Part One: City of Pain
By Miri Samson
Mary Starrs missed the city and so did her younger sister, Christine. Their family had moved to a more quiet part of California five years ago; mainly because of the "sin of the city," but, sin or not, both sisters knew that they had to go back. They had left so much behind: The sights, the beach, and their two closest friends, Katy Smith and Bridget Wells. In her last letter to Mary, Katy explained that she and Bridget had become roommates in a small, but well kept apartment building. The letter also invited Mary and Christine to come and live with them on Beechwood Drive, back in the city. The two teens had asked their parents about it. After all, Mary was almost nineteen and her sister, sixteen. Mrs. Starrs said it was fine for Mary to go, as long as she got a job, but thought Christine was too juvenile. In the end, Bridget's mother had to promise to visit the girls every week and update the Starrs' on their daughters' status. And along with that, Christine wasn't ever allowed to be on her own. Since the other girls were all the same age, and older, they had to watch her carefully.
And today was the day. Today, Mary and Christine would leave the country and re-enter the wild world of independence. They were waiting at a dusty bus stop; luggage in hand, excited about what adventures lay before them. Both teens knew that the hour-long trip would be tiresome and that starting a career would not be easy, but they didn't let that bother him. Mary and Christine had their dreams. The older one wanted to do something meaningful and make a difference; but it was1967, and women weren't exactly at the top of the "people to listen to" list. Christine was more carefree, most likely because of her age. She just wanted to get a job that would make money and lots of it. The young girl wanted to live in perfect comfort without ever worrying about hunger or displeasure. Joy was very important to her and she had found many ways of finding it. Mary ordinarily had a terrific sense of humor, yet what had happened to her recently had dampened her mood a bit.
The two were very different, not only in personality, but it appearance, too. Although Christine was younger than her sister was, she was taller, only not as thin. Mary was exceedingly lean, but this isnít frightened some of her friends. They knew Mary's eating habits were ones that asked for a good quantity of food, but her metabolism rate was so high and she was so physically active that there wasn't a scrap of fat on her body.
They didn't dress alike either. At this moment, Mary was attired in a tight yellow v-neck shirt, a skirt that ended just above her knees and boots that ended just below them. And to top it off she wore a red vest on her shoulders and a matching rose in her hair. Christine outfitted in a loose tie-died top that spelled the word "Love" across her chest, bell-bottoms, and a pastel headband.
The bus pulled up and the sisters boarded. It was pretty much empty, with a grimy floor and unkempt seats, but a bus no less. Mary took a seat and settled her head against the window. The California sun glared through her shut-eyes, but she tried to ignore it and ended up sleeping through the ride. People she was now leaving behind visited her dreams.
Mary saw Matthew Barns, a tall countryman, but conceited like a snake. He was obsessed with himself and didn't have much time for Mary, who was his girlfriend a week ago. When she had told Matthew that she would be leaving, he broke it off and walked away from her. He didn't even visit her to say goodbye before Mary left. In fact, his last words to her were, "So you're saying you won't have time for me anymore?" Mary was glad to be rid of such an arrogant man, but still missed him. She didn't know why, but she did very deeply. Mary guessed it was because she needed someone to hang on to and with her friends so far away, Matthew was the only one. She wasn't to keen on explaining her love life to her sister.
"Mary? Hello? Mary, come on. We're here."
Groggily, Mary woke up to see her sister's face, "Huh what?" She twisted to look out the window. It was late afternoon and the setting sun cast a golden glow over the skyscrapers.
Skyscrapers? Mary jumped from her seat. She was in the city and it was beautiful! It felt so good to be home again; back where she belonged. Christine felt the same way as they raced from their seats and off the bus. Katy and Bridget were waiting for them at the station and all four embraced.
"You're finally here!" tall Katy declared. The spunky but somewhat shy teen was clothed in a tie-dyed dress similar to Christine's shirt and her hair was pulled back in a braid that extended to her waist.
Bridget added to the greetings, "What took you so long?" Bridget was also tall, and stronger than the rest of the girls. She was also the best dancer and always wore leg warmers. Today, however, a pair of blue jeans covered up the warmers and Bridget's shirt was a heavy sweater. The other girls thought that she was dressed a bit warmly for the June weather, but Bridget didn't seem to mind so they dismissed the idea.
