The large airy living room didn't seem so bright to Pearl. The tension was so thick you could cut it. Settled at the edge of a large mahogany chair, she glanced up at her father whose face looked like thunder. Her mother was sitting dejectedly on the sofa opposite her, clutching a creamy piece of card in her claw like hands. Her father sighed, then turned to her; Pearl instinctively shied away from him, nestling deeper into her chair.
Her father let out a sigh again. He was so close Pearl could smell the whiskey on his breath, having just arrived home from clubbing; Pearl was wearing a vibrant, short, low cut cocktail dress her parents had specifically forbidden, paired daringly with killer high heels and a gold clutch. She was becoming increasingly fearful of the silence that hung in the air.
Finally her mother, who was wearing an old fashioned nighty and a fluffy dressing gown, spoke up,
"Your headmistress called today to congratulate you on your A levels." Her voice was soft but carried a tone of disappointment that added an edge to it.
Pearl's heart dropped to her knees, and then leapt to her throat. She acted cool about it though, determined not to appear weak in front of her parents.
"And?" Pearl hoped she sounded like she really couldn't care less what people thought of her. It was at that point Pearl realized her dad would have a go if she didn't escape soon. Too late, she saw her father turn to the fire, viciously stabbing the embers with the poker stick.
"You were given four A's and a B! His tone of voice sliced her confidence to shreds; she felt tears well up in her eyes.
"But I..." Her father's wrathful glare cut her short.
"It was also brought to our attention that you spent a large amount of last year bullying other people on the school. Maybe this was the reason you didn't get five A's. I am very displeased with you!"
Tears spilled over the edges of Pearl's eyes smearing her smoky eye make-up. Her lower lip trembled but she plowed on, “I obtained high enough marks to get into Cambridge, that is what you wanted wasn't it!'
The tears came spilling out in torrents, Pearl's father looked on disgusted muttering,
"I had to have a gormless girl, no boy, just a simpering good for nothing girl!" Pearl's mom rose to try to cushion the blow of his outburst. Pearl pushed her well meaning intentions away, wondering why she was never good enough no matter how hard she tried. Rising she ran from the room sobbing. As a final show of rebellion she yelled over her shoulder,
"I hate you!" Pearl's voice cracked, preventing her from saying more.
After she had changed and taken her fury out on the door, Pearl felt a bit calmer. As she washed her smeared makeup away she could hear her parents talking. As the final smudge of makeup came off, Pearl looked in the mirror hating the face that stared back at her.
Her mother's brown eyes. Her father's high cheekbones and chiseled looks. Pearl felt the fury building up inside her once again. Finally she threw a rock at the mirror. Ignoring the shattered glass that littered the floor she walked slowly back to the bedroom.
Pearl's room was very large and her walls were covered with posters, pictures, lyrics and lights. Flopping onto her bed, pearl donned some headphones, her mind swirling with thoughts. She must have dropped off as when she woke it was 2:00 in the morning. Sleep eluded her so Pearl stepped out onto her balcony dialing her boyfriend's number.
"Hello?" Pearl smiled as she heard Clancy's voice.
ClancyBay. The teenage heartthrob. Tall, muscular, tattoos and blonde hair. To top it all off he was a famous musician.
"Hey. Can we talk? My parents are being idiots again."
When Clancy heard his ring tone he knew it had to be Pearl. He rose quickly and answered, not a minute to soon. His father poked his head through the door saying,
"Clancy! Stop the incessant ringing."
"Sorry dad." Clancy remained silent until he heard his fathers foot steps recede down the hall.
"Hello?" As Pearl ranted about her parents, Clancy decided now was the perfect time to put his plan into motion.
"There's an all night ice cream parlor down the road. I'll pick you up and we can talk."
Pearl agreed readily, suspecting nothing. Clancy grabbed his jeans and a hoody, and then ran down the stairs, his feet pattered on the carpet like soft rain drops hitting the leaves.
Grabbing his parent’s car keys Clancy slipped out the door. Within seconds he was backing out the drive in his parent’s new mini.
Pearl was waiting in the drive way when he arrived wearing short denim shorts and a tight fitting crop top. Hopping into the car she smiled radiantly at him. Once again he was astounded by her beauty, the same way he was when he saw her from stage three years ago.
They arrived at Paoli's all night ice cream parlor at quarter to three am. Clancy ordered ice cream then sat at the counter with Pearl
"Pearl I...I wanted to ask you something."
