Chapter 19 - 'The Milkshake That Tasted Like Dead People'

CRISPIAN

 

"....relatively sedate? This is relatively sedate? If this dress got any more sedate a dead preacher's wife would be wearing it during the showing of the deceased...."

You'd think that my cousin, an esteemed stylist to the stars, would know what one meant when one says 'relatively sedate'. Really. It can't take too much intellect to grasp the meaning of two words uttered fairly frequently in conversation. But, here my cousin was, having trouble deciphering my meaning.

It must have been the Westen blood coursing through her veins, because it certainly wasn't the Hansen side that was illiterate. I was sure my Aunt June had taught herself to read by studying cookbooks, and as a result was completely baffled when it came to reading any piece of literature that didn't include the words 'butter beans' or 'leg of ham'.

"....you're the one that asked for usual...."

"...I asked for usual, not mundane...." I moaned, covering my forehead with my hand.

Tess just didn't understand. I wanted to make an impression. Impressions cannot be made in navy blue chiffon dresses.

"...how about this...?" she held up a pink shift dress, that on a person with average stature would drop to the knees but on myself would barely cover my ass.

I made a face.

"...this....?" she reached for a white clingy dress that appeared to be the leg of a nylon stocking with both ends chopped off, making it something of a giant stretchy tube.

"...white? Have you looked lately at my colouring, Tess? Red hair, pale skin, green eyes, freckles....do you want me to look completely washed out...?"

"....don't you take it out on me, Crispian Hansen, just because your taste diverts from the usual...."

I muttered something under my breath that even I couldn't audibly (or mentally) discern.

Tess' glare softened after a moment as she held out a pale green silk - no, it was definitely mint green - strapless top and matching tailored pant set. One of those ensembles you fall in love with at first sight.

"...I'll take it...." I grinned happily.

"....lucky, it was our last option...." she remarked, with a good roll of her eyes.

"....don't you take that sarcastic line with me young lady...." I surveyed her with all the Aunt June-like disdain I could muster (and failed kind of miserably in the process).

She shoved the top and pants at me and ushered me backwards towards the bathroom.

"....just get yourself a shower, Crispy..." she pushed me in, threw a towel in after me (which conveniently landed on my head) and shut the door in my dazed and confused face.

"...anyone would think I hadn't washed in a week...." I mused to the rubber ducky sitting on the basin ledge.

 

(CUT TO TWENTY MINUTES LATER)

 

"....Isaac's here...." Tess whispered with all the glee of a five-year-old let loose in Toys-R-Us, upon hearing the knock on the door.

I swear she was more excited than I was. And I was pretty darn excited.

So darn excited that I was using the word 'darn' excessively.

Darn.

I walked to the door and inhaled deeply before whisking open the door. Apparently it was supposed to calm your nerves (inhaling deeply, not opening doors).

A bunch of flowers was thrust into my face.

I seriously thought I was going to suffocate. I think I swallowed a leaf whole. Or perhaps it was a rose bud. I couldn't tell.

I wrestled with the flowers for a minute, before placing them on the hall table.

"....hi...."

"....hi....." he grinned "...you look nice...."

"....well, uh...." I searched frantically for the word "....thanks...."

My brain was turning to mush. Again. I could almost imagine Aunt June with her giant potato masher, tending to my brain in a pot with added milk and butter.

"....so....." I was trapped again. Someone had locked me into a conversational prison "....where are we going.....?"

".....somewhere exotic....."

"....sounds....good....."

"....oh, hi Tess....." he waved behind me "....what are you up to tonight....?"

"....just watching 'An Affair To Remember'....alone....." she ended with a depressing sigh.

If I didn't know better she wanted to be asked along.

But I did know better.

"...okay, well, we really should be off, shouldn't we Isaac? Yes, I think so. Well, I'll see you later tonight, Tess, don't wait up, bye..." I waved, grabbed my bag and shoved Isaac out the door all in one motion.

"...whoa there....what is with you tonight? First you can't even speak to me, and now you're speaking too much....calm down Cris....shesus...."

"...'shesus'...?"

"...uh, yeah...it's a cross between 'sheesh' and 'Jesus'...Zac claims he invented it, but Tay and I seriously doubt it...."

"...oh, I see..."

He sent me one of those amusing grins of his which showed off both teeth and gums, while taking my hand.

"....so, somewhere 'exotic'......Isaac, I'm afraid the exotic doesn't exist in the state of California...."

"....who said we were going anywhere in the state of California....?"

"....who said we weren't....?" I replied nervously.

"....trust me, Cris....."

"....funny, I bet rapists and serial murderers say that to their victims all the time..."

 

(HALF AND HOUR LATER, AFTER A HELICOPTER RIDE)

 

"....Las Vegas.....?" I fought the urge to laugh hysterically "....you've taken me on a date to Las Vegas....?"

".....it appears so....." he grinned again.

It certainly did appear so. I'd never seen so many flashing neon lights before in my life. On the other hand I was finally going to be able to see real-life showgirls. The anticipation was overwhelming.

"....I've never been out with a guy that flew me to another state before....."

"....ah, well, you've never been out with a guy called Isaac Hanson then, have you....?"

"....apparently not...."

"....how are you liking it so far....?"

"....well, the helicopter ride made me nauseous, but things really could only get better from here....."

 

(THREE HOURS LATER, IN A HOTEL ROOM)

 

".....sho your lash name'sh Hanshon too....?" Isaac giggled, struggling to push the words whole from his mouth.

I covered my eyes and collapsed into laughter. The lights were so much brighter now, brighter than I'd remembered. And swaying from side-to-side. I'd never seen lights do that before. These must be special Las Vegas lights.

I lay back into the plush carpet, sweeping my hand lazily across the rug where it bumped into numerous small liquor bottles from the bar fridge "....no, silly.....Hanshen with'an 'e'....."

"....oh, I'shee....."

"...like, jush take the 'o' from Hanshon an' replash it with an'e'....."

"....sho if we god'married, shay, you'd only 'avedo change a ledder....?"

".....a ledder.....?"

"....y'know, like 'an 'o' for an 'e'....."

".....I'shee.....yesh......."

 

(AN HOUR LATER IN BLUE SUEDE CHAPEL)

 

".....and I now pronounce you husband and wife, uh-huh.....you may kiss the bride...."

 

(MEANWHILE, BACK IN LA)

ANNA

 

".....Rach, this is the third time we've been to Albertsons in the past two days......is there something you want to tell me? You're eloping with the Lean Cuisine? You want me to bear witness?"

Her eyes bugged at something behind me and she clutched at my arm.

"....it's him...." she whispered urgently.

".....him.....?"

I turned around to look at 'him'.

"...don't look at him....!"

".....how will I know who 'he' is if I can't look at 'him'.....?"

"....it's called discretion....."

".....discretion? The last time I used that was in 1989....."

"....dust it off, it could come in handy....." she commented dryly.

".....ah, but my Hispanic housekeeper Consuela has gone to visit her family, it must go undusted until mid-march....."

".....I hope you're paying her above award wage...."

".....above Chilean award wage, yes...."

"....surely you jest....?"

".....surely I do.....now can you please tell me what this obsession with the frozen food aisle is all about....?"

".....Matt.....?"

".....Matt whom....?"

"....I don't know, his name tag says 'Matt'...."

"....so 'Matt'...like 'Cher'....."

"....well, he's a lot less likely to wear a leather thong, so I'd say no...."

".....you're basically telling me a boy who scans barcodes for five hours a day sends you into fits of rapture.....?"

".....something like that....."

".....have you forgotten I date your boyfriend's brother.....?"

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

"....have you forgotten your senses....? And that was a rhetorical question...." I added sternly.

"....there he is again....." she said through clenched teeth as she grabbed at my arm again.

This time I got a good glimpse of him.

Tall and tanned with shortish, dark coloured hair which stuck out at the front like a quiff, and blue eyes.

The two of us stood there swooning.

"....my senses have likewise been forgotten...."

Rachael looked at me triumphantly.

"...I told you so...."

 

(CUT TO THE CHECKOUT)

 

"....where is he? He's not here....!" Rachael was searching desperately over the heads of shoppers.

".....maybe he's on a break.....the labor union requires those you know...."

".....a break, yes.....that's a possibility....." she kneaded her hands together.

"....I never knew psychoticism manifested itself overnight....."

Ooh. What a glower.

"Just pay for your damn olives" she snapped.

"....I will pay for my damn olives, when this damn queue moves..."

"Good" she flicked through a magazine impatiently.

"....'Women's Quilting Digest'? Wow, that looks like an intriguing read....." I commented, before a low growl was emitted from the depths of her throat "....okay, okay, I'll just pay for my damn olives...."

We reached the counter and I set down my jar of marinated Kalamata olives, reaching into my purse for some change.

I wasn't quite prepared for what came next. I wasn't prepared for the God that scanned before me.

"....that'll be $3.95 thanks...."

"......three......ninety five......?" I gulped.

"....yeah....." he flashed me a wide smile.

I gripped on to the metal conveyor belt to steady myself.

I handed over a ten dollar note with a shaky hand.

Our fingertips met and I swooned.

"....that's $6.05 change.....enjoy your olives....."

"....oh, I will...."

 

Can I feed you olives, sweetness? And pickled cocktail onions too?

 

(CUT TO AN HOUR LATER)

 

Is this classified as stalking?

It isn't as though Rachael and I are unsavoury types. In fact we are very savoury.

As savoury as these olives.

I held out the jar again, offering one to Rachael. She dazedly stuck her hand in and pulled one out.

"....do you think this is called stalking....?" I asked, looking closely at the olive I was about to eat.

"....no, I think it's called waiting...." she reflected, munching on her own elliptical green delight.

"...I hope so. Because there's a fine line between waiting and stalking....and personally I think we crossed it half an hour ago...."

Yes. I'd definitely call sitting on the sidewalk outside Albertsons for an hour whilst eating olives 'crossing a line'.

".....look, there they are....." she whispered loudly, nudging me in the side.

"....so what do we do now? I haven't thought this far ahead....."

"...introduce us..." she said through clenched teeth.

"....they're walking over here...."

I suddenly felt awkward. Well, more awkward than usual.

"....hey....." my short, God-like boy smiled.

"...hey...." I said breathlessly.

"...I'm Tim....." said He.

"...I'm Anna...." I smiled winningly "...and this is---"

"---Rachael...." Rachael interrupted.

"...this is Matt...." He gestured to the boy with the quiff - Rachael's heart palpitator.

"...nice to meet you..." Matt aka Quiff Boy waved.

"....so.....were you waiting out here for us....?"

".....uh.....no....."

Convincing Anna. Really convincing.

Rachael might just kill you for that one.

I held out the jar

 

"...olive....?"

 

 

TAYLOR

(CUT TO THE NEXT MORNING)

 

 

"...I'm throwing in the towel...."

"....wha---? What towel?"

"....my towel.....literally and metaphorically...."

"....well, you should probably pick it up, mom hates towels left on the bathroom floor...."

Anna smacked her forehead "I'm giving up swimming, Taylor."

"....oh.......well, you could have just said so...."

"...okay...."

Did she just roll her eyes at me? I'm offended.

"....so why are you giving it up....?"

"....too old for it...." she yawned, stretching out on the sofa "....plus, I know I'm not getting any better....I've peaked and now all the fourteen year olds are catching up on me, it's depressing...."

"...well, if that's what you want...."

".....it's what I want...."

"....well, then I'll support you one hundred percent...." I squeezed her arm with mock affection.

"....I knew I could rely on you, honey..."

 

 

ISAAC

(CUT TO FIVE MINUTES LATER)

 

 

"...Ike....?"

"Do marriages in Elvis chapels actually count for anything?" I whispered urgently into the receiver.

"....good morning to you too...."

"TAY" I screeched through the phone "ANSWER MY QUESTION, GOD DAMN IT!"

"...what was it again? I didn't quite catch it..."

"Do. Las. Vegas. Weddings. Count?"

"Yes"

"WHAT?!"

"....hell, Ike, the King presides at those weddings, they count for more than usual ones...."

"....oh, ha ha....you're joking...that's a good one, Tay....." I laughed nervously.

"....what did you do...?" he asked suspiciously.

"..nothing.."

"....you got married, didn't you....?!"

"..no..."

"....oh my God....you got married by Elvis in Vegas! Man, that is so funny...."

I could hear him erupting into violent laughter at the other end of the connection.

"....funny? You think it's funny...?"

"....well, I would also call it hilarious and laughworthy, but funny does the job pretty well..."

"Mom and dad are going to kill me, and all you can do is laugh?!"

"....no, Ike, they'd kill you if there was a little Lisa-Marie on the way...they'll just chain you in a basement for a year for this..."

 

Great. My younger brother was making quips about my marital predicament.

I am officially dead-on-arrival.

 

TAYLOR

(CUT TO 30 SECONDS LATER)

 

"....An, you'll never guess what happened...."

"...you're right, I probably won't guess what's happened, the odds are about 400 to 1...." she said, barely registering interest as she fossicked through maps of Oklahoma, Texas and California with her glasses perched on her nose.

"...Anna...." I whined.

"...hm....?"

She looked up registering 1% interest. Well, 1% was better than nothing.

"....Ike got married in Vegas...."

"....yeah right...." she said scornfully.

She doesn't believe me? How couldn't she believe me?

"He did!"

I felt like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Except we weren't talking about sheep or wolves and I never really went around telling people Ike got married in Vegas on a frequent basis.

"Right. Isaac....your brother Isaac....eloped to Vegas....don't tell me! He got himself married by an Elvis impersonator too...?"

"....actually, yeah...."

She snorted loudly and returned to her maps.

"....look at this....we can do all the cheesy stops along the way....." she waved a Route 66 map in front of my face happily "....we could stay in badly refurbished motels with neon signs out the front, and eat at greasy diners.....you're serious, aren't you....?"

"...finally she listens...."

"....who'd he get married to? A showgirl...?" she asked excitedly.

"....nah....Crispian...."

"....Crispian? Really? I liked her...."

"....not as much as Ike apparently...."

 

(CUT TO A DAY LATER)

 

"...can't we leave tomorrow? I'm going to miss Ike coming home...."

"...what do you want to do, throw him a welcome home party..?" she stuck her head out the car window, her body extended over the three backseats.

"....I was thinking about a huge banner reading 'Congratulations Ike and Crispian'...."

"....you are too cruel....."

"....but funny...." I added with a grin.

"....yes, funny boy....do you think you can put that suitcase into the car boot before you make me chortle with laughter again, as you're so prone to do...?"

