New York, 1963. Sherry, Donna, Allison and Pamela have each landed a dream internship at Gloss; America’s number-one fashion magazine. Each girl is trying to make her mark but everything isn’t as glamorous as it seems - secrets from the past threaten to shatter their dreams.

They're finding out that romance in New York is as unpredictable and thrilling as the city itself. Gloss


2. 2

On the second floor of the residence, Sherry stopped in front of room 212 and unlocked the door.

For a moment, she just stood there and surveyed the room. Gloss had guaranteed pleasant accommodations in the letter, and the magazine had lived up to its promise. Two single beds, two desks, two bureaux, a decent-sized closet and an adjoining bathroom. The beds were covered with blue and yellow patterned spreads, the walls were painted a matching yellow, and the curtains at the small window picked up the blue colour.

It certainly didn’t compare to what she had back home though – a big, lovely pink and white room that she’d never had to share. Her record player, her own pink princess phone extension, her homecoming queen crown hanging from one side of the movie-star mirror on her vanity table, and the newly added prom-queen crown on the other side. The huge picture window, with rose-patterned curtains that provided the perfect frame for the dogwood trees outside. This room had a window, but it looked out on an alley lined with garbage cans.

Glancing at the clock radio on the desk, she saw that it was now five thirty. What would she be doing right now, back home? Playing tennis at the country club, with Elaine or Carol or Tommie Lynn? Or just finishing a game probably, since she’d have to be home and at the dinner table by six thirty. Maybe she and her tennis partner would be indulging in a sundae or a milkshake at the club snack bar, assuring each other they were simply replacing the calories they’d burned on the court.

Then home, where she might find a letter from Johnny. He hadn’t been very good about writing since he left for that summer job in Washington DC, but she supposed working for a congressman was pretty time- consuming.

She remembered the day he told her about the job, the morning after the senior prom. It had been a spectacular evening. She’d worn floor-length pink taffeta, purchased for the occasion on a special shopping trip to Atlanta, with the wrist corsage of pink tea roses that Johnny presented her when he arrived to pick her up. He’d looked so handsome, in the light blue tuxedo he’d rented. They’d danced all night in the gym, which had been decorated beyond recognition with sparkling lights and streamers and balloons. In accordance with tradition, there were no curfews that night, and they’d ended the festivities at three in the morning at a fancy breakfast set up in Tommie Lynn’s basement. And at some point in the early hours, when she and Johnny found themselves alone together, she’d let him get to second base for the very first time. She’d heard that some girls went all the way on prom night, she’d even heard that this was a tradition, but she wasn’t ready for that. Still, she had to admit, she liked the feeling of his hand on her bare flesh, and for a brief moment she actually considered letting him progress to third base. But she controlled herself – third base would have to wait till he gave her his fraternity pin.

She was surprised when he showed up at her home at ten the next morning, early for a Saturday after such a late night. She was up – Beth, with all the typical impatience of a twelve-year-old, wanted all the details of the big event and wouldn’t let her sleep late.

Opening the door to Johnny, she could see right away that something was up.

‘I have to tell you something,’ he said. ‘My dad, he got me a summer job, working for a congressman.’ He took a deep breath, and then added, ‘In Washington DC.’ He swallowed, and more information came out in a rush. ‘I’ll be away all summer. I found out last week. I didn’t want to tell you right away, so we could have a great prom, but now . . .’ his voice trailed off, and he looked at her anxiously.

Obviously he thought she’d be upset that he wouldn’t be there for lazy afternoons by the pool at the country club, evening barbecues, day trips to the lake. But there was something he didn’t know.

She hadn’t even told her family the news yet, maybe because it still didn’t seem real to her. Months earlier, when she’d applied for the Gloss magazine intern programme, she wasn’t even sure why she was doing it. She’d never considered journalism as a career goal. She’d never really thought about careers much at all. But for some strange reason she kept finding herself turning back to the page in her favourite magazine that encouraged readers to spend a summer in New York and learn about magazine work. And on one weeknight evening, when there was nothing to watch on TV, she’d filled out the form. Then she went through the essays she’d written for classes and picked one to submit with her application.

