Read Doreen Online

Authors: Ilana Manaster

Doreen (10 page)

“I knew you'd understand!” Simon flung his big arms around her tiny shoulders, squeezing the air out of her. “Anyway,” he said, hopping up from the couch, “we better get you to the airport, huh? You don't want to miss your plane! I'll go up and grab your stuff.” He ran a few paces toward the stairs.

“Simon! Wait!”

“What is it?” He stood looking at her with his hands on his hips, his forehead furrowed in dumb concern. Janie stepped up to face him. He was a foot taller and twice as wide, but he was still her little brother.

“Simon, honey, I want you to know something. I'm sure the two of you will be very happy together, that there will be nothing but love and joy from here on out, but I want to make it very clear.” Jane grasped Simon's wrist tightly and looked deep into his eyes. “If this girl Doreen Gray does anything to hurt you, I will kill her, do you understand? I'll murder her with my own hands if I have to. I will find her and kill her.”

“Got it,” said Simon. He yanked his wrist from her grip. “Now don't look so serious, Janie. You're going on an adventure! Lighten up!” With that, he popped up the stairs to retrieve her bags.

“I mean it, too!” Jane called behind him. She looked out the kitchen window onto the ugly suburban block. Leaving Place—what a street. Soon this would be a memory, just one forgettable house in a forgettable town. She was determined to find something for herself out there, away, out in the world. And she could really leave, too, if it weren't for Simon. Simon would keep a part of her there, in Hamilton, no matter how far away she might travel.

“All set!” he said. Simon came down the stairs with two duffel bags slung around him and a backpack in his hand. Still, he seemed light, unburdened. “Let's get you to your plane!”

To Heidi's annoyance, Doreen suddenly had one thing on her mind: Simon Vale. Every chance she got, she ran off campus to watch Simon practice, or meet him at Bread the News Café on Main Street. And when she couldn't be near him, she talked about him. Nonstop.

Heidi knew better than to express her disapproval openly since Doreen, like most people, believed herself to be autonomous. A negative word from Heidi would only make them closer. So she said nothing, hid her eye rolls, and hoped the whole thing would blow over—soon.

Heidi's objection to the boy had nothing to do with him personally. She was not so far removed from her roots that she could pass judgment on someone because they were without the means to attend private school. In fact, she had no doubt that he was as handsome, kind, and athletic as Doreen went on and on and on and on about. And on. And on.

Walking to their afternoon class:

“Did you see what Juliet Goldberg did to her hair? I can't believe she thought she could pull off a pixie cut with her face! She just doesn't have the bone structure,” Heidi said.

“The person who loves her won't care,” said Doreen dreamily. “Simon told me he would love me if I had green skin and a carrot for a nose. He said that even if I gained a thousand pounds and doused my skin with castor oil, his love would be undiminished.”

“I wouldn't test it.”

“What?”

“Nothing. You're lucky to have found him, Doreen. Juliet, on the other hand, is single.”

“I am lucky, aren't I? Everyone should be as lucky as I am. Everyone should find true love in this world.” Doreen plucked a leaf off a tree and took a whiff with her eyes closed.

“Watch out for that bench!” said Heidi, though part of her hoped to see the girl tumble over it and back down to earth.

“Thanks!” Doreen flicked the leaf away. “Anyway, I think you're being too hard on Juliet. She's beautiful on the inside.”

Heidi turned away and tried not to gag.

At breakfast:

“You know, it's funny. I never liked sports before I met Simon.”

“Waste of time, if you ask me,” said Biz. “I really don't understand the appeal at all.” She had helped herself to a little of every single cereal on offer. Cereal suicide, she called it.

“I'm with you,” said Heidi as she loaded up her coffee with skim milk and Equal.

But Doreen did not seem to have heard them. “I never knew why girls wanted to be with athletes. Girls who don't particularly like sports, I mean. Why would someone who doesn't watch football want to date a football player? But now I am starting to understand.” She took a thoughtful nibble of whole wheat toast. “Here's what it is—”

“You don't have to explain,” said Heidi. “Really.”

“When I watch Simon play football, he's so much better than everyone else and it makes me feel like a winner myself, naturally. But I also feel very safe. Because Simon loves me and he would kill anybody who would want to hurt me. And he could do it, too. With his bare hands. He is so, so strong.”

“Anyone could do that,” said Biz in between bites of cereal sludge. “I mean, I could kill someone with my bare hands. Truly. It's easier than you might think if you're familiar with human anatomy. All you have to do is—”

“I was thinking,” said Doreen. Heidi made an involuntary cluck with her tongue.
When you interrupt you seem overly eager, and stupid. Civilized people wait their turn.
Roland had taught her that. “Do you think that Simon could get a football scholarship? To Chandler? I know you haven't seen him play, but you have to believe me when I say he is remarkably good. He would be a huge asset.”

“Sorry, did you say football scholarship?” asked Heidi.

“Yes. Chandler does have a team, don't they?”

“Sure. I think we do. We do, don't we, Biz?”

“I have heard that we do.”

“Why wouldn't they want to win? And with Simon leading the team, they would win. Wouldn't they be willing to cough up some tuition for the bragging rights? Biz, what do you think?”

Biz and Heidi exchanged a look. Chandler was not the sort of place that gave football scholarships. “Uh,” said Biz.

“He will achieve such greatness. But he needs help. Just a little nudge in the right direction. Wait until you see him play! You will see what I mean.”

“Here comes Misha. Let's change the subject, okay?” said Heidi.

“But why should I—”

“Doreen! Just trust me. Keep it mum for now all right?”

“What are we talking about here?” Misha slid in next to Heidi.

