Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 78

Page 78


And there’s Arden.

Brown hair, hazel eyes, overalls perfect for playing in the woods. She looks the same as the Arden Doll in the glass case in Arden’s bedroom, but it’s different seeing her here, among her doll brethren.

“That’s me,” Arden tells Peter, pointing at her doll, sandwiched in between Tabitha and Lucy.

“I know,” he says.

She turns to him, shocked. How would he know such a thing? Could he have figured it out on his own? Nobody has ever discovered this fact about Arden without her telling them—but maybe it would make sense, for Peter to know something hidden about her when she knows so many hidden things about him.

“That’s me, too,” he goes on, and he waves at the store window and makes a funny face.

She turns back around, trying to understand what he’s talking about or if he’s just so drunk that he’s not talking sense. Then she exhales as she understands what’s going on. The two of them are reflected in the window, ghostly outlines of themselves visible in the streetlights. That’s all he means.

She can see her sexy dress and her windblown hair and the words written in marker all over her torso. She sees herself so faint in the window, right next to the Arden Doll behind the glass, and for a moment it’s hard to tell which one of them is real.

“No,” she says to Peter. “I mean, that’s me.” She points to the doll. “Do you see where it says ‘Arden is recklessly loyal’?” He leans forward to read it, then nods. “That’s me,” she repeats. “The Just Like Me Dolls Company based that doll on me.”

He looks at her, not quite comprehending.

“Do you see?” she asks. “See how her hair is brown, like how my hair is brown? And her eyes are hazel, just like mine? That’s me.”

He just shakes his head, unwilling to engage the mental energy to decipher her meaning. “Don’t be silly,” he says. “You’re not a doll.”

It feels like the entire night grows still: the cars stop rumbling past, the streetlights cease their buzzing, the spring breeze calms.

“How do you know?” she whispers.

“Because,” he says, looking impatient. “It doesn’t make any sense. People can’t be dolls.”

He sits down on the sidewalk. Arden stays standing, staring at the dolls without seeing any of them. A long time passes.

“What does it mean, anyway?” he mumbles from behind her.


“Loyalessly wreckful, or whatever it says.”

“It means being there for someone you love, no matter what,” Arden explains. Her voice grows bitter when she adds, “Even when you don’t want to be.”

“If you don’t want to do something, then you don’t have to do it,” Peter says. “No one can make you do anything. It’s a free country.”

Arden at last turns away from the window display of dolls. “But if I wasn’t recklessly loyal,” she asks, “then who would I be?”

Peter takes off his glasses, as if to see her better, and in the glow of the streetlights his face looks so naked and so pure. “You’d be Arden, of course.”

She sits down beside him on the curb and holds her knees in tight to her chest. She pictures her own pristine Arden Doll safe at home, looking exactly like this one, and she feels like Peter has swung a wrecking ball right through her case, shattering glass everywhere. She will never be able to piece it together again. Not even if she wants to. And what she found on the other side of that glass pane is just a doll. Not a mandate, not a future, not herself. Just an inanimate object for children to play with and then outgrow. Nothing more.

Sleeping with Peter

By the time Arden and Peter head to Peter’s home in Gramercy, it’s past five in the morning. Peter gives the taxi driver his address and spends the ride there with his head propped against the window, his eyes closed. He doesn’t say anything, and neither does Arden. She’s trying to figure out what’s about to happen. She’s going to sleep over at Peter’s house, right? Why else would she be in a taxi with him? Where else would she sleep?

But sleeping over at Peter’s … what does that mean?

She doesn’t ask. Because if she asks, Peter might realize exactly what it is that they’re doing.

They get out of the taxi and Peter hands the driver a wad of cash—too much, it looks like, but the driver doesn’t protest, so neither does Arden. Peter’s building is one of a dozen or so that encircle a small park. The park has a wrought-iron fence around it, and the gates to enter it are locked. “You can only go in there if you’re rich,” Peter says. “Normal people can’t go into that park. But if you’re rich, you get a key. We have a key. Not on me, though.”

Prev Next