“You live in the penthouse?” I turned in a circle, watching myself in the four mirrored walls.
“Yep,” he said, his eyes on the numbers over my head. “My mother’s into power trips.” This was the first time he’d talked about her, ever. All I knew about was what I’d heard, years ago, when she’d lived in our neighborhood. She sold real estate and had been married at least three times, the last to a developer of steak houses.
“This is amazing,” I said. “This elevator is nicer than my whole house.” The beep sounded again as the doors slid open, onto another, smaller lobby. As we got out I saw, through a slightly open door, people moving, mingling, and voices mixed with the clinking of glasses and piano music.
“Down here,” Macon said, leading me around a corner to what looked like a linen closet or maid’s room. He pulled a keychain out of his pocket, unlocked it, and reached in to turn on a light. Then he stood there, holding it, waiting for me. “Well, come on,” he said, reaching over to snap me on the side in the one spot where I was absolutely the most ticklish, “we haven’t got all night.”
The room itself was pretty small, painted a light sky blue; there was a single bed, neatly made, and a dresser and desk that looked brand-new. Beyond another door on the opposite wall, I could hear someone playing the piano. On a chair, at the end of the bed, there was a TV with something taped to the screen.
“This is your room?” I said, taking a few steps to the TV to get a better look at what was stuck to it. It looked like a photograph.
“Yep.” He opened the door to the party, just a crack, then peeked out and shut it again. “Wait here,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”
I sat down on the bed, facing the TV, and leaned forward to get a good look at the photograph. I thought how familiar it looked, and the setting, before it finally hit: it was me. Me, at the Grand Canyon with my mother, the same picture that sat framed on our mantel. But she wasn’t in this picture, had somehow been cut out neatly, leaving only me with my arm reaching nowhere, cut off at the elbow.
I pulled the picture off the TV, turning it over. I was still holding it when Macon came back in, carrying two glasses and a plate of finger food.
“Hey,” he said, “I hope you like caviar, because that’s about the best thing they had out there.”
“Where did you get this?” I asked him, holding up the picture.
He just looked at me, and I swear he blushed, even if only for a second. “Somewhere.”
“Where?” It wouldn’t have surprised me a bit to go home and find that frame on the mantel empty, everything else untouched and in its proper place. He was that slick.
“Somewhere,” he said again, handing me a wine glass and the paper plate.
“Where, Macon?” I said. “Come on.”
“Scarlett. I took it—borrowed it—from Scarlett. It was stuck to her mirror.”
“Oh,” I said. I flipped it over again. “You could have asked me for one.”
“Yeah,” he said, popping something small and doughy into his mouth and not looking at me.
“Well,” I said, kissing his cheek where it was smooth and soft and smelled slightly cool, like aftershave. “I’m glad you like me enough to steal my picture.”
Outside the music was still playing. In Macon’s tiny room, we were like stowaways.
“You don’t spend much time here, do you?” I asked him.
“Nope.” He sat up and drained his glass. “Can you tell?”
“Yeah. It doesn’t even look like anyone lives here. Where do you stay, Macon?”
“I don’t know. I used to stay at Sherwood’s a lot. They had an extra room, his dad was always out of town. His mom never cared. And I got other friends, other places. You know.”
“Sure,” I said, but I didn’t. It was completely foreign to me, this nomadic existence, traveling from place to place, crashing wherever was convenient. I thought of my own room, filled to the brim with my trophies and pictures, my spelling-bee ribbons and schoolbooks, everything that made up who I was. The only place in the world that had been all mine, always.
I looked over and he was watching me, then leaning over to kiss me as I closed my eyes and lay back, feeling his arms slide around me. With the party music in the background, and voices outside passing louder and softer, he kissed me and kissed me, the bed settling comfortably under us. The sheets smelled like him, sweet and smoky. Macon was a good kisser—not that I had much to compare him to—but I just knew. I tried not to think of all the practice he’d had.
Then, after what seemed like blissful hours, I saw his watch glowing and the time on it: 12:09.
“We have to go,” I said suddenly, sitting up. My shirt was all twisted and out of place and my mouth felt numb. “I’m late.”
“Late?” he said, all discombobulated and confused. “For what?”
“For my curfew.” I grabbed my coat and jammed my feet into my shoes while he jumped up and turned on the light beside the bed, which had somehow been turned off though I couldn’t remember when. “God,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m dead.”
We ran out of the elevator downhill to the parking lot, jumping into his car and squealing around corners and through stop signs, finally pulling up to the corner of my street at exactly 12:21. I could see the light from Scarlett’s house, where I was supposed to be, through the trees.
“I gotta go,” I said, opening the door. “Thanks.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” he called out through the car window. I could see him smiling in the dark.
“Right,” I said, smiling back as precious seconds went by. I waved, one last time, then cut through the trees and popped out by Scarlett’s pool. I heard him beep as he drove off.
I walked up Scarlett’s back steps, through the door and into the kitchen, where she was sitting at the table eating a hot-fudge sundae, with So You’re Pregnant-What Now? propped up against the sugar bowl in front of her.
“You’re late,” she said distractedly as I passed through, heading straight for the front door. She had a smear of chocolate sauce on her chin.
“I know,” I said, wiping it off with my finger as I passed her. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Right.” She went back to her book and I opened the front door and headed up the walk, across the street.