Chapter 1 - So Bye, Bye Miss American Pie

ANNA

 

'Dear God' I began, at the foot of my bed 'We have new neighbours.
Let there be a good-looking sixteen-year-old male amongst them.
Let my mom not be baking pie for them.
Let me not have to deliver them in my temporarily disabled state.
Let my good red sweater not be in the laundry.


Oh. And cure world hunger.

Thanks,
Anna.


Oh. I mean Amen.'

 

God and I have a give and take relationship. In theory. I give Him my prayers and He takes them and files them away without a second glance to the I-Don't-Give-A-Shit file. Of course, you can't blame him since I figure only 5% of my total pleas to the Lord Almighty are legitimate. The other 95% usually have something to do with getting rid of my mother and finding pants that with fit me in both length and breadth. Taking His name in vain as many times as I manage in a day is probably not warranting an interest in my cause either.

My above prayer, for instance, would be ranked illegitimate - except perhaps the world hunger part, which was thrown in primarily to get Him to take notice of the rest. Forgive me Somalia.

You see, many of us are of the opinion that new neighbours equate to contact with a random young, good-looking neighbours son (I, myself, am still praying for this equation to work).

What it equates to in my household is pie. A great deal of of pie. And not the 22 over 7 or 3.14721 limitless decimal sort of pie either (obviously, since there is a distinct lack of an 'e' on the word in question and I actually like math). It is the blackberry, apple or apricot sort, which leaves our house with a nauseating, sickly sweet smell and an aura of early 1960's gingham-aproned, housewife-adoring America. The kind of thing you see on baking product packaging.

The strange thing is that my mother is not 50 years old, nor has she ever been a housewife in any sense of the word....except maybe that she was a wife for a while and well, we own a house. My mother is Japanese, though she moved to the States at 18 to complete her Law degree at Harvard. She married my dad - another lawyer - when she was 20 but apparently he was of the sleazy sort since he left mom before I was born for a woman whose wealth, by mom's account, was as large as her ass.

Mom delicately used the word 'behind', I personally like 'ass' a lot better.

Thus, I've never seen my father. And to tell you the truth, meeting him in person is not high on my things-to-do-in-this-lifetime list. I've seen a photo though. He was kind of cute, in a slicked back used-car salesman way. I can see where some of my physical self comes from in that photo. My features have been seriously Americanised by those unknown genes - my hair, unlike any Japanese woman's on this earth - has the ability to frizz in humidity and, the most obvious genetic difference, my height. He was six foot three, I think. I'm a head taller than mom, about five foot eleven (and growing). Aside from these obvious differences though, I'm the physical archetype of my mother.....which isn't all bad, I must admit.

I do wonder about some things though. Like why I love the trumpet and maths and swimming so much. And why I'm shy in front of strangers where mom is so extroverted. And why I hate pie.

We moved to Tulsa about a year ago, into a fairly upmarket suburban area called Kensington Estate.

Kensington Estate isn't your average place of residence. It's a kind of enclosed miniature suburb - a paved courtyard and faux-forest kind of scheme surrounded by twenty houses which differed from each other only by a hue change in the heritage paint jobs and landscaped gardens. When I first arrived I wondered if I'd missed the entrance to the biosphere on the way in. But then I reassured myself that, of course, a bunch of scientists really have no need for a Japanese-American teenager and her single mother. Moreover, I wondered whether Tulsa, Oklahoma would really be the scientists' pick for biosphere territory. My conclusion was negative.

What I do like about Kensington Estate however is the way it's almost a piece of England right in Oklahoma. I've been to England once, but only London, which doesn't exactly give one an illustration of the whole country. I was eleven at the time and my fondest memory of the city is having a pigeon shit on my head in Trafalgar Square. What a welcome. I think I might go back someday (so that another pigeon can shit on my head of course).

Kensington Estate, for all it's English quaintness, resembles a sort of (upmarket) prison, mainly due to the enormous electronically-operated wrought iron gates. Only the people that lived there had access and if anyone else wanted to get in they had to call through an intercom which transformed visitors and residents, for a few moments of their lives, into a Tulsan Robocop. So basically, good for a superhero, but for reality Kensington Estate was slightly strange a place to live in.