"Do you have all you're things?" Katy asked.
Mary looked around to check, but it was Christine who answered, "Yep!"
Bridget leaned over and picked up the largest suitcase.
"You don't have to do that," Mary protested.
"I like to," she stated and that was the end of that situation.
Katy took a smaller bag and Mary took the rest, leaving Christine to walk freely. The child laughed at this, but was quiet for the rest of the walk.
"Our apartment's out-a-sight!"
"It was rotten when we got it, but we fixed it up real nice," Katy declared smugly.
Mary tossed visions of her new home around in her mind, "Groovy."
The walk was short, maybe five blocks, and then they reached Beechwood Drive. The entire apartment complex seemed to glow with a light of opportunity. Mary wanted to stay outside and gaze upon it for a while, but her friends persuaded her to go in and begin to unpack. They were on a low floor and the stairs weren't difficult for three of them, but Christine began to feel out of breath along the way. Mary laughed at the fact that she wasn't even carrying anything, but Christine's comeback stung.
"Well, at least I can hold onto a boy!"
Mary's face flushed. Not so much because of the loss of Matthew, but because her friends knew.
"You and Matt broke up?"
Mary hadn't told her friends about how her boyfriend dumped her. In truth, she had said that Matthew would be visiting them often. "Yes, we broke up," she turned toward Christine. "Thank you, dip-wad."
Bridget shook her head, "I'm really sorry, Mar."
With a heavy sigh, Mary hiked up her two bags and stood as if she was at attention, "Guys listen. What happened, happened and it's over. Don't be sorry, because I'm not. I deserve better than Matthew!"
Katy and Bridget cheered their friend on, while Christine frowned. She didn't like her insult being turned into a way to boost her sister's confidence.
Katy took a key from her shoe and unlocked the door. The apartment was ranch, but had a good number of rooms. The walls had been painted yellow with a green paper border in the sitting room, which gave it the look of a sunflower. A column lamp and several ones containing lava supplied the light for this room and several others. There was a little, black and white television set in the far corner and a radio on top of it. From the doorway, Mary could see a small, but fairly well equipped kitchen and two bedrooms, also furnished pleasantly.
"Where do we sleep?" Christine asked rather rudely.
Katy scowled, "We're not too sure yet. We have plans to divide the two bedrooms up eventually, but until then we have a cot and the couch folds out."
Bridget when over to the sofa to demonstrate. With hardly any effort, she pulled at the cushions and a bed emerged. The strong teen smiled at her feat, proud at what she could do.
"I claim the sofa!" Christine declared and her friends perceived that she was being imperious once more.
Katy turned to Mary, "The cot's in my room. I wheel it out for you."
"I'll do it!" Bridget raced off to get the small bed and returned with it a few seconds later.
"Ok Guys! From the top," A strong voice came from above their heads. Christine jumped back as music began to play. "You're trying to make your mark in society. You're using all the tricks that you used on me. You're walking around like the front page news!"
Mary listened; trying to figure out of the song was made up of one voice or many.
Someone else spoke from the floor on top of the girls, "No No No, Micky! The line goes, 'You're reading all those high fashion magazines. The clothes you're wearing, girl, are causing public scenes.'"
Katy walked over to and banged on the radiator. "Hey! Could you keep down, up there?" she yelled.
A boy's voice, with a thick British accent, could be heard clearly back through the vent, "Sorry about that."
The musicians continued their song, but played at a much lower tone. Mary stood and took the sound in. It was very smooth and had a nice melody, the type that she liked and could easily dance to.
"Who were they?" Christine inquired.
"Just some green band. They play well, but they ain't big yet," Bridget began to hop around to the tune. "They could be, though."
*The rest of the night went smoothly. The girls talked for a few hours, eating take-out Chinese food. Mary was tired by nine o'clock for she had had a busy day and she wanted to wake up early tomorrow. She had always jogged in the morning, no matter where she was. It was her way of keeping in shape. The other three girls decided to get ready for bed also. Neither Mary nor Christine had trouble sleeping away from home, which was usual, since they usually did. Mary's dreams were filled with more thoughts of Matthew. This time he was leaving her and moving away. She felt so alone in her dark dream and was glad to be awakened by the early morning light.