“We were . . .” Doreen looked at Heidi, who subtly shook her head. Simon or not, Doreen still wanted to be popular, didn't she? “We were talking about that cute top you're wearing, Meesh. Where is it from? It's adorable.”

Bullet dodged, Heidi thought. For now.

As Misha reported on some half-true piece of gossip she'd heard from Wes Sylvan, Heidi became even more convinced that the Simon Vale business had to be kept under wraps. If it got leaked to the Chandler gossip mill, Doreen would be finished. Doreen had not even finished a single semester at the school, and she'd already decided that the boys on offer were beneath her consideration? Boys and girls alike would not take kindly to that. Add to that Doreen's worthy attitude about Simon's “goodness,” and soon enough people would turn on the girl.

If she had to, Heidi would take action. It wouldn't be the first time she'd broken up a couple she deemed unsuitable or inconvenient, though she hoped it wouldn't come to that. Better to try and talk some sense to the girl, remind her of their larger project. She watched Misha try to impress Doreen and felt a wave of pride. They had come so far already, there was no saying what they might accomplish together if they stayed focused. And Heidi was thinking beyond Chandler now. Two girls from the outside win at high society? This was a partnership that could be mutually beneficial for the rest of their lives.

The thing to do was to loosen up a bit, reestablish their bond with a little one-on-one fun. Heidi made a plan to meet Doreen in the shed behind the stadium an hour before curfew. “Just us,” she said with a wink, and Doreen grinned. She still had some influence over the girl, Simon or not.

“How's that?” asked Doreen. Heidi examined the sad-looking joint.

“Um, a little better I guess. But you have to roll it tighter. Here. Like that, see?”

“I'm hopeless at this. You should just roll these.”

“But rolling a joint is a great skill, Doreen. Very sexy.” She sparked the joint with a lighter she'd “borrowed” from Ad-rock two years earlier.

“Really?” They'd laid out Heidi's raincoat to protect their little tushes from the wet earth. The dank smell of the ground mixed pleasantly with the armpitty weed stink. It felt very natural, something Heidi felt infrequently.

“It's one of those things, like playing pool. Working a socket wrench. Men like a girl with skills.” She exhaled.

“What's a socket wrench?”

“I have no idea.”

Doreen burst out laughing and Heidi joined, their giggles muffled by the shed's wet wood.

“Stop it,” said Doreen, wiping away tears. “Oh my god. I'm going to pee my pants. Wait. What did you say? Now I can't remember what was so funny.”

“Me neither!” They fell over themselves laughing.

“How long do you think kids have been getting high in this shed?”

“About a century. Give or take.”

“And they never get busted?”

“Who knows?”

“I bet my dad smoked pot in here.” Doreen looked around as if trying to picture it. “He went to school here, you know.”

“Yeah,” said Heidi, trying to keep her tone relaxed. “Sure, you said that. It's funny though, you never talk about him. Uh, so, what's he like?”

Doreen drew lines in the dirt with her finger. “I don't know. I don't really know him anymore. He picked me up from the airport in Boston. But before that I hadn't seen him since I was little.”

“What did he say when he picked you up?” Heidi was doing her best to seem caring and interested, not nosy. She drew in another hit.

“I guess he was afraid that I was going to embarrass him. At Chandler. He said something about how it was his turf and he had certain expectations, whatever that means.”

“Oh, Doreen. I'm so sorry. What a jerk.”

“What? No, I don't know. He has a reputation to protect.” Doreen's face fell, and she was once again the bullied, lost child. Heidi felt a rumbling in her heart. She knew what it was like to feel like you deserved to be treated badly.

“Nonsense. You have as much right to be here as anyone else. No offense, but that guy sounds like an asshole.”

“You're right.” Doreen clenched her fists. “He is an asshole! HE IS AN ASSHOLE! He kept going on and on about how I was lucky to get the opportunity to attend Chandler, that he'd pulled strings for me. Like I was a stranger, you know? Not his own kid.”

“Oh man. If he could see you now, right? He probably never expected you to be so popular. Gordon Lichter is fawning over you, any number of boys would love to get their hands on you.”

“Well, they are out of luck. Because I only have eyes for Simon.”

“Yes. Right.”

A darkness fell across Doreen's lovely face. “Sometimes, when I watch him play football, I like to think of how small my dad would look next to him. How weak and unmanly compared to Simon.”

“Your father would probably hate him,” Heidi said encouragingly.

“I know. Isn't it grand?” Doreen gave Heidi a savage grin. “Don't think I didn't think of that.” Doreen resumed the sweet tone of a young innocent. “None of it matters now. When I bring Simon to the Fall Dance—”

“Sorry?” said Heidi as she coughed out her hit. “Did you say . . . ? Hold on.” She was afraid she might choke. To the dance? That was
unacceptable
.

“Didn't I tell you? He's going to be my date.”

“No. That's not . . . What about . . . Gordon will be there.”

“I don't care about stupid, little Gordon Lichter! He's nothing but a version of my father. Not Simon. You wait, Heidi. Wait until you see him play football. You're coming to the game tomorrow, aren't you?”

Heidi rubbed her eye. Okay. She could fix this. She would think of something. “I said I would, Doreen, so I will. A real lady always fulfills her obligations.”

“Good. You'll see. You'll understand it all when you see him play.” Doreen leaned her head back against the side of the shed. She breathed deep into her chest. That little lost girl was gone now, replaced by a fearless, powerful woman.

Had Simon done all this for her? If so, how could it be anything but good? But it didn't seem good, not at all. Something new had come into Doreen, a coldness Heidi had never seen before. It took an absolute hold on the girl, sending a chill through Heidi.

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