After we fled a failed back-to-the-land commune in the late seventies, Mom rented us a small apartment in town, at the dead end of a one-block street called Eastlick. We did have a neighbor named Dru, and I was an awkward preteen (with a Hallowe’en birthday). The rest is pure fiction. This story first appeared in Black Static magazine in May, 2009.
I first see the guy up close when I’m coming home from school. Junior high. I’m wearing purple corduroy pants and a white blouse with lace ruffles at the top and on the sleeves. It itches, but it looks cool, so I wear it anyway.
Although we don’t say ‘cool’. That’s what hippies say, and I am not a hippie.
It looks fine.
The guy is working on a mustard-yellow Datsun, or Toyota maybe—modified, with big chrome wheels and exhaust pipes, and a super-shiny paint job. He’s taken the badges off the back. It’s two-door, with black interior, and looks very fast. I’ve seen him driving it around before, but this is the first time I’ve seen him out of the car.
He has dark hair that feathers back perfectly, like Scott Baio.
I smile at him as I walk by. I wish I had books to hold to my chest, but we don’t get homework. That’s for high school. If I had books to hold, then he wouldn’t see my tiny breast-buds, one bigger than the other. Maybe he can’t see them under all the ruffles anyway. Maybe they make me look bigger in the chest than I am.
He doesn’t smile back, but he does look at me. I walk a little slower, letting my hips move. I can feel his eyes on me as I go, and I even know when he finally turns back to his car and picks up a crescent wrench. It’s weird: I just know.
At the end of Eastlick, our one-block dead-end street, I see Dru on her porch, and say hi to her.
“How was school?” She’s painting her toenails.
“All right. We get to go on a band trip.”
I linger on our tiny porch, leaning on the metal pipe rail, but she doesn’t invite me over. So I get my key out of my pocket and let myself into our apartment.
Mom says we won’t live here forever, she’ll buy a place once she gets the money from Bruce, but I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We moved here after school had already started, just picked up all of a sudden one day and left. We had to leave a lot of stuff out at his place. She keeps saying we’ll go back, but we don’t.
At least there’s Dru. She lives next door all by herself, in an apartment the same size as ours. She goes to the community college. She’s half Chinese and half white, and all gorgeous. She’s nice to me, when she isn’t busy with school or work or stuff. She taught me how to feather my hair, but mine doesn’t work like hers does. Hers looks all smooth and sleek and, well, feathery. Mine is lumpy. The best I can manage is some weird-looking rolls down the sides, the shape of the curling iron. Then it all gets messed up in the wind.
I wish I lived alone. I wish I was in college.