Boy Meets Boy

Page 42


“Way to gol” Amber cheers. i Ted punches me on the shoulder. It hurts, but I know he means well.
Infinite Darlene says, “Don't mess it up again, honey.”
I tell her I won't.
I swear that I won't.
Even Kyle hears. He doesn't say anything to me about it, but when we pass in the hall he gives me a silent nod of approval.
After school, I meet up with Noah and we head to the I Scream Parlor. He gets a blood-red sundae while I get the sorbet with gummi worms in it. He tells me what's been going on with him (his parents were in and are now back out of town), and I tell him what's been going on with me. I tell him about the whole Joni saga, and about what Tony's been through.
“We should go over there, cheer him up,” Noah suggests.
“Are you sure?” I ask. It's not like he and Tony are friends, really.
“Yeah. We have to stick together, right?”
We call my brother, who's more than happy to take us to Tony's. (He also seems happy that I'm with Noah; I didn't know Jay had it in him.)
Tony's on the phone with Kyle when we get there. Caught up in the happiness of things, I almost tell Tony to invite him over. Then I realize what a colossally awkward move that would be (with Noah there) and keep my big mouth shut.
Even though Tony's parents aren't home, we stick to the kitchen. This works well, because we're all in high snacking gear. If we'd been stranded in the dining room, we'd be in big trouble.
“I have some news,” Tony tells us. I love how he's welcomed Noah as if it's natural for him to be here. I love how Noah fits right in.
“What's your news?”
“I want to go to the Dowager's Dance.”
This is news. Last year, Tony's parents wouldn't let him go.
“Great,” Noah says. “You can come with us.”
Tony sighs. “It's not that easy. You see, my parents say I can't go. But I want to go anyway. I don't want to sneak out—that would be a bad scene.”
“So what are you—what are we going to do?” I ask.
“Here's the thing. I figure if enough people come to pick me up—if my parents see it's a whole big group of girls and guys—then maybe they'll let me go.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I say. “We can gather everyone up.”
“I'm in,” Noah volunteers.
“As am I. Jay can drive us. I'm sure we can get Laura and Emily and Amy and Amber—”
“Who's Amber?” Tony asks.
I've forgotten how new Amber is to my life.
“She's this girl on the committee. You'll love her.”
“Oh yeah—Kyle's told me about her.”
I have to ask. “So will Kyle come, too?”
Tony nods. “He's in.”
“And Joni?”
Now Tony's look wavers.
“I don't know,” he says.
“Have you asked her?”
“She wants to….”
“I don't think Chuck wants to.”
“I don't see what one thing has to do with the other,” I say. But of course I do. I know exactly what's going on, and it makes me furious. I am so angry at Joni right now. Words can't describe it. I don't mind her dissing me. Dissing Tony is beyond excuse.
I know Tony will feel even worse if I show him how bothered I am. So I start talking about the dance itself. Noah reaches into his book bag and takes out some of the photos he took in the cemetery. They are extraordinary—spooky, but in a spiritual way. I can tell Tony's as impressed as I am. At one point when Noah has to go to the powder room (we figure this is allowed, even if it isn't in the kitchen), Tony gives me this all-knowing look and smiles.
“It's all because of you,” I say. “You told me to show him and I did. Honestly, I wouldn't have trusted myself to do it if you hadn't suggested it.”
“It was all you,” he says back. “And was it worth it?”
I nod as Noah comes back into the room.
“What?” Noah asks, sensing he's walking into the middle of a conversation.
“Nothing,” Tony and I say at once, then look at each other and laugh.
“We were just talking about you,” Tony says.
“Only bad things, I assure you,” I add.
Noah takes it in stride. After an hour of hanging out and home-working, Jay returns and Noah and I take our leave. Jay drops Noah off at his house; I walk him to the door. He ruffles my hair a little before he goes inside. I ruffle him back. We smile and say good-bye. We look forward to hello.
When I get back to the car, Jay turns for home. But I tell him we have one more stop to make.
I need to talk to Joni. Now.
Joni's mom is surprised to see me. She also seems relieved.
“Paull” she exclaims after opening the door. “It's so good to see you.”
“You too,” I say—and it's true. She's like a second mom to me. One of the hardest things about losing Joni is that I've lost my second family, too.
“Is Joni home?” I ask.
“She's upstairs. A couple of weeks ago, she asked me not to let you in if you ever showed up. But you can come right in.”
It's a sign of how little I know Joni anymore that I'm actually afraid of getting her mom in trouble.
“Are you sure?” I say to her.
“As sure as sure can be,” she answers. “I know you two have had some sort of falling-out, and in my opinion the sooner you get past it, the better. So go right up. Chuck left about an hour ago. I think they're on the phone.”
I don't ask Joni's mom what she thinks of Chuck—I know that's totally against the rules—but I sense from her voice that she's not his biggest fan. Or maybe I'm just hearing what I want to hear.
If you stripped me of my five senses, I would still be able to find my way to Joni's bedroom from the front door. The only thing that's changed since first grade is the size of my steps.
Her door is closed. I knock.
“Not nowl I'm on the phone!”
I knock again. I can hear her walk across the room.
“One sec,” she says into the phone. Then, “What is it, Mom?”