"....where are you two going...?" Zac wandered out the front door to the car, with Rachael behind him.

"....to Tulsa.....Anna has to get her stuff ready for college...."

"....on Route 66...." Anna stuck her head out the window again, grinning broadly.

".....that sounds cool....." Zac and Rachael nodded in unison.

"....nu uh....you're not coming...." I shook my head "....there's no way....."

"Come on Tay! Why not?!"

"...because...because, you're just not...!"

"Because you want to do it with Anna, I bet!"

"Shut up!"

"Ha! I was right!"

"....you're going to bribe me with this so we have to take you, right....?"

"....well, I wasn't....but thanks for the great idea, Tay....."

 

(CUT TO THREE DAYS LATER)

 

"....nine hundred and seventy-five bottles of sprite on the wall....nine hundred and seventy-five bottles of sprite....take one down, pass it around....nine hundred and seventy-four bottles of sprite on the wall......."

"....sorry to corrupt your mind Zac, but it's supposed to be 'beer' and not 'sprite'...."

"....alcohol.....?" I let out a gasp "....I don't think I can say that out loud....God might strike me down...."

".....we're in the car, whatever electrical charge is thrown at us will be reduced to nil, Zac, due to the wonderful world of physics..."

"....God made man, man made car, car reduces God's Vengeance to nil.....I'd say He's pretty pissed off....."

"...hey, while we're here, d'you think we could go visit my cousin Rachel....?" Rachael piped up next to me.

"....your cousin is called Rachael....?"

"....without the 'a'...."

"...Rchael...?"

"....yes, Rchael..." she said dryly "...Rachel, without the 'a', dimwit! R-A-C-H-E-L, no 'a'....I'm a Rachael with the 'a', R-A-C-H-A-E-L...."

"....there's no need to be so rude about it...."

She sighed loudly.

"....so where are we off to then, Rachael....?"

"...Angleton...."

"...WHAT...?"

"...Angleton, it's just out of Houston..."

Taylor brought the car to a halt and turned around to face Rachael with map in hand "....where is Houston, Rachael....?"

She pointed to the map.

"....and where is Amarillo....?"

Her finger trailed up to the top of the state.

"THERE'S 500 FRICKING MILES BETWEEN US AND ANGLETON, THERE IS NO GOD DAMN WAY IN HELL WE'RE GOING TO SEE YOUR COUSIN HOWEVER YOU SPELL HER NAME!"

"...it was just a suggestion, they're having a chili cook-off this weekend...." she said meekly.

Anna hit Tay.

Tay glared at Anna.

They then entered their 'whispered discussion' mode. It was so parental it was scary.

They broke apart and Tay started the car.

"....to Angleton it is then...."

 

RACHAEL

(CUT TO A DAY LATER AT RACHEL-WITHOUT-AN-E'S FARM)

 

"...is that cow properly restrained....?"

Taylor eyed Daisy nervously.

"....afraid of cows are we....?"

"....livestock in general....." Zac confessed on Taylor's behalf.

Anna, Zac and I snickered in his general direction.

"....I happen to like sheep, thankyou...."

"....really? You like sheep, hey, Tay...?" Zac nudged him in the side.

"Not like that! Ugh!" his perfect face contorted in horror at the suggestion.

"....Raca, is that you....?"

"....Rach! Hey! We were just in the area and thought we'd stop by....."

I heard Taylor muttering something which sounded like 'Just in the area, my ass', but I ignored him. I think Anna hit him.

"....Raca.....?" Zac looked at me quizzically.

"...childhood nickname..." I answered, before stepping forward to hug my cousin "....Rach, this is Zac, Anna and Taylor....."

"......they're.....um......they're.....Hanson...." she ended lamely.

"....just don't say anything about Ike's metamorphosis into a Japanese girl...he's very sensitive....." Zac whispered conspiratorially.

She laughed awkwardly, probably not knowing whether he was insulting her or not.

".....well, we're having tex-mex for dinner....you're welcome to stay....."

"...is it safe...?" Taylor asked.

"....no, it's highly volatile food, Taylor.....touch it and it may just explode....."

 

(CUT TO DINNER)

 

"....that isn't gravy.....that's chili sauce....."

Perhaps Taylor himself was right when he tried to dissuade us from coming on the trip. If I'd known he was going to be so annoying I sure as hell wouldn't have come.

"....we call it gravy, Taylor...."

"....well, you shouldn't, because it's not...."

"....right, you call up Governor Bush and get him to issue an edict that will force Texans to call their gravy 'chili sauce'...."

"....I might just do that...."

"....you could bond over belt buckles and such...." Anna smiled with amusement ".....really, Taylor...if I didn't know better, and if you called your chili sauce 'gravy', I would swear you were a Texan...."

"....too bad there isn't a rodeo on this weekend...."

"....yeah, too bad....." he said with his mouth full of burrito. For all of his whining, he was still managing to cram a record amount of food into that crevice of his face.

"....but there's nothing to stop us going on a trail ride...."

"....horses....?" he stopped chewing.

"....well, you can ride the El Paso the donkey, but he normally chucks you off every fifteen minutes to half hour..." Rachel interrupted.

"....sounds great, Raca....I'm in....." Zac grinned happily over his taco. I see yet another person has adopted that shocker of a nickname.

I turned to Anna, who was nodding enthusiastically "....I'm with Zac...."

"....Taylor.....?" I smiled sweetly ".....are you in....?"

 

ANNA

(CUT TO THE TRAIL RIDE)

 

 

".....Good Lord, those are two nice asses....."

"....I'd hoped when I suggested the outfits that they'd look as nice as that....but they have exceeded expectation...."

"....I never realised Zac....well, look for yourself, honey....."

"....oh, I'm looking...."

Rachael and I were leaning on a fence reflecting ever-so-intellectually over the respective posteriors of our other halves.

I was gaining a certain fondness for Texas. Much of the fondness had to do with the cowboy outfits that Rachael's cousin provided for us for our trail ride. Now I wasn't a kinky woman, but if I ever had to dress Taylor up for sexual gratification, it would probably be as a cowboy.

"....okay, Anna, you've got Russet over there.....Raca, you'll take Carnival.....Zac, do you want to take Brubeck? Yeah, the one you're standing next to....and Taylor, I've got George here for you....."

'George' looked as if making it to a canter would probably end up fatal.

"...he's a pushover.....really tame, we've had him for years...."

Taylor eyed him cautiously, then, obviously finding that he appeared as placid as Rachel said he was, approached George.

George's eyes followed him.

"....are sure he won't injure me? I have fragile bones you know...."

"....positive....I've ridden on George since I was four, Raca has since she was five....."

"....okay.....I put my foot in here, right....?" he pointed to the stirrup.

The boy had been raised in Oklahoma and didn't know how to ride? I was shocked.

"...yeah....and then just lift yourself over....."

"....okay....." he counted up to four, like he was about to begin a song, and then pushed himself awkwardly up and on to George.

"....very nice...."

 

And with that we rode off into the Texan sunset, to the soothing refrain of Rachael and Rachel singing "The coyotes wail, along the trail, deep in the heart of Texas. The rabbits rush, around the brush, deep in the heart of Texas. The cowboys cry, "Ki-yip-pee-yi," deep in the heart of Texas"

 

Ki-yip-pee-yi indeed.

 

NARRATOR

 

And so they later arrived in Tulsa where they parted ways. Three travelled back to the West, whilst one made her way to the East. The latter settled into college with a bulk supply of homemade pie ("Just in case you get hungry, Annesley") but she found being a minnow amongst the piranhas a highly stressful existence. For once our beloved Anna McLaren was out of her depth.

 

ANNA

(CUT TO THREE WEEKS INTO THE FALL TERM)

 

"...yeah....and so he was being this huge pain in the ass, complaining it was too cold for him...and I'd just had it, so I decided to leave.....I left him there moaning in bed, got dressed and walked out....."

"...you did....?"

"...of course...I wasn't going to stay there.....I got home at about....oh, what was it....?"

"...about two....?"

"....yeah, that's what I thought....mom was still up watching infomercials or something...."

I was eavesdropping. Painfully.
This was the extent of my social interaction at Harvard - listening to other people socially interact.


College was just a whole new ballgame. And I never was one for ballgames.

Was I the only virgin in the whole of this educational institution? Was I the only virgin in the whole of Massachusetts?

Probably. To both.

And, you know, I didn't want to be a virgin anymore. I wanted to be a fully-fledged, sexually-experienced member of society.

 

(CUT TO FIVE SECONDS LATER AT THE FIRST PHONE BOX ANNA COULD FIND ON CAMPUS)

 

"Hi. Taylor?"

"...yep....how're you going....?"

"Can you be in Boston tomorrow?"

"...of course...why? Did something happen?"

"No. Well, yes. I want to have sex."

Silence.

"Give me four hours and I'm there."

The crunch of his receiver and the dial tone hit my ear.

I'm going to have sex.

Finally.

 

 

ISAAC

(CUT TO LA)

 

"...who was that....?" I sprawled back in the chair, balancing it dangerously on its two hind legs while mine were propped up on the bench. It was extremely comfortable. Until I would inevitably lose balance and hit the floor that is.

"...Anna..." he was running around frantically like some kind of chicken that had just lost a head ".....I have to go to Boston...."

"...who died...?"

"...no one died.......that's a retarded thing to say...."

".....well, why in the heck are you frantic about going to Boston then...? You'd only be frantic about going to Boston if there was a funeral on....I mean, there's not much else hip and happening around there...."

"....and a funeral's hip and happening...?"

"....in Boston they are...."

".....look, I'm going to Boston to have sex....me and Anna we're having sex......that's why I'm going to Boston, okay? Is that hip and happening enough for you....?"

".....whoa.....are you really sure about this....?"

".....really sure......"

"......I mean, really really sure.....?"

"...of course I'm damn sure, Ike.....! You think I'm going to turn her down? I want to have sex, okay?! It doesn't make me some kind of freak because I want to do it with my girlfriend! And it doesn't make me a bad Christian either! Times have changed! People do it all the time!!"

".....I didn't say they didn't.....all I'm saying is that, you know, maybe you should wait awhile....think it through....."

He cocked his head to one side impatiently for two seconds "...okay, I've thought it through.......I'm a-going to Boston....."

"....Tay......"

"....geez, Ike....you sound like dad....who are you, anyway? World's ambassador for teenage chastity....?!"

"....there's nothing wrong with being like dad...."

"....I know there's nothing wrong with being like dad....I want to be like dad in some ways.....but Ike, my girlfriend of almost a year just propositioned me and I'm sorry, but there's no way I'm going to turn her down....."

"....okay, okay...." I held up my hands in surrender. Too bad I didn't have a white flag on me "....I can't stop you doing what you want.....I still think you should wait a little longer though...."

Sometimes what comes out of my mouth totally contradicts what's in my head. See, my head totally understood what Tay was about to do. If I'd been dating someone for a year - okay, I'd been dating someone for four years - but, if I'd been dating someone like Anna and had been in a relationship like theirs for a year, having sex would be a completely understandable thing. I just couldn't bring my mouth around to endorse my mind.

My mouth had a mind of its own (as you've probably noticed).

"....I think we've waited long enough, Ike...."

".....well, what are you going to tell dad and the studio people....?"

He shrugged "....that someone died in Boston...."

 

 

TAYLOR

(CUT TO BOSTON, FOUR HOURS LATER)

 

 

".........551...........552............553..........554..............555.......this must be it......"

I knocked on the door, ignoring the stares I was getting from people walking past. I didn't know if they were staring because I'm someone they vaguely knew about in 1997 or because in the rush to get the flight I'd put on this white coat with black buttons that I swore I'd never wear in public. The fact remains that it was too cold to think about the fact I was a guy and wearing a white jacket; and also being that I was about to have sex for the first time, thinking really wasn't ranked high on any agenda of mine.

"....come in....."

I pushed open the door, walked in and closed it behind me.

"....hi....."

"....hi....you made it....."

".....I did......"

We both looked at each other. It was one of those moments that would have been hysterically funny if the situation had been.....actually funny.

"....so you want to do this....?" she asked, looking as if she wanted me to say no.

".....yeah......"

"....do you have---"

"---I remembered everything....even---" I pulled out the bunch of flowers (bought at a slightly tacky airport florist) from behind my back "---these....."

She smiled. It was a watery smile. I could see her knees shaking under her skirt, like they always did when she was really nervous.

"....you're so amazingly sweet......thankyou...." she took the flowers, looked at them for a little while as if flowers were an entirely new sort of plant life and then laid them down on her desk.

I put my bag down on the ground and walked over to sit next to her on the bed.

I kissed her forehead.

"....An....you know I could go home without us doing anything and I'd still love you....."

"....God, I know that Taylor.....if I didn't know that I wouldn't be wanting to have sex with you.......but....this is something I want to do, I want to, I don't know, get it out of the way......I don't know why we've waited so long really, because, well, really it's not a big deal......."

"....you're lying now...."

"....and.....?"

".....I know this means a lot to you.....and I'm willing to wait for you, however long it takes for you to feel ready....."

"....Taylor, it's not as though I know when I'm ready, do you know what I mean....? It's not as though I can consult a book telling me when in the heck I'm ready to have sex......I'm winging it here, okay.....?"

"....and I'm not.....?"

"....you're a guy....guys are always ready to have sex, it's a biological fact......"

"....I can control myself you know....."

"....I know you can....but sometimes it feels as though I'm being unfair to you.....because I know you want to, and I want to, I really do....I just.....don't know----"

She sighed and put her head in her hands "----I'm an idiot.....you've wasted all this time and money coming down here and---"

"----it was worth it just to see you......"

".....oh no it wasn't.....you wanted sex....don't deny you're disappointed......."

"....Anna...." I looked at her "....I'll get over it....."

"....I'll bet.....you'll be seeing a therapist before the year's out....."

"....too late, I'm Dr Duncan's favourite patient......"

"...you're not...?" she grinned at me.

".....you're right, I'm not....."

"....loser....." she hit me on the back of the head ".....so what are we going to do then.....?"

"....instead of sex....?"

"......yes, instead of sex......"

".....well, it's kind of a hard act to follow....."

"....ha ha.....how about coffee? There's a nice little place a block from here...."

"....if we must....." I sighed with exaggeration.

"...you're such a drama queen...." she snorted and stood up to get her coat.

 

(cut to return from the coffee house)

 

"....well, that was exciting, what are we going to do now.....?" I hung up my coat on the hook on the back of the door.

