Daughter of an Earl, fourth-grade teacher, middle-sister, and pathologically single, Edith Crawley has had enough of people telling her how to change her life; between bad-hair days, surreal phone-calls, cursed dates, hideous men, and an illogical enamourment for imaginary characters, we'll follow the journey of an urban single woman trying to survive life and family. Modern AU.
I refuse to write a New Year's Resolutions Entry. There you have it. What's the point, when I know that I will fail every single one of them? Life is full enough of disappointments, I don't need to add self-lies to the list. It takes the pressure off and by the end of the year I won't feel like a complete failure because I've eaten more than I should have, or haven't been zen enough, or have signed up to the gym but gone just twice (optimistically speaking).
What I really need to focus on is my (non-existent) love life. This year, beware of:
1. Emotionally unavailable men
3. Dead People
4. Actually unavailable men – who are married and therefore Lewd Relationship Pariahs.
5. Psychologically unstable men, compulsive liars, unsexy bloodsuckers
6. Old men
7. Imaginary characters
Not that I need to be in a relationship. I'm a perfectly independent and self-fulfilling career single-woman who doesn't need a man to define her, thankyouverymuch.
It just would be nice to go to my parents' New Year's Party with someone, just for a change. If Aunt Rosamund asks once again "Edith darling, how is our lovelife going? Tell me e-ve-ry-thing!" I'm going to drown myself in the Grand Marnier Cream bowl.
I don't want to go to Downton. It's a nightmare, and this year Sybil refuses to come (why couldn't I be the rebel child, WHY? Ugh) so I'll be sitting alone between Mary and Matthew, absorbing all the pent up sexual frustration and trying to eat my pudding avoiding the passive-aggressive cutlery-abuse as lustful glances are stolen on both my sides. Haven't we all suffered enough? I hate the off-phase of their on-and-off relationship.
Ha-ha! I just remembered that Aunt Rosamund's boyfriend (ex?) has been arrested last week for a financial fraud. A common delinquent! "Aunt darling, how is our judicial life going? Tell me e-ve-ry-thing!"
Knowing her, she'll wave it off as nothing with a perfectly manicured hand. She'll probably negate the very existence of said boyfriend or said scandal. Just typical. The only thing nobody ever forgives you, at parties, is the state of constant spinsterhood. Umph. At least my conjugal visits won't happen in a caravan. (not that I have conjugal visits. Or those sorts of visits. Or a caravan. I would love a caravan. I could take long roadtrips with my friends, who are after all the family you choose for yourself. And we could travel through Europe like young free spirits and I could find a Danish boyfriend with perfect teeth. Not that finding a boyfriend would be the goal of the trip, that is instead aimed at living life and enjoying friends and discovering new sunsets. Which is exactly the trick to actually find a boyfriend: it's like it always happens with the missing sock – when you stop looking for it, it suddenly and inexplicably appears in your purse and an Asian shopkeeper will judge you for it.)
Where was I? Oh yes. I wonder if I can ditch on the party.
Mom has sent me a very nice text message telling me how much she misses me. Devious wench.
Oh shit shit shit. My hair is a mess, I have dark shadows under my eyes and a terrible headache. Everyone will think I got wasted at some glamorous party last night and I'll be severely judged by every toff of the County.
Which is probably preferable to the truth: night spent eating pop tarts and watching a Doctor Who Marathon on the telly. In fact, maybe I'll subtly let them believe I was at some glamorous party. Ha! Take that, I'm a young, sophisticated and popular young woman who parties all night with friends.
Frankly, my last thought was shallow and degrading, I can see that now. Obviously, there's nothing glamorous in getting drunk and unfit to be seen by the elderly. I'll call Thomas. He'll probably know what to do about the scary-dark-circles around my eyes.
He says hemorrhoid cream works wonders in these cases. He's a genius.
I don't have hemorrhoid cream. I don't have hemorrhoids. Why would he think I have hemorrhoids?
9:30 am, Downton
"Edith, darling! You look terrible. You should stop staying up all night on that godawful laptop, it's not good for your skin!"
4:56 pm, Downton
I can't believe I'm going to miss Sherlock for this.
11:45 pm, London
THEY'RE GETTING MARRIED?
I woke up and remembered that I'll die alone in my apartment, almost surely in an embarrassing and compromising pose. This morning I took some extra care as I climbed out of the bathtub. Better safe than sorry.
Of course I'm happy for my sister. She found love. He proposed at midnight. Like When Harry Met fecking Sally. And under the snow. At the same moment, I was crying at the Doctor's broken "I don't want to go". They weren't even together on New Year's Eve, but it doesn't matter of course. I'm happy. Seriously.
But is there anything worse than attending your sister's wedding? Maybe by then I'll be in a coma. Fingers crossed.
My mother called.
"Hello, dear. It's your mother."
She hasn't really grasped the concept of "Caller ID".
"Isn't it terrible, what's happening in Syria?", I reply instead with a cheerful tone.
