The Neighborhood

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The Neighborhood

Post by 1984 on Mon Dec 07, 2015 10:37 pm

This story was in an old yahoo group from a while back.

The Neighborhood

Madeleine pulled her beaten-up old Volvo off of the suburban street, up to the gate. Beyond the gate's unassuming white-painted brick pillars and black iron entrance, she could see the neighborhood stretching out into the distance, with its almost grotesquely large colonial-style mansions. They actually looked somewhat small, she thought, marooned in the middle of their spacious green lawns and lost under a canopy of massive trees. "So," she thought, "this is Dad's new neighborhood. What's it called again?" She glanced over at the plaque on one of the gate's pillars , Chelsea Park.

She dialed the code for her father's house '1954' into the keypad carved out of the part of the gate and waited as the dial tone buzzed. "Madeleine!" answered an enthusiastic voice, "is that you?"

"Yeah, Dad, it's Madeleine could you buzz me in?"

"Sure, come on in!"

Madeleine's final year at college had been interesting. First, over the summer, her mother and father had finally divorced. That hadn't been a surprise. What had been a surprise was how long they had stayed together. From about age twelve, she had realized that her parents were drastically different people. Her mother taught languages at a local high school. Her father was a banker. Her mother had voted for Howard Dean. Her father had been drifting further right for as long as she could remember. Her mother's fashion sense was somewhat reminiscent of her favorite decade, the seventies. Her father, well, wouldn't have seemed out of place on a fifties sitcom. Later, when she had quizzed her mother about how they had gotten married, she'd only reply cryptically, "When I first met him, he was a different man." So when Madeleine learned of her father's affair with a younger woman, it hadn't been a surprise.
What had been a surprise was what followed. Over Christmas, Madeleine's younger sister Stuart , who was still in high school , had split the Christmas holidays between her mother and father's two newly separate homes. Then, just before New Years, without any explanation, Stuart had called her mother and told her she had decided to move in permanently with her father. She didn't even come back to get her clothes or books or CDs. All this was even stranger given what Madeleine knew about her sister. Nearly everything Stuart had wanted to do , getting her nose and belly-button pierced, the trips to see punk shows in distant towns, dying her hair blue , had been opposed by her father and supported, if not somewhat reluctantly, by her mother. Now she had switched towns and high schools, all to live with Dad?

It had been hard to get precise information about what had happened. When she had spoken at first to her mother, she had seemed clearly distraught and unwilling to go into detail. Madeleine had thought it best not to ask probing questions. And then, in March, her mother had sold their old house and set off traveling in Europe. Since then, Madeleine had had numerous phone conversations with her, but only about her newfound freedom and travels, strenuously avoiding what had just transpired. Getting an explanation from her sister had proved equally difficult, as it now seemed she always too busy to return phone calls. "I'm afraid she's out with her friends again!" her father's new wife, they had married shortly after the divorce, would tell her over long-distance.

So now, as Madeleine drove through Chelsea Park, her freshly-printed diploma in hand but with no immediate job prospects, she had more questions than answers about what she would find at 18 Buckley Court. What she hoped she would find would be a quick, non-distracting place to conduct a job search something in the non-profit sector, she hoped and then quickly move on. Looking out her window " fourteen... sixteen... ah, OK eighteen" her Dad's place was just as big as the other houses. Parking her car in the driveway, she blocked in two SUVs.

The hug she received from her father at the front door was the longest she had had from him since she was ten. For at good ten minutes, he explained how worried he had been that she'd be angry about the divorce, described how things hadn't been working between her mother and him for quite some time, told her how happy he was with his new wife, apologized for missing her graduation "called away on business" and nearly ran out of breath welcoming her to the house. Listening to all this in the foyer, Madeleine who was genuinely happy to see him again noticed that he seemed slightly different. His clothes were a little nicer; she noticed a Brooks Brothers golden fleece on his blue shirt. His hair which had always been a little, though not excessively, sloppy was combed more neatly as well. Later that afternoon, she met her new stepmother, definitely a much better match for her father than her mother. Despite her father and stepmother's friendliness, she couldn't help but feel uncomfortable in the house. Madeleine felt strangely underdressed; her white tank-top and blue jeans out of place against her stepmother's floral skirt, cardigan, and pearls and her father's oxford shirt and khakis. She felt a little like she might have felt if she had ever gone to church in a bikini.

