فصل 14

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14

Later, my mother brushed my hair. It came out just right, except for one piece on the left that turned the wrong way. My mother said that piece made it look very natural.

My mother and father smiled at me a lot while I was waiting for Nancy ‘s father to pick me up. I smiled back. It was like we all knew some special secret. Only I knew they didn’t know my special secret! At least they didn’t say anything dumb like doesn’t she look sweet-going to her first supper party! I’d have died!

Mr. Wheeler tooted his horn at quarter to five. My mother kissed me good-by and my father waved from his chair. “Have fun,” he called.

The Four PTS’s squeezed into the back seat of the Wheeler car (not the station wagon). Nancy ‘s father told us it was silly to sit like that and besides it made him feel like a hired chauffeur. But all we did was giggle. Janie got her hair cut without telling us she was going to. She said she didn’t know it herself until that afternoon when her mother took her to the beauty parlor and had a private talk with Mr. Anthony. Then Mr. Anthony started clipping away and next thing she knew-she had this new haircut. She looked like an elf. It did a lot for her. And for a minute I thought about how I would look with the same haircut. But then I remembered how long I’d been suffering to let my hair grow. I decided it would be stupid to cut it all off.

When we got to the party Norman ‘s mother opened the door for us. She was very tall and thin with a face like Norman ‘s. I remembered her from the PTA square dance. Tonight she wasn’t dressed like a farmer. She had on black velvet pants and some kind of top that looked like it had diamonds and rubies all over it.

“Good evening, Mrs. Fishbein,” Nancy said, in a voice I’d never heard. “Please meet my friend Margaret Simon.”

Mrs. Fishbein smiled at me and said, “Glad to meet you, Margaret.” Then she took our coats away and handed them to a maid who carried them up the stairs.

“My, you all look so pretty!” Mrs. Fishbein said. “Everyone is downstairs. Nancy, you know the way.”

I followed Nancy past the living room. The furniture was all very modern. The chairs looked like carved-out boxes and the tables were all glass. Everything was beige. At Nancy ‘s house the furniture all has lion’s paws for feet and there are a million colors. At my house the living room is carpeted but empty. My mother is trying to decide what kind of stuff she wants.

Norman ‘s house was pretty big, because I had to follow Nancy through at least four more rooms before we got to a door leading downstairs.

It looked like most of my class was already there. Including Laura Danker, who I thought looked gorgeous in a soft pink dress with her hair all loose, kind of hanging in her face.

The boys had on sport jackets and some wore ties. Philip Leroy had on a tie the first time I saw him but a few minutes later the tie was gone and his shirt was unbuttoned around the neck. Soon after that, not one boy had his jacket on. They were all in a big heap in the corner.

Mostly, the girls stayed on one side of the room, and the boys on the other. As soon as everyone was there Mrs. Fishbein brought out the food. All kinds of sandwiches and a big dish of cut-up hotdogs in beans. I took some of that and some potato salad and sat down at a table with Janie, Nancy and Gretchen. There were six little tables so practically everyone had a place to sit. As soon as we were all served Mrs. Fishbein and the maid went back upstairs.

I’m not sure who started blowing the mustard through a straw up at the ceiling. I only know that I saw Philip Leroy yell, “Watch this, Freddy!” as he aimed his straw. I saw the mustard fly up and make a yellow splotch on the white ceiling.

Mrs. Fishbein didn’t come downstairs again until dessert time. At first she didn’t see the ceiling. But she did see the mess on the buffet table. When she looked up she sucked m her breath and the room got very quiet. “What is that on my ceiling?” she asked Norman.

“Mustard,” Norman answered.

“I see,” Mrs. Fishbein replied.

That was all she said but she looked at every one of us with an I-don’t-know-why-your-parents-never-taught-you-any-manners look. Then Mrs. Fishbein stood close to our table and said, “I’m sure these girls aren’t responsible for this mess.” We smiled at her, but I saw Philip Leroy stick out his tongue at us.

