Keeping Secrets in Seattle - By Brooke Moss
Gabe hopped off the swing and faced me with a grin. “Are you ready?” he asked. “My mom and dad are waiting in the car.”
I clambered over the fence, landing in the grass at the back end of the Parkers’ lawn. “’Course.” I brushed dust off the knees of my pants, pretending like his aquamarine eyes didn’t make my heart start double-dutching inside my chest. It’d been that way for a while, Gabe feeling less like the best friend I’d had since I was little, and more like the boy in my sixth-grade class that made my palms sweat and my throat close up.
He held out his hand for me to take. “Well, let’s go, then.”
I slipped my hand in his and prayed my face wouldn’t turn red. We went up the back steps, through the house, and out the front door, where Nora and Guthrie were waiting with smiles on their faces. On Guthrie’s head there was a worn Mariners cap—the same type that rested on Gabe’s—and on Nora’s lap was a brightly wrapped gift.
My stomach whirled with happiness as soon as I saw them waving. They were my second family. The people I counted on almost more than I counted on my own mother. Whenever I was with them, I felt like I was part of a real family.
“Happy birthday, Violet,” Nora called through the open window of the car.
When I hopped into the car, Guthrie turned around in the driver’s seat and winked at me.
“Got an exciting night planned, kiddo.”
“Dad, she knows what we’re doing tonight.” Gabe climbed into the backseat next to me and rolled his eyes. He always acted embarrassed by his parents.
Nora’s mouth dropped open, even though a smile tickled the corners. “Say it ain’t so.”
I laughed and played along. We’d been playing this little game every year since my eighth birthday, when our annual trip to Benito’s for pizza and Safeco Field for a Mariners game started. I looked forward to it every year with the same enthusiasm most kids waited for Christmas. Nothing felt better than sitting down to a margherita pizza with the Parkers.
“No, it’s a surprise, all right.” I offered Gabe a half shrug and buckled my belt.
“This girl’s a keeper,” Guthrie said with a chuckle, turning the key in the ignition. He always said that about me. And I loved it.
Gabe nudged me with his shoulder, and I saw through the corner of my eye that he was grinning. “Yeah. We’ll keep her.”
Emotion pricked at the backs of my eyes, and I blinked a few times to keep it at bay. This was the best place to be on my birthday. With Gabe’s family. My family. The car backed out of the driveway, and Gabe’s hand covered mine on the backseat as we rolled down the street.
“Happy birthday, Vi.”
August 19, 1997
I love Gabe. He doesn’t know it, but I do. Someday I’m going to tell him. And when I do, he’s going to say he loves me back. I know it will happen. I can feel it deep inside. We’re going to get married, and have babies, and live happily ever after. Mark my words…
“Damn it, Violet, why can’t my boobs look so hot when I wear that blouse?”
I tucked my journal deep in the back of my nightstand drawer and covered it up with an old scarf. The memories I’d been reading clouded around me like fog, and I had to shake my head to clear them. That’s what trips down memory lane did. Especially ones that involved reading my journal entries about my best friend. Sadly, out of the dozens and dozens of notebooks I’d filled with my innermost thoughts over the years, a huge percentage of them were devoted to dissecting my friendship—and more—with Gabe. Sometimes writing in, and rereading, those stupid, worn-out journals of mine was the only thing that kept me sane.
I pulled on my coat and shot my roommate a cheeky smile. “Because you’re too skinny, my dear.”
“Touché.” Kim laughed, tugging on a snowman sweater over her head. She had an arsenal of tacky Christmas sweaters in her closet, all gifts from her mother, and prided herself on being able to pair them with leather pants.
My other roommate, Betsy, emerged from the kitchen with a candy cane sticking out of her mouth. “I disagree,” she said. “I think your boobs are just fine, babe.”
“You’re biased.” I scooped my purse off the table. “She’s your girlfriend—of course you think she’s just fine.”