I flew from Ithaca to San Francisco to testify in court. I figured the whole thing would be a breeze, as young people tend to think. Jane told me to dress up for court. I didn’t have a suit, only my favorite dress from Bloomindale’s. It was a black dress with small white pinstripes, a tight bodice, a V-neck which revealed cleavage inappropriately, a full skirt, and, this being the 80’s, puffy sleeves.
There was apparently another nanny witness, and then there was not one.
I took the stand. My journal was in evidence. I told my story.
The lawyer for William asked, “Why didn’t you report what you saw to the police?”
“Um…I didn’t know I should have done that.” I became flummoxed.
“Have you ever lied to your employers?” Asked a beautiful expensively dressed lawyer for the investment banker. She looked exactly like a lawyer form Law and Order.
“No, ” I answered with confidence.”
“You didn’t sign this contract that says you were intending to become a permanent nanny? Is this your signature?” Oh, God. She’s destroying my credibility, just like in Law and Order.
“But you knew you weren’t going to quit college and become a permanent nanny, didn’t you? Didn’t you in fact return to college after the summer was over?”
“Your Honor, I submit this document into evidence.”
And it was over. I was disgraced. The investment banker had been so conniving, he had made me sign the false statement in case I found out the truth about the abuse.
“You did your best,” said Jane. “They said horrible things about you on the stand.” I wish she hadn’t said that. I still wonder what they said. That I had left a period stain on the bed?
That tail end of senior year before graduation I became very worried about my future, and couldn’t sleep at night. I spent nights in the living room of my vegetarian co-op, Marvin Gardens, and watched old episodes of Star Trek, with a muscled gymnast who was also pre-med. Every night he would tell me he wished he had a girlfriend, but I stupidly didn’t get the hint.
“What about the girl gymnasts?” I asked, those girls with the perfect thin flexible bodies.
“No, no, I’m not interested in them.” With his muscles, I felt that I was out of his league. Of course now I realize that I, too, had possessed a perfect body.
Book smart but not street smart, I graduated Cornell summa cum laude and with honors in all subjects. I had applied to graduate schools in English, but was rejected from every one. I was so angry, and felt so cheated, that I actually called the chair of the department of English at Yale and demanded to know why I was not let in.
“Your languages are Spanish and French,” an old man said. “You did not study Greek and Latin.” A good ol’ boy.
Then I received a call from Jane.
“Karen, I got a job in Brussels, and I’ll have William for the summer. Will you be my nanny? I’ll fly you out.”