Later that evening, her sister finally arrived home. Immediately, Madeleine could see that her mother hadn't lied about Stuart not returning home to get her clothes. Her previously cropped, blue hair had returned to its natural blonde color and had been grown down to her shoulders. Her nose-ring was gone, replaced by large pearls lodged in her earlobes and around her wrist on a bracelet. She was wearing a tight white polo shirt with a miniature palm tree over her left breast; the shirt's collar stood at attention, rigidly up against the nape of her neck. Her usual faded, loose jeans had been replaced by tight baby blue capri pants, with a white grosgrain ribbon threaded through its belt loops, tied in a large ribbon over her left pocket.

"Oh my God!" Stuart cried from the entrance to the living room, "It's so good to see you again!" She ran to embrace Madeleine. During the few-second-too-long hug, Madeleine tried to remember the last time her sister had hugged her like that. As they separated, Stuart's eyes glanced over what Madeleine was wearing; she made a quick, involuntary grimace, and then said, "You look so nice!"

"Stuart, wow, I-" Madeleine started.

"Sis, you should know, I don't go by just my middle name anymore. Please call me Mary Stuart."

"OK," Madeleine responded skeptically, "Mary Stuart, wow, you've really, um, changed!" Madeleine couldn't help but notice how momentarily serious her sister had become when she interjected about her name.

What Madeleine was seeing was so strange and unexpected that it didn't really register for her. The lifestyle of her new stepfamily was entirely out of step with both her life back at college and her future ambitions. She hadn't ever really gotten to know any people back at school who were like Mary Stuart, not necessarily out of intent but simply due to an indescribably large gulf between those people's interests and hers. All she could do was sit dumbly and listen to Mary Stuart go on and on about her new lacrosse-team boyfriend at her new private school.

"I'm sorry, did you say varsity or junior varsity?"

The next morning, her initial fog of confusion had evaporated. What the fuck had happened to her sister? Madeleine felt some irony in her situation: having left college without even thinking of joining a sorority, she now found herself living in a sorority house after graduation. She decided to take her father's dog Eddie, at least he hadn't changed, on a walk to try to clear her head. As she watched Eddie relieve himself on a gigantic bush on the corner of a gigantic yard, she resolved to put as much gigantic space as possible between herself and Chelsea Park. Lots of her friends had moved to New York , maybe she could sleep on their futon while continuing her employment search.

As her mind drifted over excuses to leave, she saw something that made her briefly put the breaks on Eddie's incessant push forward towards the next bush. It was a guy, her own age by the looks of it, wearing an old beat-up t-shirt and jeans, sitting in a lawn chair, reading. For a second, she didn't grasp why he looked so out of place, until she realized she hadn't seen a single man all morning long without his shirt tucked in, until this guy.
Her shyness overcome by the possibility of finding a comrade-in-arms in the neighborhood, she crossed the street.

"Umm, excuse me, umm, I'm sorry to bother but, do you live around here or , umm, I mean, there?" she said, nodding her head to indicate the house in the distance.

Somewhat surprised, the guy sprang up and said, "Oh, hey. Actually, no; well, I mean yes. I'm a college student over at State but I'm just here over the summer. My family just moved here in February, so I don't know the area very well. I take it you're a new arrival as well?"

"Yeah, I am. I got here yesterday; I just graduated from college and my, umm, family moved here a few months ago as well."

"It's fucking weird, isn't it?" he said calmly.

"Yeah, I know! No kidding!"

"You don't know the half of it; I've been here four days and you're the first person within those gates I've seen that's not some sort of perfect, entirely fake and elitist prep. Every single last person that lives here is ten times worse than the most annoying, over-the-top fraternity guy or sorority girl I've ever met at college. Everyone here looks alike, dresses alike, talks alike and condescends to me in exactly the same way. A few minutes ago, all these preppy guys drove by in a golf cart , on the way to the course, I guess , and they glance over at me, and within a second they're all laughing like I'm their own private joke or something. Even my parents are getting weird , they keep on dropping hints about how I should join a fraternity when I get back to school. I'm going to be a senior next year! A senior!"

There was a pause in the guy's rant.

"My name's Madeleine," she said, reaching out her hand.

