I escaped the house before Eoin even bothered to show up for breakfast. Dad would have been up by then, have eaten, and been out for, like, a jog or a ride or something. Eoin was a slug by comparison. I couldn’t figure out what Mom saw in him.
Our house is out in the middle of a bunch of nothing, and still there’s a big iron gate and stone walls and stuff around the property. Which means walking to Bea’s is not an option. I have a bicycle, but didn’t want to turn up all sweaty and gross if Liam was going to be there. Same for riding—smell like horse? No thanks.
So I begged Tim for keys to the Land Rover. He was hesitant—he always is—but he can never say no to me. I have this look that’s just for Tim, where I make my eyes a little wide and push out my bottom lip ever so slightly so it’s not a full-on pout, more like a “might cry.” Works every time.
Bea ran out to meet the car, loyal as any dog, though I felt kind of bad about thinking of her that way. She threw her arms around me as I climbed out of the driver’s seat; she’s enthusiastic like that. I endured it, and even gave a little bit of a squeeze in return. Then she bounced back from me and up the stairs to her house, which is smaller than ours but also always smells like things baking, which I like.
“Peanut butter cookies!” Bea told me as we stepped inside.
“They’re not ready yet!” her mom called from the kitchen.
“She must get up to bake at, like, three in the morning,” I said.
“More like five,” said Mrs. Polley as she came out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a tea towel.
“Yeah, but she goes to bed at nine,” Bea said.
“And you’re the beneficiaries,” her mom said. “But it will be another ten minutes.” Then she tilted her head at me and made eye contact in that way grownups have when they have something serious to discuss. “I’m sorry about your father, Nerissa.”
“Thanks,” I said, grateful when Bea bounded up the stairs and cut the conversation short. I mean, what are you supposed to say when people tell you they’re sorry your dad died?
But Mrs. Polley is cool, and she was only doing what is required of her under the circumstances. It’s what everyone does: says they’re sorry. And at least I knew Mrs. Polley meant it. A lot of people don’t.
I hurried up the stairs after Bea, down the hall to her room which was painted a soothing aquamarine color. My room had been done by a decorator, and it was pretty in a magazine kind of way, but I liked Bea’s room more. It felt like a real, lived-in place, even though she kept it clean. Like, the carpet was worn in the places where she walked, and there were tiny holes in the walls from old posters. She had posters, for Christ’s sake, while my room had actual framed artwork hanging in it. Though one painting had been done by my dad, so I would never take it down.
Bea’s furniture was kind of little girlish in that it was white with gold trim, and the dressing table with the oval vanity mirror was short, as if made for someone more like six than sixteen. And while my bathroom is swimming with products, Bea’s vanity had exactly one lipstick, one eyeshadow palette, one mascara, and one bottle of Marc Jacobs. In fact, the whole room smelled of her perfume. It was nice.
“You need moisturizer,” I told her.
“It’s in the drawer,” she said. “Want me to do your hair?”
So here’s the thing about Bea and hair. She has short, dark, naturally curly hair that she can’t do a thing with. And I have long, straight reddish brown hair that I can’t do a thing with. But Bea has some kind of weird natural talent for hair—well, anyone’s but her own. I only wish I could return the favor.
I took a seat at the vanity, my knees almost too high to fit beneath the table, and Bea went to work. When I try to do my own hair, it just slips and slides out of whatever ‘do I’m attempting, even when I use gel and mousse and spray. But Bea’s fingers were flying, and I was sprouting a really intricate bun with tiny braids surrounding it. It looked awesome, and I was already regretting that I would have to take it out in order to sleep that night.
“So if I tell you something,” Bea said as she twisted and pinned, “promise not to, I don’t know, freak out on me or anything?”
“How can I promise that if I don’t know what you’re going to tell me?” I asked. By the way, is there anything worse than having to stare at yourself in a mirror while someone does your hair? Especially if the light is unflattering? Well, I mean, besides your dad dying.
Bea took a deep breath. She can be dramatic sometimes. “I had a dream about your dad.”
“Not like that!”
Now, I’m sure I lot of people dream about my dad. He’s famous, after all. And some people probably even daydream about him. But yuck. Just . . . gross.
“Okay, I know it’s crazy,” Bea went on, and I think she was probably jamming those hairpins in a bit harder than absolutely necessary, “but I dreamt he tried to tell me something.”
A tingly feeling went all through me then. “Like what?” I asked, surprised that my lungs didn’t want to pull in air any more.
She pushed in a final pin and stepped back. “I don’t know exactly. Like . . . How did he die?”
“In his sleep. The doctors say it was natural causes.”
“But he was in really good shape, wasn’t he?” Bea asked.
The jogs. The horseback riding, and sometimes polo. Tennis. He swam, too. Yeah, Dad had been in great shape.
“Seems weird, don’t you think?” Bea pressed.
“Girls!” Mrs. Polley called from downstairs. “Cookies are ready!”