I moved behind the tree that shaded my bedroom in summer, a mere two feet away from Macon Faulkner, who seemed determined to break my window or at least weaken it to the point of spontaneous collapse.
“Halley!” He stepped closer to the house, craning his neck.
I crept up behind him, silent, and tapped him on the shoulder just as he was launching another rock; he jerked to face me, not quite completing the throw, so it rained back down on him, bouncing off his head and landing between us on the ground.
“Shoot,” he said, all flustered. He’d almost jumped out of his skin. “Where did you come from?”
“Why are you trying to break my window?”
“I’m not. I was trying to get your attention.”
“But I wasn’t home.” I said.
“I didn’t know that,” he said. “You scared the crap out of me.”
“Sorry,” I said, and I couldn’t believe he was here, in my yard, like some kind of ghost I’d conjured up with wishful thinking. “How’d you know this was my window anyway?”
“Just did,” he said simply. I was noticing that he didn’t usually explain what he didn’t have to. He was still a little shaken but now he grinned at me, his teeth white, like this was not unusual or amazing. “Where were you?”
“Earlier. I thought you were coming to that party.”
“I was there,” I said, trying to sound casual. “I didn’t see you.”
“Oh,” he said confidently, “that’s a lie.”
“I was,” I said. “We just got home.”
“I have been there since seven o’clock,” he said loudly, talking over me, “and I was looking for you, and waiting, and you stood me up‾”
“No, you stood me up,” I said in a louder voice, “and I have Scarlett to vouch for it.”
“Scarlett? She wasn’t there either.”
“Yes, she was. She was with me.” I looked back across the street, where she was standing on the steps, one hand shielding her eyes, looking over at us. I waved, and she waved back, then sat down and blew her nose.
“I was upstairs,” he said. “I never saw you.”
“In the attic.”
“Oh,” I said. “We didn’t go there.”
I just looked at him. “Why would we?”
“I don’t know,” he said, out of arguments. “I did.”
A light came on upstairs in my room, and I heard the window sliding open. My father stuck his head out, looking around, and I pushed Macon into the shadow of the house, then stepped back into the brightness of the side porch light.
“Hi,” I called out, startling my father, who jerked back and slammed his head on the window. “It’s just me.”
“Halley?” He turned around, rubbing his head, and said into the house, “It’s just Halley, Clara, go back to sleep. It’s fine.”
Macon was looking up at my father; if he had glanced down, he could have made him out easily.
“I was looking for something,” I said suddenly. I hadn’t lied to my father very much, so I was grateful for the dark. “I dropped a bracelet of Scarlett’s out here and we were looking for it.”
My father craned his neck, looking around. “A bracelet? Is Scarlett down there?”
“Yes,” I said, and the lies just rolled out of me, on and on, “I mean, no, she was but we found it and she went back to her house. Because she’s got this cold and all. So I was just, um, getting ready to follow her. When you opened the window.”
In front of me, Macon was quietly snickering.
“Isn’t it about time for you to be in?” my father said. “It’s almost ten-thirty.”
“I’ll be home by eleven.”
“You two should come over now. We’ve got this great movie on that Noah brought and I just made popcorn.”
“That sounds great, but I better get back across the street,” I said quickly, stepping back under the shield of the tree behind me. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
He snapped his fingers. “That’s right! Don’t you have a morning date with—” and here he paused, dramatically—“the Beast?”
I was about to die.
“The Beast?” Macon whispered, grinning. Above us, my father was making growling noises.
The Beast, of course, was my father’s pet name for his mower, his most prized possession. He was so embarrassing.
“Yeah,” I said, willing him with all my power to go away. “I guess.”
“Okay, then,” he said, starting to pull the window shut and having to bank it with the side of his hand at the point where it always stuck. “Don’t creep around out there, okay? You scared Clara to death.”
“Right,” I said as the window clicked shut, and I could see my room behind him until the light cut off. I stood there, breathing heavily, until I was sure he was gone.
“You,” Macon said, stepping out where I could see him, “are such a liar.”
“I am not,” I said. “Well, not usually. But he would have freaked if he’d seen you.”
“You want me to leave?” He stepped closer to me, and even in the dark I knew every inch of his face from all those hours of P.E., studying him across a badminton net.
“Yes,” I said loudly, and he pretended to walk off but I grabbed his arm, pulling him back. “I’m kidding.”
“Yes.” And for a minute it was like I wasn’t even myself anymore; I could have been any girl, someone bold and reckless. There was something about Macon that made me act different, giving that black outline some inside color, at last. I was still holding his arm, my face hot, and in the dark I might have been Elizabeth Gunderson or Ginny Tabor or even Scarlett, any girl that things happen to. And as he leaned in to kiss me, I thought of nothing but how unbelievable it was that this was all happening, in my side yard, the most familiar of places.
Just then a car came screeching around the corner, music blaring. It passed my house, horn beeping, and then turned onto Honeysuckle, where it sat idling.
“I gotta go,” Macon said, kissing me again. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Wait—” I said as he pulled away, holding my hand until he had to let go of it. “Where are you going?”