When I asked
Mom if I could have a boy-girl party, I should have realized that she
gave in way too easily. “Clean out Grandpa’s old room, Zoey, and you
can have your party there—just no closing the door.”
like a great idea. I mean, it’s huge and way down at the end of
the hall—as far away from parental supervision as you can get without
leaving the house.
problem: ever since Grandpa died, that’s where everyone dumps their
junk. So if I didn’t want my party to be a bust, all the stuff that’d
piled up over the last few years had to get moved to the garage.
convince you to clean up Pop’s room?” my little brother, Chad, asked.
“Said I could
have my party here, but only if I picked the place up first.” I added,
“Care to help?”
so. I’m looking for my basketball. Dad said it's in the closet.”
the closet door and a rush of cold air came charging out.
He dug around
the walk-in closet. “Be careful with Grandpa’s suits,” I said, as I put
my hair into a ponytail. Grandpa had been an ornery old geezer, but he
always dressed sharp, never leaving the house without a suit. Not those
old man suits with patches on the elbows. He only wore wool,
custom-fitted ones. The closet was full of them, steamed and pressed,
like he might step out in one at any time.
“Darn it. My
ball’s not here. That’s the third basketball I’ve lost.”
“I’ll let you
use mine, if you promise to stay clear of my party.”
I’m sleeping over at Jimmy’s.” He ran off towards my room.
touch anything else,” I hollered.
It took most
of the day, but I managed to clean the place up. The worst part was a
moldy grilled cheese sandwich I found semi-permanently fused to the
carpet. I cleared out just about everything, except for the closet and a
shadow box with Grandpa’s old war medals. Dad wouldn't want those taken
down. I brought in a paint-splattered card table, some folding chairs,
and an old mini-stereo. I even talked Dad into dragging the extra sofa
in from the garage.
I had just
enough time to take a shower and curl my hair before Tammy, my best
friend, came over. “Wow, you really made this creepy room look nice,”
she said as she flattened the wrinkles in her skirt.
“What do you
mean, creepy?” Sure, Grandpa's style was old-school, but Chad and I had
always played Pinochle with him in here—it wasn't creepy.
I glanced at
the card table, the same one we'd get out when we used to play cards.
Except Grandpa always put a tablecloth over it. We liked playing with
him because he never just let us win. But he'd get so ticked if he had a
run of bad luck—his face would get all tense and contorted, still
somehow, for us, he'd manage a painful looking smile.
“I don’t know,
there’s not much light. Plus, your gramps croaked in here. It’s just
creepy.” Looking around the room, she added, “But tonight it will be
totally perfect for spin the bottle.”
maybe my parents will join in.” I rolled my eyes. “They’re not even
going to let us close the door.”
“I sleep over
like every weekend—I know your parents always watch a movie in their
room.” Tammy put her hands on her hips. “When your parents go to their
room, you better promise we can play spin the bottle.”
they go to their room, we’ll see.” I didn’t know what she was getting
all excited about. None of the guys we knew had ever asked a girl out—I
bet none of them would even dance.
A couple hours
later, just about everyone had shown up. The room was packed. The guys
all stood around the card table devouring chips and sodas. The girls, as
expected, were the only ones dancing.
coming in, supposedly to check the snacks, but I knew she was just
spying on us.
It was almost
nine when Dad poked his head in and said, “Zoey, turn the music down,
your baby sister just went to bed.” He looked around the room. “Mom and
I are going to watch a movie. But I’ll be checking on you kids.”
over at me and smiled. We both knew there was no way we’d see Dad again
until the party was over.
As soon as he
left the room Tammy ran and turned the stereo down. “Okay, everyone,
time for spin the bottle.”
Some of my
friends giggled; most of the guys just looked at each other nervously.
“Oh, come on.
It’s no big deal.” Tammy got her backpack and pulled out a beer bottle.
beer?” one of the boys asked.
it’s empty.” She grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the floor.
“You’ve gotta play with a beer bottle, it’s a rule.”
“How do you
play?” asked Lance Jones, a little too eagerly.
