Chapter 11 - You've Got Mail (The Rise and Rise of AOL)

Narrator

 

T'was time for Anna to once again return to her boarding school; far, far away in yonder Chicago. Our two lovers parted tearfully, with promises made of phonecalls and letters aplently.

 

From : Taylor Hanson <i_am_a_walrus@aol.com>

Date : May 10th, 1999

To : Anna McLaren <aspoonfulofsugar@aol.com>

Subject : The Lava Lamp Spirit

 

Dear Anna,

I suck at writing letters so I apologise for the following page of boredom already.

Um, well, LA is nice. But, you know, it's LA. I guess it's lost its novelty after all this time - maybe I'm just getting older and more bored with everything, I mean Lego doesn't excite me anymore, not even those cool Star Wars fighter planes you can get now (okay, so, I am a *little* excited about those), so maybe that's it - or maybe it's just because you're not here. I know, it's corny, but I miss you a lot.

Zac and Ike say hi. So does dad - he wants to know how you're going with calculus. I didn't ask him to go into any detail. The recording process is going well, we've got seven songs down in the early stages. So much for getting a tan in California, we're paler than before we left Tulsa. Actually, it's just me....Zac and Ike are tan, I'm definitely not. Being in the studio all day and night really cuts down on your exposure to sunlight. The most light we've been getting is from one of the numerous lava lamps that happen to pop up in the weirdest places in the studio. Zac thinks it's some Lava Lamp Spirit haunting the studio, Ike thinks it's a janitor with a weird sense of humour and I think both of them are messing with me.

Hopefully John Popper might be coming in to play harmonica on some tracks which will be really cool. I don't know. It's a little scary now that we're actually starting to record, because we can't avoid being judged again for what we do and who we are and it shouldn't matter to me, but it does. Sometimes I wish I was normal and just a junior in high school drinking beer on weekends and maybe thinking about college, but I know I couldn't not be doing this. It's a love-hate thing.

Zac's telling me I look like a dork with my glasses on. He's such a complimentary kind of guy.

Anyway, I'd better be going, you know.....lyrics to write, songs to record....hee hee.

Sorry this was such a crap letter, I'll write something more coherant next time.

Stay beautiful.

Love,

Taylor.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------

so you want to be a rock and roll star/well, listen now to what I say/go buy an electric guitar/and take some time/learn how to play - 'Mr Jones' Counting Crows

 

 

From : Anna McLaren <aspoonfulofsugar@aol.com>

Date : May 11th, 1999

To: Taylor Hanson <i_am_a_walrus@aol.com>

Subject : The Party Pooper

 

Dear Taylor,

Harper and I were bored on the weekend so where should be find ourselves (gasp) but this very funky second-hand music store downtown....Besides stocking up on cheesy 45's like 'Daydream Believer' - Harp's choice not mine - I ended up buying you 'Cosmo's Factory' since I knew you'd love it....and if you don't I know your dad will. He's a very John Fogerty kind of guy. ;) Mehe. I also picked up a pretty worn copy of Neil Diamond's 'Hot August Night' (just so you can, you know, get the feel for 'Cherry Cherry' before you dedicate it to me on the next tour). ::grin::

Um. School's thrilling as always. Harp and I have had a few really badly catered interschool lunches to go to - forum type things where you have to dribble something about the youth of today and their role in society. Harp hates it, but you know I don't mind going on one of my rants - even though it's likely that one day I'll get shot by some gun-toting fifteen year old that disagrees with the elitist view of the world I seem to have acquired after all these years of private school education. Yay elitism. ::cough::

On a somewhat lighter note, vacation is approaching and I'll soon be in LA brightening up your dull lives with my shining presence. I could say something about being the sunshine in your dark studio existence but I'll forebear.

Tell Zac to stop insulting you about the glasses or I'll set the nerd population on to him and he'll be eating his words.....or calculators, or something to that nature.

Not to be a party pooper but I've got boarding house duties and calculus to attend to, so you know, better not keep my fans waiting.

Love and miss my Boy Wonder ::grin::

Love,

Anna

xxxxxxxooooooooo

 

----------------------------------------------------------------

 

So I bought me a wife, my wife pleased me. I fed my wife under yonder tree. Wife says honey, honey. Horse says neigh, neigh. Cow says baa, baa. Pig says gravy, gravy. Hen says shimmishack, shimmishack. Goose says cwaw, cwaw. My duck says quack, quack. My cat says fiddle-i-fee.

 

 

To : Mr J. Hanson

c/o Mr Christopher Sabec

PO BOX 143

Hollywood Hills, California

USA

90431

 

Authorised Mail, Hollywood Hills Mail Centre - MAY 13TH 1999

 

Sender : Miss Annesley McLaren

c/o Campbell Hall

St Scholastica's School

7143 Upper Ridge Boulevard

Chicago, Illinois

USA

68769

 

 

Dear Taylor,

Here are the records I bought for you on the weekend. Hope you enjoy them....I think everyone else will too. Sorry I can't write more but I've got to be down at the pool for swimming training in two seconds, and I have to allow for time to explain the logistics of US Postal to Mrs Nipson (otherwise I could've written you an essay).

HI TO EVERYONE!! (AND CALCULUS IS GOING GREAT, MR HANSON)!

Love and moronic Hall Mistresses,

Anna xxxxxxoooooooo

 

 

From : Zachary Hanson <nanu_nanu@aol.com>

Date : May 14th, 2000

To : Anna McLaren <aspoonfulofsugar@aol.com>

Subject : SOS

 

HELP stop I AM BEING HELD CAPTIVE BY A NERD stop I AM BEING BRAINWASHED stop C2 = A2 + B2 - 2COSC, THE SPEED OF LIGHT THROUGH AIR IS 3 TIMES 108, PENICILLIN WAS DISCOVERED BY ERNST BORIS CHAIN AND HOWARD FLOREY IN 1933 stop SEE? stop SAAAAAAAAAAVE MEEEEEEEEEE stop

 

 

Miss ya.

Zac

---------------------------------------

 

DENNIS - Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!   Monty Python and the Holy Grail - funnier than me even.

 

 

Miss Annesley McLaren

c/o Campbell Hall

St Scholastica's School

7143 Upper Ridge Boulevard

Chicago, Illinois

USA

68769

 

5/16/99

 

Dear Anna,

Diana and I just wanted to send you a note on behalf of the rest of the clan and ourselves. We feel absolutely honoured to be invited to your graduation ceremony (as are Ike, Tay and Zac if they haven't said so already). As far as flights go, the boys should be arriving on May 30th and Diana, the little ones and I will be arriving a day later since I'll be detouring through Tulsa first to pick them up (in a manner of speaking). We all hope you've been offered a place at the college of your choice.

See you on the 31st and good luck in the meantime.

All our love,

Walker and Diana.

 

 

Anna

 

You know the whole body shiver you get when you're really cold? The one that starts at your head and kind of builds up momentum throughout your body until it reaches your feet? The one that makes you look as if you're having some kind of fit?

I just had one of those.

Thankfully no one was there to witness my faux-seizure since I was in my dorm room getting changed back into my school uniform after swimming training.

What a spiffy school uniform it is too - a pale blue dress to the knees (don't even bother trying to shorten it), with two parallel-placed pleats on the front and back. Then there is the embroidered school crest on the 'breast pocket'; a white, pixie-ish collar and a half belt that started on the sides and buttoned up at the back. Basically it's a kind of sack that makes the most, shall we say, developed, of the Seniors appear to be twelve years of age. With this stunning haute-couture frock, we wear knee-high white socks, black lace-ups and a straw hat when out of doors.

