Coral Breaks Even

Coral's mother, Everetta, enjoyed driving her daughter up the coast to spend her junior year at the Mill Valley high school living in a mansion with Everetta's old school chum, Flora.  Mill Valley was upper class: just what Everetta wanted for her daughter.  Coral had no idea of the wonderful entre she would enjoy at Tamalpais High School.  Everetta had even brought her old typing table from when she was in college so that Coral could type out her lessons on her balcony.  It would be good for Coral to be friends with Flora's daughter, Becky.  Coral needed friends like Becky.  She was turning into a bolshevic at her local high school in Oakland, hanging out with Democrats.  When Everetta swung the car into the driveway, Coral was dumbfounded.  It was a heck of a mansion.  She really was impressed.  Flora was a marvelous old style lady, tall, slender and modestly dressed.  Coral liked her.  Becky was a dumpy mean little thing with bad skin.  Coral hardly noticed her.  Becky got her revenge, too, by using her influence to get Coral kicked out of the High Y club.  Coral didn't care.  Coral was a live-and-let-live kind of girl.  If they didn't like her she would forge a destiny outside of the High Y.  But that was not acceptable to the leaders of High Y.  They made Coral stand up to the club and demand acceptance.  None of it made any sense to Coral except that she made a good friend, Dora.  Dora kind of liked the suave way Coral notified the girls in High Y that she refused to be excluded.  Dora mistook Coral's genuine lack of concern for transcendent confidence, which it was not.  Coral really was clueless.

So, the next semester Coral moved in with Dora and met Ted.  Ted lived in a mansion located kitty-corner to Dora's middle class house.  Ted was interested in getting to know the new girl so he asked Coral to go to the beach with him.  Ted picked Coral up in his new Volkswagen and the two drove very smartly down to the beach which was located a few blocks away.  While the two sat looking at the ocean Ted told Coral that his grandfather had made a lot of money in the movies and that he would come into an inheritance when he was 21.  He told her he would get a million dollars.  This statement had the intended effect of totally bowling Coral over.  Not only was it a lot of money, but Ted's family was in the movies.  His father had been an actor.  Nonchalance toward Ted turned into deep interest.  Prince Charming had arrived on time and all she had to do was coast the long wide road of courtship, love and marriage.  She was ready. 

Ted called regularly after that and Coral loved him madly.  She knew it was true love because of the way she felt: completely fulfilled.  There was no need for sex in this relationship.  It was all about love, romance, tender all-night talks under the stars and then more days and nights of love, romance, and more endless conversations under the moon.  Life was everything it was supposed to be.  She had no understanding that she was being set up by her fellow students when Ted invited her to a party.  The kids were all nice to her when she was introduced and they very generously encouraged her to be alone with Ted in one of the bedrooms.  She  was ecstatic.  It was even more wonderful to be alone in a room with Ted to talk about life, love and philosophy.  It even occurred to her that the kids were watching from outside the door, hoping to catch her in a sexual embrace with Ted.  But it didn't matter because her love with Ted wasn't like that anyway.  But if she had thought a little more, she might have thought about the fact that Ted had agreed to let her be set up.

More long talks, more long nights parked by the side of the road under the moon.  One night Coral was surprised to see a pair of headlights shine brightly in the rear view mirror as a car pulled up aggressively behind Ted's car.  Coral was afraid they were being robbed but Ted told her not to worry, that it was his parents, just checking on him.  He waved to his father and mother and the car pulled out from behind Ted's car and up the road.  Coral thought it was a little strange.  Ted smiled and said, "They just want me to go home.  They waited until after the news on the television and came out to get me to come home."

Ted invited Coral to go to the school play which was "Romeo and Juliet."  Coral enjoyed herself but was disappointed that the girl who played Juliet was not very feminine.  Ted's father was greatly enamored with Juliet.  Coral thought was was too loud and not feminine enough.  She couldn't understand why Ted's father was going on and on about how wonderful she was.  "I don't know, Ted," she said, "I thought Juliet lacked something."  Ted said, "She was a little hard."  Coral could not possibly have understood the amorous feelings of a forty-year old actor wannabe for a 16 year old girl who played the role of Juliet, not matter how badly she played the part.  Without meaning to, without saying anything out loud, just a whisper to Ted, Coral insulted the artistic judgment, the foolish desires and the authority of Ted's father in one fell swoop.

