Part 6 – The story of Jolie Dale - 1 comment

Apparently it was a tradition in their home that all four boys took care of the dishes after dinner. They seemed to have their own system to it. One took off the table, one washed, one dried and one put things in their place in the cupboards and drawers. I tried to imagine what Leo had done, but perhaps David hadn’t taken part in it then. They threw dishes and glasses, and knifes, so much around it looked a rather dangerous activity.

Meanwhile, Jo and I sat at the table relaxing and talking. She even offered me a glass of wine, which I accepted. I wanted an excuse not to leave yet, I was having too good of a time.

“So you’re a Dale?” I asked her. She sighed.

“Yes, my maiden name is Dale. It became Sinclair only two days after my 16th birthday, though. I was never a true Dale, therefore, because a true Dale doesn’t do things like marrying a mechanic,” she said sarcastically. “I haven’t spoken to my parents since.”

“That explains why I didn’t even know the Dails had another daughter. You’re older than your sister, aren’t you. She was in school with my aunt, she’s younger than my mother. They’re very good friends,” I said, filled with curiosity. The Dale family, as the name implies, was the oldest, richest and most powerful family in Dale. They hadn’t always been the Dales. Jo’s great grandfather had been running for mayor, and he had simply started to call himself Mr. Dale, for publicity’s sake. He became mayor, and the name stuck to him. Before, Dale, however, their name had been Sevill, which was the same as our country’s royal family’s name, which practically made them royalty. This was a fact known by every child in Dale, because we had to study the royal lineage in history, and of course this was always pointed out by the teachers as a point of interest. I remembered Mrs. Young, who had been our history teacher the year before, praising the whole Dale family as the example of perfect people. Then I thought of the irony of how she seemed to dislike David, who technically was a member of the Dale family.

“You married young,” I said. Jo smiled happily.

“Yes, I did, and I don’t regret it. My husband was ten years older than me, so he was perfectly capable of starting a family right then, and we did. I had Leo when I was 18, Frank when I was 19, then Roy and Wyatt when I was 23, and finally David when I was 26. We didn’t actually plan on more children, we didn’t even have room for him, but he came anyway. He’s stubborn like that.”

She laughed. I laughed with her, although I couldn’t imagine their life having been anything but hard. They had been poor and they had five boys to take care of. However, it had obviously been a happy life, despite the hardship. Everybody seemed to just work together, and that was all they needed.

“I guess you didn’t like being a Dale, then?” I asked. I was very curious about how it had been like, being a Dale.

“I didn’t mind it when I was a child. Everybody seemed to look up to me for it and nobody ever dared giving me a hard time in fear of my father. When I became a teenager, however, things changed rapidly. I started to fall in love, and found out I wasn’t allowed to do that. I wasn’t allowed to kiss, touch or even hang out with boys. My parents had plans for me, you see. I was supposed to be the perfect daughter, go to law school, marry into another rich and powerful family and increase the respectability of the Dale family name. This I didn’t like. I had no interest in becoming a lawyer, and the man who they were arranging my marriage with behind my back was a boy I had known as a child, who was arrogant, selfish and rather cruel. It was at this time I decided I needed to do something about all of this, so I modeled for a swimsuit calendar. I was 14.”

“Really? I saw it in the barn. You look like you’re at least 16,” I said surprised. She nodded as she took a sip of her wine.

“That was the age I gave the people who were making the calendar. They believed me without a second thought, otherwise they might not have allowed me to participate. Back then the people in that business had some restraints. These days they say the younger, the better. It’s shameful, really.”

“Anyway,” she continued. “My husband-to-be bought that calendar, being a young man of needs and all that, and for some strange reason, while he was flipping through it, he fell in love with me right there and then. He had no idea who I was, the calendar was nameless, but he had it open on August right from the beginning of January, and it’s hung up there ever since.”

“Then how did you two ever meet? He was so much older than you, and you couldn’t have run in the same circles, not a Dale and a mechanic?” I asked.