Harper and I had worn this uniform for almost four years and shared the same dorm room for about two years now, ever since her dad got relocated again.

We'd been given one of the deluxe rooms seeing as we were seniors now and the head prefect and deputy head prefect respectively. A 'deluxe' room, you see, means that you get an extra 20 square inch of room and curtains that weren't an inexplicably ugly blue psychedelic pattern (like the ones in the dorm rooms they hadn't updated). So Harp and I had been really excited about the coming year as you could imagine.

By the way, yes, Harper and I, the nerds that we are/were skipped a grade in elementary school and are the youngest of the graduating class. That was kind of the reason we became friends in the first place.

Back to our 'deluxe room' however.....it's ended up looking as though Martha Stewart has taken to it in a pre-menstrual (or maybe menopausal is more likely) stage. We briefly considered buying our own interior decorating business but then decided our somewhat kitsch, irreverent taste wouldn't be quite to the liking of most (or any) of our clients.

At present it was, besides having Harper's clothes strewn across the floor and mine hung neatly in the closet (in colour coordinated order....but no one needs to know that), extremely funky by standards of a dorm room. Our standards, that is.

That was probably the fault of my hot pink and yellow bed spread and Harper's lime green and purple one and the twinkle lights that we'd tacked to the walls (much to Mrs Nipson's chagrin - "but girls, really, you'll leave holes in the plaster") to give it that Sixpence None The Richer-film-clip feel.

Aside from that there was the lampshade made out of an old mannequin dressed in a hot pink toga (the lampshade and light blub resides where its head once was), the purple fluffy rug (which had been brushed into a mohawk during a bored phase earlier that day), the two beanbags - one green, one pink; the cheesy 50's film posters like 'Attack of the Mutant Ants' littering the walls, Harp's various ye olde Biology posters of such riveting things as the digestive tract, and of course the required-by-StScholastican-law 30 by 30 inch pinboard space dedicated to photos from the summer - mainly ones of Taylor and I in various poses, with ones of Harper's holiday to LA intermingling with them.

It was too weird how Harper and Taylor had dated or had some kind of romantic rendezvous before. Hm. I didn't want to think about it. Particularly considering how stunning Harper is and how I'm just not.

Suddenly the door flew open, Harper stormed in and slammed it behind her, facing me like she fully intended to singe me with the fire she was breathing from her mouth.

Apart from the initial shock, I didn't bother to hurry buttoning up my school dress - you just didn't care after living with someone for that long. You see all sorts of things in a boarding house, I can tell you.

"......do you mind treating that esteemed door of ours with a little respect, Harper....? Without that door we would suffer the wrath of Mrs Nipson's prying nose twenty four hours a fricking day-----"

"-----Anna, can you shut up please...?" she said it pleadingly, not angrily. Hm. Harper wasn't usually this....weird. Something had to be up....or down, or around somewhere.

"....gladly....what in the hell's wrong with you though....?"

"...nothing....beside the fact I've been wanting to.....I've been....uh.....Anna, we need to talk...."

In a flurry of blue uniform Harper was standing two inches away from me, except for her lips which weren't any distance apart from mine at all.

Harper Wilkinson was kissing me and it wasn't a bad feeling at all.

And for all intensive purposes it appeared as though I was kissing her back.

I could taste that mandarin flavoured lip balm that I always used to borrow on her lips. It tasted nice. Heck, this felt nice. Not that Taylor was a bad kisser at all, but this was completely different.

Yes, Anna, you're kissing a girl......of course it's different for God's sake.

For another all intensive purpose this was a closed mouth kiss. No tongue was involved.

".....Anna, I n-----Oh my GOD.....!!"

If I wasn't mistaken, regardless of my temporary insanity, that was Tessa Bliestiene - the biggest mouth in the school who just walked in on us (and apparently, just as quickly walked out).

Harper and I broke apart solemnly, stared wide-eyed at each other momentarily and then cracked up laughing, collapsing on my bed.

"...that was----"

"-----Tessa Bliestiene...."

".....oh Christ......"

"......Harper Wilkinson, don't take the Lord's name in vain......" I pointed to the crucifix hanging over the doorway "....He will wreak his venegance on your sinner's soul....."

Our school must have bought crucifixes in bulk (they probably caused a market turn-around in the crucifix industry all in one afternoon).

".....oh, but I repent my sins wholeheartedly......man, I can just imagine my next confession.....Father Blair, I have sinned against the holy name of the father....I kissed Anna McLaren....and I liked it...."

The whole situation was so ludicrous we started laughing again. Maybe it wasn't ludicrous to Harper though.....I mean, she was the one that initiated the kiss...maybe it was a premeditated notion or something. Maybe she'd wanted to kiss me for a long time. Maybe Harper liked girls and I was the girl she liked.

WAS THE WHOLE WORLD GAY NOW ?!

Jesus Christ, it's like heterosexuality died overnight!

First Luke, now Harper.......what if Taylor-----

"....ten Hail Mary's for penance.....?" I suggested weakly.

"...more like a hundred Rosaries...."

No. I'm sure Harper isn't.....I'd know if she was......I've lived with her for two years......

"....God, I hate the rosary...I always forget the last---"

"----the last prayer, I know, what is it? Like the Apostolic Creed or something...?"

"...ugh...."

".....An.....what are we going to say tomorrow anyway....? Everyone's going to know about it, as if the moronic Tessa's going to keep her huge mouth shut..."

"....well, we have two choices.....we pretend we're having a lesbian relationship....or we just say that you had a random piece of parsley stuck in your teeth that just wouldn't come out and I was basically...being your toothpick...."

 

 

St Scholasticans on The Rumour At Hand.

 

Annesley McLaren - Head Prefect and Senior at St Scholastica's - speaking to Chloe West, Senior.

 

"....and you really believe Tessa...? Chloe, please, it's just a little ridiculous.....Harper and I kissing....?!"

 

Catherine Schapel, hearing it from Rebecca Tobin - Seniors at St Scholastica's.

 

".....Harp and Anna kissing? But they're, like, two of the most gorgeous girls in school....they could have any guy they wanted.....I'm sure it happened....who'd you hear it from anyway....? Tessa.....?! As if you believe anything she says, Beck, she has the biggest mouth in Illinois....."

 

Alessandra Harris - Sophomore at St Scholastica's - hearing it from Amy Laurence, fellow Sophomore.

 

"....really? The head prefect and deputy? Isn't she....what's her name? Anna, yeah, her.........isn't she like dating Taylor Hanson.....? I swear.....Sarah said her sister Caroline is really good friends with her and she saw these photos in her dorm room of them together.....No, I'm not lying.....I swear to God, Ames....."

 

Christiana Kaethner, Luke Kaethner's sister - Freshman at St Scholastica's.

 

"....what? That really beautiful one with the curly hair? And the pretty tall Japanese one? Yeah, Luke's friends with them. They were kissing? That's too funny....."

 

Asher Eidelman - Senior at St Scholastica's - hearing it from Tessa Bliestiene herself.

 

"....you saw what? Harp and Anna kissing? Tess, you're delusional.....they've both got boyfriends, you moron....."

 

Harper Wilkinson - Deputy Head Prefect at St Scholastica's - to her triplet brother Nikolaas Wilkinson - Senior at St Peter's Academy.

