At dinner Mona pushed away her plate of pasta and said, “Gosh, remember how John Travolta stuck that hypodermic in Uma Thurman’s chest in Pulp Fiction? I wonder if that works in real life.”
Until then they’d all been silent. Gail gave a sharp laugh. “I can’t see either of our girls doing that.”
Mona started to peel an apple with delicate fingers. “I’m not saying they could have saved the guy. Anyway, he was dead before they got there.”
Diana and Julie exchanged a glance. After dinner they cleaned the kitchen while the mothers took a walk. By dark they were in bed. Diana must have slept immediately because it seemed like no time at all had passed before Julie was kneeling over her, whispering, “Diana! Wake up!” She sat up fast, experiencing a horrible moment of flatness before the adrenaline kicked into her system. Her mother was having an affair. She pushed the thought away and grabbed her sneakers.
The keys to Mona’s rented Nissan Altima were in her handbag on the hall table. Diana felt like she was performing surgery as she removed them. Outside it was cave black and the hot thick air resonated with a continuous croaking chorus of frogs. Diana slid behind the wheel of the Nissan and held her breath as she started the engine. Mona took sleeping pills, so they didn’t have to worry about her, but one never knew with Gail who was up two, three times a night to pee. She backed the car with excruciating slowness down the drive. No lights came on in the house. She backed onto the dirt road — still no lights — put the car into drive and accelerated. They were in business!
They were going to Leo’s apartment, which was somewhere in Brattleboro. Julie gave terse directions. Diana inched down the road to avoid attracting the police. She found herself crossing her fingers as Julie got out of the car and crept through the shadows to the front door of a ramshackle two-family house. The dashboard clock said 1:46AM. It wasn’t till 1:49 that a light flickered on and the door flew open.
A woman in a hastily thrown on robe and a head full of curlers appeared. Diana could imagine her lips tightening into a snarl at the sight of the small beautiful Asian girl who now turned and slunk back to the car with drooping shoulders.
“What’d she say?”
“He’s gone, moved out.”
Julie leaned her head back against the seat and drew in a sobbing breath. “She didn’t know. He didn’t leave a forwarding address.” She pressed her hand over her mouth like a bandage. From behind damp fingers she said, “I have to find him.”
Diana wanted to go home, but Julie insisted. “Just one more place,” she begged, pulling at Diana’s shirt. They drove through dead-looking streets to someone named Ian’s house. This time Diana accompanied Julie to the door. It was a little after two o’clock, but people were still up — Ian’s dad, fuzzy-armed in a short-sleeved plaid shirt, who went back to his computer as soon as he let them in, Ian and his sister, Bethie, and two other girls, lying on the living room floor, watching videos.
When Julie and Diana entered, they patted the floor, indicating the girls should sit down, and pushed a giant bowl of M&Ms toward them. They’d heard about the dead guy, but no one knew who he was other than some sad sap junkie. “What about Leo?” Julie asked in a wobbly little voice.
“What about Leo what?” Ian said. He was a swimmer, so his red hair was cut flat to his head and his body, in a loose white T-shirt and boxers, didn’t have an ounce of extra flesh.
“Leo Wysocki?” Bethie said. In the flickering TV light, Diana saw that her tongue was pierced. She lisped when she said Wysocki.
“I was supposed to meet him here at your party last night,” Julie said.
“Oh, yeah, I remember.” Ian reached for the bowl of M&Ms. “You were pretty drunk. I guess I was, too.” He laughed abruptly and popped some candy in his mouth. “I heard Leo left this morning. On his way to Spain, or something. Actually, I lent him a suitcase.”
“Was he going for the summer?” Bethie lisped.
“Dunno.” Ian glanced at Julie who managed a tight smile though the rest of her face was bleak with misery. “Leo’s not a good dude. I wouldn’t put too much energy into him if I were you.”
“What if I’m pregnant?” Julie wailed when they were back in the car. Her entire face glistened with tears.
“He didn’t use anything?”
“I don’t think so.”
“What do you mean, you don’t think so? Couldn’t you tell?”
”No. I didn’t look.”
Though she’d never been with a guy, Diana couldn’t imagine being that stupid.
“I just finished my period,” Julie added, her voice as thick as mashed potatoes.
She began weeping again. When they pulled onto the dirt road that led to her house, she said: “Do you think he was just using me?”
Well, duh, Diana thought, and was about to say as much when she saw flashing police lights up ahead in Gail’s driveway. She glanced at Julie, whose mouth had flopped open. Uh oh, she thought, and her heart began to pump like some kind of animal running for cover. “This is your fault!” she stammered to Julie.
She’d never been in trouble before.
Julie pulled up the bottom of her oversized sweatshirt and wiped her face. “I’ll deal with it,” she said through clenched teeth. “We were both freaked out, okay? We thought a drive would help.”