“I’ll show you my future,” Beverly said, tossing aside a dandelion and slouching on the porch step, “if you show me yours.”
Ira and I, sprawled in the grass, stilled, frozen by the dare, but Miley popped up from the porch swing so abruptly, the chain clanked.
“I forgot something Mom asked me to do,” Miley said and flitted past Beverly. “I have to go now, so, yeah. Bye.”
We watched her dash down Price. A wind stirred the trees, and white petals spun through the air and hit the ground with the softest thunk, thunk, thunk. Street, sidewalk, rooftops, and cars were speckled with days of this pattering. Outside her house, Miley smoothed her head and raked petals from her brown curls. She peeked at us, then disappeared inside.
“Miley’s out,” I said uneasily. I wanted to run, too.
Beverly sneered. “Scared.”
Or brave enough to bail. It was hard standing up to Beverly. She was used to getting her way.
“Hope she doesn’t tell,” Ira murmured.
We weren’t supposed to share our futures. Our parents told us not to, said things like, “You shouldn’t even be looking at it,” or tutted and warned, “Bad idea,” or downplayed the whole thing: “Hey, we all get one, they’re practically the same, so who cares?”
But we knew our parents lied. They weren’t the same.
“Come on,” Beverly said. “Dad’s grocery shopping.”
Ira and I followed her into her house. Her living room smelled like Pine Sol and pot roast. She held her finger to her lips, then beckoned with a wave. Her mom worked nights at the prison and slept most of the day. We tiptoed up the stairs.
Beverly was an only child, and her room pointed to this fact: the canopy bed, flat screen, games console, plushies, more plushies, cool lava lamp. But when she knelt on her floor and, grunting, swearing, and muttering, “Won’t fit in my closet,” dragged the future out from under her bed, it was startlingly plain and pale as cheap pine. Yet huge. The size increased my uneasiness. Mine wasn’t half so big.
I held my breath when she opened it. We peered inside. Her folks’ divorce, a broken engagement, the miscarriage: They were all in there. “Wow,” I breathed, holding my throat. “That’s sad. How can you stand looking at it?”
“There’s good stuff in there, too,” Beverly insisted hotly.
A financial advisor job, blue cottage, two longhaired cats. But they were flattened at the bottom, and she really had to lug aside the bad stuff to get to them.
She shoved her future back under the bed, her face pinched, then rose and dusted her hands on her t-shirt. “It’s big, though, right? Really big.”
We glanced down. Part of the future’s side stuck out from under the bed.
“Do you stub your toe on it at night?” Ira asked.
“Sometimes.” Reluctantly, she added, “Sometimes it gives me bad dreams.” She sucked in her lower lip and jutted it into a pout. “Who’s next?”
Ira raised his hand, just as if he were in a classroom. He silently led us out of Beverly’s house and down the street.
I liked walking behind Ira, liked how his black hair glinted in the sunshine, how he plucked a petal out of the air, how he threw back his head and looked up. He reminded me to look up, too. Ira was quiet, but he noticed things. That made him special.
Beverly, on the other hand, hardly ever shut up. On the way, she told us about her friend from Girl Scouts and the girl’s birthday party, and how her house was different from what Beverly was used to, “poor and strange, and there were, like, dead animals everywhere. Stuffed, I mean. I guess Amy’s parents are hunters. Anyway, I had to use the bathroom, so I went upstairs, and the bathroom was gross, but the closet was wide open—”
I grunted. Sure it was.
“—and I saw it on a pile of ratty towels.”
“Amy’s future?” I asked.
“Or one of her parent’s, but I’m telling you, it was pathetic, falling apart and flimsy as hell.” She noticed Ira’s sharp gaze and added defensively, “I didn’t look inside.”
“Hmm.” He opened his back door. We trailed him through the kitchen and down the hallway. In his room, he walked over to his nightstand, where his Nintendo Switch sat on top of a neat stack of paperbacks. He wiggled open the drawer and pulled out his future.
I stared, shocked.
“Shit,” Beverly yelped. “It’s small.”
Ira ran his hand over it.
“But pretty,” I managed. It was. Glossy, reddish purple, trimmed with filigreed hardware.
“What’s inside?” Beverly asked.
I glanced away, dizzy with dread. Disease, car accident, plane crash?
“I’ve never looked,” he said.
I exhaled, and Beverly retreated to the door, her arms folded, her hands cupping her elbows. She was done with this dare; I could tell.
“Doesn’t matter if it’s little,” I said, touching Ira’s shoulder. “What’s in there must be amazing because, wow, this thing’s beautiful, and—and besides, I’ve looked in mine, and you’re in there. I swear it. You’re in there.”
I wasn’t sure if he believed me. “You get what you get,” he said and met my gaze. “You get one, if you’re lucky.”
I nodded. Because that was something else we’d realized: The we-all-get-one was also a lie. Maybe it was true on Price Street, but not everywhere. Not even most places.
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