Ten Times the Trouble
On the last day of school at Holyoke Catholic High School, Elly Rose Herrington decided that she was bound to defy her parents. The previous spring, Vassar University applications were due, and under her parents' noses, she sent in her college application, hoping for acceptance. Although the stakes were high and her chance of success was a little lower, Elly Rose was dead-set on her college career.
In middle school, Elly Rose didn't think much on college. After all, it was six years away, and the impeding task of high school lurked much closer. The Herringtons were originally from California, but Mrs. Herrington was in favor of a four-seasoned upbringing for her youngest child. After a few scruples in the interior design area, the Herringtons had sold their Malibu mansion for quite a lot of money and moved to Hartford, Connecticut in favor of an equally large New England manor. Now, Elly Rose wasn't raised Catholic, but anyone close with Mrs. Herrington knew she wanted the best education for her little girl, and if it came to enrolling her in a school like The Academy of our Lady of Mercy Middle School, then so be it. At first, the teachers were stiff and unkind to Elly Rose, and the students weren't much better. After time, Elly Rose grew indifferent to the whole matter and chose instead to focus on her academics. Valedictorian was her goal at 13. However, looking back at her days at the Academy, Elly Rose thought she'd never regret going to such a strict and stony school because it was where she had met Kennedy Smithers, who proved to be the best friend in the world.
Kennedy wasn't the same as the other girls. She was a rambunctious tomboy hailing from a small-town upbringing in Parkville, just outside of Hartford. She listened to the strangest music, usually from the '70s or '80s, but when Elly Rose was over for dinner or to study, Kennedy usually played Elvis Castello, who became a personal favorite of Elly Rose. Another thing Elly Rose liked about Kennedy was that she was in the marching band, and out of all the girls and boys to participate in such a derisive group, Kennedy was the one who marched with the most pride and confidence, and as if the sky were to suddenly fall if she lost her nerve.
After graduating from the Academy as the female Valedictorian, Elly Rose attended Holyoke Catholic High School, which proved to be quite a commute from Hartford, as Holyoke was about 25 miles away from her Hartford manor. However, it was the wish of Mrs. Herrington that her daughter attended one of the highest ranked schools in the state, and there were no buts, ands, or ifs in the discussion. Elly Rose was excited for high school, but at the precipitous prospect of leaving Kennedy behind, her excitement turned into a panic, which churned in a vat of boiling worries inside of her. Kennedy was to attend Hartford Public High School, along with most of the students from the Academy. This thought also scared her. When Elly Rose thought about Holyoke, she felt mortified and doubted if she'd ever get an A on a test again. Holyoke challenged students in a way no other Catholic high school could achieve. Holyoke taught its students the very basic principles of life, and weaved it into the students' brains, the information stroking one's mind in a tantalizingly morbid way. The Academy nuns could only dream of leaving that sort of impression on their alumnus' minds. Elly Rose had nightmares about how she'd lose her way in the halls or forget to set up her locker. Kennedy assured her that they'd still be best friends, and they still were when the first semester of their freshman year came to an end.
It wasn't until Elly Rose's junior year that the prospect of college came into the dinner table discussion.
"My dear Elly Rose," cooed Mrs. Herrington as she sipped her wine. Mrs. Herrington was a slender and tall lady, somewhere in her early forties. She liked to wear her dress clothes around the house, and barely did a day's work, but she liked to think shopping. Elly Rose wasn't close with her mother, but Patrick, her elder brother was. She didn't know where Patrick was.
"How's school for you dear? I've been reading the Holyoke newsletter and there was an interesting topic on the front page…"
"Really?" Elly Rose asked.
"Yes! And it seems to me that it would be the last thing on any students' mind with all of the curricular work Holyoke gives its students," Mrs. Herrington always took time to warm up before she got to her point. "But I suppose that even some children think into the future at this age…"
"What are you talking about, Mom?" Elly Rose asked tiredly.