"What does it have to do with anything?"
"I just wanted to say one last sensible thing before I got sucked up in your nonsense world"
If she's nonplussed, she doesn't show. Instead, she pointedly ignores me. She's terribly British for someone born and bred in Newport. "What do you think of lavender?"
"Don't say 'what', dear. What are your opinions on lavender?"
"In…general?" do people have opinions on colours? Should I be more informed on the colour's world and its intrigues? Did lavender commit a terrible crime against amaranth? Suddenly I feel under examination, and I'm going to flunk it. "It's…nice?"
"I thought so. If we left it to your sister, she'd pick bisque. Bisque! With your skin!"
I take a deep breath. And another one. I can't deal with my mother this early in the morning. Or in any moment of the day. I need a glass of wine.
"Why are we discussing colours?", I try, diplomatically, with the tone of some tired, frustrated, mother talking to her three-years-old brat.
"For your bridesmaid dress, silly. Your sister is getting married."
"I remember, she announced it yesterday." I stress every word very slowly. Maybe she's had a stroke.
"Then do try to keep up, dear. You sound terribly sluggish, have you been drinking?"
With a hand I start massaging my temples. "No. I don't care about the colour, Mary can put on me whatever she wants. In fact, I have positive opinions regarding every colour. They're all extremely lovely and well-bred."
"Don't be cheeky young lady." Then, after a pause, and with a dangerously thrilling tone, "You know, Evelyn Napier will be at the wedding."
Oh Jesus. Not again.
My mother took it upon herself to set me up with any man sitting on my right at each of her dinner parties. Apparently, I'm not to be trusted to find my own husband (possibly true. But still.). Maybe I'm her lost cause, that project you dive yourself into even knowing you'll never come out of it triumphant. Like those people fighting Famine in Africa.
"Please, mama. We already tried that, and it didn't work out. How many times are you going to introduce me to family friends' firstborns saying 'Meet Edith, my other daughter. She's single.'?"
"As many times as it takes."
Oh God, I'm her Famine.
"And Edith, let's not repeat last Augusts' performance."
Side note. Last August I was leisurely enjoying a Saturday evening at home when my mother knocks on my door with her new, rampant, eligible bachelor of an attorney. Without notice. "I was just in the neighborhood with Colin and I thought I'd pass by to say hello! Come in Colin, don't be shy. This is Edith. She's single."
Now, I want to stress that it was an August Saturday evening. And she didn't call first. Does any normal human being lay around the house on a Saturday evening with their makeup on and clean, stylish hair? And how was I supposed to know she had someone with her when I unlocked the door? Who on Earth makes surprise calls on their daughters with an unknown man? It was too late to kick some of the trash under the sofa and hide the maltesers jumbo pack by the time I processed the presence of the intruder. My North and South DVD was still playing.
Unsurprisingly, Rude Colin fled the apartment after a first look at me, adducing some improbable work excuse. As if anyone worked at 8pm on a Saturday.
Ever since, I've learned to pretend I'm not home. It's a silent, delicate art. Where was I? Oh yes. Phonecall.
"Honestly, that was a fiasco of your own doing. And what is wrong with North and South marathons anyway? You know what some girls do on Saturday evenings? At least I don't do drugs, you should be thanking God- Hello? Hello?"
She had hung up on me.
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH NACKED ON MY DVR.
There is a God after all.
After much consideration, I realize my life is indeed full and rewarding. Tomorrow I'm going back to school to educate young minds, to form the future executive class of our Country. The success of Britain is in my hands, like a lump of clay ready to be shaped in a beautiful vase that will thank his Fourth Grade teacher in his Pulitzer Acceptance Speech for having inspired him with her lesson on Dahl.
And my father thought Reading English at University would've been a waste of time! Will the bankers, and lawyers, and brokers, and politicians of my family ever contribute to build a new hope as I'm doing? I don't think so!
Children are the future!
Children are awful and I hate them.
Okay, that was harsh coming from an inspired educator such as myself. And not all children are awful.
Except for the Hideous Jeffrey. I don't understand why it should be immoral to despise a child – they're human creatures too, and as such they're loathable.
As a responsible but loving teacher, I had decided to let the children adapt to the passage from holidays to school with a light day of coloring and writing about their Christmas – reveling in its joys and feeding their creativity.
Anyway, I was reading a magazine. There was a v. interesting article on Colin Firth.
So, there was a gorgeous picture that went with the article, and I was studying it for purely anthropological reasons when Jeffrey comes to me and starts staring at the aforementioned photograph.
"Who is he?"
Excited for the natural curiosity I was already awakening in my students, I smiled broadly at him, "He's Colin Firth, a brilliant actor and the pride of Britain."
"Because he's very talented. He won a BAFTA and an Oscar."
"For his outstanding portrayal of King George VI. Remember when I told you about the Queen's father?"
I was being so understanding and loving and an exceptionally great teacher whose students learn history through fun. And he had to ruin my big moment.