Before we came to Tulsa, mom and I lived in New York. I miss New York. I miss all of my New York friends, visiting the Museum of Modern Art every Saturday, Rockafeller Centre at Christmas and Times Square on New Years Eve. I miss hot dog vendors on every street corner and the way taxi drivers scream obscenities at each other during peak hour. I miss its diversity and aesthetics (and all those other self-righteous pseudo-intellectuals who live there and use the words 'diversity' and 'aesthetics'). A drunk on a park bench at midnight could look poetic in New York. Tulsa's kind of bland in that way. It's big, but too quiet. I like bustle and chaos. Probably because I can shrink behind it and be silently involved without being noticed. My mother unfortunately has other plans.

"Anna!"

"Yuhuh?"

I was still peering under the sheer curtain in my bedroom to check out the new neighbours. From what I could see fifty people were moving in next door. There was a continuous stream of people exiting this white van parked out the front, like a Monty Python sketch or something. Maybe they were attempting to break a world record for people in a van. It was a likely possibility. I mean, it was Tulsa - land of Giant Bronze Oil Miner and Giant Bronze Praying Hand statues.

"I didn't send you to St Scholastica's to have you answer me with 'yuhuh', Annesley. Can you come here please?"

Annesley. Love that elitist private school name. I go by Anna usually, or Mac, since my last name is McLaren. I know, I sound so....Japanese. It's like that Seinfeld episode - you know, 'Donna Chang'?

Actually, I have two surnames. Yes, the dreaded hyphonated name - Annesley Yamamoto McLaren. It just conjures up too many images of Gap clothing and a parents log chalet in Aspen.

"If it's anything to do with pie...no, I can't..."

"Don't be silly"

"I'm not 'being silly', which is exactly why I'm not taking pie to the new neighbours......no one likes pie anyway, it's the nineties. Give them....gourmet spinach and pesto parcels"

"Anna, you're taking the pie"

".....no I'm no-ot...!" I replied, adding a rather lyrical ending to my blunt refusal.

Silence. I could feel that look from two rooms away. I hate when she does this to me, when she forces me into pleading to do something for her when she makes me guilty for declining her every whim.

"Fine, you think my pies are silly? Don't ask me to do anything for you anymore, Anna!"

Okay, I won't say what just came to mind. She'd get really pissed then. I hate when she says 'Don't ask me to do anything for you anymore'. She does it on a frequent basis if you're wondering. It's like, I cook for us both every night, I'm potty trained, I can eat with some refinement (when it really matters) and I drive myself around. I even saved up to buy my own car by working in a bookstore - a pretty old, but still working Mini Cooper S. It's painted a nice, sleek racing green. Very British and very funky. I work on it in my spare time (of which I have in abundance).

It's not like I'm dependent on her for everything. And, you know, I do respect her and love her for everything she's done for me, but this whole thing irritates me - her dastardly plot to force me to go out and meet people. Like I'm a hermit or something! Just because I'm not teenage society queen of Tulsa. New York was good like that too and so is boarding school. Mom is always so busy with work that I can do what I want and she isn't there every day to tell me to 'go out and have fun'. It has become increasingly obvious that my mother and my own definitions of fun are vastly different.

This isn't to say I don't have friends, because I do. I have some (two) really great friends in New York and, you know, some people I stalk at St Scholastica's in Chicago.

"Mom, I'll take the pies" I sighed with exasperation. It was like a Wild Western standoff anytime you wanted something done in this house. There wasn't much point in carrying this on further. She's paid an extraordinary amount of money to argue for a living, I have no hope of escaping this situation positively.

"Good, now make sure you don't drop them"

Way to boost my self-esteem, mom. I am clumsy, there is no disputing that fact. Actually, another well-reasoned argument against my taking the pies was that my arm is currently encased in plaster and sling. I turned a pirouette on the ice-skating rink in Tulsa that would make Katarina Witt envious. Unfortunately the landing scored low on technical and artistic merit....and I additionally fractured my ulna twice. Painful? Yes.

Well, mom thought the cast was perfectly shaped for the job of balancing pies. Which would figure. She probably plotted my arm fracture in one of her evil plans to get me to meet the friendly citizens of Tulsa.