"College. It's preposterous! What are you, fifteen, sixteen? And you're all thinking about college! You have two years!"
"Mom, I'm seventeen, and I graduate next year. I sort of need to get my applications in…" Elly Rose said, setting her fork down. She was hungry and tired from a long day of test-taking at Holyoke, and the dinner of grilled salmon and sweet potatoes with sugar and butter looked extremely good. College and more test-taking was the last thing she wanted to talk about.
"Regardless," Mrs. Herrington chirped. "The Ivy League schools are having hard times picking and accepting students this year. So many want to get into Yale or Harvard," Mrs. Herrington simpered. "Why not a community college?"
"Because Yale and Harvard actually get people somewhere," Elly Rose said indolently. "What you say most the time about the big schools is stupid."
"Nonsense! A community college is just as good as those ramshackle stone walls that people call universities. I came from a community college, your father came from a community college, your grandparents the same; look where we are! A manor in Connecticut! Who says being a Yalie will get you anywhere, hm?"
"And your father will tell you the same, just you ask him!" Elly Rose briefly looked to her father's empty plate and glass at the front of the old oak table. He was away on business again. She didn't know why Matilda, the cook, kept setting a place for him if he wasn't going to show.
"If you'd just listen one moment-" Elly Rose tried again.
"Bah! School is for those who can't take the pressure of finding a job first thing! If they really had backbones, they'd go the same way as you're going," Mrs. Herrington explained, and took a large bite of her salmon triumphantly.
"You heard me, Elly Rose. Do you need a miracle hearer?"
"What did you say?"
"A miracle hearer. I thought you heard me the first ti-" Mrs. Herrington attempted, waving a hand around elaborately.
"No, no, before that," Elly Rose corrected nervously. "Which way am I going?"
"You're going straight into the family business." The family business was real estate. "You'll learn from the best; your father and I will teach you everything we know. You'll be a pro in no time, none at all, and by your twentieth birthday, you'll have enough money to buy your own home. God knows you can do it!" Mrs. Herrington exclaimed. Elly Rose sat frozen in her seat.
Her life's ambition was to go to Vassar, take a few courses in Biology and Sociology, and then join the neuroscience program, and perhaps do some fields work before interning at a big hospital. Elly Rose was horrified at the idea of real estate. The money and dealing with the market and the Recession seemed like more pressure than the impeding wait for her Vassar reply. God knew she couldn't do it.
By the time the end of senior year had rolled around, Elly Rose still hadn't the courage to tell her parents what her true wish was. She would've thought that being accepted in to Vassar, which she had been, would have lightened the mood, but it only seemed to darken it because Elly Rose would have to come up with some sort of insane plan to attend college. After the dinner with her mother the previous year, Elly Rose had been deviating ways to secretly sneak off to Vassar without letting her parents in on the ordeal. She couldn't see how she'd be able to sneak off to New York every single day, and then be back in Hartford by dinner without letting on the truth. Some risks would have to be taken, and lies were definitely going to be told.
In May, Elly Rose confided in Kennedy about her situation.
"So, you applied to Vassar, then learned that your mother wanted you to go into real estate, without any higher education, and then got an acceptance to said university," Kennedy recapped. Elly Rose nodded anxiously.
"What am I going to do?"
It was a Saturday afternoon, about average temperature for late spring. Elly Rose was staying for dinner in Parkville, as Mr. and Mrs. Herrington were away on business in Maryland for the weekend. Elly Rose hadn't seen Kennedy for a few months because the course work at Holyoke had grown in difficulty for the seniors and required much more study time, and Kennedy had found a boyfriend.
"I don't know," Kennedy said, lounging on her bed. "I've honestly never been in a situation like yours. I mean, my parents are completely oblivious about Dean and me, but hiding a boyfriend isn't as hard as hiding an Ivy League acceptance…"
"Gee, thanks for the reassurance."
"Sorry. No help?"