I think I had to stare at him for a couple of minutes in religious silence. It couldn't be happening. I asked, with a faint, trembling voice, "What?"
"He's a world renown heartthrob!" I tried, in a desperate attempt.
"I think he's ugly!" he was shrieking by now, for inexplicable reasons. Hideous child.
"Maybe he thinks you're ugly."
Retroactively, maybe it wasn't the most responsible thing to say. I am, after all, an adult. But nowadays children are so disrespectful.
I profusely apologized to his awful mother (pale, thin and with an air that said her son was the future Bill Gates and David Beckham all in one package) after a 45 minutes long meeting with the Principal. Honestly, maybe she should teach her children not to offend National Treasures.
Maybe I should get a cat.
Talked to Sarah about the possibility of getting a cat. She wasn't very supportive.
"The last time you were entrusted with a puppy you lost it."
"That was Thomas, and anyway he found it again."
I can practically hear her eyebrows raising and her eyes rolling. She still doubts Thomas managed to find Papa's dog. Her theory is that he was too scared of my father, so he bought a twin dog somewhere and swapped the puppies. The original one is still somewhere in Soho. I tell her it's an absurd theory, but secretly I wouldn't put it past Tom. She doesn't need to know that.
"You can't take care of yourself, never mind a poor living being depending on you."
"I've been living by myself for almost six years now!"
"What is in your fridge?" she asks, dubiously.
"My fridge is very full, thank you."
"What suitable, healthy food is in your fridge?"
"…this is beside the point. And anyway what if I got pregnant tomorrow? Are you saying I would be unfit to be a mother? I work with children, you know!"
She doesn't need to know about the little Jeffrey's debacle.
"…maybe you should get a cat."
Gah, there's nothing to eat. I'm already in my pajamas, I can't go out to provide for myself. I'll order Chinese.
Damnit. I don't have cash. Would the delivery boy accept payment with a credit card?
Apparently not. I'll eat cookies and carrots (ah! Healthy AND eligible food).
Maybe I'm not ready for a cat. I'll get a pet-plant, and if it survives until June I'll trade it for a kitten.
I went to visit Granny for tea. She was v. encouraging and sympathetic.
"Don't worry, your turn will come." She says, after I told her about Mama's fascination with lavender.
"Will it? Maybe I'm just to be the maiden aunt whose prettier relations try to avoid at family reunions."
"Don't be defeatist dear, it's very middle class." I love her. She's my hero. Sure, she voted for Margaret Thatcher, but I guess nobody's perfect.
"I wonder. This society discriminates singles – you go to the groceries and all you can find are double portions. You go to the movie theater alone, and the attendant eyes you suspiciously. You go to a fair, and some carousels' rides are strictly for two. What is wrong with being alone?"
"Now now, don't give me the feminist 'I complete myself' speech, because…of course you do. It's utterly pointless. Listen to me. Your time will come, but for God's sake try to avoid unsuitable men in the future. You have quite a knack for impossible romances."
"They find me!" I grumble, on the defensive. John told me he was divorced. How was I supposed to know? As for any other man, my usual approach when they say "Hi" is to reply with an "Errr" and flee to the ladies' room.
"And for God's sake, would you go to an hairdresser? You look like a mangy pony. You know, men do have eyes."
That's more like it.
Sybil called. Apparently weekends are for the family. Joy!
"How are you taking it?"
I roll my eyes. Honestly. Sybil is a darling, but sometimes she can be really daft in her over-charitableness.
"I wish you would stop asking that. I'm single, I don't have terminal cancer. Mary is getting married, I'm happy for her. You don't need to treat me as if I was about to jump off the Tower Bridge."
"I hear the proposal was very romantic. They swirled in the snow. He knelt down and everything."
"So the story goes. I just hope they'll actually go through with it this time around."
"What a horrible thought. Of course they will."
With their past record, I'll only be relieved after the "I do".
"Of course they will, yes."
"Did you enjoy yourself last night?"
Damn. I told everyone I was having a night out. Technically, it's not a lie. I thought I had left my sunglasses on the terrace so I went out to check. No luck.
"It was splendid, yes. Brilliant…Um. Sybil, I was just about to go out again actually. Did you need something in particular…?"
"The fact is…I might as well cut to the chase. I'm pregnant."
For a moment I stare at my phone. So I am going to be the maiden aunt after all. But then I feel incredibly excited at the prospect of my little sister giving the gift of life to another little human being. See? I AM a good person.
"Oh darling, it's fantastic! I'm so happy for you and Tom! When is it due?"
"Around May, I think. I'm going to look huge and awful in that lavender."
We laugh, and I can barely sit still on my chair.
"Edith….I need a favour."
Uh, we're back to that tone.
"Of course, sweetie. Tell me."
"Would you tell Papa? I think he needs to be prepared, and you have a way with words…"
I think I need a sherry.
A/N: The article Edith was reading appeared on "The Guardian" and was written by Susie Steiner.