Author: P Hana

Page 17


“It's okay,” I said, “but I think I want to go” And then he leaned over and kissed me, hard, his hand reaching behind my neck and holding me there, his mouth smoky and sweet. I kissed him back with that huge moon shining down on us, and thought the whole time of that ctock, still counting down, minute by minute, hour by hour, forever.

We ended up back in the Arbors, cutting through side streets and past the country club to pull up in front of another house, where cars were also lining the street. Rogerson parked behind a silver Lexus, then reached under his seat and fiddled around for something, his brow furrowed, until he found it.

“Bingo,” he said in a low voice, and as he opened his clenched fist i saw a ceramic bowl in his palm. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small Baggie, packing the bowl quickly, then handed it to me.

“Oh, no thanks,” I said. “Reputation and all that.”

“It's your choice,” he said, shrugging. “But if i were you, I'd take a hit. You're gonna need it.”

“For what?” I said. “Just trust me.” He reached in his pocket for a lighter and a flame jumped up between us, illuminating both our faces in a warm, yellow light. “Okay?” I'd been taught since sixth grade about Peer Pressure and Bad Influences and Just Saying No. But for all he knew, I could be the kind of girl that smoked. I could be anything. I lit the bowl and took a big drag, feeling the smoke tangle in my throat, making me cough hard, fast. Tears came to my eyes as I handed it back to him, already feeling something change in me, as if I was slowly falling into warm water, one inch at a time. When we finished the bowl, Rogerson tapped it out, stuck it back under the seat, and leaned forward to kiss me again. It felt good, and I could have stayed there doing that forever, I was sure, but he pulled away and smiled at me. “Ready?” he said. “Sure,” I replied, not even knowing what I was getting into. “Then look right here,” he said, holding up a finger, and when I did he squirted something in my mouth that tasted strange and fresh, surprising me so much it made me gag, then start coughing again. “Whoa,” he said, pounding me on the back. “Watch out there. Sorry about that.”

“What is that?” I said, still coughing. “Breath spray,” he said, shooting two quick squirts into his own mouth. “Breakfast of champions.”

“Next time,” I told him, still coughing, “warn me.”

“Gotcha,” he said. “Let's go.”

We got out of the car and started up the driveway, walking around three Mercedes and a Jaguar on the way. As we walked Rogerson was making fast business of tucking in his shirt and smoothing back his hair. This struck me as funny, for some reason. “What are you doing?” I asked him. Everything seemed kind of fuzzy and mild, as if I was actually standing off to the side watching but not really involved. “It's the hair,” he said seriously, pulling it back at the base of his neck and fastening it with something. “It scares them.” I laughed out loud and it sounded strange, fast and sharp: Ha! “Scares who?” I said. And at that moment he reached out and grabbed my hand, squeezing it just as above us, up the rolling curve of the thick green lawn, the huge front door opened and I saw Bobbi Biscoe, star of a million For Sale signs, standing there. Up close, I could see she had the same dark coloring as RogersonI found out later that she was Greekand the same thick, curly hair. “Rogerson Biscoe!” she called out. She was smiling but her voice sounded angry, irritated, and the contrast was strange. Rogerson pulled me close to him, locking his fingers tighter into mine. “Where have you been?”

“Mom,” Rogerson said. “You were supposed to be here to meet and greet,” she scolded him between clenched teethstill smilingas we got closer. She was in a short black cocktail dress and heels and in person she looked older than her picture. There was a half ring of pink lipstick on the mouth of the glass in her hand, which she took another big gulp of as she narrowed her eyes at Rogerson. “Your father is not pleased, and for once I do not feel like sticking up for you when”

“Mom,” Rogerson said again, calmly, “this is Caitlin O'Koren.” She looked at me quickly, as if she hadn't even noticed I was standing there, then made no secret of looking up and down once, as if sizing me up. “Is Margaret O'Koren your mother?” she asked me, and I swallowed hard, aware of how dry my mouth was. “Yes,” I said, standing up straighter. “She is.” She nodded, finishing off her drink and reaching around her back to stick it on a small table behind her, then took her fingers and fluffed a small piece of hair over her forehead, drawing it out. “Well, come in, then,” she said to Rogerson in a tired voice, pushing the door the rest of the way open. “He's in there.” The house was enormous, the entryway opening up into a huge room with high cathedral ceilings, where the voices of the fifty or so people chatting and eating canaps rose up and mingled overhead into one musical sort of buzz. There was a thick pack of people straight ahead of us, all centered around an older man with ruddy skin who was holding a drink and appeared to be telling a joke that hadn't yet reached the punch line. “I'll be right back,” Rogerson said into my ear, then let go of my hand and started down the stairs, leaving me there. There was a sudden loud burst of laughter as the joke finished, and then his mother appeared at my elbow. “Caitlin, honey, come help check on the spinach phyllo,” she said smoothly, hooking her arm in mine and walking me down a short hallway to the kitchen, where a group of people in white shirts and black ties were all bustling around arranging fruit and cheese on various platters. Everything seemed to be going in fast forward, while I felt like I was hardly moving, my feet and head heavy and thick. “What can I get you to drink?”

“Um,” I said. My tongue was sticking to my lips but I wasn't ready to risk having to do anything with my hands, so I said, “I'm fine.”

“Well,” she said, lowering her voice as if speaking to me confidentially, “I need another.” She walked to a counter, bypassing two caterers arguing over clam strips, and picked up a bottle of wine, pouring herself a big glass. “Ingrid, sweetheart, what's happening with the phyllo?”

“It's coming, ma'am,” a short woman in jeans, by the oven, said, twisting a dishtowel in her hand. “Just a minute or two.”

“Marvelous,” Mrs. Biscoe said dryly, taking a sip of her drink. 'It's to die for, that phyllo," she said to me. Under the bright lights of the kitchen I could see the tiny imperfections of her face: small lines by her eyes, the uneven slope of her nose. These things were fascinating, and I found myself completely unable to stop staring at them. “Costs an aim and a leg, but what are you going to do?” I nodded, having lost ttack of the conversation. Where was Roger-?son? He'd dumped me, stoned, with, of all people, his mother. This had to be some kind of cruel test. He was probably already long gone, laughing hysterically about me with his real friends while I tried somehow to find my way home. “So,” Mrs. Biscoe said, fluffing that same piece of hair again as she jerked me out of this paranoid reverie, “how did you meet our Roger-?son?” There was a sudden crash in the corner of the kitchen as something was dropped, and someone cursed. Mrs. Biscoe turned around, looked over as if mildly interested, and shook her head. “At a party,” I stammered. “We met at a party.”