Elly Rose shook her head. Lately, things had gotten a bit out of control. Patrick, away at a friend's wedding in Boston, had barely spoken to her in the past few months. Her parents had just picked up a new line of work in the Washington D.C. area and had taken many business trips during the last year and a half. She didn't really socialize at school because while Holyoke girls provided great competition for the highest GPA, they were real snots and bad sports. Aside from homework and the occasional run-in with a popular girl, boys were starting to confront her about dates and lunch meetings. Elly Rose had never really seen boys the way other girls did. Even Kennedy was closer to a clique girl when talking about boys; she liked to talk about their hair. As more and more boys began to flirt with her and tease her, Elly Rose became more immersed in her studies. She felt as if she was holed away and the sun barely touched her.
"I just don't know what to do!" she exclaimed. "I love my parents because they've raised me and fed me and paid for my education… but I can't believe that after eighteen years of being a family they'd just throw all of my dreams away. They don't even think I have any dreams, aside from going into the family business…"
"I'm sorry, but I don't know what to tell you," Kennedy sighed. "You could tell them the truth…"
"No! Out of the question. I'd be disowned for lying. Condemned to my room for a decade. Hung from my thumbs in the basement!" Elly Rose drew in a breath, and continued; "It would've been safer just to come out with it as soon as I got an application for Vassar. But now that I've been accepted…" Elly Rose trailed off. "Gosh, Kennedy, what am I supposed to do?"
"Maybe you should just tell your parents that you've taken a real estate job in New York. That way, they wouldn't question you moving out, and they'd never know about Vassar."
In June, finals rolled around. Elly Rose had been studying since the third week of May. She had note cards, notes double-checked by herself and her teachers, highlighted passages of text books, essays, worksheets, and much, much more. Mr. and Mrs. Herrington continued to be in and out of the house, making all sorts of money, and Patrick was off doing God-knows-what. For awhile, having the house to herself was refreshing to Elly Rose. As time passed into weeks, she began to feel lonely, and because of her studying, Elly Rose continued to isolate herself.
Just as Elly Rose would slip into bed and close her eyes, her mind would begin to race. Her anxiety of Vassar and her parents haunted her until she finally could relax, and even then, she'd have nightmares about her mother flogging her because she had lied about real estate and Vassar. Other times, her mother would smile sweetly and then turn into the Mad Hatter while her father would morph into the White Rabbit and call out, "I'm late, I'm late." She'd feel sick by the time she woke for school.
One day at school, during the last week, flyers were sent out for a big graduation party. The girls were excited and were constantly primping themselves with compact mirrors when they thought no one was looking. The boys were rowdy, and often at lunch, Elly Rose would look out of the cafeteria window and out on the front lawn because their revelry was so loud and obnoxious. It was because of the stupid party at Madeline Lynn's big mansion. Elly Rose wasn't expecting an invite either because she already held a very notorious reputation of being the biggest nerd in senior year. She didn't mind. It took some accomplishment and hard work to earn such a title.
However, the unexpected happened.
"Hello," a tall blonde girl with a snotty voice said. Elly Rose looked up from her book and put her juice down. Madeline Lynn, sure enough, was standing next to her table in the bustling cafeteria. Elly Rose's stomach lurched.
Madeline stuck out a pink envelope with black studs encrusting the corners. She smiled a fake, plastic smile, which revealed perfectly white teeth spread out underneath the perfect shade of red lipstick.
"You're invited," Madeline explained as Elly Rose ripped open her envelope. Madeline's two words couldn't be explicit enough, for Elly Rose finally slipped out the hot pink sheet of paper heralding the words:
You are cordially invited to Madeline Lynn's graduation party, June 11 from 4:30 PM to midnight at 43 Connecticut Blvd. Don't be late!
"W-why?" Elly Rose asked lamely, looking up at Madeline. Madeline's fake smile grew.
