That night, Arthur had told them sweet dreams and had gone straight upstairs to bed. The girls didn’t blame him; After all, he had just lost his one chance at the job of his dreams.
“It’s my fault,” Veronica said, falling down on her canopy bed. Emily had joined her in her room so the two wouldn’t have to be alone after what had just happened. They had gotten their nightgowns on and had opened the window to allow the moon be their source of light. “I put Mr. Harrison in a bad mood, and all I did was give him a reason to insult Dad.”
“Seriously? You can’t possibly think this all happened because of you,” said Emily, looking at her sister as she pulled a pillow over her face. “The guy’s just insane. So is Jameson with his weird obsession about Antarctica…”
“He is not,” Veronica said under a muffled voice. Emily giggled.
“Yeah, he kinda is.”
It wasn’t long before Veronica had taken her pillow and thrown it at Emily.
“Hey!” Emily laughed. “Your pillows aren’t exactly soft, you know, with all the beads and frilly stuff on them.” She threw it back, but Veronica just lied there, staring out the window. They said nothing for a moment, leaving Emily alone with her thoughts. Her heart really did ache for her father.
“Do you think Dad’s gonna be okay?” she asked, her voice growing quieter.
Veronica took in a deep breath.
“I hope so.”
It wasn’t often that Emily slept in until noon, but that morning, she probably would have slept even longer if it wasn’t for Geoffrey standing above her. She opened her eyes to see his stern face staring down at her, a little startled and a little creeped.
“How long have you been here?” she asked, avoiding eye contact.
“Five minutes. I tried saying your name, I tried the alarm clock, I even tried shaking you and felt ridiculous-”
“Time to wake up, Emily!”
In came Veronica with a frog bubble blowing machine, holding it up high as bubbles floated out its mouth and across the room.
“Veronica! What is that thing and what is it doing inside the house?” Geoffrey scoffed. Veronica stood still. “I’d prefer to not clean up sticky soap stains off the floor, if you don’t mind. Besides, she’s already awake.”
“Emily!” Veronica jumped on her bed. “Come down stairs, Dad’s got an announcement and he’s been waiting on you forever.”
“An announcement?” asked Emily. “Good or bad?”
“Not sure. Come on!”
“Okay, okay. Where did you get that thing?” she pointed to the frog.
“I found it in my closet earlier this morning. Now get out of bed.”
The girls walked downstairs in their slippers with the fresh smell of blueberry pancakes and sizzling bacon greeting their noses good morning. Usually at breakfast, Arthur had his nose in a book or took some sort of business call while Emily and Veronica chatted about whatever came up. Today was something completely and strangely different. Emily knew that when big events in Arthur’s life happened, that was when his big announcements came into place. When his favorite television program had ended, he decided that the family relied too much on Geoffrey and needed to learn basic housekeeping skills, so he signed them up for a personal home ec tutor. When Jeremy, the next door neighbor, had landed the front cover of a fancy house magazine that Arthur had so desperately wanted to be on, he made the family build the giant gazebo out in the backyard. And when he realized he was balding, that was when he said Emily and Veronica needed to get their permits and learn how to drive already. Losing the chance at the job of your dreams? The rest couldn’t even begin to compare to it.
Veronica choked on a blueberry and reached out for her glass of water. Emily didn’t blink, didn’t breathe. She was half hoping that maybe her father was pranking them, but she knew better than anyone that Arthur did not joke around, especially when he held up their uniforms.
“What the hell are those?” Veronica hissed, her face full of nothing but disgust.
“These,” he gave her a look that meant “watch- your- attitude”,”are what you are going to be wearing.”
Emily examined the uniforms, not with disgust like Veronica, but with curiosity. So this was what people who went to school wore on a daily basis; A blue blazer, a plaid skirt on the longer side (Which wasn’t going to be very flattering with her height), a tie (So girls can wear them too?), and a white button down shirt.
“I haven’t gotten around to picking up your shoes just yet, but Geoffrey will have them here by 3:00,” he said, looking at Geoffrey. He nodded his head once for agreement. “You start Monday.”
