“Chad's your boyfriend,” Rina pointed out. “If he was mine, I'd be on puke patrol.”
“Funny,” Kelly growled. She hit the Lysol again, the smell wafting out into the cold air. We were all still in our cheerleading uniforms and the cut on my leg was throbbing a bit under my bandage. The car wash was deserted. “You know he's just going to do it again,” Rina said to Kelly, blowing out a huge cloud of smoke. She tossed her hair, drawing out one curl to inspect the ends. “I don't even see why you're bothering.”
“Because it stinks,” Kelly snapped. “And he's not going to do it again.”
“Whatever,” Rina said. She was in a hurry to get to the party and Bill Skerrit, the quarterback, a short little guy, all pointy and pockmarked, but whenever I asked her what she saw in him she just smiled and shook her head. “You'll see someday,” she'd say, and I'd look at Bill again and wonder what she meant. She'd spent all week pushing me together in the courtyard and on the bus with Mike Evans, a running back who was tall and a little dopey with pretty blue eyes. We were meeting him and Bill at the party and I was under stern instructions to accept his letter jacketwhich would signify that we were now officially dating after the past couple of weeks of flirtingif it was offered to me. There was another spurt of Lysol from inside the car and Kelly said, “Hey, Caitlin, grab that dollar out of the ashtray and go get some quarters, okay?”
“Okay.” I hopped down and reached into the car for the money, then walked down past the washing bays to the change machine. There were no other cars except a BMW convertible, at the very end. It was black and parked crooked, with the top down. I put the dollar in the machine and four quarters clanked out into my hand. As I turned around to walk back, my breath clouding out around my face in the cold, I got my first look at Rogerson Biscoe. He was standing next to the black BMW, arms crossed, looking down at the car. He was in a short-?sleeved shirt with a kind of tribal print, and old khaki pants with worn cuffs. His hair was brown, a mass of curls thick enough that they were almost like dreadlocks, and he had a dark, kind of olive complexion. He wore a leather cord necklace around his neck and penny loafers with no socks on his feet. He didn't look like Bill Skerrit or the rest of the guys I knew. He didn't look like anybody. As I passed he looked up and watched me, staring. “Hey,” he called out just as I passed out of sight. Around the corner Rina was talking, her voice high and light, and I could smell Lysol. I took a few steps back and suddenly he was right there; he'd moved to catch up with me. Up close I could see his eyes were a deep green. I realized I was staring but somehow I couldn't stop. “You got change for a ten?” he said suddenly, holding up a bill folded between two fingers. “Uh, no,” I said. “I don't think so.” He smiled, then looked me up and down. Suddenly I knew I looked idiotic in my cheerleading uniform, not to mention the sequined top: I felt bright and tacky enough to explode. “Nice outfit,” he said. I couldn't tell if he was joking. “Oh,” I said, looking down. “Yeah, well.” He glanced at the bandage on my upper arm, then asked, “What happened to you there?”
“Caitlin!” I heard Kelly shout. “Where are you?”
“I'm coming,” I called back, then said to him, “I fell off a pyramid earlier tonight.”
“Ouch,” he said, and before I could even move he reached out and touched my bandage, running a finger across it. Then he looked up at me and said, “You okay?”
“I... I don't know,” I said. This was strangely true at that moment. “Caitlin, we're going to miss the whole party” I heard Rina saying suddenly behind me, her voice growing louder as she impatiently rounded the corner, her cheerleading sneakers squeaking against the pavement. I turned around and she stopped suddenly, staring. “I'm coming,” I said quickly. I glanced back at the strange guy in front of me and he was smiling, his green eyes almost glittering. “Okay,” she said just as fast, and I heard her backing away around the corner. “I should go,” I said, but it was like someone else was talking. My head felt fuzzy and strange, and I wondered if maybe I had whacked it on the way down. “Sure,” he said nodding. “See ya around, Caitlin.” And he raised his chin, backing up, keeping his eyes on me. I stood there, my breath clouding out around my face, as a police car raced by on the road facing us, the siren screaming.
“Wait,” I said, and he stopped. His hands were in his pockets. “You didn't tell me your name.”
“Rogerson,” he said, and then he turned his back and walked away, leaving me to stand there and watch him go. When I came back around the corner Rina and Kelly were both right there waiting for me, identical in their letter jackets, stomping their feet to keep warm. I walked straight to the car and climbed into the backseat while they tumbled in behind me, already asking questions. “Who was that?” Rina said. The smell of Lysol, pungent, was hanging all around us in a big cloud. “I know he doesn't go to Jackson. I would remember him.”
“I didn't even get to look at him,” Kelly complained. “Too bad for you. He is hot,” Rina told her, and there was that smile again, sly and clever. “His name's Rogerson,” I said. Just saying it felt weird, like I suddenly knew him or something. “Rogerson,” Rina repeated, trying it out. “That's sexy.”
“You think everything's sexy,” Kelly said in a flat voice. To me she added, “Do you have my quarters?” I was surprised to find that I did: They were clutched in my hand. She held out her palm and I dropped them into it, one by one. She said, “I guess I'll just skip the vacuum.”
“Please do,” Rina said, settling into her seat and crossing her legs. She flipped down the vanity mirror and checked her face. “We're late as it is.” Kelly started the engine and pulled around the vacuum station, rolling down her window. As we cut through one of the bays to turn back to the road, we passed him again, standing by his car, hosing it down, the water steaming in the cold. I took it all in again: the curly dreadlocked hair, the bright printed shirt, the cord around his neck. Here I was, on the way to a party where, if everything went according to Rina's well-?laid plans, I could go home with Mike Evans's letter jacket, all mine. But now, something was different.
“Is that him?” Kelly asked, whispering. We were all staring as we passed him, slowly, like tourists at a wildlife park watching elephants from the safety of their station wagon. He lifted his head, seeing us, and looked right back, still hosing off his car. “Yep,” Rina said. “Isn't he something?”