“I’m not Margot.”
“I’m not saying you should move to the other side of the world. I know you’d never do that. Hey, what about Honor Council? You love judging people!”
I make a face at him.
“Or Model UN. I bet you’d like that. I’m just saying . . . your world could be bigger than just playing checkers with Kitty and riding around in Kavinsky’s car.”
I stop highlighting midsentence. Is he right? Is my world really that small? It’s not like his world is so big! “Josh,” I begin. Then I pause, because I don’t know how I’m going to finish the sentence. So instead I throw my highlighter at him.
It ricochets off his forehead. “Hey! You could have hit me in the eye!”
“And you would have deserved it.”
“Okay, okay. You know I didn’t mean it like that. I just mean that you should give people a chance to know you.” Josh points the remote control at me and says, “If people knew you, they would love you.” He sounds so matter-of-fact.
Josh, you break my heart. And you’re a liar. Because you know me, you know me better than almost anybody, and you don’t love me.
After Josh goes back home, I tidy up the living room, lock all the doors, and turn off the lights. Then I pour myself a glass of water and head upstairs.
The light is on in my bedroom, and Chris is asleep in my bed. I roll her to the side so I can fit in too. Stirring, she mumbles, “Wanna go get hot wings?”
“It’s too late to eat hot wings,” I say, pulling my quilt up so it covers both of us. “You just missed Josh.”
Her eyes fly open. “Joshy was here? Why?”
“No reason.” I won’t tell Josh’s secrets, not even to Chris.
“Well, don’t mention it to Kavinsky.”
“He wouldn’t care,” I say.
Chris shakes her head. “All boys care.”
“Peter’s not like that. He’s really confident.”
“They’re the ones that care the most,” she says. I’m about to ask her what she means, but before I can, she says, “Let’s go do something wild.”
“Like what?” It’s a school night; I can’t go anywhere and she knows it. But I still like to hear her schemes. They’re like bedtime stories.
“Like . . . I don’t know. We could sneak into the nursing home and break out that grandma you’re always talking about. What’s her name again? Thunder?”
I giggle. “Stormy.”
“Yeah, Stormy.” She yawns. “She seems like she knows how to have a good time. I bet she’d buy us cocktails.”
“Stormy goes to sleep at nine every night to get her beauty rest. Let’s do it tomorrow.” By tomorrow, Chris will have forgotten all about it, but it’s still a nice thought. Her eyes are closed again. I poke her in the side. “Chris, wake up. Go brush your teeth.” I keep a toothbrush in my bathroom drawer just for her. I painted a cursive C on it with red nail polish so it doesn’t get mixed up with anybody else’s toothbrush.
“Can’t. I’m too tired to move.”
“A second ago you wanted to break Stormy out of Belleview, and now you’re too tired to wash your face and brush your teeth?”
Chris smiles but doesn’t open her eyes.
I turn off my bedside lamp. “Night, Chris.”
She wriggles closer to me. “G’night.”
THERE ARE VERY LIMITED OPTIONS for Asian girls on Halloween. Like one year I went as Velma from Scooby-Doo, but people just asked me if I was a manga character. I even wore a wig! So now I’m committed to dressing up as Asian characters exclusively.
Margot never goes as a person; she is always an inanimate object or a concept of some kind. Like last year she went as a “formal apology”: she wore a floor-length evening gown we found at Goodwill for ten dollars, and she had a sign around her neck, written in calligraphy, which said, I’m sorry. It won second prize in the school contest. First prize went to a Rastafarian alien.
Kitty’s going as a ninja, which I suppose is in line with my whole Asian costume idea.
This year I’m going as Cho Chang from Harry Potter. I’ve got my Ravenclaw scarf and an old black choir robe I found on eBay, plus one of my dad’s ties and a wand. I’m not going to win any contests, but at least people will know what I am. I wish I never have to answer a What are you? question ever again.
I’m waiting for Peter to pick me up for school, messing with my knee-highs. They won’t stay up.
Automatically I call back, “Josh!” It’s our version of Marco Polo.
Then I look up. There’s Josh, standing in front of his car. In a full-on Harry Potter costume. Black robe, glasses, lightning mark on his forehead, wand.
We both burst out laughing. Of all the random costumes! Ruefully Josh says, “The guys from the graphic-novel club are going as different fantasy-book characters. I was going to go as Drogo from Game of Thrones because, you know, I’ve got the upper body for it, but . . .”
I giggle, trying to picture Josh with eyeliner and a long braid and no shirt. It’s a funny picture. I wouldn’t exactly call Josh scrawny, but . . .
“Hey, quit laughing so hard,” he objects. “It wasn’t that funny.” He jingles his keys. “So do you need a ride, Cho?”
I look at my phone. Peter’s five minutes late as usual. Not that I can really complain, because it’s a free ride to school, and I could be taking the bus. But if I go with Josh, I won’t have to rush to class, I can go by my locker, I can go pee, I can get a juice at the vending machine. But he’s probably already nearly here. “Thanks, but I’m waiting for Peter.”
Josh nods. “Oh, yeah . . . right.” He starts to climb into his car.
I shout out, “Expelliarmus!” and Josh spins around and calls back, “Finite!” Then we grin at each other like goofs.
He drives off and I hug my knees to my chest. Josh and I read Harry Potter around the same time, when I was in sixth and he was in seventh. Margot had already read them. Neither of us can read as fast as she does. It drove her crazy waiting for us to get to the third book so we could discuss.
The longer I sit waiting for Peter, the more prickly I feel. I take off my robe and put it back on a few times. It’s polyester, and polyester doesn’t breathe or feel nice against your skin. When he drives up, I run to his car and get in without saying hello. I spread my robe over my lap like a blanket, because my kilt is short.