Janelle: “Good evening, Leolin! How was your first day on the job?”
The evening following my encounter with Derek, I ran (glided elegantly) home, eager to share my experiences with my family. I might not have though much of my mother, but the rest of my family always meant the world to me. Especially Leolin. Now that he’d grown up a little, officially a teenager, he’d not only taken steps forward to improve our family name by taking a respectable job (well, semi-respectable—he was helping out at the neighbor’s lawn company), he’d also grown far more interested in a better life. He realized that we were living in a sub-par setting, though he maintained that mother had nothing to do with it. He worshipped the woman, bless his heart.
Leolin: “Not bad, though Mr. Mendin’s taste in landscaping is exceedingly poor. It’s a near tragedy to have to follow the sketches. My boss hates them too, but you know, the client knows best.”
Janelle: “Hah, not likely. You’re so much smarter than the rest of them, Leolin. The clients should realize what a privilege it is to have a man like you working for them.”
Janelle: “So… I met a man today.”
Hari: “What’s this I hear about a man? What kind of man thinks he’s good enough for my sister? I better be meeting him soon!”
Janelle: “Go away, Hari. You wouldn’t understand.”
Hari: “Why. If you like him, I need to meet him! The man’s got to be up to snuff.”
Janelle: “You won’t be meeting him, Hari. Not for a long time.”
Janelle: “And I don’t like… him, per se. But I like what I know about him. He’s a doctor. And he’s from a good family. And he’s handsome.”
Leolin: “He. Sounds. Perfect. You need a high society man, Janelle! How’d you meet him? Where’d you meet him?”
Hari: “…Leolin. Bud. You’re okay with this?”
Leolin: “He sounds marvelous. What’s his name? I need all the details, Janelle! Was he good to you? Of course he was, if you’re talking about him, he was a perfect gentleman.”
Janelle: “Excuse you, Hari?”
Hari: “I. Said. No. What is wrong with you, Janelle? Your first day as matriarch, you run around to find a guy that you want to turn you into his trophy wife? I thought you had grown out of that stupid shit?”
Janelle: “Stupid shit? I’d expect no better vocabulary from a plebian like you, Hari. Our mother has dragged you down. You should be a genius, a prodigy, off to a prestigious university! And instead you’re—“
Hari: “What, Janelle. What am I, exactly?”
Leolin: “Come on, guys, let’s not—“
Janelle: “I love you Hari, but I won’t listen to you disparage me for being a mature adult. I’m doing what needs to be done to bring this family out of the ashes of its current state. I want better for my children. I want better for you. You know what the brother-in-law of a prestigious doctor can do? Pretty much anything. You know what the son of a whore can do? Nothing at all.”
Janelle: “That’s what I thought. I will be proud to be a trophy wife, if that’s what I need to be to get this family where it needs to go.”
Hari didn’t understand. He never did. And he never would. Leolin, however, the sweetheart, understood perfectly. He believed me when I said it was the best way to elevate the family to the highest standing possible—it’s current standing.
Yes, Jane Anne, I probably could have worked my way into a high position, to a position of prestige, in order to bring a good name to the family. But there’s a big difference between the prestige of old money and new money; Derek was old money. More than that, I didn’t mind the work, but I had no interest in being a working mother. I just wanted to be a mother, to have the perfect and well-regarded family. I had no interest in the prestige for myself, only in what it could do for my family and my children. No one descended from me would ever feel the need to sell sex to make ends meet.
Janelle: “Hari? Can you stop being disappointed in me for long enough to come eat a hot dinner? Haven’t had one of those in a while, have you.”
Hari: “Only if you can stop sniping at Mom while you do it. She doesn’t deserve that.”
Janelle: “We’ll have to agree to disagree on that. Come eat.”
Though I would have loved to spend the evening eating and chatting with my family, catching up and enjoying the time together, I had more pressing matters on my agenda. My brothers knew of my newfound love (well, marriage) interest, but the most important person in my life had yet to hear the news.
Alexia: “Good evening, Janelle.”
Janelle: “Ohmigoodness, Alexia, I have so much to tell you so I went to the neighborhood we talked about and I met this man—well, I met this woman, and I met this man, and then this other man saved me, and…”
Janelle: “…so what do I do? I got his number, do I call him? Do I go by his house again? I want to see him again, he’s clearly an eligible bachelor, I don’t want someone else to snatch him up, so what do I do? Alexia, what do I do? What… what do I do.”
