First Rate Girls
The old money families of the City all shared three basic things in common. The mostly summered in Martha’s Vineyard or at the Cape. They were peculiar in secret, hidden ways and the men of these families always married first rate women, who went on to bare and raise (with the often overwhelming help of nannies and nursemaids) first rate boys and girls. The Thurber family was no different and it was now, while Milton Thurber sat alone on his porch overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in late May, after an afternoon bridge game with the usual suspects, that this third birthright was giving him a considerable amount of troublesome thought.
He took a long, thoughtful pull on his martini and read, for the fourth time, the letter in his had explaining to him that his youngest daughter who, although in her final year at University, had been regretfully expelled for what was innocuously called “ ..violation of moral code.”
It had arrived this afternoon with the bank and broker statements and he hadn’t yet shown it to Abigail, his wife of thirty two lackluster, predictable years, who had gone into town to shop or gossip- or both. He took another drink and thought about that for a moment. Just how he was going to breach this that with her was something he couldn’t imagine. Good God, he thought; seeing the hysterics and crying and wondering aloud “how this was to be explained” to all “our” (her) friends.
Milton let a small laugh escape then at the further thought of it. Whatever “this” was he thought, it was serious business to be sure but the gaping look of shock and fright of societal jeopardy that would surely appear on his wife’s face couldn’t help but make the poor man smile.
He read the letter again then and the smile disappeared as the thoughts of a father’s concern came rushing back in.
“Just what the hell is a violation of moral code.” He said to the sea.
Obviously she was in no danger, no personal injury had occurred, no great tragedy had happened. The school would have called. She would have called. Certainly nothing of financial issue had happened either. They absolutely would have called about that. So what could it be? Just what in the good green earth had his beautiful Olivia done to account for expulsion in her final year at a school overflowing with the petulant, conniving, entitled and bored offspring of New York’s wealthiest first rate families?
He thought this with a lifetime’s knowledge of her classmates; of his own classmates in fact. Milton was, always had been, a good man. He had realized both is luck of birth and its responsibilities at a young age and accepted them immediately. He had worked at his fathers, fathers, firm since graduating from his own ivy covered walls of learning and he’d married Gloria Spencer just like he was silently expected to do. But he had been rich his entire life and had witnessed the underbelly of having much and wanting more early and often.
He remembered Richie Barstow laughing at lunch break in the eighth grade after he told the headmaster Mr. Miller had “touched him” and subsequently ruined the poor man’s life forever.
“Bastard wants to fail me!” Richie had said, “Look who’s failed now!”
He remembered Thomas Fulham pointing a manicured finger at Nigel, the only colored student in their school, his senior year and screaming, “Niggers don’t belong here unless they’re serving me lunch or mopping MY floors!” Then he and his friends had pummeled Milton with abandon for choosing Nigel as a lab partner because nobody else would. He remembers his mother weeping in the bedroom while his father explained how a man needed variety.
“..a violation of moral code.” He read the words again, finished his martini and carrying the letter rose up to make another from the corner bar on the porch. The sea had found an inland wind and the welcome smell of its brine calmed him as he thought about his daughter.
He knew it was wrong but he had always loved her the most. The others, they were fine and they looked perfect but were fractured in so many ways. They talked so much and did so little.
Michael had been sixteen and enthralled them all at the dinner table with his perfectly executed report of the Great Depression. Olivia was eleven and began a sidewalk food drive on the corner of their uptown block the next morning.
Constance, bless her heart, had “found “ a dog one day and in pigtails and sundress demanded that they keep it because Debbie Harold had one JUST LIKE IT. The next day she left for school with a brief pat to the dog’s head and Olivia spent the week putting up fliers until the relieved owners called to reclaim him.
Milton sat back down on the porch, sipping his fresh drink, and had all these memories and thoughts bouncing around his head along with the worried theories of just what his Olivia had done. She was no Saint of course. He knew this but her “disturbing” (as his wife called them) qualities had always been so close to his own hidden ones. The acting without thinking at times and seemingly inherent ability to locate trouble when it could be easily avoided, to call a spade a spade when it was so obvious to say nothing at all. To all too often choose fun for fun’s sake regardless of appearances and propriety. These were his gifts first and he had willingly given them up for necessity; seeing those in her, from the very beginning had given him more pride and joy than any of the others could ever bring. He sighed a bit at the thought because until now it had only brought him pride and happiness in seeing himself so clearly in his own child.
But now; what was this? The layers of his mind could only wonder. She was due in on the ferry tomorrow morning, home from school, He would meet her at the landing with flowers, Gloria would be there to unless an event at the club demanded her attention. He wished she would call but thought then that the letter had just arrived. She most likely would think she would beat the mail and explain whatever this was in person. She would explain in her normal measured tone, her loving and caring voice the exact nature of this new turn of fate. She was first rate and she would always make him proud.
He was thinking this as their housekeeper came out onto the porch wrapped in an apron of blue checkers and carrying a fresh pitcher of lemonade.
“ Mr. Milton?” She said. “ Ms. Olivia is on the phone.”
“I’ll take it out here Rose.” Milton said as he folded the letter and put it on the table by his drink.
“Yessir.” Rose said and turned to bring out the telephone.
Staring out at the clear Ocean Milton put his feet up on the small table in front of him, laughing again to himself at the picture of his wife’s rapidly approaching look of dismay and horror.
“Rose…” he called out with a tilted head, “ can you please bring me a fresh martini?”Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized