ROSIE WITHOUT LIMITS

CHAPTER ONE

Dear Ethel,

I don't understand the point of this exercise. It is both time-consuming and inefficient, since you're probably not going to read all of it anyway. I understand if this is the case because I wouldn't want to read a seventeen-year-old girl's journal either, even if I was her psychotherapist. I'll try and make it as interesting as possible, but if you really want me to 'express the tides of my emotions through a new medium', I'd be more than happy to put together an interpretive dance, only because I think it'd be a fantastic opportunity to convince mum that it would be a bad idea to enroll me in her alternative hip-hop street dance class.

My best friend's mum owns a super exclusive women's fashion boutique on Elridge Avenue, which the main shopping strip in our predominantly WASP neighbourhood, Dalton Park. It's called Felicity's – named by Mrs Hewitt after her best friend from college who died in a freak Botox accident – and it's housed in an old converted warehouse that used to be a brewery or something equally hipster. It appeals mainly to trophy wives, socialites and rich divorcees, but Mrs Hewitt's recent decision to introduce a contemporary art selection to the shop has also generated interest from local galleries and collectors. Zara has refused flat-out since the age of thirteen to set foot in her mother's shop – something that I completely understand, as the place is actually 40% scented candles. Seriously. It's like a set up for a Gossip Girl sex scene. Zara also hates Felicity's because it is exactly the sort of place that girls like Eleanor Redmond and her posse of mindless drones like to hit up in between hooking up with each other's boyfriends and getting fake tans. Everything costs at least three zeros too many, which is absolutely perfect for Eleanor because so do her breasts.

Okay, that was mean.

Not really. I hate Eleanor Redmond.

Anyway, my point in telling you all this nonsense is that ever since mum and dad's divorce, I've been spending most of my days after school sitting in the bistro next to Felicity's, which is appropriately named Exorbitare, since the cheapest thing on the menu is Finnish mineral water that costs eight dollars a bottle.

Most of the time I'm with Zara, and because she refuses to eat at an establishment that forces its female employees to wear skirts to work, and I'm broke, the waiters there absolutely hate our guts because we never order anything and really just use the place as a neutral outpost to do homework. Besides the restaurant staff loathing our presence, the arrangement is perfect because I don't have to deal with mum screaming at me and Mrs Hewitt – who always pops around at four o'clock to grab a gluten-free muffin and check up on us – always insists on having her driver drop me off so I don't have to be 'sexually harangued by the homeless folk on public transport'.

On a recent car trip home, Mrs Hewitt offered me a part-time job at Felicity's this summer. At first I was hesitant because I know nothing about haute couture fashion except that I could never afford it, and Zara was stabbing her mother with her eyes, but then Mrs Hewitt said I'd mostly be sitting in the back office and answering emails for her, and I had to say yes because you don't say no to a person as sweet as Mrs Hewitt and let's face it, it's not like I have huge plans for the summer. Dad will be in Paris 'on business', which actually means that he will be with his mistress (who is most likely five years older than me and exactly half my weight) and mum will be going on a 'Foxy at Fifty' cruise to Bali with her Zumba friends. That is not a joke.

Mrs Hewitt is exactly the kind of person you want planning your wedding. She gets excited over stuff that puts most people to sleep – flower arrangements, doilies, bed linens – and is extremely organized. She and Zara are always having disagreements but they actually love each other very much and I am insanely jealous of their relationship. I wish my mother was a responsible member of society who remembered to unload the dishwasher – or at least remembered to have the maid do it – instead of a flighty fifty-two year old with the mental capacity of a preteen boy band groupie. Mr Hewitt – who I've always thought resembles an older, sterner, Jewish version of Steve Carell who likes to wear three-piece suits – is also very elegant like his wife, and together they are my pseudo-parents, because I honestly think they care more about me than my biological ones do. I hope that doesn't sound bitter, because I am very fond of the Hewitts. Even Teddy, Zara's twin, who has the bad taste to socialize in the same circles as Eleanor Redmond, but is sweet in his own Ralph-Lauren-wearing-eight-dollar-Finnish-water-drinking way.

