by Erin Halfelven
“Huh. Hannah is certainly looking hot tonight,” I mentioned to Mike.
He looked where I was looking, at the girl in the mermaid costume talking to Darryl Marsh, and scoffed. “That’s not Hannah.”
I took a sip of my coke punch, wishing again that someone had managed to spike it. “What do you mean?” The little ginger blonde flipped her costume tail and showed dimples in her cheeks, laughing at something Darryl had said. She was sitting on the arm of an old brocaded couch. “She wore the same costume at Halloween two years ago.”
Mike laughed softly. “Yeah, but that’s not Hannah. She’s over by the kitchen in the Robin Hood get up.”
I did a double take – another cute little blonde, this one in Lincoln green and almost the same face, partly concealed by a domino mask. “Hannah has a sister?” I asked.
Mike laughed again. “Beano,” he said, “how many people in our school? Less than two hundred; you practically know everyone in every class.” The joys of private schools in expensive suburbs everywhere. “So you tell me who that is in Hannah’s old mermaid costume.”
I glanced around the room. The Valentine’s Day Disguise-for-Romance Party was being held in the rec-room of the Episcopalian Church, which is why no one had spiked the punch. About forty kids, most in costume, milled around listening to stale 80s music picked by the chaperones. Mike was right, I knew and recognized everyone I could see, costumed or not.
I took another sip of punch and examined the mermaid with a little more intensity. The bottom half of her costume was an actual swim-tail, made for playing at being a mermaid in a swimming pool. It shimmered and glittered with fake scales, green and gold and pink. The top part was a shining bikini-half made to look like shells cupped over her small breasts. A necklace of beads alternating with fake doubloons dangled around her neck and down into her cleavage. Not a lot of cleavage, but….
“That’s her kid brother, Joshua,” I said. “The one who got hurt in the car accident last November.”
“Yup,” said Mike. “He’s in physical therapy learning how to walk again so the mermaid costume sort of works.”
“More than sort of,” I said, starting toward her.
Darryl Marsh got out of my way when I loomed at him.
“Charley Bean,” she said as I stopped in front of her. And she laughed like little chimes made of seashells.
I grinned. “Can I get you some punch?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said, gesturing at her tail. “I’m sort of stuck here.”
We didn’t say or do anything at all for a moment, just looking at each other. Her eyes are green, instead of blue like her sister’s, I thought.
A chaperone happened by with a tray of glasses and I snagged a punch.
“How con-veeen-ient,” she said, giggling as I handed it to her.
She took a sip and I watched her. She took the glass away from her face and lifted a delicate blond eyebrow at me.
“Josh…” I began.
She flicked her tail. “Call me Josie, Beano.” She blushed.
“Josie, then,” I said. “The beach in February is kind of chilly; would you like to go to a movie tomorrow?”
She blinked and flicked her tail again. “Maybe….” She seemed to consider and started to ask something but I interrupted.
“I’m asking Josie the mermaid,” I said.
She shook her head, frowning a tiny frown. “Are you sure?”
“Are you?” I countered. “You’re the cutest girl at this party; why wouldn’t I ask you out?”
She glanced across the room at her sister who winked in our direction. “I’m not…. You…. Uh….”
“Say yes,” I said.
She laughed at herself and me. “Okay, yes, then.”
I leaned close and she leaned toward me. “Wear your tail,” I whispered.
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