His eyes are big. “You look hot,” he says, sounding surprised. “What are you? An anime character?”
“No,” I say, or more like snap. “I’m Cho Chang.” Peter still has a blank look on his face, so I add, “From Harry Potter.”
“Oh yeah. Cool.”
I look over at him. He’s wearing a regular button-down and jeans. “Where’s your costume?”
“Me and my boys are going to change right before the assembly. It’s a better effect if we unveil at the same time.”
I know he wants me to ask what his costume is, but I don’t feel like talking to him, so I sit there, not saying anything and looking out the window. I keep waiting for him to ask me what’s wrong, but he doesn’t. He’s so oblivious; I don’t even think he notices I’m mad.
Abruptly I say, “I wish you weren’t always late.”
Peter frowns. “Geez, sorry. I was trying to get my costume together.”
“Today you were trying to get your costume together. But you’re late all the time.”
“I’m not late all the time!”
“You were late today, and yesterday, and last Thursday.” I stare out the window. The autumn leaves are already falling. “If you’re not going to be on time, I don’t want you giving me rides anymore.”
I don’t have to look; I can feel him glaring at me. “Fine. That means I get five extra minutes of sleep, so, works for me.”
* * *
During the judging, Chris and I are sitting in the balcony of the theater. Chris is dressed up as Courtney Love. She’s wearing a pink slip and holey knee socks and lots of smudgy eye makeup. “You should go down there too,” I say. “I bet you’d win something.”
“People at this school wouldn’t even know who she is,” Chris sneers. But I can tell she kind of wants to.
The guys in Peter’s group are all superheroes. There’s Batman, Superman, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, all to varying degrees of effort. Peter went all out. He is, of course, Peter Parker. Who else would Kavinsky go as? His Spider-Man costume is super authentic, with yellow Mylar eyes and gloved hands and bootied feet. He is a total ham up onstage. All the guys run around, capes flapping, pretend fighting each other. Peter tries to climb up a column, but Mr. Yelznik stops him before he can get far. I cheer when his group wins for best group costume.
Genevieve is Catwoman. She’s wearing pleather leggings and a bustier and black cat ears. I wonder if she was in on the superhero theme, if Peter told her, or if she came up with that on her own. Every guy in the auditorium goes wild when she goes onstage for best junior costume. “What a ho,” Chris says. She sounds almost wistful.
Genevieve wins, of course. I sneak a look at Peter, and he’s whistling and stomping his feet with all his friends.
After the assembly I’m getting my chem book out of my locker when Peter comes over and leans his back against the locker next to mine. Through his mask he says, “Hey.”
“Hey,” I say. And then he doesn’t say anything else; he just stands there. I close my locker door and spin the combination lock. “Congratulations on winning best group costume.”
“That’s it? That’s all you’re going to say?”
Huh? “What else am I supposed to say?”
Just then Josh walks by with Jersey Mike, who’s dressed up as a hobbit, hairy feet and all. Walking backward, Josh points his wand at me and says, “Expelliarmus!”
Automatically I point my wand back at him and say, “Avada Kedavra!”
Josh clutches his chest like I’ve shot him. “Way harsh!” he calls out, and he disappears down the hallway.
“Uh . . . don’t you think it’s weird for my supposed girlfriend to wear a couples costume with another guy?” Peter asks me.
I roll my eyes. I’m still mad at him from this morning. “I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you when you look like this. How am I supposed to have a conversation with a person in head-to-toe latex?”
Peter pushes his mask up. “I’m serious! How do you think it makes me look?”
“First of all, it wasn’t planned. Second of all, nobody cares what my costume is! Who would even notice something like that?”
“People notice,” Peter huffs. “I noticed.”
“Well, I’m sorry. I’m very sorry that a coincidence like this would ever occur.”
“I really doubt it was a coincidence,” Peter mutters.
“What do you want me to do? Do you want me to pop over to the Halloween store during lunch and buy a red wig and be Mary Jane?”
Smoothly Peter says, “Could you? That’d be great.”
“No, I could not. You know why? Because I’m Asian, and people will just think I’m in a manga costume.” I hand him my wand. “Hold this.” I lean down and lift the hem of my robe so I can adjust my knee socks.
Frowning, he says, “I could have been someone from the book if you’d told me in advance.”
“Yes, well, today you’d make a really great Moaning Myrtle.”
Peter gives me a blank look, and disbelieving, I say, “Wait a minute . . . have you never read Harry Potter?”
“I’ve read the first two.”
“Then you should know who Moaning Myrtle is!”
“It was a really long time ago,” Peter says. “Was she one of those people in the paintings?”
“No! And how could you stop after Chamber of Secrets? The third one’s the best out of the whole series. I mean, that’s literally crazy to me.” I peer at his face. “Do you not have a soul?”
“Sorry if I haven’t read every single Harry Potter book! Sorry I have a life and I’m not in the Final Fantasy club or whatever that geek club is called—”
I snatch my wand back from him and wave it in his face. “Silencio!”
Peter crosses his arms. Smirking, he says, “Whatever spell you just tried to cast on me, it didn’t work, so I think you need to go back to Hogwarts.” He’s so proud of himself for the Hogwarts reference, it’s kind of endearing.
Quick like a cat I pull down his mask, and then I put one hand over his mouth. With my other hand I wave my wand again. “Silencio!” Peter tries to say something, but I press my hand harder. “What? What was that? I can’t hear you, Peter Parker.”
Peter reaches out and tickles me, and I laugh so hard I almost drop my wand. I dart away from him but he pounces after me, pretend shooting webs at my feet. Giggling, I run away from him, further down the hall, dodging groups of people. He gives chase all the way to chem class. A teacher screams at us to slow down, and we do, but as soon as we’re around the corner, I’m running again and so is he.