“May I be excused?” I asked. “I want to soak in a bubble bath.”
Mother smiled. Doing feminine things reinforced her lifestyle, validated it. If I could just be more like her and care about my hair, my skin, my fingernails and toenails, we could go o
ff to the great beauty parlor in the sky together, mother and daughter choosing antiox-idants and nail polish. Afterward, there was always lunch at the club with the ladies’ auxiliary or some such charitable organization. What else could I possibly want out of life?
“Go on, go on,” Daddy said, “but keep everything I’ve said here,” he added, pointing to his temple.
Right, Daddy, I thought. I’ll keep it there in your head, not mine.
Off I went, smiling to myself and thinking about Del Grant.
After my parents went to bed, I snuck out of my room and down to Daddy’s office, where I called Shirley to determine a time and a place in the mall where we would meet.
“Why don’t we just meet at Del’s pizza parlor,” she suggested, her voice full of giggles.
“Not a bad idea. That’s what we’ll do,” I said, and hung up. I practically floated my way through the hall and up the stairs to my room, closing the door so softly, it was as if a breeze had passed through and nothing else. All the echoes, the lectures, and the threats were left outside.
Then I curled up in bed and dreamed the dreams I wanted.
I slept late and then, when I finally rose, I spent my time deciding what I should wear and how I should style my hair. Mother, passing by, was pleased I had put on the pair of designer jeans she had bought for me last month. They were hipster denim with a sash. They cost four hundred fifty dollars. If Mother hadn’t seen the jeans advertised in Vogue, she would never have bought them for me. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but I wanted to look outstanding and a little older so Del would notice me quickly. With my matching tight-fitting short-sleeved silk blouse, I thought I looked very sexy. I wore a bra because my father went into a small rage whenever I didn’t, but as soon as I left the house, I would take it off.
I brushed my hair back and even put on a pair of earrings.
Someone else’s mother might have questioned why her daughter was getting so dressed up just to go to a mall, but not mine. She would do the same thing just naturally. She wouldn’t leave the house even to go to the post office unless she was prepared to have her picture taken for Cosmopolitan or some such magazine. As far as she was concerned, there was only one place where a woman should not have herself put together as perfectly as possible, and that was in her own bedroom. She shouldn’t step out unless she was dressed well enough to meet the President of the United States.
I was only interested in meeting Del Grant.
Mother left the house before I did, and Daddy, of course, had long gone to his office. He worked six days a week, sometimes seven.
I started to call for a taxicab and then put the phone down and checked to see if the keys to the Lexus were where they usually were in Daddy’s den. They were. I can be back before either of them return, I thought, and snatched them up. It would make more of an impression if Del saw me driving this.
Shirley was at the mall on time with Darcy Cohen, and Selma Wisner beside her.
“So how is life in the clouds?” Darcy asked immediately. She was a tall, thin redhead with patches of freckles on her cheeks and lips so orange, she never needed lipstick.
“I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” I said.
“What?” Selma asked, grimacing like she had a toothache.
“That’s something my father is always saying when he’s unhappy. Someone named W. C. Fields had it written on his tombstone.”
“In other words,” Shirley told her, “Teal hates it.”
“Oh. Well, why don’t you just say you hate it?” Selma asked me.
I looked through the window and saw Del preparing a pizza. He caught sight of me and paused. I smiled and he nodded. Darcy caught our exchange.
“You know they might take his brother and sister away from his mother,” she said.
“She’s so drugged out most of the time, they don’t even get fed,” Darcy said. “His house is such a mess, even the rats are deserting it.”
“I feel so sorry for Del,” Selma moaned, looking at him. “It’s ruining his life.”