“Ah,” I said.
The girl in the tight black dress was passing by us now, eyeing Wes and walking entirely too slowly. “Hi,” she said, and he nodded at her but didn’t reply. Knew it, I thought.
“Honestly,” I said.
“Come on. You have to admit it’s sort of ridiculous.”
Now that I had to define it, I found myself struggling for the right words. “You know,” I said, then figured Kristy had really summed it up best. “The sa-woon.”
“Wes, come on,” I said. “Are you seriously not aware of how girls stare at you?”
He rolled his eyes, leaning back on his palms. “Let’s get back to the idea of you being perfect.”
“Seriously. What’s it like?”
“Being perfect? I wouldn’t know.”
“Not being perfect.” I sighed. “Being . . .”
As I tried to come up with something, he flicked a bug off his arm.
“. . . gorgeous,” I finished. Two weeks earlier, this would have mortified me: I could just see myself bursting into flames from the shame. But now, I only felt a slight twinge as I took another sip of my beer and waited for him to answer.
“Again,” he said, as the parking lot girls passed by, eyeing both of us, “I wouldn’t know. You tell me.”
“Donneven,” I said, in my best Monica imitation, and he laughed. “We’re not talking about me.”
“We could be,” he said, as I watched Bert take note of a group of what looked like ninth graders who had just come into the living room.
“I’m not gorgeous,” I said.
“Sure you are.”
I just shook my head, knowing this was him evading the question. “You,” I said, “have this whole tall, dark stranger thing going on. Not to mention the tortured artist bit.”
“You know what I mean.”
He shook his head, clearly discounting this description. “And you,” he said, “have that whole blonde, cool and collected, perfect smart girl thing going on.”
“You’re the boy all the girls want to rebel with,” I said.
“You,” he replied, “are the unattainable girl in homeroom who never gives a guy the time of day.”
There was a blast of music from inside, a thump of bass beat, then quiet again.
“I’m not perfect,” I said. “Not even close.”
“I’m not tortured. Unless you count this conversation.”
“Okay.” I picked up my beer. “What do you want to talk about?”
“How about,” he said, “that we’ve got an ongoing game of Truth to get back to?”
“How about,” I said, as a guy from my English class stumbled by, looking sort of queasy, “not. I can’t handle Truth tonight.”
“You’re only saying that,” he said, “because it’s my turn.”
“It isn’t. It’s mine.”
I said, “I asked you about Myers School, then you asked me about Jason. I countered with a question about Becky, and you asked me about running. Two rounds, my turn.”
“See, this is why I don’t hang out with smart girls,” he said. Then he rubbed his hands together, psyching himself up, while I rolled my eyes. “Okay, go ahead. I’m ready.”
“All right,” I said, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear. “What’s it like to always have girls swooning over you?”
He turned and looked at me. “Macy.”
“You’re the one who wanted to play.”
He didn’t say anything for a minute, and I wondered if he was going to pass. Too competitive, I thought, and I was right. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not something I notice, if it’s even happening.”
“The name of the game,” I told him, “is Truth.”
He turned and looked at me, annoyed. “Fine. It’s weird. I mean, it’s not like it counts or anything. They don’t know me by looking, nobody does. It’s totally surface. It’s not real.”
“Tell that to her,” I said, nodding at the girl in the far corner, who was still ogling him.
“Funny,” he muttered, making it a point to look away. “Is it my turn yet?”
“No, I have a follow-up question.”
“Is that legal?”
“Yes,” I said, with authority. Now I was Caroline, making up my own rules. “Okay, so if that’s not real, what is? What counts, to you?”
He thought for a second, then said, “I don’t know. Just because someone’s pretty doesn’t mean she’s decent. Or vice versa. I’m not into appearances. I like flaws, I think they make things interesting.”
I wasn’t sure what answer I’d expected. But this wasn’t it. For a second, I just sat there, letting it sink in.
“You know,” I said finally, “saying stuff like that would make girls even crazier for you. Now you’re cute and somewhat more attainable. If you were appealing before, now you’re off the charts.”
“I don’t want to be off the charts,” he said, rolling his eyes. “I do, however, want to be off this subject.”
“Fine,” I said. “Go ahead, it’s your turn.”
Inside, I could see Kristy chatting up some guy with dread-locks, while Monica sat beside her, looking bored. Bert, for his part, was eyeballing the girl with the quarter, who, by my count, had now missed the cup six times in a row.
“Why is being perfect so important to you?”
I felt myself blink. “It’s not,” I said.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “What’s this game called again?”
“That’s the truth,” I said. “I don’t care that much about being perfect.”
“Seems like you do.”
“How do you figure?”
He shrugged. “Every time you’ve mentioned your boyfriend, you’ve said he was.”
“Well, he is,” I said. “But I’m not. That was part of the problem.”
“Macy, come on.” He looked at me. “I mean, what’s perfect, anyway?”
I shook my head, lifting my beer to my lips. It was empty, but I needed something to do. “It’s not about being perfect, really. It’s about . . . I don’t know. Being in control.”