It takes a long time to do almost anything worthwhile to someone’s hair, even longer for a change as radical as this, and so Sally and Antonia and Gideon Barnes wait for nearly an hour in a booth at Del Vecchio’s, drinking diet Cokes and fuming.
“I missed soccer practice for this,” Gideon says mournfully.
“Oh, who cares,” Antonia says.
Antonia has been working at the ice cream parlor all day and she has a pain in her right shoulder from all the scooping she’s done. She doesn’t even feel like herself this evening, although she has no idea of who else she might be. She hasn’t been asked out on a date for weeks. All of a sudden the boys who were so crazy for her seem to be interested either in younger girls—who may not be as pretty as Antonia but who can be impressed by the slightest thing, a stupid award from the computer club or a trophy from the swim team, and go all googly-eyed if a boy pays them the teeniest little compliment—or in an older woman, like her aunt Gillian, who’s had so many more sexual experiences than a girl Antonia’s age that a high school boy could get hard just by trying to guess what she could teach him in bed.
This summer has not been working out as Antonia hoped. She can already tell that tonight is another totally lost cause. Her mother hurried her so they could be on time for this dinner, and Antonia was in such a rush that she grabbed her clothes from her dresser drawer without looking. And now, what she thought was a black T-shirt has turned out to be a horrible olive-green thing she ordinarily wouldn’t be caught dead in. Usually the waiters here wink at Antonia and bring her extra baskets of rolls and garlic bread. This evening not one of them has even noticed she’s alive, except for a creepy busboy who asked if she wanted a ginger ale or a Coke.
“This is so typical of Aunt Gillian,” she tells her mother when they’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity. “It’s so inconsiderate.”
Sally, who is not completely sure that Gillian wouldn’t encourage Kylie to hop a freight train or hitchhike to Virginia Beach for no particular reason other than a good time, has been drinking wine, something she rarely does.
“Well, to hell with them both,” she says now.
“Mother!” Antonia says, shocked.
“Let’s order,” Sally suggests to Gideon. “Let’s get two pepperoni pizzas.”
“You don’t eat meat,” Antonia reminds her.
“Then I’ll have another glass of Chianti,” Sally says. “And some stuffed mushrooms. Maybe some pasta.”
Antonia turns to signal the waiter but immediately turns back. Her cheeks are flushed and she’s broken into a sweat. Her biology teacher, Mr. Frye, is at one of the small tables in the back, having a beer and discussing the virtues of eggplant rollatini with the waiter. Antonia is crazy about Mr. Frye. He is so brilliant that Antonia considered flunking Biology I just so she could take it again, until she found out he’d be teaching Biology II in the fall. It doesn’t matter that he’s way too old for her; he’s so incredibly handsome that if all the guys in the senior class were rolled up together and tied with a big bow they still wouldn’t come close. Mr. Frye goes running every day at dusk and always circles the reservoir on the far side of the high school three times. Antonia tries to make certain to be there just as the sun is going down, but he never seems to notice her. He never even waves.
Naturally she has to meet up with him on the one evening when she hasn’t bothered with makeup and is wearing this horrible olive-green thing, which, she now realizes, doesn’t belong to her. She’s ludicrous. Even that stupid Gideon Barnes is staring at her shirt.
“What are you staring at?” Antonia asks so savagely that Gideon pulls his head back, as if he expected to be smacked. “What is your problem?” she cries when Gideon continues to stare. God, she can’t stand him. He looks like a pigeon when he blinks, and he often makes a weird sound in his throat, as though he’s about to spit.
“I think that’s my shirt,” Gideon says apologetically, and in fact, it is. He got it on a trip to St. Croix last Christmas, and left it at the Owens house last week, which is how it got thrown in with the wash. Antonia would be completely and utterly mortified to know that I’M A VIRGIN is printed across her back in black letters.
Sally calls for a waiter and orders two pizzas—plain, no pepperoni—three orders of stuffed mushrooms, an order of crostini, some garlic bread, and two insalatas.
“Great,” Gideon says, since he’s starving as usual. “By the way,” he tells Antonia, “you don’t have to give me the shirt back until tomorrow.”