By the time I left junior high, I was desperately in need of a best friend. It was time to shed the cousins and daughters of my parents' friends and find my own BFF. I was entering a huge, scary high school and needed someone to pass notes to in the hall and blab to on my new Princess phone for hours every night while crushing on Bob or Rick or Mike. It was time.
I auditioned all who wanted the job and fell in with Connie Miller for a while. Connie snapped her gum at anyone who came near and helped keep Maybelline's mascara sales on top. She was sassy, but her fun always turned sinister—she wasn't happy unless she was ruining someone else's day. She also taught me how to shoplift. I tried to keep up to be cool, but I couldn't sleep on the nights we'd go to the mall and slip things that we didn't really need into our plastic purses.
Then I met Lorraine Galasso. She was perfect, had a fantastic sense of humor and didn't shoplift or put out. Those were my only scruples at that point. Lorraine was a male magnet due to her premature F-cup boobs. Even the females would gawk.
Lorraine and I laughed our asses off together, which was all I've really wanted in a best friend, but it became clear pretty soon that beneath her laughter was something very wrong. It's hard to describe other than it felt like the rumbling of a volcano before it blows.
Now that I know the truth all these years later, it all makes sense.
For the first year of our friendship, I was never invited to her house. It was the nicest house on the block, but I only imagined the inside. Lorraine always came to my house after school, as did everyone. We had a fun house, which was French for "my parents didn't give a rat's ass what we did."
The Galassos moved constantly. Lorraine would call me up from time to time and say, "I have a new address." Just like that. Wherever they lived, they'd have the biggest house on the block and I was dying to get an invitation to go inside.
One day, my mother looked up from her glass of bourbon and started grilling me: "Why do they move so much, it's strange? What does Mr. Galasso do?" I didn't know, and didn't care. By now, Lorraine and I were joined at the hip.
Finally, I asked Lorraine what her father did for a living, but she didn't know, then she quickly added that she hated him. I'd never met anyone who hated their father. I didn't even know that you could hate your parents. She told me he was a mean, fat pig, and that she hoped he would die. She wasn't kidding.
A short while after, I was finally invited into their new home. I remember feeling so uneasy when I walked in, as if they had a mat out front that said, "Welcome, We Lied." Her mother was cooking but stopped to meet me. She looked sad, her hair was undone, clothes were rumpled, she was old beyond her years. Lorraine's two sisters stuck their head into the kitchen to say hi and I noticed that they all had the same unhappy brown eyes. And it wasn't that that they were just sad eyes, they were frightened, as if begging, "Please help me." I already wanted to go home.
I glanced past Mrs. Galasso into the dining room and there sat the source of the sadness: the father, seated at the dining table. Lorraine nailed it: He looked just like a pig. He was fat, with fat lips that flopped over themselves, sucking on a cigarette like it was food. Under his eyes were the darkest circles I'd ever seen on a face, as if they were drawn on.
Dressed only in black, he was surrounded by an equally ugly collection of middle-aged men all dressed alike. I got the impression that I wasn't supposed to look too long at them, which suited me fine, as I found them creepy. He didn't look up when Lorraine introduced us, then he dismissed us with his hands, turning his glare back on his friends.
The men in black spoke in hushed tones and I specifically remember wondering why they weren't at work. Lorraine and I dashed off to her bedroom when her two sisters burst in and grabbed their spots on Lorraine's bed. There they sat, three stunning beauties—dark hair, flawless complexions—but out of their perfectly heart-shaped mouths burst a cacophony of hatred aimed at their father.
The sisters quickly buried their petty dislike of each other and began bonding around a plot to kill their father. Right there in front of me! I was shocked silent. Obviously, I should have said, "That would be wrong." But truthfully, I was intrigued. I sat for nearly an hour while the sisters schemed.
I finally uttered out something useless like, "You don't mean this. He's your father." All three snapped at me, "Yes, we do, we hate him." I finally asked how they might kill him and out flew, "Knife, poison, we'll hire someone!" The youngest sister said she would stab him in the eye with a fork and then she smiled.
When my mother came to pick me up, I was afraid to walk past him to get out the front door. I ran to the car, safe in the knowledge that no one was going to get killed at the Kasper house! For the first time since I met Lorraine, I didn't want what she had: the boobs, the boys or the big house.
The Galassos moved across town one day suddenly, which thrust Lorraine into the other high school. It became harder to maintain our friendship and eventually we fell away from each other.
When I went off to college, mom sent me a newspaper article about Lorraine's father. He'd been killed and stuffed in a trunk somewhere in South Jersey. My mother wrote a note, "Nice friends you had. I told you they were strange."
Apparently, the three Galasso girls weren't the only ones who wanted him dead. According to the paper, it was a Mafia-style killing, so clearly he was whacked. But I'll never be sure who it was that did the whacking.