"Because I think you're awesome. You're going to be Valedictorian, and I'd like our Valedictorian at the graduation party," Madeline cooed. "Duh!"
"So you'll be there?"
"I don't see why I wouldn't," Elly Rose answered timidly. Of course Mrs. Herrington wouldn't want her to go and socialize with her class; it was wasting time, that's what it was. But senior year meant going out with a big bang. "Yeah, I'll be there."
Elly Rose told Kennedy about Madeline Lynn's invitation, and was thoroughly surprised. Elly Rose had told Kennedy every single detail of her life at Holyoke over the past four years, leaving nothing out. Kennedy thought Madeline, one of the ring leading girls at Holyoke, was shallow and completely selfish. Elly Rose agreed.
"But you can count it as retribution for all these years of snot-nosed conversations, right?" Kennedy joked. "I mean, it's not like you're going to have a second chance at high school."
"No, you're right. I should enjoy this."
"Yes, you should."
In all her years at Holyoke, and all of the parties advertised generously, Elly Rose had never been invited to any of them. She felt special this time around, and didn't even stop to think that what Madeline had told her was false. It couldn't be false because even though Madeline was shallow and selfish and snotty, she wouldn't ruin Elly Rose's big chance. She felt as though she could put complete confidence in Madeline's actions, although part of her said that was the worst thing she could do.
"I can't wait," Elly Rose said suddenly.
Kennedy put on some Elvis Castello. The two of them mouthed the words.
"Do I need to dress up? I should buy some makeup… maybe listen to some of the music so I don't look completely oblivious. I should probably do my hair, and get my nails done-"
"Woah, slow down girlie! It's just a party for graduation," Kennedy laughed. "Don't you think you're going a little over board?"
Elly Rose thought for a moment. Maybe getting her hair and nails done would be a bit much. Her excitement dimmed and she felt stupid.
"My condolences," Elly Rose joked weakly.
"Welcome back, Captain Kirk."
"You're so not funny."
On the last day of school at Holyoke High School, Elly Rose Herrington decided she really was going to defy her parents. For the second time. The day had gone smoothly with the last of finals out of the way, and just as the final bell of the school year rung, relief washed over Elly Rose, while exhilaration and energy surged through every other senior. The first thing she did was pack her bag, clean everything out of her locker, and drive home. Then, she called up Kennedy, who didn't answer. After a few more tries, Elly Rose's attempts proved to be futile, and she put the phone down and stalked into her room. How could Kennedy not answer the phone when she knew perfectly well that Madeline's party was in half an hour? She dressed hurriedly, then grabbed her purse with the invitation and ran out the door. She arrived at Madeline's house in less than fifteen minutes.
The Lynns were extremely wealthy, Elly Rose determined as soon as she stepped out of her car. The driveway was at least a quarter of a mile long, and was lined with rustic fencing. The road to the garage was gravel and all along it there was at least ten feet of the greenest grass and the lushest flowers Elly Rose had ever seen. Towards the front of the house, there were rows of white and red roses. The house was made entirely of wood with a brick chimney. The door was a deep oak with a heavy brass knocker in the shape of a gargoyle, which was quite intimidating as Elly Rose took hold of it and knocked three times. In her rib cage, she could feel the beat of the music pounding and ricocheting. She wondered what she'd find behind the Lynns' door…
"Hey Elly Rose!" It was Madeline, hanging off the arm of a big footballer with a pretty face smeared with smugness.
Elly Rose waved lamely.
"Come on in!"
Elly Rose stepped in and immediately felt the vibrations of the music shake her through her bones. Her capability of hearing herself think shrunk. Diminution of most normal bodily functions seemed rendered useless at this party. There was a large mass of seniors dancing in the next room, which was a big marble-floored, fresco-painted ballroom. The lights were dimmed and flashing colors danced off the walls and the crowd. A punch table stood in the front hall and a few people crowded around it, chatting, sipping, and panting. Elly Rose edged in after Madeline who shook off the footballer and took Elly Rose by the arm. Madeline led her into the ballroom which was much louder.