"Good girl. Be polite, I'm sure I saw some boys your age moving some furniture---"

Ah. So that was her scheme. She wanted me to land a date with one of the neighbours.

"I'm sure the pies will be fine...although my dignity is questionable" I said dryly, walking outside.

Oh wow. A nice, new Volkswagon cabriolet was out the front. Black and polished within an inch of its life. I liked it. Whoever owned it, I liked.

Maybe I should focus on making it next door with pies and dignity intact. Yes, that could be good.

I always liked the house next door house, maybe it was where they built it though, since it was almost a clone of ours - a two storey red brick tudor. This one was big enough to house mom and I twenty times over though. It was so pretty in its trite suburban quaintness. I could imagine it with snow and twinkle lights at Christmas. That is if it ever snows in Tulsa for Christmas. Last Christmas we were all blessed with grey slush, which, though not as visually pleasing as snow itself, obviously had its own merits (although I don't think I managed to unearth any).

I walked over the fence, since it was a rather miniature white picketed fence and I was quite tall in comparison. I don't quite understand the concept of fences that are raised four inches from the ground. Are they supposed to be intruder-friendly? I don't get it. Anyway, opening the gate increased the likelihood of my dropping the pies, so such civilities were out of the question.

Mom had to send the pies hot, didn't she? The heat of the aluminium foil pans had pulsated through the thick layers of wool and cotton I wore on my stomach (against which I was awkwardly balancing the pies with my plaster cast) by this time, leaving what I assumed would be a second degree burn. Another trip to the emergency ward. I'll be Casualty of the Year the way things are going.

This is so embarrassing.

The sounds of Billy Joel's 'Only the Good Die Young' echoed through the house, vibrating the foundations ever so slightly. I grinned. I loved this song and so did mom. it was probably the only thing we shared a similar opinion on. I remember being five years old or somewhere around there and mom and I dancing around the house to it like we were in a cheesy 80's sitcom like Full House (well, it actually was the eighties then, so I can be excused for the distinct lack of class in that moment). Mom was/is a huge Billy Joel fan and has an autographed album framed on her bedroom wall. It's kind of cute in a very teenie way.

".....so come on Virginia, show me a sign...send up a signal, I'll throw you a line....the stained glass curtain you're hiding behind, never lets in the sun....darlin' only the good die young...whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa...I'll tell you only the good die young....only the good die young....you've got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation...you've got a brand new soul...mmm, and a cross of gold...but Virginia, they didn't give you quite enough information....you didn't count on me, you were counting on your rosary...."

I rang the doorbell and momentarily considered setting the pies down on the doorstep and making a hasty escape, but that music was just mesmerising.

".......I'd rather laugh with the sinners and cry with the saints...the sinners are much more---"

"---hi...."

Okay. God just played an full house against my pair of spades.

 

I'm living next door to a Hanson.

And he was checking me out. Should I be flattered? No, not really.

 

"Hi. We live next door and my mom had a compulsion to bake for you - a friendly neighboural gesture from us to you."

I wonder if he could detect the fact that my smile was modelled on that of Queen Elizabeth's wax figure I'd seen in Madame Tussaud's? I batted my eyelids with a sarcasm that could have been interpreted as coquettishness.

"I'm Taylor Hanson."

"And I'm Annesley Yamamoto McLaren. I'm so...honoured to meet Teen Beat's Hottest Male of 1997."

Gushing is an art. And an art worth your learning.

"Well, I'm honoured you're meeting him too. Would you like me to sign your breast in exchange for the pies?" he gushed in response, returning my previous fake smile with a vengeance and topping it with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, I'm sorry. My left one was already taken by a New Kids On The Block member and my right is reserved for a Backstreet Boy" I smirked.

"...and which Backstreet Boy is that?" he smirked back.

"Kevin of the monobrow. I have overwhelming admiration for a man who can grow hair over the bridge of his nose."

"I could have sworn you were a Nick girl myself."

He raised that eyebrow again. Hm. That was a good move. I'll have to try that in the mirror at home.

"Ah well, blonde masoginistic pigs aren't quite the commodity that they once were."

"Neither are brunettes with delusions of grandeur."

"Can you take your pie? I have better things to do than spend my afternoon in witty reparte with a Hanson brother."

