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I wonder what that summer would have been like if I'd never met Skye Pennington. They always seem to have names like that, don't they? Rich, beautiful girls are never named Elsie Pip or Mary Smith. They have these special names and they say them in their particular tones and accents, and my mother was right, I was in over my head or out of my depth, or however she put it. My father said, "She's not our class, Buddy." This conversation the first night I took her out.
I was in the bathroom, pretending to shave. I'm a towhead, like all male Boyles, and at sixteen my beard is not a burden; it's not even a fact.
My mother was just outside, in the hall, pretending to straighten out the linen closet.
Streaker, my five-year-old brother, was around the corner in our bedroom, pretending he could play Yahtzee alone.
My father was using the top of the toilet seat like a chair, while he discussed the matter with me.
"She's not in our class?" I said. "What does that even mean?"
I knew what it meant. It meant we lived year round in Seaville, New York, on a seedy half-acre lot up near the bay, and Skye summered on five oceanview acres at the other end of town.
Another thing it meant was that my dad was a sergeant in the Seaville police force, and Skye's dad was head of Penn Industries.
"Do you actually pay attention to that stuff?" I said, as if I never did.
"Buddy, that stuff is a fact of life." My mother's voice from the hall. "Sad but true."
"Inge, am I handling this, or are you?" said my father.
"Oh excuse me for living," my mother said.
"I thought you asked me to handle it."
"I askedyou to talk to him."
"What is there to talk about?" I said.
"What there is to talk about is where the hell you're spending all your money!"
"Don't get mad at him, Billy," said my mother. "I said to talk to him, not to shout at him."
"It's my money, isn't it? I earned it," I said.
"Since when do you spend your money on clothes?" my father said.
"If you know where I'm spending my money, why do you want to talk about where I'm spending it?" I said.
"You're spending it on clothes like some girl!" my father shouted.
"He's spending it on clothes because of some girl!" my mother shouted.
"I don't spend one hundred and fifty dollars on clothes in six months' time," said my father."You've spent that much in one month!"
"You wear a uniform half the time," I said.
"Buddy, I don't even spend that much on clothes in six months," said my mother.
I wiped my face with a towel and said between my teeth, slowly, "I do not plan to spend one hundred and fifty dollars every month on clothes. I just needed new things, that's all. I can't go everywhere in dumb, stupid jeans, old shirts, patched pants, and dumb, stupid worn-out shoes!"
"It's summer, for God's sake!" said my father. "Who are you expecting to meet?"
"He's already met her," said my mother.
"She must be some hotsy-totsy phony!" said my father.
"Well it's been nice talking to you, Dad," I said.
"I can't talk to you," he said.
"You've just proven that," I said.
He got up and sighed and stood for a minute with his hands on his hips. He looked miserable, but I didn't help him out any. He'd just had a haircut and he has these big ears, and he had that raw kid's look that was in all the old photographs of the days when he and my mother were first married. Whenever I looked at the family album I felt sorry for my father. He'd be standing in our yard, which didn't have any trees in those days or any grass; he'd be holding this little bundle in his arms with a little head sticking out of it (that was me) and he'd look like he'd sure bitten off more than he could chew. My mother was quite a beauty in those days and she looked sure of herself and up to settling down and being a wife and mother, but there was something about my poor dad that said he should have still been riding bicycles with the boys, or hanging around the pizza parlor making cracks at the girls who went by. He didn't look ready for the Mr. and Mrs. Towels my grandmother Boyle had given them for a wedding present.
"I don't know, Buddy," my father said. He ran his palm through his short-cropped hair and shook his head. He never could talk very well about things and he hated it that he sometimes got mad when he was trying to.
"Don't worry," I said. "I'm watching it."
"Yeah," he said, as though he had his doubts.
"I didn't buy me a tuxedo yet," I said. I smiled at him.
He gave me back one of his red-faced, lopsided smiles and said, "That'll be next, a monkey suit. Huh?" He gave me a punch in my gut.
I feinted one near his jaw. "Don't worry," I said. "I won't make your mistake."
"What's my mistake?"
"Getting married before you were dry behind your ears.
"Oh I like that," said my mother. "Thanks a lot for that."
My dad laughed and sniffed and tried to land another one on me.I ducked and said, "Get outta here."
He threw his hands up in the air and muttered something like "oh what the heck," then walked out.So much for our talk...