"Oh, sorry, my name's Rob."

They talked for about an hour , everything that Rob said about the neighborhood only underlining Madeleine's desire to get to New York as quickly as possible. However, one thing Rob didn't mention was the strange feelings he had been having since he arrived. He had lied; not everyone had condescended to him , a few times girls had stopped to flirt with him while walking by. Although he hadn't really ever been especially attracted to preppy girls, all of sudden he couldn't take his eyes off of them. Looking at Madeleine, for some reason he couldn't help but think how nice a cardigan tied over her shoulders would look. And why wasn't she wearing a skirt instead of those old jeans? How the other girls always teased him before they left: "Are you sure you don't want to come to the country club with us? We're going right now. Of course, you'd have to meet the dress code to get in. Wouldn't you do that , just for us?"

As Rob watched Madeleine lead Eddie away on his leash, he couldn't help but imagine how pretty she would look if she just put a little effort into it.

The next morning, Madeleine got up around 10:30 and dressed absent-mindedly; grabbing some clothes from the closet that she had unpacked from her suitcase and hung there. Immediately she set herself to emailing old professors about open positions at NGOs and looking through websites for possible jobs. Around 1:00 she went downstairs from her guest room to make herself a sandwich. As she was closing the jar of mayonnaise, Mary Stuart came in and said, "Like the earrings, sis!"

Madeleine put down the mayonnaise and paused. Her brow furrowing while she stared at Mary Stuart, a few seconds passed before she responded: ",What?"

"I said: I. like. your. earrings. I think they're cute!"

Madeleine glanced at herself in the microwave oven door: somehow, someway, even though she had no memory of putting them on, she was wearing a pair of pearl earrings, smaller than her sister's, but there all the same.

"Wow, umm, that's strange," she said, "I must have reached for my own earrings" , she only owned three pair, and only wore them occasionally to keep her piercings from closing , "and accidentally put these on."

"Well, you look great! I must have left some of mine in your room! Don't worry, you can borrow them. I don't need ëem today!"

"Umm, thanks,," Madeleine said, looking at herself again in the microwave and, quite to her surprise, thinking that her sister was right, but then saying, "but I wouldn't want to deprive you of them. No, really. Thanks but no thanks."

She handed back the earrings quickly and ran back upstairs with her sandwich.

The next day, the waiting began. When would her professors get back with her? When would her friends let her know if they were even in New York yet? When would the non-profits she'd contacted get back to her to let her know if their job postings were still accurate? To pass the time, she went on a jog around the neighborhood. Towards the end of her run, by which point she was drenched with sweat, she saw a golf cart approaching, filled with two almost identical-looking guys, wearing pink and green polo shirts tucked into khaki shorts. They slowed down as she approached and whistled at her, cracking up in laughter as they sped away. Again, just like when she saw Rob a few days before, something didn't seem quite right. First, of all, there was the odd feeling in her stomach as she realized how attracted she had been to them. Second, one of them looked familiar, she almost gasped as she realized that one of them was definitely Rob.

Madeleine stopped cold. Was she sure it was him? Even though they had slowed down, she hadn't gotten an entirely good look. It could have been someone else, right? She shook her head and scolded herself for her paranoia and started jogging again, back towards 'home'.

Later that evening, while Madeleine was reading a magazine in the living room, Mary Stuart barged into the room, seeming slightly tipsy, returning from somewhere. She was wearing a strapless dress, with a white and pink checkerboard pattern , it reminded Madeleine of a particularly heavy table cloth. Directly beneath the bust of the dress, there was a small ribbon culminating in a tiny bow beneath her chest, below which the dress eventually flared slightly, spreading out away from her hips. Again, her ears were adorned with slightly oversize pearl earrings but this time they were accompanied by a matching pearl necklace. As she walked over the hard wood floor, her heels resonated loudly, sounding somewhat like the sound of horseshoes on pavement. Madeleine shook her head to herself. Was there anything left of old Stuart in this new 'Mary Stuart?' Was the same nascent punk rocker hiding in there somewhere? Madeleine had to specifically remind herself each time she saw Mary Stuart that they were actually the same person.

"Oh my God!" Mary Stuart began, "there was like the nicest new guy at the club today. He was so cute! Apparently his family just moved in and he's at college at, umm, State, I think."