I shoved the pie at his torso and walked back down the path and over the fence.

 

Love thy Neighbour. I bet Jesus never encountered a Hanson.

 

ZAC

 

"Did you see that....b.i.t.c.h.?!"

Tay whispered the last word like he was a five year old still afraid of being caught using 'naughty words' by mom or dad. He was weird like that.

"Yeah, she was hot."

"She was, wasn't she?" He paused thoughtfully, then shoved the pies at me.

"We have pie."

I decided against making a 'you're stating the hugely obvious, Tay' comment, leaning towards an ecstatically excited one instead.

"We DO?! Yippee!!"

"It's pie Zac, take a raincheck on the excitement" he said witheringly.

So I like pie. Bite me.

"So what do you want me to apply my excitement to? Colour co-ordinating my sock drawer? Which reminds me....where should a green purple and blue patterned pair go? Between green and blue...OR...green and purple....? I wouldn't want to mis-categorise them, you know...it could affect the aura of my drawer..."

"Well, that really is one of the great mysteries of our existence."

"It's right up there with The Shape of Letterman's Hair Growth, though I think I just got a new lead on that one. It's a circle...I'm sure..."

"You're such a loser..."

"Love you too Tay" I smiled sweetly "Pie?"

"Yeah, okay" He shrugged as we trudged into the kitchen together.

 

We have pie. And a hot neighbour.

Life is good.

 

 

ANNA

(CUT TO EARLY THE NEXT MORNING)

 

 

I never know what compels me to get out of bed at the crack of dawn to go for a two mile run. I just do it.

Oh, yes. That was real funny, Anna. You're a regular comedian.

I like to run. It's almost like it a race against me and my mind. You just try and escape the thoughts that swamp your being, leaving them behind breathless on the road, panting and out-of-breath (I will refrain from giving insight into my mind in the future).

This morning all I wanted to get away from was the vision of Taylor Hanson. He was kind of cute in a very girly way. And a little funny in a very self-assured way. I hate self-assured people. So logically, I hate Taylor Hanson. Then again, I hate logic too, so that poses a problem.

People who make sweeping glances irritate me as well. I don't need my physical appearance judged by some horny teenage guy with a distinct lack of stimulation in his life.

But he was so cute with that longish blonde hair and those blue eyes. And well dressed.

He was a Hanson. Hm. I was forced (against my will) to attend a Hanson concert with one of my New York friends in 1998 and watch the pre-pubescent masses (who had obviously not heard of a revolution in breast support and the invention of the brassiere) embarrass themselves totally. They were pretty good....Hanson, I mean, not the teenies. I'd never verbally admit that, but yes, they were talented in their own cheesy pop genre.

He had a nice voice. An interesting sexual growl thing going on. I wouldn't want to be in a room next door to him when he was in the throes of sexual passion though. Too many moans. You wouldn't get a good night's sleep, that's for sure.

Oh look. It's Mr Elthon.

I love it when I come across middle aged, balding, overweight men jogging. Watching the expression on their faces as I stride past effortlessly has to be one of the great joys of life. So I speed up on purpose.

"Good morning Mr Elthon" I chirped.

I waved and smiled angelically.

".....mor-ning..." he took a staggering breath ".......An-na........" I didn't realise people so old still gave proficient evil eyes. Were they even invented back then? Oh well.

You know, I could make quite a fortune out of living next door to the Hansons. I could sell their underwear on the black market for thousands. Leak secret information about the colour of their toothbrushes. Hm. This could turn out to be a profitable business venture. Who knew neighbours could be an asset to the economic welfare of this country?

I glanced at my watch. I was going to break my previous best time with this run, which was rather unusual considering I had a fractured ulna. I was nearing the corner which lead into our cul-de-sac, a minute under my best time. This could be placed in the Guinness Book of Records - fastest Tulsa block run with fractured ulna.

Great. Taylor Hanson was out collecting his mail. In his boxer shorts. Why? Who does that?

He had a nice body. A really nice body. Even this far back, without my contacts in.

A nice, slightly tanned, toned...blob.

Don't stare. Pick up the newspaper. Walk inside calmly.

No, don't trip over.

"Uh, do you need a hand?" I could hear him stifling his laughter.

