The Good Goodbye(6)

By: Carla Buckley

Jessica jumps up and down, her breasts jiggling. “I knew it. I knew it I knew it I knew it.”

Arden comes in, her arms filled with binders and books. We meet at our lockers, and she peels off her sweater. I’ve tried to help her fit in, but Arden always manages to do things just wrong enough. Like straightening her hair. There’s always a section she misses, a wavy flag down the back of her head. Her green seersucker dress is wrinkled, her belt tied in a sloppy bow. I’ve told her a million times to do what I do and wear a leather belt instead of the lame fabric one that comes with the uniform. As soon as I graduate, I’m going to cut all my uniforms into ribbons. Not Arden. Uncle Theo’s making her donate hers to the school bookstore for the scholarship girls. I’d rolled my eyes when she told me, made her swear she wouldn’t tell anyone else.

“Hey, thanks for not texting me back,” she says.

“Yeah. Sorry about that.”

“I had to find out from my mom.” She jams her books into her locker.

“I meant to call…” My voice trails off. I should have called, but for some reason I hadn’t wanted to. I hadn’t slept at all.


“My mom’s out of control.” I lean against my locker, but Arden won’t look at me. My mom had been squealing on the phone with Aunt Nat when I left, and I’d bet anything she was still making phone calls. “Probably her manicurist knows now. Probably the president.”

Arden’s mouth quirks up at that one, but only for a second. She’s really pissed.

“Definitely CNN,” I continue. “And Good Morning America. Now she’s trying to find out if NASA can relay a message around the world.”

Arden sighs and her shoulders relax. She can never stay mad at me for long. She looks at me. Her green eyes are kind of sad. We have the same eyes. Her lips are chapped, her lashes pale, so much like the face I look at every morning in the mirror, before I color it in. “Congrats.”

“Thanks.” She’s going to art school out in California. She applied early decision and heard back just before Christmas. For the first time in our lives, we’ll be living thousands of miles apart. “We’re still going to do it, you know.”

She doesn’t answer, but I know she heard me.

The bell rings and lockers start slamming. Arden reaches in for her binder and hands me back my copy of Jude the Obscure. She hooks her purse over her shoulder and looks at me again. Then she reaches out to give me a quick hug. “You totally deserve it, you know.”

She turns and pushes through the chattering girls, in a rush to get to class before the teacher does. I don’t know why she even cares. We’re seniors, coasting on our last few weeks. I watch her make her way down the hall until she turns the corner and I can’t see her anymore.

My parents are waiting when I get home that night. A bunch of us had gone to Georgetown to celebrate, taking up three long tables in Mitchell’s, my dad’s biggest competitor, talking and laughing our heads off. When I’d ordered a bottle of Cristal, Mitchell raised his eyebrows. I remember when Aunt Nat was his sous chef. Come on, I begged, we’re celebrating! I gave him a special smile and Mitchell caved, like I knew he would. Before I left, I slid the empty champagne glass into my bag. A memento.

I’m still kind of buzzing when I pull my car into the driveway and see Dad’s SUV in the garage beside my mom’s. Usually he doesn’t get home until after midnight, but my mom probably nagged him into coming home early. Then again, maybe not. He’d been pretty quiet on the phone when I called the restaurant to tell him the good news. He’d gone into his office and closed the door so he could hear me.

I’m expecting crème brûlée set out on the dining room table, or a plate of basil and lavender macarons beside that gorgeously wrapped gold bracelet I know my mom got to surprise me, just in case. I expect my parents’ faces to be proud and glowy, and prepare myself for all the hugging I’m going to have to endure. But when I step through the front door, they’re in the living room, my mom on the couch with her hands knitted together and my dad standing by the fireplace and not looking at her at all. Something’s happened. I calm myself. I tell myself: only four more months and I’ll be out of here.

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