"....you heard what ?! How did you guys hear....? Yes, I'm sure they all want Anna and I even more.................well, yes, it did happen, but no one else knows that it did except Tessa - who might I add, no one believes - and Anna and myself...................why? I don't know why, Nik, we just did. Exactly....well, your perverted friends are right for once.........yes, we're both dating people.......no, we're not lesbians...."

 

 

Anna

 

"....sorry to interrupt your class, sir, but Sr Perpetua wants to see Annesley McLaren and Harper Wilkinson......"

".....Miss McLaren? Miss Wilkinson? I suppose I'll have to excuse you for the rest of the lesson then...?"

Mr Campbell was our legendary English Lit. and Drama teacher who was probably the most eccentric soul you'd ever come across. He was like a fusion of Robin Williams' character in Dead Poets Society and a very moody premenstrual woman.

"....I suppose you'll have to, sir....."

Harper and I shut our copies of 'Hedda Gabler', grabbed our bags and dashed out of the room before he changed his mind and made us reinact a scene from the afore mentioned God-awful play.

".....Sr Perpetua......?"

"....Annesley, Harper......come in please....."

Sr Perpetua was probably the most steely nun we'd ever met. In fact, she wasn't very nun-like at all.

If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, I'd hate to see what place hath no fury like a nun scorned.

Harp and I were pretty much on her good side though, through perpetual (no pun intended) sucking up over the near four years we'd been at the school. I mean, she liked us enough to not override the prefect votes at the end of last year. That had to be a good thing, didn't it?

".....how are your studies going.....?"

"...very well thankyou, sister...." I smiled.

".....you're still going to take pre-med, Harper?"

"....definitely, sister....."

"......wonderful......and Annesley? Still engineering.....?"

".......still engineering, sister....."

"....I'll always maintain you would make a wonderful lawyer, Annesley......your English marks are the highest in your grade...."

"....I'm still doing well in math though, sister.....and law really doesn't interest me....."

".....it's your decision Anna...."

I love it when people say that. They tell you it's 'your decision' but look at you like 'If you make that decision I'm going to beat the living hell out of you until you do what I want you to do'.

The scary thing was, I didn't doubt Sr Perpetua could beat me to a pulp. Sr Perpetua could probably do fairly well on WWF as far as we were concerned.

"......did you want to see us about something in particular, sister......?"

"....ah, yes.....girls, I've heard a quite....interesting.....rumour in the past few days concerning both of you.....no doubt you've heard it too....?"

Harper and I sent invisible cringes to each other.

".....oh, yes, we've heard it, sister....."

".....well, I don't like to have these kind of rumours floating around in the school, and obviously between schools either....they're distracting and often quite painful for the people in question....."

"....sister, we're really not bothered by it.....no one seems to believe it anyway......"

"......I've spoken to Tessa and she is presently writing both of you an apology which she will present at assembly next week....."

"....sister, that's a bit.......extreme, isn't it....?"

Heck, the girl was even speaking the truth for once.

"....Annesley, I don't care for gossip.....this is supposed to be a caring learning environment and I will maintain it as such.....it is not, and will never be, a place for gossip mongering....."

".....we agree, sister......"

We both nodded solemnly.

"....you two are free to go then.....please tell Mr Campbell I'm sorry for interrupting his lesson....."

".....we will, sister....."

"....good afternoon, girls...."

"....good afternoon, sister...."

We closed the door quietly behind us and started walking back down the hall.

".....gossip mongering.....??!!"

We fell against the lockers and laughed until our spleens almost exploded.

 

Narrator

 

From : Taylor Hanson <i_am_a_walrus@aol.com>

Date : May 17th, 1999

To : Anna McLaren <aspoonfulofsugar@aol.com>

Subject : have you fallen down a random well or something?

 

Dear Anna,

What's up? I haven't heard from you in two days, so I just wondered if anything was wrong....

Hope everything's okay. Anyway, I'm calling you tonight. The anticipation must be killing you. Haha.

Miss you heaps.

Everyone says hi back. :)

Love you,

Tay.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------

so you want to be a rock and roll star/well, listen now to what I say/go buy an electric guitar/and take some time/learn how to play - 'Mr Jones' Counting Crows

 

 

 

From : Anna McLaren <aspoonfulofsugar@aol.com>

Date : May 11th, 1999

To: Taylor Hanson <i_am_a_walrus@aol.com>

Subject : after being rescued by a random well climber.... :)

 

Dear Boy Wonder,

You're calling tonight? Ooh. I'm off to tingle in anticipation during AP Calculus. There has been quite the...shall we say....furore at Saints this week. But we've all taken our sedatives and are on the road to recovery. ;)

Anyway, I shall love and leave you (er, until tonight of course). Harper says hi and so does Taylor the Second.....I fear his fur may be getting slightly bedraggled, possibly because of the fact I dribble in my sleep. It's likely he'll also be quite the bilingual bear, unless Harp actually gets out of the habit of speaking Italian in her sleep sometime soon. Enough of the insanity for the time being. ;)

Love,

Anna xxxxxxxxxooooooooo

 

----------------------------------------------------------------

 

So I bought me a wife, my wife pleased me. I fed my wife under yonder tree. Wife says honey, honey. Horse says neigh, neigh. Cow says baa, baa. Pig says gravy, gravy. Hen says shimmishack, shimmishack. Goose says cwaw, cwaw. My duck says quack, quack. My cat says fiddle-i-fee.

 

 

Anna

 

"....this is so fascinating, An.....you know how bone seems to be so impenetrable and non-living in all the bio specimens you get...? Well, in living specimens it's this amazing network of blood vessels and nerves which run through microscopic Haversian canals and around them osteocytes are built up in these circular structures called lacunae and----"

The electronic tune of Old MacDonald Had A Farm broke into her 'fascinating' conversation.

Saved by the cell phone.

Harper does her 'fascinating biology' discussion every night, and I don't think she's grasped on to the fact yet that no on else finds osteocytes, Haversian canals or the details of female reproduction (last night's vivid discussion) as absolutely fascinating as she does.

"----huh....?"

She looked at me, probably disturbed by the thought she couldn't talk for another hour about the intricacies of bone.

"......Taylor......my cell phone............damn it..........where is that piece of sh---lovely technology........? Here boy..........good cell phone...."

I frantically fossicked in my bed and through the mounds of textbooks and notes on my desk - eventually finding it in my Math textbook between the chapters of Differential and Integral Calculus.

"....I'll leave you two to your own devices...." Harper grinned, taking her books to - I assume - the study room, to probably give another fascinating tidbit to an unsuspecting victim.

"......hello......?!"

I settled back sideways on my bed, with my back against the wall and my feet dangling over the edge of my bed.

".......An, it's me....."

"....well, well, well......Taylor Hanson.......what a surprise......I never would have thought you'd call tonight....."

"....you're a dork...."

"....ah, it's so good to hear your sweet voice insult me again....."

He chuckled "....where are you....?"

".....dorm room, studying with Harp.....who finds bone so utterly fascinating she feels the need to tell me about it, osteocytes and all....."

"....I'm not going to ask...."

"......how about you, Boy Wonder.....?"

"......studio.....we just finished laying down two tracks......so we're having a coffee and cigar with Steve....."

".....oh, so we're suddenly a cigar smoker now....?"

"....apparently....."

".....can't wait to get to LA now to submit my lungs to the wonders of passive smoking...."

"....it's only two weeks before you come down here, right....?"

"....around that long, yeah..........about LA---"

"......if you even try and tell me you can't come I'm going to get on a plane to Chicago and abduct you myself....."

