Chapter no 12

If He Had Been with Me

“So what do you know about Sylvie?” my mother says. I take a large spoonful of ice cream into my mouth and regard her. We are sitting on the outside patio of The Train Stop Creamery, the town’s only ice cream parlor. It is the first hot day of May.

“Finny’s girlfriend?” I say. My mother nods. “I dunno,” I say. “Why?” “No reason,” she says.

“You just started wondering about her all of a sudden?” “Well,” she says.

“What?” I say.

“Angelina and I were just talking about her the other day, and I wondered what you thought.”

“She’s okay,” I say. “I don’t really know her.” We eat quietly for a while before I ask. “Does Aunt Angelina not like her?”

“Oh, she likes her, but I think she’s never gotten over the disappointment that you and Finny didn’t end up together.” She nudges me under the table with her foot.

“Mom!” I say. I glare at her. “I have a boyfriend.”

“I know, I know,” she says. “We just always thought that’s what was going to happen.”

“Well, it didn’t,” I say. “We don’t even hang out with the same people.” “I know,” she says again. She sighs. I roll my eyes and eat my ice cream.

Whenever I wonder what it would be like if Finny and I were together, I never imagine that there is anyone else with us. I don’t like to think I would have had to become a cheerleader to be Finny’s friend again. In my

imagination, Finny isn’t in my group, and I’m not in his; it’s just the two of us, like it used to be. At school, we eat lunch together and he walks me to my classes. We do our homework together. He takes me to art films in the city. At night, we lie on our backs in the grass and talk. We burn CDs for each other. We pass notes. We hold hands at the bus stop. I imagine adoring him without question. I am certain that I would if I were in love with him.

“Is Aunt Angelina out somewhere with Finny, asking what he thinks of Jamie?” I ask. My mother smiles.

“Yes, sweetie. It’s a conspiracy,” she says.

“Well, if you two were talking about Sylvie, why not Jamie?”

“I like Jamie,” she says. She spoons her last bit of ice cream out. “I can tell he’s a good kid. His parents seem like good people.”

“But you guys aren’t sure if Sylvie is a good kid?” I say. I’m pleased with the direction the conversation is going, but I don’t want to show it.

“Is she?” my mother says.

If the rumors are true, Sylvie is not a good kid. There is a story about her and Alexis making out in a Ferris wheel while all the guys watched, and the whole group supposedly gets drunk sometimes. They are good students though, so most adults don’t suspect them of anything.

It’s hard for me to imagine Finny drunk, or liking a girl who makes out with another girl for entertainment. I wonder if he’s still shy when he is drinking, if he blushed when he watched Sylvie kissing Alexis.

I wonder what Aunt Angelina would do if she knew about Finny’s friends.

“Oh,” I say, “Sylvie is a cheerleader. She’s on student council and the honor roll. She’s too busy being perfect to be shooting up heroin on the side.”

“All right, all right,” my mother says. We stand and throw away our plastic bowls and spoons and walk out to the car.

I imagine Finny loving Sylvie, but sometimes wishing she were different, the way I sometimes wish Jamie were different. I imagine him being aroused as she made out with Alexis in front of everyone and

afterward asking her never to do it again. I imagine him feeling free and confident as he drinks with his friends, feeling included with them, a part of something.

In the car, I roll down the window and feel the warm night air blowing on my face. My mother is quiet next to me. I wonder where Aunt Angelina and Finny are tonight, what they are talking about.

I imagine Finny and I sneaking out of our houses to fool around down at the creek. I imagine leaving my blinds open for him when I change clothes. I imagine his hand moving up my thigh as we watch a movie with a blanket thrown over our laps.

I imagine that even though we were friends as children, we wouldn’t have stayed children just because we were together.

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