“That was Penny, by the sound of it,” Billy said.
“She’s big and intimidating. She pushes. I’m going to get off and let her have it for a while. I’m glad we got together today. That kiss in the hallway was heaven. Maybe…this could be something…you and me.”
“Hearing you say that lifted a load off me because I wanted to say the same thing, and I didn’t know how. I want us to be something. I know we are young, but I feel something special with us, like we’re made for each other.”
I’m blowing breaths out my lips again and starting to go into my haze. He hears it. “You should go now, Ronni. I’ll talk to you tomorrow at school.”
“Oh, Billy. Of course, I’ll talk to you then.” I reached up and gently put the receiver into the cradle. I went to the stairs to go up and tell Penny, but she was sitting on the second step just out of sight.
She rolled her eyes, “Oh Billy! That kiss in the hallway!” She laughed. “Tell me about that kiss! I want to hear the good parts. Did he tongue you?”
“I don’t talk, Penny. I don’t think private, intimate things are fodder for casual conversation. That cheapens your life.” I’m picking things up as I go, flying by the seat of my pants. I heard that in a movie once, sitting on the couch with Mother.
“Listen to miss high-and-mighty cross-dresser!” she said standing up. “You’re funny. You’re getting above your station. Don’t go preaching around here, no matter what you see and hear. You think you are something? Well you ain’t!” She said and pushed around me. She went by me so close her long, jet black curly mane brushed against the side of my head. I had to lean back. I smelled something on her as she passed. It smelled like last night when Papa was drinking. Just then Mama came out of her and Papa’s bedroom. I needed to ask her something.
“What are you hanging around here for?” she asked.
“I needed to use the phone. Penny’s on it now. May I ask you something?”
“Is the kitchen clean?”
“Yes, Ma’am. We finished a while ago,” I said.
“Follow me. I’ll tell you if you are finished or not,” she said sort of in a huff. She had her face set in a scowl, not usual for her. I followed her into the kitchen. Penny was sitting in the same chair I was in talking to Billy. She was slumped over with her black hair hanging so you couldn’t see her face, or the phone. Penny lets herself go, always wearing the same dirty shirt. She never brushes her hair or does her face. It bothers me a little that she doesn’t because she could be a Cover Girl beauty with just the smallest of effort. But, it’s not a bad thing that she doesn’t. A girl can do what she wants. It doesn’t mean she’s not…sometimes I just can’t think of the words…not less than anyone else is what I’m trying to say. I don’t judge. Penny just takes that wholesome look to extremes. My attention turned back to Mama.
I followed Mama around for a minute and it seemed she cooled off some. “It looks okay, not great, but okay. What was your question?”
“We were up in the attic the other day and I saw some old stuff that I thought would look good on my walls, you know, brighten it up. Can I go up there to look for a few minutes?”
“I suppose so, let me get the key and I’ll take you up. Nobody goes up there without escort. Those are the rules.”
“I know, Mama.”
I came back down with a box of things including a Tom Cruise poster from the movie “The Outsider.” He was delicious! There was a framed picture of a woman from the 1940’s era. She wore a brown khaki shirt and she reclined on a settee with her arms over her head and a red rose