".....Taylor, reality please.........would I, Anna McLaren, actually pass up the chance to go to the World Math Convention in Santa Monica....? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak to some of the greatest mathematicians in the wor---"

"----you're kidding me, right....?"

"....the World Math Convention is being held in Santa Monica on the 9th to the 11th of December.....I'll send you the brochure if you like....."

".....please....send me the brochure.....and I'll peruse it at my leisure....."

".....awww, schnookums thinks I'm going to leave him for balding middle aged men who get more sexually aroused by the thought of Pythagoras' Theorem than any woman........."

I heard a snort through the receiver.

"....anyway, on the topic of LA, I bear good news......Harp's visiting her dad so she'll be in LA at the same time.......isn't that great?"

"....uh....great, yeah....."

"....you have an issue with her being in the same city as us on vacation.....?"

"....I have an issue with her being in the same state as us on vacation....."

".....what? By being in a 400 mile radius of you she's going to cause a nuclear explosion that will envelope the whole of Los Angeles.....?"

"....it's a likely possibility.......An, the thing is....I mean, it's a little awkward with Harper, you know, with what happened before....and secondly, I want us to be able to spend time together and if Harper's there we won't be able to....two's company, three's a crowd....."

"....that cliche sucks...."

".....that it does...."

"....and you are completely insane if you think that Harper being in LA means we won't spend time together....."

".....I'm not insane, I'm thinking logically....."

".....logically, my foot....."

"....your foot isn't logical last time I checked...."

"....why is it I can never stay angry at you for more than the say, required, fifty seconds needed to classify it as anger....?"

".....because I'm such a charismatic, irresistable kind of guy....."

".....oh of course....charismatic, irresistable......maybe immodesty comes with the package deal.....what was it, $5.99 in a Delia's catalogue......?"

"......mail order has revolutionised the way we shop hasn't it just....?"

"....so that's where you get all those hideous belts from....?"

"....insult the belts, you insult the depths of my soul...."

"....oh what a pity........what is...or who is, that in the background...?"

".....Ike and Zac being morons as usual..........piss off......!!!"

I assumed the last expletive was directed towards his brothers and not my wonderful self.

"....tell them I said hi......"

"....Anna says hi............no, you're not speaking to her...."

I could hear a voice, distinctly Zac-like, yelling 'Phone-hog!' at the top of his lungs.

Then there was a door closing and muffled voices.

"....where are you now.....?"

"....in this dark closet thing...."

".....say hi to the boogie monster for me...."

"....hi boogie monster....." he paused for a moment "...he says hello back...."

"....that's nice of him....."

"....I'm really sorry I can't come to prom....."

".....where did that come from.....?"

"....well, it's this weekend right.....?"

"....it is......but we talked about this ages ago, and I'm fine with it Taylor.....I understand, kind of......anyway, graduation's more important and I'd rather you there than at prom....."

"....I still wish I could be your date....."

".....trust me, you won't be missing much....a band that plays Bah Mitzvahs on typical weekends and whose stage personas are lodged somewhere between clinically insane and 80's hip.....a lot of pretentious girls in pastel coloured dresses and badly mismatched orchid corsages.....and food which will result in 90% of our senior class coming down with salmonella poisoning in the following week......"

"....well, when you put it that way......"

".....and I'm taking Luke......."

".....you're taking who......?!"

"....Luke.....I figured that way I won't have to crush any delusions my date might harbour about me screwing him on the night....."

".....how very thoughtful of you....."

".....why thankyou....I try my best......"

A loud banging sounded through the receiver.

"......listen, An.....I've got to get going, I'll call you later this week okay.....?"

".....yeah, okay.......you're still coming to Chicago for graduation right...?"

"....wouldn't miss it....besides, I get to be a part of that proverbial milestone in the life of a normal teenager....it'll be good for our research....."

".....too bad you're missing prom then....."

".....I know.....it would've made for some great discoveries....."

"....I miss you, Boy Wonder......"

".....I miss you too.....a lot......"

"....as opposed to, what, a little....?"

He laughed "...as opposed to nothing....I love you and I miss you and LA sucks without you...."

"....I love you too.....but Chicago sucked before I knew you, so I can't return the favour...if it was New York, maybe...."

"....that's a reassuring thought....I could rival New York....yay me...."

"...yay you...."

"....I'd better go...."

"....okay...."

"....bye Anna...."

"....bye Taylor....and don't smoke too many cigars, you hear....smoking causes lung cancer..."

"....and heart disease..."

".....and harms your baby.......if a certain Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is indicative of the future, that is....."

 

 

Anna

 

Prom night in a boarding house is different to your average day student's prom night. The main difference is the gratuitous flattery begins much earlier in the day.

 

At the hairdresser's with Asher and Harper - "oh, it looks great!" "....don't you think she should maybe get some curls around...here....Gaston, what do you think?" "vell ve could do zat, or maybe haf zis bit fanned out...." "you think so?" "oh yeah, I love it, I really do, you look adorable" "Oh Anna, you look gorgeous..."

Since when has being adorable (must be repeated in high-pitched, cooing girl's voice with drawn-out vowel sounds) been high on any list of attainment of mine? Yes, when my mother was still dressing me in little pink frilled dresses and curling my hair on a sunday night. Now I try to attain a vaguely-okay-if-you've-got-good-lighting look. It's all I can possibly hope for in this body.

Today, I was opting for the afore-mentioned principle and also 'less is more'. They cut my hair to just above my shoulders and anything past straightening it and parting it on the side, I rebelled against vocally.

".....Gaston......" said I ".......I'm not having pouffy curls.....I'm fairly sure I wasn't recently tranformed into a show poodle......"

Harper with her gorgeous corkscrew curls was the apple of Gaston's eye. She was his favourite customer. Harper was everyone's favourite customer. It was a continual source of amazement to me that Seventeen magazine hadn't yet plastered her pouting lips and mane of hair all over their cover.

Harper's hair was a work of art that night. It almost required gating off with red cord and a cautiously placed spotlight. Gaston excelled himself. But, then again, this was Harper, he couldn't help himself. It was his duty as her hair artiste.

Asher, meanwhile, against the express wishes of her parents, was getting her waist length waves straightened. Asher's parents had serious issues about Asher's hair. They liked Au Natural. They loved messy waves. They thought it was pretty and ladylike. They ruled over Asher's hair like a 15th century Chinese Emperor.

Asher (the peasant who farmed rice for a living) had finally taken matters into her own hands.

"....you, my girl, look hot....." I leant on the back of her chair, smiling at her via the mirror.

".....mom and dad are going to kill me....."

".....they'll get over it when they realise how gorgeous you look, Ash...."

"....I wouldn't be too sure...."

"....well, at any rate, Blake is going to be too scared to hold your hand all night because you'll be the best looking girl there...." Blake was Asher's long-time secret boyfriend. Blake was one of those funny, exhibitionist guys that managed to be the life of the party even if there wasn't a party to be a life of.

She blushed "....An, you're going overboard on the compliments, okay....."

".....I know.....prom is like an infectious disease....I really hope buying a tiara to wear tonight isn't another side-effect...."

Asher made an exaggerated gasp ".....a tiara........God forbid......"

I sat myself down in a swivelling chair next to her.

"....I really don't know how you manage it......you do nothing to your hair and you look stunning....you're depressing, An, you really are......"

"....see, now you've caught the disease....dear God, I hope we don't come out in hives....it might ruin our chances for Prom Queen....."

