I smile to myself. Kitty’s going to pitch a fit when she sees this page. I can’t wait.
MARGOT SAYS THAT JUNIOR YEAR is the most important year, the busiest year, a year so crucial that everything else in life hinges upon it. So I figure I should get in all the pleasure reading I can before school starts next week and junior year officially begins. I’m sitting on my front steps, reading a 1980s romantic British spy novel I got for seventy-five cents at the Friends of the Library sale.
I’m just getting to the good stuff (Cressida must seduce Nigel to gain access to the spy codes!) when Josh walks out of his house to get the mail. He sees me too; he lifts his hand like he’s just going to wave and not come over, but then he does.
“Hey, nice onesie,” he says as he makes his way across the driveway.
It’s faded light blue with sunflowers and it ties around the neck. I got it from the vintage store, 75 percent off. And it’s not a onesie. “This is a sunsuit,” I tell him, going back to my book. I try to subtly hide the cover with my hand. The last thing I need is Josh giving me a hard time for reading a trashy book when I’m just trying to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
I can feel him looking at me, his arms crossed, waiting. I look up. “What?”
“Wanna see a movie tonight at the Bess? There’s a Pixar movie playing. We can take Kitty.”
“Sure, text me when you want to head over,” I say, turning the page of my book. Nigel is unbuttoning Cressida’s blouse and she’s wondering when the sleeping pill she slipped in his Merlot will kick in, while simultaneously hoping it won’t kick in too soon, because Nigel is actually quite a good kisser.
Josh reaches down and tries to get a closer look at my book. I slap his hand away, but not before he reads out loud, “Cressida’s heart raced as Nigel moved his hand along her stockinged thigh.” Josh cracks up. “What the heck are you reading?”
My cheeks are burning. “Oh, be quiet.”
Chuckling, Josh backs away. “I’ll leave you to Cressida and Noel then.”
To his back, I call out, “For your information, it’s Nigel!”
Kitty’s over the moon about hanging out with Josh. When Josh asks the girl at the concession stand to layer the butter on the popcorn (bottom, middle, top), we both give an approving nod. Kitty sits in the middle of us, and at the funny parts she laughs so hard she kicks her legs up in the air. She weighs so little that the seat keeps tipping up. Josh and I share smiles over her head.
Whenever Josh, Margot, and I went to the movies, Margot always sat in the middle too. It was so she could whisper to both of us. She never wanted me to feel left out because she had a boyfriend and I didn’t. She was so careful about this that it made me worry at first, that she sensed something from before. But she’s not someone to hold back or pretty up the truth. She’s just a really good big sister. The best.
There were times I felt left out anyway. Not in a romantic way, but a friend way. Josh and I had always been friends. But those times when he’d put his arm around Margot when we were in line for popcorn, or in the car when they’d talk softly to each other and I felt like the kid in the backseat who can’t hear what the adults are talking about, it made me feel a little bit invisible. They made me wish I had someone to whisper to in the backseat.
It’s strange to be the one in the front seat now. The view isn’t so different from the backseat. In fact, everything feels good and normal and the same, which is a comfort.
Chris calls me later that night while I’m painting my toenails different-colored pinks. It’s so loud in the background she has to yell. “Guess what!”
“What? I can barely hear you!” I’m doing my pinky toe a fruit-punch color called Hit Me with Your Best Shot.
“Hold up.” I can hear Chris moving rooms, because it gets quieter. “Can you hear me now?”
“Yes, much better.”
“Guess who broke up.”
I’ve moved on to a mod pink color that looks like Wite-Out with a drop of red in it. “Who?”
“Gen and Kavinsky! She dumped his ass.”
My eyes go huge. “Whoa! Why?”
“Apparently, she met some UVA guy at that hostessing job she had. I guarantee you she was cheating on Kavinsky the whole summer.” A guy calls Chris’s name, and Chris says, “I gotta go. It’s my turn at bocce.” Chris hangs up without saying good-bye, which is her way.
I actually met Chris through Genevieve. They’re cousins: their moms are sisters. Chris used to come over sometimes when we were little, but she and Gen didn’t get along even back then. They’d argue over whose Barbie had dibs on Ken, because there was only one Ken. I didn’t even try to fight for Ken, even though he was technically mine. Well, Margot’s. At school some people don’t even know Gen and Chris are cousins. They don’t look alike, like at all: Gen is petite with fit arms and sunny blond hair the color of margarine. Chris is blond too, but peroxide blond, and she’s taller and has broad swimmer’s shoulders. Still, there is a sameness to them.
Chris was pretty wild our freshman year. She went to every party, got drunk, hooked up with older boys. That year a junior guy from the lacrosse team told everyone that Chris had sex with him in the boys’ locker room, and it wasn’t even true. Genevieve made Peter threaten to kick his ass if he didn’t tell everybody the truth. I thought it was a really nice thing Genevieve did for Chris, but Chris insisted that Gen had only done it so people wouldn’t think she was related to a slut. After that Chris stopped hanging out and pretty much did her own thing, with people from another school.
She still has that freshman-year reputation though. She acts like she doesn’t care, but I know she does, at least a little.
ON SUNDAY, DADDY MAKES LASAGNA. He does that thing where he puts black-bean salsa in it to jazz it up, and it sounds gross but it’s actually good and you don’t notice the beans. Josh comes over too, and he has three helpings, which Daddy loves. When Margot’s name comes up over dinner, I look over at Josh and see how stiff he gets, and I feel sorry for him. Kitty must notice too, because she changes the subject over to dessert, which is a batch of peanut-butter brownies I baked earlier in the afternoon.
Since Daddy cooked, us kids have kitchen duty. He uses every pot in the kitchen when he makes lasagna, so it’s the worst cleanup, but worth it.
After, the three of us are relaxing in the TV room. It’s Sunday night, but there’s not that Sunday night feeling in the air, because tomorrow is Labor Day and we have one last day before school starts. Kitty’s working on her dog collage, quelle surprise.