Child Bride

Child Bride by Suzanne Finstad Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Child Bride by Suzanne Finstad Read Free Book Online
Authors: Suzanne Finstad
would have been a bit of rivalry between us if it hadn’t been brought to the front by Ann,” Pam once said.
    Ann’s competitive streak reached its height shortly after Pam’s twelfth birthday in October, when the PTA sponsored a fundraising contest for king and queen of the Popham Halloween Carnival, the big school event of the fall season. The nominees were chosen from the sixth-grade class, with the winners determined by which candidate accumulated the most votes, at a penny a vote, to be collected in a jar kept in the principal’s office. After the contest, the money was to be put in a school fund.
    The contest evolved into a cutthroat race between Pam and Priscilla. The rivalry agitated by Ann intensified during the campaign, with classmates drawing battle lines. The mothers worked for weeks on costumes for the Queen’s Royal Reception, sewing elaborate floor-length satin robes with characters from Story Book Land stitched onto the fabric to promote National Book Week. The big event was to be held on October 29, when the queen and king were to be announced at the Halloween Carnival party in the school cafetorium. By the end of the campaign, the girls’ friendship was severely strained. By their own recollection and that of friends, neither girl seemed driven to win; it was Priscilla’s parents who had the emotional investment. “I considered quitting,” Priscilla would later write, “but I felt I couldn’t let my parents or supporters down.” Priscilla’s classmates, however, drew the line at that. “She wouldn’t have quit on a bet!” claimed Christine.
    Priscilla later insisted that she was certain she was going to lose, but her parents proceeded with confidence. Ann went shopping for a strapless evening gown for Priscilla to wear to the dance; her father, she recalled, “kept reminding me to practice an acceptance speech.” Shortly before the coronation, a classmate warned the Rutherfords that Priscilla was going to win because her grandparents—Ann’s parents—had sent a forty-dollar check to her campaign.
    When the big night arrived, it was Priscilla Beaulieu who was crowned queen of the Popham Halloween Carnival. Pam Rutherford sat below her, as runner-up princess. “That was a funny deal, too,” recalled Pam, who never spoke of it to Priscilla until years later, when Priscilla wrote about the contest in her autobiography.Priscilla claimed it was
she
who heard a rumor that
Pam’s
grandparents “had put in a hundred-dollar bill for their vote. My parents were disappointed; there was no way that they could afford to match that much money and even if they could, they objected on principle.”
    “It’s so silly now, because we’re fifty years old and who cares!” Pam remarked after
Elvis and Me
came out. “She relates the same story, only in reverse. And I thought, ‘Jeez! How could she get that so mixed up?’ And I just assumed the way she told it is the way it was for her, and I’m not writing the book, so it doesn’t make a bit of difference to me.” Priscilla would later attribute the mix-up to “misinformation” from another girl, but there would always be lingering doubts.
    The consensus, years after the fact, was that if there were any machinations to ensure the outcome of the contest, Ann Beaulieu was the more likely source. “This would have been very typical of Priscilla’s mother,” remarked Christine Laws, with an ironic laugh. “Honey, it was very important. What was important was looks, appearance.… Many mothers live vicariously through their daughters. And she did.”
    In 1956, the year of her greatest glory at school, Priscilla’s sense of destiny returned, more powerful than before. “I would get this
feeling
,” she later tried to explain. “Someone would ask me, ‘What are you going to do in life?’ You know, ‘What are you going to be?’ And I just remember that I had this incredible feeling that whatever it was going to be, it was chosen

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