"No thankyou, I am quite capable of removing myself and my dignity from the ground" I looked at the blob dryly "And as much as I love to find you in your underwear this early in the morning, I fear you might scare away the native wildlife."

"Actually, I think they're attracted to me" he smirked (from what I could tell), pointing to a cluster of doves cooing in a large golden elm in their front yard.

"Well, it is nice to know you can have a little variety in your sex life aside from sheep" I smiled sweetly and walked inside.

I like that.

The sheep comment always works well for me.

.

Chapter 2 - That Carrot Thing

Zac

I woke up this morning to find my little sister, Avie, pretending two carrots were having a conversation. I don't know if I should be really scared or just happy that Barbie is losing sales momentum with the kids of today.

"...morning Avie..."

"...good morning Zac..." she replied in a voice which sounded strangely like one of Ike's various voices, while wiggling a carrot in my general direction.

I knew it was only a matter of time before Ike's broccoli episode was to have far-reaching effects on our family's sanity. How he'd managed to stay out of an institution himself for the past few years was beyond me.

".....morning...uh, Mr and Mrs Carrot..........Avie, is there any cereal...?"

This was of course meaning any cereal I could digest. Ike had this thing for this tasteless bran/muesli crap which was supposed to do wonders for your Vitamin B576 count. It was a pity my tastebuds didn't find it so wondrous. I have and always will endorse a large sugar intake first thing in the morning.

"....nahuh...Tay ate it all..."

"....that would figure....so what am I supposed to eat?"

"....food? Duh...." Avie rolled her eyes.

"...I guess Mr Carrot won't object to offering himself as a part of my nutritious breakfast then...."

Okay, she wasn't meant to run from the kitchen screaming like that. And she took those damn carrots with her. Now what am I supposed to eat?\

"...Zac, what did you do to Avie...?!" Mom called from the stairs.

"...I didn't do anything to Avie...."

"....she's screaming because you were pleasant to her then...?"

"...I guess so...."

"...yeah, I guess so too...."

She appeared in the doorway.

"....morning honey....wreaking your destruction on the edible contents of our kitchen yet...?"

I hope no one else was at this moment trying to attempt entry to the kitchen at this point in time since all exits were completely blocked.

Yes, my mom is pregnant again. It's nice to know that some people over forty are still sexually active. It's not, however, nice to know that this group includes my parents.

"....there's nothing to eat...Tay ate all the cereal, and Ike buys that crap so no one can eat his....

"...I'm sure you'll find something...."

"...what? That's your idea of advice for a starving young adolescent like myself in this time of dire need.....?"

"....Zac honey, when you start looking like Kate Moss I'll become worried about the state of your health....right now, I think you'll find some bread in the pantry and the toaster to your left.....exert yourself please, I'm already exerting myself for two...."

"...how's mini-me going, anyway....?"

"....baby is fine, he was a little restless last night...."

".....'he'....? I thought you said it was a 'she' yesterday...?

".....I'm alternating every day...."

".....oooookay...." I paused pondering my mom's weirdness and putting it down to hormonal imbalance. All that estrogen or progesterone or whatever it was, had to be doing something.

"....mom....I'm so bo-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-e-d...."

Moving house had some good points. Like cute neighbours. And pie.

Unpacking was not a good point, as much as mom would like me to believe.

"...well...you can unpack some more boxes...."

Mom looked so enthused about the prospect a less knowledgeable person may have even been converted to a life-long passion for removals.

"...Oh goody.....who was that guy that said variety is the spice of life---"

"---that 'guy' was obviously not me, honey..."

"........cool, are these for us...? My radar detected a freshly cooked batch of chocolate mud muffins. Mom's are always real nice. They kind of melt in your mouth and then ooze down your throat coating it in this nice sweet layer of bliss. I like my chocolate. I take it very seriously.

".....they are for the neighbours....don't even try it Zac...."

"...but..."

"...No! Don't want to hear it!"

"...but---"

She swept the tray out from in front of me and placed them on the kitchen table, transferring them to an open tupperware container.

I think mom's entire social scene in the seventies revolved around tupperware parties. That or she had a fetish with plastic I really don't want to know about.

"....take them next door....you eat one , you're changing diapers for the entire first week of solids...."

