Fifteen: New


A Week Later

Alley


My eyes slowly fluttered open. Sunlight streamed through the window and onto my face, encouraging me to get out of bed. I relented, albeit reluctantly, and glanced at the clock. 11:00 AM. It was earlier than my usual wake-up time of oh, 1:30 or 2, but I had been making myself get up earlier for Taylor’s sake. I worried about him running around the house by himself. Not that he would do anything intentionally, but I didn’t want him loose on the chance that Louise might be around. She didn't even like spooky movies, so I didn't even want to see her reaction to any unusual stunt Taylor might pull. I scooted up slightly in the bed, and rested my hands behind my head.

What a week. That was all I could say to sum it up, really. Every day when I woke up, I’d glance over and look at Taylor’s sleeping form, marveling at the sheer absurdity of the situation. Marveling, and yes, just a little bit of drooling.

We had spent the last seven days adjusting. To our new lifestyles, to Louise’s schedule, but most of all, to each other. It wasn’t that I was particularly uncomfortable around him, he seemed nice enough, but he was a guy. A member of the male species. I wasn’t used to spending so much time around men. I'd lived with Louise and her family when my father died, and when I started college she and I had naturally just moved in together. Not to mention I hadn’t had a proper boyfriend in years. Actually, you could say I’d never had a “proper” boyfriend. A month or two of dating here and there didn't really constitute a love life, in my opinion. Guys just didn’t like me, that’s all there was to it. I didn't have a huge chest, or nice legs, or even long, pretty hair... stupid boys. Fuck them, anyway. If they wanted a prissy, made-up superficial slut for a girlfriend, well, they would just have to look elsewhere...

Enough of the man-hating rant. Point being, things were different now; I had a Greek god living in my house. For the first time in my life, I actually felt self-conscious; scrutinized. Louise had been my best friend forever -- she was so used to my flaws that she didn’t even notice them anymore. She didn’t care what I looked like in the morning, or what I smelled like after I exercised, or how thick my accent was. But Taylor was new, an interruption to my normal, comfortable, slobbish lifestyle. A tall, handsome, charming interruption.

A soft yawn emerged from the figure on my left. Taylor grunted and rolled over, his arm smacking me in the chest. If there was one thing I’d learned this week, it was that Taylor’s limbs had a mind of their own while he slumbered. He was a restless sleeper. His arms and legs flailed about, kicking me, hitting me, and just generally getting in the way. More than once I had awakened in the past week to find his arm laying across my face, practically smothering me. His future wife would probably have to wear armor to bed. I almost pitied her, actually. Almost.

I glanced down. Taylor’s bronzed arm was draped across my chest. His hand dangled loosely, so it wasn’t like he was grabbing anything, but it was a little risqué, nonetheless.  I started to pick the arm up and move it off me, but then I grinned and wondered how embarrassed he would be if he woke up and discovered it. I kicked him sharply in the shins.

“Wha….. argh…. mmmm,” he mumbled, irritated.

“Taylor, I know we’ve gotten to know each other a lot this week, but I didn’t realize you were such a fast mover.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Alley,” he grumbled, the words muffled by a pillow.

“Would you mind removing your arm from my breasts?”

His head jerked up and he stared, first at me, and then to his arm. His complexion broke out in a flush, flaming red as he quickly lifted his arm up and retracted it back to his body. I laughed heartily.

“Sorry,” he said, thoroughly embarrassed.

“It’s OK, Taylor,” I replied. “I know I’m hard to resist.”

He rolled his eyes and smiled. “What time is it?”

“A little after 11.” I rolled over and glanced at the clock again. Hmmm... almost lunchtime.

He turned himself over so that he was his on his back and sighed, staring up at the ceiling. “Another beautiful day.”

I wondered if he was being sarcastic. I didn’t ask, instead, just turned my head to watch him for a moment. His expression remained blank, however, so I gave up trying to read him and sighed.

“Come on, let’s get up,” I said after a moment’s silence. I pulled myself out of bed and headed for the bathroom.

I ran the sink and splashed cold water on my face. After drying off and getting dressed, I returned to my room to see Taylor, asleep again, tangled in the sheets. I sighed, and considered leaping onto the bed and forcing him awake, but my kinder side thought better of it. If he wanted to sleep, I’d let him sleep.

I made my way downstairs and to the kitchen. Chester ran up to me, meowing and whining for food.

“Geez, kitty,” I murmured. “Calm down, I’m coming.” I fed him, and then fed myself a frozen Red Baron pizza and Lay's potato chips. It was unhealthy, greasy, and absolutely delicious.

I wondered what sort of crazy adventure Taylor wanted to embark upon today. Last week was certainly one for the books. I guess you could say that he was adjusting to his new environment well. In addition to exploring every corner of the house, he'd also ventured outside, where he'd discovered the trampoline. And of course, insisted that we jump on it. He'd discovered our Sony Playstation, and we spent hours playing it. One of these marathon game sessions almost got us caught. Louise had come home unexpectedly, and wondered why I had the game set on “two player” mode. I told her that I never won when I played against the machine, and I was tired of losing. Lame and incredibly stupid, I know, but she believed it. I’ve said stranger things before.