“But why?” asked Emily, looking up at her father. It was just such a strange thought; Public school, after all these years of learning from their own personal teacher at their own house? It just didn’t seem necessary.
“Well,” he started, “After last night, I realized you two have about as much social grace as a pile of bricks. It’ll be good for you two to finally meet some people other than each other and learn to communicate.”
Emily and Veronica looked at each other with the same nervous expression. It was true, all their lives they had only really had each other to talk to. Was that bad? And what if Emily wasn’t good at this social grace thing? Last time she had attempted talking to someone they had written her off instantly. She didn’t see what was wrong with being a pile of bricks if it meant not having that happen again.
“Dad, I’m a senior,” Veronica said. “Everyone is just going to go to college next year anyway. What does it even matter?” She stabbed her pancake with her fork emphatically.
“It is never too late, Veronica. And watch your attitude.”
“Well, does it have to be a uniform school?”
“Yes, because Arlington High is the finest school in the state, and you will only have the finest.”
Arlington… they had driven past that before, hadn’t they? It was the scarily huge school with the perfect green grass and statues of naked people in the front. She pictured herself in her uniform, climbing up the many stairs into the glass doors. Would she carry a backpack? She never really liked how they looked, although Arlington was probably rich enough to have lockers for all the students.
“I want you girls to try these on and make sure they fit,” Arthur said, handing them each a uniform. Veronica frowned as she grabbed hers and walked herself to her bedroom with forced willpower. Emily, however, took hers and waited for Veronica to be out of earshot.
“Dad,” she started, lowering her voice. “I can’t go to public school. I just can’t.” She wasn’t complaining, but came off as more nervous.
“What do you mean you can’t? Of course you can.”
She set her uniform down in her lap.
“It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just… Well, I’ve seen the people there and how they act. People like Jameson and Edgar go there, and if your goal if for me to make some friends or acquaintances, that’s not the place where it’s going to happen. Maybe it might not ever happen.”
Arthur took a moment to put his words together as he took in what she had just said.
“Emily,” he started, “I just want you to try. For 17 years you’ve been cooped up inside this house with that sister of yours doing god knows what, and it’s time to get out into the real world. I guess it’s my fault for never letting you experience that, but that’s why we’re doing it now. I want to make things right for you two. I should have never let your mother convince me home school was the best option. She was just like you, you know, afraid of the same things.”
“Well maybe she was right,” she argued, unintentionally raising her voice. “Maybe it’s better if we don’t grow up around those kinds of people. I mean you saw how it was last night with the Harrisons. That’s what you’re sending me off to, just a thousand more Harrisons.”
“You can’t go through life thinking every person with money is that way. You yourself are an example that they aren’t. Let’s not be so judgemental now.”
“I’m not being judgemental, I just… I’m scared.” She almost wanted to slap herself for how pathetic she had just sounded.
“Okay, I hate to admit it, but these uniforms are kinda adorable.”
In came Veronica, modeling her new outfit. She twirled in her skirt and adjusted her tie. Emily wondered where she had learned to tie it- then again, it was Veronica.
“Emily, why haven’t you tried yours on yet? Come on, I wanna see!”
“Oh, well I-”
“She’s going to do it right now,” Arthur said, glaring at Emily.
As she had expected, the skirt went down to her knees, making her legs look shorter than they already were. The button down shirt brought out how skinny she was, which she was now more self-conscious about than ever after Mrs. Harrison’s little talk with her about eating extra supper. The tie was a tie, boy-ish and not flattering in her opinion.
“I hate it,” she told Veronica as she came back downstairs. “How on Earth do you like this thing?”
“I dunno, it just feels so preppy and important.”
Veronica didn’t take her uniform off for the rest of the evening, unlike Emily who had taken hers off as soon as she could. She had talked to Arthur about fixing the skirt so it wasn’t so freakishly long on her, and their white oxford shoes had been brought right at 3:00 by Geoffrey.
“Try not to get them dirty,” was all he said.