|Vast: A Novel
Ch. XVII: Dorothy
by Nicolas Travers ©
Dorothy tells nobody of her assignation when she gets home from the church fete, not even Alex or Prince, for she knows that her sister will react in alarm, and possibly in horror, and she fears that if she shares her secret with Prince, she may be tempted to hint at it elsewhere as well.
But she cannot put it out of her mind, as she watches television in an untidy living room late on Saturday afternoon, with Prince curled up in the curve of her skirt, and she is very thoughtful. She knows that she is taking a gamble, and she hopes that she has assessed her target correctly, but she also wonders if she is choosing wisely. It is one thing to encourage boys to come running when she snaps her fingers, and she has already had some success in that game, and learned how to entice, and how to repel. But what she is choosing now may prove harder to handle: she must control this man from the outset, so that he will only wish to abandon what he has for what she can give him, and she must be able to hold him for as long as she needs him. Her will and her body must craft a double key, binding him with his own sexuality, and she suspects that she may have to play strange games, and is unsure whether she will like them.
She is so quiet that her mother starts to worry a little. The two of them are alone together, with Alex still at work, and Evelyn Weiss is away on a mysterious trip that may or may not result in him returning with a pocket full of cash.
Mrs. Sorrow suspects that Dorothy may have boy trouble, for she is sometimes out of an evening, and very quiet about her activities. But she does not interfere, for she went through a few wild years as a teenager herself, and nowadays young girls are all safely on the pill. However she is still curious, and old-fashioned enough to believe that mothers may retain certain rights over their children until they are old enough to fend for themselves, so she clears her throat loudly. "Penny for them, Dot."
Dorothy pretends not to hear. The television programme is a game show, with much loud ribaldry and much staged applause and laughter, and she knows how to shut sounds from her mind.
Her mother sniffs, a little offended, and helps herself to a chocolate cup cake from a plate at her side. She is a large woman, who might once have been pretty, but is now much too fond of fried things and sweet things, preferably in large helpings.
Dorothy continues locked in a world of her own.
Mrs. Sorrow leans towards her, and prods her with the plate. "Have a cake, Dot."
It is an order that Dorothy cannot normally in politeness refuse. But now she shakes her head curtly, because she is considering a matter of the utmost importance, and her judgment may well be about to shape the whole of her future.
Mrs. Sorrow is torn between parental affection, and irritation at being ignored. For a moment she is minded to throw the plate at her daughter, for she is a quick-tempered woman, and brooks no cheek from her children. But the plate still bears three cup cakes, and she would much rather eat them than scatter them across her livingroom carpet.
She retreats into a sulky silence, and Dorothy knows that she has moved a small step closer to freedom.
They are still sitting silently together, with the television living out a life of its own, as Alexandra comes home from work. She is laden with bags, and looks pleased with herself - Jason, her boyfriend, is about to complete his term as trainee manager with Sainsbury's big superstore midway between Slough and Maidenhead, and has arranged a celebratory evening out in London. It promises to be an important occasion, for plans are in the making: they both have good jobs, Jason's prospects gleam, and a sizeable mortgage should be comfortably within reach. They have also looked at some nice little starter homes, though Alexandra has kept this a very close secret.
She has also bought herself a new raincoat, in a cloudy blue poplin that attractively enhances her eyes, because Dorothy's questions have made her increasingly conscious of the way some doubtful men have been eyeing her, and she has decided never to wear her satin swagger coat again, though her decision is tinged with a little regret, because the coat was smart, and not much worn.
She swirls into the Sorrow living room, and pirouettes, the bags making a flying circle around her, and stands in front of the television, so that she has maximum attention.
Dorothy squeals with excitement, and is immediately alert, conscious that new fashion for Alexandra must mean good news for a younger sister taking much the same sizes in blouses and dresses and skirts and shoes. She admires her elder sister's new coat profusely, suspecting that Alexandra will now discard her silver raincoat, and will not complain too loudly if it vanishes, and dives into the nearest bag, to tug out a new sweater that she holds against herself, preening in front of their livingroom mirror.
Alexandra shrugs, with the look of a woman of taste humouring an errant child, and opens a second bag to take out a costume in pale blue jersey, a window clearance from the fashion shop where she works, bought as a special treat for her evening out. It is a thing of beauty, and tight moulding, and fashioned particularly to enhance shapely curves.
