, if she were the type of girl who smiled to herself, she would certainly have been smiling to herself a little as David excitedly talked. She and David had known each other since before either of them had even heard of The Darling Budds, and she was used to him. She even found his one-sided conversations almost endearing when it wasn’t completely infuriating.
Besides, Josephine wasn’t that fond of answering personal questions anyway.
David was in the middle of a day-by-day, even hour-by-hour, itinerary of his Chicago trip, and Josephine asked him when he left. He groaned loudly. “Not for an entire month, yet.”
“Oh. I thought it was sooner.”
“No, I leave like three days after your birthday. Which I haven’t forgotten about, by the way. In fact, I’ve already started.”
“You don’t have to do anything,” Josephine said, just like she did every year.
And just like every year, David rolled his eyes at her. “Please, I couldn’t forget about you.” He put his messenger bag down on the floor and, without looking up at her, said, “I mean that, you know.”
Josephine already felt her cheeks growing red. “What do you mean?”
He straightened up and, looking at the ceiling, tried blowing his bangs away from his face. “I just, you know…I hang out with Litta'Bit, and she hangs out with Robert, and both of us talk to Andre online. Okay, I mean, I haven’t talked to Emily that much, and who knows what’s up with Michael? But my point is: I don’t think anyone’s thought about you.” He grimaced. “Ouch. I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that, uh, I thought about you. That’s all.”
“It’s okay,” Josephine said softly, staring at her carpet. “I understand. Thank you.”
“Please.” David waved it away, literally waving his hand in front of his face. Someone else may have indulged in a self-serving speech about what good friends they were and how he’d always remember her, but he knew that with Josephine a little means a lot. They were such good friends they didn’t have to keep reminding each other. “Hey, you wanna go swimming?”
Josephine, still blushing and breathing slightly through her mouth, looked up at him. “Right now?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I have to get up early on Monday to run, so if I stay up late tonight…”
About halfway through this protest, David had flopped back on the bed and began snoring loudly.
“I’m serious, David.”
His only answer was even louder snoring, now punctuated with mumbling, “…can’t do anything fun…gotta work out…gotta look hot for Leonard…”
Josephine picked up the package of socks and threw them at David, who laughed and sat up. “Come on…I’ll make mojitos with, like, wheat germ and creatine in them.”
She sighed. “Okay.”
“Really? You mean it?”
Josephine smiled ever-so-slightly at him. “Yeah.”
“Yes!” David threw both of his fists in the air. “David wins again!”
“Let me get changed.”
“Okay.” David his lowered his arms slowly and the two friends sat there in silence for what felt like a full minute. “What?” he finally asked.
Josephine tilted her head towards the bedroom door.
“Oh. Right.” He slinked out of the room, dragging his now-empty messenger bag behind him. “Litta'Bit wouldn’t make me leave,” he grumbled.
Josephine shut the door behind him and locked it, just to be safe. She turned on the overhead light and began quickly changing out of her clothes.
As she got ready, David kept up a steady monologue on the other side of her door: “Hey, don’t wear that one piece you bought at the mom store. Don’t you have any bikinis? Just wear bra and panties, no one’s gonna see you.”
He tapped at the door impatiently. “Hurry up. Hey, remember that time after the Spring Formal, I think, when we turned off the pool lights and all of us swam around in the dark? Let’s do that again, just me and you. If I’m lucky, maybe my mom will think we’re getting it on.
“Oh my god, are you really changing into that swimsuit? You work out all the time and you have such a hot body, but I only get to see it like once a year. And even then I have to sneak up on you…it’s not fair. Look, seriously, let’s just swim in our underwear. Make it a thong, too, and don’t worry about wearing a bra. No, wait…just the bra!”
Josephine unlocked and opened her bedroom door. She was wearing the burgundy one-piece she always wore, with a long wrap tied around her waist.