A princess on Another Planet


НазваниеA princess on Another Planet
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Дата публикации28.06.2013
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^ CHAPTER FIVE

Rock Lobsters
"Maggie, get out of the car."

"I can't."

"Please--"

"What's wrong now?" Walt asks.

"I need a cigarette."

Maggie, Walt, and I are sitting in Maggie's car, which is parked in the cul-de-sac at the end of Tommy's street. We've been in the car for at least fifteen minutes, because Maggie is paranoid about crowds and refuses to get out of the car when we go to parties. On the other hand, she does have the best car. It's a gigantic gas-guzzling Cadillac that fits about nine people and has a quadraphonic stereo and a glove compartment filled with her mother's cigarettes.

"You've smoked three cigarettes already."

"I don't feel good," Maggie moans.

"Maybe you'd feel better if you hadn't smoked all those cigarettes at once," I say, wondering if Maggie's mother notices that every time Maggie gives the car back, about a hundred cigarettes are missing. I did ask Maggie about it once, but she only rolled her eyes and said her mother was so clueless, she wouldn't notice if a bomb blew up in their house. "Come on," I coax her. "You know you're just scared."

She frowns. "We're not even invited to this party."

"We're not not invited. So that means we're invited."

"I can't stand Tommy Brewster," she mutters, and crosses her arms.

"Since when do you have to like someone to go to their party?" Walt points out.

Maggie glares and Walt throws up his hands. "I've had enough," he says. "I'm going in."

"Me too," I say suddenly. We slide out of the car. Maggie looks at us through the windshield and lights up another cigarette. Then she pointedly locks all four doors.

I make a face. "Do you want me to stay with her?"

"Do you want to sit in the car all night?"

"Not really."

"Me neither," Walt says. "And I don't plan to indulge in this ridiculousness for the rest of senior year."

I'm surprised by Walt's vehemence. He usually tolerates Maggie's neuroses without complaint.

"I mean, what's going to happen to her?" he adds. "She's going to back into a tree?"

"You're right." I look around. "There aren't any trees."

We start walking up the street to Tommy's house. The one good thing about Castlebury is that even if it's boring, it's beautiful in its own way. Even here, in this brand-new development with hardly any trees, the grass on the lawns is bright green and the street is like a crisp black ribbon. The air is warm and there's a full moon. The light illuminates the houses and the fields beyond; in October, they'll be full of pumpkins.

"Are you and Maggie having problems?"

"I don't know," Walt says. "She's being a huge pain in the ass. I can't figure out what's wrong with her. We used to be fun."

"Maybe she's going through a phase."

"She's been going through a phase all summer. And it's not like I don't have my own problems to worry about."

"Like what?"

"Like everything?" he says.

"Are you guys having sex too?" I ask suddenly. If you want to get information out of someone, ask them unexpectedly. They're usually so shocked by the question, they'll tell you the truth.

"Third base," Walt admits.

"That's it?"

"I'm not sure I want to go any further."

I hoot, not believing him. "Isn't that all guys think about? Going further?"

"Depends on what kind of guy you are," he says.

Loud music--Jethro Tull--is threatening to shake Tommy's house down. We're about to go in, when a fast yellow car roars up the street, spins around in the cul-de-sac, and comes to rest at the curb behind us.

"Who the hell is that?" Walt asks, annoyed.

"I have no idea. But yellow is a much cooler color than red."

"Do we know anyone who drives a yellow Corvette?"

"Nope," I say in wonder.

I love Corvettes. Partly because my father thinks they're trashy, but mostly because in my conservative town, they're glamorous and a sign that the person who drives one just doesn't care what other people think. There's a Corvette body shop in my town, and every time I pass it, I pick out which Corvette I'd drive if I had the choice. But then one day my father sort of ruined the whole thing by pointing out that the body of a Corvette is made of plastic composition instead of metal, and if you get into an accident, the whole car shatters. So every time I see a Corvette now, I picture plastic breaking into a million pieces.

The driver takes his time getting out, flashing his lights and rolling his windows up, down, and back up again as if he can't decide if he wants to go to this party either. Finally, the door opens and Sebastian Kydd rises from behind the car like the Great Pumpkin himself, if the Great Pumpkin were eighteen years old, six-foot-one, and smoked Marlboro cigarettes. He looks up at the house, smirks, and starts up the walk.

"Good evening," he says, nodding at me and Walt. "At least I hope it's a good one. Are we going inside?"

"After you," Walt says, rolling his eyes.

We. My legs turn to jelly.

Sebastian immediately disappears into a throng of kids as Walt and I weave our way through the crowd to the bar. We snag a couple of beers, and then I go back to the front door to make sure Maggie's car is still at the end of the street. It is. Then I run into The Mouse and Peter, who are backed up against a speaker. "I hope you don't have to go to the bathroom," The Mouse shouts, by way of greeting. "Jen P saw Sebastian Kydd and freaked out because he's so cute she couldn't handle it and started hyperventilating, and now she and Jen S have locked themselves in the toilet."

"Ha," I say, staring carefully at The Mouse. I'm trying to see if she looks any different since she's had sex, but she seems pretty much the same.