Mum just got home and I think she brought friends over, which means it's time for me to vacate the house and either walk two blocks to the library or take a tram to the nearest café bookstore, unless I want to watch a group of middle-aged women in leopard print get drunk on strawberry daiquiris.

One hour later…

Speak of the devil, and the devil shall appear. I just had the weirdest encounter with Teddy. I'm always having weird encounters with Teddy, but today's definitely topped the cake.

Here's some background information about Theodore John Winston Hewitt (God, is that not the whitest name you've ever heard): He is cool. He is very cool. Even the teachers at St Aubyn's – the elite K-12 all-boys private school across the street from the school that I attend with Zara and other less savory persons like Eleanor Redmond – respect and admire him. Teddy is cool in that wholesome, well-bred gentlemanly way that is so rare nowadays that when you do come across it, you get flustered and breathy until you realize he's like that to everybody. He's just naturally charming.

He can also be a total brat. Granted, this brattish behaviour is mostly directed towards me. Here is a sample of a typical conversation between us:

Me

(In my pajamas on Zara's bedroom floor, flipping through an old Vogue)

Jesus, some of the stuff in here is ridiculous. Why would anyone want to buy a fedora with holes in it? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a fedora?

Teddy

(Poking his head into Zara's room)

I'm having the guys over. We're taking the media room.

Me

You can't take the media room! Zara and I having a Colin Firth marathon; we told you at dinner.

Teddy

You snooze, you loose. Nice pajamas, by the way.

Me

Thanks, they're were on sale at-

Teddy

I'm kidding; they're actually hideous. But thanks for the media room, kiddo.

(Exits)

Me

(Shouting after him and shaking my fists)

Stop calling me kiddo! YOU'RE ONLY TWO MONTHS OLDER THAN ME.

We have a love-hate relationship. In the last two or three years it's mostly been hate; I think it started some time around the summer holidays of '09 when his voice broke, he suddenly shot up thirty centimeters and then made the senior swim team. This sudden exponential growth in hotness caught the attention of Harriet Chilton-Dwight, Eleanor's lieutenant. Teddy literally became the most popular guy almost overnight; one week I was kicking his ass in Scrabble in the backyard of the Hewitt's beachfront summerhouse, and the next week he was suddenly 'too busy' to play because 'the guys' were 'throwing a party' and he had to 'pick up the drinks'. Ethel, you'll forgive the excessive use of quotation marks when I tell you that after that fateful summer, Teddy was never the same ever again.

Okay, so I'm being a tad overdramatic. But I did feel the sting of betrayal at the time more acutely that Zara did, mostly because I was a fourteen year old girl with a bit of a crush on him at the time, as opposed to an annoyed sibling who had just realized that their twin was suddenly cool, and therefore a blood traitor.

I digress; back to the original train of thought. I decided to take the tram down High Street, which is the main thoroughfare that runs through Dalton Park, perpendicular to Elridge Avenue. There is a locally owned bookstore on High Street creatively named Dalton Park Books. It's situated between a Laundromat that I am fairly certain is a front for a drug ring and a travel agency that always seems to be closed. It's one of my favourite local haunts (I mean Dalton Park Books, not the travel agency), because a) it's a bookstore and b) there's a café attached to the back of the store, just past the kid's section, that makes the best hot chocolate in town.

Anyway, I got off the tram a few stops early because I wanted to walk – how great has the weather been, Ethel? Melbourne is great in the summer – when I bumped into Teddy and a few of his 'guys'. And when I say 'bumped', I mean I literally was not watching where I was walking and slammed right into him as he came out of a shop.

Teddy

Rosie?

Me

What are you doing here?

Teddy

(Gestures at the shop he just came out of. His friends are also filtering out. We now have an audience)

Getting lunch with some friends. Is that not allowed?

