I looked at the slip of paper and then from one boy to the other.
“Three hundred as soon as I get to the house?”
“I want half tomorrow.”
“We got to trust each other, don’t we?” I asked.
They looked at each other.
“Well?” I said, seeing the hesitation in their faces. “You want me there or not?”
“You’ll have it lunchtime,” Grog assured me.
“Then I’ll be there for sure,” I said, smiling. “Now you go break open your piggy banks,” I told them, and walked away.
I heard them laugh and saw them hurrying excitedly back to the cafeteria. When the police pounced on them, I would have sweet vengeance, but I’d also have one hundred and fifty dollars, and I had no intention of giving it up.
At the end of the day, I passed locker 103, paused, and dropped the slip of paper through the slot. That night, to my aunt’s surprise, I had a phone call. She came to my room to tell me there was a girl on the line asking for me.
“She said her name is Rae,” Aunt Mae Louise told me, her eyes full of suspicion. “Who is she?”
“Just some girl I met in school. Her father’s a policeman,” I added.
“Oh. Well, we want you to have nice friends here, Phoebe. We’re just going to always be concerned about your welfare,” she explained.
She tried not to make it obvious, but I knew she was following me to the kitchen. She should be working as a spy for the government, I thought.
“What?” I said instead of a hello.
“I’m just calling you to confirm I have your note, and I’ve spoken to my father. He’s very excited about this, and he wanted me to tell you thank you beforehand,” she said quickly. “He says just pretend to be going along with everything, and he’ll take it from there.”
“What’s that mean?” I asked, keeping my voice as low as I could. Although she wasn’t in the kitchen, I was sure Aunt Mae Louise was just outside the door eavesdropping.
“You know, start like you’re going to go through with it so they can’t claim it wasn’t what we know it is. You’ll have to go into the bedroom with the first boy after they pay you. They’ll do some Ecstasy first to build up their courage, and my father and his partners will be watching all the time. I know you’re probably afraid, but…”
“I’m not afraid and I know what to do,” I said. I didn’t need my courage built up by the likes of them.
“Good. We’ll have our own little celebration afterward. I promise,” she told me, and hung up.
“Where’s the party?” I pretended to ask after she hung up. “I’ll have to ask my aunt and uncle. Thanks,” I said, and hung up.
As I anticipated, Aunt Mae Louise was right outside the door.
“The girls are having a party this weekend and asked me. Is that all right with you?”
“Where is the party?”
“At Rae’s house. Her mother and father will be there,” I said. “It’s like
one of those pajama parties, girls getting to know each other and all.”
“That sounds fine. I’ll see about Uncle Buster taking you there.”