There was nothing remarkable about this particular essay. She’d received an A, but that wasn’t unusual for her. The assignment, which had been given by Mrs Jackson, her English teacher, was to choose a holiday, any holiday, and write about its personal meaning.

Three of her classmates wrote about Thanksgiving and how they tried to be sincerely grateful for all they had. Two of them chose Christmas, and wrote the standard ‘think about Jesus, not Santa’ essay that you saw in newspaper editorials every December. Another friend went the patriotic route and wrote about the Fourth of July. But Sherry had written about Halloween, despite the fact that she knew Mrs Jackson was deeply religious and probably didn’t approve of a holiday that was suspiciously pagan. She’d enjoyed it, writing about the one night a year when she could be someone else.

She got her A, though Mrs Jackson had scribbled a note on the paper stating that Sherry hadn’t taken the assignment very seriously. But Sherry had liked that paper; it was something she’d written to please herself.

After sending off the application, she didn’t entertain any fantasies about winning a place in the internship programme. Gloss was the most popular teen magazine in the entire country, there had to be thousands and thousands of girls who applied. She firmly put it all out of her mind and concentrated on enjoying her senior year.

When she’d received the acceptance letter, she’d read it in disbelief. And when she finally broke the news, Johnny was happy for her, relieved that she wasn’t furious with him, and maybe a little envious. Washington DC was impressive, but New York! Even her normally protective parents were pleased – worried of course, but reassured when they received the letter from Gloss explaining that the interns would be cared for and watched over. They saw it as a marvellous little adventure for Sherry to have before starting college in Atlanta and settling down to the life she was supposed to live.

Her thoughts went back to Linda’s description today of her plans for the future. With a few changes in names and places, Sherry could have presented the same plan, word for word. And again she wondered why she hadn’t wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon with those girls.

There was the assignment to do of course. She sat down at her desk, and took the cover off her new portable Smith Corona typewriter, a graduation present from her parents.

But there was something she’d promised to do first – something she should have done the evening before, but she’d been too tired.

She opened a desk drawer and retrieved the neatly wrapped box she’d been given at the airport yesterday. She knew what it contained – all the kids in the family got a box like this when they went away from home.

Knowing her mother’s taste, she unwrapped the box with some trepidation. But it wasn’t too bad – the stationery set consisted of cream-coloured paper with a border of pink cherry blossoms, and envelopes in the same shade of pink. She took out a sheet and picked up her pen. Personal letters had to be written by hand of course.

In proper letter-writing style, she wrote ‘6 July, 1963’ in the upper right-hand corner of the paper, and on the left side she put the return address: Cavendish Residence for Women, 642 East 58th Street, New York 24, New York.

Dear everyone, Well, here I am, safe and sound, on Manhattan Island, New York City.

Of course, they already knew she’d arrived safely. At the pay phone in the residence lobby, she did what people always did to avoid paying the outrageous long-distance phone charges. She’d dialed ‘0’, asked the operator to make a person-to-person collect call to a Miss Taylor and gave the phone number of her family home.

She could hear the phone ringing and then her mother’s anxious voice.


The operator spoke. ‘I have a person-to-person collect call for Miss Taylor. Will you accept the charges?’

Sherry could have sworn she heard her mother exhale in relief before she said, ‘Miss Taylor isn’t here at the moment, could you ask the party to call later?’

There was no one named Taylor living in the Forrester household, and Sherry had no idea how that particular name had come to be employed. But that was their signal, the name that was used to indicate that a family member had arrived at his or her destination, and all was well.

I know I promised to write the first night, but it was just impossible. I only had an hour to unpack, shower and change my clothes before the formal dinner. By the way, Mama, the pink dress was perfect.

They’d both been a little worried about that, not knowing exactly how dressy the welcome dinner would be. She didn’t want to look too casual, but at the same time, being overdressed would have been just as great a sin. And there was the question of sophistication too. Pink might seem too young, but it was her colour, and Gloss magazine itself had declared in last month’s issue that pastels were very important this season. And looking around the table at the dinner, seeing other girls in pastel knits, she’d felt quite comfortable.

Naturally the editors looked much more sophisti- cated – one wore a Jackie Kennedy-style suit with a boxy jacket, and at least three of them were in terribly chic little black dresses. The men, of course, were in suits.