She holds it up proudly, without speaking, because the costume speaks for itself. Mrs. Sorrow beams in parental admiration, a second plateful of cup cakes hidden in the refrigerator driven momentarily from her mind, and Dorothy drops the sweater immediately, and holds out a suppliant hand, for pale blue suits her nearly as well as her sister. But Alexandra merely smiles benevolently, sweeping the costume back into its bag, bends to scoop up her new sweater from the livingroom carpet, and is gone, heading for her bedroom to make herself beautiful.
Dorothy hurries after her, anxious to admire her other purchases, and gauge how best she may benefit.
She sits on the bed and explores two more bags as Alexandra starts to take off her work clothes.
"Ooh, Sandy, this must've cost you a bomb." She unfolds a dark blue silk shirt lovingly, after discarding a small bag packed with shampoo and make-up.
Alexandra takes the shirt deftly. "We've been clearing stock, and I got a discount."
Dorothy puts out a hand to stroke the silk, and wonders how long it will be until she can start stocking a wardrobe all of her own. "Where's he taking you?"
Her sister smiles mysteriously. "He's keeping it a secret. But he said I've got to look my best."
"Will you be taking a nightie as well?"
It is a naughty question, and a provocative one, and Dorothy throws herself to one side as Alexandra scoops up a pillow and hurls it at her.
"You're too young for that sort of thing." Alexandra's voice is haughty with the disdain of experience.
"I wish I wasn't." Dorothy is suddenly morose. Now she suspects that Alexandra and her boyfriend may be planning to live together, and the thought of having to live an uneasy truce between her mother and Evelyn Weiss fills her with foreboding.
Alexandra immediately regrets her jibe. She has stripped off to her bra and panties, and is about to slip the blue jersey costume over her head, but Dorothy's doleful expression cuts her to the quick, and she pauses, holding the jersey against the lower half of her face, so that only her eyes can be seen.
"I'm sorry, Dot."
"I know." Dorothy sniffs. "The sooner I'm old enough, the better."
"As long as you don't do anything silly."
Dorothy sighs, and it is a long exhalation of desperation. "I'll probably run away."
Alexandra slips the blue jersey quickly over her head, tugs it down over her hips, and perches on the side of her bed, next to her younger sister. She guesses that Dorothy has now divined at least some of her own escape plan, and it is in some ways a relief, because it will smooth the pains of separation. But she is also alarmed at the way Dorothy has begun talking, and it is a time for sisterly advice.
"You won't do anything without telling me first, will you?"
She closes her hand on Dorothy's, but Dorothy's fingers are limp, and contain no response. She repeats her question, and her voice is insistent.
Dorothy shrugs. Decisions have been taken, and a path stretches ahead, for better or worse.
"I'm going to do what I have to do."
It is the answer of a sphinx, spoken in a flat voice, bereft of emotion.
"You're not going to make a fool of yourself with that man, are you?" Now Alexandra is openly worried.
"I'm just going to talk to him."
"And ask him to take you away?"
The two sisters look hard at each other, and now they are both women, and both must follow their separate ways.
Alexandra essays one more good counsel. "He may be too scared, if he finds out how old you are."
"I'll put him to the test." Dorothy stares at her sister, and her eyes are hard, and her chin is determined.
Alexandra's eyes search her face, and she shakes her head slowly. "I don't think you're doing it the right way, Dot."
"He's got a job in London, and he must have enough money."
"But you don't run away for just that."
"And I'll be able to count on him."
Suddenly Alexandra sees clearly into her sister, and she is facing a person she has never encountered before, and it is a meeting that frightens her more than a little.
"Because you'll have a hook in him?"
Now it is Dorothy's turn to shake her head. "No, because he'll be under my spell." She hesitates, and then presses her sister's hand. "He's got to want me, more than everything he has, and I've got to keep him, once I get him."
"Until the next one?" Alexandra bites her lip as her words slip out, but she does not retract them, for Dorothy is no longer playing by any recognisable rules.
Dorothy shakes her head again, and it is a movement born of certainty. "I'm not hanging around waiting for old Evil Vice to rape me one day when mum's out." Small tears pearl on her eyelashes, and suddenly she is a child again, and weeping, her head pressed hard against her sister's shoulder.
