“I’m not Margot.”
“I’m not saying you should move to the other side of the world. I know you’d never do that. Hey, what about Honor Council? You love judging people!”
I make a face at him.
“Or Model UN. I bet you’d like that. I’m just saying . . . your world could be bigger than just playing checkers with Kitty and riding around in Kavinsky’s car.”
I stop highlighting midsentence. Is he right? Is my world really that small? It’s not like his world is so big! “Josh,” I begin. Then I pause, because I don’t know how I’m going to finish the sentence. So instead I throw my highlighter at him.
It ricochets off his forehead. “Hey! You could have hit me in the eye!”
“And you would have deserved it.”
“Okay, okay. You know I didn’t mean it like that. I just mean that you should give people a chance to know you.” Josh points the remote control at me and says, “If people knew you, they would love you.” He sounds so matter-of-fact.
Josh, you break my heart. And you’re a liar. Because you know me, you know me better than almost anybody, and you don’t love me.
After Josh goes back home, I tidy up the living room, lock all the doors, and turn off the lights. Then I pour myself a glass of water and head upstairs.
The light is on in my bedroom, and Chris is asleep in my bed. I roll her to the side so I can fit in too. Stirring, she mumbles, “Wanna go get hot wings?”
“It’s too late to eat hot wings,” I say, pulling my quilt up so it covers both of us. “You just missed Josh.”
Her eyes fly open. “Joshy was here? Why?”
“No reason.” I won’t tell Josh’s secrets, not even to Chris.
“Well, don’t mention it to Kavinsky.”
“He wouldn’t care,” I say.
Chris shakes her head. “All boys care.”
“Peter’s not like that. He’s really confident.”
“They’re the ones that care the most,” she says. I’m about to ask her what she means, but before I can, she says, “Let’s go do something wild.”
“Like what?” It’s a school night; I can’t go anywhere and she knows it. But I still like to hear her schemes. They’re like bedtime stories.
“Like . . . I don’t know. We could sneak into the nursing home and break out that grandma you’re always talking about. What’s her name again? Thunder?”
I giggle. “Stormy.”
“Yeah, Stormy.” She yawns. “She seems like she knows how to have a good time. I bet she’d buy us cocktails.”
“Stormy goes to sleep at nine every night to get her beauty rest. Let’s do it tomorrow.” By tomorrow, Chris will have forgotten all about it, but it’s still a nice thought. Her eyes are closed again. I poke her in the side. “Chris, wake up. Go brush your teeth.” I keep a toothbrush in my bathroom drawer just for her. I painted a cursive C on it with red nail polish so it doesn’t get mixed up with anybody else’s toothbrush.
“Can’t. I’m too tired to move.”
“A second ago you wanted to break Stormy out of Belleview, and now you’re too tired to wash your face and brush your teeth?”
Chris smiles but doesn’t open her eyes.
I turn off my bedside lamp. “Night, Chris.”
She wriggles closer to me. “G’night.”
THERE ARE VERY LIMITED OPTIONS for Asian girls on Halloween. Like one year I went as Velma from Scooby-Doo, but people just asked me if I was a manga character. I even wore a wig! So now I’m committed to dressing up as Asian characters exclusively.
Margot never goes as a person; she is always an inanimate object or a concept of some kind. Like last year she went as a “formal apology”: she wore a floor-length evening gown we found at Goodwill for ten dollars, and she had a sign around her neck, written in calligraphy, which said, I’m sorry. It won second prize in the school contest. First prize went to a Rastafarian alien.
Kitty’s going as a ninja, which I suppose is in line with my whole Asian costume idea.
This year I’m going as Cho Chang from Harry Potter. I’ve got my Ravenclaw scarf and an old black choir robe I found on eBay, plus one of my dad’s ties and a wand. I’m not going to win any contests, but at least people will know what I am. I wish I never have to answer a What are you? question ever again.
I’m waiting for Peter to pick me up for school, messing with my knee-highs. They won’t stay up.
Automatically I call back, “Josh!” It’s our version of Marco Polo.
Then I look up. There’s Josh, standing in front of his car. In a full-on Harry Potter costume. Black robe, glasses, lightning mark on his forehead, wand.
We both burst out laughing. Of all the random costumes! Ruefully Josh says, “The guys from the graphic-novel club are going as different fantasy-book characters. I was going to go as Drogo from Game of Thrones because, you know, I’ve got the upper body for it, but . . .”
I giggle, trying to picture Josh with eyeliner and a long braid and no shirt. It’s a funny picture. I wouldn’t exactly call Josh scrawny, but . . .
“Hey, quit laughing so hard,” he objects. “It wasn’t that funny.” He jingles his keys. “So do you need a ride, Cho?”
I look at my phone. Peter’s five minutes late as usual. Not that I can really complain, because it’s a free ride to school, and I could be taking the bus. But if I go with Josh, I won’t have to rush to class, I can go by my locker, I can go pee, I can get a juice at the vending machine. But he’s probably already nearly here. “Thanks, but I’m waiting for Peter.”
Josh nods. “Oh, yeah . . . right.” He starts to climb into his car.
I shout out, “Expelliarmus!” and Josh spins around and calls back, “Finite!” Then we grin at each other like goofs.
He drives off and I hug my knees to my chest. Josh and I read Harry Potter around the same time, when I was in sixth and he was in seventh. Margot had already read them. Neither of us can read as fast as she does. It drove her crazy waiting for us to get to the third book so we could discuss.
The longer I sit waiting for Peter, the more prickly I feel. I take off my robe and put it back on a few times. It’s polyester, and polyester doesn’t breathe or feel nice against your skin. When he drives up, I run to his car and get in without saying hello. I spread my robe over my lap like a blanket, because my kilt is short.