At one point Ted told Coral that his family did not like her.  "Why not?" she said.  "They don't like your nose."  Coral was surprised and thought to herself that this was a strange reason not to like someone.  She thought they must not know her.  She asked to talk to them frankly about their feelings and let them meet her and get to know her.  Ted arranged a meeting in the afternoon at his house and Coral greeted Ted's parents and thanked them for letting her talk to them.  They sat down at the living room table.  Coral told them about herself.  She smiled, believing she had done a good job of letting them see her at her best, talking intelligently about her feelings.  Ted's father got up roughly from the table and thundered that she had no business thinking she could win them over.  "Your own mother doesn't like you!" he stormed.  "Why should we?"  He turned his back to Coral and theatrically walked out of the room to the living room.  Coral almost laughed at how childish he was acting and stifled a wisecrack about actors resorting to theatrics in their personal lives.  She apologized to Ted's mother and left the house completely nonplussed.

The senior year went by like a dream.  Ted took Coral to the prom, then pinned her.  When the school year ended Ted drove Coral home to Oxnard.  It was a sad ride.  Coral didn't know when she would see Ted after he delivered her to her home.  When Ted drove into Coral's driveway she was paralyzed with sorrow.  "I have to go right home," he said.  "My mother didn't want me to bring you and she made me promise to come straight home."  Coral to the pin off her neck and handed it to Ted.  "Here," she said.  "I don't want this any more."  Ted threw the pendent out the car window and drove off.  Coral let herself into her mother's house and cried pitifully and loudly until she heard the door bell ring.  Coral didn't know if she was more embarrassed or more relieved that it was Ted.  "I couldn't leave you like that," he said.  "Why did you throw away the pin?" she asked.  "Because I didn't want it if you didn't want it."  Ted held Coral and the two of them promised to write to each other, which they did, throughout the whole first semester of college.

Coral liked college but she missed Ted terribly.  She was too young to be ashamed of taking the initiative.  She just wanted to be with Ted.  She had no money.  She couldn't afford a plane trip or even a bus ride.  She figured that she could afford the shipping cost of sending a large trunk which she figured she could stand to stay in for the few hours it would take to get to St. Augustine.  Her inventive mind started to design a box that a human could survive in.  She was thinking in terms of oxygen and water and even told her friends in college that she was working on the project.  Students were coming up with ideas as to how to make it work.  They shipped dogs in crates, it should be possible to ship a small person.  Then one of her friends told her she must not pursue the idea because there was not enough oxygen in the storage compartment of a bus and that she would die.  He made her promise that she would give up the idea and she did promise.  She didn't think of it anymore.  The school year ended and she moved from the Freshman dorm to the Sophomore dorm.  In a letter to Ted she recalled the crate-shipping project as an amusing memory. 

Ted's answer hit Coral like a ton of bricks.  She hadn't noticed that Ted was complicit in the set up at the beach house.  She just barely saw Ted's weakness when he dropped her off with no conversation at the end of the school year because his mother demanded it.  Now, reading Ted's letter, her heart hardened.  He told Coral that he had shared her letter with his mother and that his mother had said that there had to be "something terribly wrong" with Coral for her to even think of such a think as shipping herself a thousand miles in an animal crate.  Coral saw the whole thing.  Ted had been sharing their relationship with his family all along and not to Coral's advantage.  Coral finally had to admit that Ted was intentionally pitting her against his mother.  The pain of that message was worse than when Ted had tried to drive away without a word after delivering Coral to her home the year before.  She could not endure the pain.  It was impossible to endure the pain of knowing that her Prince Charming was so deferential to his mother.  It wasn't that Ted told her about his mother's silly comment.  It was that Ted put Coral in a position where she would have to defend herself against his mother's accusations.  Coral could not endure the pain of a life of defending herself against her mother-in-law.  She knew that breaking up with Kit would be like cutting off a limb but she also knew she could not stay in the cage she found herself in and determined to gnaw off her foot to escape which she did.  She wrote a letter to Ted and told him it was over.  

Ted made a few feeble attempts to call Coral but, when she failed to call him back, Ted let the relationship drop.  He had undoubtedly been advised to do so by his parents.  A few years later Coral found out that Ted's parents got a divorce and that his mother moved to a wealthy artist's community.  Coral never heard from Ted again.