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Authors: Liz Gallagher

The Opposite of Invisible

BOOK: The Opposite of Invisible
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DR. FRANKLIN’S ISLAND,
Ann Halam

TAYLOR FIVE,
Ann Halam

ACCELERATION,
Graham McNamee

GIRL, GOING ON 17: PANTS ON FIRE,
Sue Limb

UNDER THE BLOOD-RED SUN
Graham Salisbury

EYES OF THE EMPEROR,
Graham Salisbury

To Mom and Dad

Chapter One



Some girls have journals. I talk to my poster.

It’s Saturday afternoon and Jewel should be here soon. While I wait for him, I’m talking to the poster over my bed.

“Dove Girl, please help me.”

She’s a print made by Picasso in the fifties:
Le Visage de la Paix
. The face of peace. Much wished-upon by me. It’s something about how comfortable she seems; calm.

“Please help me with creatures of the male persuasion,” I say. “Other than Jewel.”

What I want, I tell her, is a boyfriend. Maybe I won’t find my soul mate. But I want handholding and kissing and I want someone to go to the Halloween Bloodbath with. Like everyone else.

Not just like everyone else, maybe. But a date. With someone who wants to be there with me. Someone I can slow-dance with, off in the shadows.

I hear the front door open, the chimes above it clinking. “Hello, Davises!” Jewel says.

My parents yell hello. Their voices boom, in a happy way.

I can’t tell Jewel that I want to go to the Bath. Of course he’d go with me. But he’d say, “Alice, this is ridiculous,” and “Alice, let’s go rent a movie instead.” And no way
would we hold hands or slow-dance. Or kiss. We’ve been friends since we were three.

He’s the only person who knows I have this habit of, like, praying to an inanimate poster. We talked about it just a few days ago. “It’s healthy,” he said, sharing a bag of popcorn with me in my kitchen. “You need someone to talk to.”

“I have you to talk to,” I said. But there’s plenty that I can’t share with him. “Anyway, you don’t really talk to anyone else either. What’s your version of the Dove Girl?”

He swallowed the last handful of popcorn. His camera was hanging from its shoulder strap. He picked it up, fiddled with the lens, and snapped a photo of me staring at him. “That.”

  “Hey,” I say now. Jewel squeezes me hello.

He’s watching my parents as they screen-print T-shirts in their headquarters for saving the world, which used to be our dining room. They’re working on a new design. A plastic soda six-pack-holder-together thing is choking a tuna on the front of the shirt; on the back, the rings are being cut by scissors.

Both of my parents are in their fifties, but when I look at them now I can see exactly what they must’ve been like at my age. Passionate. Excitable.

Good-looking, too. My dad has blue-blue eyes and black hair spiked gray around his temples. My mom has kept her orange hair long, and the only thing that betrays
her age is that now she uses those little half-glasses for reading.

Jewel’s mom comes in. “Hi, Brenda,” I say.

She holds up a grocery bag. “Supplies for the troops!” She’s cute, younger than my parents, in a linen jumper and clogs.

Jewel’s reddish brown hair matches hers. He raises his thickly lashed eyelids and flashes his hazel eyes at her. Something in Jewel is so vibrant; it’s like he’s in color when most of the world is sort of sepia-toned.

Mom gives Brenda a hug. “We can use all the hands we can get.”

They go into the kitchen.

“Ready?”

Jewel nods.

The parents are laughing about something; Brenda teaches preschool and she usually has stories about the kids. My parents love to relive having toddlers.

I lean through the doorway. “Be back later.”

Jewel and I tink the door chimes as we leave.

The sky, our Seattle sky, is gray, like it usually is, and it drips rain onto every part of us, raindrops so tiny that we hardly notice them. We’ve grown up here, so we’re amphibians.

But we wear our hoods up.

We walk to the scone shop with the best lattes. Chunky Glasses is behind the counter; the guy looks like a fifties square, but in that way that’s hip now.

The people in here always act superior because they know whether a marionberry or a raspberry goes better in a scone with an orange glaze. And they sell buttons that say things like
KILL YOUR TELEVISION.
But they have the best lattes. We come here, but it’s strictly a to-go situation.

“Double tall vanilla,” Jewel says to Chunky Glasses. “Two.”

Chunky Glasses nods and makes the espresso machine swell into a frenzy of sound like a helium balloon inflating. When he presents our lattes, he says, “Lids right behind you,” like he hasn’t seen us a hundred times before. “And sugar.”

That’s an insult; no one adds sugar to this drink. He’s testing our Seattle coffee sophistication.

Jewel pays, and Chunky Glasses puts our change on the counter, even though Jewel is holding his hand palm up right there.

Outside, Jewel and I drink our coffee. He gulps like a giant. I remember our first lattes, when we were twelve. We ordered triple grandes and I thought the espresso tasted like acid. I trashed mine about halfway through. Jewel drank his by clamping his lips around the cup and letting the tiniest bit through. He drank the whole thing, so slowly.

The scone shop window is covered in flyers. I notice a dog walker looking for new clients, a yoga studio beginning its next six-week Vinyasa session, and a glassblowing workshop.

“Glassblowing,” I say, nodding toward the flyer. I take a step toward the window.
fire art glass studio. now
registering for saturday workshop. all levels. call jim
. “Cool.”

Jewel steps next to me. “Yeah, totally. It’s eighty dollars, though.”

I consider. “I still have some babysitting money from the summer. I’ve been saving it for something special.”

“You should do it. You’d love it.” His gaze lands on my face.

“What makes you think so?”

