Eleanor & Park(7)

By: Rainbow Rowell



At least she didn’t think he did; Eleanor never looked at him.

Sometimes she looked at his shoes. He had cool shoes. And sometimes she looked to see what he was reading …

Always comic books.

Eleanor never brought anything to read on the bus. She didn’t want Tina, or anybody else, to catch her with her head down.


Park

It felt wrong to sit next to somebody every day and not talk to her. Even if she was weird. (Jesus, was she weird. Today she was dressed like a Christmas tree, with all this stuff pinned to her clothes, shapes cut out of fabric, ribbon …) The ride home couldn’t go fast enough. Park couldn’t wait to get away from her, away from everybody.

‘Dude, where’s your dobak?’

He was trying to eat dinner alone in his room, but his little brother wouldn’t let him. Josh stood in the doorway, already dressed for taekwando and inhaling a chicken leg.

‘Dad’s going to be here, like now,’ Josh said through the drumstick, ‘and he’s gonna shit if you’re not ready.’

Their mom came up behind Josh and thumped him on the head. ‘Don’t cuss, dirty mouth.’ She had to reach up to do it. Josh was his father’s son; he was already at least seven inches taller than their mom – and three inches taller than Park.

Which sucked.

Park pushed Josh out the door and slammed it. So far, Park’s strategy for maintaining his status as older brother despite their growing size differential was to pretend he could still kick Josh’s ass.

He could still beat him at taekwando – but only because Josh got impatient with any sport where his size wasn’t an obvious advantage. The high school football coach had already started coming to Josh’s Peewee games.

Park changed into his dobak, wondering if he was going to have to start wearing Josh’s hand-me-downs pretty soon. Maybe he could take a Sharpie to all Josh’s Husker football T-shirts and make them say Husker Dü. Or maybe it wouldn’t even be an issue – Park might never get any taller than five foot four. He might never grow out of the clothes he had now.

He put on his Chuck Taylors and took his dinner into the kitchen, eating over the counter. His mom was trying to get gravy out of Josh’s white jacket with a washcloth.

‘Mindy?’

That’s how Park’s dad came home every night, like the dad in a sit-com. (‘Lucy?’) And his mom would call out from wherever she was, ‘In here!’

Except she said it, ‘In hee-ya!’ Because she was apparently never going to stop sounding like she just got here yesterday from Korea. Sometimes Park thought she kept the accent on purpose, because his dad liked it. But his mom tried so hard to fit in in every other way … If she could sound like she grew up right around the corner, she would.

His dad barreled into the kitchen and scooped his mom into his arms. They did this every night, too. Full-on make-out sessions, no matter who was around. It was like watching Paul Bunyan make out with one of those It’s a Small World dolls.

Park grabbed his brother’s sleeve. ‘Come on, let’s go.’ They could wait in the Impala. Their dad would be out in a minute, as soon as he’d changed into his giant dobak.


Eleanor

She still couldn’t get used to eating dinner so early.

When did this all start? In the old house, they’d all eaten together, even Richie. Eleanor wasn’t complaining about not having to eat with Richie … But now it was like their mom wanted them all out of the way before he came home.

She even made him a totally different dinner. The kids would get grilled cheese, and Richie would get steak. Eleanor wasn’t complaining about the grilled cheese either – it was a nice break from bean soup, and beans and rice, and huevos y frijoles …

After dinner, Eleanor usually disappeared into her room to read, but the little kids always went outside. What were they going to do when it got cold – and when it started getting dark early? Would they all hide in the bedroom? It was crazy. Diary of Anne Frank crazy.

Eleanor climbed up onto her bunk bed and got out her stationery box. That dumb gray cat was sleeping in her bed again. She pushed him off.

She opened the grapefruit box and flipped through her stationery. She kept meaning to write letters to her friends from her old school. She hadn’t gotten to say goodbye to anybody when she left. Her mom had shown up out of the blue and pulled Eleanor out of class, all ‘Get your things, you’re coming home.’

Her mom had been so happy.

And Eleanor had been so happy.

They went straight to North to get Eleanor registered, then stopped at Burger King on the way to the new house. Her mom kept squeezing Eleanor’s hand … Eleanor had pretended not to notice the bruises on her mom’s wrist.

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