Ugh. Dirty diapers. Ugh. Dirty diapers with discernable vegetables in them.

"...fine..." I gave mom an evil eye.

"...be polite...make a good impression..."

"...and when do I not...?"

All I could hear was mom immersed in a fake coughing fit as I walked out the back door.

 

(cut to the front door of the McLaren residence)

 

No one was answering the front door. Okay. The carport was open and the radio was on.

And somebody, somewhere, was singing really badly to Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' which blared on a radio. There was a nice Mini Cooper S there. In green. I like green. I guess someone was using the sleek SAAB convertible I see pulling out every morning.

A pair of long legs dangled out from under the car.

"...I see a little silhouetto of a man...scaramouch, scaremouch, will you do the Fandango...Thunderbolt and lightning - very, very frightening me....Galileo...galileo...galileo-----------spanner...spanner....where are you....?" A hand fumbled around blindly on the pavement.

Spotting the spanner, I walked over and handed it under the car.

"....thankyou........ah..." The hot girl rolled out from under the car, wearing a grease stained t-shirt that was tied in a knot, exposing a tanned and well-defined midriff

"...who are you...?'

"....Zac Hanson...I live next door..."

"...oh..."

She rolled back under the car.

"...hello to you too...."

She rolled out.

"...yes, hello...."

She rolled back under.

"...look I bring you muffins in reconciliation......which personally I deserve more than you, but my mom seems to disagree...."

She rolled out.

"...oh, do you now...?" A smile lingered on her lips as she raised an eyebrow.

".....your car is very cool....you're a sw-ing-er baybee..." I did my best impression of Austin Powers. It couldn't match Ike's but it was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

"....I think so.......so why exactly do you deserve the muffins more than me...?"

"....because I'm charming and sophisticated..."

"...of course, that shirt is just the height of sophistication.....lemon yellow.... so utterly....masculine...."

"....are you dissing my shirt? This was given to me by the sex-God, Taylor Hanson you know...."

"...well, that would explain the fact that it is inexplicably ugly then..." She smirked.

"...are there some miners living on your shoulders...?"

"...what...?" She looked at me weirdly.

"...because there's like a giant chip on there..."

"...uncannily enough, there's like a giant dick on your forehead..." She smiled broadly.

Hm. Okay. She was as nice as Tay said she was.

"...look, do you want the muffins or not? Because I can think of much worthier places to distribute them....."

".....What? The Salvation Army takes muffins now.....?"

"....no....the Fund for the Starvation of Blonde Adolescent Males does though....."

"....what kind are they....?"

"...chocolate mud...."

She paused for a little, thoughtfully, then stood up and made a stiff gesture with her hand toward the door.

"...doyouwanttocomeinside...?"

"...sorry...?"

".....do. you. want. to. come. in. side....?

".....yes...that would be nice..." I smiled sweetly as we both trooped inside.

The back of her wasn't too bad either in those short shorts she was wearing. She had a nice ass. You don't see many asses as nice as that.

"....uh....hello......?"

I shook myself. I think I was drooling. Not good.

"....yeah...?"

".....I said....would you like any yoghurt or ice-cream with your muffin...?"

"...ice-cream would be nice thanks...."

"...good, because I was going to give it to you anyway......you can take a seat......I'll just put on a different top...."

"---hey...you, you don't have to....I mean....you don't need to change for me or anything, I mean...it's just.......me.....good ol' Zac from next door......"

".....yeah, but I was just thinking that if a thirteen year old guy has to resume drooling over me, I might as well look slightly attractive....."

"....no offence, but greasy tight t-shirts would have to be the biggest turn-on for a thirteen year old...any....guy. Think cars and girls together......."

".....well, it is nice to know that you'll probably be spanking your little monkey to this image tomorrow morning in the shower...."

"....but I take my showers before I go to bed...."

"...well, it'll be fresh in your mind then, won't it....."

".....sure will...." I smirked back in her direction.

She sat down at the table facing me, and handed a bowl with ice-cream and muffin to me. It sure looked nice.

"...so how do you like Kensington Estate...?"

"....oh, it'f greaf....pwfretty coof......efpecially duh intercomf...."

"...I didn't know you were bilingual...do you speak any other languages....?"

