As I approached the next intersection, I saw the wishbone.
Same bold black strokes, same white van. It was passing in front of me now, and I could see Delia driving, someone else in the passenger seat. I watched them move across the intersection, bumping over the slight dip in the middle. WISH, it said on the back, two letters on each door.
I am not a spontaneous person. But when you’re alone in the world, really alone, you have no choice but to be open to suggestions. Those four letters, like the ones that I’d written to Jason, had many meanings and no guarantees. Still, as the van turned onto a side street, I read that WISH again. It seemed as good a time as any to believe, so when my light dropped to green and I could go, I put myself in gear and followed them.
“So I say, I know that you’re not insulting my outfit. I mean, I can take a lot—already have taken a lot—but I won’t tolerate that. You’re my sister. You know. A girl has got to draw the line somewhere, right?”
Okay, I thought. Maybe this was a bad idea.
After almost turning back three times, two drive-bys and one final burst of courage, I was standing in front of McKimmon House, a mansion in the historical district. In front of me was the Wish Catering van, now parked crookedly against the curb, the back doors flung open to reveal several racks of serving pans, blocks of packaged napkins, and a couple of dented rolling carts. Inside, I could hear a girl’s voice.
“So I do it: I draw the line. Which means, in the end, that I have to walk, like, two miles in my new platform sandals, which gave me blisters you would not believe,” she continued, her voice ringing out over the quiet of the street. “I mean, we’re talking deserted roads, no cars passing, and all I could think was—grab those spoons, no, not those, the other ones, right there—that this has got to officially be the worst first date ever. You know?”
I took a step backwards, retreating. What had I been thinking, anyway? I started to turn back to my car, thinking at least it wasn’t too late to change my mind.
Just then, though, a girl walked to the open doors of the van and saw me. She was small, with a mass of blonde ringlets spilling down her back, and with one look, I just knew it was she I’d heard. It was what she had on that made it obvious: a short, shiny black skirt, a white blouse with a plunging neck, tied at the waist, and thigh-high black boots with a thick heel. She had on bright red lipstick, and her skin, pale and white, was glittering in the glow of the streetlight behind me.
“Hey,” she said, seeing me, then turned her back and grabbed a pile of dishtowels before hopping out of the van.
“Hi,” I said. There was more I was going to say, entire words, maybe even a sentence. But for some reason I just froze, as if I’d gotten this far and now could go no further.
She didn’t seem to notice, was too busy grabbing more stuff out of the van while humming under her breath. When she turned around and saw me still standing there, she said, “You lost or something?”
Again I was stuck for an answer. But this time, it was for a different reason. Her face, which before had been shadowed in the van, was now in the full light, and my eyes were immediately drawn to two scars: one, faint and curving along her jaw line, like an underscore of her mouth, and the other by her right temple, snaking down to her ear. She also had bright blue eyes and rings on every finger, and smelled like watermelon bubble-gum, but these were things I noticed later. The scars, at first, were all I could see.
Stop staring, I told myself, horrified at my behavior. The girl, for her part, didn’t even seem to notice, or be bothered. She was just waiting, patiently, for an answer.
“Um,” I said finally, forcing the words out, “I was looking for Delia?”
The front door of the van slammed shut, and a second later Monica, the slow girl from my mother’s party, appeared. She was carrying a cutting board, which, by the expression of weariness on her face, must have weighed about a hundred pounds. She blew her long bangs out of her face as she shuffled along the curb, taking her time.
The blonde girl glanced at her. “Serving forks, too, Monotone, okay?”
Monica stopped, then turned herself around slowly—a sort of human three-point turn—and disappeared back behind the van at the same snail’s pace.
“Delia’s up at the house, in the kitchen,” the girl said to me now, shifting the towels to her other arm. “It’s at the top of the drive, around back.”
“Oh,” I said, as Monica reappeared, now carrying the cutting board and a few large forks. “Thanks.”
I started over to the driveway, getting about five feet before she called after me.
“If you’re headed up there anyway,” she said, “would you please please please take something with you? We’re running late—and it’s kind of my fault, if you want the whole truth—so you’d be really helping me out. If you don’t mind.”
“Sure,” I said. I came back down the driveway, passing Monica, who was muttering to herself, along the way. At the back of the van, the blonde girl had pulled out two of the wheeled carts and was piling foil pans onto them, one right after another. When she was done she stuck the towels on top of one, then rolled the other over to me.
“This way,” she said, and I followed her, pushing my cart, to the bottom of the driveway. There we stopped, looking up. It was steep, really steep. We could see Monica still climbing it, about halfway up: it looked like she was walking into the wind.
The girl looked at me, then at the driveway again. I kept noticing her scars, then trying not to, which seemed to make it all that more obvious. “God,” she said, sighing as she pushed her hair out of her face, “doesn’t it seem, sometimes, that the whole damn world’s uphill?”
“Yeah,” I said, thinking about everything that had already happened to me that night. “It sure does.”
She turned her head and looked at me, then smiled: it changed her whole face, like a spark lighting into a flame, everything brightening, and for a second I lost track of the scars altogether. “Oh well,” she said, leaning over her cart and tightening her fingers around its handle. “At least we know the way back will be easy. Come on.”
Her name was Kristy Palmetto.
We introduced ourselves about halfway up the hill, when we stopped, wheezing, to catch our breath. “Macy?” she’d said. “Like the store?”
“Yes,” I replied. “It’s a family name, actually.”