The story so far: Allison’s night went from bad to worse when three of her soccer team mates turned on her during a vicious game of Truth or Dare. She ran off to Eric’s bedroom to hide. However, Allison has great friends, including Brian, who sat with her and talked her through everything, and Gwen who helped her get cleaned up. The year is 1987.
Gwen and I are in the upstairs hallway, on our way to leave the party. I’ve exchanged the Youngstown State sweatshirt for a Keith Haring Free South Africa T-shirt Gwen grabbed out of Eric’s room. The shirt is white and shows a large black figure (in that distinct Haring style) knocking down a small white figure that has been holding a noose around his neck.
From downstairs, the poppy bounce of the Bangles “Walking Down Your Street” drifts through the house.
As we walk down the stairs, squeezing by us is a kid named Bob Lewis, one of the more popular guys in school. He enters the bathroom just past the top step. With him is a girl I recognize as Michelle Ito, Eric’s dream girl. I recall my earlier conversation with Eric out in the driveway, just as I arrived at the party. He was waiting for her, like Gatsby on the dock, staring at the green light, longing for Daisy to come to him.
I turn to Michelle and say, “Excuse me.”
She looks my way.
“I’m not sure we’ve met, but I’m Allison McKenzie, a good friend of Eric’s.”
“Hi, I’m Michelle,” she responds, in a perky voice. “Nice to meet you, Allison.”
“Are you and Bob…?” I ask, feeling out the situation with Bob Lewis.
“We’re, uh, hanging out,” she replies
I nod, formulating what exactly I’m going to say.
“Michelle,” I start, “when I got here tonight, I ran into Eric.”
“He’s so great,” Michelle says.
“Exactly. And when I saw him, he was just standing in the middle of the driveway, waiting for someone.”
Michelle glances up the stairs, to where Bob disappeared. “What girl?” she asks.
I stare at her, a slight smile across my lips. She doesn’t need me to say her name.
“You know,” I begin, “I think that this – all of this – the party, it was a way for him to get… that girl over to his house, so he could spend some time with her. Eric’s big on grand gestures.”
Michelle’s eyes widen.
I continue. “I know Eric pretty well. You may have heard about what happened to me this spring?”
“A little,” Michelle replies.
“Well, when I was in the hospital, there were only a handful of people who visited me, or even called my mom for updates. Eric checked on me every day. That’s the kind of guy he is. I’d do anything for him, including telling you that even though he’s kind of crazy and the center of attention all of the time, he’s also really shy about asking out girls. And, he’s a better guy than…”
At that moment, the bathroom door at the top of the stairs opens. Bob Lewis steps out.
“Hey, Michelle,” he says, “you comin’?”
I keep my eyes trained on Michelle. “Have a nice night.”
Downstairs, Gwen has wandered off. I start for the family room, crossing through the foyer and past the screen door. From outside, I hear the following conversation:
“C’mon, why you wanna see her?” a boy asks. “Hang with us.”
“Oh little boy,” a girl replies. “You wouldn’t know what to do.” The girl laughs.
Wait a minute. I recognize that laugh. It couldn’t be.
I open the screen door and stand on the front stoop, staring into the garage. There, surrounded by three of my peers, who must believe they actually have a chance of hooking up with a college girl, is my sister, Teri.
She’s my complete opposite: teased black hair, eyeliner, mascara and bright red lipstick. Gold hoops dangle from her ears, and she wears matching bracelets that clink every time she moves her arms. Teri has on a blue/green plaid collared shirt, buttoned up just enough to be decent. To complete her outfit, she’s wearing cuffed, tan shorts and brown deck shoes.
“Teri?” I ask.
She sees me. Pushing past the disappointed boys, she exclaims, “Allison!” before giving me a warm embrace.
This is… confusing.
“Teri, what are you doing here?”
“I was on my way to pick up some toilet paper and dish soap, and I felt an urge… no, a need to talk to you. Since I went to my share of Garcia parties back when I was a freshman, I knew where to come. How are you? Are you having fun?”
“You got dressed up like this to go buy toilet paper?”
“No. I have a date in a half hour. I’m running an errand for mom.”
“What kind of guy picks you up after ten o”clock?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be safe. He’s a police officer.”
I look at her, confused.
“Mike Garner called me!” she screams.
“Really? Wow, that was quick.”
“He said he’d been thinking about me for a long time, and when he saw you today, he couldn’t wait to call. Thank you for telling him I was home. That was so sweet.”
“Teri,” I say, “What’s this all about? You obviously didn’t come here to fill me in on your love life.”
The smile on face becomes melancholy. Teri takes me by the arm and leads me around to the side of the house.
“Mom and I were just watching Terms of Endearment and, well, it’s really emotional, you know?”
“I still haven’t seen it.”
“Well, it’s about a mother and daughter, and it got me thinking about you and Mom and how I totally bailed on you this year. Christ, Ally, I’m sorry.”
“Ally, I wasn’t there for you, and I should have been. I’m sorry. And I just wanted to say that… that you really came through this year, for Mom and all, and… and you deserve a break, Ally. And…”
She’s trying to keep from crying, but her breathing has that waver in it whenever someone is holding back the tears.
“Teri, It’s all good,” I try to assure her, as if the brain hiccup never occurred.
“I’m your big sister, damn it, and I’m supposed to be looking out for you, and I dropped the ball. And I’m gonna make it up to you. I’m gonna be here all summer so you can be a kid. You need to be a kid, Ally.”
I lean against the side of the house, stunned. It feels as if a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders; I can breathe without wanting to vomit. “Teri, I don’t know what to say.”
“I always felt bad, Ally, I just… I just didn’t want to deal. I was being selfish, and I hid out at college. I’m so, so sorry.”
Teri grabs me with a sudden jolt, hugging me so tight that her sobs are shaking my body. She may be the one person in the whole world who can get under my skin in an instant; she may be the one person who can make me so angry that I want to punch a wall, but Teri is my sister, and I can never stay mad at her for too long. She’s the only one I’ve got. I hold her until she regains her composure.
“Gonna have to fix my make-up,” she chuckles, wiping her eyes. She studies my shirt. “Since when are you so political?”
“It’s a long story, one I can tell you after I find Gwen and come home.”
“You’re leaving? Absolutely not! Allison, stay out. Meet a guy or something.”
I sigh. “There’s only one guy that matters, Teri, and he’s unavailable.”
“They’re always unavailable, huh? But sometimes things work out. I mean, Mike called me after all this time.”
‘So it’s still early. Stay here and make it a night you won’t forget.”
“Trust me, Teri, this is already a night I won’t forget.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“Well, like said, it’s early, so make it a better night! Do the things that high school seniors do. I don’t want to see you until the morning.”
Before I can protest, she gives me a peck on the cheek and walks away.
“Tomorrow, little sister!” And like that, she struts through the yard and into the street with a confidence I wish I had.
Teri apologized to me? This is one of the strangest nights of my life.
Today’s artwork was by Kathleen Sanders. Kathleen was born in 1994. She is from Southern California. She is an illustrator and a painter. To view more of her artwork, visit her on Instagram : @kathleensanders
The Bangles’ song, “Walking Down Your Street,” is found on their 1986 album, Different Light.
Previous Chapters: Chapter 26, Chapter 25, Chapter 24, Chapter 23, Chapter 22, Chapter 21, Chapter 20, Chapter 19, Chapter 18, Chapter 17, Chapter 16, Chapter 15, Chapter 14, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, Chapter 11, Chapter 10, Chapter 9, Chapter 8, Chapter 7, Chapter 6, Chapter 5, Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1, Introduction
Read Chapter 28 of Legendary.