“The least you can do is pretend you’ll miss me!” I burst out. “It’s the decent thing to do.”
“Margot was going all the way across the world. You’re only going fifteen minutes away, so I won’t even have a chance to miss you.”
She clasps her hands to her heart. “Okay. How’s this? I’m going to miss you so much I’ll cry every night!”
I smile. “That’s more like it.”
“I’ll miss you so much, I’ll want to slit my wrists!” She cackles wildly.
“Katherine. Don’t talk like that!”
“Then quit fishing for compliments,” she says, and she goes off to bed, while I stay behind and pack up my toiletries for the New York trip tomorrow. If I get into UVA, I’ll probably just keep a set of my makeup and creams and combs here at home, so I won’t have to pack every time. Margot had to be so careful about what she brought with her to Saint Andrews, because Scotland is so far away and she isn’t able to make the trip back home very often. I’ll probably only pack for fall and winter and leave all my summer things at home, and then just switch them out when the seasons change.
IN THE MORNING, DADDY DRIVES me to school to catch the charter bus. “Call me as soon as you’re settled in your room,” he says as we wait at the traffic light by school.
“Did you pack the emergency twenty?”
“Yes.” Last night, Daddy gave me a twenty-dollar bill to put in the secret pocket of my jacket, just in case. I have his credit card, too, for spending money. Ms. Rothschild loaned me her tiny umbrella and her portable cell phone charger.
Daddy gives me a sidelong look and a sigh. “It’s all happening so fast now. First your senior trip, then prom, then graduation. Only a matter of time before you’re out of the house too.”
“You’ll still have Kitty,” I say. “Though it’s true that she isn’t exactly the ray of sunshine that I am.” He laughs. “If I get into UVA, I’ll be around all the time, so don’t you worry about a thing.” I sing it the way he does, like Stevie Wonder.
* * *
On the bus I sit next to Peter; Chris sits with Lucas. I thought it might be a tough sell to get Chris to come on the senior trip, and it would have been, if Disney World had won out. But she’s never been to New York before either, so it ended up being easy peasy.
We’re on the road for an hour before Peter engages everybody in a game of Never Have I Ever, which I pretend to be asleep for, because I have not done much of anything, drugs-wise or sex-wise, and that’s all anybody cares about. Mercifully, the game dies down pretty fast, I suppose because it’s a lot less exciting when there are no red Solo cups involved. Just as I’m opening my eyes and stretching my arms and “waking up,” Gabe suggests Truth or Dare, and my stomach takes a nosedive.
Ever since Peter’s and my hot tub video scandal last year, I’ve felt self-conscious about what people might be thinking about what we do or don’t do. Sex-wise, I mean. And Truth or Dare is miles worse than Never Have I Ever! How many people have you had sex with? Have you ever been in a threeway? How many times a day do you jerk off? Those are the kinds of questions people ask each other, and if anybody ever asked them of me, I would have to say that I’m a virgin, and in some ways, that’s even more subversive than any other answer. Usually, I slip away to the kitchen or another room when this game gets started at other parties. But there’s nowhere for me to slip away to today, for we are on a bus, and I am well and truly trapped.
Peter gives me an amused look. He knows what I’m thinking. He says he doesn’t care what people think, but I know that’s not true. Historically, Peter cares very much what other people think of him.
“Truth or dare,” Gabe says to Lucas.
Lucas takes a swig of his Vitaminwater. “Truth.”
“Have you ever had sex with a dude?”
My whole body goes tight. Lucas is gay, and he’s out, but he isn’t out out. He doesn’t want to deal with having to explain himself to people all the time, and why should he have to? It’s not like it’s anybody else’s business.
There’s a quick beat before Lucas says, “No. Is that an offer?”
Everybody laughs, and Lucas has a slight smile on his face as he takes another swig of Vitaminwater, but I can see the tension in his neck, his shoulders. It must take a toll, having to be on guard for these kinds of questions, ready to deflect, to smile, to laugh it off. My virginity question is tiny in comparison. But I still don’t want to answer.
I pray that Lucas picks me next, because I know he’ll go easy on me. But Lucas must not notice the pleading glances I am throwing his way, because instead of picking me, he chooses Genevieve, who is sitting a few rows back, looking at her phone. She’s been dating a guy from her church and he goes to a different school, so no one sees her around as much. I heard from Chris that her parents got divorced, and that her dad moved into a new condo with his girlfriend. Chris said Genevieve’s mom had a breakdown and had to be hospitalized for a few days, but things are better now, which I’m glad for. Peter sent daffodils to her mom when she came back home, and we labored over what the card should say—we finally decided on just Be well, Wendy. Love, Peter. The flowers were my idea, and I chipped in, but of course I didn’t put my name on the card. I’ve just always liked Wendy; she’s been nice to me since I was little. I still get that nervous dip in my stomach when I see Genevieve, but not as bad as it used to be. I know we’ll never be friends again, and I’ve made my peace with it.
“Truth or dare, Gen,” Lucas calls out.
She looks up. Automatically she says, “Dare.” Of course Genevieve picks dare; she’s a lot of things, but she’s no coward. I’d rather do anything than answer a sex question, so I’ll likely be picking dare too.
Lucas dares Genevieve to go sit next to Mr. Jain and put her head on his shoulder. “Make it believable,” Lucas says. Everyone howls with laughter. I can tell she really doesn’t want to do it, but again, she’s not a coward.
We all watch as she makes her way up the aisle and then stops at Mr. Jain’s row. Mr. Jain is new this year; he teaches biology. He’s on the younger side, handsome; he wears skinny jeans with button-downs to school. Genevieve slides into the seat next to him, and all I can see is the back of her head as she talks. He’s smiling. Then she snuggles closer to him and drops her head on his shoulder, and he jumps like a scared cat. Everyone is laughing, and Mr. Jain turns around and shakes his head at us, looking relieved it was a joke.