“Stevie, why do you think there are ghosts?”
Stephanie Rigby shrugged.
Emma stared at Stevie for a moment while she absently ran her fingers through her Barbie doll’s long blonde, yet easily tangled, hair.
“I think when someone dies on a cloudy day, they try to go to heaven but hit their heads on the clouds and come back down here.”
“That’s dumb,” Stevie drawled. Still, she stole a look up at the spreading clouds, a question in her eyes.
Emma looked at her Barbie, then at the Ken doll on the porch by Stevie’s leg.
“Stevie, what do you think your husband will look like?”
Stevie looked up at Emma, her head cocked, her mouth a little open. She looked like she had so many things to say, she said nothing…for a moment. Then,
“I thought we were gonna get married.”
Emma let out a dramatic sigh.
“I told Mama I was gonna marry you, but she started crying.”
Emma looked at Stevie, who now looked at little ready to cry herself. Emma looked back down at her Barbie and continued.
“She told Daddy what I said and he got real mad. He said girls don’t marry girls. He said girls only marry boys because girls only want to be with boys forever.”
“But don’t you wanna be with me forever?”
“Yeah.” Emma looked at the empty sidewalk. A pickup truck with stray dogs in the bed drove past on the street. Bubba Coleman shot her a glare from the driver’s seat.
“Then what’s wrong? Don’t you marry the person you wanna be with forever?”
“Mama said if I say it again they won’t let me play with you.”
“I don’t know, Stevie!”
The bright pink spot came up between Stevie’s eyes. She was upset, Emma knew. Emma reached out and put her fingertip on the spot. Stevie looked down. She sniffled. Emma drew her hand away and tossed her Barbie aside. She put her hands on Stevie’s.
“We can get married. We just won’t tell Mama or Daddy.”
“But who’s gonna walk you down the aisle? Shouldn’t your Dad do that?” Stevie look up, into her eyes. Emma was always so jealous of Stevie’s eyes. They were green in the middle and brown on the outside with a blue line around the round part. Emma wished she had eyes that were more than one color. Hers were just brown. Her mama called them “mocha,” whatever that means. To her, they were just brown. How boring.
Emma shrugged. “You don’t have a daddy to walk you down the aisle, so maybe I won’t have one, either.”
Stevie smiled. She lost her two front teeth the other day and the boys called her “snaggle tooth.” They laughed like snaggle tooth meant something. Boys are so stupid.
Emma pulled a magazine out of her bag. Her mama would be so mad if she knew she had a magazine with half-naked women in it, but they were so pretty. Emma wanted to look like them when she grew up. Stevie’s eyes lit up when she saw it.
“Is that the new one?”
“Yep, hot off the presses.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know.” Emma opened the magazine.
Stevie scooted over to sit beside her. Emma shared the magazine. She looked at Stevie as she talked about taking pictures like that someday. She thought of how she’d love to be one of these pretty ladies so Stevie would take her picture.
“I think it’s sad,” Stevie said, her eyes not leaving the page.
Stevie looked up at the clouds again.
“Oh.” Emma hardly remembered her question from before.
“I’d hate to have to stay here without any friends.”
Emma slipped her hand under the open magazine and found Stevie’s hand. Their hands entwined under the magazine, so only they knew, and they spent the afternoon looking at pretty pictures of pretty ladies in their own little corner of the universe, where no one had to know.