The Witness(6)

By: Nora Roberts



“I wasn’t sure where to start.”

“Start with awesome.” Julie shoved the dress at her.

But really, at its length it was more of a tunic, Elizabeth thought, and in a screaming red, ruched along the sides. Its razor-thin straps sparkling with silver.

“What do you wear with it?”

“Killer shoes. No, lose the bra first. You can’t wear a bra with that dress. You’ve got a really good body,” Julie observed.

“I’m genetically predisposed, and maintain fitness and health through regular daily exercise.”

“Get you.”

And the naked—or nearly—human body was natural, Elizabeth reminded herself. Just skin, muscle, bone, nerve.

She laid her bra on her folded clothes, then shimmied into the dress.

“It’s very short,” she began.

“You’re going to want to ditch those Mom panties and buy a thong. That is definitely club-worthy.”

Elizabeth took a breath, turned to the triple mirror. “Oh.”

Who was that? Who was that girl in the short red dress?

“I look …”

“Awesome,” Julie declared, and Elizabeth watched a smile bloom on her own face.

“Awesome.”

She bought the dress, and two others. And skirts. She bought tops that rode above her waist, pants that rode below it. She bought thongs. And she rode that tsunami to shoes with silver heels she’d have to practice walking in.

And she laughed, like any ordinary girl shopping with a friend at the mall.

She bought a digital camera, then watched Julie make up her face in the bathroom. She took Julie’s picture, and several backups against the pale gray of the stall door.

“That’s going to work?”

“Yes, I can make it work. How old should you be? I think it’s best if we stay as close as possible to the legal age. I can use everything from your valid driver’s license and just change the year.”

“Have you done this before?”

“I’ve experimented. I’ve read and studied identity fraud, cyber crimes. It’s interesting. I’d like to …”

“Like to what?”

“I’d like to study computer crimes and prevention, investigation, more seriously. I’d like to join the FBI.”

“No bull? Like Dana Scully.”

“I don’t know her.”

“X-Files, Liz. Don’t you watch TV?”

“My viewing of popular and commercial television is limited to an hour a week.”

Julie rolled her big, chocolate eyes. “What are you, six? Jesus Christ.”

“My mother has very definite opinions.”

“You’re in college, for God’s sake. Watch what you want. Anyway, I’ll come to your place tomorrow night. Say nine? We’ll take a cab from there. But I want you to call me when you finish the ID, okay?”

“Yes.”

“I tell you what, breaking up with Darryl was the best thing I ever did. Otherwise, I’d’ve missed all this. We’re going to party, Liz.” Laughing, Julie did a quick, hip-swiveling dance right there in the ladies’ room. “Big time. I’ve gotta go. Nine o’clock. Don’t let me down.”

“No. I won’t.”

Flushed from the day, Elizabeth hauled all the bags to her car. She knew what girls in the mall talked about now.

Boys. Doing it. Julie and Darryl had done it. Clothes. Music. She had a mental list of artists she needed to research. Television and movie actors. Other girls. What other girls wore. Who other girls had done it with. And back to boys.

She understood the discussions and topics were a societal and generational trope. But it was one she’d been shut out of until today.

And she thought Julie liked her, at least a little. Maybe they’d start to hang out. Maybe she’d hang out with Julie’s friend Tiffany, too—who’d done it with Mike Dauber when he’d come home on spring break.

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