Monday, March 24, 2014

The Forsythes

by Susan Matthewson
            Meg’s father died suddenly in January and ever since Meg had had to go straight home from school every afternoon to be with her grieving mother. Always a shy, reclusive woman, dependent on her husband for everything, Mrs. Quinn became even more reclusive, clinging to Meg and depending on her as she had Mr. Quinn.
I was Meg’s best friend, but Mrs. Quinn seemed now to resent it when I’d drop by. She’d let me in but insisted we stay home, so Meg and I listened to records or played games in her room. Once school was over, the summer days were long and boring cooped up inside. And it was spooky how Mrs. Quinn drifted around the house like a shadow.
                By the end of June, Meg and I were desperate to get out of the house. A devout Catholic who never missed mass, Mrs. Quinn finally let us attend St. Xavier’s annual craft fair one Saturday. We had a great time, joking with our friends and visiting the booths. Excited by our freedom, we decided to create the Forsythes, a lovely family—mother, father, and two kids—who wanted us to babysit for them. If we could convince Meg’s mom, the Forsythes would be our ticket to afternoons riding bikes or swimming at the pool. When we needed to we’d just invent a babysitting job. We schemed all afternoon, working hard to invent a family Mrs. Quinn would approve of.
                In their favor, the Forsythes were Irish Catholics like the Quinns and attended St. Xavier’s. We knew Mrs. Quinn would like that. Also, the Forsythes lived in Park Hill, a neighborhood not far from ours where “rich” people lived in large homes that were much more distinctive than the small brick bungalows on our block. Meg’s mother idolized the rich and famous, spent hours reading movie magazines about Hollywood stars, and Meg said she’d be impressed that the Forsythes lived in Park Hill. Though reluctant at first, Mrs. Quinn finally decided it would benefit Meg to spend time around what she called “quality” people like the Forsythes.
                We babysat for the Forsythe's three or four times a week. To our surprise, Mrs. Quinn became fascinated with them. When we’d return, she’d want to know all about them, how their house was decorated, what Mrs. F wore, how she fixed her hair, what the kids were like. Meg and I actually began to look forward to telling her about the Forsythes because she enjoyed it so. She often sighed and said, “Well, they’re just the perfect family aren’t they?” And, of course, they were perfect because Meg and I had made them up. Over the summer our stories about them became so detailed that we almost began to believe they were as real as Mrs. Quinn thought they were.
                One day in mid-August, we returned from “babysitting” to find Mrs. Quinn waiting for us with a solemn look on her face.
                “Oh, I bet you girls think you’re so smart?  she said. “But I know what you’ve been up to.”
                Meg and I froze, watching our freedom evaporate.
“Don’t lie to me now,” she said. “I know the truth because I’ve just talked to Mrs. Forsythe on the phone.”
                I almost choked on my spit, but Meg, cool and calm, said “Well, now, ma, tell us just exactly what Mrs. Forsythe said. It must be a misunderstanding.”
                Still nervous, but now very curious, we waited impatiently to hear what the imaginary Mrs. Forsythe had said to the very real Mrs. Quinn, confident we could explain everything.  After all, we knew Mrs. Forsythe so much better than Mrs. Quinn did.



Nancy Grossman said...

How could you end it there?!?!

I love what you're doing here, and I want to get more deeply into Mrs. Quinn's head!!! I'm sure when you share it, it will be delightful and zany!!! Keep going :)

Susie C. said...

Aaargh! Have you just posted the first Tasty Sauce cliffhanger? :) I loved the Lady Business installment, and I want to watch these engaging little characters make their way through the trials of adolescence. Great job!