"Go on then. Don't be afraid to ask me anything, I am very easy going." Clancy was getting nervous, his ears were buzzing the way they did when he was under pressure, steeling him self he took her hand. His feelings showed in the shine in his eyes,
"Is that May? It is May. Hey! May come join us." Soon many of their friends had joined them and Clancy lost his moment. At 4:00Pearl told everyone she must get home, refusing offers of lifts she walked out of the parlor, a smile on her face. But when she reached the curb she threw up violently.
Calling her own private chauffeur she went straight home. Climbing into bed she fell into a fitful sleep, a sleep that filled her mind with pictures. The most astounding of which she recorded in her diary the next day.
'Dear diary. Last night I dreamt about me, my self and I.
I arrived at home at 4:15 and went straight to bed. Whilst I slept I saw myself, with Clancy, in a club drinking and laughing and having fun. Suddenly my vision went straight to the mind of the clubbing me. My mind was filled with thoughts of clothes, shoes and diamond rings. Then I heard a voice tell me to stop with the material things and to concentrate on more important matters. I don't know what to make of it.' Hearing her phone ding Pearl left her diary. It was a text from Clancy.
[Hey, prty and sleepovr @ mine 2night. Can u make it?] Without thinking much of it Pearl replied immediately,
[Sure, wat do I wear? Do u want me to bring anything?] Running down stairs she walked into her fathers study respectfully.
"Dad, may I go to Clancy's for a sleepover party tonight please?" She asked in a voice sweet as sugar.
"No." Her father barely looked at her as he answered. It took all of Pearl's will power to restrain her self from losing her temper.
"Why not?" Her father looked up from his work this time.
"Are you questioning my judgment?" Pearl shook her head, afraid to talk, "Well?"
"No." She answered in a voice barely audible.
"Good. Then you shouldn't need an answer." This time she flipped. Turning, Pearl stalked out of the room slamming the door violently behind her. Running upstairs she threw herself onto her bed, seething. A plan began to form in her mind.
Ten minutes before the party a dark figure could be seen sneaking out of one of the top floor windows of Pearls house. Stealing along the patio, Pearl succeeded in escaping the dark brooding house to which she had been confined. She met some of her friends just outside the gate.
They arrived at the party right on time. Clancy's house was filled with people drinking and talking. Pearl made her way through the crowd, which parted like the Red Sea in front of her. She located Clancy by a stage chatting with some of his back up dancers.
"Clancy." He swiveled when he heard his name come from her lips.
"Pearl? I received a text from your dad. He said that he regretted to inform me of this piece of vital information but it was his duty. He then went on to say you were unable to make it due to your behavior."
"He lied." Short but simple the untruth slid from her lips without her even having to think about it.
She was rocking it on the dance floor when Clancy grabbed her arm and dragged her away.
"Clancy!" She was mad at him until she saw his face. It had gone the color of chalk and his eyes flitted back and forth like those of a captured fox.
"Your parents are here! Quick go upstairs, third bedroom on the left, there is a spy hole. I'll hold them off." Giving him a look of gratitude Pearl wasted no time in ascending the stairs.
From her place she could see Clancy welcoming her parents to his house. She could see her father eying him with disdain and her mother looking around in awe.
"We're here for Pearl." She could see Clancy hesitate in his answer but he hid it well.
"I'm afraid I haven't seen her."
"Then you won't mind if we have a look around." Her father’s suggestion brought a gasp to her lips.
"Actually I would. This is my house and as a legal adult I can ask you to leave or suffer the consequences." She knew they would leave after that. Her father was a tyrant but he knew when he was beaten. Spinning on his heel he marched out of house, his eyes showing the cold fury in his heart, though his face showed every sign of a complying citizen.
After her parents had left, Pearl ran down the stairs, her heart racing. Clancy met her at the last step.
"Clancy, I have to get home before them! Can you take me down the back roads?" Pearl breathlessly gasped to him. Clancy readily agreed, seeing that it would probably work to his advantages if he complied to her wishes.
As they drove along Pearls fear became greatly augmented. She began to hurry Clancy along, distracting him from driving. He had turned to calm her down when she screamed,
Clancy turned his eyes back to road and swerved, just in time to miss a man wandering aimlessly across the road. The man fell to the ground. Clancy and Pearl waited apprehensively to see if he moved. When he didn't they became increasingly fearful of the outcome of their careless actions.