She stretched her arms above her head "....I was thinking sex myself....."

"....you're thinking....sex......?!"

".....pretty much......"

"....with me....?"

"....no, with that guy fishing through the trash outside for soda cans, I found him strangely attractive....."

"....you sure....?"

"....very...."

By this time Anna had sidled over to me and was tracing her hands along the gap of bare skin just above my belt and below my sweater. I reached up and pulled her thick woollen turtleneck over her head before we stumbled our way over to her single bed.

It gave a loud squeak and shuddered as we landed on it.
Anna laughed before she pressed her lips forcefully to mine.


Wow. I'd never seen Anna so....horny before. Not that I had a problem with that. Who am I to quench a libido?

Our mouths separated momentarily as we pulled and kicked off each other's various items of clothing.

All of a sudden....well, not all of a sudden really, it was eventually going to happen at some point but...we were naked.
I mean, it wasn't as though I hadn't seen Anna naked before, but this was a different naked.


A we're-about-to-have-sex naked.

It was the kind of naked that made her shine like the plastic bedroom glowworm light I had when I was eight.

 

Oh my God. I'm about to have sex.

 

ANNA

(CUT TO AN HOUR LATER)

 

So I'm lying here, drenched in Taylor's sweat (the boy secretes enough for two people in moments of passion I've come to realise) with a damp sheet delicately covering my naked self. And I'm seriously unimpressed. Why, might you ask?

Sex.

I just want to know who started this rumour that it was the best experience on earth. Come on. You can tell me. I won't seek them out and hurt them. Or even take them to court to make them print a retraction.

You know way back in 1998, when I made a statement about Taylor's vocal abilities and how they would be less than welcome in a sexual situation? Well, I was right. I should have known. I'm always right.

I do believe that a large portion of the Harvard community not only know who amongst their ranks has just had sex, but also who said person had sex with. One only needs to have heard 'MMMBop' to make the distinction.

And it wasn't simply Taylor's musical concerto of groans, but the sound of bodies against one another that added to the explosion of sound. It was almost like the sound of one sweaty palm clapping itself.

 

Right now I felt like running after my Virginity (which was rapidly disappearing down the street) and luring her back with gifts of lifetime abstinence.

 

 

TAYLOR

 

It was taking a while to sink in, but.....I'd just had sex.

Why had I waited so long, exactly? This was like the mecca of my life, the highest point. Well, maybe not the highest. There's no doubt in my mind I can get even better at this.

Here I was thinking it would be like riding a bike. You fall off it a few times, you graze your knees, your technique's a little wobbly when you first start. Basically, I thought it would take a while to perfect.

But frankly, I was a natural. And I wasn't even at my peak yet.

Bring on my eighteeth birthday, I say.

 

"....hey, An....." I whispered into her ear seductively "....do you want to try it again....?"

 

ANNA

(CUT TO THREE DAYS LATER)

 

 

"....this milkshake tastes like.....dead people....." Harper screwed up her nose. I knew there was a reason I didn't ask her out for supper on a regular basis.

"....like dead people....?"

".....yeah...." she said emphatically.

".....Harper....." I said, building up the condescention in my voice "....how could you possibly know what dead people taste like to make the distinction....?"

".....honey, I'm taking pre-med......"

"...right. So, all pre-med students are cannibals on the basis of your well-thought out theory...."

She sighed "......you know that smell in the dissecting room with all the cadavers....?"

"...well, no, not really Harp...."

".....well, anyway, this milkshake tastes like that dead people smell....."

"....nice to know your taking in all that medical jargon, Harp.....you'll be one of those highly rated doctors who sings 'the knee bone's connected to the...hip bone....the hip bone's connected to the...thigh bone' in the OR...."

"....I know what it is.....I was just converting it into laypersons terms for all the BA students of the world....."

"....I'm not a BA student, I'm a Master of Laws student thankyouverymuch....."

"....ooh, ooh....Master of Laws student....." she snorted.

"......Harp, just don't drink the milkshake okay? It's own your fault for choosing strawberry in the first place.....everyone knows strawberry milkshakes are borderline on taste...."

She ignored me, and carried on her own merry conversational path "....so, I heard Taylor was up at the dorms a few days ago...."

"....yeah...." I remained nonchalant, except for my cheeks which decided to betray me at the crucial moment "....we felt like talking...."

"....so Taylor flew all the way from LA to Boston, just to talk....." she raised her eyebrows disbelievingly "....from what I hear, something more than talking went on...."

There was just something in the conspiratorial tone of her voice that snapped my Cord of Calm.

"...one more word, Harper Wilkinson..." I stood up and poked her viciously in the chest "....and our friendship will take a one-way ticket to Siberia, do you hear me...?"

I grabbed my bag and stormed out.

 

We wined, we dined, and a pleasant evening was had by all.

.

Chapter 20 - 'In A Bit of A Pickle'

ANNA [written by Madison and Rachael]

(on the phone)

 

"Annesley, I've been trying to get through to you for weeks"

"Oh...hi mom" (So I can outwit you no longer. Do what you will with me, fiendish woman! I shall fight valiantly to the aural end!)

"So, how is school? You're not having any trouble in your classes?"

"Everything's great, mom" ('Great / gr'ate / -adj 1. very good or fine'. Synonyms : 'good', 'excellent', 'best'. Antonyms : 'I don't understand the concept of the American legal system, I still use a map to find my way around campus, my roommate is a psychotic Nazi bitch who I suspect is plotting to smother me in my sleep with her pink laced pillow and I have no friends', 'Anna McLaren's college experience'.)

"That's wonderful to hear. I knew you would love Harvard"

"I love Harvard more than life itself" (Please take me away from this Godforsaken hell hole. Please.)

"Do you need anything? Leave anything behind? I can send it by courier mail"

"No, no...I've got everything I need" (Can boyfriends and lives-pre-college be couriered yet? How 'bout virginity? If so, you know my address.)

"How about the food situation? Do you need anymore pie?"

"No, I'm fine, mom. Seriously" (Was it the birth control pills or one slice of peach pie that absconded with my appetite?)

"So....how is Taylor?"

"He's good.....we're all.....good" (We had sex. Three times. Will the convent still accept me? I'm almost a virgin.)

"I spoke to your father"

"Oh yeah, what did he say?" (Really. I'm thoroughly interested.)

"How would you feel about spending Thanksgiving vacation with him? You two haven't spent near enough time together."

"Uh, well, what about my birthday mom? I thought I was going to spend it with you and Taylor" (You want me to pleasantly consume poultry in the company of my once removed, ne'er forgotten father?)

"I was thinking about taking a hotel room in LA, so you can see Taylor, your father and myself"

"Wow" (I don't know about this.)

"So it sounds good to you?"

"Good except for seeing he-who-is-not-paternal" (Like I said, he doesn't float my boat.)

"Well, we'll see how things turn out"

"Cool. Hey, mom....I've got to go, I've got a paper to write" (It's due in December. I figure starting in September will give me a head start.)

"Oh....sure, sweetie....remember to get a good night's sleep and eat properly....take your vitamins too, okay, Anna?"

"Vitamins.....check." (I think my roommate tried to get high on my entire bottle of Gingko Biloba.)

"Love you"

"Love you too" (Just no more pie for the love of God.)

"Bye"

"Ciao for now" (Until the next time you manage to seize my ear and beat it into submission again.)

 

 

ZAC [written by Rachael]

(at the entrance of the Promenade in Santa Monica)

 

"...Zac, please. You know I don't ask for much..."

"...that's what you said when you wanted me to go see 'Notting Hill'...and when you asked me to sit still for hours for your drawing project for an art class, only to find that the project was a Picasso impression and looked nothing like me...unless my nose just sporadically shifted to the middle of my forehead without my noticing it...and when you asked me to plant flowers in your front yard...not to mention all the times we had to uproot them and plant them in about ten other spots in the yard...and..."

"I get the point. So I ask for stuff. It's not like you're exactly hurting for time here."

"Ha. Little you know. At this moment, I could be recording the greatest rock album ever...discovering the cure for cancer...bringing peace upon the earth..."

"Heaven forbid that I stand in the way of world peace..."

"...but the world shall never know peace now, will it? All because Rachael Beckinsale had to go to the mall..."

She rolled her eyes at me. "Come on, Zac. It's not that bad. Really. Surely the world can survive without you for one afternoon?"

"...I don't know, Raca...it's a big world out there..."

I was answered by a sharp jerking on my hand as I got pulled into Girl Land.

Girl Land is a very scary place. Seldom do males venture into Girl Land and come out unscathed. It is habited by males worst enemies...silk, satin, lace, and matching colors.

I can just feel the Girl vibes trying to break through my old shirt singing the praises of Led Zeppelin, the jeans that were due for a wash a few days ago, and sneakers that have seen better days.

"...Zac? You can open your eyes now...I'm pretty sure the mean clothing isn't going to bite you..."

I cracked an eyelid open.

Lace. In many assorted colors. Rows and rows of it. In forms of clothing that were not meant to be seen by my teenaged eyes.

"Rachael! Where are we?"

"...Macy's..."

"...what department of Macy's?"

"...lingerie..."

"RACA!"

"...you act like you've never seen it before..."

"...and you think I have? I'm not exactly the type to loiter in the lingerie
section...just looking..."


"...and the underwear that gets thrown on stage? That is...?"

"...not helping my argument..."

She smiled sweetly at me. I felt my knees turning to Jello.

"...I'm just getting a joke gift for Anna...and you're going to help me pick it out..." she said, gesturing at the sea of straps and snaps.

"...let me get this straight. You want me...to help you...pick out underwear...for my brother's girlfriend..."

"...feel that? That's electricity in the air!..."

"Are you out of your mind?!"

"...not since I last checked..." she pulled on my hand again. "C'mon Zac...you know you want to..."

Well...

"This will be the only time you can be in the lingerie section with a woman's permission. I suggest you jump on this train before it passes you by."

I sighed. "Lead on, Lingerie Leader."

I winced as we passed row after row of various ladies...garments, models dressed in little less than nothing, shining in all their plastic glory.

"People actually wear these things?" I asked when we stopped in front of a rack of brightly colored satin. I grabbed a lace thing with straps and held it up to me. "Raca...is this my color?"

"Oh, no, Zac. Red is definitely not your color. Try this nice powder blue instead."

I looked in the mirror.

"...Raca?..."

"...hmmm?..."

"...does this make me look fat?..."

"Can I help you?" a foreboding voice boomed behind us.

I turned swiftly, the red...thing still held up to me.

Since when does Attila the Hun work in lingerie?

"Can I help you?" she asked again, crossing her massive chest with her massive arms and glaring down at me. Her arms were the size of my head.

I am definitely impressed.

"Yes, you can..." I said, holding the strappy thing out, getting a sudden burst of lingerie bravery. "Can you tell me what this is, exactly?"

She scowled at me and grabbed it out of my hands. "Merrywidow..." she muttered, holding it out in front of her in the air.

"Merry what?"

I felt Rachael tugging on my hand again. I glanced over at her. A look of slight fear was frozen on her face as the giantess in front of us was examining her. Her eyes were sweeping her from head to toe.

I felt the sudden urge to throw my arms over her and run out the store. Yell 'She's mine, not yours!' or something. Claim my territory.

"This will never fit you," the behemoth said, glancing at Rachael again.

Rachael's jaw fell open.

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

"You. Your chest. Too small." She shoved the...'merrywidow' as I now know it by back on a rack and started searching. Various undergarments went flying.

Rachael self consciously stretched her arm across her chest.

"What is your cup size?" Ms. Minutely Challenged asked Rachael.

My eyes bugged out. That is violating Girl Rule Number One…'Thou shalst not askth another female the size of any bodily part.'

"My...CUP size?" Rachael asked, the volume of her voice raising with each syllable.

"Raca...calm down..."

"I will NOT calm down! That is a personal question! You don't just go around asking complete strangers what their CUP size is! That's just...it's just..."

"...causing a scene..."

"...not right..." she finished lamely.

Mammoth looked down at us. "So...you won't be purchasing this?"

Rachael made an angry sounding noise in the back of her throat and practically yanked my arm out of the socket dragging me out of the store.

"...well. That was fun."

"Shut up, Zac."

 

(10 minutes later)

 

"...so...what IS your cup size...?"

 

 

ANNA [written by Madison]

 

I mentally wondered if it is supposed to go so far back into one's throat and if the whole point of ventures like these is simply to choke. I never knew it would be so... big. I can barely breath around the massive thin, cylindrical object inserted in my mouth - it's tip tickling the back of my throat.

It is hard and yet not, squishy in places that quite frankly it really shouldn't be squishy in. I normally don't do things such as these. I'm a good girl and stay away from turning down the dark road that is inserting anything larger than a fork into my mouth…

And I think I am about to choke.

"...Iwoff abooot to wchoke wright wow..." I gurgled and rasped all in one breath.

"...So take it out..." The voice was not amused, and the owner didn't even bother to look up.

I grabbed and yanked, and out popped the green mass.

"...Now I now why I avoided pickles when I was younger. They are gross..." I made an unpleasant face in its direction.

"...Not to mention pies..." Harper gave me the look, the Anna-stop-whining-right-now-or-I-might-be-forced-to-get-up-and-quite-frankly-I'd-rather-not look. Yes, Harper has that look patented to a tea "...Honestly, they are only five calories and they come from a cucumber..."

I stared at the green mass in from of me; its bumpy and slimy body squiggled across the table, saliva dripping from every pore as I fought the urge to vomit. "...That is not a vegetable. Vegetables are good for you and by definition don't try to choke you..."

Harper raised one perfectly sculpted eyebrow.

"...Whatever you say Anna..."

Speaking of which I did have something to say.

"...Harp..."

She waved her hand, her minimal suggestion that I proceed.

"...Why are you here anyway? It is not like I invited you. Don't you have classes anyway...?" I grabbed my cup of coffee and chugged, smearing foam across my lips. But then again I think I look sexy like that.

"...I got bored..." She answered flippantly, tossing her mane of hair over her shoulders - borderline annoyed. "...And shouldn't you be happy I rescued you from your mundane existence?..."

Well, fine then.

"...Thrilled. Ecstatic. Jumping out of my tiger print pants enthusiastic..."

"...That's what I thought..." She replied, bringing the coffee to her lips "...How are you surviving without Taylor anyway? Feel any urges to hump the couch...?"

"...Harper...!" I gasped, throwing a stray magazine at her head.

"...OW...!"

Bingo.

