Balancing my melamine plate carefully on one hand and nibbling at bits of chip with my other hand, we made our way down the hall to Mrs. Finley's bedroom. I had to be careful not to trip over the small area rugs that she had placed everywhere to keep people from stepping on her nice, white carpet. She paused at the closed door, raising her eyebrows at me excitedly and said "Ready??" I nodded once and took a bite of Twinkie.
She threw open the door and said "Ta-da!"
The last time I had seen Mrs. Finley's bedroom, there was a patchwork quilt on her bed, a dresser with, approximately, 300 assorted knick-knacks, and a rocking chair in the corner. A bit shabby, but comfortable.
But now? She had outdone herself.
The window directly opposite me now had scarves of sheer fabric hanging lopsidedly over the metal blinds. Below the window, her bed was draped a deep red sateen comforter with heart-shaped throw pillows. The homey nick-knacks had been replaced with vases of fake roses that had fake, plastic dew drops on them. A feather boa hung on one corner of the mirror and an overwhelming scent of dollar-store, rose scented candles wafted out the door.
I almost choked on my Twinkie, as my eyes bugged out of my head.
"It's my sexy bedroom" she boasted "I watched a show the other day that talked all about how important it is to make your bedroom a romantic haven."
A romantic haven? Glancing over my right shoulder, I could see Mr. Finley's bedroom just down the hall. He had slept in a separate bedroom, he claimed bitterly, for more than 30 years. Crammed in there with a tiny television set, every book Louis L'Amour had ever written, and his steel toed cowboy boots.
"Wow, Mrs. Finley. I didn't know you liked red so much" was all I could manage. She beamed in my direction and waved me in with a breathless, "Make yourself comfortable, dear." I looked around for someplace to sit and finally settled on the foot of her bed. She chose the rocking chair, now bedecked with furry pillows that shed.
Taking a bite of hot dog, I asked her "You said it matched something. What does it match?"
"Oh!" she fluttered "I'll show you."
She took three short shuffles across the room and pulled back the sliding door to her closet. Reaching way into the back, behind all the eras of clothing surely hiding in that space, she pulled out a garment bag. Unzipping the bag, she slid out a red satin dress and held it up for me to see.
It was a very pretty tea length dress, the kind of dress you saw in pictures from 50 years ago. The folds in the satin were so established that it looked like they would be impossible to iron out.
"It was my going away dress. For my honeymoon." Mrs. Finley said dreamily, softly stroking the fabric, "I felt so beautiful."
Oh. I got it.
"Well, this quilt matches it just right then!" I said cheerfully. She smiled at me, but her eyes were still far away. She shook her head and put the dress back in it's bag and shoved it into the recesses of the closet again.
"Hey, Mrs. Finley," I asked "has anyone looked at that old trailer next door? Do you think anyone will rent it?"
I tried not to let my voice sound too hopeful. I knew that my only hope of getting a friend--a real friend--was for someone to move in. It was a long shot. Not a whole lot of middle schoolers moved into trailer parks. That's why my mom says "Hope springs eternal." Because you just can't help yourself from hoping that a new best friend will move in down the street and have a trailer even dumpier than your own.
"Hm. I think I saw Miss Peggy show it to some people yesterday. Driving a red Grand Prix. You can never trust people who drive Grand Prix."
Parents of middle schoolers probably wouldn't be driving a red Grand Prix. What I needed was a 1991 teal Astro van. If she spotted one of those looking around next door, then my chances were lots better.
"Well, I gotta go, Mrs. Finley. Thanks for the hot dog."
She nodded again, smiling, "Come back tomorrow, dear. You can help me re-do my bathroom."
I grinned as I waved to Mr. Finley, who grunted back, and walked out the front door.
I stopped short. Parked next door was a teal Astro van. I almost could've bet it was a 1991.