Chapter 13 - 'The Ergonomic Value of Airport Chairs'.

Zac

(early the next morning at the breakfast table - for interest's sake Isaac is eating his high-fibre muesli {now obtained from a health store in Sherwood Oaks}, Zac his Frosties - whilst playing with the free plastic figurine, and Taylor a strong black coffee and two pieces of buttered rye toast)

 

".......I.....have a girlfriend....."

"....oh, right.....what, that blow-up one you sent away for from Taiwan was delivered this morning....?"

Tay smirked over his coffee.

I think he's of the impression that drinking black coffee makes him something of a man.

But he's not fooling anyone.

"....it's a pity you have Anna now, since I'd have really good comeback if you were still pathetic and single...."

"....so who's this elusive girlfriend, Zac.....?" Ike asked, with milk (containing a few random muesli bits and a raisin) dribbling down his chin.

You never ask Ike to rush his eating. If California thought they'd seen natural disasters, they'd seen nothing until Ike's eating was rushed.

"....her name's Isabelle.....Izzy...."

".....Isabelle what....?"

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

"....her last name....?"

"....I don't know....." I shrugged, taking a mouthful of my Frosties.

".....you've got a really deep relationship going there Zac....does she really exist or is she just a figment of your overactive imagination....?"

"....coming from the guy who had an imaginary group of friends called the Woogies when he was eight, I wouldn't be talking to me about figments of my imagination...."

Tay gave me an evil eye.

Ike laughed.

More milk was sprayed over us all.

"....the Woogies, I remember them Tay......weren't they the ones that lived in the bathroom cabinet and came out whenever you were in the tub....?"

".....meanwhile, we're running late for our flight.....so do you mind leaving the Woogies out of the conversation and getting into the car...?"

He tossed his head back, swallowing the last sugary remains of his coffee before shoving his toast in his mouth.

"......ooh, Tay Tay's pissed off....."

"....Tay Tay's going to be even more pissed off if you don't shut up, get your bags and get into the car now....."

Ike and I looked at each other.

"...sexual tension...."

"...it has to be..."

"....get in the fricking car, damn it....!!"

 

Funnily enough, we were at the airport about twenty minutes early.

 

Taylor

 

If a worldwide survey on the ergonomic value of chairs was undertaken, I would be mightily surprised if airport chairs didn't get the vote for the most uncomfortable, slippery pieces of crap ever created. I don't know whose spine they supposedly moulded them to, but the person had to be deformed or something. Any normal person didn't have a spine shaped like that.

The American Association of Physiotherapists should lobby against them or something.

"....Tay, you want a drink or something....?"

I shook my head "....nah, thanks anyway...."

"....some gum for minty fresh breath....?" Ike grinned cheesily.

"....that could work....thanks........"

"....Jason's coming with us, so you'll be okay....?"

".....I'll be fine...." I wiped my palms on my shirt. They were getting a little sweaty and there wasn't much point in wiping them on my pants seeing as, well, you'd have that Slip 'n Slide effect going.

Another bad thing about airport seats - leather sticks to them. I didn't want to think about when the time came to prise myself out of the chair.

Ooh. A loose thread on the hem of my shirt.

It's funny (or not) the things you find interesting when you're just about to get something you've been waiting for for months and time is passing slower than you ever thought possible.

The Airport PA system came on - well, I assumed it had because this loud static-ky noise vibrated through the terminal.

".....Flight 454 to Chicago, Illinois from Los Angeles, California is ready to board at Gate 5.....Passengers please make your way towards Gate 5 with boarding passes ready......"

I ran my hand through my hair and wiped the sweat beads starting to form on my cheeks and under the steel rimmed frames of my prescription glasses. Maybe maroon leather pants and a navy printed t-shirt was a little overdressed for a summer day in LA. Chicago summers are usually colder than Californian ones, right?

Zac, Ike and Jason ambled over with their bags over their shoulders, drinking from jumbo bottles of water. Well, Zac had iced tea, but Jason and Ike had water.

"....your PK, Tay.....for that fresh minty taste that refreshes your breath......" Zac grinned cheesily, holding the packet up beside his face.

"....the flight's been called Tay, hasn't it....?"

"....oh yeah dude.....we should be going....."

We wandered over to the boarding gates. I think we were the only people besides a thirty year old business man and an elderly couple in matching His and Hers parachute material tracksuits actually leaving LA for Chicago during the summer.

I thought parachute material was banned after 1992. Didn't it turn out to be highly flammable or something?

Anyway, after handing over our tickets and being directed to first class (heck, we never fly first class but since dad wasn't travelling with us he thought this would be 'safer') we tripped off down the claustrophobic hall leading into the plane.

Why is it that stewardesses always wear frosted peach lipstick? They must have bought in bulk before the production of the colour stopped in like 1990.

Zac flopped down on the seat and stretched himself out.

"....ahh....I could get used to this......leg room.....and non-vinyl upholstered chairs......gee Tay, you must be happy your pants won't stick to the seats like they do in economy......"

"....can't you go on a cockpit tour or something....?" I glared at him.

".....uh Tay, not a good idea if you want us to reach Chicago with limbs intact...." Ike grinned.

"....they'd better be showing a good inflight movie...." I muttered

"....the flight's only two hours so they're showing 'classic' Friends episodes...." Zac commented, looking at the inflight magazine. I didn't bother reading those - inflight magazines were notoriously, well...crap.

".....when was Friends ever so good that you could call repeats 'classics'? Seinfeld and M*A*S*H, I fully understand, but Friends.....?"

"....you're the one that had the crush on Jennifer Aniston....what was it? Two and a half years ago...."

".....remind me again never to mention saying on national radio some actress is attractive....or that I like red jellybeans.......everyone likes red jellybeans for God's sakes, it's not like I'm the only one...."

".....I don't, I like black ones...."

"....well, 'everyone' doesn't encompass you.....I meant non-alien lifeforms...."

"...oh, ha ha, Tay, you kill me with your wit and sarcasm...."

"....what was that thing you said again? 'All you could need - Jennifer Aniston and some jellybeans'......deep Tay, really deep....." Ike snickered.

"....coming from the guy who said 'if we weren't doing what we wanted to do, then it would just be....weird....."

".....we were in a foreign country, it was excusable...."

"....we were in Australia when I said the Jennifer Aniston thing....that's a foreign country...."

"...Australians speak English you moron....that presenter dude speaking in Mandarin or whatever the heck the language it was, confused me...."