Alexia: “First of all, my dear, calm down. This is not at all becoming of a young lady, and if simply recounting your encountering a bachelor after the fact is enough to have you flustered, I shudder to think of what the actual encounter entailed.”
Alexia: “But I am quite excited for you, child. I know of Derek’s family—an old one, and a very wealthy one. His bloodline is comprised of a string of prestigious businessmen and doctors, and he himself has just been promoted to Chief of Surgery at his hospital.”
Janelle: “So he’s perfect, right? Just the kind of man I wanted—we wanted. So… how do I make it happen, exactly?”
Alexia: “You must be cautious here, my dear. We can plan for many things about your next meeting—what you will wear, what you will say, how you will flirt, in order to appear both enticing and well-bred. But what you cannot orchestrate much is your next meeting.”
Janelle: “What do you mean? Can’t I just call him?”
Alexia: “Certainly not. That would me most improper. You have stretched the bounds of propriety enough by being in so auspicious a location, and meeting him by chance. By directly approaching him, however, you would appear far too forward. The opposite of unladylike. At best, you would seem ill-bred and uneducated. At worst, you would seem desperate.”
Janelle: “Oh, goodness. I certainly don’t want that.”
Alexia: “Use your head, then. You know the answer to this conundrum. How do you meet him without appearing forward and ill-bred? Expressing interest with subtlety is key here.”
Janelle: “Come on, Alexia, just tell me. What do I do?”
Alexia: “How do you expect to make it as Derek’s wife—keep the status for your family—if you’re not clever enough to achieve it to begin with? The seduction of your man is not something I can do for you, my dear.”
As much as I hated to admit it, and as desperate for her aid as I felt, Alexia was right. This was something I needed to do for myself. If I couldn’t seduce Derek, then clearly I wasn’t worthy to be his wife. That was the point, I think, of all the intricate rules and mind games of high society—your participation and success in them proved you deserved to be there.
Despite knowing why Alexia would not help me, however, and knowing that I should be able to figure out the answer, I could only draw a blank. How did I express my interest in Derek without contacting him and, you know… expressing my interest? Once I was talking to him, I could be as subtle as subtle can be. But the actual method of making contact? I had no ideas.
Janelle: “You heard all that, Leolin. Any ideas?”
Leolin: “I think Alexia said you should do it yourself…”
Janelle: “I think Alexia told me to do it without her. Any ideas, brother mine?”
Leolin: “…No. Maybe just wait for him to call you?”
Right. Wait for him to call me. A fascinating endeavor.
But it was as good a plan as any I could come up with. It was certainly subtle. Waiting.
I wasn’t used to waiting. Growing up with three brothers meant that I was used to getting exactly what I wanted when I wanted it—not because someone handed it to me, but because I made it happen. That sort of mindset would not be something that helped me in this new world I was about to enter. I had a boxer’s mentality—confrontation, a straight approach. I needed to be something else… a panther, or something. Something sneaky.
I’d find a better analogy.
After a bit of sleep.
My next day brought no sudden realizations, unfortunately. I was still at a complete loss of what to do, so I stuck to Leolin’s plan—wait until Derek hopefully called me. Hope that I made enough of an impression that he would utilize the number that he asked for.
In the meantime, I decided I forge ahead with something that I could approach head on—forming a persona and a life for myself that anyone would want to have as a trophy wife. Being pretty isn’t enough for a man like Derek—he’s accomplished, intelligent. He wouldn’t want to be involved, surely, with a useless woman.
Janelle: “So, it’s definitely mine, right?”
Janelle: “Ugh. I hate this place.”
Janelle: “I’m going to tear it to the ground.”
Janelle: “Much better.”
I won’t say it was a perfect solution. But I think it was a decent idea. Baking was a quaint and ladylike skill. Managing a store proved that I could get things done with a smile and without breaking a sweat. I checked with Alexia before going forward with it, and she approved, so… here we were.
It wasn’t much yet, but it was cute. Charming. I could work on my homemaking skills, make a little money for the family…
So far, so good.
Now to make it all worthwhile—get Derek to see it. Maybe he’d stop by. Or call. Or something.