Prom Nights from Hell Chapter Two part two
EIGHT HOURS EARLIER…
“Foxy girls know that silence may be golden-but only for four seconds. Anything longer and you re heading for Awkward Avenue,” Miranda read, then frowned at the book. “If you feel the countdown creeping, make him an offer! A simple ‘Would you like some nuts? said with a smile can break the silence stagnation in a snap. Remember, foxy is as foxy does.”
Miranda was starting to deeply distrust How to Get-And Kiss! – Your Guy.
Leaning against the side of the black Town Car parked in the loading zone at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport that June evening, she thought of how totally thrilled she’d been when she’d found it at the bookstore. It looked like an and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after dream come true in book form-who wouldn’t want to learn “The Five Facial Expressions That Will Change Your Life” or “The Secrets of the Tongue Tantra Only Da Pros Know”? – but having done all the exercises, she wasn’t convinced of the transformative powers of the Winsome Smile or spending half an hour a day sucking on a grape. It wasn’t the first time a self-help book had let her down-Procrastinate No More and Make Friends with YOU had both been total disasters-but it was depressing because she’d had such high hopes this time. And because, as her best friend, Kenzi, recently pointed out, any senior in high school who acted like Miranda did around her crush really, really needed help.
She tried another passage. “Rephrase one of his questions back to him, adding that hint of suggestion with a raised eyebrow. Or pick up the conversation with a pickup line! You: Are we in the china section? Him: No, why? You: Because you are fine. If china isn’t your thing, this one never fails to launch-You: Are you wearing space pants? Him: No, why? You: Because your butt is-”
“Hello, Miss Kiss.”
Miranda looked up and found herself staring up at the cleft chin and tanned face of Deputy Sergeant Caleb Reynolds.
She must have been really distracted to not even have heard his heartbeat when he approached. It was distinctive, with a little echo at the end, kind of like a one-two-three cha-cha beat (she’d learned about the cha-cha beat from You Can Dance! another massively unfortunate self-help experience). He’d probably have trouble with that when he got old, but at twenty-two it didn’t seem to be stopping him from going to the gym, at least from the looks of his pecs, biceps, shoulders, forearms, wrists-
Since she had an attack of Crazy Mouth whenever she tried to talk to a cute guy-let alone Santa Barbara’s youngest sheriff’s deputy, who was only four years older than she and who surfed every morning before work and who was cool enough to get away with wearing sunglasses even though it was almost 8:00 p.m.-she said, “Hi, deputy. Come here often?”
Causing him to frown. “No.”
“No, you wouldn’t, why would you? Me either. Well, not that often. Maybe once a week. Not often enough to know where the bathrooms are. Ha-ha!” Thinking, not for the first time, that life should come with a trapdoor. Just a little exit hatch you could disappear through when you’d utterly and completely mortified yourself. Or when you had spontaneous zit eruptions.
“Good book?” he asked, taking it from her and reading the subtitle, “A Guide for Good Girls Who (Sometimes) Want to Be Bad” out loud.
But life did not come with a trapdoor.
“It’s for a school project. Homework. On, um, mating rituals.”
“Thought crime was more your thing.” He hit her with one of his half smiles, too cool to pull out a big grin. “You planning on foiling any more convenience store heists any time soon?”
That had been a mistake. Not stopping the guys who’d held up Ron’s 24-Hour Open Market #3, but sticking around long enough to let the police see her. For some reason they’d found it hard to believe that she’d just been leaning against the lamppost when it fell across the front of the robbers’ car as it sped through the intersection. It was sad how suspicious people were, especially people in law enforcement. And school administration. But she’d learned a lot since then.
“I’m trying to keep it to one heist a month,” she said, hoping for a light, ha-ha-I’m-just-kidding-foxy-is-as-foxy-does tone. “Today it’s just my regular job, VIP airport pickup.” Miranda heard his cha-cha heartbeat speed up slightly. Maybe he thought VIPs were cool.
“That boarding school you go to, Chatsworth Academy? They let you off campus any time you want or only certain days?”
“Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, if you’re a senior. We don’t have classes then,” she said and heard his heartbeat pick up more.
“Wednesday and Saturday afternoons free. What do you do for fun?”
Was he asking her out? No. Way. NOWAYNOWAYNOWAY! Flirt! she ordered herself. Winsome Smile! Say something! Anything! Be foxy! Now!
“What do you do for fun?” she repeated his question back to him, raising one eyebrow for that hint of suggestion.
He seemed taken aback for a second, then said very formally, “I work, Miss Kiss.”
Please give a warm welcome to Miranda Kiss, our new Miss Idiot Girl of the year, she thought. Said: “Of course. Me too. I mean, I’m either driving clients or at team practice. I’m one of Tony Bosun’s Bee Girls? The Roller Derby team? That’s why I do this,” meaning to point to the Town Car but bashing it with her hand instead. “You have to be a driver for Tony’s company, 5Bs Luxury Transport, to be on the team. We usually only have games on the weekends, but we practice on Wednesdays, sometimes on other days…” Crazy Mouth trailed off.
“I’ve seen the Bees play. That’s a professional team, isn’t it? They let a high school student play?”
Miranda swallowed. “Oh, sure. Of course.”
He looked at her over the top of his sunglasses.
“Okay, I had to lie to get on the team. Tony thinks I’m twenty. You won’t tell him, will you?”
“He believed you were twenty?”
“He needed a new jammer.”
Deputy Reynolds chuckled. “So you’re the jammer? You’re good. I can see why he might have made an exception.” Eyeing her some more. “I never would have recognized you.”
“Well, you know, we wear those wigs and the gold masks over our eyes so we all look the same.” It was one of the things she liked about Roller Derby, the anonymity, the fact that no one knew who you were, what your skills were. It made her feel invulnerable, safe. No one could single you out for… anything.
Deputy Reynolds took his sunglasses all the way off now to look at her. “So you put on one of those red, white, and blue satin outfits? The ones with the short skirts and that cute cape? I’d like to see that sometime.”
He smiled at her, right into her eyes, and her knees went weak and her mind started playing out a scenario involving him without his shirt but with a pitcher of maple syrup and a big-
“Well, there’s my lady,” he said. “Catch you.” And then walked away.
– stack of pancakes. Miranda watched him go up to a woman in her early twenties-thick blond hair, thin but muscular-put his arm around her, and kiss her neck. The kind of woman whose bras had tags that said, SIZE 36c, not MADE BY SANRIO in them. Heard him saying excitedly, “Wait until we get to the house. I’ve got some amazing new toys, something special just for you,” his voice husky, heart racing.
As he passed Miranda, he lifted his chin in her direction and said, “You stay out of trouble.”
“Yeah, you too,” Crazy Mouth told him. Miranda wanted to bang her head against the top of the car at how idiotic she was. She tried to give a Lite Laff (expression number four from the book) but ended up making herself choke instead.
When they were across the parking lot, she heard the woman asking who she was and heard Deputy Reynolds say, “The local Town Car driver.”
“She’s the driver?” the woman said. “Looks like one of those girls from Hawaiian Airlines you used to date, but younger. And cuter. You know how your judgment gets around cute young girls. You’re sure I don’t need to be concerned?”
Miranda heard him laugh, the genuine amusement in his voice as he said, “Her? Baby, she’s just a high school student who has a crush on me. Trust me, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
And thought: Trap. Door. Now. Please.
Sometimes having superhearing supersucked.