“Now I’m going upstairs to get your dessert,” Mrs. Fishbein said, “and I expect you to behave like ladies and gentlemen.”

Dessert was tiny cupcakes in all different colors. I ate two chocolate ones before Freddy Barnett came over to our table. “I’m sure these girls didn’t do anything naughty!” he mimicked. “These girls are so sweet and good.”

“Oh shut up!” Nancy told him, standing up. She was as tall as he was.

“Why don’t you shut up, know it all!”

“Cut it out, Lobster!” Nancy hollered.

“Who’s a lobster?”

“You are!” Nancy gritted her teeth.

Freddy grabbed hold of Nancy and for a minute I thought he was going to hit her.

“Take you lobster claws off me!” Nancy yelled.

“Make me,” Freddy told her.

Nancy whirled around but Freddy had hold of her dress by the pocket and next thing we knew Freddy still had the pocket but Nancy was across the room.

“Oh! He ripped off my pocket!” Nancy screamed.

Freddy looked like he couldn’t believe it himself. But there he was, holding Nancy ‘s pocket. There wasn’t any hole in Nancy ‘s dress-just some loose threads where her pocket used to be. Nancy ran up the stairs and returned a few minutes later with Mrs. Fishbein.

“He tore off my pocket,” Nancy said, pointing to Freddy Barnett.

“I didn’t mean to,” Freddy explained. “It just came off.”

“I am shocked at your behavior. Simply shocked!” Mrs. Fishbein said. “I don’t know what kind of children you are. I’m not going to send you home because your parents expect you to be here until nine and it’s only seven now. But I’m telling you this-any more hanky-panky and I’ll call each and every one of your mothers and fathers and report this abominable behavior to them!”

Mrs. Fishbein marched back up the stairs. We couldn’t hold back our giggles. It was all so funny. Hanky-panky and abominable!

Even Nancy and Freddy had to laugh. Then Norman suggested that we play games to keep out of trouble. “The first game is Guess Who,” Norman said.

“Guess Who?” Janie asked. “How do you play that?”

Norman explained. “See, I turn off all the lights and the boys line up on one side and the girls on the other and then when I yell Go the boys run to the girls’ side and try to guess who’s who by the way they feel.”

“No, thank you,” Gretchen said. “That’s disgusting!”

“Above the neck, Gretchen,” Norman said. “Only above the neck.”

“Forget it,” Gretchen said and we all agreed. Especially me-I kept thinking of those six cotton balls. They weren’t so far below my neck.

“Okay,” Norman said. “We’ll start with Spin the Bottle.”

“That’s corny!” Philip Leroy shouted.

“Yeah,” the other boys agreed.

“We have to start with something,” Norman said. He put a green bottle on the floor.

We sat in a big circle, around the green bottle. Norman told us his rules. “You got to kiss whoever’s nearest to where the bottle points. No fair boy kissing boy or girl kissing girl.”

Norman spun first. He got Janie. He bent down and gave her a kiss on the cheek, near her ear but up higher. He ran back to his place in the circle. Everybody laughed. Then Janie had to spin. She got Jay. She put her face next to his but she kissed the air instead of him.

“No fair!” Norman called out. “You’ve got to really kiss him.”

“Okay, okay,” Janie said. She tried again. She made it this time, but far away from his mouth.

I felt a lot safer knowing it would all be cheek kissing. I held my breath every time somebody turned the bottle, waiting to see who would get me and wondering who I would get. When Gretchen got Philip Leroy she could hardly stand up. She kept biting her lip and finally she went over to him and gave him the quickest kiss you ever saw. Then I really couldn’t breathe because I thought, if he gets me I’ll faint. I closed my eyes. When I opened them I saw the bottle pointing straight at Laura Danker. She looked down and when Philip bent to kiss her I think all he got was her forehead and some loose hair.

That’s when Jay said, “This is really stupid. Let’s play Two Minutes in the Closet.”

“What’s that?” Norman asked.

Jay explained. “We all get a number and then somebody starts by calling like-number six-and those two go in the closet for two minutes and uh… well, you know.”