Some lose focus in their old age. Me? I just get more immature. College has strange effects on people.

"...And I am doing just fine..." I smiled contentedly to myself, the loud memory of the not so distant past ringing sweetly in my ears. Even if sex still wasn't necessarily looked at fondly through my eyes just yet, I realized it was much better in retrospect.

Speaking of which, why hasn't Harper mentioned my newly found nonvirgin-ness? Shouldn't it be obvious? I rubbed my face, hoping that perhaps it would show up there where I had previously seen it in the bathroom mirror after Taylor had left.

"...Harper, do I look, say, look not so virginal to you...?"

She didn't even look up. "...No..."

"...Not even remotely...?"

"...Anna, are you inhaling chlorine again...?"

"...various amphetamines, yes. But chlorine? No. Do you know how hard it is to get high-quality chlorine around here....?"

Silence.

"....Good...." she said disinterestedly, flicking through the magazine I'd recently thrown at her cranium.

I wanted to scream.

ARRRRRRRHHH!

Okay so it was only mentally. And quite frankly it did nothing. I don't understand this. She should notice. She's my best friend for goodness-sakes. It should be written across my eyes or emblazoned on my rhinestone vintage shirt.

"...He was good..."

"...Who? The pickle...?"

"...Yes, I've had many a one-sided affair with elongated, salted cucumbers..." I sighed, again "...No, he was good..."

"...The couch...?" she screwed up her face "...I was only kidding when I made that comment about humping it..."

"No. HE!!"

She looked as blank as 'inside the lines' did on my old coloring book when I was five.

"...TAYLOR...!!" I just barely short of yelled in her direction.

"...Good for what? He doesn't do much you know..."

I threw my head in my hands and started panicking. What if I dreamed that whole happening? If Harper couldn't tell that I was no longer a virgin then maybe......I was still a virgin. Oh please God, let it be true.

"...We had..." I looked around to make sure no one could hear me, almost as if I was young again and the dreaded "s" word couldn't be uttered loudly "...We had sex..."

Harper raised an eyebrow. A reaction. Thank you God.

"...Is that all...?" then she grinned "...It's about time..."

Now I raised my eyebrows "...what is that meant to mean...?"

"...Nothing. Did you know that Englishmen have small packages...?" She asked pointing to the article in that turnpike magazine. Just imagine, even the newsprint is siding with the enemy.

"...Fascinating..." I replied, mentally wondering if I was the only person left on the planet that took sex as a big thing. Especially when it involved me.

"...There goes Prince William and I. Damn..."

"...Harper..." I whined.

"...What...?" She set the magazine down on the table and sipped her coffee all the while looking at me evenly. "...You told me he was good. So how do you feel about sex...?"

"...I think it's like spinach..." I pondered philosophically.

"...It was green and stringy...?"

I rolled my eyes. "...No. It's like spinach because at the moment you're eating it, you want to gag and don't see the need for consumption. But when you're taller than all the other girls in your class you suddenly realize that you have something they don't - height..."

"...Or in your case sex..."

"...Yes...in a manner of speaking...."

"...You get deep after sex..." Harper giggled "...You should at least do it three times a day..."

"...I don't like it that much...I like the idea of having done it...."

"...Then Taylor wasn't that good..."

That just so happens to be my boyfriend. The one whom I love. The father of my future children (if I so decided to submit them and myself to that kind of
torture).


"...He was too..." My arms flailed and one just so happened to hit the coffee cup nearby.

Harper violently snorted when coffee spiraled out of the cup in an artistic pattern, which if I would have captured on film were I were not so embarrassed and mortified that those looping rings were heading towards the beautiful male specimen nearby. Of course I'd have to have a camera... which would probably be destroyed by the flying liquid...

I waved pathetically at the specimen. "...Sorry..." I mumbled, throwing napkins his way and dejectedly picking up my coffee cup.

"...Remember when you attempted a pirouette on the ice-skating rink in Tulsa? And your landing was bad and you fractured your ulna twice...?"

"...What are you saying...?" I raised an eyebrow whilst stuffing drenched napkins back into the coffee cup.

"...That you're an full blown disaster waiting to happen. Harvard doesn't stand a chance..." She giggled, her lips moving up and down in that perfect way they always do.

"...This would never have happened if you had kept the whole Taylor not good in bed Springer topic to yourself. I was there, I should know..."

"...Sweetie...." Harper grabbed my hand, with pure insincerity lurking in her eyes. She reminded me of Oprah "....He was, he
wasn't. No one will ever know except you. But right now I have to make a trip to the bathroom. Try and survive without me..."


I laid my head in my hands and bemoned her impending absence "...It won't be easy, Harp..."

And with that she trotted off to the restrooms that were thankfully out of sight.

How does can she possibly not know? How is that humanly possible? I stole a glance at her hot pink peacoat and reminded myself of the intellectual status of the person I was pondering. Okay so it's possible. How many can tell just by looking at my face? How about my slight limp? Or how I washed the sheets yesterday when I normally do it on Saturday? The experienced know. Is Harper playing with my mind? And yet who cares if Annesley McLaren had sex? Besides Taylor and myself? Or my mother - yet part of me knows she'd make a pie to celebrate.

I shivered.

I am a woman. I should be proud. Oh yeah - hear me.....roar......or something.

"...A-nna..." Harper's melodic rendition of my name came floating through the coffee shop, drawing me from my reverie ".....you'll never guess what I saw on the bathroom stall..." she grinned widely.

"...E = MC2...?" I asked. Hell, it was Harvard. Stranger things have happened.
"...No..." she smirked - except it was sympathetic, well as sympathetic as a smirk can be, and leant into my ear.


 

‘I Will Cum to WHAT?!’

 

My mind exploded. Parts were found as far as the espresso machine. In fact my frontal, temporal and parietal lobes would probably be used for Choice Cut Of The Day tomorrow.

Okay, now would be a better time to panic. I began to hyperventilate.

"...Anna, calm down..."

Calm down?! CALM DOWN?! At a time like this? For once in my life I am allowed to have a mental breakdown. I was calm although fresh when I found out Hanson was living next door to me, I was quiet albeit bitter when I saw my father for the first time. Now, when my name is scribbled across a public restroom I am allowed the liberty of freaking out.

"...It's not so bad. It could be worse..."

"...Oh, yeah how...?" I rasped, all feeling lost in my hands, knees and other parts of my body which were supposed to have nerves.

"...Good point..." she sighed "...Here, let me ask those two girls who are heading our way - they look like they might know as much as anyone else would..."

She gave me a hopeful smile.

Hope. Ha. I need a legion of angels at this point. But with all those illegitimate prayers I've offered up over the years, how is God supposed to know this one is for real?

"...Hey..." Harper's voice got low and conspiratorial as the two girls who were dressed straight out of a Gap ad - Ick. Tan. - came closer.

"...Have you heard about the MMMBopping...?" She asked raising her eyebrows suggestively.

I glanced over nonchalantly, hoping that this chasm of designer bland names wouldn't devour me with their beige and colorless fabric. Just staring at them made me itch.

The taller one came alive, almost falling over with the excitement to share gossip.

"...Oh my God. Did I hear about it! My friend was in the dorms when it happened..." She giggled girlishly and pulled her blonde hair behind her ear. I rolled my eyes "...It was really loud - she said you could hear all the squishy noises and the bouncing and the ‘oh yeah's’..."

The short one who looked like she wanted to be an actress bounded in with her eccentric voice. "...A couple of people I know even got Middle of Nowhere out and put on MMMBop. It was exactly the same. And that's when they knew it was Taylor Hanson inside that room. Other than when he walked out of the room, but that's not important..." she chuckled "...Who would have ever thought the boy from the plains would be bonking on a dorm floor and not be so discreet about it either...?"

She raised her eyebrows.

Harper slid her hand under the table and clamped it on my jumping leg, which was about to take on a mind of its own and go bonk her down.

"...That's..." Harper left off raising her eyebrows as if it was implied what she meant "...What did you hear about the girl? Who was it...?"

"...Well after they saw Taylor come out of the room they went and checked the listings. Turns out it is Annesley... some Japanese chick or so we've heard..."

"...Apparently she gets her kicks out hearing MMMBop live..." The two Gap Ads giggled together at the lame-ass joke. Speaking of ass I wanted to kick them in theirs.

"...Well..." I spoke up, ignoring the 'shut-up, you're going to ruin our cover’ look Harper was shooting me with a vengeance from the other side of the table "...Thanks for sharing..." I smiled sweetly but wanted to gag on the honey "...But why don't you all just lie down and die...?"

They stared at me puzzled and then looked at Harper, who offered each of them a weak smile.

“...She liked ‘Where’s The Love’....” Harper shrugged and smiled again with broad insincerity shining from her pearly whites.

They walked away.

"...Anna - that was not even close to being smooth..."

"...Yeah, well, I felt like it..."

"...You are so mature it kills me..."

I told you college had strange effects on people.

"...Harper...?"

"...Yes...?"

I grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the seat.

"...Come on, we have some planning to do..."

 

 

HARPER [written by Madison]

(Cut to ten o'clock that night in a dark Harvard hallway)

 

 

"...Black is not my color and polyester gives me hives..." I groaned, scratching the bejeezus out of my left arm.

"...Well if we wore pink, don't you think security would attack us with swords...?"

"...Swords...?" I asked, rubbing my eyes and trying to get them accustomed to the darkness.

"...Yes. This is Harvard after all. Nothing conventional. Nothing conventional..." Anna sounded as if she were quoting orientation. "...Now how do we get to the bathroom...?"

"...I thought you had this all mapped out..." I stomped my foot, which produced an echo that caused me to get slapped by Anna which caused another echo. And so the chain continues.

"...I do. Just not how to get to the bathroom..." She replied matter-of-factly “....my plan is implemented the moment we step through the door, no earlier and certainly no later....”

I set the paint cans down on the carpet-covered floor, pushing my hair under the black ghetto hat, Anna insisted I buy. I guess I deserve it for all those expensive bikini's I make her buy. Speaking of which, how can she stand Taylor anyway? I mean that boy surely looks better in a bikini than she (or I for that fact) ever will.

A dirty rag just nailed me in the head.

"...Harp, are you listening...?"

What? She was saying something?

I mean does she ever shut up?

"...Of course, my dear friend Anna who I would die for and much more wear black AND polyester all in the name of friendship..."

The things I do for that girl...

"...Good..." She squinted down the hallway. "...I'm pretty sure it's this way. And from now on my code name is Blue Jay, okay Petunia...?"

"...We have code names...?"

"...Yes..." She replied in that 'duh' way everyone masters before age four.

"...Then there is no way in all that is sacred by Harper that I am getting stuck with Petunia..."

"...You can't mess with the plans on the field, Harper, did you never read any great conspiratorial literature...?"

Oh God. She was going Mission Impossible on me without Tom Cruise to soften the trauma.

"...I didn't know about this beforehand so how could I avoid messing with it ‘on the field'...?"

"...What's wrong with Petunia...?"

"...Would you like me to start listing because we will never get to the bathroom..."

"...What name would you like...?"

"...How about me Harper and you Anna...?"

She accosted my mouth with her hand so I could no longer produce audible sounds.

"...Shhh. They might hear you. They can't know who we are..."

"...You are insane..."

"...It's all part of my alluring charm..."

"...the alluring charm which dear Taylor can’t resist. Speaking of which, without him and his urges we wouldn't be in this mess..."

"...Actually it was my urges. But that has nothing to do with our mission..."

"...Yes..." I coughed, "...Blue Jay, this might just be impossible..."

"...Alright, Petunia..."

I cringed at mention of the perennial favourite.

“...we are heading in..."

"...Anna, I really hate--"

"...Shut up..."

 

(Cut to thirty minutes later when Anna walks into door of said bathroom)

 

"...Woah, those doors just come out of nowhere..." Anna, um sorry, Blue Jay moaned as she rubbed her forehead.

"...Yeah they should have large flashing lights and 'beware of door' signs..."

"...I'm not paying you to talk..."

"...You're not paying me at all..."

"...I’m paying you with my love, affection and
friendship, Harper..."


"...So, what do we do from here?..." I asked setting the heavy paint cans down.

"...We go into the bathroom and complete our mission... Nanu Nanu..."

She was really getting into this. If I didn't know better I'd say she wrote it on the door herself so she, for once in her life, could get me to call her Blue Jay. But I know better.

"...Mork was an alien and I doubt that's really going to help..."

"...Lighten up, Petunia. I'm only trying to have some fun in the midst of my questionable future reputation..."

Fun. Haha. Somehow I had conveniently forget about that concept as my arm grew radioactively red and I violated every fashion rule ever instilled in me.

Some may laugh but dressing bad really does hurt.

She looked around, considering one can't see that far in the dark "...Coast clear, let's enter..."

"...Is that what you said to Taylor before--" And I was thrown into the bathroom.

"...Which stall was it?..."

"...How am I supposed to know?..."

"...You should remember things like that..."

"...Yeah, next time I'll take a permanent marker with me to the bathroom and record the sayings..."

"...That's not going to help us now...!" she clutched at my arms and shook me, her voice rising to crescendo.

"...Did sex kill all the brain cells that alert one to sarcasm...?"

"...Alright let's hear your plan for finding the stall..."

"...How about you take the flashlight out from up your, I mean inside your backpack, Blue Jay..." I smiled sweetly even though she couldn't see it.

"...You were in charge of the flashlight..."

"...Is it just me or am I in charge of everything in your operation?..."

"...Don't even pull that. I distinctly told you to bring the flashlight while I was getting the rope..."

"...Would that have been when I was outside running the car, like you insisted, to make sure it would work for our getaway...?"

"...No, it was definitely before that..."

"...You know what? I don't really care. Someone forgot the damn flashlight so let's just deal with it..."

"...My, you, are crabby. The pee fumes getting to you...?"

"...This is why I should have simply hid under the covers like I had planned to do this week..."

"...What stall do you think it was in...?" Blue Jay started walking forward.

"...The fourth down, maybe...?" I pointed vaguely and guided her in the general direction.

"...What happens if you're wrong...?"

"...Then I'm wrong..." I asked hopefully.

"...Oh no. We are doing this tomorrow. When I have time to take responsible indication of where everything is..."

"...You are bossy..."

"...It's a gift..."

"...from the Devil Incarnate..."

"...Now how should we do this...?" Blue Jay wondered aloud.

I had a good idea.

"...Like this..." I answered throwing the white paint at my dear good friend who was really irritating me and quite frankly deserved it.

