From Chapter Nine of My New Book Georgie Girl
Halloween night, a gravid moon hovered above the night-purple ridge. Browning was a veritable paradise for trick-or-treating, but Lacey and I decided we were finally a bit long in the tooth for it, and decided to pass out candy to the faculty children from her house.
At a quarter past six, the Kane children arrived. Miss Heather hovered in the background in low-cut hip huggers, smiling a mellow kitten’s smile. Clover (a geisha in kabuki make-up, only her light eyes giving her away) and Blue (a silent ghost in a sheet) dropped their popcorn balls into plastic jack-o-lanterns. Clover murmured, “Thank you very much,” for them both.
Ronnie and my dad arrived next. Ronnie dressed as a cowboy, wore his hat cocked back on his head, a chocolate smudge in one corner of his mouth. He cocked a plastic pistol. “Stick ’em up!” he said with a scowl. “And gimme all your candy.”
We all cracked up, even Karen—coming out of the kitchen with a popcorn ball, her hair rolled on empty orange juice cans.
“I taught him that,” my father said smugly as Lacey dropped a big handful of Hershey Kisses into Ronnie’s bag. Ronnie popped his tongue up towards his nose making a little triangle of yum, then grinned like Howdy Doody.
Tom St. James rang the bell at 7:05. Karen had asked her parents if she could meet Tom in the parking lot, but Mr. Howard had said nothing doing. Tom wore a collared sweater and a pair of striped bell-bottoms like Greg Brady’s. But unlike Greg, this man—no way you could look at him and think boy—smoldered with carnality the likes of which Lacey and I had never seen. We stood like a pair of ventriloquist’s dummies, gazing at his sherry eyes, his two open snaps worth of chest hair.
“Is Karen ready?” he asked, his lazy smile the essence of cool.
A wave of Karen’s smoky Shalimar made it to the door before she did. She put her arms around Lacey’s and my shoulders and turned us around as though the three of us were conjoined. “Good night, ladies,” she said, and was gone.
I looked at Lacey and gulped.
“Holy Halloween,” she whispered.
We watched a double feature on TV, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, with Lacey’s parents. Lacey and I ate candy until our faces tingled from the sugar.
When the Mattsons finally went to bed a third of the way into the second feature, Lacey and I unfolded the sofa bed and turned the sound all the way down on the TV. Putting on our pajamas, we tucked in.
Lacey had decided she like-liked Findley, who had told her she was pretty at the last salon. “But how would I kiss him?” she asked. She jumped up and pretended the coat rack was Findley. Pooching out her lips, she tipped Mr. Howard’s rain hat to her face and made passionate smooching noises until I had to smother my laughter with a pillow.
Finally, we lay in the darkness watching the stippled reflection of the river on the ceiling, the sweep of lights from a slow-moving barge. Around a yawn, Lacey said, “If Truman kisses you, you better tell me about it before anybody.”
I yawned back. “You’ll be the first to know.” The Bride of Frankenstein rose from the operating table, her neck and arms all jerky, the whites of her eyes showing all around, her skunk-striped hair standing two feet from her head. I giggled. “Look at her hairdo!”
But Lacey was asleep.
I roused at midnight when Karen came in, softly humming the Beatle’s “Come Together”. Lacey snored softly, her cat curled like a skein of wool at her side. Karen tiptoed into the kitchen. The breadbox clunked open and then the fridge. The mayonnaise jar lid whisked open. I drowsed.
Karen crept through the living room at half-past twelve, trailing Shalimar, ham, and something alien, something skunky and sweet at the same time. I’d have given a big toe to know the secrets she kept.
Suddenly, I wished that I were Karen’s age. That Lacey and I could just zoom over the years the way the Jetson’s space car zoomed over stalling traffic in the cartoon. We would be beautiful and cool like Karen, our boyfriends handsome and manly like Tom.
Kelly’s shoulders, his body would be like Tom’s. Kelly’s body? I thought, my heart bumping. Why had it come to mind instead of Truman’s? I flipped onto my stomach, scrubbing my face into the pillow, and trying to picture Truman as older and manly, but the image was like a poorly focused Polaroid. But Kelly’s leg, his sharply pressed khaki pants, the hot smell of him in the backseat . . .
I sat up, my pajamas feeling clammy. “Lacey, wake up.”
“Nothing. Let’s go scare Kelly.”
“Kelly? What for?”
“’Cause it’s Halloween. We had our treats; we should play a trick.”
“Why Kelly?” she said, her eyes narrowing.
“’Cause he lives here in Sperry. We could knock on his window and run.”
“Did Karen come in?”
“Yeah. She went to bed,” I said, reaching for my hairbrush.
Lacey nodded slowly, a pillow crease bisecting one cheek. And then she grinned. “That would be pretty good.” She looked toward the hall door. “But we can’t be gone long.”
I bent to tug on a sneaker. “We’ll be quick.”
* * *
We stood in the backyard of Sperry, regarding the first-floor faculty apartment windows by moonlight. “Which one is Kelly’s?” I asked, clutching Lacey’s fingers.
“Shhh! Do you want to wake up the whole building? I’m not sure. But it probably has Bozo the Clown curtains.” I stifled a giggle as we treaded the path rimmed with snatchy holly bushes. In the second window from the end, shadowy objects stood out against a white drape; a scattering of baseball cards, a peely-labled pickle jar, and the back of what looked like a greeting card. Here’s a message for you, Kelly, I thought, buzzy with anticipation. Lacey whispered. “Are you going to knock?”
“Yes, you! This was your idea.”
I squinted at the window and grinned. “Okay. I’ll bang on the frame, and we’ll run. On three.” A light went on behind the drape, like the downward glow of a desk lamp. My heart ricocheting like bats in a box, I beat on the frame: wham-wham-wham! Lacey ducked to the ground. “Run, Lacey!”
But Lacey was a helpless lump on the dirt path, gasping with a fresh spate of giggles. I tugged at her hand, glancing wildly up. There, in the window, stood Kelly McGee, shirtless and shock-faced. Chest hair! I thought my eyeballs would tumble to the path and I’d have to scoop them up.
“Lacey, move!” I hissed. Kelly’s hand grasped the window lever.
“Who’s out there?” he said.
As the window tilted open, I pulled Lacey to her feet. He can’t see us with his light on.
“What’s going on, son?” Mr. John sounded foggy and mad.
Just before Lacey and I lurched away—the hollies tearing at our pajamas—Kelly’s dark eyes caught mine. “Just a couple of pranksters,” he said, scratching his chest, and then pulled the window closed.