Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Author:Renee Carlino
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Atria Books

16. I Should Have Told You


I left Brandon and Tati near the tree and headed for Grace with a new mission in mind. Sitting on a bench near the fountain, I smoked a cigarette and waited for her to finish playing chess. I blew smoke rings into the air while I thought about how I would get her to marry me.

I needed to get her drunker.

Grace came walking toward me with a smile. It looked like all the tension was gone and I was relieved.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“Orvin. The man who made my bow.”

“Oh. The one Pornsake bought for you?” I scrunched up my nose.

“Would you stop that?”

“What did the old man give you?”

“The number for a guy in a band who plays down at that place on Allen Street. They’re looking for a cellist and I could probably make a few bucks. Did Tati and Brandon leave?”


Grace looked disappointed, as if she hoped this thing with Tati would blow over by the time her chess match was over. “All right, let’s go.”

“Wait, you haven’t seen me double dutch yet, have you?” In my drunk brain, this was how I was going to win her over and get her to marry me. It was a brilliant plan.

“What? You don’t double dutch.”

“I do, too. See those girls over there? I met them two days ago. I showed ’em up.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You don’t need to. I’m gonna prove it.”

We walked toward the girls and the one who was jumping stepped out when she spotted me. With her hand on her hip, she said, “Oh yeah, Matty, Matty Double Dutch is here.”

I looked over at Grace, “See?”

Her eyes were as big as sand dollars. I began stretching, touching my toes, and bending to the side. Grace doubled over laughing.

“You’re not gonna . . .?” she started.

“Oh yes, I am. Watch me.”

I got ready. The two girls starting turning the ropes and I did a goddamned flawless cartwheel into the center and started jumping. It was a risky move. I had only pulled it off once before but I knew it was time for the big guns. I did everything the girls sang out: “Matty, Matty, turn around. Matty, Matty touch the ground. Matty, Matty, show your shoe.”

I hopped on one foot.

“Matty, Matty, that will do. Matty Matty, go upstairs.”

I jumped higher as the ropes got faster. Grace was in hysterics by now.

“Matty, Matty, say your prayers. Matty, Matty, turn out the light. Matty, Matty, say good night.”

They stopped singing and the ropes swung faster and faster until finally those little brats got me and I tripped up. Grace was laughing so hard, I think she stopped breathing; she looked like a tomato.

The girls clapped along with a small crowd that had collected. I puffed my chest out, huffed on my fingernails, and rubbed them against my shirt. “Not bad, huh?”

“You’re full of surprises,” Grace said, catching her breath.

“And I will be . . . forever.”

“Where did you learn how to do that?”

“I was a camp counselor last summer.


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