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Over the Moon
By Della Street
Blair was altogether too excited about this. "Time for presents!" she announced, rubbing her palms together. Turning to Jo, she said, "What did you get me?"
Shocked, Tootie exclaimed, "You're not supposed to know who your Secret Santa is!"
Jo rolled her eyes at her younger, sweetly naive roommate. "Tootie, who was Blair's Secret Santa last year?"
"And who was Blair's Secret Santa the year before that?"
"And who would hate drawing Blair's name more than anyone else in the world?"
"So there you have it."
At Mrs. Garrett's direction, Jo headed up to the closet in the main bedroom and gathered all of the gifts into her arms, choosing to tromp awkwardly down the stairs with the mass of them rather than make two trips out of it. Her name was written in girly gold-tinted handwriting, she noticed. So Blair had her name for three years in a row, too. What were the odds of that? Upon entering the lounge, she eyed the keeper of the names, one Edna Garrett, with growing suspicion. Did their well-intentioned mentor think that exchanging gifts would help the girls' friendship or something? If so, she should have given up on that idea two years earlier when they had the first of their traditional Christmas arguments.
Mrs. Garrett's oohs at Tootie's gift were followed by Tootie's ahs at Natalie's gift and Natalie's ohhs at Mrs. Garrett's gift. Now it was the older girls' turn. Jo wasn't as nervous this time. After the last two disasters when Blair bought her a ridiculously expensive motorcycle jacket and a whole collection of classic motorcycle mags which, granted, were really cool but which cost way more than Jo had spent, she had insisted on a firm rule: no gift was to cost more than $15.00.
She tried not to tense as Blair opened her gift. If Blair didn't like it, tough luck, but Jo kind of hoped that she would. She had seen it at an estate sale with Mrs. Garrett three weeks ago and immediately thought of her friend. She'd had to borrow a little from Mrs. G to pull it off, but she had already paid it back through some heavy-duty basement cleaning for Miss Muldoon. At thirty-five dollars, the gift was over the limit, but Jo felt she could cheat a little considering the offenses that Blair had committed each of the past two Decembers. Now they'd be even. Well, not even, but closer.
To Jo's delight, Blair gasped with pleasure at the vintage hand-held mirror.
Anxious to show off the neatest part, Jo walked over to Blair on her knees. "Watch this," she said. With the press of a button, angled extensions of the mirror popped out about an inch and a half on each side. "You can kinda see the sides of your face, too," she pointed out.
Blair examined her appearance in the mirror. "Perfect!" she declared. "And the gift, too." She turned to her Secret Santa. "Thank you, Jo. That was very sweet."
Excitedly, Blair snatched the last remaining gift from the couch and shoved the rectangular package at Jo.
Beneath the easily torn wrapping was a detailed picture of the Milky Way with planets and such, encased in a thin metallic frame. It was an unusual gift, especially by Blair Warner standards, but pretty neat, Jo decided. "Thanks!" she said. It would go great on the wall behind her bed.
Blair knelt beside her and pointed at something in the picture. "There it is!"
"There what is?"
As Tootie and Natalie and Mrs. Garrett peered curiously over their shoulders, Blair pointed at the spot again. "Polniaczek, Saturn's twenty-third moon. They just discovered it last month."
The others stared at her in confusion.
"I bought the naming rights," Blair explained happily. "Well, technically it was a donation, but the observatory was so 'appreciative'" she curled her fingers in the air "that they offered to let me name it."
In awe, Tootie said, "Jo has a moon named after her?"
Jo stared at the dot on the astronomical image.
"Well, it still has some scientific name, but the official unofficial name is now Polniaczek." Nearly bursting with anticipation, Blair waited for Jo's reaction.
A moon? The concept had finally sunk in to her Bronx brain. "You got me a moon?" Jumping to her feet, Jo tossed the artwork back on the couch. "Goddamn it, Blair!"
"Jo!" Mrs. G chastised her, but Jo didn't care any more. Goddamn it!
"There was a fifteen dollar limit!" she said angrily.
Blair waved the mirror at her. "This cost more than fifteen dollars," she guessed.
There was no comparison. "A lousy twenty dollars," Jo replied. "How much did this cost?" She pointed at the picture.
When Blair declined to answer the question, Jo realized that it was even worse than she thought.
"Now, Jo," Blair said, "it's all relative. Thirty-five dollars to you is a lot more than thethan what I paid for this."
"No, it's not relative!" Jo said. "We said fifteen dollars."
"Which you violated."
"Don't even compare that stupid mirror to a whole damn moon!"
Blair held the mirror to her chest. "This isn't stupid. It was very thoughtful."
Mrs. Garrett apparently decided it was time to intervene. "Blair was just trying to be thoughtful, too," she said soothingly to Jo.
"By spending what, a thousand damn dollars?"
Pursing her lips, Blair brought the mirror up to her face again.
Jo stared at her. "Five thousand dollars?"
