Frances

Synopsis

Frances Myllar, the First Lady of the United States of America, is a beautiful, intelligent, and rich prisoner of her family. She and her three siblings are guarded around the clock. In 2040 Frances is crippled by a terrible accident and uses her convalescence to write her life’s story. Frances’s story includes romance, honors for her work, a loveless marriage, and two children. It also includes her close relationships with her happy-go-lucky brother and her brilliant mother. The events of 2040 turn Frances’s life around. From her hospital bed she makes decisions and sets in motion events that will free her from her family and her cold husband. Frances cannot know these decisions will also give her the opportunity for executive responsibility.


Sample Pages

8. September 29, 2040.
My schedule today includes three therapy sessions, one for my legs, one for my feet, and one for my arms. No visitors are expected today.

During that summer Joan and my mother moved to Boston, to a very large house with spacious grounds. They toured the many high schools available in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and selected a very highly regarded school within thirty minutes of the house. Joan would be able to travel to school with the chauffeur each day and return to the house after school hours.

Later, I found out the school was full for that year and had a lengthy waiting list. My mother, never allowing a refusal without a good argument, pointed out a roof that needed a replacement to the headmaster; they came to an agreement that a donation of $1 million dollars to the school’s general fund would allow Joan to attend for four years, repair the roof, and pay for twenty full-tuition scholarships. It also guaranteed that Lisa, Johnnie, and I would be allowed to attend the school if our admission test scores were high enough. I do not know if students today can buy their way into a good school in this way, but I know the parents of twenty children from Boston’s poorer sections were happy with this arrangement.

Activities at the Pittsburgh house continued. Lisa, Johnnie, and I went on with our studies, with only small breaks to visit Boston. Joan’s last teacher stayed on to teach Lisa, and I graduated to Lisa’s teacher.

Grandma and Grandpa came to dinner three times each week. They stayed after dinner to play games, listen to recital piano pieces, and review spelling and mathematics homework. They taught us to play bridge, poker, and chess.

9. September 30, 2040.
My schedule today includes two therapy sessions, one for my legs and one for my arms. Jake Morgenstern is expected to visit today.

At some time during the years while Joan was in Boston but Lisa was still in Pittsburgh, our Grandfather Myllar was noted in financial publications as one of the richest people in the world. From that time forward until now, his rank on these lists has climbed so that today he is the sixth richest. After my mother went to Boston, we saw very little of either of my father’s parents until we had completed college.

Once each year a special teacher visited for a few days to give us what my mother called aptitude tests. After one of these visits, my parents decided to add the study of Latin to my schedule. A special Latin teacher came from Pittsburgh on Saturdays to give me a week’s worth of lessons. I studied Latin for five years before I moved to Boston for high school.

As I look back at those years as a solitary student, I believe the home school gave me an excellent education but poor skills in learning to deal with people who were different from me.

Several years ago, I asked my mother why my siblings and I were home schooled.

“During the Third World War,” she said, “we were very concerned about kidnapping. A number of the children of wealthy families were abducted from their schools, even from those private schools where security was thought to be adequate. We decided that our farm would be the best place to keep you safe, and we hired around-the-clock security guards to patrol the grounds. We felt the liability we would incur with offering to have neighbor children join you would be more than we wanted to take on, so you did not have classmates.”

She added that Grandfather Myllar was very concerned about kidnapping, so much so that he had ordered detailed DNA profiles of each grandchild and great-grandchild at birth to make identification absolutely certain.

10. October 1, 2040.
My schedule today includes three therapy sessions, one for my legs, one for my feet, and one for my arms. No visitors are expected today.

In September 2018, I joined my mother in Boston. She had completed her doctorate in physics several years before, and by 2018 she was working for a research company on a project about the physics of time.

For four years I attended the same high school my sisters had attended. It was my first experience in a real classroom as a real student, and it was fully a year before I learned how to handle the assignments and classes. After the first year, I was ranked in the middle of the class; after the fourth year, I was ranked at the top.

The routine during those four years varied little, but it was always busy. Each school day I went from our Boston house to the school in a car with the chauffeur and one security guard. At the end of the day, the chauffeur and the security guard met me at the school and took me home. If any activity was planned at the school for the evening, we repeated the trip, but the security guard stayed with me.

Every Friday evening, my mother and I went to Pittsburgh and returned to Boston on Sunday afternoon. My sisters were, by that time, in college and graduate school and did not go to Pittsburgh very often. When Johnnie joined us in Boston in 2020, we stopped traveling to Pittsburgh every weekend, going only about once a month.

It was clear to their children that my parents’ marriage was essentially over by the time my mother moved to Boston with Joan. However, they remained legally married until my father’s death in 2038 at the age of 68. My father accompanied my mother to Stockholm in 2034 when she received her Nobel Prize, but he came to Boston only for our high school graduations.

If my mother ever had any other lover, I am not aware of if; she appeared to be dedicated to her children and her work, to the exclusion of all else.