Ducking out of the car, they made their way through the tall grasses on the side of the road. Pearl, being the braver one, knelt down beside him. Checking his pulse she realized, her heart racing with relief, that he wasn't dead. She also noticed his odd assortment of clothes, similar to those of a homeless man. Suddenly he sat up. Pearl screamed as his grimy hand grasped her arm with a grip of iron.
"Do you know God?" Pearl, who had never held much for religion, put his strange question down to derangement from lack of nourishment. The smell coming from him confirmed her suspicions of him being homeless. Handing Clancy ten pounds, she sent him to McDonald's. She sat listening to the man rave about the Good News whilst waiting for Clancy returned. Finally he arrived with food, meaning Pearl could exit as quickly as possible. It was only when she and Clancy were on the road again that she remembered her predicament. Urging Clancy on she clutched the arms of her seat, her heart sinking in despair.
When they arrived at her house she didn't even say goodbye. Running to the door Pearl tried to let herself in but she was shaking. Cursing she fumbled with her key for two minutes before finally hearing the promising click as the lock slid out of place. Locking the door behind her, she dashed upstairs. Hearing the door unlock and her fathers angry voice she ran, terrified, to her room. She could hear her father's heavy footfalls on the stairs. Diving through her door she flopped into her bed, trying to slow the beat of her rushing heart. A knock on the door brought back the fear she jade just managed to downsize. Standing up she poked her head out the door. There were her parents waiting to enter.
“Can I help you?" Pearl asked, expecting no answer. She was in for a surprise.
"What do you think you’re doing locked in your room and not showing your face?" Pearl was shocked. Did her father not trust her? She thought quickly saying,
“I was packing for Cambridge. I am leaving tomorrow.” Her father visibly relaxed. He and his wife ambled down the hall. Pearl closed her door and frantically started throwing things onto her bed. She had been so caught up in the party she had forgotten she was leaving the next day!
Turning back to her bed she saw an assortment of clothes lying piled in a disorganized mess. Deciding the best strategy was to find her acceptance letter and see what they wanted her to bring, Pearl started rummaging around for said letter. Finally locating it under her bed she sank onto a chair and began to read,
'Dear Miss Blossom,
We are very glad you have chosen to study music at our University. Below you will find a list of things you need to bring.'
Pearl looked over the list and inwardly thanked who ever provided had her with her brain.
Pulling a set of suitcases out from her wardrobe she began to pack. In went a duvet and blankets. Pillows were added alongside bath towels. Posters were pulled off her wall and folded neatly to fit into the little nooks and crannies. Fairy lights were sneaked into an empty pocket. Opening another suitcase she began to pack clothes: sweatpants, shorts and jeans were folded neatly and placed in their correct places. T-shirts and hoodies were set down on top of them. Underwear and socks were placed into pockets and shoes were stowed away. By midnightPearl was almost there. Finally she finished up by putting her electronics into a large black bag.
She was asleep by one am. The next morning she was woken by her mother yelling,
"Pearl! The taxi’s here!"
Pearl jumped up. Running to her bathroom she jumped into the shower while her dad started taking her things downstairs. When she arrived downstairs ten minutes later wearing shorts with an over sized hoody and Vans, her hair pulled back into a ponytail with a bandanna. Smiling at the taxi driver she turned to say a cold goodbye to her parents. Her father was standing like a statue. Her mother on the other hand was breaking down tears poured from her eyes and she noisily blew her nose on a lacy handkerchief ever few minutes.
"Are you sure you don't want me to come, just until you settle in?" Pearl’s heart softened a little at her mother’s proposal but she still replied in an icy tone,
"No. I'll be fine on my own thanks. Goodbye." Without waiting for a reply Pearl ducked into the taxi. During the journey Pearl listened to music and read, ignoring the driver entirely. When they arrived she went to pay him but he merely said,
"Your dad already paid." And went to take her things out.
Pearl turned and stared at Cambridge. The large, slightly Gothic building stood in front of her, daunting but inspiring. A hubbub of chatter reached her ears. People were starting to mill around, many of them also stopping and staring in awe. Various people of all ages, genders, styles and religions were walking around, talking and laughing. Many of them were holding stacks of books. Pearl smiled. Not the fake, sexy smile she used when out with friends. No. This smile was big and goofy. It lit up her entire face. The corners of her eyes crinkled. She was home. She was exactly where she wanted to be.