"...HARPER...!!!"

"...Shh. It's Petunia, remember...?" I smugly told her.

At least I was smug until the whole contents of the can were thrown on top of my head.

This means war, Blue Jay. I am about to pluck you dry.

"...Oh sweetie..." I lunged and began throwing paint at Anna for all it was worth.

 

(cut to ten minutes later with two definitely paint soaked bodies)

 

"...There's no more paint to cover the writing..." Anna moaned rubbing the white stuff out of her eyes.

"...Um..."

That was when I heard and felt the loud bang that was Anna throwing herself against the stall.

If it's not the couch it's the wall.

But being the wonderful friend I am, I should probably ask.

"...What are you doing exactly...?"

"...Covering the writing..."

"...And you think the Harvard people, men, women and faculty who have gotten 1600's on their SATs will see a large body print on the stall and think 'they must be redecorating?'..."

"...Who cares...?"

"...Well in that case..."

Hell, I didn't attend this college.

 

(Cut to five minutes later)

 

"...Well that was interesting..."

"...More interesting than sex...?"

Blue Jay, (not too sure if I can call her Anna just yet) started howling with laughter.

"...You're going to blow our cover..."

"...Who cares, Harper...?"

I stood up and walked over to the stall and admired our handy work.

"...Anna you suck..."

"...Oh my God! I did not, I swear. You didn't tell me that was on there...!" She stood up and wailed "...We don't have anymore paint...!"

 

 

 

ISAAC [written by Rachael]

(on the phone)

 

"...hello...?"

"...Isaac...?"

"...only if you aren't trying to sell me something..."

"...not even if it’s a long distance friends and family service...?"

"...how can I resist friends and family...?"

"...it will even include your wife..."

"...who is this...?!"

"...who do you think it is...?"

"...um...Crispian...?"

"...can't pull the wool over your eyes..."

"...no...wool is too scratchy..."

"...Isaac..."

"...yes...?"

"...we need to talk..."

 

(Twenty minutes later, at a local Starbucks caf�)

 

I sauntered in the caf�, sunglasses on the bridge of my nose, navy blue sweater and khakis resting comfortably on my body, loafers adorning my feet.

Nothing to see here, folks...just an average college student coming in to get a good ol' cup of joe.

I looked over my glasses around the caf�, searching for Crispian. I saw the top of her head studying her hands in a corner booth.

I sauntered over in her general direction, stopping to pick up a paper on my way. I guess I was sauntering a little too much...half of the caf� was staring at me.

Or maybe it was because I could barely see out of the sunglasses, causing me to bump into tables on my trek across the building.

"...'scuse me...sorry 'bout that...oops!...I'm so sorry...excuse me..."

I fell in a chair across from Crispian.

She raised an eyebrow at me.

"...how are you doing, Joe College?..." she smirked, using a straw to poke at my sweater.

"...classes are hard this semester...you know how it is..."

"...classes...right..."

"...so what did you want to talk to me about?..." I asked, leaning back in my chair, ignoring the stares from the other customers, which quite frankly was starting to concern me. I've already sauntered for them. What else do they want?

This is exactly why I let Taylor get the coffee for me. Caffeine addicts are scary.

"...oh, not much. I thought we could maybe shoot the breeze for a bit...talk about the weather..."

"...what do you think of that rain storm we had last week? Was that a doozy, or what?..."

"...oh God. I'm married to a man who actually says 'doozy'..." she moaned, dropping her head into her hands.

"...CRISPIAN...!"

Her head poked above her arms. "...what?..."

"...you can't just...say it all loud..."

"...say what? That we're marr--"

I covered my hand over her mouth quickly, my eyes darting around at the coffee drinkers.

"...yes. That. You can't say OWWWW! Crispian!..."

I wrenched my hand from her mouth. "I can't believe you bit me!"

"...your hand tastes suspiciously of...raspberry lotion...?"

"...it's soap. I have 4 females living in my house, okay? I don't exactly have many options in the detergent department..." I rubbed my hand.

"...okay, okay...I believe you..."

"...look at that! There are teeth marks!..."

"...anyway...what I REALLY wanted to talk about is--"

"...I think you broke the skin!..."

"...what are we going to do about this MARRIAGE thing?..." she said loudly.

I scowled at her, holding my bitten hand.

"...you did that on purpose..."

"...I mean, have you even told your parents that we're...the M-word?..."

"...the M-word...I like that..."

"...Isaac..."

"...okay, okay, okay..." I fiddled with my newspaper uncomfortably. "...I'll tell them..."

"...you might want to tell them relatively soon..." she said, sipping her coffee and grabbing the paper from my hands.

"...I will...sooner or later..."

She unfolded the paper and shoved the front page in my face.

"...yes...'The National Enquirer'...my quality of reading materials is some-what lacking..."

She lowered the paper. "...look at the picture..."

My eyes widened. I grabbed it from her hands.

My face was spread across the front of 'The National Enquirer'. With 'MMMarried!' written under my face.

"...God...could they have gotten a worse picture of me...?"

"...that's not quite the point..."

I looked at Crispian.

"...would you like to meet the in-laws...?"

 

 

TAYLOR [written by Rachael]

 

Boston is a very long distance from LA.

I guess I've never really thought of the distance from one end of America from the next. One city has always just been a plane trip away. But there really are significant distances between places.

The things you discover when looking at a map.

"Hey Mom..." I called from the living room to the kitchen. "Did you know that there are TWO Kansas City's?"

"Imagine that."

"One in Kansas and one in Missouri."

"I never would have guessed."

"Isn't that cool?"

"Who needs school when you know that there are two Kansas City's?"

I squinted at the kitchen. "Mother...are you mocking me?"

"Yes."

I slammed the World Atlas closed. "I do believe that CPS would classify that as 'verbal, emotional, and mental abuse'."

"Honey, CPS would pay me to take you back."

"I love you too."

I leaned back on the plaid couch in the living room of our LA house.

I've got to get out of this house.

"Taylor!" a childish voice called my name.

I leaned my head forward on my chest. "Yes?"

"You're back!"

Mackie jumped on my lap. I shifted under his weight.

"From where?" I asked, squirming uncomfortably. How do you ask a 5 year old to move his knee without getting bombarded with 'Why?'s? I'm pretty sure Mom and Dad don't want me to be the one to explain anatomy to Mackie.

"Anna's house," he said, grabbing my arm and throwing it around in the air.

A little Zac. Just what the world needs.

"I've been back for a couple days."

"Oh." He fell silent for a few minutes, occupying himself with flinging my arm upon the couch, fighting an imaginary foe.

"Does my arm make a good sword?"

"Why did you go to Anna's house in Boston?" he asked, peering at me.

"What?"

"Zac said..."

Oh jeez.

"...that you went for sex."

"WHAT?!?!"

I'm going to kill him.

"What's sex, Taylor?" he asked innocently.

"Um...ah...you see..."

This is more awkward than Mackie's position on my lap.

"Cause Zac said..."

"Mac, I don't care to hear the philosophy of Zac, okay? I visited Anna because we're friends, and that's what friends do is visit each other."

"That's not what Zac said."

"Unnnnnnnng." I slapped my forehead.

"Are you okay, Taylor?" Mackie asked, sticking his face an inch from mine.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Listen, why don't you go play with your Lego's?"

He wrinkled his face. "I don't like Lego's."

"What? How can you not like Lego's?"

"I decided I don't like them. Plus, Zac kept stealing them."

I snorted. "So what do you like?"

"Pokemon."

"Pokey what?"

He sighed. "Pokemon, Taylor!"

"Oh. Right. Pokemon. Well, go pokey your mon, I guess."

He shoved himself off my lap and ran off to some obscure part of the house.

I let my head fall back on the couch.

Zac is so dead.

 

 

ISAAC [written by Rachael]

(at the household holding the Hanson's in LA)

 

"...so when do we get to meet Crispian, dear?..." my mother asked, setting plates on the table.

I reached into the salad bowl and grabbed a carrot stick, crunching it placidly.

"...didn’t I tell you? She's coming for dinner..."

There was a loud crash as a plate jumped to the table from Mom's hand.

"...she...she is?..." She grabbed the suicidal plate and held it firmly to the table.

I raised an eyebrow. You might say that Mom was acting rather guilty. And paranoid. And rather like a small child who was caught with her hand halfway in the cookie jar, smears of chocolate across her face.

"...Mom..."

"...yes, Isaac?"

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

"...setting the table. What are you doing?..."

Since when did Mom become such a...smart ass?

"...is there something wrong with her coming over tonight?..."

"...well, you could've told us that she was coming...we could've had plans..."

"But we don't."

"...there could have been someone coming over tonight..."

"But there isn't."

"...but...there could've been! You just don't know..." Mom said angrily, slamming a fork down.

I raised an eyebrow. "Um...Mom?"

"Yes, Isaac?" she said, pushing a strand of hair off her face.

"Is there something you want to tell me?"

"Yes. Get out of the kitchen."

"What?" I asked, sneaking another carrot stick out of the salad bowl.

"You're just...you're stressing me out."

"I'M stressing you out? Me? The poster child for peace and tranquility?"

"Yes. You and your Inquisition-like interrogation. Go bug Taylor or something..."

"I have your permission? I can go annoy him, and play with his mind, and make fun of the way his elbows stick out at weird angles, and you won't yell at me?"

She shot me a withering look. "Isaac...you are pushing it."

I grabbed a few more carrot sticks and covered the back of my neck as I escaped her razor-like gaze. I could practically feel it tearing into my flesh.

I walked calmly through the house, looking at the walls.

"Ike?"

"What?" I glanced over to the voice that had called my name.

Taylor was lounging on the ugly plaid couch that had been furnished in the house. It's funny...the upholstery matches well with Taylor's ugly plaid shirt. An ugly plaid shirt that shares an uncanny resemblance to a cowboy shirt.

"Nice shirt."

He waved his finger in a lasso motion in the air. "Ride 'em cowboy."

"Not in that shirt."

He smirked at me as I jumped on the couch beside him.

"What are you doing?" I asked him, as he turned his face towards the ceiling.

"I'm counting ceiling tiles."

"Counting...ceiling tiles?"

"Yes. Ceiling tiles."

"Can I ask why?"

"Because I want to know how many there are."

"You want to know how...many there are?"

"What, is there an echo in the room?"

"Is there an...echo?"

He shot me his bitchiest glare. Oooh. You can start a fire under that one.

"Have you told Mom and Dad of your Vegas nuptials?" he asked suddenly.

Part of me wanted to give him a gold star and a pat on the back for using 'nuptials' correctly. Another part of me wanted to smack him like a red-headed stepchild for using the words 'your', 'Vegas', and 'nuptials' in the same sentence in Mom's hearing distance.

I went with the smacking part. I've learned that this part of my personality gets the most results.

"Hey!" he protested, smoothing his hair back down. "It took me forever to get it to look that good!"

"No, Taylor. They don't know yet. They will know when I tell them. Which means that you will NOT breathe a word of anything to anyone. Or I will hurt you."

"Why Isaac...is that a...threat?" he asked, feigning surprise.

"A threat? No...of course not. You can consider that a promise."

"Waaaay original, Ikey. I think you need new writers."

"My writers are just fine, thank you."

"That saying went out with neon spandex and big hair."

I snorted. "Like you can tell me what's in style...Urban Cowboy..."

"This shirt is awesome."

"At hoe-downs?"

Taylor twisted violently, trying to throw me off the couch.

"I'll give you a hoe-down," he muttered.

The door-bell rang shrilly, demanding Taylor and my attention and momentarily breaking up our argument.

"Could you answer that for me, Isaac?" Mom's voice asked from the kitchen.

"It's probably the little woman..." Taylor said, going back to his ceiling tile counting.

I grumbled as I hoisted myself out of the couch and toward the door. I leaned against the door-frame and opened the door, expecting to find Crispian.

"Hey Isaac! How are you?" a familiar voice said. A masculine voice. A voice that was definitely not Crispian.

My eyes bugged out. "...Jonny?!..."

"Hey man...long time..." he said, shouldering a duffel bag and his guitar case.

Not that I'm not grateful or anything...but what is Jonny Lang doing in my house?

I stood aside, dumbfounded, as Jonny walked into the house.

"Jonny!"

I turned quickly to see Mom walking towards us, a huge smile on her face.

Could this possibly get anymore Twilight Zone-ish? I thought as I watched Mom give Jonny a quick hug.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute...what's going on here?"

"Jonny is going to play on a few tracks of the album..." Taylor said, giving me a strange look. "It was in all the papers we signed before we even started recording..."

"And Jonny is going to be staying with us for the few days that he's in L.A.," Mom said.

"You can close your mouth now, Ike," Taylor said, smirking at me.

I clamped my jaw shut, discreetly checking for any drool-like liquids that might have escaped as I was gaping like a fish.

"Staying...here?" I squeaked.

"It's just for a few days," Jonny said. "And then I'm leaving."

No. Please don't go...for the love of God...stay forever. You can have Zac's room...

I nodded. "That's cool."

"Hello?" a feminine voice said tentatively.

My head whipped to the open doorway. How dare they interrupt my conversation with Jonny!?

Crispian was knocking on the doorframe, looking inside the house at us.

"Mom, this is Crispian..." I said, nodding to the door.

'That's all you can say? This is Crispian?' a nagging voice inside me said. 'She's your...wife now. I would think she's worth a bit more than 'This is Crispian.' I shrugged it away.

In my defense...no one can really expect me to be able to think straight in front of Jonny! I mean, let's be serious for a moment...

"Isaac?" Crispian said softly, appearing suddenly at my side.

"Yes?"

"Can I talk to you for a minute?"

No. I'd rather talk to Jonny.

"Sure...I guess..."

We retreated to a hallway, secluded from the prying ears of my family.

"What is it?" I asked impatiently.

She raised her eyebrows at me.

"What is it...ma'am?"

"Mmm hmm..." she muttered. "Have you told your parents about...you know..."

"About what?"

"You know..." she said again, twisting a ring around her finger.

"I do?"

"Isaac! Have you told your parents that we're married!?" she hissed.

"Don't say the M-word!" I screeched.

"Isaac..."

"I'll tell them! I will!" I walked back to the living room. "You don't know my parents...you have to have the right moment," I called over my shoulder.

"So...Jonny..."

 

(45 minutes later during dinner)

 

"You know, Mom...Dad...the funniest thing happened during Crispian and my date the other night...you're going to love this one..."

 

(approximately 45 seconds later)

 

"You're MARRIED?!?!!?"