“We don’t have a closet down here,” Norman said. “But we do have a bathroom.”

Norman didn’t waste any time getting some paper and pencils. He scribbled the numbers on a big sheet of paper-odd ones for the boys, evens for the girls. Then he tore each number off and put first the evens, then the odds in his father’s hat. We all picked. I got number twelve.

I was half scared and half excited and I wished I had been experimenting like Nancy. Nancy would know what to do with a boy in the dark, but what did I know? Nothing!

Norman said he’d go first because it was his party. Nobody argued. He stood up and cleared his throat. “Number uh… number sixteen,” he said.

Gretchen squealed and jumped up.

“Bye bye you two,” Nancy said. “Don’t be long!”

Long! They were back in three seconds.

“Hey! I thought you said two minutes,” Philip Leroy called.

“Two minutes is as long as you can stay,” Norman said. “But you don’t have to stay that long if you don’t want to.”

Gretchen called number three which was Freddy Barnett and I hoped I’d remember to never call number three.

Then Freddy called number fourteen and got Laura Danker. We all giggled. I wondered how he would kiss her because I didn’t think he could reach her face unless he stood on something. Maybe he’ll stand on the toilet seat, I thought. And then I couldn’t stop laughing at all.

When they came out of the bathroom Laura’s face was as red as Freddy’s and I thought that was pretty funny for a girl who goes behind the A amp;P with boys.

Laura called her number very softly. “Seven,” she said.

Philip Leroy stood up and smiled at the boys. He pushed his hair off his face and walked to the bathroom with his hands stuffed in his pockets. I kept thinking that if he really liked her he’d call her number back and the two of them would be in the bathroom together for the rest of the party.

When they came out Philip was still smiling but Laura wasn’t. Nancy poked me and gave me her knowing look. I was so busy watching Laura that I didn’t hear Philip call number twelve.

“Who’s twelve?” Philip asked. “Somebody must be twelve.”

“Did you say twelve?” I asked. “That’s me.”

“Well, come on, Margaret.”

I stood up knowing I’d never be able to make it across the recreation room to the bathroom, where Philip Leroy was waiting to kiss me. I saw Janie, Gretchen and Nancy smiling at me. But I couldn’t smile back. I don’t know how I got to the bathroom. All I know is I stepped in and Philip shut the door. It was hard to see anything.

“Hi, Margaret,” he said.

“Hi, Philip,” I whispered. Then I started to giggle.

“I can’t kiss you if you don’t stop laughing,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Because your mouth is open when you laugh.”

“You’re going to kiss me on the mouth?”

“You know a better place?”

I stopped laughing. I wished I could remember what Nancy said that day she showed me how to kiss her pillow.

“Stand still, Margaret,” Philip told me.

I stood still.

He put his hands on my shoulders and leaned close. Then he kissed me. A really fast kiss! Not the kind you see in the movies where the boy and girl cling together for a long time. While I was thinking about it, Philip kissed me again. Then he opened the bathroom door and walked back to his place.

“Call a number, Margaret,” Norman said. “Hurry up.”

I couldn’t even think of a number. I wanted to call Philip Leroy’s number. But I couldn’t remember it. So I called number nine and got Norman Fishbein!

He was really proud. Like I’d picked him on purpose. Ha! He practically ran to the bathroom.

After he closed the door he said, “I really like you, Margaret. How do you want me to kiss you?”

“On the cheek and fast,” I said.

He did it just that way and I quickly opened the door and walked away from the bathroom. And that was it!

Later, at my house, Nancy told me she thought I was the luckiest girl in the world and maybe it was fate that brought me and Philip Leroy together.

“Did he kiss good?” she asked.

“Pretty good,” I said.

“How many times?” she asked.

“About five. I lost count,” I told her.

“Did he say anything?”

“Nothing much.”

“Do you still like him?”

“Of course!”

“Me too.”

“Good night, Nancy.”

“Good night, Margaret.”

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