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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Oona Out of Order

A Novel

Margarita Montimore

Flatiron Books



The party flowed with cinematic choreography: plastic cups and beer bottles tilted back in a syncopated rhythm; clusters of guests bobbed heads and danced to a new wave soundtrack as if the floor were a giant trampoline, a ribbon of tipsy laughter running through the room. It might have been only a basement in Brooklyn, with mirrored walls and tan carpeting, but tonight it was their Studio 54, their Palladium, their Danceteria. A group of fifty with the noise and energy of hundreds—most on their college winter break—they’d come to celebrate New Year’s Eve and Oona Lockhart’s nineteenth birthday. And they showed up in style: in leather and frills, spangles and mesh, eschewing subdued fabrics for ones that glistened, glimmered, popped with color. The looks flirted with glam, goth, new wave, and punk, even as those who wore them refused to be labeled as one thing.

In the corner, Oona knelt beside the stereo, sifting through a crate of records. She paused to check her watch, an anniversary gift from her boyfriend, Dale. It had no second hand, which gave the illusion of time moving slowly, sometimes even stopping. A single black diagonal line bisected the silver face dotted with tiny black stars: 9:15 P.M. In less than three hours, it would be 1983 and she’d be a year older.

She stood, a record in either hand, as Dale—tall and sleepy-eyed, favoring his Brazilian mother’s golden complexion, curly pompadour gelled back at the sides—ambled over. The sight of him quickened her breath.

“Hey, gorgeous. Whatcha got there?” He pointed at the records.

“I can’t decide which one to play next. Yaz or Talk Talk?” Shoulders tight, she raised and lowered the records as if weighing them.

“I’ve never seen anyone look so serious about picking a record. It’s adorable.” He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “How about I take over as DJ and you go dance? I’ll play them both.”

While she allowed him to take the records, her shoulders remained stiff. “Okay. I just need to bring down more napkins and ice—”

“I’ll take care of that, too. Your only job is to enjoy the party.” A wink belied his stern tone.

Suddenly, one floor up, there was a crashing thud and shatter. Everyone stopped dancing and gazed up at the ceiling. Was it a noisy intruder? Something thrown through a window? Oona and Dale rushed to the foot of the stairs.

“Stay here, I’ll see what it is,” Dale said to her.

“I’ll come with you.” Forced assertiveness as a cold dropping sensation overtook her. Not again, please.

He paused on the stairs, turned around. “I’m sure it’s nothing. But if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll go find Corey to check it out with me.”

“Found him.” She pointed over his shoulder.

At the top of the stairs Corey’s lanky frame was hunched over in dread, his black liberty spikes casting geometric shadows on his face. “Dude, I’m so sorry. I was showing off some dance moves for these girls and the rug got in my way. I fell on top of your coffee table and it, um, broke. Nobody’s hurt, but I’m a dumbass. I’ll clean up the mess, replace the table. Promise.” Cowering behind Corey were two petite girls wearing too much mascara and lamé dresses like liquid metal.

Dale thundered up the rest of the steps. As his chest puffed out with a slow indrawn breath, Oona crept up behind him and touched his back. Finally he sighed and said, “Hey, it’s not a real party until something breaks, right?” He stepped aside, waved through Corey and the girls. “I’ll clean it up. Just try not to break anything else.”

The contrite trio headed downstairs as Oona followed Dale to the kitchen.

He grabbed a broom and dustpan and grumbled, “The guest of honor shouldn’t be doing cleanup. I can handle the mess.”

“Let me help. I’ve barely seen you since the party started.” She pulled a trash bag from under the sink.

“I know.” Softened by her kindness, Dale dropped his voice to a sexy husk. “Good thing we saw plenty of each other earlier.”

They shared a suggestive chuckle. “I think at one point the mailman saw plenty of us, too.” She leaned in and nuzzled against his neck, breathed in his tangy scent of Drakkar Noir and Dep hair gel. “Serves us right for leaving the curtains open.”

“And still less embarrassing than your mother walking in on us last week,” said Dale.

“Oh, it got even more embarrassing after you left.” She flinched, remembering. “Once she made sure I was still taking the pill, she offered to let me borrow her copy of The Joy of Sex.”

“I love it.” Dale’s booming laugh forced his head back. As much as she would’ve liked to join in, she could muster only a weak smile.

Having a liberal mother had its advantages, but Oona would’ve preferred more boundaries. Her father, a banker, had provided those until she was eleven (weekly chores, study plans, limited TV time), but once he died, she’d had to set certain rules for herself. Which left her mother, a flight-attendant-turned-travel-agent, in a role more friendly than parental. She often teased Oona about taking things too seriously, whether it was her college courses or band practice, or even her relationship with Dale, urging her daughter to be young and frivolous once in a while. As if you couldn’t be serious about something and still enjoy it. As if being young meant being foolish.

“I have an idea,” said Dale, dropping the broom and dustpan with a clatter. Running over the scales of her sequined dress, he teased the zipper down a few inches and murmured, “How about we go upstairs?” He kissed her exposed shoulder and walked his fingers beneath the hem of her dress, up her thigh. “We could lie under the stars…”

The “stars” he spoke of were indoors, his bedroom ceiling strung with a nest of cables and telephone wires he’d scavenged from his father’s electronics store and splattered with phosphorescent paint, creating a three-dimensional cosmic effect. The first time Oona had seen that ceiling, it made her gasp in wonder; two years on, she still found it awe-inspiring. To say nothing of the man running kisses down her neck.

“Tempting, but it would be rude to the others.” Reluctantly she stopped his hand from moving any farther up her leg. “With school and the band, it’s been ages since I’ve seen anyone besides you, Corey, and Wayne.”

“We saw a bunch of people at CBGB’s just a couple of weeks ago.”

“Yeah, but we were so busy playing the holiday showcase and meeting with Factory Twelve’s manager, we barely got to talk to our friends.”

“Considering what came of it, I don’t think they minded. You know what a tour like this could do for our band? After opening for the Pretenders, Factory Twelve got signed to Chrysalis, and their first single just hit the Top Forty.”

“They’re still not the Pretenders, though. I mean, it’s not like we’re going to be playing stadiums.”

“Right…” The word drawn out as he took a step back, his eyebrow inching up. “But we’ve never played for more than a couple hundred people—we’ve never even left the tri-state area. And Factory Twelve could still become huge. Opening for their spring tour is the kind of break most bands never see. I thought you were excited about it.”

“I am. I just— I’m not…” She fought to keep a stammer out of her voice. “It’s exciting, but it’s intimidating. Visiting new cities, playing bigger venues…”

“It’s more than that,” he said with a knowing nod. “You don’t have to keep it from me, you know.”

Her stomach plummeted. Did he know? “Keep what from you?”

“You’re still shaken up from the mugging after Wayne’s party. I saw how you jumped at the crash earlier. You thought it was a burglar. And you’re worried about touring, scared something bad might happen again.”

Copyright © 2020 by Margarita Montimore