"If you ask me, I think Jen P has too many hormones," The Mouse adds, to no one in particular. "There ought to be a law."

"What's that?" Peter asks loudly.

"Nothing," The Mouse says. She looks around. "Where's Maggie?"

"Hiding in her car."

"Of course." The Mouse nods and takes a swig of her beer.

"Maggie's here?" Peter says, perking up.

"She's still in her car," I explain. "Maybe you can get her out. I've given up."

"No problem," Peter shouts. He hurries away like a man on a mission.

The bathroom scene sounds too interesting to miss, so I head upstairs. The toilet is at the end of a long hall and a line of kids are snaked behind it, trying to get in. Donna LaDonna is knocking on the door. "Jen, it's me. Let me in," she commands. The door opens a crack and Donna slips inside. The line goes crazy.

"Hey! What about us?" someone shouts.

"I hear there's a half-bath downstairs."

Several annoyed kids push past as Lali comes bounding up the stairs. "What the hell is going on?"

"Jen P freaked out over Sebastian Kydd and locked herself in the bathroom with Jen S and now Donna LaDonna went in to try to get her out."

"This is ridiculous," Lali declares. She goes up to the door, pounds on it, and yells, "Get the hell out of there, you twits. People have to pee!" When several minutes pass in which Lali does more knocking and yelling to no avail, she gives me an exaggerated shrug and says loudly, "Let's go to The Emerald."

"Sure," I say, full of bluster, like we go there all the time.

The Emerald is one of the few bars in town with--according to my father--a reputation for being full of shady characters: i.e. alcoholics, divorcees, and drug addicts. I've only been three times, and each time I looked around desperately for these so-called degenerates but was never able to spot any patrons that fit the bill. In fact, I was the one who looked suspicious--I was shaking like a Slinky, terrified that someone was going to ask for my ID and, when I couldn't produce it, call the police.

But that was last year. This year I'll be seventeen. Maggie and The Mouse are nearly eighteen, and Walt is already legal, so they can't kick him out.

Lali and I find Walt and The Mouse and they want to go too. We troop out to Maggie's car, where she and Peter are deep in conversation. I find this slightly irritating, although I don't know why. We decide that Maggie will drive Walt to The Emerald, while The Mouse will take Peter, and I'll go with Lali.

Thanks to Lali's speedy driving, we're the first to arrive. We park the truck as far away from the building as possible in order to avoid detection. "Okay, this is weird," I say, while we wait. "Did you notice how Maggie and Peter were having some big discussion? It's very strange, especially since Walt says he and Maggie are having problems."

"Like that's a surprise." Lali snorts. "My father thinks Walt is gay."

"Your father thinks everyone is gay. Including Jimmy Carter. Anyway, Walt can't be gay. He's been with Maggie for two years. And I know they definitely do more than make out because he told me."

"A guy can have sex with a woman and still be gay," Lali insists. "Remember Ms. Crutchins?"

"Poor Ms. Crutchins," I sigh, conceding the argument. She was our English teacher last year. She was about forty years old and she'd never been married and then she met "a wonderful man" and couldn't stop talking about him, and after three months they got married. But then, one month later, she announced to the class that she'd annulled her marriage. The rumor was that her husband turned out to be gay. Ms. Crutchins never came right out and admitted it, but she would let revealing tidbits drop, like, "There are just some things a woman can't live with." And after that, Ms. Crutchins, who was always full of life and passionate about English literature, seemed to shrink right into herself like a deflated balloon.

The Mouse pulls up next to us in a green Gremlin, followed by the Cadillac. It's terrible what they say about women drivers, but Maggie really is bad. As she's trying to park the car, she runs the front tires over the curb. She gets out of the car, looks at the tires, and shrugs.

Then we all do our best to stroll casually into The Emerald, which isn't really seedy at all--at least not to look at. It has red leather banquettes and a small dance floor with a disco ball, and a hostess with bleached blond hair who appears to be the definition of the word "blousy."

"Table for six?" she asks, like we're all absolutely old enough to drink.

We pile into a banquette. When the waitress comes over, I order a Singapore Sling. Whenever I'm in a bar I always try to order the most exotic drink on the menu. A Singapore Sling has several different kinds of alcohol in it, including something called "Galliano," and it comes with a maraschino cherry and an umbrella. Then Peter, who's ordered a whiskey on the rocks, looks at my drink and laughs. "Not too obvious," he says.

"What are you talking about?" I ask innocently, sipping my cocktail through a straw.

"That you're underage. Only someone who's underage orders a drink with an umbrella and fruit. And a straw," he adds.

"Yeah, but then I get to take the umbrella home. And what do you get to take home besides a hangover?"

The Mouse and Walt think this is pretty funny, and decide to only order umbrella drinks for the rest of the night.

Maggie, who usually drinks White Russians, orders a whiskey on the rocks, instead. This confirms that something is definitely going on between Maggie and Peter. If Maggie likes a guy, she does the same thing he does. Drinks the same drink, wears the same clothes, suddenly becomes interested in the same sports he likes, even if they're totally wacky, like whitewater rafting. All through sophomore year, before Maggie and Walt started going out, Maggie liked this weird boy who went whitewater rafting every weekend in the fall. I can't tell you how many hours I had to spend freezing on top of a rock, waiting for him to pass by in his canoe. Okay--I knew it wasn't really a canoe, it was a kayak, but I insisted on calling it a canoe just to annoy Maggie for making me freeze my butt off.