"....oh poor baby..."

".....look, the both of you have said some dumbass thing over the times....deal....move on.......meanwhile, don't they have those colouring-in sheets in first class.....?"

 

(cut to later in the luxurious first class plane ride to Chicago)

 

However many times I travelled by air I still got nauseous during the landing. My stomach contents felt like they were weathering some stormy conditions and my head was about to burst with all the pressure.

Probably adding to that was the fact that Anna was down there in the airport and the mixture of travel sickness and high anticipation was a lethal cocktail.

"....Ike, Tay's looking kind of green....."

"....I suggest you get that puke bag out real quick...."

Thankfully Zac did just that, and my breakfast utilised the afore mentioned plastic bag. I won't tell you what it looked like, but considering what I'd eaten three hours before it wasn't pretty.

"......good luck getting Anna to kiss you now, Tay Tay....."

"......urrrrrrrgh......"

"......was that a groan....?"

".....I think it was, Zac...............give him some of your icea tea will you...?"

"....Tay? Iced tea....?" Zac waved the bottle of probably now lukewarm raspberry liquid in front of my face.

"....thanks...."

Anything to get that disgusting taste out of my mouth.

"....you'd better not backwash....."

".....you were intending to drink out of that afterwards....?"

".......you might want some gum as well Tay......chew really fast....."

"....good idea...."

".....you may remove your seatbelts now gentlemen....we hope you enjoyed your flight...."

"....very much, thankyou...." Ike smiled at the stewardess with that polite 'I'm a fully fledged grown-up now' smile thing he had going on recently.

Because you know women who wear frosted peach lipstick are just so attractive.

"...the exits are just to your right..."

"...thanks..."

I managed to stand up and open the overhead compartment to retrieve my backpack and the suitbag with all of our suits for the graduation ceremony in it.

Dad had recommended against wearing any form of leather just in case there was some trouble. It was probably a good idea considering it was a Catholic all-girls school graduation ceremony we were attending. Leather probably didn't exist in their realm.

"...Tay, you sure you're okay....?"

"....fine....I'm fine.....just dandy...."

"....Ike, don't worry about him, dude....he'll perk up as soon as he sees the lovely Anna...."

 

Perk up? I think I'm going to puke up. Again.

 

(cut to walking into the terminal and Taylor chewing his gum furiously for the last two seconds before he took it out upon seeing his girlfriend).

 

Where in the hell am I going to put this gum? It was still warm and sticking my fingers together like superglue.

Okay, my index finger and thumb are now permanently stuck to each other.

"....uh....Taylor....?" I looked up and found Anna right in front of me - blue-uniformed and straw-hatted.

How did she get there? Well, Tay, maybe she walked ?

".....'hello' at this point is generally acknowledged as a fitting greeting....."

"....it is? I thought this was...." I grabbed her by the waist, drawing her towards me and pressing my lips to hers.

".....that...works too...." she murmured into my hair ".....God, I've missed you......"

"....so that was what that weird heart pain was? I thought I had angina....."

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

"....I love this....." I gestured at her uniform "....too....sexy....."

"....isn't it just......" she put her hands on her hips and made a slow turn, before pausing abruptly ".....are you wearing shorts, Taylor Hanson....?"

"...that I am...."

I'd changed on the plane into a pair of khaki shorts. It was way too hot for leather.

I never thought I'd say that in my lifetime, but yes, it was too hot for leather.

"....and your glasses....." she gasped and placed her hand over her mouth "....so this is what happens when I leave you alone for two months....I should do this more often....."

"....are you telling me you don't like my renowned fashion sense....?"

"....renowned? More like infamous...."

".....this coming from someone wearing a straw hat and knee high socks......"

".......ANNA.......!!!"

".......ZAC.........!!!" she mimicked him, waving her arms around over her head "....how are ya buddy.....?"

They bear hugged each other.

"....just peachy.....nice uniform by the way...."

"....you like....?" she grinned "....hey Ike...."

"...hey Anna, how you doing.....?"

"....good.....and your hair looks beautiful, I just have to ruffle it....." She stuck her hand up and brushed his head a few times over "....nice....now gimme a hug....."

"...gladly....." he grinned.

"....aww.....I feel a group hug coming on....." Zac crooned, grabbing my arm and Anna and Ike and throwing himself and all of us together in something resembling a WWF wrestling move.

I wish he wasn't so strong. I think I've fractured my collarbone.

 

(cut to later that day)

 

".....come up to the boarding house, I want to show you around....."

"......ah......An, is that really the best idea.....?"

".....well, I don't have any better ones, Chicago isn't the tourist hub of the States you know....."

".....I mean in light of there being tons of teenage girls in a small enclosed space...."

"....ooh, and that teeny tiny rule of guys not being allowed in the boarding house unsupervised.....forgot about that....." she cringed.

"....see what I mean.....?"

".....but you've forgotten one thing Tay...."

"....and what's that....?"

"....I'm Anna McLaren...."

"....wow....well, that's just....it's the answer to all our problems isn't it....?" I replied sarcastically.

"....ye of little faith....I've got an idea, I'll be back in ten...."

"....why am I worried already....?"

"....because you haven't properly learnt to deal with stress...?" she shrugged and smiled "....I don't know.......bye....."

"....bye....."

I shook my head as she dashed out of the hotel room door.

I have a really weird girlfriend.

 

(cut to Anna's return and Taylor's discovery of her plan)

 

"....okay.....this should do....."

".....this should do what....?"

"......fit you....."

".....there is no way....." I shook my head violently "....you're not getting me to wear that...."

"....Taylor, it's the only way I can get you into the boarding house...."

"....fine then, I won't go to the boarding house, no biggie..." I shrugged, planting myself on the sofa.

".....don't you want to see the place I've lived in for the past four years....?"

"....not if I have to wear that hideous dress to do it....!!"

"....hey, I wear that 'hideous dress' everyday....it's bearable......"

"....you're a girl...!! It's supposed to be bearable for you! Guys don't wear dresses, even if they're nice dresses! And I'm not going to wear any dress, especially not a hideous one like that...!!!" I pointed savagely at the blue uniform on the sofa.

I am not wearing a dress. What would that do do our already shaky male reputation? Yeah, that's right. It would die a slow, painful and very public death.

"....you're such a wuss....."

".....me, a wuss? I am not......!!!"

"....you are too.....!!"

"...well, this conversation's really mature...."

