Not If I See You First
It’s Faith. She doesn’t normally just say hi out of nowhere anymore so I wonder what else she wants. I’m not worried, though; school’s out and Molly has plenty to do in the library till I get there.
“Hey, Fay-Fay, how are you today?” It’s an old rhyme from when we were kids. She probably doesn’t like that nickname anymore but I’m in a good mood and she’s never told me to stop using it.
“You want to go to the mall this weekend?”
There were ninety-nine things I thought she might say—that wasn’t one of them.
Faith and I don’t hang out, mainly because we have almost nothing in common anymore. We act like we don’t get along but we’re the opposite of frenemies; we’re friends who pretend to be enemies. I guess that makes us enemends. We share a lot of serious history without any bumps in the road and were there for each other through the worst of it, just not so much day to day.
“It’s only Monday,” I say, buying time. “You really plan ahead.”
“I go to Ridgeway every weekend. I just thought maybe you’d like someone else to pick out clothes with besides Sarah ‘Sweatpants’ Gunderson for a change.”
“I guess she’s not invited.”
“She can come.”
“We don’t shop together,” I say. It’s never really occurred to me to wonder what Sarah wears all the time. “Does Sarah wear sweatpants a lot?”
“Only on days ending in y. Do you want to go?”
I don’t. And, well … I kind of do. I don’t want all the hassle, or pressure to get clothes that are too showy or aren’t my style, but … since Dad died I haven’t done any shopping besides the shoes yesterday. Shoes are about the only things I don’t need some amount of help with.
“Don’t you usually go with Lila and Kennedy?”
“Not always. It’s okay if you don’t want to.”
I wonder if this is one of those times I should just go with it without overanalyzing everything.
“Why are you asking now?”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ve never been shopping together and suddenly, on a random Monday afternoon, you want to go, but not till next weekend. What made you think of it?”
“Like I said, if you don’t want to …” she says.
“I didn’t say I didn’t want to.”
“Nothing’s easy with you, Peegee. Not one thing.”
She sounds resigned, not angry. I feel a twinge because I know she’s right. Then a thought occurs to me. “Is this because I’m an orphan now?”
Sigh. The kind that tells me how burdensome my friendship is to her.
“Yes, Parker, it’s because you’re a hopeless charity case.” She closes her locker. “You just have to dissect everything around you like dead frogs.”
I laugh. “Today’s the first time since we met in kindergarten that you ask me to mall crawl and you’re surprised I want to talk about why?”
“Did I say I was surprised?” she says. “Fine, I saw you in the mall yesterday buying shoes.”
“Oh, you … Why didn’t you say something? Ah … the Dynamic Trio.”
She clears her throat—she hates that name. “I was alone. You were talking to a cute guy. I didn’t want to break the spell.”
“He was cute?” I say.
“Do you care?”
“Ha! See, you do know me. Wait, you were shopping alone?”
“There’s a time for everything. But I bet you think all shopping should be solo because you don’t want anyone’s help. Am I right?”
No way I’ll ever admit that. “You’re telling me you trust Lila and Kennedy’s opinions about clothes more than your own?”
“It’s not just about being helped. It’s nice. It’s fun.”
“You know what? I’ve changed my mind. You do have to go. Sarah and Molly, too. You can’t walk around claiming to know everything if you’ve never even gone out shopping with friends. We’re going this Saturday—it’s decided.”
Nobody, but nobody tells me what to do. Nobody.
“All right, then,” I say.
hen I hear Aunt Celia’s car I say goodbye to Molly and walk to the curb. I open the door and plop my bag on the floor and hop in. “It’s me,” Sheila says. “My mom couldn’t come. My dad has work people coming over, so she’s making a big dinner. Not for us, though—we’re eating pizza in the living room.”
It bugs me the way she always says my mom and my dad. I mean, whenever I talk to anyone about my parents, R.I.P., it’s always my mom or my dad because it’s not their mom or dad; but Sheila and I are cousins and even though her mom and dad aren’t mine, I know them and we live together now and it just sounds weird. I don’t know, it just bugs me.
“I’m surprised,” I say. “Driving me without your mom here means you’re breaking the law, but your mom’s still an accessory if she knows about it. I always thought of her as someone who doesn’t break the law for convenience.”
“Your convenience. I told her you could walk home. It’s too bad she said no—you could take your buddy Molly with you. She could lose a few pounds.”
She puts the car in gear and hits the accelerator. “Anyway, it’s not against the law if it’s to or from school and I have a signed note. Which I have. Wanna see it?”
“I can’t … heyyyy, wait just a minute here,” I say. “Are you kidding? You must be, since you know I’m blind and all, so I can’t see notes or how fat or skinny anyone is. Or are you just being mean?”
“I was being sarcastic.”