There were a couple of interns who looked a little odd. The petite redhead had worn a black pencil skirt and black top, which was pretty unusual. Sherry never saw girls their age wearing black. The platinum blonde had been decked out in a shiny low-cut red cocktail dress, totally inappropriate.

But by far the worst was her roommate. As a regular reader of Gloss, Sherry knew beige was all wrong for Donna’s sallow complexion and mousy-brown hair. The shirtdress needed ironing, and the style, while OK for daytime, hadn’t been dressy enough for the occasion.

We had dinner at the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and the food was delicious! We had something called a Waldorf salad, which had apples and celery and walnuts in it. Then we had beef stroganoff – Mama, you absolutely must get a recipe for this. There were real French pastries for dessert.

After dinner we all gave our names and said something about ourselves, like our hobbies or where we came from. I’m the only girl from the South. Miss Margo Meredith, the editor-in-chief, gave a speech.

She wasn’t planning to go into detail about the speech – actually, she’d been too excited or too exhausted to remember it all that well. What she did remember was the intimidating woman herself. She’d been editor of Gloss since, well, forever, and she had to be over fifty years old but she certainly didn’t look it. The girl she now knew as Pamela had been sitting next to Sherry and she’d whispered ‘facelift’ in her ear. Maybe so, but the woman was very striking, with shiny black hair pulled back in a tight chignon. Her make-up was perfect too, almost frighteningly so – Cleopatra eyes and dark red lips. It made Sherry think of the evil queen in the Snow White movie. She wore a simple black sheath, with large gold earrings and a strand of gold beads.

She gave a sort of flat ‘welcome to Gloss’ speech, and then promptly disappeared. Her place had been taken by Caroline Davison, also a very cosmopolitan- looking woman, but not quite so intimidating, more elegantly cool, like Grace Kelly or the actress in that scary movie about the birds going wild.

Of course, we won’t have much to do with Miss Meredith. Our boss is the managing editor, Caroline Davison. She seems very nice.

Her speech, however, had been a little daunting.

‘I hope you all realize how very lucky you are to be here. We had over ten thousand applications for the summer-apprenticeship programme at Gloss this year, and you eight are the recipients of this prestigious opportunity. You were judged on the basis of the writing samples you submitted, so you must have some talent. But talent isn’t enough to guarantee a successful summer here. You will have to work very, very hard. You must be disciplined, observant, obedient, very careful and, above all, punctual.’

Sherry had noticed a couple of girls squirming or looking a little uncomfortable, and she’d wondered which of those requirements scared them. She was also a little unnerved . . . she had come here expecting a fun adventure. Now it seemed she’d have to start thinking about it as an actual job.

All the staff we’ve met seem very nice. The magazine photographer, David Barnes, is soooo handsome! Honestly, he looks just like Rock Hudson. But don’t worry, Daddy, he’s at least thirty years old so he won’t be interested in me, and I promise not to flirt with him!

My roommate is Donna, she wrote, and then stopped again. What could she possibly say about someone she knew absolutely nothing about? When Sherry had asked about her hometown, she’d only said something vague like, ‘Up north.’ Sherry could only guess she’d meant somewhere like Maine or Vermont. Maybe even Canada.

There was something else strange too. The other girls had dragged big suitcases into the residence, and some had also carried hairdryers and typewriters. One girl even had a portable television. All Donna brought with her was a small backpack.

Donna’s quiet, and she didn’t take up much of the closet space. The other apprentices seem very nice.

Nice . . . what a meaningless word. But did she really want to go into details here? How could she describe Pamela without letting her mother think Sherry would be hanging out with a slut? And describing Allison would make the redhead sound like a beatnik. Dressed in black, the boyish haircut, and that awful burlap bag she toted . . .

She moved on quickly to write about the residence hall.

It’s a very safe place, with a doorman on duty twenty-four hours a day. No men are allowed beyond the lobby. And there are curfews of course. We have to be in the building by eleven on weeknights, midnight on weekends. I haven’t seen much of New York yet, but a couple of interns and I went to Times Square today.

She hesitated for a second, and then added, It was interesting. That was all she was going to tell them about that particular adventure.