"...you started it....if you'd just accepted my plan gratefully, all would be well....."

"....I did not start it....!!"

"....did too....!!"

 

(cut to five minutes later)

 

I tugged at my collar in the mirror.

"...now, Ike has stooped low for girls....but Tay, this just....you have stooped to an all-time low......this...is pathetic....." Zac shook his head in disgust.

"....and it's all in the genes, baby...." I made an evil cackle at Zac. I don't know what scared him most - the bad impression or the reality that he'd probably be going to such extremes in two years time for some random girl - but a look of pure horror crossed his face.

"....NO, it can't be true...!!" He gasped in terror, clutching at his t-shirt, and then ran from the room screaming like something had possessed him The Exorcist-esque. The thing with Zac is that things get taken to the furthest possible level - and that's generally pretty funny. Don't tell him that though.

He walked back into the room, with a composed look on his face as he flopped back on to the bed.

"...so....you're going to look like a really big dick today, Tay..."

"....yeah, a really big dick in a skirt..."

"...that was good..."

"....I know...I am good..."

"...Tay, you're wearing a skirt....skirt plus guy does not equal good...."

".....I think I look pretty....." I pouted at him.

"...your legs are too hairy, Tay....I think you should consider some hair removal techniques....but otherwise, you look very feminine..."

"...why thankyou....I think..."

 

nd with that I perched the straw hat on my head and sashayed out of the room.

 

Zac

(cut to graduation ceremony that night where the Hanson and McLaren families took up a whole row of uncomfortable gym seats. Well, I'd say mainly the Hansons took up the whole row. But that's just me.)

 

".....Welcome esteemed guests, parents, students and friends, to the final assembly and graduation ceremony of 1999......it has been both a chaotic and fruitful year for St Scholastica's School, just like any other in our 145 year history, and our students have enjoyed the frantic pace wholeheartedly....that is, they behave as if they had----"

"....geez, Tay, this woman's a riot....."

Tay snickered "....in where? Tallahassee maybe...?"

"....yeah, don't get too much of that there humour down in Tallahassee....."

"----our students have continued to excel both in academic and sporting arenas and have enjoyed the many extra-curricular activities we have to offer at our fine school----"

Blah, blah. So the woman chattered on for a good 45 minutes, 10 seconds and 34 milliseconds.

And I like my digital watch.

Apparently my heart beat was static at about 68 beats per minute for the whole of the speech. If she'd kept it up I would have been dead an hour later for sure.

".....but without further adieu, I will introduce to you our valedictorian for 1999.....shall I say, valedictorians.....for only the second year in the history of St Scholastica's we have two girls on equal academic merit.......these are our head girl and deputy respectively, Annesley Yamamoto McLaren and Harper Wilkinson......girls, come forward and receive your honours...."

Tay looked as if he was going to burst with pride. Kind of like how I imagined that Violet Beauregard character in that book 'Charlie And The Chocolate Factory' when she swelled up like a grape. Yeah. Well. Mmhm.

Tay actually had a really good wolf whistle.

Mental note : get him to teach me on the way home.

Anna and the girl who I guessed was Harper, stood awkwardly in front of the podium.

".....Ladies and gentlemen....I deeply regret that you will have to endure only one of us speaking tonight and that the one speaking to you will be me.....I'll try and make this as pain-free an experience as possible....." she smiled at the audience's laughter ".....I have been told, by many a wise-old owl that your high school years are the best of your life......and every time they told me this, all I could think was 'tell me something I don't know'.....the fact is that one can't help being touched by the high school experience, and while I'm apt to think that's partly the fault of abnormal hormone levels, I've also come to realise that we were given these four years together for a reason. We were given them like a gardener gives a plant fertiliser - to grow and flourish. Someone planted this Senior class, fed us with four years of friendship and hard work and laughter, and just now we've begun to bloom. It's funny that just as soon as we're showing off to the world, we're going to be uprooted. Some will be replanted in Boston....some in California, Maine, Connecticut and Virginia. But somehow I don't think any of us will ever forget where we were first planted, who our fellow plants were nor who tended us so carefully. Well......this plant imagery is beginning to get painful and I promised you I'd stop before I inflicted any permanent damage so I'd just like to say thanks to my Senior class.....thanks for the good and bad times, because God knows, I only survived them with your help......thankyou......."

And so the sky-blue and white robed girls sobbed with emotion, clutching on to their scrolls and flipping that annoying tassel out of their faces. Sometimes I felt sad thinking about how I'd never get to flip my own annoying tassel out of my face, but then, you know, I realised I'd have the best senior class ever.

All eight of us.

Aw.

 

(cut to after another 45 minutes of prizegiving)

 

My hands were beginning to get sore. People in Illinois feel the need to clap everything. It's like "Hello" - clap. "Welcome" - clap. "to" - clap. "this" - clap. Well, you get the idea.

"......now our renowned brass band and vocal quintet will join together to perform for the very last time under the leadership of Annesley McLaren and Asher Eidelman respectively.....our music master, Mr Denny will accompany Anna who will tonight, in a surprise performance, be singing the lead vocal of the Old English song 'Abide With Me'....."

More applause. As if the world needed any more applause.

Wait a minute. Did that woman just say Anna was singing?

Anna sings?

".....uh......Tay......? She sings too....? Geez, if she got any more multi-talented I could puke...."

"....I......uh........didn't know about this........"

".....wonder if she's any good.....?" Ike commented like the consummate professional music dude that he is.

"....Tay....." Dad whispered loudly across the row.

"....what....?" Tay whispered loudly back.

"....you didn't tell me Anna was singing......"

"....I didn't know Anna was singing....."

I looked over at mom who was looking kind of wistfully at the band on the stage (probably thinking about her own musical youth) while balancing Georgie on her lap.

Georgie was trying to eat her hand by the looks of things.

Dad had turned to Anna's mom and was probably quizzing her on this Anna singing revelation.

Meanwhile, Avie was squirming in her seat (so was I, those seats were damn uncomfortable), Mackie was trying to stand on his seat so he could see something over the abnormally tall guy sitting in front of him, Ike was playing rock-paper-scissors with Zoe absent-mindedly and Jess was sitting rigidly in her seat, with her fingers crossed, eying the stage with interest.

"....why are your fingers crossed, Jess......?"

".....no reason....."

"....I'm sure...."

"....so I want her to be crap at something, okay....?"

I think Jess had some real issues with Tay dating. Funny, because you'd think that role would be filled by mom. Mom on the contrary loved Anna and thought she was Tay's best girlfriend yet.

