Dreamland

Author: P Hana

Page 46

   

“Nothing,” I said. “Why?” She kept her eyes on me, as if daring me to tell her, like I'd told her a million other secrets in this same place the summer before: my crush on Billy Bostwick, lifeguard at the community pool. That I secretly liked liver as a child. That I'd stolen Cass's pearl earrings, the ones she thought she'd lost at school. But this was too much for me to tell Rina. Even if I really wanted to. “You're just not yourself,” she said softly. “You haven't been in a long time.”

I leaned back in my chair, closing my eyes, and reached my arm up to my face, letting Corinna's bracelets fall down my arm. I could still hear that motorboat, humming past, the girl on skis laughing as she cut across the waves. “I'm fine,” I said. “It's like he's done something to you,” she said, and I squeezed my eyes shut tighter behind my sunglasses. “Like he's changed something in you. Hurt you or something.” I opened my eyes and looked at her, my best friend, her face worried as she waited for me to respond. I hated to treat her this way. But her face, slowly, was replaced in my mind with a flash of Rogerson driving, looking for me, his face changing and eyes growing darker, angry, the way they looked right before impact. It was like the mean lady on her bicycle in The Wizard of Oz, the music building as she raced to find Dorothy: You knew she was coming, you just didn't know when. “Caitlin,” Rina said softly. “Please. You can tell me anything. You know that.” But I couldn't. Rogerson was somewhere, on his way, looking for me. I could feel it, the way Boo always said she could feel rain coming in her bad elbow. I just knew. I took a deep breath and sat up, gra66ing my cigarettes. “I need to use the phone,” I blurted out, reaching over her to grab it. My hand brushed against her skin, damp and sticky and warm, as I started inside the house, pushing the sliding glass door open. When I looked back she was lying flat on her chair, one arm thrown across her face, having given up on me. I called Rogerson at every number I knew, standing under those rows of stuffed fish. They stared back at me, bug-?eyed and scared, as the phone rang on and on, endless, with nobody home.

It was late afternoon and I was long ready to go when Jeff showed up. He snuck around the side of the house, crept soundlessly behind our chairs, and expertly dropped an ice cube on the small of Rina's already pink back, scaring the crap out of both of us. “Jeff!” Rina squealed, sitting up quickly and slapping her top which she'd untied to avoid strap marksagainst her ample chest. “Jesus, you almost gave me a heart attack, you jerk.”

“Lighten up,” he said easily, sliding a hand around her leg as he sat down next to her. He waggled his fingers at me and did his signature move, flipping his hair out of his face with a snap of his neck. I could see myself reflected backanxious, angry, glancing at my watch one more timein his sunglasses. “Rina,” I said, for at least the twentieth time, “I really need to go.” I'd been pressing her for what seemed like forever, while she kept drinking beers and waving me off. “What's your rush?” Jeff said. “I brought some steaks, invited over some of the fellas. Thought we'd have us a little cookout.”

“Umm, that sounds good,” Rina murmured, rolling over onto her stomach again. “Who'd you invite?”

“Ed and Barrett,” he said. “Oh, and Scott from the store.”

“I can't stay,” I told him. “Rina was just about to take me home, actually.”

“I told you, I can't drive home right now,” she said in an irritated voice, scooping some more pimento cheese out of my mother's Tupperware container onto a cracker and popping it into her mouth. “i have to sober up first.”

“Rina,” I said, feeling panic rising in me, higher and higher, even as I tried to squash it down. I'd been circling like this madly for over an hour, like an animal about to gnaw its own leg off to get free. “i told my mother I'd be home by six-?thirty, remember?”

“She doesn't care,” Rina said easily, as Jeff rubbed her leg, taking a sip of her beer. “She won't even notice if you're late. Have some dinner and then we'll go.”

I lowered my voice. “Rina. I have to go right now. Okay?”

“Caitlin, relax,” she said. “God, have a beer or something.” To Jeff she added, “She's been like this, like, all afternoon.” Jeff looked at me, flipped his hair again, and I wanted to kill both of them. “You promised you'd drive me home,” I said to Rina, and I could feel my throat getting tight. “You promised.”

“Look, give me the phone,” she said, grabbing it sloppily from where it was lying on the deck between us. “I'll call Rogerson and explain everything. What's his number? Oh wait, I think I know”

“No,” I said, yanking the phone out of her slippery hand. I could only imagine how Rogerson would react to hearing where I was from her. “Please, just take me home. It'll only take a second. Okay?”

“What is the matter with you?” she said angrily. “God, you'd think it was killing you to be here with me or something.” And then she looked at Jeff, raising her eyebrows in a can-?you-?believe- this kind of way. For two hours I'd felt myself stretching tighter and tighter, like a rubber band pulled to the point of snapping. And now, I could feel the smaller, weaker parts of myself beginning to fray, tiny bits giving way before the big break. Out on the lake the sun was hitting right by the dock, glittering across the water like diamonds. “Fine,” I said, standing up. “I'll get there myself.” I walked off the porch, across the scrubby pine yard and out onto the road, which snaked ahead of me over a long bridge, around a bend and miles and miles into town. But I didn't care. Just walking would get me that much closer, give me the forward motion to feel that I could somehow fix this. “Caitlin,” I heard Rina calling out behind me, her voice sun-?baked and drunk. “Don't be ridiculous. Come back here!” I But I was already hitting my stride, sandal straps rubbing my feet and Corinna's bracelets clinking, playing her theme music, with every step I took.

I must have walked about a mile when a car pulled up behind me and beeped, quickly, three times. I walked closer to the edge of the road, eyes straight ahead, willing them to pass, but they didn't. Instead, the car rolled closer, slowing down to stop right beside me. It was Jeff. “Would have been here sooner,” he explained, flipping his hair as I fastened my seat belt. “But Miss Rina threw a little fit about me leaving her. You understand.”

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