Along for the Ride

Author: P Hana

Page 75

   

‘Yeah.’

‘I thought that was from the accident.’

Adam shook his head. ‘No. He was doing some tricks out on the pier and landed wrong. Sliced it wide open on the edge of a bench. There was blood everywhere.’

I looked back down at my knee scab, small and almost a perfect circle, shiny with ointment.

‘It all counts,’ Adam said again. ‘And the bottom line is, what defines you isn’t how many times you crash, but the number of times you get back on the bike. As long as it’s one more, you’re all good.’

I smiled, looking up at him. ‘You know,’ I said, ‘you should be a motivational speaker, or something.’

‘Nah. Entirely too dorky,’ he replied easily. ‘Hey, is Heidi around?’

‘No. She’s at lunch.’ I didn’t add that she was with my dad, their first formal meeting since he moved out. Heidi had been so nervous all morning, walking around the store, straightening displays and hovering over me in the office, that I’d been relieved when she finally strapped Isby into the BabyBjörn and headed off. As soon as the door shut behind her, though, I’d gotten uneasy myself, wondering what she’d have to say when she returned. ‘She’ll be back in an hour or so, probably.’

‘Oh. Well, I can just leave these, then.’ He put the box down on the desk to my left. When I glanced at them, he added, ‘Prom shots from my yearbook days. She said she wants them for decor for the Beach Bash, or something.’

‘Really,’ I said. ‘Can I take a look?’

‘Sure.’

I lifted the lid. Inside was a big stack of pictures, mostly five-by-sevens, all black and white. The one on the top was of Maggie, standing with Jake by the tailgate of a car. She had on a short, dark A-line dress and strappy heels, her hair spilling over her shoulders. There was a corsage on her wrist and she was laughing, holding out a bag of Doritos to Jake, who was in a tux shirt and pants, barefoot on the sand. I flipped to the next picture: also Maggie, this time alone, the same night, standing on tiptoe to check her reflection in a mirror that said COCA-COLA across its center. In the next shot, there was Leah, in a more formal pose with a guy in a military uniform, both of them looking at the camera, followed by one of Wallace on a dance floor, cummerbund loose, in the midst of busting some sort of move. Then Maggie again, another year, in another dress, this one white and longer. In the first shot, she was walking down the boardwalk, holding the hand of someone whose shoulder alone made it into the picture. In the one beneath it, she was reaching out for the camera, fingers blurred, her mouth half-open as she laughed.

‘Wow,’ I said as I kept flipping through them. There was Leah again. Esther. Maggie. Wallace and Leah. Jake and Esther. Maggie. Wallace and Esther. Maggie. Maggie. Maggie. I looked up at him. ‘You’re not in any of these.’

‘Nah. I was always behind the camera.’

I moved past yet another shot of Maggie, this time on a bike, her white dress gathered up in one hand, her helmet in the other. ‘Lots of her here.’

He kept his eyes on the picture, his tone noncommittal, as he said, ‘I guess so.’

‘What are you guys looking at?’

Adam and I both jumped as Maggie herself – in the flesh and flip-flops and jeans – appeared behind us in the doorway. ‘Prom pictures,’ I told her, casually flipping back to the one of Leah and Wallace. ‘Heidi wanted them for the Beach Bash.’

‘Oh, no.’ She sighed, then stepped forward to lean over my shoulder. ‘I can’t bear to… look! Junior year. Leah’s date was that marine, remember?’

Adam nodded. ‘I do.’

‘And I had my white dress. I loved that dress.’ She sighed again, this time happily, and reached over me to flip to the next picture. ‘There it is! Man. I agonized over that outfit like you would not believe. Kept it clean all night, even when I was on a bike on a dare. And then Jake threw up all over it on the way home. The stain…’

‘Never came out,’ Adam finished for her. ‘I have a shot of it somewhere.’

‘Hopefully not in this box.’ She plucked out the one of her on the bike. ‘That was a great night, though. I mean, until the end. What other ones are in there? Any more of me?’

I felt Adam glance at me as I eased the box shut, saying, ‘Not really.’

‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Well, I guess that’s a good thing. I don’t think I necessarily want my prom memories up on display for the whole town to see anyway.’

‘No?’ I said. ‘It seems like you had a pretty good time.’

She shrugged. ‘I guess. But I was with Jake then. The last thing I need right now is another reminder of how much of my life I wasted on him.’

‘You were happy at the time, though,’ I said. ‘That has to count for something.’

‘I don’t know,’ Maggie said. ‘Lately I’ve been thinking it would have been better to have just been by myself. That way, at least all of high school wouldn’t be, you know, tinged with his memory.’

‘Tinged?’ Adam said. ‘Is that even a real word?’

‘You know what I mean,’ she said, poking his arm. ‘Anyway, my point is that if I’d wised up to what he was sooner, my entire experience might have been different.’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘You could have spent all of high school alone, and never gone to prom at all.’

‘Exactly,’ she replied. ‘And that might have been good, too. Or even better.’

I looked down at the box again, remembering all those shots inside, trying to picture myself in even one of them. What if I’d had a boyfriend? What if I’d gone to the prom? What kind of tinge could I have had, given another chance? ‘Maybe,’ I said to Maggie. ‘Or maybe not.’

She gave me a weird look, then opened her mouth to say something, but then the front door chime sounded. ‘Duty calls,’ she said, turning on her heel, and then she was thwacking back down the hallway, her voice cheery as she greeted a group of customers.

Adam watched her go, then leaned back in the doorjamb. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘if you want to remedy that, you can.’

I looked up at him. ‘Remedy what?’

‘The whole not-going-to-the-prom thing,’ he said. ‘Eli’s at the shop right now, doing inventory.’

‘What,’ I said, ‘are you talking about?’

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