"Dance with me!" Madeline called over the music and started moving with the beat.
"I have to put my purse down first!" Elly Rose shouted back, but Madeline didn't hear because the footballer had come back and danced Madeline off into the heart of the crowd. Elly Rose stood frozen, clutching her purse. Over in the corner was a cluster of armchairs. She started off over to the corner and sat down.
"This is stupid," Elly Rose thought. "But I've only just got here, so I shouldn't just leave… especially because Madeline really wanted me here."
She took out The Bell Jar from her purse, thinking that no one would bother her and she wouldn't have to let Madeline down. Elly Rose read for about five minutes until a hand came down lightly on her shoulder. She jumped.
"Hey," a deep voice said. "What's up?"
Elly Rose looked up into the face of a slim dark-haired boy. He looked a little Italian.
"That's not an answer," he chuckled. He sat down across from Elly Rose, which surprised her a bit.
"Then what is an answer?"
The boy was quiet for a moment, studying Elly Rose. She closed her book and stuck it back in her purse.
"You come here often?" he asked. Elly Rose laughed.
"Um, no. I've never really been to a party before…"
"You're kidding me," he replied, incredulous. He looked nice in partial light, but Elly Rose wouldn't know… not really.
"No, I'm not!" Elly Rose defended.
"You've got to get out some more. Maybe we could do something together?" the boy asked coyly. Elly Rose froze.
"You know, go out sometime. As friends, I mean," he added hastily.
Elly Rose shook her head, and said, "But we don't even know each other."
"Well, that's an easy obstacle. I'm Milo De Luca, and you are?" he asked politely.
"Um, well, I'm Elly Rose Herrington."
"Elly Rose?" Milo asked interestedly, leaning forward in his chair. He had sharp features, dark chocolate eyes; tussled brown hair gelled in all directions, and a perfect nose. She couldn't understand why she hadn't noticed him at Holyoke before.
"Yeah, Elly Rose, named after my mom and my dad's mom," she said, a little embarrassed.
Milo stared at her, a little smile pulling at his lips in a palpable way. She could tell he would start laughing, but for some odd reason he didn't.
"I like it. Nice ring, you know?"
Elly Rose's heart fluttered.
"So, this is boring, right?" he asked, gesturing to the growing crowd out on the floor. The music was annoying too, all beat and no meaning. "Wanna go somewhere?"
"As much as I want to, I can't…" Elly Rose replied with languor. "I would, but Madeline…"
"Madeline, seriously?" he asked in a mocking manner.
"She's my cousin you know."
"Yeah, I didn't go to Holyoke in case you're wondering. I'm at Yale, studying biology."
"Wow, really?" Elly Rose asked. "You're in college?"
"Yeah, I know, it's amazing. Sorry I surprised you there," Milo said, a little chuckle escaping from his throat.
"No, it's okay," Elly Rose said, a little dejectedly. They sat in silence for about ten minutes looking at the seniors on the floor, and occasionally glancing in each other's direction. As time passed, Elly Rose began to think of her parents. What would they think when they came home that night and found that their daughter was out partying the night away? What would they think when she brought up Vassar, which would start in September…?
"Hey, can I ask you a question Milo?" She said it before she could stop herself. Milo had been in some sort of trance, looking at a girl probably, but snapped out of it.
"Uh, depends on the question."
"Don't be like that," Elly Rose reprimanded.
"Like what?" he laughed. "You don't even know me, remember?"
"Whatever, here's my question: how do I tell my parents that I'm going to college whether they like it or not?" she asked. Milo stared dumbly at her for a minute or two.
"Just tell them."
"God, how many times have you said 'what' tonight?" Milo laughed. "You need a miracle hearer or something?"
"N-no, of course not!" Elly Rose defended. "Why do people keep saying that?!"
"Bottom-line, you need to tell your parents. Aren't you close with them?"
