By Lavinia M. Hughes
It figures that my best friend Darla would let me take the rap. That’s always been a thing with her. When things go wrong it’s always someone else’s fault. Of course, I did have my own ill-advised actions to atone for. Let me entertain you with my cautionary tale of betrayal.
When we were teenagers, we often babysat together. It was fun keeping each other company, dividing the chores of taking care of households with numerous kids. The parents didn’t mind having two babysitters. The jobs were really Darla’s jobs and she was the one who got paid. Now that I think back, didn’t I have anything better to do? I guess the answer is no, not when I was 14. I wasn’t completely pathetic, as I had a rolling line of my own babysitting gigs—a regular summer one, an evening one, and of course holidays like New Year’s Eve.
Darla and I thought everything was hugely funny and spent a lot of time giggling wherever we went. Apparently, this annoyed the daylights out of everyone—our teachers, parents, and even the city bus driver who actually kicked us off once because we were making such a racket at the back of the bus and inciting the same obnoxious behavior in our other back-of-the-bus friends. Oh well, we needed the exercise as we walked the final mile back home in miniskirts in the dead of winter. But if I’m honest with myself, I remember that it was really only Darla who was instigating the other kids on the bus. Just she was kicked off the bus, not me. Being the loyal friend I used to be—emphasis on past tense—I got off the bus and walked home with her so she wouldn’t be alone. You’re welcome.
I should have realized that she never had my back. When we were in high school, we used to borrow each other’s clothes so that we’d have more outfits. My mother always warned me about this practice, but I couldn’t see the harm in it. Once I borrowed a purse from Darla because it matched one of my outfits perfectly. When I was done with it, I gave it back to Darla.
It turned out that Darla had borrowed the purse from one of her friends, Ellen. Ellen, upon receiving the purse back from Darla, asked her “where’s my ring?”
“What ring?” asked Darla.
“My sterling silver initial ring. It was in the purse when I lent it to you.”
Darla, of course, transmitted this, somewhat suspect, information to me. When viewed from the long lens of history, there is so much wrong with this scenario, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I told my mother what I was accused of, stating that I never saw any ring in the purse. It was just a small clutch purse. I think I would have noticed it before I loaded it up with my things. Plus, why would I want it? It had Ellen’s initials on it.
My mother wanted to teach me a lesson and asked me,
“But neither of you can really prove it, right?”
“I guess not.”
“So you are not given the benefit of the doubt because you used something that didn’t belong to you, right?”
“Yeah . . .”
“You know what to do. Get another initial ring made for her at the silversmith where she had the first one made. Use your babysitting money. Give it to Ellen graciously. And never borrow anything again.”
So that’s what I did. True to form, Darla managed to stay well out of it, avoiding any pecuniary outlays. I did notice that anything I lent her ended up soiled on the floor of her closet, which should have been my clue about how well she cares for things.
Anyway, putting aside incidents like these, it didn’t dissuade us from our usual joking, giggling, and carrying on. This proved a big distraction from what we were supposed to be doing. One babysitting gig stands out as disastrous. We were babysitting for a friend of Darla’s mother, Mrs. K. Mr. & Mrs. K. were a prosperous family with six kids who lived in a beautiful house in one of the nicer towns in our area. It was a big step up from our gritty factory town.
Mr. K. was from Germany and very much the dominant head of the house. Everything in the house was in its place, spotless, and beautifully decorated. The children had their own playroom on the first floor where they were expected to spend their time while indoors. They were not allowed to play in the living room with the grand piano. Discipline was strict and the household ran like a well-oiled machine.
One day we were boiling water in a small pan on the stove to warm up a bottle for the baby and got sidetracked in another part of the house. See previous description of our behavior. When we smelled “something” we raced into the kitchen and noticed that the pan had not only boiled down all of the water, it was starting to smoke. Why we didn’t put it in the sink I don’t know. Panic set in and Darla barked at me “put it on the floor!” I did this without hesitation because I was an idiot.
Big mistake. The pan stuck to the vinyl flooring. When we picked up the pan, a 2-inch chunk of flooring came up with it. Horrified, we scraped the chunk off of the pan and tried to glue it, somehow, back onto the floor. Poorly, I might add.
What to do? The obvious blemish was smack in the middle of the kitchen floor. I decided that we had to tell Mr. & Mrs. K, who I knew would be angry, but my parents always told me to tell the truth and deal with the consequences. The whole incident was a shame because it was a new house and everything in it was brand new. We had the afternoon to think about it before they came home. Darla wanted to “glue” it back in place and “they’d never notice.” I thought that we weren’t that talented at fix-up stuff and we should just get it over with.
So dear readers, what do you think happened in the end?
When the parents came home, we both confessed the whole sad mess of the situation in a vague manner, not alluding to which of us did what. Mrs. K. was definitely not happy. We were truly sorry and just mortified. I thought we were “in it together” when Darla blurted out that it was I who had placed the pan on the floor to which I replied that she told me to do it, which was stupid because I didn’t have to listen to her bad advice but I did anyway. This made me look even worse. I guess Darla thought it would make her look better.
Anyway, many years later, Mr. & Mrs. K. just laughed about it when we saw them at Darla’s wedding. This did make me feel better, even though I thought I detected an air of sadness when they brought it up. It turns out their house insurance covered the damage, rightly figuring it was “just one of those things.” Maybe I should stop trashing insurance companies, as they sometimes step up to the plate when bad things happen, like in the Farmers Insurance TV advertisements.
I freely admit my misguided role in all of this mayhem and foolishness. My friendship with Darla started to wane about the time of her wedding, though, and never really recovered.
# END #