So yeah, Taylor was settling in nicely, at least as nicely as an unconscious, trapped celebrity could be, living in Hicksville with a girl like me. And in the process of settling in, he was wearing me out. I followed him everywhere, making sure he wouldn’t cause trouble or get us caught. The amount of energy that boy had amazed me; I felt like a middle-aged slob compared to him. I sympathized with his mother, especially after he told me that he had six brothers and sisters. Six? Jesus. That woman deserved a freaking Medal of Honor, or something...

I dragged myself into the living room and collapsed on the couch. Chester followed suit, leaping onto the couch by my side and purring. While I flipped through the channels on the TV, desperate for some entertainment, I actually found myself wishing that Taylor would get up soon; I was getting bored.

I settled on Comedy Central, which was playing a rerun of Saturday Night Live. Jennifer Aniston was the host; Sting, the musical guest.  Leaning back, I propped myself up with a pillow and watched in disgust. Damn her. She was so pretty. Her hair fell just right, unlike my unruly blonde mop. She was thin, but curvy. I was thin, but apparently my hips had never heard of puberty. And tan, she was tan. Something that would never happen in my lifetime, thanks to genetics. Not only all that, but married to Brad Pitt. Some girls have all the luck.

I heard a loud thump, followed by several lesser thumps. Sounded like Taylor was making his way down the stairs. Chester looked up in alarm, and I patted his furry head.

“It’s OK, sweetie, it’s just Taylor. You know, the other blond bimbo.”

Chester gave me a suspicious look, but relented and rested his head again. I was pretty sure he was suffering from a case of feline jealousy. And why wouldn't he? Chester was used to being the king of the house. He was used to getting all the attention. With Taylor here, however... I watched, laughing, as his ears perked up again, listening to Taylor approach, and a low growl emitted from his throat.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Taylor staggered into the room, running his hands through his hair. True to his word, it still didn’t look any worse for wear. He was wearing the same black shirt and khaki pants that he’d worn every day the past week.  He sat down next to me and tried to make friends with Chester.

“Hey boy, how are ya?” he asked, reaching his hand out to pet the long gray fur. Chester angrily jumped off the couch and ran into the kitchen,
presumable to soothe his frazzled nerves with his food bowl. They say pets act like their owners, and he was no exception.

Taylor looked so sad that I had to laugh. “Give him time. I think he’s just jealous of you. He’s used to being the man around the house.”

“So you’re saying I’m the man around the house now?” Taylor raised one eyebrow suggestively.

I felt my face flush slightly. “I’m just saying..... you’re invading his territory. Cats are very territorial creatures.”

“So I’ve noticed.” He twisted around to see into the kitchen. “I’m gonna get some food.”

“Go for it.”

He settled back onto the couch a few minutes later with a sandwich and chips. Fritos. The last of the Fritos. Damn him.

“You ate all the Fritos!”

He smirked. “No, not yet. But I’m about to.”

"Dammit, now I'm going to have to go to the store and get another bag..." My grocery bill this week was going to be astronomical. Well, that is, if I could gather the courage to show my mug in that place again. Ugh. I groaned at the thought of seeing Jay after the spectacle that had happened last week.

“What’s your problem?” Taylor asked, his face stuffed full of my Fritos. He leaned forward, holding the plate in front of my face. He had crumbs all around his mouth and chin. “If you want some chips, hell, take them.”

“No, thank you. For once, that’s not it.”

“Well what is it?”

“I don’t feel like talking about it just yet... let’s just say that I need to find another grocery store.”

Taylor munched for a few more minutes, then cleared his throat. “Is this about that bag boy thing, you know, you said something that first day I was here, about a bag boy at Kroger. Do you like him or something?”

“Yeah...” I said it slowly and quietly. “Well, I did, anyway.”

“What happened?”

I grunted in irritation. What was he, a psychologist? I didn't feel like spilling my guts about my pathetic loser crush...

“No, come on, tell me! Please? Pleeeeeaaassseeee?” Damn, but he could be whiny when he wanted to. I rolled my eyes.

“Fine,” I sighed. “Well, basically, what happened, we went to the store, I tried to flirt, and failed miserably, because I have absolutely no social skills whatsoever. Not only that, but I knocked over an M&M stand and dropped a bottle of spaghetti sauce on the floor, right in front of him. So now he thinks I'm a complete, utter idiot.”

Taylor let out a guffaw, but then sobered. “Sorry, that’s kind of funny.”

I glared at him. “Funny, my ass. But then again, I guess you, Mr. Pin-up Rockstar,  never have to worry about getting dates.”

“Oh come on, that’s not fair.”

“It’s perfectly fair, and perfectly true.” On second thought, I did want some of those Fritos. I leaned over and grabbed a handful from his plate.