"Define...married..."

PART B

TAYLOR [written by Madison]

(in Rachael's backyard)

 

"And the point of us being here again would be?" I rubbed the sweat off my forehead.

Zac sighed and glanced at me, frustration clearly evident on his face.

"Taylor maybe if you stopped talking and moving we would have tricked them by now."

Tricked them? I inwardly groaned. This was turning out to be the perfect waste of a good afternoon. I hadn't been so bored since Isaac and made me sit through his lecture about the art of naming a guitar. But that wasn't voluntary, whereas this just so happened to be. (Although I'm too man enough to admit that I was dubiously wooed by my much younger brother). It's not even the defending of the 'poor, innocent, defenseless garden from the wardens of evil known as the deer' (according to Rachael) by way of firing paintballs at them to make certain that they were gone and also to make sure that they didn't come back.

Back to present. Zac was staring at me. Oh well I'll just humor him. Might as well keep the kid happy.

"How smart could deer possibly be?"

"Smart enough not to come into a yard where voices are eminating"

"Is that your word of the day?"

"You're just jealous because you can't spell it"

"I can spell it..........I -T !" Silence.

"Zac I am doing you a favor, have you forgot that particular aspect?"

"I'm trying to but you constant chatter is not helping"

"Well I wouldn't be here and neither would you for that fact if Rachael hadn't asked us to come. And why couldn't Rachael do this herself anyway?"

That girl had two arms and legs and a paintball gun as well. From my standpoint there was no reason I should sit there with my brother waiting for some mangy deer on my day off. In fact I should be over in Boston.

Zac's exasperated voice broke through my train of thought before I could fully discover the wonderful possibilities in Boston.

"She had a 'prior engagement'..."

Prior engagement in the terms of any female simply means they have a job they want you to do and even if they wanted to do it, they really don't want to get their hands dirty so they schedule something more pleasant at that time. Then they casually ask their boyfriend, while nonchalantly pumping up their masculinity, if they wouldn't mind taking care of the minor detail they can't seem to get around to doing. And also rule #52452345 of girlhood: Minor always equals major. Anna has taught me well.

"So how did she Rachael rope you into this anyway?"

There was silence for a few moments and I was puzzled until I looked over at Zac and noticed he was as red as the apples Mom used to take us to pick annually when we were younger.

"Oh" I grinned widely and gave him a shove on the back.

"Was it worth it?"

Zac nodded at first and then shook his head "At first I thought it was and then, now that I think about it - no"

Then he grabbed my arm.

"Look" he whispered.

"Here they come"

Sure enough three deer appeared from behind a few stray shrubs. I would have stopped to stare or even to realize how majestically beautiful they were. Maybe a song or two could have produced itself from simply watching their bodies lighted in the early afternoon light.

But I didn't know how long that had been inside him before I followed suit [praying that no one on earthy would (a) remember me screaming like a lunatic as we charged the deer or (b) that no one saw].

"We gonna kill you..." Zac screamed, his voice resembling that of a stray cat or an electrocuted dog.

How can I possibly compete with that? I watched Zac start firing his paintballs at the deer as they started to try and nibble on Rachael's garden. He was really into it. But then again a Hanson man never gives up or fails.

"This is the last straw" And I started firing as well, making machine gun noises in the back of my throat along with jerking my body to get into the groove of this whole masquerade.

"They're running away Taylor!" Zac seemed amazed. What did they think they would do? Lie down on their backs and declaim defeat? I on the otherhand was busy rejoicing, I had thought that at last I could go back to my laborious task of doing nothing.

"After them Scrawny"

Awww, the new nickname Zac has taken to calling me ever since he shot up like a weed. Frankly I should not let him get away with it, seeing as how I am the older brother and everything. But the kid could beat me up and break both my legs so I have no other choice but to endure.

"After them?" I croaked as I followed in pursuit. The longer (and farther) this whole thing went on the more chance I had of being recognized.

My legs pumped the earth and I felt like John Wayne or some other notorious film hero saving the world from destruction or deer in any case. At least I did until I heard a gigantic squoosh and instantly knew that my foot had squished the very thing we had been sent to protect - a large tomato lay destructed and decrepit under my sneaker-clad food.

"Rachael is going to eat you alive with salt and pepper" Zac remarked looking over his shoulder as I charged after him.

"Um, oops?" I chalked up praying he wouldn't rat me out. But I didn't have time to contemplate this line questioning or thought (stop laughing, blondes do think contrary to popular belief) Zachary let out an inhuman sound.

He cackled, surprised.

"They're getting away" Zac sounded genuinely disappointed (didn't we want them to run away? I had thought that was the point. Damn. I wish people would tell me these things). Nevertheless I was relieved "Where are they going?"

"My guess is they went home because..." Before I could finish my thought Zac came to a startling halt and I, being clumsy and more arms and legs than anything else rammed straight into him, knocking us both to the ground. I choked out ".......they're probably outcasts now for being spotted yellow. You know how animals hate other yellow spotted animals" trying hard not to laugh.

For some reason I thought this was hilarious and started laughing until tears rolled down my cheeks.

"Taylor" Zac began as he pushed me off of him, making me land on my butt and since there\rquote s not much padding there it hurt more than it should have "Mom told you she didn't like you on the drugs"

When I cracked up at this Zac became suspicious and looked a wee bit scared.

"Let's get you home - that power trip over small defenseless animals really fried your brain cells" Then as an afterthought - "And it's not like you had any to spare" I got up and began walking back to Rachael's Grandfather's house, Zac on my heels.

Shooting deer with paintball guns was surprisingly more fun than I had ever expected. It is also rule #413413 of girlhood that always proves that when they ask you to do something nine times out of ten you will end up having more fun than you would ever be willing to admit aloud.

"Zac?" It was Rachael's voice that greeted us as we jumped over the hedge "Taylor?"

Zac wiggled his eyebrows at her causing her to giggle. Get a room.

"...We got rid of the naughty deer" Eye wiggle "They didn't eat any of your veggies" Wiggle, wiggle. I just might vomit momentarily "...Aren't you proud of me?"

Ahem.

"Like you could have done it by yourself"

And when Rachael turned to acknowledge my presence (about time), Zac sent me a fierce scowl. Well sorry if I dared to try and soak up attention. I've had issues since Anna has departed for college-land.

"Which reminds me I should check my garden to make sure you kept up your end of the deal" Both Rachael and Zac blushed at the insinuation in her voice.

"Are you sure you want to do that? Don't you trust us?" I asked innocently, trying to make my baby blue eyes bulge in jus the right way to make myself seem angelic. It's the look man nor beast can resist, although Rachael must be neither because she glanced at me briefly, twisted her face into a pucker and sprinted over to her garden.

"Do I look like a liar to you?"

"It's that way" I motioned lamely which caused her to shoot a look over her shoulder that read 'I know how to find my own garden peaboy'.

Women.

She let out a squeal of fright or half delight "You crushed my favorite tomato plant!"

Well at least I know which emotion her squeal referred too. Girls have got to make their reference to emotion more clear - us guys can get lost too easily.

"You have a favorite tomato plant?" Apparently Rachael did because she almost bit me while picking up her tomato plant and cradling it in her arms, its pitty red juice dribbling down her arms.

"Yes and now it's gone!" She lamented, rubbing it's slimy red body that was oozing slimy red goo that was getting all over her shirt "You killed it!"

"Taylor how could you?" Zac gave me a pointed glare that was followed by a smirk as he walked over to Rachael.

Oh no. This was not my fault. No way in hell. I did not do it on purpose.

And more importantly, I did not give up my afternoon to be reprimanded.

"Now wait a second Zac"

"There's no use denying it"

"But I didn't mean..."

"Taylor" Rachael interrupted, looking up at me and I could see the female brain at work inside her head "Replant Mr. Tomato in order to show your innocence. If it comes back to life you are innocent if not...." her eyes darkened, "...well...."

With that she walked over and dumped the contents of her arms - the 'dead' tomato plant - into mine.

It felt like Zoe's diaper the first time she decided to become an active participant in her diaper changing and grabbed said diaper and chucked it at me.

"But"

"Taylor" Zac gave me a Dad look.

"Be respectful to the tomato" He ordered as he put an arm around Rachael and led her away from the murder scene.

"But I loved that plant! It produced the best tomatoes..." I heard her tell him as they walked off towards the house and I was left with a squished dripping tomato. And just when I thought I'd actually go three days without having to take a shower.

Then Rachael called back, "You be careful with all the other vegetables"

Women and their gardens.

 

 

CRISPIAN [written by Madison]

(inside the Hanson's kitchen in LA)

 

"I hate him" I growled, throwing punches and poking the death out of it with my fingers; it was at my mercy now and I didn't have too much of that at the moment.

"No, in fact I hate both of them" Him and his bloody other personality. I socked it good once and it squirted something yellow.

I put its limp body before my eyes, staring at it with a vengeance.

"Now I'm talking to myself. Clearly the first sign of insanity" I threw the dough-in-a-bag against the wall, slowly getting frustrated that there were still bumps of unmixed pieces inside the bag "But you're really only insane if you answer your own question, right? Of course. Everyone knows that"

Damn.

I hate baking. I literally hate baking. I hate it as much as moles despise the sunlight - as much as cows abhor the butcher. The good thing about baking (if there is anything)? I can take out all of my frustrations - I can literally hit the dough and beat the eggs. And then I can eat it and drown myself in the sugary fat.

Although I am about to remove Aunt Jemima from the family because this easy 1 2 3 step baking coffeecake was more work than I was willing to do. It required pouring all ingredients into a big plastic bag that was included in the package, kneading it with my figures and then pouring into a little paper makeshift pan. It was proving to be more challenging than regular baking was - for this much work I would have started from scratch (in reality I would have bought something from the bakery but it's nice to pretend to be ambitious).

I poked it once more and threw it against the wall. It squirted at me; I guess it was mad at all the abuse.

"Okay fine, hate me too" I admitted defeat, wiping the yellow goo from my forehead.

"...who hates you...?" I spun around to see Zoe standing in the doorway, her hair messy from her afternoon nap and her strawberry pink jumper up around her waist and wrinkled slightly. I wanted to cry. Too late.

"Don't cry, Crispeeeen" She elongated her vowels as she came closer, wrapping her arms around me (or more specifically my leg).

"I love you" And as if she needed to prove this she kissed my bare leg.

I smoothed her hair "...well, Zoe, I love you too..." Who couldn't love this kid? Who couldn't love anyone who told you they loved you? "...but I'm not too sure your parents are exactly happy right now. It's really very complicated...."

She hugged my leg tightly "...Ike loves you..."

And I wanted to choke "How do you know that?"

"Because I do" she said emphatically. Well, that brings some closure.

"What's that?" she pointed at the flaccid plastic bag.

"I don't know, but whatever it was, it's dead now"

"You mean you killed it?" She gasped.

I laughed "...in a manner of speaking, but heat may just revive it......what's say we go visit everyone at the studio....?"

"Yeah" she squealed took off out of the kitchen.

"I love Crispeeen" she sang as she ran down the hallway.

You're the only one.

I hit the dough for one more time for good measure. It bit back.

 

(cut to thirty minutes later with Zoe in Crispian's car eating Coffee Cake)

 

How many fans would give their right arm to be in the position I am in right now? And yet I am thinking of annulling the whole shebang. I bet they'd eat me alive if and when they ever find out. 'Cooked Crispian, the new delicacy at any Hanson concert across the nation'.

I know it's teeny and cliche, but he could have any fan he wanted - well unless they were partial to Taylor or Zac - so why would he even want to stay married to me?

He wouldn't.

End of problem.

I just wish he hadn't told Diana.

My musings stopped when the chewing noises did in the backseat.

"Gwthis wis fgud" gurgled the backseat.

"Zoe, don't talk with your mouth open" I reprimanded immediately and then it hit me - I sound like my mother. I had never before sounded like my mother. It's this stupid marriage.

"Damn"

Zoe laughed in the backseat "Damn"

"Zoe don't say that. It's a bad word. Your mother will kill me"

"Damn!!" she giggled.

Diana is definitely going to kill me. If she didn't hate me now, God only knows how much she will despise me when her child produces that word in front of her. I've corrupted young Hanson minds, God help me.

"Zoe, that's enough."

"But it's fun"

"Yeah but your mom won't be much fun when she hears you say it"

"Crispeeeen, don't cry"

I stop. Fake tears work like a charm. But they only do when they are fake tears.

"Are you and Ike going to have a baby?"

What's with these life-altering questions?

"I don't think so, Zoe" I admitted warily - I didn't even know if we would stay married.

"Ike wants babies. He promised me I could be an aunt"

If I hadn't wanted to kill Isaac before, I suddenly had the urge to smack him to death.

"You want to be an aunt at Age 2?" My aunts don't even want to be aunts at Age 37.

 

(cut to ten minutes later)

 

"We're here"

"SHHHHHHH..!!" Five different voices came at me at once, all from the recording area.

"Sorry"

"CRIS!!"

It's days like this when you hide under the covers.

I set Zoe down and she toddled over to tackle her mother. Better her than me.

"You can talk now" Isaac's voice drifted over the airwaves that lead from the recording room to the control panel.

"Thank you your majesty"

"Is there a reason you're not bowing?"

"I might make too much noise" Everyone laughed and order was restored once again.

"You've met Jonny, right?" Diana asked, while approaching me.

I gulped.

"Yes, at dinner last night"

"Oh, yes that's right. My son has impeccable timing"

I am a coward. I openly admit it. Well not openly. But I decided to calmly excuse myself from Diana's presence before she decided to lock Isaac away in the basement and hang me in the town square.

"Cris, come say hi to Jonny"

Isaac Hanson was swooning.

"Jonny, this is Crispian"

I AM YOUR WIFE!!!! NOT HIM!!!!

"Hi Jonny, how is LA treating you?" - since last night where I asked you the same thing.

"...LA's treating me just fine..."

"...and you're---"

"---amazing. But then again he's an amazing guitarist" Yes, that would be Isaac again, interrupting.

"Yes, well I've heard that"

"....I wish I was amazing....." he mumbled.

"You still underestimate yourself, dude?" he shook his head and gave Isaac a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder "...you've got it, man....."

And with that Jonny was summoned away.

I didn't even know Isaac that well and yet clear as day I saw him relax and his eyes wash over with pride. The great Jonny Lang had said he was good (I'm assuming 'it' is a good thing to have). Someone call a newsman.

Men.