A quiet piano intro filled the hall, with the rising sound of the brass band swelling in the background. And then it happened. We heard her voice.

And it was low and throaty, and with the other voices and instruments just reverberated through your soul like Billie Holiday's 'Strange Fruit'. Well, maybe that was an exaggeration, but it sure was.....nice. Amazing even.

"....oh my God......" Tay muttered.

"....damn....." Jess mumbled.

"....oh, yeah.....she's good....." Ike nodded his head in what could only be described as awe. Not that I get how you could be awe-struck for a female voice that you could never have (except if you were a pre-pubescent Tay, but that's another story).

And I was kind of silent. The song struck you down like a bolt of lightning in a thunderstorm - completely unexpected and sending this electrical current running through your body. I was sure I'd heard it before at the FA Cup final or something. But then again, soccer fans aren't all that coherant, not to mention that lack of musical talent they've got and all.

".....Abide with me, fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide. When others helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me. I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless; Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness. Where is death's sting? Where, grave, that victory? I triumph still, if Thou abide with me. Hold Thou thy cross before my closen eyes. Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies. Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee; In life in death, O Lord, abide with me, In life in death, O Lord, abide with me......"

"....what was the deal with that....?"

".....be darned if I know...." Ike shrugged an awe-struck shrug, answering - or not so answering - my question.

And Tay, though he thought we couldn't see in the darkly lit room, was a little moist under the eyes and pink in the cheeks.

Neither me or Ike said anything, because we were lucky enough to have previously concocted the world's greatest scheme to detract attention from a crying male. And there wasn't any need to pay Tay out just because he hadn't been let in on the secret.

So Hanson men do cry.

They just get rid of the evidence pretty darn well. If we do say so ourselves.

 

(after two and a half hours of ceremony)

 

".....hey Anna.....you know, we appreciate the gesture and all, but your voice......well, it's crap....."

"....don't listen to him, honey, you were great....."

".....mom, I was joking......Anna knows I'm joking, right.....?"

"......yeah, I know you're just jealous of my overwhelming talent and turn spiteful on such occasions......" Anna grinned at me.

".....I can't believe you didn't tell me......"

"....tell you what....? I didn't know I was valedictorian until this afternoon....."

"....I meant the singing....."

"......well, I wanted to surprise you.....you never can get enough of the element of surprise, can you....?"

".....I can......"

".....yes, but you're Taylor Hanson.....you're a lot of things other people aren't....."

 

A squeal erupted behind us.

".....Oh my God it really is Taylor Hanson......."

 

Me, Anna, Tay and Ike looked at each other.

 

".....oh shit......."

 

Run for your lives.

.

Chapter 14 - 'Take me to Sunset Park'

Anna
 

There isn't a person in the world that could cultivate more personal entrancement than Taylor Hanson. You'd think that the ability to be entranced by someone would wear off in, say, a year or so. But so far Taylor seemed to be generating more entrancement for one individual (me) than a nuclear power plant in a worldwide coal shortage.

Taylor cultivates levels of entrancement though, topped by the Taylor-playing-the-piano-or-singing level. Music brings to him what a halo of light does to an angel. It completes him in a way I could never begin to comprehend. And it somehow made him more beautiful to the eye.

He'd always catch me staring and I'd always do the vague nonchalant sweep of the room with my eyes, mutter 'so it isn't in here then' and pretend as though I'd only been there a few moments - even though he knew fully well I'd been ogling him for half an hour from the door.

Today, instead of the usual routine, I walked over and sat next to him on the piano seat.

I then stretched my fingers and proceeded to play a lively rendition of 'chopsticks'.

"....chopsticks.....very nice......" said he who was so entrancing, with a smirk.

"....come on then....sing me a song, you're the Piano Man.....sing me a song tonight...."

"....aha......" he pointed at me, shaking his hair out of his face with a grin ".....a Billy Joel connotation.....we're doing well......"

He put his head down and played the intro to Billy Joel's Piano Man.

Then he stopped abruptly at the part where the harmonica usually took over "....you can't play harmonica can you, An.....?"

I raised an eyebrow "....yep, I'm a regular John Popper, Taylor....." I paused ".....which reminds me, what's going on with this guest appearance thing....?"

".....next week I think.....and, you know, Jonny Lang and Rose Stone......"

"....this album's going to be impressive....."

"....it could be....I don't know how people will take it though, y'know....?"

"....now that you're competing with Britney, you mean.....?" I snickered.

"...well, kind of........what's happening at the moment out there......it's all a bit, I don't know, not where we're headed I guess. We've kind of moved on from MMMBop and everyone else is kind of resurrecting it in the meantime....."

"....the resurrection of MMMBop.....and It rose again on the Third Day in accordance with the scriptures....."

He laughed and pushed his hair out of his face again. Taylor Hanson - the only earth-bound boy with bangs.

".....I love you, Anna......." he looked at me shyly. As if there was any possibility of my not returning the gesture.

"....I love you too.....but what brought that on......?"

".....I don't know.....must be, like, all that rush of emotion now you're in LA......"

"....I think it might be the rush of heat.....I feel like I'm permanently wedged in a fan-forced oven for God's sakes...." I pulled my shorts from my legs where they were sticking with avengance like plastic to the side of a toaster (I should know, I managed to fuse the plastic bag around a loaf of bread to the side of the Hanson's toaster yesterday).

".....the heat has its good points....."

"....tell me one and I'll give you a dollar....."

"....seeing you in skimpy clothing....."

I lifted my shoulders and shook my head, clucking "....nope....sorry, no dollar....."

".....that's a good point.....!! I deserve that dollar.....!" he threw his hands up in the air in protest.

"......Taylor, I don't wear skimpy clothing....."

"....you should....."

"......I think you just lost that dollar, baby. But if you play me something I'll give it to you....you can be like my little performing monkey....."

"....what an honour......" he replied sardonically, before playing a quite lovely chromatic scale.

 

Zac

(cut to the second-Hanson-house in the Hollywood hills)

 

"....why don't I ever get that, huh....?"

Ike waved his hand at Taylor and Anna who were lying entangled together on a deck chair that was much too small for two bodies. Actually I think they were more gripping to each other to stop themselves from falling off the afore mentioned chair than for any sexual intentions (well, you never really knew with those two). Nevertheless, the scene was something you'd expect to see on the front cover of a Mills and Boon book...all in a pretty little watercolour done by a single woman in her 40's who got heart palpitations whenever 'Sammy' and 'Brad' finally just bumped into each other on a deserted tropical island with lots of white sand and blue sea and suntan oil to be rubbed on each other.