At ‘Gloss’ today, we were shown a new movie for teens on a projector in a conference room. Now we have to write a review of it, so I’d better get to work. Kiss Beth for me, lots of love, Sherry Ann.

She put the letter in an envelope, addressed it, sealed it and applied a stamp. Then she went back to her typewriter, inserted a sheet of paper into the rollers and typed the heading in capital letters.


That was as far as she got before a rumble in her stomach told her it was dinnertime. She’d assumed her roommate would be back by now and they’d go to dinner together. But maybe some of the other interns would be in the dining hall.

Quickly she washed her hands, rubbed a little pressed powder on her shiny nose and added a touch of pastel pink lipstick. A massive dose of hairspray that morning had kept her light brown chin-length flip from frizzing, but she was a little worried about her bangs. Shading her eyes with one hand, she sprayed the fringe that covered her forehead. Then she fled the bathroom to escape the pungent odour of the hairspray.

Downstairs, the dining room wasn’t very crowded. She went through the buffet line, selected meat loaf and a salad, and then scanned the room.

According to the Cavendish pamphlet, the residence was designed to give young single working girls a safe and comfortable home. Looking around at the tables, she tried to imagine what the women sitting there did for a living. Secretaries, she imagined. Or teachers maybe. Women waiting to meet Mr Right. She figured there was probably a big turnover of residents, as girls left to get married.

She didn’t see Diane or Linda, but she did spot one of her fellow interns – Allison, the tiny redhead, still in black. She sat alone, her face buried in a book as she ate. Sherry moved over to her table.

‘May I join you?’ she asked politely.

Allison looked up. ‘Please do.’ She took one last longing look at the page she’d been reading, then she put a bookmark in and closed the book.

‘What are you reading?’ Sherry asked as she sat down.

To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Allison told her. ‘Do you know it?’

‘I’ve heard of it,’ Sherry said carefully.

‘Didn’t you see the movie?’

Sherry found herself giving undue attention to the cutting of her meat loaf. ‘It didn’t play in my hometown.’

‘It’s about racism,’ Allison said.

Sherry nodded.

Allison cocked her head thoughtfully. ‘You’re from the South, aren’t you?’

Sherry nodded. ‘Georgia.’ And then she added quickly, ‘But I’m not a racist. I’m totally in favour of integration.’ As the words left her mouth, it dawned on her that she’d never said that before out loud. Back home, it was something adults spoke about in whispers, and teens not at all.

‘How about interracial dating?’

Sherry was taken aback. ‘I – I don’t know. I guess I’ve never thought about that.’

Allison reached into her burlap bag thing and pulled out a copy of Gloss. She slapped it on the table and opened it to the table of contents.

‘“Inter-faith dating – what’s your opinion?”’ she read aloud. She shook her head. ‘I mean, really! Is that such a big deal? Maybe a hundred years ago. Nobody cares about that any more. This is a very old-fashioned magazine.’

Sherry didn’t know what to say. A girl she knew had gone out with a Jewish boy, and her parents threw a hissy fit. So yes, for some people it was a big deal. Not to Allison, obviously.

‘Where are you from?’ she asked.


‘I guess people are more liberal there,’ Sherry remarked.

‘Ha. Not in my family.’

The way she said that, wrinkling her nose, made Sherry wonder about Allison’s background. But of course it was much too soon in their relationship to bring up anything personal, so she changed the subject.

‘What did you think of that movie we saw?’

‘It was stupid,’ Allison declared. ‘Just another beach movie.’

‘Well, it couldn’t compare with A Summer Place, that’s for sure,’ said Sherry.

‘I never saw it,’ Allison said.

‘Really?’ Sherry found that hard to believe. It had been the number-one teen movie just a couple of years ago. ‘Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee, making out on the beach? It was positively dreamy.’

Allison grimaced. ‘Sounds like typical teen fodder.’

‘Well, there was an adult romance too, between the girl’s father and the boy’s mother,’ Sherry added. ‘And it was based on a book. It was actually a pretty mature movie.’

‘Have you seen Jules and Jim?’ Allison asked. Sherry shook her head.