"They're always away on business. They think college is a waste of time and want me to go into the family business."
"The family business?"
"With no higher education?"
"That's what I said!" Elly Rose laughed mockingly. "I just don't know what to do. I want to go to Vassar, and get into the neuroscience program-"
"-but my parents don't understand. Real estate. God, it sounds like a nut job. I want a life with substance, with some meaning, and they don't get it…"
"I get what you mean, totally."
"But it's like… can't I just experience things for myself, you know?" Elly Rose faced him. Milo was watching her intently.
"Yeah, I know."
After the party, which ended just before midnight, Elly Rose drove herself home, hoping her parents weren't home. They weren't, and she thought how lucky she'd gotten in the past few days. As she slid into bed that night, she thought of what Milo said. He was a smart boy, she could tell, and the fact that he went to Yale was amazing. But it also made him untouchable. Elly Rose felt depressed by that precluded thought, and decided to fall asleep right then.
The next morning, Mr. and Mrs. Herrington were back and sitting at the kitchen table with coffee. Elly Rose decided to tell them. She hopped out of bed, dressed hurriedly, and sidled into the kitchen.
"Hey baby," Mr. Herrington greeted, not looking up from his paper.
"Elly Rose!" Mrs. Herrington wrapped her slender arms around her daughter and beckoned for her to sit down at the table.
"Mom," Elly Rose said. "I have something to tell you."
"It's not bad; at least I don't think it's that bad…"
Mr. Herrington put down his newspaper curiously. Mrs. Herrington looked a little worried and was sweating a little.
"You know that whole college thing, right?" Elly Rose began, twiddling her thumbs. "Well, last spring, I submitted… I submitted an application to Vassar University in Poughkeepsie."
She waited a moment for a reply. Both of her parents opened their mouths, then closed them, and opened them again. Mr. Herrington looked a little confused for a moment, closed his mouth, and went back to his paper. Mrs. Herrington however, grew redder and sweated more.
"Dear Elly Rose. What have you done?" she rasped.
"And I was accepted. I'm going to Vassar this fall." Elly Rose gulped. "Term starts in September."
"Do you even know what you've gotten yourself into?" Mrs. Herrington exploded. "You don't know the first thing about college! You're sixteen-"
"- and you don't know what in the world you want! You cannot just pick up and leave to some fancy-shmancy college without permission! All these years we thought you wanted to be a real estate agent! Dear Elly Rose!"
"Mom! I've just graduated from high school. From high school," Elly Rose annunciated. "Does that mean anything to you? I want to go to Vassar, I want to be a neuroscientist, and if that cuts into your screaming time, then I'm sorry, but this is what I want to do. It's my life, not yours."
"Yes, I can. I'm eighteen. Not fifteen, not sixteen, and not seventeen. Holyoke has been training us to go to college. That's the whole point of high school. Heck, every high school prepares their students for college. Why can't I go? That's the only thing I want!" Elly Rose exclaimed.
"Well, I think she can go," Mr. Herrington piped up from behind his paper. "God knows that that girl has no math skills. None at all."
It was September on the East Coast, and the trees were a brilliant orange and littered the wet streets of Poughkeepsie, New York. Elly Rose drove down College Avenue with a full trunk in tow. Vassar University was just around the corner, and Elly Rose could feel it in the pit of her stomach.
"There it is!" Milo exclaimed, pointing across Elly Rose's face. She swatted his hand.
"Hey, no horsing around!" she laughed. "I only agreed you could come because I wanted moral support."
"You're no fun," Milo pouted. Elly Rose rolled her eyes.
Elly Rose turned left. Vassar University came up quickly, and she hit the brakes.
"You're here," Milo whispered, taking Elly Rose's hand. "It's beautiful."
"It's magnificent," she said, squeezing his hand. "Thanks for coming."
"No problem. Moral support is my middle name."
Yeah. School project. Yo yo.