Okay. I think this is time for 'the chat'.

Even though normally someone older is supposed to be the chatter and someone younger the chattee, I was just going to have to take it upon myself to tell it how it was.

"....I'll tell you why you don't get that Ike.....because you, my dear brother, are way too intimidated by girls who are smart and go for dumb ones who have a lot on the outside but nothing on the inside, you go for girls that drool over you instead of working up the guts to ask out some girl that might say no that you'd be way happier with if you did get together, you need to dump that moron of a girl you're half dating/half not dating because, hell, you don't even like her anyway and you're just scared of her and her dumb popular high school possy which I don't get anyway because you're not and never have been at normal high school, and then you're just going to have to wait until the girl you're destined to meet comes along so then you won't be so damn confused about who in the heck you should be dating and how guilty you are about sleazing on to the girl of your dreams because there's a dumb relationship hanging over your head....so, yes, that's why you don't have that Ike...." I pointed at Anna and Tay (who were definitely getting sexual now) "...but that can all change and you can be a happy chappie just like Tay......because, gee, Ike...you're my older bro and you deserve it, you know....?"

"......uh, thanks.........I think........"

He looked at me dazedly and squinted his eye.

"....I'm gonna get some dramamine and take a nap...."

"...you do that, Ike--------and think about what I said will ya......?!" I yelled at his swiftly disappearing brown back.

I lazed back in the deck chair thoughtfully.

I think I'll leave 'the chat' to dad in future. But all in all it wasn't a bad effort.

 

(much later that night after returning from the studio)

 

Late nights bring out the best in your personality, I find. And tonight wasn't any exception.

We were sitting around the kitchen table - me, Anna, Tay and Ike. Ike was sleeping with his head on the table, drooling on his sleeve and snoring kinda loudly; Tay was hyper and talking a lot but not making much (or any) sense; Anna was putting things away or washing up or dusting or sweeping - I think she was an obsessive late-night cleaner; and I observed. I'm a late-night observer.

I observed Anna putting four glasses of milk and a packet of oreos in the middle of the table.

"---oh, I don't think we need that last glass, Ike's kinda out of it, An, don't you think? He's drooling on himself and all, but I guess Zac can drink Ike's milk, can't you Zac? Yeah, I'm sure you can Zac. Oreo's at two in the morning? Is that really a good idea, An? I mean, all that sugar and stuff, it'll be like a huge head explosion. I mean, you'll get like a sugar hangover in the morning and-----"

"....Tay honey, just drink your milk okay....?" Anna smiled at me and raised her eyebrows, pushing the glass in Tay's direction before picking up her own.

I opened the packet of Oreos and pulled out one of those heaven-sent creations.

You know, the way people eat Oreos are also kinda insightful.

Anna and Tay were both dunkers. Except Anna tended to leave her Oreo in the milk so long that when it came to take it out most of the pulpy biscuit would fall back into the milk and make a chocolatey sediment down the bottom of the glass.

Tay was more of your wet the biscuit twice and eat it half at a time kind of guy, but was nevertheless a dunker.

I was whole non-dunked biscuit all the way. You always got a lot more biscuits that way since you skipped a lot of the time that dunking took up.

Ike (if he was awake and not drowning in his own saliva) would have been your immortal half the biscuit and lick the cream out guy.

He suddenly let out a loud snort and mumbled something along the lines of ".......no.......not that Les Paul......you can't-----Muchos Grazias, Espanol......"

Anna, Tay and I cracked up in silent laughter.

"....Muchos Grazias, Espanol......?!"

Anna had her head on the table and all you could see was her whole body convulsing, a few deep slurping breaths escaping under the mop of hair.

Tay had his head thrown back and was bright tomato red in colour.

It's weird how everything's so much funnier late at night.

All of a sudden the laughter ended and Anna and Tay somehow started going for it at the table, Tay's elbow flying into a glass of milk which then tipped all over the table top. One more minute - I observed - and they'd be on the table. The pool of milk had run to the edges and you could hear the drips tapping onto the floor rhythmically.

Tay looked like he was a good kisser.

Then again, Tay was good at most things. Kissing was just another inclusion to the long list.

I observed I should go to bed.

"....er.......night Tay....night Anna......."

They both waved with one hand, their faces suctioned to each other like a plunger to a drain.

Hopefully kissing is more romantic than that analogy or I don't have too much to look forward to later in life.

Unless I get into Uncle Dave's plumbing business, that is.

 

(cut to early.....no, very early the next morning)

 

I yawned and rubbed my eyes. I could swear on everything I hold sacred I heard someone outside in the pool.

I peered under the curtains in our bedroom to see that, yes, indeed there was someone in the pool. A tall, thin someone who looked very....female. It was either Anna or someone that had decided our pool looked kinda nice and hopped in for a quick dip.

Maybe I should go investigate. Just for, you know, the safety of the family.

No, it's pretty likely it's Anna. I could see the dim outline of only one body in the trundle bed. Normally Anna crept into Taylor's bed at some early hour of the morning or vice versa. They never did anything, they just slept in the same bed whispering sweet nothings to each other under the blankets.

Oops. I think that's Tay's leg.

"....What the-----" he grunted.

I hot footed it out of the room and down the stairs.

Grabbing a blanket, I pulled it around my shoulders before stepping out on the patio.

I wandered around for a minute deciding on which of the deck chairs would be mine today (ah, the complex decisions of life in Hollywood) before sitting myself on the third chair from the left and watching her turn effortless laps of the pool. She could do those cool turn thingies. You know the ones with somersaults in them?

Anna in water was like a completely different person to Anna on land. Anna in water had grace. Anna on land......didn't.

There was no doubt about it - she was good. I had no idea about swimming and I could tell she was good.

She surfaced and blew a spurt of water out of her mouth which cascaded back into the pool.

"....morning Zac......what are you doing up this early.....?"

She pulled the goggles from her eyes revealing some reddish dents where they had previously been suctioned to her head. I just love swimmers in that get-up. Whoever designed goggles and/or swimming caps was obviously thinking of the quickest way to make people look like extra-terrestrial beings.

"......it's......" I looked at my watch "......Five seventeen.......?! It can't be...!! This ruins my long-running title hold on last-waking-Hanson-member......!!"