He keeps looking at me. “You want to try a new medium, right? This is perfect. I bet glass will really be your thing.”

“I
have
always wanted to try it.”

“Do it!” He goes over to the flyer, rips off the phone number, and hands it to me.

“We’ll see.” I put the scrap of paper in my pocket.

“Let’s walk,” Jewel says, and we head down Fremont Avenue toward Ballard.

In the window of the big junk shop on the corner, plastic skeletons dance. Jack-o’-lantern heads top scarecrow bodies. A wooden witch wearing the perfect dress—black and netty—soars across a Mylar moon.

“Holy Halloween, Batman,” I say, and stop.

“Almost makes you want to go to the Bloodbath, doesn’t it?” Jewel says. “If you were a cheesier type of person.”

He thrusts around his latte cup like it’s a pom-pom. “Go, team!” he yells.

“Rah,” I say, but I’m not really concentrating because my brain has been taken over by the witch dress. “Jewel.”

His gaze follows my pointing finger to the witch. “Seriously? Okay. Fun.”

We take down our hoods and head inside.

  The witch dress fits, except that I’m stepping on the hem. It’s made of black lacy netting over a red satin lining, with a red ruffle at the hem. Curve-skimming, the fabric is clingy in a good way. The neckline is a deep V. Alluring, like lingerie from the twenties.

My eyes are sapphires. Usually, they’re just your run-of-the-mill blue eyes. But not in this dress. This dress upgrades me to at least semiprecious. Some miracle is at work.

The dress was sent by my Dove Girl. I told her I want to go to the dance, and now I find something irresistible to wear. The only trick left is to get the right person, whoever that may be, to the right place to be impressed by me in the dress.

I’m so ready to show off this look. I just hope my Dove Girl comes through with a guy for me. A little romance. A dance, at least. Slow.

Okay, yeah. I know what guy I want. Simon Murphy.

Forget about him!
Just enjoy looking in the mirror for a minute.

For once I’m okay with my skin being pale; it makes sense in this costume. Like I’ve been conjuring potions in a cave. And my hair looks fiery. I take down my ponytail, which is up so often I don’t even bother to undo it to sleep.

I shake my hair like a girl in a shampoo commercial and know that, in this dress, I will not be the creepy, stringy type of witch who rides on broomsticks. I will be the beautiful kind. The temptress. The kind who knows love spells but doesn’t need them.

Even Vanessa the Artiste won’t come up with something better-looking than this. Of course she’ll be big talk at the dance; she’s always gossip, with her burgundy-striped black hair and the fake eyelashes. She gives people a lot to talk about.

She has a nose stud, and the rumor is it’s actually an earring that she stabbed through her own nostril. If I got one, I’d go for a little fake diamond. Those are kind of cute.

“Alice?” Jewel says, knocking at the plywood door of the dressing room. “Lemme look!”

When I open the door, he doesn’t say anything, just reaches out. He touches my hair, at the ends, lightly.

“Definitely get the dress.”

I shiver, a little inner earthquake. “I definitely am getting it.”

Jewel touched my hair.

He waits by the counter, talking to the salesgirl, who looks like she could be Chunky Glasses’ girlfriend, except that she is much nicer than him.

“She says she’ll shorten it for you for five bucks,” Jewel says.

“Three inches should do it,” the salesgirl says. “I was watching you. Awesome dress.”

I hand her the dress. On the way out, Jewel tries on a pair of devil horns. “Not you,” I say, grabbing them from his head and positioning them on a Cabbage Patch doll.

“So does this mean we’re going to the Bath?” I ask as we hit the sidewalk.

“Guess so,” he tells me. “You have the perfect getup. It’ll probably be a riot. You might even get Halloween Queen.”

“Right,” I say. “Everyone will totally notice me.”

“Hey,” he says. “You looked really good.”

He says “really good” as if he’s thinking something else. The way he’s been touching me.

“Well, anyway,” I say, “we need to find you a costume if we’re going.”

“I don’t need a costume,” he says. “I’m invisible.”

  That night, we eat down at the Thai place by the bridge. We share peanut soup and each get pad Thai-Jewel’s veggie, mine with chicken. We litter the table with squeezed limes.

“That show’s next week,” he says. “At the café by the train tracks.”

When I think of Jewel, I think of him behind his camera, an old-school manual machine of a camera. His photographs are his way of seeing the world.

“Right.” Jewel’s photos were accepted for the show; my watercolor collection of ships in the canal was not.

“I’m bummed that your stuff won’t be there,” he says.

“I’ll help you hang your photos.” I smile at him. His work is going to brighten that café.

Jewel is the opposite of invisible to me. We’re together all the time, always cracking up and talking. But, yeah, to most people at school, he’s far under the radar. And I’m down there with him.

Jewel walks me home, up the hill. This area is crowded every Sunday, when the street market is open. A person can spend all morning looking at people’s old treasures and new crafts for sale. Records, wedding gowns, photographs. Necklaces, candles, framed paintings. Enough things to fill a home.

Now we pass the Indian restaurant and two more Thai restaurants, patrons lingering, full of spices.

We pass John, the homeless guy. He’s huddled on a bus stop bench with a can of cheap beer.

“He told me he was Jesus reincarnated the other day,” I whisper to Jewel as we pass by. “He cornered me outside Caffe Ladro.”

“Last time I saw him, he wished me a merry Christmas.”

“Is that true?” I tap his arm.

“Totally,” Jewel says. “Don’t talk to him if you’re alone.”

BOOK: The Opposite of Invisible
8.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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