She laughed and shook her head at me "...so Taylor's not coming, right....?"

"....no....." I sighed, then realised how truly Cinderella I sounded and ended the sigh abruptly in the middle ".....when I think about it, it's probably for the best....you know how absolutely teenie people will be tonight....I think graduation is a much safer event for him to thrust himself upon the world of Saints Girls....."

"....true.....but I want to meet this guy of yours......trust you to be dating someone like Taylor Hanson....."

"....trust me.....?"

"....well, An, think about it.....your boyfriend standards are the highest of any girl in the States......first there was the Luke crush....the Luke whose father owns a huge corporation and who's all around brilliant in looks and academic record and the star of St Peter's track team....and your first boyfriend is Taylor Hanson, who makes records for a living, wins polls for hottest male ever and is an intelligent, talented millionaire........you're supposed to work your way up to perfection, not start with it...."

".....oh and Blake's just your average ugly teenage guy with no talent whatsoever....."

"......Blake's nice.....but he's not a Taylor Hanson....."

 

At the dorm doing make-up with Asher and Harper.

 

There is something you should know about Asher Eidelman. For all her brilliance in Physics and Chemistry, her true talent lies in make-up artistry (something she'd never dare mention to her tyrannous parents).

So Asher was giving us all new faces for the night.

Harper and I had made our room into the official prom preparation room. For once Harper had managed to assemble her mess in a neat pile in our closet (I wouldn't try opening it until next week sometime) and the room looked half decent when we left it that morning.

When we returned to it post-Gaston, however, it appeared to have metamorphosised from your average dorm room into a florist's shop.

".......what the hell........?"

Mrs Nipson appeared behind us suddenly and without warning.

".....you girls are looking pretty....."

".....thanks, Mrs Nipson......." I replied warily. Mrs Nipson was one of those people that made you think you'd done something wrong even if you were on your way to being beatified by the Pope. I wonder what kind of misdemeanour we'd be blamed for today.

"....Mrs Nipson, who are these for.....?" Asher piped up.

"......Annesley, they're all for you......."

".....wouldn't have guessed that one......." Harper grinned at me and raised her eyebrow. There was something about that girl that made me think she had inside information on this all-out assault on me and my hatred for prom.

"......and this package just arrived for you as well......"

"...thanks, Mrs Nipson..."

".....you're lucky we've let you accept these flowers, Annesley, you know our policy on floral deliveries to the school......"

"....oh, yes.....you've been very kind, Mrs Nipson....."

I am a queen at crawling up people's asses.

".....well, we really must finish getting ready, Mrs Nipson---"

We dashed into the room and closed the door.

".....this room smells heavenly......" Asher sniffed the air wistfully ".....see, I told you Blake just wasn't a Taylor Hanson....."

"....no......Taylor really is in a class all of his own......" I mused, looking around the room.

I sat on my bed and opened the parcel. A card and two packages fell out.

A silence had settled over the room (aside from Asher's deep inhalations of the room's floral scent which sounded as if she was about to suck the whole lot through her nose like a vacuum).

I tore open the envelope and a small, violent orange-coloured card fell out with a packet of dramamine and a condom. The inside read :

 

This is me making up for not being your date tonight. I'm sorry and hope you forgive me (I know you're disappointed, don't tell me you're not). Hope you survive the night without incurring any major injuries. I know prom's your average bloody battleground, but I'm sure you'll survive the torture. Attached is your ultimate prom survival kit - dramamine for that inevitable hangover and the condom for......well......you know (but of course, you won't be needing that without me).

Love you,

Taylor xxxxxxx

 

".....that....is the most adorable thing I've ever seen....."

I handed the condom to Asher.

".....my parents would kill me......"

She handed it to Harper.

"....my parent will never find out......" she grinned and pocketed it ".....An, open that other parcel....."

I made for the long white box tied with red ribbon

"....not that one, the other one......"

"....what difference does it make.....?"

".....you always open bigger packages first....."

"....says who.....?"

".....says me......"

"....oh, yes, I forgot....the expert in gift unwrapping that you are....."

Nevertheless, I put the long-ish package to the side and opened the rectangular shaped package. A video fell out onto my lap from the wrapping.

".....to the television......" Harper yelled, dashing from the room with the video in her possession.

I arrived to find Taylor on the screen. A very close-up Taylor adjusting the camera lens.

The figure on the screen walked back and sat on a carefully placed chair, clearing his throat.

The figure on the screen was wearing a suit. He owned a suit?

".....Hi Anna........um, happy prom day......" he laughed and ran his hand through his hair ".....well, since I can't be in Chicago tonight, I figured the next best thing was being your virtual date........" he smiled his I'm-so-amusing-and-adorable smile and then ventured on ".....and yes, the suit isn't mine, it's Ike's....which you probably would've guessed already by the colour of the shirt......"

The shirt was a bronze colour - the essence of all that was Isaac Hanson.

".....the tie is mine though....it brings out the colour of my eyes, don't you think....?"

He gestured to the metallic blue tie.

"....that it does....." I smiled under my breath.

He grinned out at me from the screen.

"......so anyway.....I should let you get dressed and stuff......but before I say au revoir, you have to open the box......the last one with the red ribbon......"

The box was longer than the one with the video, but a little skinnier. I picked it up and shook it next to my ear. All I could hear was the rustling of tissue paper.

Damn. He knew me too well.

".....since you wouldn't tell me the colour of your dress, I had to go British spy and call one of your friends......Hi Harper....." he waved "....I know you're watching this....."

I turned around to look at Harper who wore a hugely triumphant grin on her face. Lord, she should be triumphant....keeping a secret for that long must have nearly killed her.

"....so, go on....open it, An......"

I slid the ribbon from the box and pulled the lid off. Inside, on a bed of purple tissue paper, was this extravaganza of red beads glittering in the fluorescent light. They formed this necklace which looked like a delicately joined set of fireworks. It was like a Fourth of July sky had been transposed into a piece of jewellery.

It was - all at once - the most funky, breathtaking, glorious thing I'd ever seen.

".....a friend of ours in LA is a jewellery designer.....he made it for you, with a little input from me, Ike and Zac of course.....but now you have to look under the necklace....."

".....does the gift giving stop at any point tonight.....?" Asher raised a carefully plucked eyebrow.

I pulled a bracelet of tiny crimson rosebuds out of the tissue paper. God knows how, but they were still fresh and unwilted.

"......I know how much you hate 'mismatched orchid corsages'.....so I got you a colour co-ordinated rose one.........but I have to put it on now, don't I?"

Someone off-screen handed him a corsage identical to mine and he reached out, putting it around the camera lens, making it appear as though, in some way, he was putting it on my wrist.

"....very nice....." he sat back on the chair ".....okay.....so I'd better go.......but remember to have a good time and sit out the last dance for me....." he waved and grinned again "....bye......"

He kissed the camera lens (we got a nice close up shot of his nostrils and lips) and then the screen went black.

"....I am so GOOD......you had no idea I knew......I'm just brilliant......" Harper smirked at me.

"....you......" I glared at her for a moment ".....deserve a medal......."

".....don't I just.......?"

"....okay....now, Asher darling, make us beautiful....."

 

(cut to after primping session, as dates were beginning to arrive)

 

"....I think we look pretty damn good....."

Harper stated as the three of us were making a final check-over in the mirror. It was only slightly impossible trying to see what we all looked like in a mirror meant for one person, but we somehow managed it - it was prom, how could we not manage anything?