My father, on the other hand, was mentioned from time to time in gossip columns as the innamorato of one or another. The name of the woman changed about once every two years, and we never met any of them. Joan kept a scrapbook of news reports about family members, and she shared these gossip columns with me when I graduated from high school.

11. October 2, 2040.
My schedule today includes two therapy sessions, one for my legs and one for my arms. No visitors are expected today.

As Johnnie was starting high school, we moved to a new house, one that was at a higher elevation. By 2020, many parts of Boston were starting to sink into the Atlantic Ocean due to the melting of the polar icecaps. The basement of our first house was flooded at all times, and water sometimes reached the top of the cellar stairs. Our neighbors were leaving for higher ground, and we did, too.

The new house was not as nice, but the security company assured my mother it was much easier to protect. My grandfather, who owned the houses, sold the first house to a developer for less than one tenth the amount he had paid for it in 2010.

By 2020 our high school was not yet affected by the rising waters, but it was forced to relocate later, in 2026.

My mother’s company also relocated, to a large campus west of our home. The company had grown significantly during the years my mother had worked there, and the extra space was welcomed.

These moves were not made in a panic; the waters advanced at a slow pace. The Boston Globe produced weekly maps during those years showing the history of the rising of the waters and the projections for the following years.

Of course, as other East Coast cities moved inland, our activities changed. Johnnie and I had made a habit of going to New York once a month to the opera, and getting to the new locations of the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera in Albany was more difficult since the routes from Boston were not direct.

Shopping also became a problem, to be quickly solved. My sisters and I had bought all our clothes in New York during the years in the old Boston house, but many of the stores we had patronized had closed or had moved to inconvenient locations. To solve this problem, my mother hired a dressmaker and tailor, Mr. Queswani, who came to the new house, took our measurements, showed us fabric samples and pictures of fashions, and returned in six weeks with everything we had ordered. Mr. Queswani and his daughter still make nearly all my clothing.

During the next few years, the federal government completed its relocation to New Washington, West Virginia. The beautiful government buildings and monuments from the first 240 years of the republic were starting to sink into the Atlantic by 2015. The site near Wheeling, designed in 2010, was occupied starting in 2012 by the military and, later, by the Congress.

12. October 3, 2040.
My schedule today includes two therapy sessions, one for my legs and one for my arms. My publisher, Ms. Hale, has an appointment today to pick up the first part of this autobiography so her firm can add it to its Internet site. I will try to walk to the reception area by myself to greet her.

Just as I was entering my third year of high school, my mother asked me to come to her room for a talk. She usually said what she wanted to say in front of Johnnie and the servants, so I knew she had something of importance to tell me.

“I am pleased with how well you are doing in high school,” she began. “You have the best grades in the family, certainly better than my grades were when I was in high school.”

She continued, “Perhaps you remember those aptitude tests you took each year in Pittsburgh?”

“Yes, Mother, I certainly do.”

“Those tests showed that you have the highest of potential for anything you want to study. Have you decided what your major in college will be? Would you consider political science?”

“I have not really decided what to do,” I answered. “I would like to continue to study the piano, perhaps at Oberlin with Lisa.”

“Yes, I think you will always want to continue to study the piano,” she agreed. “However, I would like you to consider attending Harvard to study political science. Grandfather Myllar is very anxious for one of you to make a contribution in politics, and you certainly have the intellectual gifts for this.”

“Could I also take more piano lessons?” I asked.

“Of course! Boston is full of teaching talent, and Juilliard has relocated to Albany, just a few blocks from the Met.”

“Then, I could continue with piano while I studied political science? Will Grandfather agree?”

“I think he will be very warm to this suggestion. Listen, Frances, you need to understand that you will never be in a position where you have to earn your own living. Your grandparents have established trust funds so that you will be very comfortable for as long as you live. We are talking here about your making a contribution to society, perhaps a significant one,” Mother said.

“Furthermore,” she added, “you are such a pretty girl! You have your father’s wonderful good looks! You could be very popular with everybody if you….”

“I know I’m shy.”

“Let’s have somebody from that fancy New York modeling agency come here to teach us how to walk! You, Johnnie, and me!”

So, my mother started our “charm school,” a series of lessons that taught us what students in finishing schools learned: how to walk, how to use makeup, how to stand (both with a handbag and without), and how to talk in public without that Pittsburgh accent. Even Johnnie was interested, and we had fun!

13. October 4, 2040.
My schedule today includes three therapy sessions, one for my legs, one for my arms, and one for my hands. A moving company is coming today to deliver my mother’s piano.

I spent my third year of high school preparing to enter Harvard. I took the college entrance examinations, including the one for the political science majors, and I found out where I needed to concentrate my efforts to improve my scores. I redoubled my study efforts.

I also had my first boyfriend, although it was not a torrid romance. My security guard accompanied me at all times after classes, and my new boyfriend also had a security guard. Conducting a romance with two guards was not easy.

Brian was in his fourth year of high school, preparing for Columbia. He was the primary accompanist for the school chorus, and I was the backup accompanist. We each attended all chorus rehearsals, with Brian playing most of the numbers and my playing two or three for each concert. In addition, each of us was allowed one solo piano number during each concert.