"Hey guys!" Taylor wandered over, clad in a hideous green shirt.

"I was wondering if you would tell me how this looks"

"Some hot date tonight?" I asked - Taylor scowled.

"I have a girlfriend, Crispian, remember?"

Haha. I knew something was missing from my view of the whole picture.

The whole family hates me.

"Right"

"Taylor go give back that shirt to whatever animal you stole it from"

"Funny Ike. Crispian, what do you think?"

Is he serious? I flicked my eyes at him. Oh God, he's serious. Quick, think of something nice to say about it while also suggesting that green with fur and leather is not exactly his color.

"I don't think green is your color. It doesn't..." I stuttered "...bring out your eyes..."

Taylor looked miffed and slightly disappointed. He actually liked the shirt. Who knew?

"Let's ask Mackie" He grabbed the young child's arm as he was passing.

"Whassup?" Mackie asked, complete with ghetto accent. What are they teaching our children?

"How do I look in this shirt?"

 

MACKIE

Tay looks like a turtle. Hehe.

 

CRISPIAN [written by Madison]

 

"Great, dude" Mackie made a thumbs up sign and trotted away.

"See? I told you so" And with that blondie left the building, er, uh, room.

"How are you doing?" Isaac directed the question at me as soon as we were alone, as alone as you can get with twenty or so people all in the a fifty foot radius.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to talk to him or not.

"I don't know Isaac. Let me count the ways that your parents hate me"

I couldn't just blatantly ignore him either.

"Cris, they don't hate you"

"Are you saying my intersensory mood ring is wrong?"

He seemed like he was about to laugh, but lucky for him he caught my eyes and stopped himself.

"No, I'm saying you're overreacting"

"ISAAC HANSON I DO NOT OVEREACT!!!" I yelled at him, stomping away.

I heard him following; too bad for him he didn't know that I wouldn't be responsible for my actions if he caught up.

"Crispian, where are you going?"

"Somewhere very far away from YOU" I emphasised my point by poking him viciously in the chest (and almost breaking my finger whilst doing so).

"Don't you think you're being a little ridiculous?"

I spun around.

"No. In fact I don't think I am being ridiculous at all...the only thing ridiculous is this marriage! I can't even tell my family, Isaac!"

"You know why. At least not until we figure out how to write the press release"

And in the meantime, my own mother thought I was still single, when in fact I was legitimately married. Well. As legitimate as an Elvis impersonating pastor can be.

'Security Reasons' had been the vague official motive behind not telling anyone. But do I give a damn? No it was my life too damn it.

"...screw the press release, I'm not bloody famous Isaac! I don't have to announce my marriage to my parents via Entertainment Tonight.....this is ridiculous, this whole thing....NOT me...!! Why I couldn't have eloped with an unknown, I don't know......but trust me.....never again....."

I wanted to cry and yet I laughed - Aunt Shirley wouldn't have to hound me any longer about marriage and marrying too old. Here I was, barely old enough to buy a drink and yet tied down to a person I had known for maybe a week.

Life sucks. Especially when you're drunk.

"Forget it Isaac. Go record with Jonny. Hell, why don't you move to Utah and marry him? You can be polygamous there, you know, and I'm pretty sure they let you have as many husbands as you can have wives..." I threw the insult at him, hoping it hurt.

"Are you listening to yourself?"

"Are you inferring I'm insane? I am not insane, Isaac. I may be delusional, married and aging, but I am not insane. I can hear myself; I just listen to the little voices inside my head. They are really very useful sometimes"

Sometimes it's better not to ask yourself why you say the things you do.

"Stop"

"Don't worry, I am"

And with that I stormed out of the building and before Isaac could say 'Jonny Lang', had hit the road with my car.

That boy is so infuriating.

 

(cut to two hours later in Crispian's flat)

 

I hate Isaac. No let me rephrase that - I hate anything and everything with an Y chromosome. Wait - with ONLY an Y chromosome.

"I couldn't believe I actually thought this could work. This is ridiculous. We either face our mistakes or get them annulled. I opt for the latter.

Rash decisions always come easily to me. In fact when I chose to become involved with fashion it was after a transvestite approached me at a party and told me that fashion was my calling. Next day I enrolled for classes. And here I am.

Well I think it is high time I become a doctor, like I was supposed to. Like my dad. It only takes eight years of my life, what do I have to lose? One husband is what. One husband who has eyes only for one person - a blues guitarist by the name of Jonny.

So here I was, taking a permanent vacation from being a wife. I had planned on being single for the rest of my life anyway. I can become old and bitter.

Oh, life holds so much promise.

I was too wrapped up in my thoughts to hear the door open to my flat, only when two arms wrapped themselves around me did I realize I was not alone. Unfortunately for the intruder he didn't realize I don't give up without a fight.

I hit him with a hardcover novel "Take THAT!"

"OW!!"

I twisted around.

"Isaac? What are you doing here?"

"Getting hit over the head. If this is how you greet your husband I hate to see what you do to someone you're not related to"

"I fry them"

He laughed slightly, maybe a little nervously. Perhaps the beating scared him off.

"I'm sorry about before. But we need to talk...honey...." he tacked it on uncertainly.

"Honey...? Suddenly you're acting like we're married?"

"We are married, darling..." He replied dryly "...don't you want to make this...this thing work? I can't be the only one"

"We were paralytic and Vegas has the greatest amount of wedding chapels per capita, this hardly counts as legitimate marriage...."

I tossed a pile of sweaters into a suitcase.

"A suitcase? My wife is travelling somewhere without telling me?"

"This is the nineties, Isaac. Women are independent. Deal"

"Where are you going?"

"Back to school. This whole debacle has made me realize it's where I should be right now"

I threw my lab coat and dissection set onto the pile.

"Those looked surprisingly scientific"

"How observant"

"What school are you going to? And what major?" He looked at me suspiciously, squinting his eye. Oh, that dinky little eye squint.

"NYU....pre-med"

"That's on the.......East Coast. My brain can only compute one revelation at a time"

"That's sad really but isn't it a brilliant coincidence?"

"...No. It isn't...."

"Well, it seems we have a difference of opinion - the first of many if we continued this 'marriage'" I sighed "Face it Isaac, there's no point in prolonging the annulment, if it isn't now, it'll be in two years time"

"Didn't you ever watch MTV in the eighties....Paula Abdul....'Opposities Attract'?" He prompted.

"Considering the longevity of her music career, her lyrics are the last thing I'd take to heart"

"Paula and I have something in common then - you won't take either of us to your heart"

"Don't think you can play on me like one of your freaking guitars Isaac, I'm not made of wood and metal"

"Could have fooled me, you have all the emotion of a compressed pine log"

"Making your insults poetic doesn't make them any easier on the ear"

"This isn't supposed to be easy"

"Actually, it wasn't meant to 'be' at all"

"Why are you being so difficult?"

"Just leave"

"No can-do. I legally own this flat just as much as you do at this moment so you can't kick me out"

"But I can kick you"

"Cris, what is wrong with you?"

"We are married for goodness sakes, that doesn't...I don't know....bother you at all?"

"It doesn't 'bother' me, I'm not going to pretend this never happened"

"Then let me"

"So you look at this as just a mistake?"

"It is what it is. We were drunk at the time"

"Maybe it's fate"

"Fate is a load of bullshit made up by people that can't stand the thought of being in control of their own lives"

Little did he know I wanted him to tell me it would work out. That it would be okay. But sometimes there is nothing you can do, except fight it.

"I want to learn how to love you, Cris"

I made the ultimate mistake of stopping packing and turning around to face him. He caught my eye.

"I seriously want this to work. I don't want to pretend meeting you was a mistake, because it wasn't"

"Isaac"

He walked towards me and took my hands in his own.

"It just takes two" He threw a cheesy grin around carelessly.

"it takes two to tango too"

He leaned down and planted the softest kiss upon my lips, it felt like feathers or clouds.

"...I can tango with you..." He pulled me into his arms and strut across the room.

"Are you sure? You're actually a really bad dancer"

"Crispian darling, will you be my wife?"

"I already am.....honey...."

 

ANNA [written by Madison]

(Harvard University's Student Library)

 

I was exhausted which wasn't so horrible considering college had completely challenged my internal clock. I rarely slept. There was work, work, work and quite frankly more work. Unfortunately that left little time for sleep or 'play' for that matter and Anna was turning into a very dull girl. Not to mention cranky.

It was nearing midnight and I still had yet to read an incredibly thick book for one of my classes tomorrow. I wasn't too sure if I was happy or not that I remembered. I had been all nice and comfortable tucked into bed, the blankets covering me like the heat does to the ground during summer when suddenly I remembered that stupid book. I wasn't even sure how.

Then an inner battle had begun: Me against Conscience. I needed to read the book and yet I needed to sleep as well.

Despite that long horrid war with myself and the pillow, I have never been a strong person and ended up giving up to Conscience.

So there I was, my eyes blurred and my clothes hanging off me limply, probably looking otherworldly (Vampire/werewolf otherworldly) searching in vain for the stupid book that had cleverly eluded me ever since I had stepped into the library.

Finally, exhausted and defeated I made my way over to the librarian.

"Excuse me Miss?" I hoped 'Miss' had been correct although he/she/it could go either way.

He/she/it rolled one large eye my way; his/her/its chin protruded greatly and gathered saliva inside the pocket that was his/her/its mouth. I grimaced but tried to turn it into a smile.

"Could you tell me where to find the Johnson-Smith Edition 14 hardcover? I asked ask politely as I could.

"Do I look like your mother?" He/She/It asked rudely, some salvia escaping his/her/its cupped mouth and running down his/her/its chin.

Now if I hadn't been so tired, so irate and aggravated and not so grossed out I probably would have nodded and walked away. But I was not in the mood for his/her/its nonsense. Hell I had barely slept and resembled a walking time bomb with a tiger shoved high up the wrong side.

"No but you are a librarian!" Smoke started coming out of my ears and I knew my face was as hot as the surface of the sun. "And last time I checked librarians were helpful citizens of America and did justice to those looking for books. It's what you freaking do, you're even paid, although I can't imagine why" He/she/it looked startled but I was on a roll. "I am tired, I haven't had a decents night's sleep in a long time, I can't even tell you how long because I'm too tired to count. I am cranky and with a forty-five and a shovel, I doubt anyone would miss you."

He/She/It seemed about to protest.

"Don't tempt me lady, if that's what you really are. I am not to be underestimated..." I stopped for a moment and he/she/it only stared at me open mouthed, his/her/its gooey saliva pooling as I gave a final look of disgust. "Now, where is that book?" I asked.

"In the ninth isle, left side, middle shelf"

His/Her/Its mouth produced flabbergasted sounds.

I smiled tightly.

"Thank you for your time" I tossed her a tissue from my pocket to wipe up his/her/its drool. "That wasn't so hard now was it?"

And I was off to find my book.

I almost cried as my hand touched the smooth surface of Edition 14. I would have wept if I hadn't felt a tug in the opposite direction.

"...Excuse me...." I said looking up enough to come in contact with a boy who looked roughly my age.

"...You're excused..." the guy shrugged and simultaneously jutted out his lower lip, whilst giving a nonchalant tug on the book with an unmistakable air of ownership.

"...I picked up this book before you, can you kindly remove your hand...and your ego...?" I pulled the book, jolting him forward instead of detaching him from it. The guy was just a regular Spiderman.

"....No, I can't...it's stuck...sorry...." He tugged gently to prove his point.

"I have no patience and my foot is about to be permanently stuck to a part of your body" I tried to growl but I think it died somewhere in the back of my throat.

"I'd like to see you try"

Let's try reason Anna. Maybe he's not as big a chauvinistic pig as you might think.

"...Look, I have a class tomorrow and I need this book....I need to read this book before tomorrow, I'm begging you......just let go....."

"No can do....I need this book for class tomorrow too...."

Forget reason. Perhaps if I insult him?

"....You are the rudest person I've ever met. Haven't you heard of the phrase 'ladies first'...?"

"...Oh, I have...but I just bet you're one of those girls that wishes she could have burnt her bra, reads Germaine Greer and goes around calling for equality between the sexes but still expects a guy to give in to her every time. Well, not this guy. I'm all for equality, sweetie, and there's no way you're getting this book because some dude said 'ladies first' back in the 18th century and you decided you liked the sound of it..."

I gritted my teeth and refused the urge to smack him. "....My name is not sweetie..."

"....Mine isn't bastard but you're on the verge of calling me that naughty word, aren't you...?" he smiled winningly.

Violence will get you nowhere, Anna.

"...Don't presume to know me or predict what I'd call you...." I glared at him and muttered 'bastard' under my breath.

He let out a loud laugh "....You just called me a bastard....!"

"...I did not...!" I cried indignantly, tugging on the book.

"...I have perfect hearing, sweetie, and you said 'bastard'...."

"...Do you do this often? Harassing female students in libraries? Because you seem highly adept at it...." I leaned in closer to him, whispering in his ear "....But you've met your match with me..."

"....You're my match? According to the old rule you're supposed to pick on people your own size....."

"...But see, if you add on the 3 more inches you pretend you have both here..." I patted his head "...and here...." I gestured to the front of his pants "...we'll be about the same height, won't we....?"

"...True, true....but I really do have that God-given extra 3 down here...." he winked at me suggestively.

"...I'm sure your hand is highly impressed...." I remarked dryly as he pulled on the book to emphasize his point.

".....And I thought you were hot for me, baby....."

"....Hot for you? I most definitely am not...." I surveyed him with a disgusted glare.

"....I am truly disappointed...." He pretended to pout.

"For the love of God, give me that book before I result to some method that both you and I will regret!"

He smiled widely again mock fear painted across his face, as his grip grew increasingly (and unbelievably) stronger. I made a futile attempt to wrench it from his hands.

I see open antagonism isn't working its usual charm. Perhaps I should attempt another angle.

I wracked my brain for something to throw at him. Aha. "....I like your eyebrow ring...."

He rolled his eyes "....Flattery will get you nowhere...."

Damn. And it had always worked so well.

"...No, no....I genuinely like it..."

He looked almost pleased. Now let's rip the rug right out.

"Another failed attempt at punk by today's youth" I smiled sadly, looking at him with pity.

"You are part of today's youth if you haven't noticed"

"Aha, but I don't attempt to recreate past eras of fashion" I said while glancing down at my bedtime shirt - I knew the rebuttal was coming before he even opened his mouth.

"So you tell me what that shirt your wearing is besides an attempt at recreating Woodstock"

"And in the meantime justify myself to you? I think not" I said flippantly.

