Dreamland

Author: P Hana

Page 12

   

“Okay,” he said. And he got in the car and unlocked my door. He didn't know who I was. He didn't know about Cass or anything about my entire life up to that very second. I could have been anybody, and it made everything possible. “Where we going?” he asked me as he started the car. As he reached to shift into reverse, his hand brushed against my knee and, instead of pulling away, I moved closer. “Lakeview,” I said, and he nodded, reaching forward to turn up the stereo. We didn't talk the whole way there. He parked a ways down from my house and cut the engine, then turned and looked at me. “So,” he said evenly. “You regret that yet?”

“Regret what?” I said. “Leaving back there,” he said. “Looked like somebody had plans for you.” I thought of Mike Evans, holding out his jacket, and the blandness of his face, plain plain plain. “He had plans,” I said. “But they weren't really about me.” He nodded, looking down to run his finger along the bottom arc of the steering wheel. “I knew you were trouble,” he said in a low voice. “Could tell just by looking at you.”

“Me?” I said. “Look who's talking.” He raised his eyebrows. “What's that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, you know,” I said. “You've got that whole thing going . .. the car, the hair.”

“The hair?” he said, reaching up to touch one dreadlock. “What about it?”

“Oh, come on,” I said. “You know.” He shook his head, smiling. “Whatever,” he said. “Whatever you say.” I got the feeling he was waiting for me to leave: Of course he was. I was just some dinky cheerleader, entertaining for a minute or two, but now he was ready to move on to other things. But I didn't want to leave, just yet. It was like being in a long, dark corridor and having someone crack a door, just for a second, and let a slant of light peek through. For one instant, I could have been anyone else. But now, sitting in front of my neighbor's house, with all the landmarks fire hydrants, streetlights, sidewalk pavement I'd played a million hopscotch games acrossI was quickly becoming just me again, plain and simple. He was leaning back in his seat, eyes on the dim green glow of the dashboard. Waiting, I knew, for me to leave. I had my hand on the door handle, ready to slip out, when he said, “Caitlin?” I turned to look back at him: his green eyes, wild hair, so foreign and strange, a million miles from Mike Evans and the defensive line. And I could understand why Cass had rolled around the bed, so giddy and stupid, saying good night a hundred different ways just to keep that voice there, one more second. “Yes?” I said, and before the word even fully left my mouth he was leaning forward, one hand rising to brush back my hair, and kissing me. We made out for thirty minutes in front of the Richmonds' mailbox, parked behind their blue Astrovan. There was something especially wicked about this setting. I realized as he struggled to unhook my bra that I didn't even know his whole name and this, suddenly, seemed wrong. “What's your last name?” I said, coming up for air somewhere near his left ear. “Biscoe,” he said, still working the clasp. “Oh,” I said. Just then a shadow passed over the car, and we both froze. It was Mr. Carnaby, from down the street, with his so-?old-?it-?was-?almost-?dead Irish setter, out for a late night walk. They were about to go right by us. Rogerson reached down next to my seat, grabbed the reclining lever, and in a split second we dropped quickly together out of sight, whump. I looked up into his face, those green eyes, and felt something all the way down to my toes. “Rogerson Biscoe,” he said, right into my ear, and then I went under again. At some point I saw on the little digital clock on the dash that it was past midnight, my curfew. “I have to go,” I said, buttoning my shirt so fast I forgot to put back on my bra, which I stuck in the pocket of my cheerleader jacket. One tumble off the pyramid and look how far I'd fallen. “Go where?” he said. His lips were right on my cheek, salty and cool. “Home.” I brushed my fingers through my hair. “I have to be in by midnight.”

“It's only five after,” he said. “I know. I'm late.” He leaned in and kissed me again, a good long one, then kept his hand on my knee as he drove up the street, turned around at the pool, and cut back toward my house. He slowed down in front of my house, idling the engine. “Well,” I said. “I'm going now.”

“So you said,” he replied.

I opened my door and got out, noticing the light next to my father's chair, by the window, was still on. “Bye,” I said, walking around the front of the car, wondering if I'd ever see him again or if he just cruised the county, seducing cheerleaders on some eternal quest, obsessed with letter sweaters and pompoms. It was a full moon as I walked up my front steps, bra in my pocket. In less than seven hours my entire life had shifted and changed, starting with that man yelling Cass's name and ending here, as I listened to Rogerson Biscoe start his car and rumble slowly down the street. It was like it had all happened to someone else, but each thing, each kiss and thought, were strangely mine. He beeped the horn, once, and I turned back to watch as he hit the gas, taillights growing dimmer as he picked up speed over the bridge, to the highway. Once inside, I washed my face, put on my pajamas, and crawled into bed, reaching under the mattress to pull out the dream journal. I flipped to the first page again, where I'd only written that one sentence, and looked at the blank lines ahead of me. I wrote as if Cass would someday read it, telling her everything that had happened, from start to finish. Her name, my fall, Rogerson, the full moon, and what I'd done. When I was finished, I'd filled up four pages, my hand cramping as I shut the book and slid it back under my mattress, holding all my secrets in. I turned out my light and just lay there, seeing Rogerson's glittering green eyes in my head. For once, I didn't think about dreamland and finding Cass there. And as I drifted off, I heard Stewart's bike brakes squealing as they came closer, and knew without looking that he was drifting down the slope of the yard, faster and faster, before ducking the clothesline one more time to ease into home, safe.

Chapter 5

Rogerson didn't get in touch with me the next day, or the day after, or even the day after that. The first two days I sulked, eating multiple Clark bars and lying on my bed studying the ceiling. I'd felt so different in just the short time I'd spent with him, like I'd finally stepped out of not only Cass's shadow but my own as well. It was a letdown to just be the old me again. By day three, however, something else happened to make me forget about him, at least temporarily. It was after school, one day when I didn't have practice, and I was sitting in the living room with the TV on, half watching it while half reading the two chapters I'd been assigned for Social Studies. I was flipping between a movie, an after-?school special about the perils of steroid use, and MTV, when I somehow landed on the Lamont Whipper Show. The topic was “You're Too Fat to Be All That!” and at some point one woman began yelling, every other word bleeped out but just barely. I looked up at the noise, ready to change back to the steroid show, and saw my sister. She was standing off to the side, by the edge of the audience, holding a clipboard up against her chest, a pen tucked behind her ear. The Lamont Whipper Show was famously low-?budget, and you often could see different staff members standing around, watching and conferring it added to the real TV, no-?holds-?barred image. Now the woman onstage, who was short and redheaded, was jabbing a finger in her sister's face, telling her off, and in the background Cass was watching intently, reaching back at one point to brush her hair away from her face. I jumped out of my chair, sending my book flying, and leaned in closer to the TV, just so I could see her. She looked the same, although her hair might have been shorter. Her nails were painted and she was wearing a black turtleneck she'd borrowed from my closet and never returned. It was funny how I'd forgotten about that, until now. “Caitlin?” I heard my mother from behind me: She was coming up the hallway. “Can you turn that down, please? All that yelling”

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