Me

No, that's fine. Whatever. I'll see you later.

(I go to leave, but Teddy grabs my wrist)

Teddy

(Trying to make eye contact with me that I successfully avoid)

I haven't seen you around lately. How are your parents?

Me

Still divorced. Please let go of my wrist.

Teddy

(Drops my wrist like it's a plague-infected corpse and looks weirdly guilty. Some of his friends are snickering at us. I want to punch them)

I'm really – I'm sorry. Hey, why don't you come-

Me

Look, I need to be somewhere right now. I really should go.

At this point, Teddy looks pretty hurt and I feel bad because I'm not making this a very pleasant experience for him, but his friends are making me uncomfortable and I want to make a quick getaway. But then, lo and behold, the supreme idiot himself, George Parker, decides to debut himself into our (painfully awkward) conversation.

If Teddy is the most respected guy on campus, then George Parker is the womanizing jerk that everybody is subconsciously afraid of. He is also Eleanor Redmond's boyfriend, which completely cancels out any sort of sympathy that I might feel for him on account of his poor-rich-boy situation. It's Dalton Park's best-known secret that his parents are only marginally more fucked up than mine. People are generally quite intimidated by him because he's very good-looking and also very arrogant, but I've walked in on him playing Angry Birds on his iPad whilst on the toilet one time too many at the Hewitt's residence (he never locks the door, and I always forget to knock), and that sort of stuff tends to colour your opinion of a person.

George

Teddy, introduce me to your little friend.

(Winks at me like the lecherous swine that he is)

Me

George, we went to the same kindergarten.

(But he always pretends to forget my name each and every time we see each other)

Teddy

George, this is Rose Liu.

George

Oh, you're Zara's friend! Hewitt, you didn't mention her boobs finally kicked in.

(The last time George saw me was about six months ago at Mrs Hewitt's housewarming party. I had braces at the time, and a cluster of zits on my forehead from a shoddy moisturizer that my mother forced me sample the day before. I was also wearing the wrong bra size, as I discovered a few weeks later. Needless to say, I did not win any beauty pageants that month)

Me

(To George)

You're disgusting.

(To Teddy)

You're friends are charming. I'm going now.

(I go to leave again, but this time George puts an arm around my shoulder and pulls me way too close)

George

I'm throwing a party tonight at my place. It's nothing fancy, but I'd appreciate it if you made an appearance.

Teddy

George, don't-

Me

No thank you. I'm not interested in getting sexually assaulted by drunken teenage boys at two o' clock in the morning. Please get your arm off me.

George

(Arm does not budge. He is now stroking my shoulder in a way that would be soothing it wasn't so damn weird)

Loosen up Roxy! It's the last day of year eleven, live a little.

Teddy

Rosie, you don't have to come if you don't want to.

Me

(Suddenly angry)

Right, because I'd feel so out of place amongst all your cool friends?

(I turn to George)

I'll see you tonight. Please leave any Chris Brown off the playlist.

George

(Kisses me on the cheek)

Every time I see you, my heart grows wings.

George is kind of a poet. Of course I called Zara straight afterwards and told her what happened. She suggested I use to opportunity to toss a coloured beverage onto Eleanor Redmond's face like they do in the movies, and I died a little bit because I was suddenly reminded that, oh yeah, Eleanor Redmond will be there. And all her friends. WHAT WAS I THINKING.

But Zara is still adamant that is a good idea for me to go. I know she's saying this partly out of guilt; she and her boyfriend David have a date tonight, and she's been concerned all week that I'll hole myself up in my room and read cheap romance novels all night instead of celebrating the last day of year eleven. At school this morning, she even bought me a breakfast bagel. That's how bad she feels.

I should go now; the party starts in a few hours but I need to head back home and get ready. Fingers crossed this doesn't turn out to be a completely awful experience.

Author's note: So obviously anything recognisable here does not belong to me, blah blah blah. That was the first chapter of what I hope is a long story. Feedback is always appreciated, no matter how critical!