Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 20

Page 20


“Roman, eat your dinner,” their dad said immediately. “It’s dinnertime.”

“You’re not eating dinner,” Roman retorted.

“I’m finishing up a big project. But once I’m done, I’m going to eat some of this tasty food that your mother cooked for us.”

“No, you’re not,” Roman said. “You’re going to eat poached salmon. I’m the only one who has to eat this macaroni. And I don’t like macaroni.”

“Oh.” Their father scratched his head. “I didn’t know you didn’t like macaroni.”

“None of us did,” contributed Arden.

“Do you want to just eat the salmon, too?” their father offered.

And even though Roman had a strict anti-seafood policy, he said, “Yeah!”

“Well, then.” Their father grinned and tousled his son’s hair. “Problem solved.”

“Problem not solved,” their mother snapped. “Dennis, please. Back me up here.”

“I’m leaving,” Arden tried again.

“If you’re leaving, then where’s your dress?” Roman asked.

All attention in the room shifted to Arden. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks and mentally cursed her little brother. Roman was the only sixth-grade boy she’d ever met who would notice whether his big sister was bringing the correct outfit to a high school dance.

“Where is your dress?” Arden’s mom asked softly.

A moment too late, it occurred to Arden to lie. To say that she’d forgotten it, and hold on a sec, she was just going to run back upstairs and grab it.

“I…” Arden began. But her guilt was written all over her face. She started over. “Kirsten and Naomi wanted us all to wear matching dresses, so…”

“You know what?” her mother said, standing up shakily. “Forget it.”

“Forget what?” asked their father.

“All of it. Everything. I can’t do this anymore. I’ve had it. It’s clear that none of you need me anyway, so I’m sure you’ll be just fine.”

“What?” Arden asked.

Her mother didn’t answer. She just grabbed her purse and walked out the front door.

The three remaining Huntleys stared at one another in stunned silence for a moment. At last, Roman said, “Nice going, Arden. You made her mad.”

“You made her mad,” Arden retorted. “You couldn’t have just eaten the mac and cheese?”

“I can’t think with your bickering!” their dad shouted.

They immediately shut up. Their father was much scarier than their mother when he yelled.

“She’s just gone for a walk,” their dad told them, pressing his fingers against his temples as if he were holding his head together. “She’s just gone to get some fresh air.”

“Okay,” Arden said. “I am leaving, though.” She checked her phone. Chris had already texted to say that he’d arrived at Kirsten’s. She kissed Roman’s head and kissed her dad’s cheek. “I’m sorry Mom’s mad,” she said.

Her dad nodded. “It’ll be okay, Arden.”

So she drove to Kirsten’s, where she met up with the rest of her friends and all the girls changed into their dresses and a couple of the guys put on suits but mostly the boys just hung out and ate as much pizza as they could before Kirsten told them to “leave some for the rest of us.” Then they caravanned over to the dance, five kids in Arden’s car and five in Chris’s.

Once they were there, Chris and Arden danced in the center of the room, and with the music too loud for words and his arms around her, things between them felt better than they had in weeks, like a Rubik’s Cube that had just been shifted into place. Though they were surrounded by people on all sides, it was one of those rare moments when Arden somehow felt like they were all alone, just the two of them.

She leaned in close, so her lips were right up against his ear, and she shouted, “I love you!”

“I love you, too!” And he kissed her, that same stage kiss that had swept her off her feet nine months prior.

Arden closed her eyes and felt like she was being sucked backward in time. At the end of the summer, right before the Huntleys’ annual family trip to visit her mom’s parents in Atlantic Beach, Arden was packing and thinking that she really, really didn’t want to be apart from Chris for ten days. The idea of their physical separation made her heart hurt, so, just to see what it would feel like, she imagined them being apart forever. And the thought of it made her heart contract, her throat seize up, and her hand reach for her phone to call him, to hear the sound of his voice. That was how she knew that she loved him: she couldn’t picture her life without him anymore.

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