‘It’s about a love affair between two men and a woman. It’s in French, it’s black and white and it’s artistic. That’s the kind of movie Gloss should be writing about. Not this squeaky-clean, unrealistic, goody-goody garbage.’ She began flipping through the pages of the magazine.

‘I mean, look at all this junk! How to throw a theme party. What to wear to the prom. Who’s your favourite TV doctor hero? My summer at cheerleading camp. And the ads! I counted five ads for silverware patterns. As if that’s the most important thing on our minds – what kind of knives and forks we want when we get married.’

Sherry’s lips twitched. She didn’t think this was the moment to announce her own silverware choice, ‘Prelude’ by International Sterling. Nor did she mention her two weeks at a cheerleading camp last summer. Instead she asked a question.

‘If you think Gloss is so stupid, why do you want to work for it?’

‘To change it,’ Allison replied promptly. ‘To bring it up to date, to make the editors realize that the world is changing. You know what they should include? Poetry. Articles about folk music, experimental theatre, modern dance. The civil rights movement.’

Sherry considered this. ‘I guess that could be interesting,’ she offered. Though not to anyone I know, she added silently.

‘And all this “meeting Mr Right” junk. How to talk to a boy, should you kiss on the first date? Who needs this kind of advice?’

At least Sherry could respond honestly to this. ‘Not me. I’ve been with the same guy for three years.’

‘So you’re serious?’

She nodded. ‘We’ve talked about getting married after we both graduate from college.’

‘Wow, you’ve planned that far in advance?’

‘Kind of,’ Sherry said, catching the look of disapproval on Allison’s face. She supposed this kind of life wouldn’t appeal to a rebel beatnik type. But she was spared any further indication of Allison’s disapproval by the arrival of Pamela.

‘Hey, roomie,’ Allison greeted her. ‘You don’t look very happy.’

‘And where are your bags?’ Sherry asked. ‘I thought you were going to shop.’

‘Do you know what things cost in this city?’ Pamela moaned. ‘Even with the discount coupons, I couldn’t afford anything.’ She reached in her bag. ‘I did pick up this.’ She showed them a lipstick, and then, using the back of a spoon as a mirror, she applied it. In Sherry’s opinion, the fuchsia pink only made her look even more inappropriate. But she admired the fancy gold-coloured case.

‘Was it expensive?’

‘Probably.’ Pamela grinned. ‘I didn’t pay for it.’

Sherry tried very hard not to look shocked, but she didn’t do a very good job of it.

‘Don’t worry, I only take little things,’ Pamela assured her. ‘And never from friends.’

‘These department stores deserve to be ripped off,’ declared Allison. ‘They overcharge. You better be careful though.’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t try to take anything like clothes,’ Pamela said. She grinned again. ‘I don’t have a handbag big enough to stash them in. So what were you two talking about?’

‘Sherry was telling me about her boyfriend,’ Allison told her. ‘What’s his name?’


‘They’re going to get married when she graduates from college.’

‘Really?’ Pamela shook her head. ‘That’s tragic.’

Sherry was completely taken aback. ‘Why do you say that? I’ll be twenty-two. That’s old enough to marry.’

‘It’s still too young,’ Pamela declared. ‘You’ll be in your best years. Why do you want to throw them away?’ She reached into her handbag and pulled out a dog-eared paperback book. ‘It’s all in here. How you don’t need a husband for your best years, you just need men, and the more men you can know, the more fun you’ll have.’

Sherry’s mouth fell open, and Allison burst out laughing. Pamela beamed, and showed them the cover.

Sex and the Single Girl, by Helen Gurley Brown. It’s my new bible.’

Sherry found her voice. ‘Are you saying you want to have affairs?’

‘Sure. Why not?’

‘Well . . . a man won’t buy the cow if the milk is free.’

Pamela rolled her eyes and Allison started laughing again. Then Sherry had to laugh too. Thinking about it, it sounded pretty silly, comparing women and sex to cows and milk.

‘It’s what my mother says anyway.’

‘My mother’s always hitting me with her words of wisdom too,’ Pamela offered. ‘Her favourite is the one about how it’s just as easy to love a rich man as a poor man. Actually, I can go along with that. But that business about free milk . . .’ she shook her head. ‘I mean, men have affairs before they’re married. And sometimes after. Why can’t women?’