"Amazing, isn't it?" Pearl turned and saw a girl standing beside her. The girl saw her staring and spun to face her. Sticking her hand out she said, “Hi I'm Luna. I am here to show you around." Pearl eyed the girl, considering the possibilities this girl could open up for her. She seemed popular, everyone was saying hi, and she was dressed in leather.
Luna grinned, "Love your name. Do tell me more about yourself."
Pearl stared aghast at the Luna. Sighing she plunged straight in, "I'm 18; I'm here to study music. I have a long term boyfriend called Clancy Bae. You have probably heard of him."
Luna looked bemused then half yelled,
"Nope," then in a normal voice, "let me show you around.
Beckoning to a young man she began to walk, babbling the whole time. By the time her tour was over Pearl had decided to trust Luna. She was pretty, popular, loved reading; was also majoring in music and a bubbly girl who made her laugh all the time. She was a Christian but that could be changed.
Pearl was sitting in her dorm room, wearing sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt when Luna bounced in.
“Hi!" Pearl smiled and nodded her greeting.” So, what are we doing tonight?' Luna laughingly asked,
"Dunno, do you fancy pranking someone? Or we could work on our composition? Or study?" Luna crinkled her nose, something she did when thinking. Then a smile lit her face, "I know! There's a youth group thing on tonight. There will be food and fun, music and friends. I was gonna go but then thought 'hm, Pearl wasn't invited I could invite her to come along' and it had completely left my mind till now!" Pearl gave a small smile and nodded, inwardly shooting at herself.
Later as she was sitting with a group of people saying how blessed they felt to be surrounded by God's good love, Pearl saw how empty she seemed compared to them. But this feeling was only there for a second. Her heart, once so soft and kind turned hard from years of abuse, given a split second to melt remained as hard as ever. Bitter thoughts enveloped her heart. She spent the next half an hour feeling sorry for herself and only perked up when she heard her name.
"Pearl, what are your thoughts on Christianity?"
Pearl saw this as the perfect opportunity to release all her hidden feelings. “I hate Christianity. You all think you are so perfect! Pretending to be adults, telling little children Santa doesn't exist but then going and praying about meaningless rubbish to an old man in the sky who doesn't do anything useful!” Pearl paused for break and noted with satisfaction the looks on the girl’s faces, “You all think you are better than everyone else. You are religious bigots who think that anyone who isn't like you will go to hell! Your 'God' tells you not to murder, to love everyone and then turns around and becomes a mass murderer, blaming us for the way HE created us! He tries to change us. He has brought more evil and death than any other system on earth! Your children are brainwashed. And you, YOU are stupid, arrogant stuck up believers in a fake man who lives in the sky. You think you know so much but really you don't know anything! You were brainwashed when you were children! All you Christians are evil. Evil!"
Pearl finished and looked at the rather satisfactory reaction of the people gathered around her. Tears trembled on the edge of many of the girl’s eyes. The boys were all clenching their fists, their faces like a thunderstorm.
Luna stepped forward,
"I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm not gonna force my religion on you, but at least give us a chance to defend ourselves. We don't think we are perfect. Indeed, we know we are far from it. We know we aren't adults, we don't know everything. We don't pray about meaningless rubbish, I'm hurt you would think so. We all have been praying for you these past weeks. God does do useful things. He created this world. He saved Sandy," she motioned to a girl in a wheelchair, "from serious damage in a crash. We aren't better than everyone else, we just have noticed we are sinners and are willing to accept that fact. God is not a murderer. How could you think that?" Tears were sliding down Luna's face by this time, “He creates new life everyday. He doesn't blame us. The first humans had a choice over being the way God made them or falling for the devil’s lies and sinning. God had warned them. God does not bring evil and death. He saves lives everyday." Luna stopped, Pearl was sure she could not go on. Her hunch was correct; a boy stepped forward to take over.
"Our children aren't brainwashed, we give them free choice. Think what you like, insult us, but we will believe what we believe. And in regards to us being brainwashed when we were children, I became a Christian a year ago. I was an orphan living in an atheist community. I had been brought up to hate God. Then I found a Bible. I chose to follow the Lord, because He was there when I had nothing." Pearl was gob smacked. Luna smiled through her tears and said,
"Thank you James."
Pearl turned and ran, wishing with all her heart that she had friends who stuck up for her like that. But no one loved her that much, did they?