“No, it’s not. So you made a mess, so what? Did you even try to ask him out?”

“No, but I didn’t need to. He asked Louise out, when we were in the parking lot. Right in front of my face.”

His eyes widened a little. “Oooh....”

“Yeah.”

“That sucks.”

“Tell me about it.”

Taylor finished off the chips and licked his fingers thoughtfully. “Well, like they say, there’s other fish in the sea. One day you’ll
catch one.”

I sputtered with laughter. Another thing I’d learned about Taylor is that he seemed to fancy himself a philosopher. Aristotle, Socrates, Taylor Hanson. “Taylor...” I started, but then stopped, shaking my head. Guys never understood these things.

“What?”

“Nevermind. Let’s drop it.”

“Well, alright, if you say so.”

“So...” I started, changing the subject. “What are we going to do today? And don’t you dare say anything that involves trampolines, or any physical activity, for that matter. My back is still sore from where you almost broke it yesterday.”

Ah, the trampoline. Once it had been discovered, he had dragged me outside to it, begging me to jump with him. After all, he couldn’t jump by himself. But he had neglected to tell me that he’d never been on one before. Jumping on one alone takes a certain amount of self-control. Two people jumping at the same time (especially when one of them lacks coordination, and for once we‘re not talking about me here), well, that’s just asking for trouble. So naturally, total chaos ensued, including several accidental kicks to the face and me tripping over one of his flailing legs and falling off the damn thing.

He gave me a hurt look. “What?!”

I laughed. “You did! Admit it!”

“So I’m not a gymnast. Sor-RY!”

I grinned at him. “Apology accepted, I guess. But you owe me a massage later. A good one, too, and not one of those half-assed deals... your hands are gonna cramp.”

“Alright, alright,” he consented. “But I actually had an idea of what we could do today.... if you wouldn’t mind.”

Oh, really? Well, well. “Shoot.”

“Let’s go shopping!”

I scrunched my face up, confused. “Shopping?” What self-respecting nineteen-year-old boy wanted to go shopping?

“Yes. Please, can we go get me some different clothes? These are driving me crazy.”

“But they’re not dirty... you said so yourself.”

“Yes, but I’m getting tired of wearing the same thing over and over. Please? Just go buy me a few outfits, so I can have something to change into. I’ll go with you. Come on.... pleeeeeaaaaaaase?”

I wondered how many times I was going to hear that today.

“I don’t know, Taylor,” I said. Out, in public, with an invisible, chaotic friend? Sounded like a recipe for disaster if I'd ever heard one.

“Come on! You wouldn’t want to wear the same thing everyday!”

“Actually, you’re incorrect, I’ve worn these shorts for the past four days, and it’s not bothered me a bit.”

He banged his fist on the couch, scowling. “You know what I mean. Just a quick trip to the mall.”

“Why don’t you just wear some of mine?”

“I don’t want to wear GIRL clothes.”

I snickered. “No comment. I’ve been doing my internet research, and I’ve seen some of your photo shoots. Pink shirts? Leather pants? Pretty effeminate to me...”

That snide remark resulted in a pillow to the face and ultimately, a wrestling match which ended with me, stomach-down on the floor, with my hands pinned behind me and Taylor sitting on my back, crowing triumphantly. He was actually a lot stronger than he looked, go figure.

“Let go of me,” I grunted. “Your buttbone is piercing my kidney.”

“Not until you say, ‘I’m sorry, Taylor. You’re the manliest man I know, and of course I’ll take you to the mall.’ ”

“First off,” I gasped, “that statement in itself is contradictory, and secondly, NEVER!”

"SAY IT!"

Five minutes passed. I would have upheld my principles longer, but for one to uphold one’s principles, one needs to be breathing. I relented, cursing his unforeseen strength.

“ALRIGHT! WE’LL GO!” I screeched. “JUST PLEASE GET OFF ME!”

He stood up, chalking his hands together in victory. “That’s what I thought.

I stood up, slightly woozy. I was going to have a lovely bruise on my back tomorrow morning. “OK, well, we might have to make a pit stop by the ER first, I want to check for kidney failure.”

“Shoosh, and go get your shoes on.”

Shoosh? That was my word. That little thief. Interrupting my summer, eating my food, now stealing my vocabulary? I smacked him. He pushed me towards the stairs.

“Come on, hurry! You want to get there and back here before Louise gets home, don’t you?”

Well, he actually had a point there. I hurried upstairs, changed into some neater clothes, and put my shoes on. When I careened back down the steps, he was waiting, with one arm outstretched, my car keys dangling from his hand. I snatched them and headed for the door.

“Come on, Alley Kat,” he grinned excitedly, patting me on the back. Jesus, he was like a five-year-old at Christmas. “Let’s rock and roll.”

"Rock and roll? What do you know about rock and roll?" I was amazed when he grabbed my arm and spun me around.

"Honey, I know plenty. Probably more than you."

"I doubt that," I muttered under my breath as I wrenched free. "Come on, let's go. Let's get this over with."