".....yef....." I paused thoughtfully ".....Liefchenfstienian...."

".....The people of Liechenstein don't have a language of their own, they adopted German as their original descendants migrated from the Alps in 400 AD...."

"....ofh...."

Chewing might be a good idea here.

"...so....how long have you lived here...?"

"....about a year...."

".....you know my brother likes you....."

".....which one?!" She grinned, raising an eyebrow.

".....Mackie, of course....he said he's willing to give up his Tonka truck in exchange for your affections...."

"....tell him I'd be delighted...."

"....so are you actually going to tell me your name...?

"....Anna....Anna McLaren...."

"....very....oriental...."

".....I try my best...." she paused "...and you're Zachary....?"

"....Zac Hanson...yes...."

"...and your brother, Taylor.....he's good looking...."

"....really? I forgot between all of those teen magazine hottest guy polls....

"....you're not bad looking yourself Zac....I'd date you if I didn't like girls..."

"...you like girls...?!"

Oh, I liked her now. I liked her a lot.

"...yeah, you should join my girlfriend and I for some hot sex sometime..."

".....I get the feeling you're playing with my mind....."

"....and what a lovely mind it was to play with too..."

".....listen, do you want to come over to our house and watch a Futurama marathon...?"

"....classy....but yes, anything to be where my mother isn't...."

".....you could have mentioned something about wanting to spend an evening with someone whose personality and stunning good looks is the shining light of your existence..."

"....nah....next cartoon marathon maybe...."

"...so you're intending on making this a weekly thing...?"

"...if you don't object...." she shrugged ".....I'm actually plotting a dastardly plan to sell your underwear on the internet and thought this would be the best way to ingratiate myself with your family....."

"....if that shirt and those shorts are your uniform it's a deal, baby....."

"....you are a horny fiend aren't you...?" she observed, like Diane Fossey among the gorilla population of African rainforests.

".....well...I pride myself on my horny fiendishness...." I paused "...so, are we like, going over to my house....?"

"....just let me get washed up, okay...?"

"......yeah, well, I guess I should do that too...I'll meet you back there in half an hour...?"

".....great....."

"....cool...."

"...see you later.....oh, and close the door on your way out..."

"...you're so hospitable....."

So I did. Close the door on my way out that is. And maybe that shower thing too.

 

Taylor

 

You know the feeling when you go away for a while and then come back and your friends have all like moved on without you? I just got a crapload of that feeling today.

I never thought I'd be so discluded from my group of friends. I mean, we'd known each other since we were two or something and even when we went to South America or we were in LA recording the albums or were touring around the country, they were always the same when we got back, so you know, you'd think that it'd be the same this time. But just spending two months in New York and then moving house it was like I was thrown in a parallel universe. A parallel universe where no one cared. And it was nothing like Doctor Who said it would be. For one thing I still didn't have a cool multicoloured scarf or one of those dalek thingies.

Anyway, to make it worse, my best girl friend (note the space between the two words, it throws some people) is now dating my best guy friend, which just means serious kissy-kissy moments without me. Not that I intended on joining them in that (um, no thanks...two girls and me maybe, but two guys and a girl...?) but it just sucked and made me feel like I was the biggest jerk for not having a girlfriend.

But I do like girls. I date them too. It's just that I've never really found anyone I....liked before. I mean, I liked them, usually I liked more how they looked than anything else, but then half-way through the first or second date I'd kind of realise that she wasn't the right one (usually because you couldn't carry a conversation with them), and for some reason that stopped me from doing anything else with them. I never got how guys could just go out and screw any girl even if they didn't like her as a person. Maybe it's an inherited thing.

I kind of do like someone right now, a possible future pre-sexual relation. Well, so, I'd prefer to wait until I'm married. Is there anything wrong with that? But 'like' is the operative word. I generally like what she looks like and the fact that she is seriously unimpressed with me being famous. She's kind of irritating and sexy all at once, which I don't get seeing as her arm is in a cast and most people just look stupid when they've got plaster on their arm. But maybe it's a hassle getting involved with a next door neighbour and one we hardly even know.

Maybe I should watch the road while I'm driving.

Hm.

I drove up the little drive leading up to the gates of the estate, and pressed in the code on the nifty little keypad thing. This place was so cheesy.