"So you're a hypocritical feminist," he rolled his eyes "Besides murderers and vagabonds, you're part of the group that society most wishes didn't exist"

He was enjoying this way too much.

I actively ignored his comment and pondered his navy t-shirt printed with a crest and the words 'Oxford University' in white "Did you ever go to Oxford, or did daddy send you over that shirt?"

"Bought it in Little Italy actually" he glanced down at it and with his free hand, stretched the bottom of it proudly.

"And the prestige of one of the world's best colleges drops tenfold" I muttered and glanced at my watch - 1am. I currently have 7 hours in which to read and critique a 600 page book.

He peered over at the face of my watch, before I caught him and hid it behind my back.

"Look," He actually seemed almost as desperate as I was at the moment "I'm willing to overlook your openly hostile nature and hypocrisy and suggest sharing the book so we can both get through tomorrow's class. Being the ever open-minded man I am it would be out of character to do anything else...."

I fought the urge to say something along the lines of 'I'm sure the world's male contingency is horrified that you're classifying yourself amongst them', and swallowed my pride with the same struggle it takes to down a raw oyster.

"I carry pepper spray" I uttered finally; following him to desk where no doubt would begin the longest night of my life.

 

(cut to the next morning)

 

So it turns out the boy wasn't all that bad considering. He reads at the same pace as I do and sneaks cups of coffee into the library. He has sideburns. His writing is illegible. He also religiously carries chocolate in his back pocket, which although ending up melted and in odd shapes, still tastes good. Oh, and his name is Ethan.

Ethan what, I didn't know. So hence my asking on our way to class - well-prepared, if not well-slept.

"....Brezinski? What is that? Polish.....?" I asked rubbing my eyes, mentally totaling how many hours I had not slept in the past week. I think I was up to forty.

He grinned. "...Oh, she hits the nail on the head. We're Polish Jews...."

".....Well, you couldn't hope for a better geographical and religious hybrid, could you?"

He nodded. "....My father is a rabbi, my American mother converted for him and then reconverted on the divorce, which was on the grounds of incompatibility because of religion. I happen to have some major issues with Judaism that my dad blames my mom for every time he sees her" His voice got conspiratorial "It's the bad blood that makes me question, you know...."

"...You don't look Jewish...but perhaps that's the bad blood's fault too...."

"....Well, you don't look like an Anna McLaren..."

Oh the boy is smart and here I was unjustly worried.

"...Granted..." I conceded "...It's a pity really though, Jewish guys are so attractive, I could have gone for you if you weren't so New England..."

"Look!" he gesticulated violently around the middle of his face "I have the nose!"

"...I'm sorry, it's too straight for me, Ethan...."

"...Bigot..." He was grinning widely though.

I tapped my chin thoughtfully. "...You know, that's the first time I've been called that..."

"...God bless Asian backgrounds..."

"....Hear, hear...."

And we entered the classroom to see if in actually one can sustain material on zero hours sleep.

 

ETHAN [written by Madison]

 

We'll just go for a walk
A little stroll to calm the nerves
Anna suggested
It's what we both deserve


 

Anna had insisted on taking a 'stroll' (as she had elegantly put it while pulling her Betty Johnson Dalmatian coat out of her dorm-room closet) on the boardwalk that overlooked the coastline after we had finished our morning class. She wanted to visit a quaint little coffee shop she had remembered going to once, before her life was sucked from her veins (as she adoringly called college).

It would have been highly wonderful if it hadn't been as cold as the inside of a fish. I couldn't feel my fingers and I doubted that if I had put the entire contents of my closet on my body I would be any less cold. Only after glancing over at Anna did I realize she looked absolutely radiant and her cheeks were the color of roses during the summer. She didn't even seem mildly discomforted because of the cold. She was one strange creature. And yet I was strangely attracted to the strange creature.

"Ethan, don't you dare fall asleep on your feet. I will make no efforts to carry you back to the dorms" She glanced at me, cuffing me in the shoulder while I let out a slight 'ow' "You're a big baby. That whole charade in the library was all a front"

"You discovered my secret"

Anna laughed mildly, letting her eyes drift out over the ocean. "Don't you love the ocean?" she asked, her eyes faraway.

"No"

Anna seemed startled. I could tell she was used to being agreed with. "When I think of all the slimy creatures in there that use the ocean as their personal bathroom it loses all its majesty..."

Anna scrunched up her face, cuffing me in the arm again. "So you should feel right at home in there, right?"

The weirdest part about Anna? She can wear the sweetest smile while insulting the hell out of you.

Before I could make my mouth produce a comeback that would put her in her place, a little Italian woman, dressed impeccably in a designer suit and weighted down with gold jewelry who was heading our way in the opposite direction reached over and grabbed Anna's chin.

Anna was as shocked as a dog who has suddenly become a cat therefore made no effort to move as the woman stared open-mouthed at her, while grabbing and pinching her nose and cheeks.

"...You are a very pretty girl you know..."

Hey. If there's anyone who is going to get her it's me. I saw her first.

Anna jerked her chin away, giving the woman a confused stare. "....Uh, thank you....." She stuttered.

"...Do you have a job?"

"...Not currently. I'm studying at Harvard...." Anna said with as much dignity as she could muster. I think it took all of her to not start running down the boardwalk, her spotted coattails flapping in the wind.

"...Ah, I see..." she paused and looked at her intently, before nodding "...I'll get some work for you..."

I flicked my eyes from the Italian woman to Anna. Somehow I doubt the sex industry would interest her, lady.

She smiled, revealing a few gold teeth and then searched through her purse and flicked a card at Anna. With her mission completed the woman hurried on down the walkway just in time for Anna to gasp.

I peered over her shoulder just in time to hear her mutter, "Model agent. Oh good Lord"

 

(cut to a few minutes later)

 

"I can't believe it! The nerve of some people!" she scowled.

"Oh the nerve!" I waved my hands in the air dramatically "Those model people should all be rounded up for mass execution!"

"I didn't ask for your sarcasm"

"But you're going to get it anyway"

"You deserve to be pickled in vinegar and jarred and I have no doubt I could pass you off as a gherkin, so don't tempt me"

"You're such an amusing little one, aren't you?" I reached over and pinched her cheek as Anna yelped from the ice that just invaded her space.

"I require four feet of personal space" she growled while kicking me in the shin with her black Doc Martens.

"That was my shin!"

"Shit Ethan, and I meant to get your head" she whacked me upside the head and stalked a few feet ahead of me.

"You just invaded my four feet of personal space AGAIN!" I called up to her.

"Yeah but there's just something about violence - it's so fulfilling" she called over her shoulder while running ahead and disappearing into a store with 'Cafe' on the front window.

I waddled into the store, nodding at the snickering employees that saw me trying to rub life back into my limbs. And there was Anna, her legs pulled up under her, a warm coffee mug in her grip, as she smirked in my direction.

Brat.

"Are you cold, Ethan?"

"No. Just frostbitten"

"Lovely. I had thought something was wrong"

"You'll be the one picking up my fingers and toes if, on the very off chance, they fall off. But I doubt it. I'm a man."

"Funny you should say that, I believe you whimpered when I kicked you earlier"

"It was a ploy to make you see that I am a sensitive guy"

"I have a boyfriend, Ethan"

Oh.

"That's nice" I remarked dryly and nonchalantly.

"You're not surprised? Daunted? Disappointed?"

"It puts a damper on the sexual tension"

Yes. I wonder at the things that come out of my mouth sometimes too.

Lucky for me she grinned and summoned the waitress over to grab me something warm to put feeling back into my body.

"I might never be the same again. I never knew what a frozen person felt like until today" I remarked.

"I have always thought it was quite obvious - cold"

"Yes, well that among other things"

"Ethan, can I ask you something?"

I squinted at her "Does it involve anything I will regret later on in life or anything that has to do with female personal things that might make me queasy?"

"No. I can handle those issues by myself" Anna set her coffee cup down "Do you really think that what that woman said was true?"

"What, the part about becoming a working girl?"

If there had been a sharp, pointed or hard object to hurl at me I'm pretty sure Anna would have launched it across the table.

"Well no. Kinda. Not really. Perhaps-"

"Stop talking before you hurt yourself"

"That is highly impossible"

"I've seen you in action. Nothing is impossible"

"Ethan" she moaned.

"Just answer my question and I'll answer yours. Fair?" I made it into a question but it was more of a statement.

"Yes and no. I meant about how she called me pretty"

I wondered if she was pulling my leg, trying to get an off-handed compliment, one she knew was coming. But instead of finding what I had expected when I glanced across the table - a confident girl's eyes staring straight at me daring me to defy her the compliment she had received so many times before - all I saw was an extremely nervous Anna, her hands fidgeting and her eyes darting around the room settling anywhere but on me.

So for a moment I was serious. (Yes it was as hard to do as it is for you to imagine me doing it).

"Anna, you're probably one of the prettiest girls I've ever met"

She refused to look at me for a moment and then glanced in my direction and let go of a huge grin that enveloped her entire face. Sometimes the people whom you think will be the most confident need reassurance the most.

"Thanks, Ethan" She smeared the foam on her coffee across her lips giving her an odd misshapen mustache concoction "One more question?"

"What about?" I asked her warily.

"Nothing bad, trust me"

"I don't trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn't die"

"Well, that excludes me, I bleed for a fortnight"

"I never would have taken you for a haemophiliac"

"Yeah, well, it's always those you least expect"

"Do you think I am pretty enough to be a model?"

"Does cow dung smell like shit?"

"Ethan, that was highly inappropriate and untimely"

"That's how I operate kid"

"I'm not that much younger than you"

"It sounded good"

"So does me kicking you again"

"Easy there tiger"

Anna let out a faux growl.

"Will you come with me?" she pleaded "I kind of need the money right now"

"As long as I don't have participate or try on anything pink with laces or frills"

"Alright. But pink is so your color"

"Haha. You kill me"

"That was a remarkably short afterlife, if you ask me"

"I suggest you act on your proposal before I change my mind"

"Okay" she grabbed my arm and yanked at it.

"I didn't mean at this exact second. I haven't had my coffee yet and after the hell you put me through I deserve it"

"Take-out. Just as nice on the run"

I sighed as I followed her out of the cafe. Something told me that I had found a dangerous friend. I knew I'd probably walk over a cliff for Anna if she simply asked me to go fetch her wild flowers from the rocky ledge below.

 

(cut to an hour later)

 

"You have absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever"

"And you could do better?"

"With my eyes closed, my hands strapped behind my back and a gun to my head"

"It was a simple question, it called for a simple answer not a monologue"

"If I recall correctly it was directed at me and therefore by an unseen law I get to answer it how I want"

"You irritate me like no other person alive"

"It's my passion, my life's mission"

"Yeah well now it's aborted"

"This little reparte with you is amazingly stimulating however I would like to find this place before I have to pluck gray hairs out of my otherwise flawless features"

"You're about as much fun as a female mosquito with blood on her mind"

"And you're about as graceful as a wombat on ice"

"Here" Anna shoved the card in my chest "You find it"

 

(cut to ten minutes later)

 

"Well, well, well. What do we have here?" I pointed to a large sign that covered the front of a beautiful building while walking up its steps with my companion "It looks like I found it"

"Stop gloating"

"But it's what I do best"

"You're a man it's the only thing"

"Brookes and Associates Elite Modeling Agency"

"Forget it" Anna cringed and started away from the door "There's nothing elite about me"

"They just say that to sound intimidating"

When I saw she had not stopped her descent from the marble stairs I added, "What do they have that you don't?"

"Eating disorders"

"I walked all this way and you are going to at least try" I ran down the stairs and stepped in her path "What's the worse that could happen?" I asked trying to be cheerful.

"The worst?" She questioned and I nodded "Well, I could step inside and say I was inquiring about a modeling job and they could all begin to laugh and point. Rita, the tall one with exotic features, a well-known model, could walk in and say, 'Look at what the cat dragged in. She is going down in history as the world's most delusioned little girl. She's much too ugly.' Then as if that wasn't enough they could get John, the burly guy with a snake around his shoulders to 'escort' us to the door, which really means picking us up and throwing us out the door to bruise our little behinds as Rita casually reminds us lawsuits aren't lady-like"

A little inconspicuous bird told me that Anna had spent the whole time we had been trying to find this place thinking this up. If she hadn't looked so serious I would have laughed.

"See that's not so bad"

"You're the second person who has used that reasoning with me in that many days"

"So we must be doing something right, no?"

"Personally I think it's all part of God's plan to 'get Anna'"

"Get in there. I am not leaving until you at least try"

"What happens if it ruins my self-confidence for the rest of my teenage and adult life?"

"Then I will feel horrible and cry the rest of my days away"

"Is that a promise?"

"As close as one that will ever come out of my mouth - yes"

"Fine" she consented, puffing up her chest and trying to look determined "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death......" Anna murmured to herself the words of an age old Psalm although I don't think she intended for me to hear.

She pulled open the door, clenching the card between her first, and if it had been fragile I'm positive it would have turned to dust.

Anna marched up to the receptionist, her determination and faux confidence being shed as a butterfly sheds it cocoon.

"May I help you?" I could tell that Anna certainly wasn't going to speak up so here goes nothing.

"We are here today because someone handed Anna" I gesticulated towards the person who had lost control over their vocal movements, "a card and told us to stop by here"

A little embellishment never hurt anyone?

The woman actually looked up after she had heard that one of her own had lured a prospective client.

"You are a pretty little thing, aren't you?" A woman, who looked eerily like the Rita Anna had described in her rant spoke up upon coming into the room.

"Thank you" Anna nodded, meanwhile elbowing me when I quietly whispered, "Told you so" in her ear.

"Would you mind coming with me" The Rita woman asked, grabbing Anna's hand.

"We want to get a few pictures of you, we might just have a new campaign that could use an exotic unusual face such as yours"

"Are you sure?"

The women laughed together but stopped when I went to follow.

"Would you mind waiting out here?" Rita rudely asked, looking me up and down.

I glanced at Anna who just shrugged.

"No problem. I've always enjoyed doing nothing for long periods of time" Rita glared. Geesh. Tough audience.

I grabbed a magazine as I sunk down in my seat, the receptionist giving me occasional glances until she decided that I wasn't going to steal anything. I held up my arms.

"No place to hide anything, don't worry" I shot her a lopsided grin. She shot me a nasty look.

"Just sit there"

These people are all too crabby for their own good. Somebody should feed them something.

"I bet you're just hungry"