"It's all right for you, Sandy." Her voice shudders with her sobbing. "You're going to get away, and I'll have to stay, if I can't escape."
Alexandra prises her away gently, and glances quickly to see whether Dorothy's tears have stained the blue jersey of her costume, but it is unblemished. She glances at her watch, and squeezes her sister gently, and then pulls away from her to get reluctantly to her feet. She is a kind-hearted girl, and she would like to help, but Dorothy has plainly made up her mind, and she can think of nothing she can do that will make her change. She must also get moving, for time is marching on, and Jason dislikes being kept waiting.
A door slams distantly beneath them, and the distant sound of the television is punctuated by a gruff shout, and squeals of happy laughter. They stare at each other, and both their faces fall in unison.
"Shit." Alexandra glances at her watch again. "He's back, and I'm still here."
Dorothy wipes her eyes with the back of her hand. "D'you want me to come down with you?"
Alexandra sits at her dressingtable and starts to brush her hair. "That won't stop him trying to grope me."
"I'll kick him again." Dorothy smiles damply as she speaks. Evelyn Weiss has been a little shy of trying to fondle Alexandra since the day, a few weeks earlier, when Dorothy had attacked him to create a diversion, slicing a steel-tipped heel sharply again the side of his ankle, causing him to hobble painfully for a couple of hours.
But their plans are overtaken by the sound of somebody coming up the stairs, and then a loud rap on the bedroom door.
"All right for me to come in?"
The door opens and Weiss enters. He is a small dark man, somewhere between a rat and a mole, with a penchant for chalk-striped suits, and black shirts, and irridescent ties, like a character from some bad gangster movie, given to knocking on the girls' bedroom doors and entering simultaneously, in a constant hope that by asking, to preserve the formalities, and opening at the very same time, he will one day see one or other of the sisters wearing next to nothing, and possibly even wearing nothing at all.
"Evening, both." He beams, holding a couple of gift-wrapped packages. "I've brought goodies."
The two girls ignore him, and Weiss hovers a little lamely. For a moment the room is silent, then he coughs theatrically.
"I have presents for both of you, they are very fashionable, and they cost me very dear."
Alexandra eyes Dorothy, and Dorothy eyes Alexandra, and they both turn to inspect him superciliously.
"You should be waiting for us downstairs." Alexandra's voice is cutting.
"It's private up here." Dorothy is glacial.
"I just brought you nice things to wear." Weis lays his packages gingerly on the edge of the bed, and retreats back to the door. "I got some good stuff for your mum as well."
Dorothy eyes the packages, and Alexandra nods her approval. She advances warily, taking one that Weiss signals is hers, and unpacks it carefully, to take out the contents and hold it up in both hands. It is a slip in peach silk, and she inspects it suspiciously.
"It's nice, isn't it?" Weiss licks his lips. He can already visualise the two girls striking elegantly lascivious attitudes for his very private benefit, and the prospects warms his heart.
Dorothy lays the slip carefully down on the bed, and stares at him with deep scorn. "I suppose you want me to put it on for you?"
Weiss mistakes her tone, and grins, his lips glistening with hope.
"Find somebody else." Her voice is as hard as her eyes as she rolls the slip into a small peach bundle and throws it at him.
"Don't you want it?" Weiss looks aggrieved.
"I'm under age, remember?"
"I won't hold it against you." Weiss begins to advance cautiously.
"You won't hold nothing against her." Alexandra glares at him, and he stops. "You better get out."
"But it's a present." Weiss' voice hardens a little. "You ought to be grateful."
Alexandra bridles at this pressure, and stands. She is a head taller than Weiss, and she is fierce as she looks down at him. "Get out, or we'll both scream rape."
"All right, all right." He starts to back out of the room, holding up his hands in protest, and closes the door, but not quite shut, for he is ever a hopeful man, and one day means to collect in style.
Alexandra sits again, and glances at her watch, and starts deftly applying eye shadow. "That man's a pain, and much, much worse."
Dorothy nods dolefully. "I'll have to live with him when you've gone."
"Unless you run away first."
"Unless I run away first."
They look at each other, and it is an understanding, and also an approval, and Dorothy knows that she now has her sister behind her.
To Be Continued...
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