“If you get a
bowser do you have to kiss her?” shouted Justin Roberts; on cue, all the
You go into the closet for two minutes with whoever the bottle points
to. You don’t have to kiss or french or anything, if you don’t
everyone looked a little alarmed by this.
bottle, so I have to go first, that’s another rule.” By now, everyone
sat in a circle: boys on one side, girls on the other. “Zoey goes after
me, ’cause it’s her party.”
Tammy spun the
bottle three times before it finally pointed to a guy: Kevin Ramirez. A
little shy, not the cutest guy, but it could be worse. At least he
wouldn’t try to stick his tongue down her throat or something.
They went in
the closet and the door closed behind them with a whoosh. The hinge
creaked like an old abandoned vault. Lance turned off the closet light,
and a couple of guys kept time. We all stood around, looking at the door
or the wall, just not at any of the boys. When exactly two minutes had
passed, three guys lunged for the handle, whipping open the door and
flipping the light on. Tammy and Kevin sat on opposite sides of the
floor. Tammy smiled. “Well, wasn’t that fun?”
She popped up
and actually took Kevin’s hand, pulling him out of the closet. He had
Tammy’s glitter lip gloss all over his face. But I totally wasn’t buying
it. I’m pretty sure she just smeared it all over him in the dark—either
that, or she’d managed to kiss him everywhere except his lips. Kevin
wasn’t about to say anything. All the guys were already giving him
high-fives and fist-bumps.
Zoey.” Tammy thrust the bottle into my hands.
know.” I started to hand it back. “I think my dad might come—”
out now." Tammy took the bottle and spun it for me. Around and around it
went. With each spin my mind raced. Who would
it point to? Was I seconds away from my first kiss? How could I get out
bottle rolled to a stop, pointing right at Justin Roberts. Tammy patted
my leg excitedly. Someone squealed—it wasn’t me.
Most of the
girls would have been thrilled to be in my shoes. Justin was one of the
most popular kids in school. I wouldn’t have even had the guts to ask
him to the party if it wasn’t for the fact that he went to my church.
locks or not, I did not want to go into the closet with him. He
had a reputation. Always talking about girls like they were video
games—something to get the high score on.
I tried to
protest, but before I knew it, I was in the closet standing across from
Justin. Grandpa’s old suits lined both walls, like an army of hollow
He flashed me
a cocky smile right as the light went out.
frozen, I had no idea what to do. A hand lightly touched my wrist,
slithering its way up my arm. I batted it away, like it was a
“Don’t be like
that, Zoey. Relax, you’ll be the envy of every girl here.”
“I don’t think
so,” I said, as the forgotten smell of Grandpa's sweet tobacco tickled
don’t be a prude.”
He tried to
put his arms around my waist.
from my face came a puckering sound, like some old lady moistening up
for a wet sloppy kiss. I stuck out both arms to keep him back. "Leave me
"I know you
don’t mean that. My brother told me all girls say no at least five or
brother’s a pig too."
clamped around my arms and pulled me in. "Just one little kiss."
It took all my
strength to break free. Still he reached for me. I pushed him back
against the suits. His fingers grasping at me—I pushed harder, my anger
turning to fear. I could just barely see the tips of his fingers
grabbing wildly at me. The arms and legs of the suits whipped about like
they were clawing at him.
balance, he stepped forward and grabbed my shirt. He couldn't stop me; I
was overcome by a desperate desire to keep him away. I just kept pushing
and pushing—deeper and deeper into Grandpa’s suits—like they went on
forever. He released my shirt then gasped, choking as if being gagged.
later, the light popped on and Tammy threw open the door. "What are you
two lovebirds—" she stopped.
Dozens of wide
eyes, fixed right on me.
"Zoey, are you
okay?" She stared into my eyes; she could see something was wrong.
standing. "Pig," I said under my breath, trying not to shake. I didn't
even look down as I walked out.
Justin?" Kevin’s voice wavered, like when he's called on in math class.
around. In the closet, on the floor, was a pile of Grandpa’s suits. They
lay in a mound, one on top of the other. Like football players in a
It didn’t look
big enough for Justin to hide under.
Kevin dug in
and started throwing suits aside. It only took a few seconds to realize—