"....what did you win for that...? A blue ribbon on your comforter......?" she called from the pool.

I watched her as she lifted herself out of the pool, foregoing the ladder at the opposite end.

The girl had muscle. Like heaps of muscle. Do I feel inadequate? Yes, I do.

I think some pumping of iron is in order today. Now the only question is where I can find some iron to pump.

"....whoa.....you've been working out......"

She smiled and shrugged "....tell it to my coach, Tom.....he's a dictator with a penchant for weights....."

".....your coach......?"

"....yes, my coach....."

"....you have a coach.....?"

".....it's generally acknowledged to be a good idea for people that swim for their state, Zac....."

".....I didn't know you swam state level.......no one tells me anything around here...." I threw my hands up in protest.

"......well, I do.....for Illinois......" she cringed as she pulled the swimming cap from her head and shook out her hair "....but I think I've reached the point at which I can get no better. I have plateaued off....."

She bent down to pick up her towel.

Yep. There was no doubt about it. The girl had everything - not the least a really good body. Like, a really, really good one.

The distinctive sound of the sliding door to the patio announced Tay's entrance.

"....g'morning......" Anna smiled, drying herself off with a towel.

If she was hoping Tay was going to be equally as cheery at five in the morning (even with her in speedos), she had another thing coming.

He looked at her, ran his hand through his hair and grunted "morning" with a half smile.

"....you really aren't morning people, are you....?"

Tay grunted, flopping down on the deck chair next to me.

"....enough said, then....." Anna rolled her eyes "......well......" she pulled on a pair of tracksuit pants and trainers "......I have to go to meet my temporary coach, so hand over your keys Taylor......" she held out her hand.

Tay grunted.

"....you have a temporary coach.....?!"

She has a temporary coach?!

"....well, I'll be here for three months. I need someone to train me....I've got trials in eight weeks....."

".....you've got trials.....?"

"....junior nationals, Zac...." she glared at me "....and I'm going to flick you with this towel if you don't stop repeating everything I say.....we're drilled long and hard in the art of towel flicking.....so be afraid, be very afraid......"

"....oh, I'm suitably afraid......just cowering over here in my boxers......"

The sliding door sounded again, announcing Avie's panting arrival.

".....Anna......." she said scoldingly ".....have you already gone for a swim....? You were supposed to wait for me......."

".....I'm going to meet my new coach, so you're coming with me to check him out, okay Ave.....? I need your expert opinion......."

".....cool......" Avie grinned "....I'll just go change......"

"......change ? What do you need to change for Ave.....?"

Anna called at Avie's back which disappeared inside. She turned to Taylor.

"......now, the keys for the car, I'm on a tight schedule here......"

"......they're inside.......you want me to come? You're not exactly used to driving it......"

".....and being that you're so conscious right now, you coming with us is going to aid my driving so very much......."

"....it's my car...." he grumbled.

".....Taylor, I don't care if you come or not.....I'm just running late already, so you might want to put some clothes on sometime in the next two seconds......"

He got up and wandered inside, weaving side to side dragging his feet.

".....I'm ready......" Avie launched herself out the door on to the patio in a hooded blue adidas sweater and some three quarter cargo pants with a towel around her neck.

".....you, my girl, are getting far too trendy for my liking.....you're upstaging me and I don't particularly like it......."

".....what can I say....?" Avie posed with her hand on her hip ".....some of us have it, and some of us don't....."

Avie certainly had it. My little sister was going to be one hot chick when she got older.

She and Anna laughed.

Tay reappeared from inside in a pair of shorts, brown sandals and an orange shirt that looked distinctly.......mine.

"....Hey....that's my shirt.....!!"

He looked down at it for a moment thoughtfully "....so it is....."

He was too unconscious for any issue-making to be fun.

"....can we go now.....?" Anna said restlessly, swinging her arms back and forth around her body.

"....you sure you don't want me to come, Anna.......? I could be your towel boy....."

She glared at me.

Some people just can't take a joke.

 

Anna

(cut to the pool)

 

This tall guy with the bald head must be him. A herd of butterflies flew into my stomach.

"......John Mercury......?"

"....at your service......" he looked up at me from his clipboard. The clipboard, strangely enough, settled me. It was a staple accessory for a coach. He was just like any other of the coaches I'd had since I was five, with their clipboard and stopwatch. He wasn't, you know, a 7-time American Junior champion, Olympic qualifier and bronze medal winner. Not at all.

"......I'm Anna McLaren.......and this is America's future 100m breaststroke queen, Avery Hanson......"

Avery waved, taking one arm from its grip around my neck.

Thanks to Tom's weight regime I was now able to carry an eight year old on my back. A dubious achievement if I ever heard one.

"......Anna......Tom's protege, right.....? From all accounts I have two future greats of American swimming in front of me then......"

"......no, just the one of us, I'm afraid......." I thumbed at Avie.

He chuckled "....the famous sense of humour Tom told me about over the phone.........now, what's he got you on at the moment.....? 17 a week in the pool and 3 on weights.....?"

"......exactly.........though the weights always were an optional part of my training schedule......."

"......were they now.....? Tom also told me about your relationship, or lack thereof, with the weights room......."

Damn.

".....I guess three hours can't hurt then......" I muttered.

Tay wandered up behind us, looking around at his surroundings as if - for once - he was out of his league.

"......this is my boyfriend, Taylor......."

"....nice to meet you, son....." they shook hands, then he looked at me "....so training's going to be a family affair with you then....?"

".....no, I'm usually a loner.....just thought I'd get a good turnout for the first session....."

".....well, do you want to hop and give me a few laps then....? Freestyle, six beat kick........and then I'll get you to meet your training partner and the rest of the team....."

"....sure....." I set my bag down and proceeded to stuff my already well-chlorinated hair back into a cap.

Taylor yawned and stretched his arms over his head. He stood oh-so-close to the edge of the pool.

The kind of oh-so-close-to-the-edge-of-the-pool that made your fingertips tingle to be that final touch which sent the person straight in.

Avie was eying him thoughtfully with that twitching grin on her lips.

So she had the fingertip tingle too.

Ah. He's all hers.

".....Aaaaaaaaaaaviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeee............" was the last desperate cry were heard before the splash.

The long pairs of limbs failed in the water.

I covered my mouth with my hand. I doubled over with the pressure, gasping for air between the bursts of laughter. Avie was rolling about somewhere on the floor with tears in her eyes.

