On the Fence

Page 7


“They’re usually rich, preppy snobs who think the world owes them something. Frat types.”
“Wow, all that from a pair of shoes? Are you generalizing, Braden?”
“Maybe. Just be wary of useless shoes, Charlie. What someone wears on their feet says a lot about them.”
I looked down at my bare feet and wiggled my toes. I wondered if that rule applied to girls, too, or just guys. “Noted. So no dating guys who drink V8, wear loafers or too-short jeans—”
“Who set the too-short jeans rule?”
“Good call.” I could hear the smile in his voice when he said, “How many rules has he given you?”
“Too many. I don’t remember half of them.” Most of them were jokes, I knew, but it was hard to feel like any guy would ever measure up to my brothers’ ridiculous guidelines.
“Don’t worry, I’ve been keeping notes for you. I’ll add that one to the list.”
I laughed.
Braden let out a large yawn. “Okay. I better get to bed or you’re going to school me in soccer tomorrow.”
I smiled. Considering how crappy I felt when I came outside, I was surprised at how my insides seemed to soar. “Make sure you wear the right shoes.”
Chapter 10
“Here she comes.” Linda pointed at the door and a girl who carried a bag big enough to hold ten soccer balls. That was all makeup? “She’s a little chatty, by the way.”
The door swung open, and the girl and her big bag came through it. She looked about my age. “Hello!” the girl said as she approached. “I almost got lost even though I’ve been here before and Old Town is tiny. For some reason I just thought you were past Fifth instead of Fourth and I was so turned around that I thought I was going to miss our time. I sent out a flyer and we should be packed this morning. I’m so excited. Where should I set up? That counter looks good. I’ll just unload there. You have a backed stool like we talked about, right?”
A little chatty? She must’ve spoken at the rate of five hundred words a minute. She looked at me. “You must be Charlie. I’m Amber. Oh, look at you, you left yourself completely blank for me, no false lashes or anything. And I even get to shape your brows? This is going to be great.” She stepped closer and studied my face. “You have the perfect skin and bone structure for this. We are going to sell lots of makeup today.”
Did she have to breathe like the rest of us? Because I didn’t hear a single breath during her speech. Deep-sea divers could train themselves to hold their breath for seven minutes at a time. Were Olympic-caliber talkers the same way?
Linda laughed like she was very amused with Amber.
“So we have about thirty minutes before the class starts. If we move some of these racks of clothes off to the side, we could set up some chairs here in the middle. Did the chairs get delivered? I called yesterday to make sure they were set to arrive this morning, but I don’t see them.”
“They’re in the back,” Linda said.
“I’ll start bringing them out.” I needed a break. She was exhausting.
“Thank you so much. I’ll get the makeup ready.”
We weren’t even five minutes into the class and I knew I never wanted to do it again. She was explaining to the group how to properly pluck eyebrows, and my face was raw from the pain. So far I had managed to keep from actually screaming out loud, but I wasn’t sure if I could keep that up. My nose itched and my eyes watered.
“Charlie already has a very nicely shaped eyebrow, so we won’t get carried away. Just a little cleaning up.”
I wondered what a lot of cleaning up would feel like. I went into a zone, completely shutting out everything around me. My brain went through basketball plays, and my shoulders immediately relaxed. Five more weeks until camp, when I was sure my dad would let me quit this job. It just wouldn’t be practical to keep it when I had to leave for a week and then start school right when I got back. He’d see the logic. Plus, by then, I’d have . . . I did the math in my head and knew I wouldn’t have quite enough to cover my tickets. Still, he’d let me off. He had to.
It was hard to tell how much time passed. I guess I could’ve counted Amber’s words and figured it out that way. She hadn’t stopped talking the entire time. But at one point she stepped to the side and said, “And that is a daytime look with the Max line.”
A couple of people said, “Ooh,” and I didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing.
“Next week we’ll showcase the evening look. There are order forms in your booklet, and please feel free to ask me any questions. Most of the products I have in stock. I’ll also be setting up a display here in Bazaar, in case you can’t buy all the things you have on your list today.”
I wondered how long I had to sit there before I could go to the back and wash my face. My leg bounced and twitched as I waited. I’d already been sitting for way too long. A couple of people walked over to talk to Amber and pointed out different things on my face like I wasn’t there. Not that I’d have been able to answer their questions, but it still felt weird.
Linda came over and patted my shoulder. “You did so well, and you look amazing.”
I shrugged.
“Sit still for a minute, I’m going to grab my camera from the back so I can take a picture for your mom.”
My stomach twisted with guilt.
When Linda left, Amber said, “Thanks, Charlie. You are the perfect canvas. Your features were made to show off makeup. I don’t believe how enormous your eyes look with mascara.”
And enormous eyes were a good thing?
Amber turned her attention to the line of people that had formed, orders in hand, and began working her way through them. Linda came back out with the camera and took several pictures of me. “I’m going to print one of these off across the street. Watch the store for me.”
“You really don’t need to do that,” I said.
But she waved her hand through the air and kept walking.
The line finally thinned and people clutching cute purple bags with tissue paper left the store, chatting. Amber said, “Don’t forget to tell your friends, and come back for the evening face next week,” as each of them walked away.
Two girls who looked as made-up as Amber joined us in front after everyone had left. “You did good, Amber.”
“So, what do you think, girls? Easy, right? You guys could each find your own store. Maybe one of you can hit a downtown shop. This is definitely going to earn me enough for my fall wardrobe.”
“So, Linda said you might have some good face wash for me?” I asked before she and her friends got too busy talking about clothes.
“You’re going to wash it off?” one of them said.
“Well, I’m playing ball after this, so it’s not really practical.”
