“You too, sir,” Rogerson said, shaking his hand. Next he offered it to Stewart, who instead stood up and hugged him while my father looked embarrassed.
“You kids have fun,” Boo said, squeezing my arm as we finally began to head to the door. “Don't stay out too late,” my mother added. Outside, Rogerson pulled the rubber band out as we walked to the car, shaking his head to let his hair get loose. “I'm sorry,” I blurted out as soon as the door swung shut behind us. “They just... they get crazy when they play that game. It's like a drug or something.”
“It's all right,” he said, and from the house, behind us, I heard someone yelling, then a chorus of boos. We got into the car and he started the engine, flicking on the lights as he put the car in gear. The radio blasted on as wellLed Zeppelin. I reached forward and changed the station and he rolled his eyes at me. “So,” I said. “How do you know all that stuff?”
“You heard them,” he said, flicking down his visor to let a pack of cigarettes fall into his lap. “I'm brilliant.”
“No kidding,” I said, sliding closer to him. “What else don't I know about you?” He shook his head, punching in the car lighter with one hand. “You'll find out soon enough,” he said. “I got a million of 'em.”
“Oh, that's right,” I said. “You're a complex man of mystery.” He shrugged. “It comes with the hair. You know.”
“Yeah,” I said, reaching over to smooth my hand over his face my new mysterious, brilliant boyfriend. “I know.”
When Rogerson and I weren't in the car we were at his pool house, shoes off, making out on his perfectly made bed. Maybe because I was forging my own, new, non-?Cass way, things had been moving fast with us from the start. Up until then, my experience with guys had been limited to a couple of boyfriends. One, Anthony Wayan, I'd met at camp. We'd been hot and heavy for three weeks, but once he went back home to Maine things just died out, typical summer romance. Then, sophomore year, I'd dated a junior named Emmet Peck who I sat next to in Ecology class. We were together a full four months, and he'd wanted me to sleep with him. But as much as I liked him, something always stopped mehe was a nice guy, yet ultimately forgettable. And I wanted my first time to be with someone I would always remember.
I already felt that way about Rogerson. But I still wanted to take my time, not have it happen in some mad rush or on a random Tuesday afternoon. He seemed to understand this, and when I told him to stopand even for me, it was always hardhe complied, the only protest a little bit of grumbling into my neck as his hands moved back up into the safe zone. But each time it got harder, and I knew I couldn't wait too long. I was beginning to understand that small smile Rina gave me whenever I asked her what she saw in Bill Skerrit.
Rogerson seemed to almost like the fact that I was inexperienced, not just about sex, but most things. He enjoyed carting me around in my cheerleading outfit while he took bong hits or talked business with people who eyed me strangely, as if I was a cartoon, not quite real. This was the same reason, I was sure, that he'd been interested in me the first night we'd met. It was a fair trade. With Rogerson, I was someone else. Not Cass. Not even me. I took his wildness from him and tried to fold it into myself, filling up the empty spaces all those second-?place finishes had left behind.
There were so many things I already loved about him. The smell of his skin, always slightly musky and sweet. His hair, wild and dread-?locked, thick under my hands as I combed my fingers through it. The way he pressed his hand into the small of my back whenever I walked into any place ahead of him. He was so attentive, with one eye on me regardless of what else he was doing. Even with his back turned, he always seemed to know exactly where I was. Of course, there were the drugs. Rogerson operated a brisk business selling pot and other various illegals to the kids at Perkins Day and Jackson.
Because of this and other distractions, added to the fact that he never seemed to mention school, I was surprised at the pool house one day, when he was on the phone, to find poking out of his backpack not only a calculus midterm (on which he scored a 98) but an English paper entitled “Storms and Sacrifice: Weather and Emotion in King Lear” for which he'd gotten an A-. Obviously Trivial Pursuit was not his only strength. Rogerson was what his guidance counselor called “driven but misdirected” (from a letter home I found under my seat in the car, crumpled and bent). He was a perfectionist, whether it came to measuring out a perfect quarter-?ounce or knowing the complete French conditional tense. I, however, was struggling to keep my grades up, since I was suddenly spending so many weeknights (when my parents assumed I was doing cheerleading squad activities) with him.
My mother, now distracted with Cass's Lamont Whipper sightings, had eased off on her own involvement in my cheerleading: something that almost would have bothered me, had I really taken the time to think about it. It was so easy, again, for Cass to take center stage. But it made lying that much easier. It became a given that I rode around with him for all his errands almost every night. It was like he just needed me there, even if I was sitting in the car chewing my pencil and working trigonometry proofs while he talked business and divided up bags inside various houses. If I did want to go home early or spend an evening at home, he'd always drive by my house at least once, slowing down and just idling, engine rumbling, until I went outside to talk to him. “Just come here for a second,” he'd say, rolling down his window and cutting off the engine as I came down the walk. “I'll even let you listen to that stupid music you like so much.”
“Rogerson,” I'd tell him, “I told you I have got to study. You don't understand.”
“I do, too,” he'd say, opening the car door and holding out his hand. Even if it was dark I could tell when his eyes were sleepy, half-?stoned, which always made him mushier than normal. “One second. I just want to talk.“ ”Yeah, right,“ I'd say. ”I'm serious.“ And then he'd smile at me, strict honest face. ”You trust me, right?” This was his line. It was what always led to me giving in, regardless of the issue, and coming two or three steps closer to give him my hand. Which would, of course, lead to him pulling me inside the car and kissing me, which always made me somehow forget about studying the dates for the Italian Renaissance, or the periodic table, or Macbeth, entirely. There were some nights, though, when something was wrong. He wouldn't talk and just wanted to lean into me, putting his head on my chest while I ran my fingers through his hair until he fell asleep. I always wondered if his dad had hurt him again. But like most things with Rogerson, I was usually given half the puzzle or just one clue, never enough to piece together the full story. This is what I did know. That he was quiet and never spoke without thinking.