A sodden figure emerged from the pool ladder.

"....I will strike when you least expect it......rest assured, ladies, you will......I repeat.....you will pay......."

The finger was out pointing with avengeance.

"....ooh.....we're so scared......"

 

(cut to later that day)

 

"....if you were considering venturing outside, Ike, I'd be flatly against that move......"

".....venture outside.....? Are you insane, it's like 103 degrees out......"

".....I wish people would tell me these things earlier....."

I flopped into a chair. Oh sweet Jesus. It was purple vinyl.

To sit in a purple vinyl chair on an average Californian day is pure insanity. To do it on a 103 degree summer day is to tempt the devil. And a red PVC-wearing devil, at that. How was I ever going to remove myself from this seat? I was going to have to walk with a chair stuck to my behind for the rest of my life!

".....you didn't just sit in that vinyl chair did you.....?"

I glared at Isaac.

"....oh, so you did.....?"

".....I now have an extra four metal prongs attached to my backside, I'd watch what you were saying if I was you...."

".....did I ever tell you what a great person you are, Anna.....?"

"......that's it......some metal prong impaling is in order here......"

 

He dashed from the room as fast as his long spindly legs could carry him.

 

"....okay....." I breathed to myself ".....on the count of three......one......two.......threeeeeeeeeyeeeeeeeeowwwwwwwwwwwww.........."

I looked over my shoulder. Two bright red strips graced the backs of my thighs. I rubbed them tenderly.

 

Zac wandered into the room, took one glance at my legs and looked up at me.

 

"....you sat in the vinyl chair, didn't you.....?"

 

(cut to five minutes later)

 

For some insane reason I had this awful fear in the pit of my stomach. Maybe because this was just completely out of my league. Just the studio and everything. It was so Taylor's arena, like the pool was mine, and I just got the feeling I was trespassing on sacred ground. I just so wasn't one of those groupie type girls that made a career out of following a band around, but that was exactly what I'd be doing this summer and probably the summer after that too - unless the inevitable happened and the bug really did get washed from the windscreen.

I found the glass fronted room which I presumed to be the one I was directed to. A guy with a black cap on backwards, sat in front of a desk of black electronic instruments.

".....first line of verse one, Tay....I'd like to hear it again....."

"....'just a picture'....?"

"...yep...."

"......one, two, three, four.......and I waited for you.....just a picture and a feeling and your face....how could I forget your touch your warm embrace....? And the shoes you wore with long black satin lace...as you walked into my mind......As I walked into this old forgotten hall....just one look and I began to fall....wish I could frame you and this feeling on the wall.....to stare at 'till there is no time.....run, run, runaway run-----"

"....whoa there.......that was great, Tay....we'll take that one...."

The guy swivelled around on his chair.

"....hey, little lady......are you looking for someone...?"

"....Taylor actually...." I pointed at the red wifebeater-ed figure in the darkly lit room.

"....Anna.....hey......" Tay's voice was a little tinny as it came out of the speaker. He waved through the window with that extraordinary grin sliding on to his face "....Scott, dude, this is Anna, my girlfriend......"

"....the elusive Anna.....it's great to meet you finally...."

".....likewise...."

We shook hands.

"....Scott, are we done....?"

".....you're all done....I need Zac in here to fix up some backing vocals on this track though......I'll just call him on the intercom...."

"....cool......." Taylor set down the headphones on a music stand and walked to the door.

A few seconds later he appeared in the doorway.

"....I have this uncanny urge to say 'whoa baby' whenever I see you, why is that.....?" I observed, kissing his forehead which was slightly salty to taste.

"....feel free to say 'whoa baby' whenever you have that urge....really, it won't hurt....."

"....but I would like you to fit through doors in the future....without having to put you through a surgical draining procedure of ego from the cranial region...."

".....rest assured, my head has already expanded to it's full....headness...."

".....headness is not a word...."

"....yes it is....."

"...it is not.....you're getting worse than Zac with his self-composed vocabulary...."

"...what's in the bag....?"

"....well, I bought you a shirt....a very nice shirt if I do say so myself...." I handed him the bag.

He pulled out the funky white t-shirt (I'd all but stopped buying him shirts that actually aided circulation - he never ended up wearing them) with a random Greek message printed on it in vibrant turquoise.

".....where did you find this....? It's awesome....I love it....."

"....at this store in Santa Monica...you know I think I suddenly acquired this ability to buy good gifts for people....I used to get mom bath salts almost every Christmas, I don't know what happened...."

".....evolution.....?"

I grinned "....probably...."

He slid his arm around my waist.

"....so Anna, are you coming to our impromptu cards and cigar night....?" Scott swivelled to face us on his seat again.

"....impromptu? I thought you did it every night....?"

"....well, yeah.....but we vary the times......1am one night, 11pm the next---"

".....well, variety certaintly is the spice of life........what the heck, it might even be fun...."

".....it might? It might be fun....? This is more than fun...."

".....you all need to get out a little more, I think...."

 

 

Zac

(cut to later that day - Taylor recording vocals, Isaac holed up in a dark corner strumming to himself and musing over his Liesl predicament and Zac and Anna sipping sugared drinks and sitting on the floor in a random room in the studio establishment after a particularly vigorous game of ping pong)

 

"....so what's this I hear about you and a girl....?"

".....what girl.....?" I asked, juggling the soda around in the back of my mouth so it wouldn't dribble out the creases of my mouth and make my chin all sticky. Not to mention Tay's shirt. Tay would probably impale me on a microphone stand if I got his shirt dirty with orange soda.'Za-a-a-a-ac, that was like my favourite shirt!!' Every shirt the guy owned was his favourite! How was I supposed to know which I could spill orange soda on and which I couldn't?!

".....Izzy? Isabelle? Something like that....." Anna was doing the same with her soda, swallowing it before saying "....Tay mentioned her....."

"....Tay has a big mouth....."

"....and don't we all love that big mouth......so what's the deal with her.....?"

".....well, let's see....she turned out to be psychotic....."

"....you have an issue with that considering none of the people you hang out with, yourself included, really have a good grip on sanity....?"

"....but see, we're cool psychotic....she was weird psychotic....."

"....oh, I see....and she crossed that fine line between cool and weird...."

".....of course man....."

"....cool dude....." she exclaimed, with a mocking smile on her face.

I swotted the back of her head lightly.

".....hey....I'm holding you responsible for the loss of that brain cell...."