Amber smiled, reached into her bag, and pulled out a green package. “These are face wipes. You should need just one.”
I took them. “Thanks.”
“Oh, and if you want, Charlie, I’ll give you all the makeup I used on you today at cost.”
“Um . . . I haven’t been paid yet.”
She grabbed one of the thick catalogs of makeup, turned it to the front page where there was a picture of her, and circled her phone number. “Well, call me if you change your mind. I can deliver.” She handed it to me.
Linda returned, and I pointed to the back. She nodded.
I started to walk away.
“Charlie,” Amber called. I turned around. “We’re going out to lunch, the three of us.” She pointed to her two friends. “Do you want to come?”
I couldn’t think of anything worse than sitting with three girls I hardly knew and having to think of something to say. “I have plans today. Next time?”
“Next Saturday.” She smiled. “I’m holding you to it.”
As I walked away, I pulled out a wipe and started scrubbing my face immediately. When I got to the bathroom, I stopped in front of the sink. My breath caught when I saw myself in the mirror. The image reminded me of the picture hanging in our hallway—my mom on her wedding day. My heart clenched. I scrubbed faster.
“What are you doing?” Gage asked, barging into my room after a single knock.
I slammed the picture Linda had taken of me facedown on the table. “Nothing.”
“Uh, okay. I’ll leave it alone because I don’t know if I want to know after a reaction like that.”
“Yeah, you should. What do you want?”
He fell back onto my bed. “Tomorrow we’re playing disc golf at Woodward Park. You in?”
“Of course.” I looked at the clock. Ten. “Hey, will you go running with me?”
“Right now.”
“No, but thanks for asking.”
“Thanks for nothing.”
“It’s ten o’clock. If I go run right now I’ll be up all night.”
If I don’t go run right now, I will be. “Please, Gage. I’d love you forever.”
“Hmmm, I’m pretty sure I already have that one locked down, but maybe a different bribe would work. Like showing me whatever that is.” He pointed to the picture on my desk.
No. Way. “Yeah, not going to happen. I don’t need to go running after all.” I tucked the picture into my desk drawer.
“Huh. Really? Now it is my goal in life to find out what you’re hiding.”
“That’s a pretty lame goal.”
“True. But I have this tingly feeling right here”—he pointed to his heart—“that it will be worth it.”
“Get out of here before I have to kick your butt.”
On his way out he grabbed hold of my ponytail, pulling both me and my chair backward, then lowered the chair gently to the ground.
“You’re an idiot,” I said, staring up at him from my new position on my back.
Rain pounded my window. Red rain. So hard that a single crack formed at the top of the glass and slowly splintered down in a sharp line. I watched it, the white line splitting my window into equal parts. And then suddenly it shattered, sending glass spraying into my bedroom.
I sat up with a start.
If I could control my subconscious mind, I would never ever dream. There had to be some way to solve this problem. Hypnosis or something. Maybe just a treadmill. What were the odds my dad would buy me one of those?
Downstairs, I made some hot chocolate and turned on the laptop. I Googled dream interpretation and searched for the word rain. There was always rain in my dream. I read: Falling rain is a metaphor for tears, crying, or sadness. Yeah, whatever. I couldn’t remember the last time I cried. I looked up recurring dreams.
Dreams are messages, things our minds want us to learn. Recurring dreams can be really important messages. They often come in the form of nightmares. Recurring dreams could represent a real-life problem that hasn’t been dealt with or resolved. Overcoming or resolving that problem could help one move past the recurring dream.
I read the paragraph again. What credentials did a stupid online dream interpreter have anyway? I could make up garbage like this. Closing the laptop, I moved to the back door and looked over at Braden’s house. It was two a.m.; there was no way he was up again. It would be completely selfish to text him. I knew this, and yet I got my phone and stared at his name for a long time.
I put the phone down, deciding against it, and went outside. His bedroom window was dark. The whole house was dark. Maybe he’d come out on his own like he did the first time. That wouldn’t be selfish of me. I craned my neck to see if his father’s car sat in his driveway.
I was hoping his dad would come home drunk and drive Braden outside? That was more selfish than if I just texted him.
“Sorry,” I whispered. “I hope he never comes home that way again.” I placed my palm on the fence as if I had somehow just sent that message to Braden. Then I sat down on the dirt. It felt warm between my fingers. “I dream about my mom,” I said to the moon. “How is it possible to miss someone I never knew?”
If Braden were out here, what would be my match? What did he dream about? Leaving this place? He was a year older than I was, like Gage. He’d be a senior this year. And then what? I knew in my heart he’d be gone as soon as he turned in his graduation robes. With a home life like his, what did he have to stay for? My heart sank with that thought. I hoped his friendship with our family, with Gage . . . with me, might keep him here.
Chapter 11
“I know how to play,” I said, shaking Braden’s hand off my arm. “Don’t be all condescending with me.”
“I’m just trying to help your technique, Charlie.”
“I’m sorry, did you become a professional disc golf instructor and forgot to tell any of us?”
He grunted. “You’re so stubborn.”
“If I had asked for help, I would accept your help.”
Jerom joined in. “That’s the issue—you never ask for help.”
“Because I don’t need help. Now back up before I whack you all in the head with this.”
Braden took a large, deliberate step back.
I analyzed the positions of the trees around us, hoping I didn’t hit any of them and prove him right. Nature had provided plenty of obstacles in this park. A dog to our left barked and then ran past us chasing a tennis ball; its owner let out a whistle.
I shook off the distractions, stood up straighter, then threw the Frisbee. It landed within five feet of the basket. Way closer than where Braden’s sat at least ten feet from mine. “So there.”