And then the door of The Emerald swings open and for a moment, everyone forgets about who's drinking what.

Standing by the hostess are Donna LaDonna and Sebastian Kydd. Donna has her hand on his neck, and after he holds up two fingers, she puts her other hand on his face, turns his head, and starts kissing him.

After about ten seconds of this excessive display of affection, Maggie can't take it anymore. "Gross," she exclaims. "Donna is such a slut. I can't believe it."

"She's not so bad," Peter counters.

"How do you know?" Maggie demands.

"I helped tutor her a couple of years ago. She's actually kind of funny. And smart."

"That still doesn't mean she should be making out with some guy in The Emerald."

"He doesn't look like he's resisting much," I murmur, stirring my drink.

"Who is that guy?" Lali asks.

"Sebastian Kydd," The Mouse volunteers.

"I know his name," Lali sniffs. "But who is he? Really?"

"No one knows," I say. "He used to go to private school."

Lali can't take her eyes off him. Indeed, no one in the bar seems to be able to tear themselves away from the spectacle. But now I'm bored with Sebastian Kydd and his attention-getting antics.

I snap my fingers in Lali's face to distract her. "Let's dance."

Lali and I go to the jukebox and pick out some songs. We're not regular boozers, so we're both feeling the giddy effects of being a little bit drunk, when everything seems funny. I pick out my favorite song, "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge, and Lali picks "Legs" by ZZ Top. We take to the dance floor. I do a bunch of different dances--the pony, the electric slide, the bump, and the hustle, along with a lot of steps I've made up on my own. The music changes and Lali and I start doing this crazy line dance we invented a couple of years ago during a swim meet where you wave your arms in the air and then bend your knees and shake your butt. When we straighten up, Sebastian Kydd is on the dance floor.

He's a pretty cool dancer, but then, I expected he would be. He dances a little with Lali, and then he turns to me and takes my hand and starts doing the hustle. It's a dance I'm good at, and at a certain point one of his legs is in-between mine, and I'm kind of grinding my hips, because this, after all, is a legitimate part of the dance.

He says, "Don't I know you?"

And I say, "Yes, actually you do."

Then he says, "That's right. Our mothers are friends."

"Were friends," I say. "They both went to Smith." And then the music ends and we go back to our respective tables.

"That was hilarious." The Mouse nods approvingly. "You should have seen the look on Donna LaDonna's face when he was dancing with you."

"He was dancing with both of us," Lali corrects her.

"But he was mostly dancing with Carrie."

"That's only because Carrie is shorter than I am," Lali remarks.

"Whatever."

"Exactly," I say, and get up to go to the bathroom.

The restroom is at the end of a narrow hall on the other side of the bar. When I come out, Sebastian Kydd is standing next to the door as if he's waiting to go in. "Hello," he says. He delivers this in a sort of fakey way, like he's an actor in a movie, but he's so good-looking, I decide I don't mind.

"Hi," I say cautiously.

He smiles. And then he says something astoundingly ridiculous. "Where have you been my whole life?"

I almost laugh, but he appears to be serious. Several responses run through my head, and finally I settle on: "Excuse me, but aren't you on a date with someone else?"

"Who says it's a date? She's a girl I met at a party."

"Sure looks like a date to me."

"We're having fun," he says. "For the moment. You still live in the same house?"

"I guess so--"

"Good. I'll come by and see you sometime." And he walks away.

This is one of the oddest and most intriguing things that has ever happened to me. And despite the bad-movie-ish quality to the scene, I'm actually hoping he meant what he said.

I go back to the table, full of excitement, but the atmosphere has changed. The Mouse looks bored talking to Lali, and Walt appears glum, while Peter impatiently shakes the ice cubes in his glass. Maggie suddenly decides she wants to leave. "I guess that means I'm going," Walt says with a sigh.

"I'll drop you first," Maggie says. "I'm going to drive Peter home, too. He lives near me."

We get into our respective vehicles. I'm dying to tell Lali about my encounter with the notorious Sebastian Kydd, but before I can say a word, Lali announces that she's "kind of mad at The Mouse."

"Why?"

"Because of what she said. About that guy, Sebastian Kydd. Dancing with you and not me. Couldn't she see he was dancing with both of us?"

Rule number five: Always agree with your friends, even if it's at your own expense, so they won't be upset. "I know," I say, hating myself. "He was dancing with both of us."

"And why would he dance with you, anyway?" Lali asks. "Especially when he was with Donna LaDonna?"

"I have no idea." But then I remember what The Mouse said. Why shouldn't Sebastian dance with me? Am I so bad? I don't think so. Maybe he thinks I'm kind of smart and interesting and quirky. Like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

I dig around in my bag and find one of Maggie's cigarettes. I light up, inhale briefly, and whoosh the smoke out the window.

"Ha," I say aloud, for no particular reason.
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