Well, at least bitch-girl wasn't jogging again. She looked damn good this morning, even though I'd never admit it to anyone. I parked the car out the front since mom always objected to us parking in the drive (in case she started having the baby in which case she didn't want to drive to the hospital in a '2-seater chick-magnet car'). For once the house was quiet as I walked around the house to the back sunroom door. I mean, no Barney blaring from the tv, no Ike on his electric, no Mackie bashing on the pots since he wanted to be a 'dwumma' like Zac but Zac wouldn't let him anywhere near his kit. Then I remembered that Ike had volunteered to take the little ones out to our Auntie Olivia's house for the afternoon while mom and dad had the peri-natal class. Ew. La masse. Too much heavy breathing for my liking.

So that leaves Zac. Who is apparently laughing with himself. And uncannily like a girl.

No, there's definitely two laughs there. As I rounded the corner and came to the sunroom door, I looked in to find...Zac....and...huh?

Bitch-girl? What was she doing here?

I opened the door.

"...and he was-----oh, hi Tay....this is Anna....."

".....Anna....right....hi....."

"....hello Taylor...." She smiled. Yes, smiled at me.

My heart was melting, kinda like one of those soft centred easter eggs where it all oozed out in a huge wave so it got stuck on your chin and your hands got all sticky with caramel and chocolate.

Anyway. We smiled at each other, checking each other out blatantly. If Zac wasn't there God knows what would have happened. She wore this funky Freshjive red hooded sweater and a pair of dark denim jeans with bright blue and orange retro sneakers. She looked pretty cool, actually. I tugged at the paisley shirt I'd thrown on this morning which was kind of creased from being on the floor of our room for the past week since we 'unpacked'.

The shrill ringing of the phone interrupted our staring contest.

"...uh...Zac....."

"......yeah, well, I'll get it I guess...." He rolled his eyes, throwing himself off the sofa in the direction of the kitchen.

As soon as he exited the room, I cautiously lowered myself on to the sofa, sitting on the armrest of the sofa where she sat.

"...hi...." I smiled and blushed, looking down at my hands. They always clasped themselves for some reason like I was Laura from Little House on the Prairie or something. I quickly broke them apart.

"....hi....again..."

"...so....what were you and Zac doing? I hope he wasn't like annoying you or anything....

"....oh...no, he's very cool when you get to know him....and funny. He's quite.....nice...."

Silence pervaded the room.

"So," I paused "what happened to your arm?"

"Oh, well, the bone voted unanimously for a hairline fracture. I couldn't do much considering the fundamentals of democracy."

"A democratic ulna...how nice..."

".....yeah, but then the ulna had sexual relations with the radius, which he of course denied...but the inquiry and the whole calcium on the cartilage situation was enough evidence to end in his impeachment, it was just an ugly set of affairs..." she sighed.

If anyone else has said something like that I would have thought they were destined for an asylum somewhere in Ohio, but when it happened to exit her mouth it was actually kind of quirky funny.

"Your cast is looking kind of bare there."

"Well, yes, it's under the illusion Tulsa is a nudist colony. I wanted to break it to it slowly."

"Wouldn't we all want to be under that illusion?" I paused "Can I write on it?"

She shrugged. I took that as a yes and stretched over, grabbing a marker from a pot of Mackie's crayons and pencils sitting on his play table.

"Is it okay here?" I pointed at the space on the lower arm.

"It's not exactly a complex task to find a vacant space, Taylor, really..."

"Your cast could be claustrophobic, I don't know"

"That she is, the last time I took her in an elevator she had an anxiety attack."

I scrawled the message on her cast. God, I hoped this would work and I wouldn't be completely humiliated.

Silence.

Well, this was going to be, like, a 100 on the Humiliat-o-graph. This was such a dumb idea. Spoken words you can take back, ie "no, I didn't ask you on a date...I said, do you know about the closest lake..." But of course, Taylor goes with the irreversible. What are you going to do? Liquid paper it out in her sleep and pretend it never happened?

I felt something tapping my arm and looked across at her as she pointed at her cast mutely. On which my messily scrawled "Will you go on a date with me tonight?" was coupled with a neatly printed "Yes".

Oh God.

I think I'm going to have an asthma attack.