Blair flipped the little lever to make the sides come out again.
"How much did this cost, Blair?"
"Telling the price of a gift is vulgar," she replied haughtily. "So is asking it."
Holy hell. It must have been way up there.
"That's it," Jo said angrily. "I'm through!" She took the stairs two at a time, slamming the door behind her and throwing herself onto her bed.
A few minutes later, a contrite Blair poked her head inside the room.
"Leave me alone," Jo growled.
"This is my room, too," Blair pointed out.
Not for the first time, Jo regretted the total lack of personal space in this damn place. As an only child, she'd had plenty of privacy back home.
Shutting the door behind her, Blair ignored the warning frown and sat on the edge of Jo's bed instead of her own where she belonged.
"I really thought you'd like it," she said.
"Well, yeah, I like it," Jo said. "I mean, who gets a moon named after them? But you know how I feel about this stuff."
"About what stuff?"
"About you rubbing it my face that you're stinking rich and I'm 'impoverished,'" she said, employing the word that Blair had used when Jo's scholarship money dried up.
Her roommate seemed genuinely bewildered. "I wasn't rubbing anything in your face," she said. "I read about it in Newsweek and it seemed perfect. Haven't you ever had a brainstorm?"
Well, the mirror had been kind of like that. On an infinitesimally smaller scale. "But it's way too much," Jo protested. "I mean, that dumb old mirror"
"Stop it," Blair interrupted. "That mirror is pretty and you knew that I would like it. Please don't ruin it for me."
Jo's anger was losing steam. "It's just--you shoulda stuck to the deal, Blair."
"I couldn't," Blair said. "I had to get it." She retreated to her own bed, dropping down onto it and running a finger down the gilded edge of her gift. "It was perfect in so many ways."
Her roommate was acting a little weird, Jo thought. When she didn't say anything more, she asked, "Like how?"
Blair didn't respond. Jo wasn't sure why, but this thing suddenly seemed more serious than it had two minutes ago.
"What are you thinking about, Blair?" she asked.
She wasn't too surprised when no reply was forthcoming, but then Blair suddenly said, "My grandparents. On the Warner side, of course."
Of course. Blair didn't talk much about Grandpa Blair any more, not since the news that he had been in the Ku Klux Klan in the '60s.
"Every year, Daddy throws an anniversary party for them," she said. "Well, his secretary makes the arrangements and books the caterer and sends out the invitations, but you know what I mean . . . ."
Yeah, Jo knew.
"Every year, Grandmother Warner tells the same story," Blair went on. She settled back against her pillows. "It was their first anniversary. Grandfather had lost his fortune in the stock market crash, and everything they had was tied up in his new textile mill. Grandmother made him a tailored suit, but Grandfather couldn't afford to get her anything."
She smiled wistfully, and Jo could almost imagine what the old lady looked like when she told the story.
"Grandfather felt that he had let her down, but Grandmother gave him a kiss and said, "What would we do with money, anyway?" And he replied, "I would buy you the moon.'" Blair sighed. "I never get tired of hearing that story."
Jo gazed at the other woman's profile, wishing for once that Blair would say more. If Jo were the kind of person who read things into things, she might wonder what any of that had to do with her and Blair. She might think it meant something that it didn't.
Neither of them said anything for a while, but Jo couldn't stop her head from spinning. She decided to take a chance. If she was wrong, she'd have to leave Eastland. If she was right, it would be a lot scarier.
"Blair?" she said.
There was no reply. She wasn't the only nervous one, Jo realized.
"If I had money, I'd buy you the moon, too."
A pretty smile lit up the blonde's face.
Relieved at the response, Jo said casually, "Your Grandpa got a kiss for that."
"Actually, the kiss came before it," Blair corrected her.
"You don't think it got him some action?" Jo said. "Why else would he say it?"
Outraged, Blair said, "Could you be any less romantic?"
"Yeah," Jo replied. "Wanna see?"
She most certainly did not, the heiress primly informed her.
Jo got to her feet and stood at the end of Blair's bed. "Come here," she said. She couldn't believe how bold she felt.
"Why?" Blair asked.
"Come on, Grandma."
Hesitantly, Blair rose and walked over to her. "Jo . . . ."
Jo placed her hands on Blair's waist, then leaned forward slowly until she was sure that Blair was going to let her do this. The sensation of Blair's lips against hers was strange totally different than the few guys that Jo had ever kissed but exhilarating. She leaned in for another sample, but the sound of two girls' voices outside the door made both young women step back.
The door swung open, and Tootie and Natalie walked in. "Do we need bullet proof vests?" Natalie asked.
"No," Blair replied airily. "Jo came to her senses."
"Actually, I think I've lost my mind," Jo muttered.
Blair smiled at her. "It's not fatal," she said. "My grandparents lost theirs 54 years ago."
Fifty-four years. Jo tried to imagine spending half a century arguing with Blair Warner day in and day out. Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard.
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