Madeleine visibly shivered; it was as if a cold gust of wind had lowered the temperature by fifty degrees.

After composing herself, "What was his name?"

"Umm, Trey, I think. His name is Trey. Yup: Trey."

Madeleine audibly sighed; it wasn't Rob. Everything was not crazy. This was not a neighborhood that inexplicably turns everyone into a prep. Her attraction to a couple of frat boys and her new subliminal propensity to wear pearls was not a sign she too was succumbing to its power. She was just in the middle of a bizarre situation, but one clearly within the realm of explicability and chance.

Mary Stuart was continuing: "You know, he was wearing a bowtie; I really like guys who wear bowties. Most guys, when they first arrive here, it takes them a while to wear one. They think it looks, like, weird or something. But Trey, he's fitting in so much more quickly! He's so cool."

Madeleine , who was beginning to listen again , responded, "Well, wow, if you think that's weird, get this: I met a guy who lives here who would never wear a bow-tie; in fact, he hates all the preppy guys here. His name was Rob and he's , this is kinda weird , a student at State as well,"

"Wait, Rob," Mary Stuart paused to think, using all of her remaining brainpower, sapped by alcohol, to crunch the facts in her head. "Actually, Trey's full name is Robert Maxwell Anderson III. We call him 'Trey' because he's the third guy in his family with the same name! Ha, you're funny sis, Trey loves wearing bowties."

Madeleine, in spite of herself, laughed. This was simply ridiculous. There was no other way to respond. She calmly put down the magazine, said goodnight to her sister, and immediately went to check her email.

What she had been hoping for was there: Of course she could stay in New York! It'd be great to have a familiar face around! Actually, there's this job I interviewed for but decided not to take , it might be perfect for you.

Relieved, Madeleine got up and walked over to the closet to gather her clothes and repack them in her suitcase, so she could leave as quickly as possible in the morning. To her surprise, hung up next to her clothes was an array of new bright pastel dresses, skirts, pants, polos, and cardigans; new heels and sandals lied along the floor of the closet. They clearly weren't Mary Stuart's; they were a size larger. To be specific: Madeleine's size. Glancing over at her bedside table and mirror, there were some new cosmetics and an array of earrings, including a pair that looked exactly like those she had inadvertently put on a few days ago.

Staring at them, shaking her head , again, half-amused and half-terrified at what was happening , she began to think to herself: "Wow, look at that white polo there. Remember, Rebecca at school had one just like that, but she wasn't preppy , she just incorporated it into her own style. Maybe I should try it on, just to see how it might look,"

Madeleine took off her university t-shirt, pulled the polo off the hanger and then pulled it over her head. She liked the feeling of the slightly elasticized sleeves and how they hung just slightly higher than the sleeves of the t-shirts she usually wore. She liked the tightness of the polo against her chest; especially the blue pony, which almost reminded her of a brand , not in the commercial sense, but in the original sense: A mark that sets you apart from others, that demonstrates what type of person you are. "I wonder what it would look like if I flipped the collar," she thought. Immediately, as the collar tabbed up against the back of her neck, she was filled with a rush of new desires:

I shouldn't go to New York. I've really been a slob my entire life. I should start dressing more like Mary Stuart. There are so many pretty dresses in the closet; I should wear one tomorrow. Those pearl earrings I wore earlier made me look so nice. I should act more like the other people here in Chelsea Park. There are lots of cute guys here. I'd like to spend more time with them. It's so nice here. Everyone is just like everyone else. As she stared at herself in her mirror, it was as if she was seeing a different person, no longer the same Madeleine who had grown up with her mother and gone away to college. She was seeing one of those girls she had avoided at college and here in Chelsea Park. Except now she was looking at herself. She smiled and thought, "I look so ni ,
"What the fuck am I thinking?" she said out loud, ripping the shirt off of her as quickly as possible. "That's IT. I am leaving the first thing tomorrow morning. This is NOT right." She was almost shaking with disgust. The trauma of the day was such that she quickly fell asleep, the polo still lying on the carpet, at the foot of her bed.

