Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 50

Page 50


“Arden, you are the person I know who’s closest to having written a book,” Kirsten said, twisting her mermaid hair into an improvised upsweep, then dropping it to let it slowly cascade down her shoulders.

Arden blinked at Kirsten in confusion.

“Your Just Like Me Doll books,” Kirsten reminded her.

“Oh. That’s not the same, though. I didn’t write those.”

“Why do you want to know?” asked Lauri, idly peeling the cheese off her pizza in the way that one might peel a scab off one’s skin.

“Because my … friend is writing a book.” Arden frowned. Friend was not the right word. She was at a table with six girls. These were her friends. She didn’t know what Peter was to her. But it was something else entirely.

“That’s cool,” said Naomi. “Which friend?”

“Lindsey?” asked Candace dubiously, because usually when Arden referred to a friend who was not at their lunch table, she did indeed mean Lindsey. But nobody really thought of Lindsey as a book-writer.

“No,” said Arden. “Just some guy. You don’t know him.”

“Cool,” Naomi reiterated, and then immediately redirected the conversation toward the likelihood of various classmates hooking up during the marching band’s upcoming trip to Disney World. If Arden’s author friend wasn’t anyone they knew, then they weren’t all that interested.

Arden hears her calling

If Tuesday was the best day of Peter’s life, Arden was prepared for Saturday to be the best day of hers. She woke up and opened her window, and it was warm at last—after what had seemed like a never-ending winter, she could smell spring in the air. She texted Chris, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!, and practically waltzed downstairs. She baked peanut butter brownies—Chris was wild about peanut butter—and somehow managed to maneuver them into a tin and out of the kitchen without losing more than two squares to Roman’s gaping maw. For a skinny kid, Roman could lay waste to a surprising number of brownies.

Then she showered and blow-dried her hair and worked and worked on her makeup. There were like five layers of stuff on her face. There was the foundation and then there was the powder and then there was the blush and then there was the bronzer and then there was this spritz to keep it all in place. There were Internet videos for each step along the way, to make sure she was doing them right. There was even a video chat with Naomi, who oversaw makeup for their school plays and understood the necessity of getting her face exactly right for tonight, her anniversary.

“You are so lucky to have Chris,” Naomi told her authoritatively as they ended their call.

“I know I am,” Arden agreed. She did know. And tonight she would be good, she would be so good, she would be beautiful and charming and attentive and positive, she would listen to his every story and applaud his every choice, because she was so lucky to have him, and that was what he deserved.

She packed a small bag with bonus makeup supplies, a toothbrush, the brownies, pajamas, and the sexy dress. For now she just wore jeans and a T-shirt—normal, unsuspicious weekend clothes.

She knocked on the door to her dad’s study.

“Come in,” he called.

She did. He was sitting at his desk, wearing khakis, an old sweater, and slippers that Arden had given him last Christmas—his weekend clothes. He removed his computer glasses to smile at her.

“I’m going over to Lindsey’s,” she said.

Arden was certain he would look at her and say, Obviously you’re not. I know that today is your anniversary with Chris, so I’m sure you’re going to a hotel with him in order to engage in uninterrupted adolescent sexual activity.

But he didn’t say anything like that. Probably he didn’t even know it was her anniversary.

“I’m sleeping over there,” Arden went on, holding up her bag as if that were proof.

He nodded.

“So you’ll stay here and take care of Roman?”

“Of course,” he said. “What else would I do?”

What else would he do? Go to the office. Get involved in some fantasy sports thing or work project and lose track of time. There were a lot of other things he might do.

Since receiving her mother’s letter, Arden looked at her dad a little differently. She didn’t want to. She kept telling herself that it wasn’t his fault, it couldn’t be his fault that he had been left behind. He had always done the best he could. But she was finding it hard to get her mother’s words out of her head. I felt like I had done all the running of our household for seventeen years. I wasn’t getting the sort of support from your father that I needed.

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