Mother asks about David's shirt the minute he steps through the door. She laughs when David tells her the story of Lillian's flag. "It's not the wrong color at all!" he tells her.
Pop laughs, too. "You're right, David!"
"Make sure you bring your green shirt home so I can wash it," says Mother.
Thinking about the green shirt reminds David of the girl with the green ribbon. He wonders if he will see her tomorrow at Jean and Bob's.
He hopes he does.
Tonight is Mother’s Movie Night. Every Wednesday, Mother goes to the five o’clock show with her friends. Then she goes to Olive Garden for their soup and salad special. She always brings home dessert for David and Pop. David’s favorite is tiramisu.
On Wednesdays, David attends Socialization with his friends. Pop drops him off at the Community Center after they eat the dinner Mother leaves. Pop goes to the library to play chess with his friends. Mother says it is good for everyone to have friends.
Today is Larry’s birthday. Larry is David’s friend. He has been David’s friend a long time. David remembers that when Larry was little, he sometimes had a hard time following the rules.
Larry still has a hard time following the rules. When David comes into the room, Larry is arguing with George and Ginger.
George and Ginger run Socialization. They help everyone decide what games to play and what movies to see. They take David and his friends on trips to the bowling alley and the mall. They make sure everyone has fun. David likes George and Ginger.
David also likes Crystal and Mariah. They are twins. They wear their hair the same way and dress alike. David likes to pretend he has a hard time telling them apart. It makes them laugh when he calls them by the wrong name. They have been friends of David’s almost as long as Larry.
Tonight Larry is annoying David. Larry is very excited by all the balloons and the cake. He wants to eat the cake first and play the games afterwards, and he keeps interrupting George and Ginger. Larry jumps up and won’t sit down when Ginger asks him, and George finally leads him out of the room.
David and the others stand in a big circle in the middle of the room. Ginger tosses out a ball and they take turns throwing it back and forth until George comes back with Larry.
George whispers in Ginger’s ear. Ginger points to her clipboard, then shrugs. George begins to light the candles. David throws the ball to Ginger. “Gather around the cake, everyone,” she says.
Everyone stands close together. Mariah stands next to David. She smells a little like Mother does when she is ready to go out. The back of her neck is covered by tiny dark brown hairs. The hair gathers just above her back to form a tiny triangle.
David closes his eyes and breathes. Her sweetness wraps around him like warm pajamas straight out of the dryer. David wishes he could touch the skin on Mariah’s neck. He wants to know if her skin really is as soft as it looks.
Behind him, the doors to the big room open and close with a sudden slam. David jumps, opens his eyes, and remembers the birthday party. He also remembers it would be very rude to touch Mariah without her permission.
George holds up his hand. “Okay, everybody. On three…one, two, three!”
Everyone sings “Happy Birthday.”
Larry stands beside his cake and smiles proudly. Ginger has to remind him to blow out his candles when the song ends. “Make a wish,” she says.
Larry closes his eyes and blurts out: “I wish I get a new bike!” Then he blows out his candles.
Ginger cuts the cake. George makes sure everyone lines up so everyone gets a piece of cake and a napkin. Because Larry is the birthday boy, he hands out the plastic forks.
David is almost finished his cake when he remembers the sound of the door opening and closing. He looks toward the back of the big room. He sees a woman in a gray coat sitting in a chair beside the main door. She has a black purse on her lap. David doesn’t think he’s ever seen her here before. But there is something about her that seems familiar.
David squints. He wishes he could see the lady's face more clearly. Mother says he should wear his glasses but he doesn’t like the way they rub the top of his nose.
“Would you like more cake, David?” asks George. He holds out another paper plate.
“Oh,no,no. No, thank you,” David says. He shakes his head, trying to see around George. George moves on, to Jonathon, the kid in the wheelchair who doesn’t talk much whenever food is involved.
“More juice, David?” Ginger blocks his view.
David points. “Who is that? Back there, by the door?”
Ginger glances over her shoulder. “My, aren’t you the observant one, David. I can hardly see that lady down there in her gray coat. I think that’s Mrs. Lindsley. She’s checking out the program tonight.”
David lets Ginger pour more juice into his cup. Everyone finishes their cake. Larry opens his present from the group, which turns out to be movie tickets for everyone to go see a movie next Wednesday night.
Ginger brings out the ball and some hoops. They play a game that involves passing the ball through the hoops. David swings the hoop when it’s his turn and Larry throws the ball right through it. Everyone claps.
Then the door in the back opens again. David recognizes Pop as he comes in. He waves, but Pop doesn’t come down to join them as he usually does.
Instead the lady in the gray coat holds out her hand as he goes by. Pop stops. David watches Pop smile and shake the lady’s hand.
“Here you go, David.” Ginger hands him jacket. She smiles. “Good to see you tonight. Did you have fun?”
“Always!” David says, as always.
He is so busy watching Pop talk to the lady in the gray coat he walks into George.
“Whoa, pard’ner,” says George. “Watch where you’re going.” George shakes his hand and pats his back.
Crystal and Mariah’s older brother comes in, and slips past Pop. He is followed by Jonathon’s aunt. David heads toward Pop and the lady in the gray coat. As he gets closer, David knows why he recognizes her.
She’s the older lady from the counter at Jean and Bob’s that morning – the lady sitting beside the girl with the long red braid and the bright green ribbon.