“Something bit me,” Buckley protested, and we could hear a few slapping noises. “It was big, too.”
“Oh, my goodness,” my mother said. “I'm sure I have some bug stuff inside. Let me just”
“We're raising the tent now!” my father bellowed, and we all snapped to attention, taking a few steps back as the white material of the tent lifted up, higher and higher, stirring up a breeze underneath it.
“Shit!” someone said again. “Buckley,” my father bellowed. “One more outburst”
“No, sorry,” Boo said apologetically. “That was me. Something is biting over here.”
“I told you,” Buckley said. “Shut up, you wimp,” Charles, his frat brother, said. “Big baby.”
“Pay attention to the tent, people,” my father said sternly. “This is not a joking matter.” So we all concentrated, or tried to, until Stewart said thoughtfully, “This reminds me very much of a film I saw recently on Amish barn raising. Did anyone else see that program?”
“I did,” Buckley called out. “Did you?” Stewart said. “Because what I found really fascinating, other than just the craftmanship, was”
“Uh, actually,” Buckley said sheepishly, “I was, um, kidding. I didn't see it.”
“The tent!” my father said again, as he moved around tying the bindings while we all tried to be serious. “What I found most fascinating, anyway,” Stewart continued, “was the sense of community these people found in a common task. Strangers working together. It's a rare thing these days, you know?”
“If this tent comes down on all of you tomorrow night,” my father grumbled, from down low somewhere checking a binding, “you will have only yourselves to blame.”
“It looks wonderful!” my mother said, stepping back and clapping her hands. “Doesn't it?”
“Wonderful,” Boo agreed, wrapping her arm around Stewart's skinny waist. “See what a sense of community can do?” We all laughed and Charles and Buckley waited to be dismissed while my father, still grumbling, checked the bindings again. It was warm and dark in the yard, and I looked up ar the sky, thinking back to all the early evenings I'd spent out there, with Cass, begging and pleading for just a few more minutes of light before we had to go inside. Then, out on the street, I heard a familiar rumbling, slowing down in front of the house, and I snapped back to my reality. I slipped around the house, and as I glanced back I couldn't make out anyone: I saw only the tent, so white and big and empty. I knew I should have said good-?bye. But I couldn't. I just kept moving, watching my game, because it was fully dark now and Rogerson was waiting.
It was three in the afternoon on the day of the Fool's Party when Rina showed up at my house. My mother, who was having a minor breakdown over the lack of citronella candles at Home Depotshe was convinced someone would get malarialet her in. I was in my room, trying to decide which of my pictures to exhibit at the Arts Center during the wine-?and-?cheese reception that was our last official class. I could only pick four, so I had all the faces I'd collected spread out across my bed in a fan shape, examining each one and trying to make a decision. “Hey, stranger.” I looked up and Rina was standing in the doorway of my room, her arms crossed over her chest. She had on a short, pink dress and strappy high-?heeled sandals, and her skinthanks to her mother's tanning bedwas already a deep brown. Her blond hair was down, curling over her shoulders, a pair of white sunglasses parked on top of her head. She looked so healthy and alive it was like she was almost sparking, right there in front of me. “Hey,” I said, as she crossed the room and plopped down on the bed, swinging one leg to cross it over the other. “What's going on?”
“I have come,” she said, plucking her sunglasses off her head and expertly folding them shut, "to kidnap you.“ ”Kidnap?“ I said. ”Yes.“ She leaned back on her hands, narrowing her eyes at me. Her lips were done in a perfect pearly pink, the color of cotton candy. ”Caitlin, you never do anything with me anymore.“ ”Rina,“ I said, ”I've just been“ ”You don't,“ she said, waving me off with one hand. ”You can't deny it, so don't even try. And frankly, I'm not going to stand for it anymore.“ ”You're not,“ I repeated, reaching to eliminate a shot of Dave half a burrito hanging out of his mouthfrom my collection. ”No.“ She glanced down at my stack of pictures, spreading them out with her hand. ”Wow, Caitlin. These are awesome. This one“ and she pointed at the portrait I'd done of her, sticking out her tongue ”is especially striking.“ ”Thank you, “ I said, watching as she picked it up and smiled at her own image. ”I think.“ She kept going through, making approving noises, until she came to the first one I'd taken of Rogerson, standing outside Corinna's with that bleak winter sky behind him. She studied it, saying nothing, before sliding it to the bottom of my stack of discards. Then she looked at me. ”You,“ she said decisively, ”are coming out to the lake with me for the afternoon.“ I opened my mouth to say something, but she held up her hand, stopping me. ”No arguments.“ ”But Rina,“ I said. ”I can't. I'm supposed to meet Rogerson here later and there's the party tonight.“ ”Rogerson,“ she said, a slight hint of irritation in her voice, ”can do without you for one measly afternoon, since I have done without you since God knows when. With little complaint, also, I might add. And you and I both know the party won't be in full swing till at least seven anyway.“ ”Rina, I can't. I'm sorry.“ Rogerson hadn't said specifically when he was coming over, but I knew better than to try to predict when he'd show. ”I would love to do it“ ”Then do it,“ she said firmly, standing up like it was decided. Then, softening, she added, ”Come on, Caitlin. It's a gorgeous day. We'll go out and eat some chips, soak up the sun, and complain endlessly about our lives. Just like old times.“ Old times. Rina's lake house was where we'd spent most of our summer the year before, sneaking her stepfather's beers and lying out on the huge wooden deck while the sun sparkled wildly on the water before us. There was a dock, a hot tub, and every fish her stepfather had ever caught stuffed and hanging on the living room walls: They stared out at you with dead eyes, their expressions somewhat shocked as if they'd believed, to the end, that they'd be thrown back in to swim away safe. “I don't know,” I said, still hedging. I could see the lake in my mind, remembering sitting at the end of the dock in a thick sweatshirt as the sun went down, my feet dangling in the water. That summer seemed like forever ago, now. “My mom probably needs me to stick around.” Rina sighed, stood up, and walked to my door, yanking it open. “Mrs. O'Koren,” she yelled down the hallway, and seconds later my mother appeared, holding her School Marm doll by the leg, a bottle of Pledge in her other hand. She'd been moving the dolls around all week, trying new arrangements: One had even popped up in the bathroom, on the floor by the heating vent, causing my father to shriek like a schoolgirl when he mistook it for the toilet brush. “What do you think, girls?” she said, hoisting the doll up so we could see it. “Should I arrange all the townsfolk in one place, or break them up into smaller, more intimate groups? I can't decide.” We just looked at her. “I have no idea,” I said finally. “More intimate groups,” Rina told her. “Less is more.”