Harper was dressed in mint green silk, one of those clingy soft dresses that made you appear as if you were dressed in a softly rippling ocean. She was depressingly beautiful.

Asher wore a white dress her parents had bought her. This dress was a decoy however, since 'the real dress' - a banana coloured corset top with a separate frothy skirt of alternate black and banana coloured tulle layers - was hanging on the front of the closet ready to be tossed on after a round of photos were taken in 'the parent dress'. It was a carefully orchestrated plan. I was constantly shocked (and impressed) by the new and innovative ways Asher was able to deceive her parents.

And me? I was in crimson dupion silk. Yes, I didn't know what dupion silk was either until two weeks ago. The dress was comprised of two parts, a kind of bustiere top with two spaghetti straps that tied behind the neck, and a full skirt. It was simple but bright enough to make a statement. Adorned with Taylor's necklace and corsage, I even looked vaguely-okay-in-any-lighting.

".....knock, knock......"

Instead of actually knocking on the door, Blake (dressed in the required black tuxedo) said the words with a grin. It was one of his trademarks - speaking noises. Luke and Matthew (Harper's present boyfriend....who will probably only hold that title for another week) flanked him on either side.

".....aren't we looking gorgeous......?"

".....we are......" Harper grinned, adjusting her dress for the tenth time.

Luke wandered his way through the crowd (as much of a crowd as six people can be) to stand beside me.

".....hey Good Lookin'......"

".....hi Lucas......"

"....you look gorgeous....."

"......thankyou.....you're looking very handsome yourself......"

Luke certainly knew how to dress himself. He was in a black three-button jacket and pants, with a white shirt open at the neck to expose a deep purplish coloured cravat. But even then he couldn't rival Taylor in his suit borrowed from Ike and the tie that brought out the blue in his eyes.

Sometimes, finding out your crush of four years is gay gives you a whole new perspective on life.

"....I guess I'm too late with the corsage.....I didn't realise you had to turn up at midday to give them this year....."

He held out in his hand......a pink orchid corsage.

You couldn't get any more mismatched than that.

"......Taylor got in ahead of you, I'm sorry to say......" I grinned, parading my wrist around in front of him.

"....you are one lucky girl, Good Lookin'......"

Yeah, I guess I am.

"....okay, gather together......photo time......"

Asher and I groaned. Harper was the only person I knew that was enthusiastic about photos. That was probably directly related to her being one of the very few photogenic people in this world.

Nevertheless, we all grouped together and Harper organised the camera to stand on a pile of books before setting it and rushing to stand beside Matthew.

Click. Flash.

".....now, one of you boys take a photo of Anna, Asher and me......"

Click. Flash.

"....group together guys....."

Click. Flash.

"...can't you just smile normally.....?"

Click. Flash.

"....that's better........okay......Ash, Operation Deceive Parents has been initiated......? God, I love that dress.....I'll take one of you and Blake now....."

Click. Flash.

".....can someone do another one of the three of us girls......?"

Click. Flash.

"....okay, now An and Luke......"

Click. Flash.

 

And so there we were, poised on the brink of prom, an event etched into decades of American teenage minds.

And here I was, Anna McLaren, in a red dress and fourth of july necklace, smiling forever beside a date who found my LA-bound boyfriend more attractive than he found me.

 

And I was okay with that. Because I was going to sit out the last dance and dream a little dream that a certain LA-bound boyfriend and I were swaying ever so gently to an overplayed and overemotional Celine Dion song in the middle of the dance floor, along with the rest of my Senior class.

 

After all, isn't that what prom's all about? Dreaming you were dancing the night away with Taylor Hanson?

Or maybe that was just a 1997 thing.

 

I was always a little behind the times.

.

Chapter 12 - 'All Over My New Sombrero'

Zac

 

"....we're going to the bee-each.....we're going to the bee-each....da-da, da-da, da, da-----"

I started a conga line going through the studio and soon Tay, Ike and I had the whole production crew congo-ing between the equipment. It kind of died off though, which was good since, well, we were going to the beach.

And I needed to get some shorts on (I never was a Speedos man).

Speaking of shorts - Tay in shorts. What a pity Anna wasn't here to see this spectacle. Tay looks hugely funny in shorts with those skinny legs of his. Where's that damn digital camera when you need it?

"....IKE....!! Where's that damn digital camera...??!!"

Ike appeared out of the bathrooms with a towel slung over his shoulder, the camera in his hand and a pair of shorts on himself.

Ike looks funny in shorts too.

Dad, Mackie and I are the only guys in the family that can safely wear shorts in public.

".....what's with all the yelling....?"

"....I wanna get Tay on camera in his shorts and send the footage to---"

"---funniest home videos....?"

"...nah....Anna.....but she'll send it on...."

"....go get changed, we're leaving soon....."

"....sure.....but Ike, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tape our waif-like brother in shorts.....and thus send it to his girlfriend to chortle at..."

"......and this tape will self-destruct in ten seconds, yada, yada.......get your freakin' shorts on, Zac......."

"....I hear ya, dude...." I ruffled his hair and made a dash for the bathroom.

 

We're going to the be-each.

 

(cut to.....the beach)

 

Ick. I'm all for surf and sand, don't get me wrong. Except when it gets in your shorts. Then I hate surf and sand.

I'm all itchy down there. That's disgusting. And I think I need a shower. Like my hair's all limp and stringy. I get what Anna's saying now about pool chlorine, salt water's much the same.

Anna's such a wealth of knowledge, as mom would say. I like her. In a very non-wanting-to-steal-my-brother's-girlfriend way.

Basically, I'd like a girlfriend just like her. Where's one of those evil scientists when you need them?

Oh yeah, maybe you didn't catch that but, I, Zac Hanson want a girlfriend.

Maybe I should announce it on MTV. Only if Carson's not there. He'll probably say something nice to my face and then as soon as we leave start telling everyone how I'm all hormonal and how he thought we were all gay or something.

Gee, it's hot here.

I mean, it gets hot in Tulsa, but I guess you always feel hotter at the beach. Maybe it's psychological, I don't know.

I'm happy I'm not like Tay, I don't burn at all. Ike and I tan, but Tay just goes this icky looking pink colour like some mutant lobster.

We had lobster once. At this music executive dinner where they handed you this huge white plate with actual food the size of an ant on it. Would anyone's hunger seriously be satisfied by a piece of marinated lobster brain the size of a quarter with a mound of shredded ginger and a basil sprig on top? I think not.

I removed the sombrero from my head (I was lying down on my towel with it over my face) and scoured the beach with my eyes for Tay and Ike. Actually I knew where Ike would be - surfing still on the piddly waves of Venice Beach, pretending he was Kelly Slater - but Tay was probably off walking somewhere, pondering the meaning of life or whatever he does when he's in one of his moods. Tay's a moody guy I think. Not a complete hormonal swing thing like a pregnant woman, but he's very brooding sometimes.

Ike's just a dork and me, well, I'm just Zac. I can't explain me any more than anyone else can.

I pulled on my pants over my shorts (which were still sandy and chafing, but nevermind) and shoved the sombrero on my head. Might as well go for a walk and see if there are any hot thirteen year old chicks out on the beach.

"....Jason, dude, I'm going for a walk...."

"...want me to come....?"

"....nah....."

"...sure you're going to be alright....?"

"...no one wants to abduct us now.....at the height of our popularity maybe, but now their plotting to kidnap *NSYNC....God must have spent a little more time on them, Jase...."

