Author: P Hana

Page 14


After Melinda, the knitting woman in the front row had obviously had enough of anyone getting close to themselves. She picked up her bag and her booties, and wheeled her oxygen tank right on out of there.

Wade, at the microphone, didn't seem to notice. “I'm an artist, a writer, a dancer, and a survivor, and I want to show you even the smallest movement can spur happiness and healing.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Rina said in a flat voice, reaching up to adjust her bra strap. “I'm going outside for a cigarette.”

“I'm right behind you,” Eliza Drake said, pulling her pack out of her purse.

“You coming?” Rina asked me. “In a minute,” I said. Onstage, Wade had taken his pillow and sat down, folding his legs in the position I recognized from Boo's biweekly garden meditation. The crowd was thinning out, slowly, chairs rattling as people headed back to the snack area, where I could see my mother pouring punch into little blue cups. “Now, the first thing I want everyone to do,”

“Wade was saying into the microphone, ”is to take a breath and hold your arms over your head, like this.“ I watched as a few senior citizens followed his lead: Boo and Stewart's arms shot straight up, and they both had their eyes closed. Beyond the huge windows on the other side of the room I could see Rina and Eliza sitting by the fountain outside, smoking, tapping their ash mto the water behind them. I went back to the punch area, where my mother was handing out cups and cookies. ”Hi, honey,“ she said to me. Her face was flushed and she was smiling. My mother liked nothing more than a nice project to lose herself in. She'd been baking cookies and brownies all week for Senior Days, as well as coordinating thirty other Junior Leaguers for everything from decorations to scheduling. ”Do me a favor?“ she asked me. ”Sure,“ I said, as an elderly woman with a walker bumped me out of the way to grab a cookie. ”Go back in the kitchen and bring out another tray of these, would you? We've got some kids helping out back there. They can show you where they are.“ ”Okay.“ ”Wonderful,“ she said, already having moved on to a group of older men who were struggling to open a container of juice. ”Let me get that for you ... here you go! And help yourself to a cookie. We've got chocolate chip, lemon drop, pecan ...“ As I walked through the open kitchen door, I saw the room was empty, save for a guy stacking cookies onto a big platter on the far countertop. The room was very bright, with fluorescent lights and clean, white floors and walls, and I found myself squinting as I crossed over to where he was standing. Outside, in the main room, I could still hear Wade talking; he was saying something about freedom of movement. ”Excuse me,“ I said, and I remember thinking there was something about this person that was familiar, even before he turned around, ”I'm supposed to“ It was Rogerson. He wore jeans and a white T-?shirt, his hair pulled back at his neck, and seeing him in such bright light was startling, and made him suddenly real. He didn't seem surprised to see me at all, just leveling me with a look and smiling slightly. Outside, Wade was directing everyone to breathe and do a personal movement, something spontaneous. ”You just might surprise yourself,“ he said. Rogerson put a cookie on the tray. ”Supposed to what?“ he said, and there was that look again, half mocking me, and I felt woozy under all those lights, like I might fall down. ”Get those,“ I said, pointing to the tray, which he picked up and handed to me. I turned around and started for the door, feeling him watching me as I walked away. ”Remember to breathe,“ Wade was saying from the stage, his voice low and soothing. I turned around and Rogerson was still there. He raised his eyebrows. ”So,“ I said, ”were you, like, not even going to call me?“ He looked surprised. ”I didn't know your last name.“ ”You know where I live,“ I said. ”Yeah,“ he said, sticking his hands in his pockets. He ducked his head and a few dreadlocks slipped and fell over his forehead. Then he looked up and said, ”I was working on that.“ ”Really.“ ”Yep,“ he said, leaning back against the counter. There was something about the way he moved, slowly and deliberately, that drove me crazy. ”Really."

I just shook my head and walked back out to the punch table, where my mother, exasperated, yanked the tray out of my hand, knocking a few pecan cookies to the floor. “Well, it's about time,” she said as she put it on the table, and hands immediately began grabbing. But I was already turning back to the kitchen, walking through to find Rogerson standing just where I'd left him, as if he'd known I'd be back and was waiting for me. “Let it go,” Wade was saying, and I could still see him in my head, fingers touching, as I walked across that bright kitchen. “Open up your mind and find yourself there.” I stood in front of Rogerson and looked into his green eyes. He smiled at me. “I can't believe you,” I said to him. “It's the hair,” he explained. I shook my head. “What are you doing here, anyway?” He slid his hands around my waist, his fingers sliding up to touch my back just where I'd hurt it in pyramid duty the night before. “It's a long story,” he said. “You really want to hear it?” And I didn't at that moment, not really. Onstage behind me Wade was still talking, reminding me to breathe, breathe, open up and be free, and all the other nonsense words, so it was his voice I heard, and none of the others in my own head, as Rogerson leaned in and kissed me and I let go, closing my eyes and breathing all the way.

Chapter 6

“Caitlin,” my mother said that night, as I waited for Rogerson to pick me up. “I'm just not sure about this.” I was standing at the top of the stairs, looking out the front window from which I could see the stoplight that led into Lakeview. With the leaves off the trees, I could see its colors clearly, and each time it turned green I held my breath and waited for him to slide into sight on the other side of our glass storm door. My father, in his chair, put down the paper and looked at me. “About what?” he said. My mother walked across the room and adjusted her newest Victorian doll, the Shopkeeper, a short, portly man carrying what looked like a sack of flour. “Caitlin met this boy today,” she began, smoothing her fingers over the doll's shiny balding head, “and now she's going out with him.”

The light changed again, this time to red. I looked at my watch: quarter of seven. He'd said seven, but I'd been ready since five-?thirty. “Who is he?” my father asked.

“Rogerson Biscoe's son,” she said, dropping her hand from the Shopkeeper and reaching to move the milk pitcher in the tiny tea set sitting on the end table. “The one that was the standout point guard, or the other one?” my father said.