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

".....everytime you hit your head you lose a brain cell.....my teacher told me that in grade school when I hit my head on the desk accidently...."

"....why was your head anywhere near a desk....?"

"....well, I was moaning about someting or other melodramatically....and I flopped forward to put my head on the table, but bashed it on there really hard...."

".....I thought that melodramatic thing you've got going was like a puberty thing....."

"....no, I believe it was acquired it at birth..........so, not to pry or anything, when exactly did this pseudo-relationship end....?"

".....after the first date.....I took her to the movies and she cried through the whole thing...."

".....that's kind of normal......"

".....not for an action thriller it's not....."

"....oh...." she grimaced "....freak then....?"

"....oh yeah....."

"....don't worry Zac......one day you'll find your kindred spirit and then you'll be as blissfully happy as me and your androgenous older brother...."

"....excuse me if I don't leap with glee...."

"....personally I don't want to see you leaping anywhere considering your distinct lack of coordination....I saw those pre-fame videos and you really can't dance......"

".....I'm going to pretend you didn't say that and ask if you wanna come for a walk or something....."

".....too hot out....." she shrugged

"...so...?"

"....as enticing as melting into a puddle on the sidewalk is, I prefer cool air and the soothing discordant melodies of Ike over there....."

"....you could be like Alex Mack....."

"...no thankyou, I couldn't deal with all those moronic hats.....didn't Taylor date her once or something....?"

".....a date, as in singular.....they weren't exactly, compatible, shall we say....."

"....what a pity...."

"....ahhhh....!! The green-eyed monster......save us all from this envious girlfriend hell......!!"

"Zac"

"...yeah....?"

"Go on your walk"

 

(cut to outside - on a walk)

 

I wiped the sweat beads off my nose. Damn it was hot.

It was so hot you could almost see the asphalt road bubbling like molten lava or something. It was almost deserted out. Save for some truly insane ice cream vendors on the corners. Those guys deserved medals for heroism. Who in their right mind would stand outside for hours on end to sell a type of food that would melt into a sticky puddle the second it got out of the freezer?

The guys were all bronzed like the golden barbecued chickens you buy from take out stores, with curly tufts of hair in something like a three leaf clover pattern on their chests. Then of course, there were the customary gold chains and cotton shorts drained of any discernable colour by the sun.

Everything glistened in the heat. It glistened so much it hurt. Like from every angle something was poking your skin with hot needles while you were momentarily blinded with white hot light.

There were a few houses around here as I started getting further away from downtown Hollywood and closer to the hills. All the front lawns looked like an over zealous hairdresser had come along and bleached the green tips blonde.

No one was around though. Except for one house, the one with the weird front door that I always noticed when we drove home everyday because it had a huge silver doorhandle in the middle of the door rather than where normal doorhandles go. Anyway, there was a girl out the front of that house with a handheld digital camera stuck to her eye as she knelt over her driveway.

As I got closer, I found that she was videotaping.......an egg. She was taping an egg frying on her driveway. What is it with me and weird people. Does God just stick them in my path of life on purpose? Is my life like the weirdo trash or something?

I paused at the white picket fence "....uh, hi....."

Why I uttered those words I don't know. You're getting yourself involved with a weirdo, Zac! Damn, I need like siren alerts before I go and do this sort of stuff.

She looked up.

"....hi..........you're Zac Hanson aren't you....?" she asked, without attaching a girly squeal or a look of disgust, like most people did.

"...yep...."

".....I'm Rachael...."

"....nice to meet you...."

"....you too..."

She was sitting on her haunches, looking at me with the camera held in front of her in her hands. She had nice hands. Mom always goes on about dad's hands and about how she started dating him because she always liked hands and dad has nice ones.

She also had nice hair, nice eyes and was generally overall.....nice.

".....so what are you doing.....?"

"....was that a rhetorical question or am I supposed to answer it....?" she squinted at me, using her free hand like a visor to shield her eyes from the sun.

"....an answer would be preferable...."

"....well, I thought....here I have a videocamera, what else could I do but bake a cake with it...." she smirked sarcastically.

".....what kind.....?"

"....sponge...."

"....ooh, I like sponge.........so why exactly are you taping an egg....?"

"....it's a metaphor for a Californian sun....."

"....oh.....right......"

"....I'm doing a parody of Gidget in black and white film---" God. It's the female Dawson Leery. "---but I've finished now, so I'm going for a walk....."

"....mind if I join you....?"

"....feel free....." she shrugged her shoulders lightly before standing up and walking towards the gate.

"....walking anywhere in particular....?"

".....not really.....you have an issue with that.....?"

"....not at all....."

"....good....I like you already...."

"...ditto....."

 

So we walked and talked and stopped to take pity on one of the ice cream dudes.

She even ate pistachio ice cream.

I mean, I know no one else besides me who eats pistachio. Tay got strawberry all the time and thousands of girls around the world changed their ice cream habits because of it, because, well, strawberry's a flavour you can just like. Pistachio is like an acquired taste. Not just anyone can like pistachio.

So we sat on this stone wall which separated the beach from the sidewalk and ate our ice creams, occasionally licking the green trickles than ran down the cones and into our fingers.

"...so is that girl who's always with your brother his girlfriend....?" she questioned, taking a lick of her ice cream and looking at me openly.

"......which girl.....?"

"....the tall one that could be a model if she isn't yet one...."

"....Anna? Yeah, she is.....she's not a model though, she swims......"

"....do you have a girlfriend...?"

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

"....Christ, I'm not calling the National Enquirer the second I get home....give me an hour though and I could get a good story going...."

She laughed. It was a nice laugh. Like the wind chimes on the back porch of my grandma's house.

".....I wouldn't have said anything about Anna if I thought you were like shifty or something...."

"....shifty....?" she looked at me weirdly over her pistachio.

"...yeah, shifty.....anyway, no I don't have a girlfriend....I don't have much luck with girls....how about you.....?"

"....I've never had a boyfriend.....and I'd prefer to remain childless until I'm at least 15...."

"....have you ever...kissed someone.....?"

She looked at me cautiously "...no...." she paused and squinted at me intently "...you...?"

"...nup..."

"...cool....."

"...cool...."

"....so is the interview done...? Can I finish eating my icecream now....?"

".....for the moment, yes...." she grinned and busied herself with licking the sticky green remains of liquid pistachio from her fingers.

 

You know if I had to kiss anyone for the first time I wouldn't mind if it was Rachael.

I wouldn't mind at all.