Brian was funny! That is my greatest memory of him today. He made jokes for my ears only while we rehearsed, and he usually invited me for refreshments, and more jokes, after the rehearsals. Johnnie was always with us since he was the librarian for the chorus, but he would work on homework while Brian and I talked.

When it was time to drive home after the rehearsals, Brian would say, “Give me a hug, now, until we meet again.” He would give me peck on the nose and a bear hug that would take my breath away.

I daydreamed about Brian constantly, in the way teenagers do. I imagined some sophisticated life for us together after college, perhaps in New York.

At the end of my junior year, the senior class held a fancy dress ball, where costumes of the era of George and Martha Washington were to be worn. No junior was invited except as a guest of a senior, and I had hoped Brian would invite me.

This was not to be. He said to me one day about three weeks before the ball, “Oh, Frannie, I wanted to invite you to the Senior Ball, but my mother insists I invite my cousin Carol Ann, and so I must. Mom has the idea Carol Ann will meet one of the swells here and sweep him off his feet.”

“We could have an outing to the opera,” I said. “John and I are going next Saturday to see Manon at the New York City Opera, and we could get a ticket for you, if you are free.”

“Next Saturday? I’ve got to accompany a fellow at his Eastman audition. Maybe some other time, huh?”

Later, when Brian was at Columbia and I was still in high school, we exchanged e-mails for a few months until Brian stopped replying.

In 2031 I read a notice in the high school’s alumni newsletter that Brian had died of skin cancer. Although I faithfully review this newsletter every month, I never saw a notice of his marriage.

However, so far I have seen three marriage notices for Carol Ann, each one to a well-to-do member of Brian’s class.

14. October 5, 2040.
My schedule today includes two therapy sessions, one for my legs and one for my arms. My piano teacher is expected today for a lesson, and piano practice will take the place of the therapy sessions for my hands from now on.

Living under the rules established by the security firm was not easy, but my mother insisted we adhere to them. As a result, none of us was kidnapped, although once Joan and her guard were assaulted while shopping in Boston. On this occasion, it was clear the perpetrators were aware of her name. After this incident, my grandfather arranged for the chauffeurs to accompany the guards in public places.

The security company also made sure we did not get our hands on drugs and alcohol. During the prior several decades, American children had increasingly fallen victim to the pressures of using drugs, and my mother was very insistent that her children not become drug users. The security company searched our lockers at school while we were in classes, and they searched handbags and carry-alls during the rides to and from school. On more than one occasion, the security guards contacted the police with information about people selling drugs at our school.

Today Joan, Lisa, and I are drug-free and very nearly teetotalers. Johnnie, as has been reported in the press, is drug-free but given to infrequent alcohol binges. Although Johnnie’s life is not being chronicled here, I want to make it clear he has never missed a performance or a rehearsal due to his alcohol problems, and the reason he does not accept a full-time conducting contract is that he is happier with the 50 guest engagements his agency finds each year.

The students who boarded at the school were much more likely to use drugs. I know the dealers were given fairly free access to the dormitories; they looked like other students, like people who would be guests. The headmaster and her staff were unable to keep them out because they always had a boarding student to sign them into the dorm.

Our high school was no different from many others. The boarding students had too much disposable money and too little contact with their parents.

The security company also searched all packages delivered to our house before we were allowed to see the contents. Once a small bomb was received, addressed to my mother, and this was handed over to the police before it exploded. On another occasion, the police were called, only to discover a timer Johnnie had ordered for one of his computers.

Today, I have mixed feelings about this lack of personal freedom. I understand the reasons for it, but I feel my childhood was a time of wanting freedom but not being able to have it. Even today, as this year’s baseball season concludes, I remember how much I wanted to sit in the stands with my father to watch the Pirates. Instead, my father and I watched games through the bulletproof windows of my grandfather’s private box.

We also did not take vacations the way other families did. When I was in high school, the other students described what they did on their summer vacations. Some families went to foreign countries and saw how people lived there, and other families saw remarkable sights in our own country. I generally have no reason to break the last of the Ten Commandments, the one that tells us not to covet anything that is our neighbor’s, but it was difficult to hear about visits to Yellowstone National Park without wanting to see and hear for myself the paint pots and the geysers. Of course, by the time I was attending high school, the great cities of California were under water; I would like to have seen the cable cars on the hills of San Francisco.

Such vacations were just too difficult for the security people to handle. The only vacations we took were to my grandfather’s land in Canada, where we stayed almost entirely on our own property until it was time to leave. We traveled to Canada in a mobile home built as a bus, with security people in vehicles ahead of us and behind us. Starting from the Pittsburgh farm, we were on the Canadian property in seven hours. We sometimes went into Toronto for a play or a ballet, but these trips were organized at the last minute to minimize the security risk.

As Grandma told me, God makes us all different so He can feel, through us, different experiences. No good can come of longing to see paint pots if this is not part of my assignment.


 
 
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