BY GINETTE WHITTEN-DAY
Copyright is held by the author.
SHE WAS in love with Murray. They went to the same church and she couldn’t help staring at him during the services. Looking at Murray helped to relieve the monotony. Linda was sure sometimes he smiled at her. He was 16, tall and skinny with thick, wavy, light brown hair that stood straight up from his forehead. She was 13 almost 14 and just starting to notice boys and dress so that they might notice her.
When she found out that Murray’s mother had invited her family for supper the next Sunday, her heart started to pound like a jackhammer. The mixture of being terrified and sick and excited all at the same time was like something she had never experienced before. She wondered, is this the butterflies in your tummy she’d read about in True Romance stories?
“I can’t go,” she kept whispering to herself. And she prepared for that possibility by frequently coughing and sniffling and vaguely mentioning to her mother that she hoped she wasn’t coming down with something.
Oh the other hand, she couldn’t wait for Sunday and spending time with Murray, well at least at his house. She thought of nothing else. And so while she practiced having the flu she also planned what she would wear and how she would look.
“It’s just in case Mum makes me go,” she told herself as she tried on her three favourite dresses. She decided on her butter-lemon dress with the dropped waistline and the flouncy skirt. It had tiny black buttons running down the front from the scooped neckline to the point where the bodice met the skirt at the hipline. It was very trendy.
“Just in case Mum makes me go,” she told herself, “I should try out different hairstyles.” She had long blond hair which she usually wore in two braids hanging down over each shoulder. She tried wearing her hair loose after the braids were taken out and her normally straight hair was as curly as – well as curly as her favourite model’s hair in her favourite magazine. She thought about a ponytail pulled so high and so tight that her eyebrows seemed to move further up into her forehead and she looked permanently wide-eyed and surprised. In the end, she settled for two braids tied together at the back of her head. She decided with her hair worn this way she looked at least 15. She hated the fact that she looked so young for her age. She despaired that she was still less than five feet tall and unlike her friends, there was absolutely no sign of breasts.
Sunday arrived and despite her nerves and the fact she’d spent much of the day pretending to cough, at 5 o’clock she found herself in the car with her parents and her younger brother on the way to Murray’s house for supper.
Murray’s parents met them at the front door and before she knew it, she was sitting opposite Murray at the dining room table. Her heart dropped right to the pit of her stomach. She kept her eyes cast down glancing up only when spoken to by one of the grownups. Her father, a born tease and suspecting her infatuation with Murray, said at one point, “What’s wrong Linda, cat got your tongue?”
The supper spread was quite spectacular but Linda could hardly eat a thing. She could only take tiny nibbles even with her favourites like asparagus rolls, and scones with raspberry preserves and whipped cream. When it came to desserts, Pavlova and trifle, well they might just as well have been stale and mouldy rice pudding.
When supper was finished, the women cleared the table, put the food away and did the dishes. The men stayed at the table discussing whatever it is the men discuss. The teenagers hung out in the sitting room and the younger children went outside to play.
Much to her embarrassment, Linda had to excuse herself because she suddenly felt the need to pee. She tried to hold it in but eventually was forced to go to the bathroom. Like many houses in the village, there was only one toilet and it was in a room the size of a closet, by itself with no sink. It was technically referred to as the lavatory although most people called it the loo or the WC for water closet.
As she carefully locked the door and sat down to pee she realized that she also needed to do number two. She was a little embarrassed pooing in someone else’s house but she took her mind off that by looking around the tiny room.
There was a doll sitting on top of the toilet tank wearing a blue crocheted dress with a long swooping skirt. Under the skirt hid an extra roll of toilet paper. A calendar from the local general store was on one wall. She flipped through it and read the bible verse that had been handwritten at the top of each month.
After a few minutes, she was finished and ready to leave. She flushed the toilet and waited awhile to make sure there was no lingering evidence of her visit. She straightened her dress and retied her braids at the back.
She unlocked the door and turned the handle. Nothing! It wouldn’t turn. She tried again and again and again. She could not get the door to open. She tried grabbing the handle with the hem of her dress thinking that might give her a better grip. Still nothing! She was scared. What was she going to do? Spend the rest of her life locked in Murray’s lavatory?
She looked up at the fanlight window and wondered if she could climb up and out. But there was no way she could manage that.
She started to panic, to feel claustrophobic. She sat back down on the toilet lid to ponder her predicament. She thought about praying, but that had never helped in the past. After all, she’d been asking for bigger breasts, any sized breasts really, for the past year and a half. Should she yell and draw attention to herself? That didn’t seem very grown up. Should she just sit quietly and hope that eventually her mother would notice she was missing and come and investigate? That wasn’t likely to happen. She finally decided the best idea was to shout out to her mother. After several loud calls of “Mum, Mum”, her mother heard her and came to the other side of the lavatory door. Quickly realizing the problem, her mother got Murray’s mother and together they gave instructions.
“Pull the door towards you and lift it up a bit.”
“Try wriggling the handle.”
“Give the door a good hard push.”
Again, nothing! Nothing worked. Linda prayed, despite the fact it had never worked before.
“Please God, let the door open. If you open the door, I promise I will never do anything wrong or stupid again. I won’t even think bad things.”
That was when her mother had the worst idea Linda had ever heard in her whole life.
“Could we get Murray to climb in through the fanlight and help open the door from the inside?”
Linda thought she was going to die as she heard the ladder being propped up against the side of the house. By this time all the women, all the men and all the children were gathered outside under the lavatory window.
She heard the fanlight being pushed open, and some skinny legs appeared. Oh God, my Father who art in heaven, she thought, it’s Murray. The next minute he had jumped down from the window onto the floor. He gave the door a hard shove and with that – it opened!
By this time, all the men and all the women and all the children had regrouped inside the house and were huddled around the lavatory door.
A big cheer is called. “Praise be to God,” said Murray’s father. Linda’s father, not quite as pious as Murray’s dad, began to sing in his big booming voice:
Oh, dear, what can the matter be
One little girl locked in the lavatory
She was there from Monday to Sunday
But nobody knew she was there
Linda emerged red faced, her eyes round like saucers, with the hem of her beautiful butter-lemon dress all wrinkled from trying to use it to grip the door handle.
Murray remained standing in the lavatory looking out at everyone with a big goofy grin on his face.
Linda took one glance at him and thought ‘he thinks he’s so hot but he’s a nerd, look at his stupid face and his sticking-up hair’ and she decided right there and then she wasn’t in love with him. In fact, she didn’t even like him.
She was very angry with her family and later told them that she would never ever forgive any of them. Her mother for suggesting Murray help, her father for singing that dumb song and her brother for chanting “Oh dear what can the matter be” over and over and over for hours at a time.
And as for church, Linda decided instead of looking longingly at Murray she would play chase with the second hand on the big wall clock at the back of the church. She supposed it was there so that the preacher did not go on too long (although in her opinion, they always did) but she thought it would be fun to see if she could recite a psalm before the clock ticked over into the next minute. And if that didn’t keep her amused, well, there was this other cute boy . . .
Ginette grew up in a small village in New Zealand. After exploring the world, she settled in Toronto where she has lived for many years. She is a freelance writer by trade and has been writing short stories since she was a young kid.