".....okay...." he chuckled "....be back in half an hour or your dad will be pissed....."

"....sure....bye...."

"....be careful dude....."

"....yeah...."

Ow. This dry sand is scorching. I grabbed my sandals before hot-footing it to the damp and kind of pebbly sand. I like LA. Not just because they have beach and Hollywood and bikini-clad girls....well, okay, partly because of that....but because it was that place that no other place was. Just the people and the novelty and stuff. It's cool. LA is cool.

I pulled on my sandals - no, not the cheesy kind your parents used to make you wear to school with socks underneath, but weird, cool ones we'd picked up in Mexico along with my sombrero - and strolled along the beach, sidestepping the 'volleyball players' who did little volleyball playing but more parading in a bikini; people's beach umbrellas, towels and little kids.

There are a lot of Britney Spears clones on Venice Beach. A lot of plastic and packet-blonde hair. I always wonder why----

 

(cut to two seconds later)

 

----Why am I sprawled face-down on the sand? A second ago, I was pondering Britney Spears and walking - I'm pretty sure - and now I had a face full of sand and probably a crowd of amused bystanders watching on.

".....'ave a ney-ss treep thire....?" The extended hand questioned.

(Subtitles - 'have a nice trip there?')

I spat the sand out of my mouth and wiped my face with the back of my hand (the only part of me not covered in sand).

"....that was a highly original joke, but yes, for your information....I went all the way from Venice Beach to the Caribbean and back and all I have to say is....the sand is much better here than there......."

"....aye, well, I'm all for originality.......but you're not exactly an expert on sand quality, are you now.....?"

I sat up and found myself facing this girl, a girl with the frizziest, brightest hair I'd ever seen. Actually, she looked like a much prettier, younger, redheaded female version of Einstein. So really, she didn't resemble Einstein at all since he was pretty ugly, old, white-haired and male.

"....E = MC squared....."

"....excuse me.....?"

"...uh, ahem.....my brain can't decipher what should come out of my mouth and what should stay in my head.......that should have stayed in my head....."

"....aye, I had the same problem....there's a good support group going on here in LA...."

Apparently LA was now pronounced 'EEL-EH'. That could work.

"....I'll have to look into that...."

"....It's probably a good idea for all concerned....."

".....are you Scottish....?"

"......funnily enough, yes....."

"....just the accent---"

"---usually a good indication of someone's origins, yes.....but you know the kilt, haggis and accompanying pet Loch Ness monster are also a dead giveaway..."

"....I'm Zac...."

"....Izzy.....well, Isabelle, but everyone calls me Izzy....."

"....well, it's nice to meet you, Izzy......even though we seemed to get off on the wrong, um, foot...."

"...oh, that was good......enough cheese to satisfy a small colony of mice, but good nonetheless...." she raised her eyebrow and smirked a little.

"....I am the Master of Cheese...."

".....well, Master of Cheese, I suggest you do up your fly before you attempt to chat me up....." I glanced down to find the fly on my pants undone, and exposing the shorts underneath.

"....it's a conversation starter....." I zipped my fly up and grinned.

"....impressive.....you're quite the ladies' man, aren't you Zac....?"

"....it's a genetic thing......"

"....I'm sure it is.....no one could just acquire the charisma you seem to have spurting from every pore..."

".....so are you here on holiday....?"

.....no, we've lived here about two years....and I still haven't managed to tan...."

"....being tan is overrated....."

"....coming from someone who is indeed tan....I'm sure you feel my pain....."

".....uh, yeah......so do you live close to Venice Beach....?"

"...not really, but my sister drives so...."

"....oh....are they here with you....?"

".....in body, no, but spirit....possibly.......Zara's the one parading herself in front of her college boyfriend and his 'possy' down there, and Annie's the one building her own little Scottish moated sandcastle just over there...."

".....why aren't you down there with the college boys....?"

".... ah well, I'd much rather succumb to the charms of a boy who can't dress himself properly....."

"....I see your point.....not many could resist this hunk of burning flesh....."

"....so what are you doing down at Venice Beach, Zac....?"

".....oh, my brothers and I are learning to surf...."

"....well, you've got some really huge waves out there today....." she nodded toward the ocean which was barely rippling.

".....Ike persists in telling us 'it's some great surf out there'....and looking at the non-existent waves as if they're the awe-inspiring ones of Bells Beach or something....."

"....Ike....?"

".....uh yeah, my older brother, Isaac.....my other brother Taylor is walking aimlessly along the beach, staring into the distance broodingly and pining for his girlfriend back home....."

"....ah, young love.....so you're here on holiday....?"

"....kind of.....a working holiday....."

"...what? Burger King commissioned you all for menial summer jobs away from wherever it is you live....?"

"......uh, we're musicians....."

"....oh, okay...." she sounded genuinely interested "....you're a band...?"

".....yeah, pretty much...."

".....what are you called....?"

".......um, Hanson....."

"....Hanson.....?! You're Zac Han----Oh shite.....you're.....oh my God.....I didn't realise with the hat and.....I'm such an idiot....." she wailed and buried her head in her knees which were drawn up to her chest.

".....er, Izzy, it's okay....." I tentatively patted her shoulder reassuringly.

"....I'm such a dimwit......please excuse me....." her head was still buried in her lap, so her voice was muffled.

".....you know, this probably isn't the best time for you and all.....but would you consider dating me sometime.....?"

"......dating you sometime.......? Well, it's a very likely possibility, yes....."

Her head was still in her lap.

"......seven o'clock on Saturday maybe....?"

"....sounds nice.....exchanging phone numbers is perhaps a good idea....?"

".....do you have a pen.....?"

"...in that floral bag over there....probably at the bottom....."

I picked up the strange shoulder bag which was made of these weird floral hologram panels and rummaged through it. I pulled out a plastic long object, hoping it was a pen and not a tampon or something just as gross and girly, and thankfully it was one. A pen, I mean.

"....found one...."

She held out her arm, still keeping her head buried in her knees. This was one weird chick. But I like weird. I'm a little that way inclined myself.

".....my hand's probably a good place....."

"....I'll write my pager and home numbers okay....?"

"....that's fine...."

".....what's yours....?"

".....95567847......."

".....9556---?"

"---7847...."

".....I'll call you....."

"....that would be nice....."

I grabbed her hand which was still limply held out in front of her and shook it.

"......bye Izzy....."

"...bye Zac...."

She waved her same hand over her head, more of a huge fuzzball gravitating on top of curled up legs.

And so I walked back to Jason, no longer a Zac-boy, but a Zac-man.

I had a date. I like LA.

 

Taylor

 

I never thought I could miss anything as much as I miss Anna.

Even the year mom and dad confiscated my cowboy hat, holster and toy pistol couldn't rival these kind of withdrawal symptoms.

As I walked leisurely along Venice Beach, letting the wind do battle with the fabric of my t-shirt and khaki's and feeling the gritty sand between my toes, all I could think of was her.

And then it hit me.

I was becoming the kind of guy who wrote such sappy letters to his girlfriend that a well-meaning brother would have to drown them in a water fountain for the greater good.

I was becoming the kind of guy who'd call his musical instrument 'Anna'.

I was becoming an Ike!

 

"....hey.....aren't you Taylor Hanson.....?"

"......yeah........" I brushed my hair out of my face and looked at this girl. She looked about 19 - well-endowed and squeezed into the smallest fluorescent orange bikini I'd ever seen.

"....could you sign my bikini....."

Was there enough there to sign?

