Kitty will do anything to get out of brushing her teeth.
We can’t just let this tree house go without a proper send-off. It wouldn’t be right. We always said we’d come back. I will have a party, and it will be themed. Genevieve would sneer at that, how babyish—but it’s not like I’m inviting her, so who cares what she thinks. It will just be Peter, Chris, Trevor, and . . . John. I’ll have to invite John. As friends, just friends.
What did we eat that summer? Cheez Doodles. Melty ice cream sandwiches—the chocolate wafer would stick to our fingers. Lukewarm Hawaiian Punch flowed freely. Capri Suns when we could get them. John always had a double-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich with him in a ziplock bag that his mother packed. I’ll be sure to have all of those snacks for the party.
What else? Trevor had portable speakers he used to carry around. His dad was big into Southern rock, and that summer Trevor played “Sweet Home Alabama” so much that Peter threw his speakers out of the tree house and Trevor wouldn’t speak to him for days. Trevor Pike had brown hair that curled when it was wet, and he was chubby in the way that middle school boys are (in the cheeks, around the middle) right before they have a big growth spurt and everything sort of evens out. He was always hungry and hanging around other people’s cupboards. He’d have to go pee, and he’d come back with a Popsicle or a banana, or cheese crackers, whatever he could scam. Trevor was Peter’s number three. It went John and Peter and then Trevor. They don’t hang out so much anymore. Trevor’s more friends with the track guys. We don’t have any classes together; I’m in all honors and APs and Trevor was never that into school or grades. He was fun, though.
I remember the day Genevieve showed up at my house crying, saying she was moving. Not far, she’d still go to school with us, but she wouldn’t be able to ride her bike or walk over anymore. Peter was sad; he comforted her, put his arms around her. I remember thinking how grown-up they seemed in that moment, like real teenagers in love. And then Chris and Gen had a fight about something, a bigger fight than usual; I don’t even remember what it was about. I think something with their parents. Whenever their parents weren’t getting along, things trickled down to them like trash floating down a river.
Gen moved away, and we were still friends, and then, around the time of the eighth grade dance, she dropped me. I guess there was no place for me in her life anymore. I thought Genevieve was someone I would know forever. Those people in your life that you just always know, no matter what. But it’s not that way. Here we are, three years later, and we’re worse than strangers. I know she took that video; I know she sent it to Anonybitch. How could I forgive that?
JOSH HAS A NEW GIRLFRIEND: Liza Booker, a girl from his comic-book club. She has frizzy brown hair, nice eyes, big boobs, braces. She’s a senior like Josh, smart like Josh. I just can’t believe he’s with a girl who’s not Margot. Next to my sister, Liza Booker’s nice eyes and big boobs are nothing.
I kept seeing a car I didn’t recognize in Josh’s driveway, and then today, when I was getting the mail, she and Josh came out of the house and he walked her to her car and then he kissed her. Just like how he used to kiss Margot.
I wait until she’s driven away and he’s about to walk back inside his house before I call out to him. “So you and Liza are a thing now, huh?”
He turns around and at least looks sheepish. “We’ve been hanging out, yes. It’s not serious or anything. But I like her.” Josh comes a few feet closer, so we’re not so far apart.
I can’t resist saying, “There’s no accounting for taste. I mean, that you’d pick her over Margot?” I let out a huffy little laugh that surprises even me, because Josh and I are fine now—not like before, but fine. It was a mean thing to say. But I’m not saying it to be mean to Liza Booker, who I don’t even know; I’m saying it for my sister. For what she and Josh used to be to each other.
Quietly he says, “I didn’t pick Liza over Margot and you know it. Liza and I barely knew each other in January.”
“Okay, well, why not Margot then?”
“It just wasn’t going to work out. I still care about her. I’ll always love her. But she was right to break things off when she left. It would only have been harder if we’d kept it going.”
“Wouldn’t it have been worth it just to see? To know?”
“It would’ve ended the same way even if she hadn’t gone to Scotland.”
His face has that stubborn look to it; that weak chin of his is firmly set. I know he isn’t going to say anything more: It isn’t really my business, not truly. It’s his and Margot’s, and maybe he doesn’t even fully know, himself.
CHRIS SHOWS UP AT MY house with ombré lavender hair. Pulling her jacket hood all the way off, she asks me, “What do you think?”
“I think it’s pretty,” I say.
Kitty mouths, Like an Easter egg.
“I mostly did it to piss off my mom.” There’s the tiniest bit of uncertainty in her voice that she’s trying to conceal.
“It makes you look sophisticated,” I tell her. I reach out and touch the ends, and her hair feels synthetic, like Barbie doll hair after it’s been washed.
Kitty mouths, Like a grandma, and I cut my eyes at her.
“Does it look like shit?” Chris asks her, chewing on her bottom lip nervously.
“Don’t cuss in front of my sister! She’s ten!”
“Sorry. Does it look like crap?”
“Yeah,” Kitty admits. Thank God for Kitty—you can always count on her to tell the hard truths. “Why didn’t you just go to a salon and have them do it for you?”
Chris starts running her fingers through her hair. “I did.” She exhales. “Shi—I mean, crap. Maybe I should just cut off the bottom.”
“I’ve always thought you would look great with short hair,” I say. “But honestly, I don’t think the lavender looks bad. It’s kind of beautiful, actually. Like the inside of a seashell.” If I was as gutsy as Chris, I’d chop my hair off short like Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. But I’m not that brave, and also, I’m sure I’d feel immediate remorse for my ponytails and braids and curls.
“All right. Maybe I’ll keep it for a bit.”
“You should try deep-conditioning it and see if that helps,” Kitty suggests, and Chris glares at her.