I watched as the light dropped from red to green again. “The other one,” my mother said quietly. “Oh,” my father replied. I didn't even bother to turn around and defend him, or me. When my mother had seen me in the kitchen with Rogerson, she asked me how I knew him and I said from school. It turned out his “long story” for being at Senior Days started with some kind of misdemeanor and ended with community service, which led to lemon cookies and punch and me. Obviously Kelly Brandt's hunch about Rogerson had been correct. My parents also knew his parents: His mother was Bobbi Biscoe, a local realtor with big blond hair whose face appeared, it seemed, on practically every residential For Sale sign in town. She was always giving the thumbs-?up, her head cocked confidently to one side. She was also in Junior League. Rogerson Senior was the head of a local pharmaceutical corporation and golfed at the same country club as my father. And older brother Peyton, after leading Perkins Day to the state championships the year before, was in his freshman year at the university. Normally, this would have been enough for them to approve of anyone. But Rogerson apparently had a lot of “long stories,” some of which he'd shared with me when he drove me home from the Senior Center that afternoon. He said, when I asked, that he went to Perkins Day, the elite prep school on the other side of town, where he was a fifth-?year senior; he'd “taken some time off,” apparently because of “some problems with administration.” He didn't elaborate. His family lived in the Arbors, a development of luxury homes based around a golf course: Their house was on the edge of the ninth hole. Rogerson lived in the pool house, where he could come and go as he liked. He was back in school, working part-?time at a garage that fixed foreign cars, and working off his community service volunteering at the Senior Center on snack detail. Sure, he may have “had some problems,” but he seemed to be on the right track now. I wasn't worried, even if my mother was. Now she walked across the room, brow furrowed, and moved the County Squire doll closer to the magazine rack. “I just think .. .” she began in her light, passive-?aggressive way, then trailed off, waiting for someone to take the bait. “What?” my father said, folding the paper and laying it on the end table beside him. “You had a very long day today,” she said to me, still bustling around. “I'm worried you might be tired.”
“I'm not,” I said. “I'm fine.”
“You have that big game on Monday afternoon,” she added, reaching to smooth the skirt of the Ladies' Choir Soloist, whose mouth was posed in a wide, creepy kind of O, mid-?note. “Not to mention Homecoming on Friday. I wouldn't be surprised if you had some extra practices this week.”
“Mom, it's only Saturday,” I said, as the light dropped to green again, through the trees. “Well, I'm just saying,” she said, glancing at my father before crossing the room to sit on the couch, her hand already reaching out to slide a row of glass thimbles there a bit to the right, “that I don't think this is a good idea.” The last two words she said in a clipped, even voice, her eyes on my father, waiting for his response. Bingo. He looked up, at her, then at me. “Caitlin,” he said, as the light turned red again. “Maybe this isn't the best night for you to go out.”
“It's Saturday night,” I protested, turning away from the light to look at him. “Dad, come on. I did school stuff all day. It's the weekend.”
“You have a math test on Monday, too,” my mother added in a low voice, picking up one of the thimbles and examining it. I felt an itchy uncomfortableness climb up the back of my neck, hating that she was this involved in my life, knowing my cheerleading schedule, my classes, my every move, as if we were somehow one person. This was the way she'd been with Cass, so proudly taping every schedule to the fridge. I'd always thought Cass liked it: I'd almost envied her. Now, I wasn't so sure. My father picked his paper up again, unfolding it to the sports page. “Be home by curfew,” he said, into a picture of the university football coach lifting his hands in victory. “And study tomorrow. Right?” My mother, on the couch, turned and looked out the window, but she couldn't see the stoplight, turning from yellow to red again. “Right,” I said. “Okay.” Rogerson showed up exactly at seven, pulling to a stop at the end of our walkway. Our hall clock was chiming as I stepped outside. I didn't look back to see if my mother was watching as I started down the walk: I wanted this to be all mine, not part of any schedule or plan she could claim as her own. I wondered if Cass had felt the same way when she'd slipped out the door on that August morning and started toward a car idling there, waiting, for her.
“Hi,” I said as I got into the car, shutting the door behind me. “Hey,” Rogerson said. Then he put the car in gear, turned around in the McLeans' driveway, and headed to the highway and the light I'd been watching all night. It was solid green as we coasted under it, and I looked over at Rogerson, wondering what he thought of me. He was in a brown sweater, jeans, and old scuffed loafers, a cigarette poking out of one side of his mouth. He didn't talk to me, and I couldn't think of a single thing to start a conversation that wouldn't sound even stupider if I said it aloud. After a few minutes he said he had an “errand to run” and had to “drop by some place for a second.”
This someplace turned out to be a huge house in the Arbors, at the end of a cul-?de- sac. There were about fifty cars parked along the street, but Rogerson pulled right up in the driveway. “Come on,” he said, getting out of the car, and I followed him. i didn't know what exactly I'd been expecting. Nothing had been normal about our relationship so far, so it wasn't like I'd been looking forward to a movie, pizza, and sipping one Coke with two straws, like I'd be doing with Mike Evans. Still, i had expected something. I just didn't know what it was. When I stepped inside the house, I knew I'd walked into a Perkins Day party. Everyone looked like they'd just that instant jumped out of a J. Crew catalog, all crewnecks and cashmere and straight, white teeth. “This way,” Rogerson said, leading me past a trickling indoor fountain by the front door. He seemed to know his way around, and as we passed a group of girls sitting drinking wine coolers by the fountain, they all stared at me, with the same kind of slit-?eyed look I always saw women give Rina. That was new. “Hey, Rogerson,” some girl said as we passed, and Rogerson nodded his head but didn't say hello. “Who was that?” I asked, just to say something, as we walked through the living room where the carpet felt thick and spongy beneath my feet. There was a loud quarters game going in the next room at the dining room table, which was long, seating at least twenty people. I watched as a quarter bounced down its length, missing the glass by a mile, and everyone booed. “Nobody,” he said, walking up to a closed door off the living room and knocking twice before pushing it open. It was a study, with deep wood walls and red carpet, a huge desk sitting in front of several built-?in shelves, each of which was crowded with trophies, framed pictures, and diplomas. There was a tall blond guy sitting at the desk, a lighter in his hand, about to light a bowl. A girl with red curly hair wearing ripped jeans and a Perkins Day sweatshirt was sitting on the desk blotter, smoking a cigarette, a huge cut-?glass ashtray balanced on one leg. “Rogerson,” the blond guy said, setting the bowl down beside one of those miniature Zen gardens with the rocks and sand, and standing up. “Been waiting on you.”