quiz. I take the bus home with Kate, and sometimes Jackie drops me back home, and sometimes Mom picks me up. We only live a few miles apart. It’s funny to think that Kate’s world has always existed so close to mine and we never knew each other until now.
Almost every time I’m over there, Jackie takes us to the mall, and I love it in a way I never thought I would. I love the way it smells like chocolate chip cookies and new shopping bags. I love the shiny life we all lead inside, as if nothing else matters. Jackie always needs to return something or buy something, and she likes to go back and forth several times to get it right. She doesn’t work, so it’s sort of like her job. Andall the trips to the mall give me a chance to spend my forty dollars quickly, before I think about it too hard. I’ve never had so much fun with money. I buy everything Kate buys, a pink tank top, jelly bracelets with glitter on them, my first lipstick, and a new Tough Love CD. I make sure Mom doesn’t see any of it.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the kid is and who the grown-ups are in Kate’s house. Kate’s an only child, so it’s like her parents are her friends. When I sleep over on the weekend, Greg and Jackie take us out to dinner and the movies and we don’t get back until midnight. We eat what we want, watch as much television as we want, go to bed when we want.
Greg couldn’t be more different from my dad. Aside from being completely gorgeous, he’s also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. He’s constantly playing these weird jokes on Kate. Once he took all her shoes out of her closet when she wasn’t home and replaced them with his own dirty work boots and sneakers. Another time he took a picture of both of us sleeping one night and taped it to the bathroom mirror. When Kate and I saw it the next morning, we almost peed in our pants we were laughing so hard.
On a Sunday after breakfast Kate and I go back up to her room. Kate puts on a jeans skirt and looks me over.
“We’re going to church. Want to come?” She says it in this happy way, in a way that doesn’t make it sound strange, megoing to church with her. “You can wear this.” She throws me one of her skirts. It’s pink with little green and white embroidered circles on it.
“I don’t know,” I say, as if she were asking me to go to the moon. Usually I sleep over on Friday nights. This is the first time I’ve been here on a Sunday morning.
“Why, ’cause you’re Jewish?”
“Um, well …” But before I can finish, Jackie’s in the room.
“Hurry, guys, we’re going to be late,” she says. “We have to drop off Sonia first.”
“Mom, can Sonia come?” Kate says, finishing her lipstick.
“Well …,” says Jackie. Something flickers across her eyes. Normally she’s excited when I join them in anything. “Aren’t you Jewish, hon?”
“I just don’t want you to do anything against your religion.”
I feel lost, suddenly. I look at Kate for help, but she’s busy fixing her outfit in the mirror.
“I’m not Jewish. Just my mom is. It’s not like I’ll explode or anything.” My words surprise me more than anyone.
Kate turns around and starts laughing. Jackie glares at her, so she puts her hand over her mouth, but doesn’t stop.
“Well, you know best. You’re always welcome,” Jackie says in a stiff way that makes me wonder if she really means“welcome to everything except church.” She starts to walk out of the room. “We leave in ten. Quicken the pace, girls.”
“Were you joking?” Kate says, still laughing when Jackie leaves the room.
“About what, that I’m going to explode in church?”
“No, that you’re not Jewish,” Kate says, her eyes beaming, all that sparkling energy focused on me.
I don’t really want to answer her. “But what if I do explode?” I whisper, giggling.
“Don’t worry,” Kate says, laughing harder now. “I’ll protect you!” With that she jumps on