Sherry had an answer for that. ‘Because men can’t get pregnant.’

‘Women don’t have to get pregnant either,’ Allison pointed out. ‘Have you heard of the pill?’

‘Well, sure, but . . .’ Sherry hesitated. She’d only just met these girls, and she felt very strange bringing up a topic she’d only discussed with her closest friends. Still, she was curious. ‘Don’t you want to be a virgin when you get married?’

Pamela responded with a mysterious smile. Sherry’s eyebrows shot up and she leaned forward.

‘You’re not a virgin?’ she asked in a whisper.

‘Well, technically I am,’ Pamela admitted. ‘Only because I wasn’t about to give myself to any of the jerks I went out with back home. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stay that way. I plan on meeting some very interesting men here in New York.’

‘I’m a virgin,’ Allison said. ‘But I think I’d have sex before I get married, if I really loved the guy.’ She turned to Sherry. ‘You’re really going to hold out until your wedding night?’

‘Well, maybe after we’re officially engaged, and we’ve set a date . . .’

Pamela grinned. ‘And you’ve rented the hall and made a non-refundable deposit to the caterer? So it’s too late for Johnny to back out?’

She was putting it rather crudely, but she made a good point. Sherry nodded. ‘Yeah, that’s about it.’

‘Well, you can still have some fun here in New York without having an affair,’ Pamela said, and then sighed. ‘But I don’t know how I’m going to get myself outfitted for New York nightlife.’

‘There’s still the samples closet,’ Sherry reminded her. ‘You’ll just have to convince Miss Davison you’ve got a lot of “extraordinary events” to attend.’

‘Speaking of extraordinary events,’ Allison said, ‘I’m going to go down to Greenwich Village tonight.

Anyone want to come with me?’

‘What’s in Greenwich Village?’ Sherry asked.

‘It’s supposed to be a real scene. Clubs, music . . .’ Pamela brightened. ‘I’m in.’

‘Not me,’ Sherry said. ‘I have to write that review.’ ‘It’s just two pages,’ Allison pointed out. ‘You could write it in the morning. It only took me an hour this afternoon.’

Sherry was torn. If only she’d done the assignment that afternoon instead of going to Times Square with Linda and Diane. She suspected an evening with these two would be much more interesting.

Reluctantly she shook her head. ‘I hate to wait till the last minute to do an assignment. I won’t be able to sleep tonight, thinking about it.’

‘Good grief,’ Pamela said. ‘You really are a good girl. I’ll bet you’re the type who always turned in her homework on time.’ The teasing smile on her face took any sting out of the words.

‘Guilty as charged,’ Sherry admitted.

‘And you’ve got your future all mapped out,’ Allison mused. ‘Do you always stick to your plans?’

‘Pretty much.’ Sherry offered them both a rueful smile. ‘Guess I sound like a real bore, huh?’

‘It certainly wouldn’t hurt to loosen up a bit,’ said Pamela.

Would she ever get used to being around people who spoke their minds so freely? ‘Anyway, I should spend some time with my roommate. We haven’t talked much.’

‘I don’t think Donna said a word all day,’ said Allison.

‘She looks like a scared rabbit,’ Pamela commented. ‘A real wuss.’

For some reason Sherry felt compelled to defend the girl. ‘She’s probably just shy,’ she said. ‘I’ll get her to open up. Have fun tonight, you two.’

She went upstairs to her room. Locked. She rapped on the door.

She could hear movement inside. And then a voice. ‘Who is it?’

‘It’s just me. Sherry. Your roommate. I don’t have my key.’

Donna opened the door, murmured a greeting that Sherry couldn’t hear and then went over to her bed. She sat on the edge of it and eyed Sherry warily.

‘What have you been up to?’ Sherry asked casually. ‘Nothing much. Just looking around.’

‘Have you had dinner yet?’

Donna shook her head.

‘Don’t get the meat loaf,’ Sherry advised. ‘It’s very dry.’ ‘Was it expensive?’

Sherry was puzzled. ‘We don’t pay for food here, Donna. Unless we eat out of course. We don’t get any salary, but the room and the meals are free. That was all in the introductory packet. Didn’t you get one?’

‘I guess I didn’t read it very closely,’ she said. She got up and swung the backpack over her shoulder.

