Once I was signed in, mom bent down and gave me a kiss on my cheeks, and then she departed. Leaving me along. The air was filled with nervous chatter. Being true to my nature, I slowly backed myself into the nearest corner I could find and cast my eyes toward the gathering crowds. Now, I understand that popular media has painted the picture of events being something akin to mental fencing, with each person propping the others with catty remarks and teasing insults. The tactic favored the most seemed to display some measure of kindness or compassion before doing a complete turn around and slapping somebody upside the head with a backhanded comment. Now, I do consider myself having some pretty thick skin.
I mean, I'm a seasoned veteran of a thousand flame-wars, having endured the perils of the internet since I was old enough to sit behind a keyboard. Great, now "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" Is playing on loop in my head now. Never question the profound wisdom of BOC ( Blue Oyster Cult) but this, this battlefield was different than the ones I've seen in my time. Not only where the formal dress clad boys going at each other's throats, the judges, most of whom where seniors from St. Katherine's Episcopal School where getting in on the fun as well.
"Oh." One of the girls said as she spotted me, she was wearing her formal school uniform, a blue pleated skirt, a white blouse with a blue neckerchief draped around the collar, white stockings and black faux leather dress shoes. Pinned to her left breast pocket was a silver oval shape badge engraved in the center of the badge were two letters a capital "H" followed by a capital "G". Okay before I go on, I think I should say something regarding the uniforms of St. Katherine's, there kind of like those found in the Japanese public school system. The girls wear an outfit that consistent of a white blouse, a blue neckerchief that is normally draped around the collar of the blouse, white stockings and black faux leather shoes. Boys wear dark blue trousers, a white shirt, and over the shirt a dark blue, stiff as a board dress jacket with a stiff, high collar and big brass buttons.
"Oh man, I had no idea that Sue had a little sister." She said moving toward me, as she peered down at me, I could feel her eyes peering into my soul. "Don't you look cute, got those pink sparkling eyes like your big sister, some tasteful make-up and a cute new haircut." She said shifting her eyes from the top of my head down to my feet and back up again. "I bet the some lucky boy will be having some fun with you tonight. Your not fooling me, I bet under that little princess look, is nothing more than a little slut waiting spread her wings and take off." She said smirking as she walked.
I blinked and blinked again as I peered toward her, I felt stunned and shocked. From the shadows I heard a chores of giggles escape into the air. And then into the light stepped another girl. She was wearing a cute half sleeve pink dress instead of her uniform. "Oh man, that was totally so harsh." She said giggling again. She then turned and like the girl before started to size me up.
"But I gotta hand it to you, your the most passing of the lot. So what's your name sweetie?" She said in an overly fake southern accent that makes my skin crawl. Each word that rolled from the tip of her tongue seemed to drip hot acid.
"Daisy," I said without thinking. "Daisy Isabella Bell." When choosing my "Girls" name, I had gone with 'Daisy' as the first name, since it was named, my dad's mother had been given. Mom had decided to let me use her first name as my middle and of course the family name was 'Bell'.
Oh that sounds cute, has something of a high class ring to it. And the more I think about it, the more it sounds like a name from a story book, like the name of a Disney princess or something. Short of has an old southern ruling class ring to it. It echoes that if you will." She then smiled and then she started to move a little closer, lifting her top lip up a little to show her teeth she then leaned in and whispered.
"Okay, listen here princess. Because I'm only going to say this once, so open those big ears and listen good, because I hate having to repeat myself. This right here is no story book, there is no prince charming for you to charm, you might think your going to fool us with that little outfit of yours. But really, your just making yourself look like a pretty little bitch. You think you can waltz in here and throw around your last name and expect us to fall down and kiss the ground you walk on. If so, you got another thing coming sister." She then reached down and picked up one of the straps of my gown, she then dropped it with a clear look of disgust.
"Damn girl, the Bell's are supposed to be rolling in the dough, and you show up wearing a gown that looks like it came straight from the racks of the local charity shop. Man it even reeks of mothballs. Maybe mommy and daddy are trying to pawn you off to one of the newer, wealthier families, maybe that why they entered you into this little contest, there trying to show off there slutty daughter, cause there oldest is nothing but a dirty tomboy." She barked a cruel laugh. "Anyway best of luck, I think your going to need it."
As I watched her walk off, I felt my blood starting to come to a boil in my veins, it seemed I had entered into a hidden world, a world I knew only in passing. In this world, women ruled and they ruled using words, words that stung like wasps or hornets. There words where sharper than swords and they used those words to cut deep into the flesh of their enemies. These sword did not leave scars in the flesh, no they shattered pride into a million and one pieces and left unseen scars on the soul. This was not a battlefield, this was a mental chessboard. And right now, they had me pinned down.
Feeling low in the saddle, I started to wish the ground would open up and swallow me, I was new to these kind of mind games, and my legs where starting to shake, and the corner of my eyes where starting to become moist. The moisture threaten to become tears and those tears threaten to spill over, and just when I thought they would. I felt a warm pair of arms fold over me, a second later, I felt myself being pulled into a bone crushing hug.
"Hey, princess."A voice said to my side. "Its okay, you got this." The voice belonged to a female. We'll a female cousin call Linda, Linda Perry was her name. Her mother had been some kin to my dad, either through the main branch of the family or one of the cadet branches. I could never keep the tree straight. It's safe to say that Grandmother Bell and Grandfather Bell had produced a brood of children, and those children were now in the process of producing a healthy crop of grandsons and granddaughters. I often joked it would take a dozen or so well trained scholars, a dozen years to make sense of the tangled web our family tree was quickly becoming. But it made for fun family reunions and holidays.
Anyway, returning to Linda, Linda had been born and raised in Benton. She had the name of being something of a bully in her hometown. But since coming to live with us, she had slowly started to turn over a new leaf. I'll go as far as to say this, I think she has taken to the role of being a big sister like a duck takes to water. She does seem to have quite a history with my other cousin Madeline, the air grows icy cold when there together. You can almost cut the tension with a butter knife.
"I heard those remarks, you gotta let it roll off your back okay? Girls love to play mind games with each other. Boys, okay boys will use their fist okay, like say you got a problem with another boy, you can ask him to step outside and throw down with him. We've romanticized it, hell in the south we love nothing more than a good story about a shrimp, no offense, knocking out the big bull-headed bully, double points if the bully happens to be one the dreaded 'Yankee's. But that in the boy's world. Girls, Girls are not supposed to fight, its not 'Lady' like if you will. So instead of using our fist, we gotta use our words. And I know words sting like hell. But listen, you gotta hold your head up high, I know you want to cry, but you can't. If you start to cry, your make-up will run and you'll go from looking like a princess to looking like a clown, and then every one will join in on the teasing. Its like, sharks smelling blood, they thrive on it." She said hugging me tighter. "So keep it together and bring home that crown! Don't do it for Benton, do it for yourself! Be the best pretty boy you can be!"
"Five minutes ladies!" Called one the women. "Five minutes till we start! I'll like all guest and supports to please leave the backstage area now! Five minutes and counting."
I wanted to say something, but I could not find the words.
Linda did though, she reached down and kissed my forehead. "Good luck baby girl." And with that she was gone. Leaving me once more along, along to face a hostel crowd.