Lola and the Boy Next Door
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Lindsey rolls her eyes. Her main reason for waiting to date is that she believes it’ll get in the way of her agenda. Agenda is her term, not mine. She thinks guys are a distraction from her educational goals, so she doesn’t want to date until she’s firmly settled in post-high-school life. I respect her decision, even though I’d rather wear sweatpants in public than give up my boyfriend.
Or give up my first opportunity to attend the winter formal. It’s for upperclassmen only, and it’s still months away, but I’m thrilled about my Marie Antoinette dress, which I’ve already started collecting materials for. Shimmering silk dupioni and crisp taffeta. Smooth satin ribbon. Delicate ostrich feathers and ornate crystal jewelry. I’ve never attempted a project this complex, this huge, and it’ll take my entire autumn to create.
I decide to begin when I get home. It’s Friday, and for once I don’t have to work. Also, Amphetamine is playing in a club tonight that doesn’t accept anyone under twenty-one. And won’t allow Max to sneak me in.
From everything I’ve read online, I need to start with the undergarments.
I’ve already bought a ton of fabric for the dress, but the costume still has to be built from the inside out so that when I take the measurements for the actual gown, I can take them over the bulky stays (an eighteenth-century word for corset) and the giant panniers (the oval-shaped hoop skirts Marie and her ladies wore) .
I search for hours for instructions on making historically accurate panniers and come up with zilch. Unless I want to make them with hula hoops, and I don’t, I’ll have to go to the library for more research. Searching for stays brings more success. The diagrams and instructions are overwhelming, but I print out several pages and begin taking measurements and creating a pattern.
I’ve been sewing for three years, and I’m pretty decent. I started with the small stuff, like everyone does—hemming, A-line skirts, pillowcases—but quickly moved on to bigger items, each more complex than the last. I’m not interested in making what’s easy.
I’m interested in making what’s beautiful.
I lose myself in the process: tracing out patterns on tissue paper, fitting them together, retracing, and refitting. Nonsewers don’t realize how much problem solving goes into garment making, and beginners often quit in frustration. But I enjoy the puzzle. If I looked at this dress as one massive thing, it would be too overwhelming. No one could create such a gown. But by breaking it into tiny, individual steps, it becomes something I can achieve.
When my room finally grows too dark, I’m forced to rise from the floor and plug in my twinkle lights. I stretch my sore muscles and stare at my window.
Will he come home this weekend?
The idea fills me with unease. I don’t understand why he’s been asking Andy and St. Clair questions about me. There are only three possible solutions, each more improbable than the last. Maybe he’s not making friends at school and, for some twisted reason, has decided I’d make a decent pal again. I mean, he’s come home for the last two weekends. Obviously no one is interesting enough to keep him in Berkeley. Or maybe he feels bad about how things ended between us, and he’s trying to make up for it. Clear his conscience.
Or . . . maybe . . . he likes me. In that other way.
I was fine before he came back, perfectly happy without this complication. It would’ve been better if he’d ignored me. Calliope and I haven’t talked yet; there’s no reason why Cricket and I should have to either. I drift toward my window, and I’m surprised to discover striped curtains hanging in his room.
And then his light turns on.
I yank my curtains closed. My heart pounds as I back against the wall. Through the gap between curtain fabrics, I watch a silhouette that is undeniably Cricket Bell toss two bags to his floor—one shoulder bag and one laundry bag. He moves toward our windows, and dread lurches inside of me. What if he calls my name?
There’s a sudden brightness as he pulls back his own curtains. His body changes from a dark shadow into a fully fleshed human. I slink back farther. He pauses there, and then startles as another figure enters his room. I can barely hear the sound of a girl talking. Calliope.
I can’t hide forever. My curtains are thick, and I need to trust them. I take a deep breath and step away, but I trip backward over my project and tear a pattern. I curse. Laughter comes from next door, and for one panicked second, I think they’ve witnessed my clumsy maneuver. But it’s paranoia talking. Whatever they’re laughing about has nothing to do with me. I hate that they can still get to me like that.
I know what I need. I call him, and he picks up just before his voice mail.
“HEY,” Max says.
“Hi! How is it tonight? When are you guys going on?” The club is loud, and I can’t hear his response. “What?”
“[MUFFLE MUFFLE] AFTER ELEVEN [MUFFLE].”
“Oh. Okay.” I don’t have anything to add. “I miss you.”
“[MUFFLE MUFFLE MUFFLE. MUFFLE.]”
“What? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you!”
“[MUFFLE MUFFLE] BAD TIME [MUFFLE].”
I assume he’s saying he has to go. “Okay! I’ll see you tomorrow! Bye!” A click on the other end, and he’s gone. I should have texted him. But I don’t want to now, because I don’t want to bother him. He doesn’t like talking before shows.
The call leaves me feeling more cold than comforted. The laughter continues next door, and I resist the urge to throw my sewing shears at Cricket’s window to make them shut up. My phone rings, and I answer eagerly. “Max!”
“I need you to tell Nathan to come get me.”
“Where are you?” I’m already hustling downstairs. Nathan is crashed in front of the television, eyes half closed, watching Antiques Roadshow with Heavens to Betsy. “Why can’t you tell him yourself?”
“Because he’s gonna be pissed, and I can’t deal with pissed right now.” The voice is cranky and exhausted.
I stop dead in my tracks. “Not again.”
“Landlord changed my locks, so I was forced to break into my apartment. My own apartment. They’re calling it an incident.”
“Incident?” I ask, and Dad’s eyes pop open. I thrust out my phone to him without waiting for a response, disgusted. “Norah needs you to bail her out.”