".....uh......well......."

".....just.....here......"

She pointed at the orange triangle just holding in her breast. Well, at least it wasn't the upside-down triangle down....there.

What could I say? 'I have a girlfriend'? She'd be on the phone two seconds later to Teen Beat or........Teen People! Imagine what this could do in a legitimate magazine!

I took the black marker she handed me.

It was of constant amazement to me how all the people who asked us for autographs had black markers on them, no matter if it was like 4am at an Alaskan gourmet deli and there was a worldwide drought of black markers at the time. I never carried black markers around with me. I've never known anyone who carries around black markers all the time, for that matter. Except for our fans, that is.....but they're in a class of their own.

How in the hell am I going to do this? Any way I try to do it, I'm going to be feeling her up.

Wait a minute!

The Pre-Anna Taylor would have enjoyed this. The guy that wasn't becoming a hell of a lot like his older brother who wrote letters like a romance novelist and needed to keep buying more guitars to keep up with all the 24-hour crushes he needed to name things after would have enjoyed this.

Not that I don't like Ike. Hell, I love Ike. Ike is the kind of older brother that knows how to do everything and that you worshipped when you were little. Ike knew more than mom and dad when we were four. If you had a problem, you went to Ike. Except when the problem had anything to do with writing letters or flirting with inappropriate women.

This was an inappropriate woman.

I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

 

"....sure I'll do it......"

 

 

(cut to a cafe in Santa Monica)

 

Santa Monica is like a whole suburb of catwalk.

People swagger instead of walk, have diets limited to black coffee and....black coffee (not that there's anything wrong with that), and congregate in large blonde groups (not that there's anything wrong with that either).

".....check her out........"

Ike hissed, nudging me in the side and nodding his head towards one of the Beautiful People.

She was obviously one of those annoyingly fit people who think jogging and a nutritiously balanced diet is a religious way of life. Forget Christ. He certainly didn't give them Tae-Bo. Billy Blanks is their saviour/messiah/idol of worship/chosen one.

Those people make me sick.

(So I passed out at a Tae-Bo class. It hasn't influenced my opinion at all)

But there was no denying she shouldn't be checked out. Obligingly, I (and most of the guys in the outdoor cafe) looked her over.

She was dressed in head-to-toe Adidas - a turquoise tank top and navy running tights - and was stretching while perspiring neatly in the sun. Why is it that girls perspire and guys sweat? It's not like it's made of different stuff......it's just one makes more of it than the other....and one doesn't wash it off.

Then the girl, with her short blonde hair perfectly wet on her forehead and a jumbo water bottle in hand, walked over to our table, smiled and said

".....do you mind if sit at your table? The rest of the cafe's full....."

Zac grinned happily.

I shrugged (well, I had a girlfriend, even if she wasn't here......and the bikini girl was enough for one day)

Ike gaped.

She sat herself down before we said anything.

".....I'm Nicola Clarke....." she paused and then added with an afterthought "....with an 'e'......"

Zac looked up from his cherry coke "......who's got an 'e'.......?"

".....Clarke.......my last name is Clarke with an 'e'......"

"......what a coincidence....." I said, grinning ".....Ike's a Clarke with an 'e' too....this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.....we should give thanks to the Lord for the letter 'e', Ikeypoos...."

"......while we're at it, maybe we should give thanks to the Lord for the letters 'p', 'i', 's', 's' again, 'o', 'f' and what the hell, another 'f'......."

Zac choked on his cherry coke.

Nicola Clarke with an 'e' spilt water on her turquoise tank top.

".....wow, you sure can spell good, Ike......"

".....and you sure can act like an asshole good, Tay......"

"......maybe I should......uh, go......."

 

Even after all that blonde we could contribute, Hanson and Santa Monica just don't get on.

 

Anna

 

".......mmmbop, ba duba dop ba du bop, ba duba dop ba du bop, ba duba dop ba du........oh yeah......mmmbop, ba duba dop ba du bop, ba du dop, ba du bop, ba duba da ba du......."

".....what.....are you doing.......?!"

A group of similarly dressed people (I could recognise that blue belted sack anywhere) discernable as Liz, Olivia and Sarah came to a halt in my doorway.

"....I'm sorting.....what does it look like I'm doing.....?"

".....it sounds like you're listening to Hanson....."

".....well, you didn't ask what it sounded like I was doing......"

"....can you turn that off.....?"

"....no......"

"....why not.....?"

"......because I.....because I'm listening to it........."

"......nice music, An........" Asher walked past the dorm room, poking her grinning head in between the group congregated at the door as she passed.

".....you like this.....?"

".....I didn't say I liked it, I'm just.....broadening my horizons......"

".....what is the world coming to......?"

"......oh, I know.....Anna McLaren is broadening her horizons, next thing you know we'll all be farming maize crops down in the midwest......" I smirked sarcastically.

"....does this have anything to do with the rumour that you're dating a....shall we say, once-famous teen heartthrob, Anna......?"

"......me? Dating a once-famous teen heartthrob? Where did you get that idea...?!"

".....okay, bring us the holiday pinboard......"

".....what holiday pinboard......?"

".....Anna, what have you done with the holiday pinboard....?"

"....I've packed it, you morons, we're going home in two days....."

"....a likely story....."

"....look, can you all piss off and let me pack and listen to my MMMBop's in peace.....?!"

".....we're keeping an eye on you Anna McLaren.....don't think we won't find the truth......"

".....yes, the truth is out there guys......"

 

Oh my goodness. Hanson family + graduation = ......disaster (on a very, very big scale).

 

(cut to later that day at the swimming pool)

 

".......Anna, you're late........"

"....I know I'm late, I couldn't get a lift.....I had to catch the rail and you know what the rail's like at this time of night....people everywhere....I got swept away in a crowd for fifteen minutes and------"

"----you think that excuse is going to cut it with me......?"

".....no, I really don't think it is.......but I thought I might as well give it a try......."

I grinned hopefully at my swimming coach, Tom. Given my overt talent for getting out of any situation in a positive light.....I still couldn't match it with him. He had me down pat, and I hate people like that. I knew only two other people that I couldn't wrap around my finger - Taylor and my mother. But Taylor was just too beautiful for me to mind it much and there wasn't anything I could do about my mother considering that whole blood link situation.

"......in the weights room and give me half an hour of gym work......"

Gym work?! No......not gym work......I hate gym work......

".....you're kidding me.......?"

".....have I ever kidded you, Anna......?" he smiled pleasantly.

Damn him.

 

(cut to half an hour later)

 

In pain. In very intense pain.

I'm never going to be late to training again. I'm blaming.....who can I blame for this? All those annoying people at school that know who I'm dating. Maybe that holiday pinboard wasn't the greatest idea. But what was I supposed to do? Submit myself to the pain of not looking at Taylor's beautiful face for two months? But if I hadn't done the holiday pinboard then no one would have found out (besides those certain two people that I had to tell) and then the incident this afternoon wouldn't have happened then I wouldn't have over-daydreamed and then I wouldn't have been late to training.

I'm just going to blame all those annoying people at school. They shouldn't have stuck their noses in! Who cares who I date? Who cares if he's famous (or was famous)?!

"......Anna........lovely to see you again.......want to hop in the pool and give me thirty........?"

".......want to.......? No, I don't want to...!!"

".....well, then you're just going to have to, won't you......?"

"....bite me, Tom....."

Nevertheless I pulled off my trackpants and dove in.

Water's supposed to be soothing, isn't it?