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"It's none of their business."
She began to cry. It was an awful sight, Dad. She was trying to cover her paleness with a thin musty sheet.
"Of course they know," I said, lifting her quaking chin, and staring as earnestly as I could into her unprotected face. "Of course they know. Listen, I love you."
• • • • •
I hid from her in the halls. I took the long way to class to avoid her. I memorized her schedule and spent my day flanked by others — even people I didn't know well — so that if I did run into her, intimacy of any kind wasn't an option. I ate lunch at the French table, I ate lunch in the faculty section, I skipped lunch altogether. I came late to Physics and sat by the door, I came early to AP Mod and sat with the laptop dorks at the front table.
And then at 3:30 I drove straight to her pool house and let myself in and slid off my shoes and waited for her on the sofa while watching People's Court.
All of which meant I was never home, and when I was it was after you and Mom had gone to bed, and I would find a dinner plate Saran-wrapped on the kitchen counter and eat alone with a single light, the broccoli cold, the couscous lumpy. Soon even Cuppo had stopped calling. He and Sausage had jokes I didn't understand.
"Here," he said, handing me the Phish tapes he'd borrowed. We were in the parking lot, outside his rusty Grand Caravan, whose upholstery still carried the distinct smell of children and car seat. It had been his mother's van when Cuppo had been a figure skater as a child, where she'd fed him countless McDonald's dinners as she drove him around the tri-state area to compete. It was a life he didn't much mention anymore.
"Any of the old sparkly costumes in there?" I said, peering over his shoulder.
He made an obnoxious laugh.
"How about tights?"
"Take your fucking tapes."
When Cuppo had shown up in the sixth grade, he was six inches shorter and delicate, exempt from gym because of "outside physical demands." Everyone knew him then as Pierre, but he hung up the skates when he thickened with puberty. His hair curled into a wiry nest. His dad was gone. But his lunch, which was still packed by his mother, always contained the trademark "Cup O' Vanilla" pudding. The change of name seemed only appropriate.
Cuppo fiddled with his new cell phone, a hand-me-down from his mom. He liked to pull it out whenever he could, just to look important, while the rest of us bummed quarters for the payphone.
"What're you, a fucking banker?"
"Just seeing if anyone called."
"Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom," I mimed.
"So when are you getting married?" he said.