“He was a mechanic, but he was the best mechanic in Dale. That sign out there was no lie. In January, right after my 15th birthday, my father came to him with his car, and I came with him. He recognized me as soon as I stepped out of the car. He tried to keep calm, but I saw him glancing at me now and then. I thought it was just because I was a Dale, people did that sometimes. Then he asked me if I would like to see how a car looks like underneath. My father was sitting outside reading the newspaper. I asked him if I was allowed, like I always had to ask him. He just nodded and grunted a yes. He didn’t care, in his eyes this man was just an unremarkable mechanic, not a young, handsome stranger. So I jumped down into that hole in that barn and he lowered the car very much down and squeezed himself underneath it and down to me. And before I knew, he was kissing me, and I was kissing him, because I had never kissed anybody before. And, besides, there’s nothing as charming to a young woman as a man so passionately in love with her, for no apparent reason.”

“The car got fixed, and we left, my father none the wiser. But I was too curious now. I sneaked outside that evening and walked all the way back here, knocked on the door, and he welcomed me with open arms. That was one of the best nights of my life.”

“Perhaps it would have been the only night we ever had, perhaps I would have married that man and become a lawyer, if I hadn’t got pregnant.”

I saw David look at his mother at these words, but he quickly turned his head to the glass that was flying his way.

“But I thought you had Leo when you were 18?” I said confused.

“I did. When my parents found out I was pregnant they sent me away. I had my baby girl somewhere in the country. The only reason I know it was a girl is because the woman who helped with the delivery accidentally let it slip. My father shouted furiously at her for it. They didn’t want me to know anything about my child. That’s what it was to them, a child, a thing, a spot on the family name. They didn’t even let me hold her. They took her away, and for all I know they could have just buried her alive right there and then.”

I was starting to feel sick. I took a large sip of wine.

“That’s horrible,” was all I could say. She smiled weakly and put her hand on mine.

“Perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you this, we just met, but I have this strange feeling I could tell you my whole life story, and you wouldn’t tell anybody you knew I wouldn’t want to know. I think it’s because you were so honest with us about your mother,” she said kindly. I didn’t know what to say to that, so I sipped more wine. “Anyway, I don’t really think they did that. There’s a possibility, but not a strong one. She was probably put in someone’s hands, just as long as it was far away and not connected to them in any way. She’s probably got a family of her own now, if she’s alive. She’d be 28 this year.”

“Did you tell your husband-to-be about her?” I asked.

“Of course I did, I told him before I told my parents! There wasn’t much he could do, however. I was 15, which meant my parents ruled completely over me. He wanted to marry me, but I knew they would never consent to it. Then I disappeared, and he knew what they were doing. Two months after I came back I turned 16. They threw a big party for all their friends. I’d had enough by then, I think you can only imagine how much I hated them. I ran away in the middle of the party. They didn’t even notice I was gone until the day after. I had never told them who the father had been, although they had tried to get it out of me in various ways. My little sister, however, knew about him. My father came here, furious, demanding that I came home. I slammed the door in his face. The day after we got married. We went to their house to tell them. This time my father slammed the door in my face, and I haven’t seen him since.”

“What about your sister?” I asked.

“I think she wanted to see me, but she was so young, she had no means to come on her own, and my parents probably threatened all kinds of things if she ever did go. Then she grew up, and she took the life I was supposed to have. She’s a lawyer and she even married that same man. He’s dead now. Car accident. He was speeding. My sister’s son was in the car, too. He died two months later, in the hospital.”

“I remember,” I said. “Half the town went to the funeral, and the other half watched it on television. She looked horrible.”

Jo nodded, looking sad.

“I went, and I even managed to give her a quick hug, but she didn’t recognize me. To be fair, her eyes were very full of tears. She probably didn’t recognize anybody.”

The boys finished the dishes then, and I my wine, so there was nothing left but to say goodnight. David walked me out. It was pitch black, but there was almost a full moon.

“You know your way home?” he asked. I nodded. He grinned a little. “They looked for her, you know. Every summer, until dad died.”

“Who wouldn’t,” I simply said. He smiled wider. I smiled back. “See you tomorrow!”

I started walking down towards the road.

“G’night!” he called, and I heard the door close.

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