Friday, July 8, 2016

From the cutting-room floor, episode two: Jeannie the babysitter

Time for another deleted scene from the book. This happened after Lilac had met Jeannie, her new babysitter, for the first time.

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Once Lilac had met Jeannie, she started to see her everywhere. She supposed she had probably been there all along, but before Jeannie had just been another of the big girls in the navy uniform, who generally seemed to move in giggling clusters of no fewer than six at a time, at least three of whom would be pushing bikes on the footpath and blocking the way past for anyone else.

On Wednesday after late choir practice, Lilac saw Jeannie coming up the hill in a group just like that, though Jeannie seemed to be a little left out of whatever the subject of the giggling was at that particular moment, and was pushing her bike up the steep slope with her head low down, practically on the handlebars, as if school had been so tiring that she’d like to fall asleep before she even got home. Lilac went red and didn’t say hi because she thought Jeannie’s friends might be giggling about her, even though really that was very unlikely.

On Thursday, Lilac went down to the shops after school because her mother was baking a cake – of all things – and needed more eggs. There was Jeannie coming out of the library in the middle of the main street with another girl, still in her school uniform. Jeannie was looking oddly animated and chatting happily and waving her arms as she spoke. This was a new Jeannie, one Lilac hadn’t imagined existed. Lilac tried to say hi, but Jeannie didn’t see her, so Lilac had to pretend she’d just been talking to herself.

The following Saturday morning, Lilac encountered Jeannie with her mother, as she and her Dad went to pick Lilac’s mum up at the tennis club. Lilac’s mum had locked her keys in the car again, and it was lucky that Daddy was home, she said, because otherwise she’d have to get a lift home from someone else and nobody lived in their direction. Lilac liked going into the tennis clubhouse, with its plush surrounds in the bar (where under 12s were not allowed, but she could peer through the narrow panes of glass in the door) and its clangy lockers in the changing room, and its special smell everywhere of metal and shoes and maybe cigars. Jeannie’s mum said Jeannie was joining the club as a junior, and wasn’t that lovely, but Jeannie didn’t really look as if she thought it was lovely, much.

Lilac wondered why on earth any reasonable teenager would want to join a club their mum was in, and – more - why anyone’s mum would think they’d like to do that. Jeannie’s mum was probably all talking about how handy it would be that they could both go to the club together and how much fun it would be to have George the Pro give Jeannie some lessons and how there’d be doubles in the summer and she’d make lots of friends. Those was just the sorts of thing Lilac’s mum would say, and mothers were mothers, after all, even if maybe they didn’t all lock the keys in the car or fake lunches with publishers to get out of school things.


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