His eyes are big. “You look hot,” he says, sounding surprised. “What are you? An anime character?”
“No,” I say, or more like snap. “I’m Cho Chang.” Peter still has a blank look on his face, so I add, “From Harry Potter.”
“Oh yeah. Cool.”
I look over at him. He’s wearing a regular button-down and jeans. “Where’s your costume?”
“Me and my boys are going to change right before the assembly. It’s a better effect if we unveil at the same time.”
I know he wants me to ask what his costume is, but I don’t feel like talking to him, so I sit there, not saying anything and looking out the window. I keep waiting for him to ask me what’s wrong, but he doesn’t. He’s so oblivious; I don’t even think he notices I’m mad.
Abruptly I say, “I wish you weren’t always late.”
Peter frowns. “Geez, sorry. I was trying to get my costume together.”
“Today you were trying to get your costume together. But you’re late all the time.”
“I’m not late all the time!”
“You were late today, and yesterday, and last Thursday.” I stare out the window. The autumn leaves are already falling. “If you’re not going to be on time, I don’t want you giving me rides anymore.”
I don’t have to look; I can feel him glaring at me. “Fine. That means I get five extra minutes of sleep, so, works for me.”
During the judging, Chris and I are sitting in the balcony of the theater. Chris is dressed up as Courtney Love. She’s wearing a pink slip and holey knee socks and lots of smudgy eye makeup. “You should go down there too,” I say. “I bet you’d win something.”
“People at this school wouldn’t even know who she is,” Chris sneers. But I can tell she kind of wants to.
The guys in Peter’s group are all superheroes. There’s Batman, Superman, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, all to varying degrees of effort. Peter went all out. He is, of course, Peter Parker. Who else would Kavinsky go as? His Spider-Man costume is super authentic, with yellow Mylar eyes and gloved hands and bootied feet. He is a total ham up onstage. All the guys run around, capes flapping, pretend fighting each other. Peter tries to climb up a column, but Mr. Yelznik stops him before he can get far. I cheer when his group wins for best group costume.
Genevieve is Catwoman. She’s wearing pleather leggings and a bustier and black cat ears. I wonder if she was in on the superhero theme, if Peter told her, or if she came up with that on her own. Every guy in the auditorium goes wild when she goes onstage for best junior costume. “What a ho,” Chris says. She sounds almost wistful.
Genevieve wins, of course. I sneak a look at Peter, and he’s whistling and stomping his feet with all his friends.
After the assembly I’m getting my chem book out of my locker when Peter comes over and leans his back against the locker next to mine. Through his mask he says, “Hey.”
“Hey,” I say. And then he doesn’t say anything else; he just stands there. I close my locker door and spin the combination lock. “Congratulations on winning best group costume.”
“That’s it? That’s all you’re going to say?”
Huh? “What else am I supposed to say?”
Just then Josh walks by with Jersey Mike, who’s dressed up as a hobbit, hairy feet and all. Walking backward, Josh points his wand at me and says, “Expelliarmus!”
Automatically I point my wand back at him and say, “Avada Kedavra!”
Josh clutches his chest like I’ve shot him. “Way harsh!” he calls out, and he disappears down the hallway.
“Uh . . . don’t you think it’s weird for my supposed girlfriend to wear a couples costume with another guy?” Peter asks me.
I roll my eyes. I’m still mad at him from this morning. “I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you when you look like this. How am I supposed to have a conversation with a person in head-to-toe latex?”
Peter pushes his mask up. “I’m serious! How do you think it makes me look?”
“First of all, it wasn’t planned. Second of all, nobody cares what my costume is! Who would even notice something like that?”
“People notice,” Peter huffs. “I noticed.”
“Well, I’m sorry. I’m very sorry that a coincidence like this would ever occur.”
“I really doubt it was a coincidence,” Peter mutters.
“What do you want me to do? Do you want me to pop over to the Halloween store during lunch and buy a red wig and be Mary Jane?”
Smoothly Peter says, “Could you? That’d be great.”
“No, I could not. You know why? Because I’m Asian, and people will just think I’m in a manga costume.” I hand him my wand. “Hold this.” I lean down and lift the hem of my robe so I can adjust my knee socks.
Frowning, he says, “I could have been someone from the book if you’d told me in advance.”
“Yes, well, today you’d make a really great Moaning Myrtle.”
Peter gives me a blank look, and disbelieving, I say, “Wait a minute . . . have you never read Harry Potter?”
“I’ve read the first two.”
“Then you should know who Moaning Myrtle is!”
“It was a really long time ago,” Peter says. “Was she one of those people in the paintings?”
“No! And how could you stop after Chamber of Secrets? The third one’s the best out of the whole series. I mean, that’s literally crazy to me.” I peer at his face. “Do you not have a soul?”
“Sorry if I haven’t read every single Harry Potter book! Sorry I have a life and I’m not in the Final Fantasy club or whatever that geek club is called—”
I snatch my wand back from him and wave it in his face. “Silencio!”
Peter crosses his arms. Smirking, he says, “Whatever spell you just tried to cast on me, it didn’t work, so I think you need to go back to Hogwarts.” He’s so proud of himself for the Hogwarts reference, it’s kind of endearing.
Quick like a cat I pull down his mask, and then I put one hand over his mouth. With my other hand I wave my wand again. “Silencio!” Peter tries to say something, but I press my hand harder. “What? What was that? I can’t hear you, Peter Parker.”
Peter reaches out and tickles me, and I laugh so hard I almost drop my wand. I dart away from him but he pounces after me, pretend shooting webs at my feet. Giggling, I run away from him, further down the hall, dodging groups of people. He gives chase all the way to chem class. A teacher screams at us to slow down, and we do, but as soon as we’re around the corner, I’m running again and so is he.