‘I don’t think you’ll need to lug that to the dining hall,’ Sherry pointed out.

‘I like to keep it with me,’ Donna murmured as she walked out. ‘See you later.’

Maybe she believed the place was full of thieves, Sherry thought. That would explain why she wanted to keep the door locked and carry her things with her all the time. She couldn’t think of any other explanation.

Sherry turned to the typewriter and examined the one line she’d typed so far.


Now that she thought about it, she realized Allison had made a good point. The movie was pretty much like every other musical beach movie she’d seen. Boy meets girl on the beach, he sings a song about her, she sings a song about him. They fall in love, sing a song together, then something happens to break them up. Then it all turns out to be a misunderstanding, and in the end they get back together. And sing another song.

But the songs were cute, and when the girl thought the boy had stood her up on a date, her heartbreak was pretty convincing. Sherry’s fingers hovered over the keys, and then dropped. She needed inspiration.

She reached over and turned on the clock radio she’d put at the other end of the desk. Fiddling with the dials, she finally located a rock ’n’ roll station, and a tune she recognized filled the room. She sank back in her chair and smiled.

It was the song about the ‘itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini’, and immediately an image of the lake back home appeared in her mind. Just a few weeks ago, the first week of summer vacation, there’d been a heatwave and the gang had spent just about every day there. There was a little snack bar on the shore that had a jukebox, and that song seemed to be playing constantly. Friends were always teasing her, because by pure coincidence she just happened to have bought a yellow polka-dot bathing suit this summer. It wasn’t really an itsy-bitsy bikini, more like a modest two-piece, but still, every time the song came on, people looked in her direction. Johnny hadn’t left for Washington yet so he was there, and he couldn’t take his eyes off her . . .

The minute the song finished, her hands went back to the keys. Once she’d decided on the point of her review, the sentences began to take shape. As always happened when she was writing, time and place faded away and she went into some sort of inner world where nothing but ideas, words and phrases existed. She’d just put her third sheet of paper into the typewriter when another popular tune came on the radio, and made her pause.

Johnny Angel, how I love him . . .

She looked at the framed photo on the desk, the first thing she’d unpacked the day before. He really was special – so handsome, with soft wavy brown hair and a square jaw with the cutest little cleft in his chin, just like Cary Grant. When they met, they’d been sophomores, the same age and perfectly matched. They liked the same music, the same movies, the same TV shows. He was the quarterback on the football team; she was a cheerleader.

Everyone thought they made the ideal couple. Some day they’d make beautiful brown-haired blue-eyed babies – that’s what all her friends said. He was a nice boy from a good family, and her parents had approved of him from the start. And even though a marriage wouldn’t happen for at least another four or five years, she’d spent hours with her mother poring over Gloss or another magazine, looking at silverware patterns, china patterns, bridal gowns, debating whether her wedding colours should be pink and white or something else. How many bridesmaids? Which one would be maid of honour? What kind of flowers would she carry? Would they hold the reception at the country club or the new Hilton hotel? And where would they go on their honeymoon?

And why was she now experiencing the twinge of an incipient headache?

She finished the first draft of her review, and then read the sheets carefully. Seeing several places that she thought could use improvement, she went back to work on a second draft. When she was finished, she was surprised to see that it was only nine o’clock. But a wave of tiredness came over her, and she had yet to roll her hair.

Sitting on the bed after her shower, with the bag of rollers in front of her, she sectioned her hair with a rat-tail comb, wound the locks around the bristle- filled tubes. She imagined Linda and Diane sitting on their beds doing the same thing and wondered what Donna was doing. Pamela and Allison were probably still in Greenwich Village. And her thoughts went back to that strange discussion at the dinner table.

Had she really come across as boring, with her talk of future plans? And why did she care what they thought of her, those two girls who were so clearly not her kind of people?

There was nothing wrong with being a good girl and following the rules, she told herself as she climbed into bed and shut off the light. It was perfectly OK to plan for your future. And Daddy always said, ‘When you have a plan, you stick to it.’ She’d heard that a million times.

Only tonight as she drifted off to sleep, for the first time ever, she heard her own voice in her head, talking back to her father. 

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