The next morning, she awoke shortly after the sun came up. She quickly gathered her stuff together and grabbed her cell phone , she'd call to explain where she had gone once she was beyond the gates, no wait, on the interstate. She put on some clothes from the closet as she glanced around the room, looking to see if she had missed anything. In fact, she hadn't. She was ready to go. Looking back at the closet, for the third time, something wasn't quite right. She had indeed finished packing all her clothes; nothing was in there anymore, save the new clothing that had mysteriously appeared last night. But she had finished packing her bag before getting dressed,

She glanced at the mirror: She was wearing a light pink, tight Lilly Pulitzer polo top, collar popped, a light blue palm tree dutifully standing guard over her left breast. Somehow without realizing, she had also managed to step into a light blue skirt that hung to about mid-calf, and that was embroidered with little dark blue bumble bees. She walked over to the mirror , she was transfixed. All the flood of desires from the evening flowed back into her , this time its strength redoubled. As she reached down to pick up the pair of pearl earrings she had accidentally put on a few days ago, her mind wandered: I've really always been too much of an outsider. I've always wanted to be too different, have my own ideas and opinions and weird hobbies. From now on, I should be more like the other girls here in Chelsea Park. Didn't Mary Stuart say she was taking horseback riding lessons? That'd be so much fun , I could wear those cool, neat uniforms they wear. And why have I wanted to work for a non-profit? I could never afford a nice house or car working for groups like that , though all the nice boys around here will be able to. She could happily feel her personality withering, being replaced with nothing more than a deep, burning desire to be accepted and to fit in, fit exactly in, here in her new neighborhood. No more worries about what to do, what to wear, who to spend time with; she could just follow everyone's lead. Looking at herself in the mirror, her straight neck-length hair seemed to have gained extra body in the previous few minutes and was now curling slightly away from her face and neck around its edges. Without putting on any make-up, her eyelashes now seemed more pronounced, ringing her eyes. And her skin was glowing.

She went downstairs to have breakfast, dragging her suitcase along with her, to take it outside and throw it in the garbage.

Later that afternoon, Madeleine was sitting at the computer, writing an email to her friend in New York: "Listen, thanks sooo much for inviting me to stay with you, but I've decided to stay here with my family for a while longer. I haven't spent much time with my Dad and sister over the past few years and I really want to catch up with them as much as possible. Again, thanks sooo much and if you're ever in the area, you know you could definitely stay with my family here in Chelsea Park , we have like three guest bedrooms!"

"Maddy! He's here, come downstairs!"

Mary Stuart had decided earlier that her sister's full name didn't capture her new personality fully; she had started calling her 'Maddy' and it had stuck.
She slowly walked down the stairs, her heels announcing her arrival in the foyer. She was wearing a strapless pink and green Lilly Pulitzer dress, with a pink cardigan tied around her shoulders, above which hung large pearls around her neck and in her earlobes. A white handbag hung from her right shoulder. Mary Stuart, standing by the door, was wearing exactly the same outfit, but with a green cardigan tied around her shoulders. Trey was standing next to Mary Stuart, wearing a dark blue blazer over a pink dress shirt with a pink-and-blue striped bowtie. His shirt was tucked into khaki shorts.

"So, you must be Mary Stuart's sister, Maddy," Trey said.

"I am," Maddy replied, "you look much nicer now than you did when we met earlier this week."

"So do you, Maddy. Wow, I mean, really, you look incredible."

After he had spoken to Maddy two days ago, the other girls who had first came by to speak to him turned up again, this time more insistent that he accompany them to the country club. "Come on, how respectable will we look without a proper gentleman to accompany us for afternoon drinks?" they had pouted. "But you won't be able to come with us unless you meet the dress code!" Libby and Ashleigh , those were their names, he had discovered , had rushed him upstairs and rummaged through his closet, finding a Brook Brothers pink polo shirt, some seersucker shorts, and some Rainbow sandals, none of which he could remember purchasing. When he walked out of his bathroom, changed into the clothes they had selected, the girls were sitting expectantly on his bed and quietly clapped and cheered before rushing over to pop his collar.

Trey's life had changed substantially since that afternoon and now he was delighted to see how correct he had been about how nice Maddy would look in a cardigan. He took Mary Stuart on one arm, Maddy on the other and led them outside to his car to go to the club to meet his new friends.


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Re: The Neighborhood

Post by 1984 on Tue Dec 08, 2015 6:04 pm

Here are two gay versions/(renditions/covers?) of the same story, not really for me but some of you may enjoy them


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