Chapter 3 - The Heimlich Maneuver and Its Effects on the Spleen

TAYLOR
 

So the date had begun. In a way.

I knocked on the brass door knocker twice. I felt like I had a piece of bread permanently wedged in my throat, and I wouldn't have minded someone performing the heimlich manoeuvre if I hadn't seen that documentary where some doctor said it could result in internal bleeding or a rupturing of your spleen. What exactly does the spleen do anyway? And it's not like I actually had bread in my throat anyway, so---

The door opened and there stood Anna, stunningly gorgeous and very, um, brightly dressed.

She wore a pair of hot pink leather pants and a black, white, yellow and pink 60's patterned sleeveless top with her shoulder length hair wispish around her neck.

"Hi"

"Hello," she paused thoughtfully for a moment "is this too overdressed?"

"No, not at all."

Please don't change out of those pants.

"I like your top" I commented.

So I'd rather be taking it off right now on her front doorstep, but I couldn't exactly say that. Well, I could say it.....if wanted her to slam the door in my face and tell me I'm a pervert.

"My mother thinks it resembles a sixties tablecloth."

"Well, I've never seen a tablecloth look as nice as it does on you."

"You know how to make a girl blush, don't you Taylor?" she replied dryly, then turned towards the house and yelled over her shoulder "MOM, Taylor's here......we won't be home late.....he owns the car we're driving in too...and he has a valid drivers licence...a bonus, I think..." I bit down on my lip to stop myself from laughing.

"Okay, have fun darling"

"I'll have to ask Taylor about that one. I don't know if he wants to have fun," she closed the front door and smirked "you meet my mother on the second date."

"My heart beats wildly with anticipation."

"It could just be the symptoms of a coronary heart attack...but since you're not a middle aged man we should probably discard any possibility of that occurring."

"...probably..."

"Your hair looks very....Jennifer Aniston tonight."

"...oh..." I ran my hand through it.

"I didn't mean in like that...I---I like it....it suits you."

"You know how to make a guy blush, don't you Anna?" I mimicked her previous comment "...after you..." I gestured, opening the car door for her.

"...thankyou...." she blushed a little, stepping into the car.

Suddenly I heard a loud thump.

"......owww.......!!"

Anna rubbed her head where it had just made friends with the door frame.

"Oh shit, are you okay?!"

Great, I injure her on our first date. This is going well already.

"Yes....I'm a compulsive embarrassee, don't worry. I'll just reclaim my dignity and we'll be on our way."

I laughed, maybe a little tensely

"But are you sure you're okay? God, I injured you already....I don't normally do this."

"I'm fine, really....and it isn't your fault, more my propensity for clumsiness."

".....are you su---"

"---I'm fine....."

"Okay" I walked around the car and stepped into the drivers side.

We were on our way.

"Are you sure you're---"

"...Taylor....I'm fine...."

 

ISAAC

 

".....hey Ike! Check out Anna and Tay....."

It's not that I want to spy on Tay and his date. Heck no. I'm just...fulfilling my role as eldest brother of the family.

Clause #31 of the contract I entered into at birth reads 'We shall be curious about all younger brothers sexual liasons'. Though the words 'Taylor' and 'sexual liasons' together makes for unpleasant mental images. All I can say is the girl better like groaning.

Zac and I peered out of the attic window. Okay, this isn't the best place for voyeurism. Tay and date were ants under our gazes.

".....Zac.....the telescope...."

Gee, I just knew that astronomy phase dad went through would come in handy one day.

Hm. Coming into focus.

".....wow...she's pretty good looking....."

".....that she is...what's she wearing....?"

I moved out of the way for Zac.

"...hm...nice pants....she's pretty tall for Tay....it's like a meeting of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and that tall chick in That 70's Show...."

We both snickered a little.

"...oh man, I think Tay just injured her....he's doing that fussing thing...."

"...what did he do...?!" I chuckled. This was too funny. Taylor always acted like mom when someone hurt themselves - the 'oh my God, are you okay?!!' deal. Though mom was a little more eloquent in her choice of words and used the affectionate title of 'honey' rather than cussing or 'Oh my God's'.

"...there goes the forehead wrinkle...we have lift-off...." Zac grinned, holding his hands up in the air "....it looked like she bumped her head on the door frame..."

"....poor girl...she'll have an entire night of 'are you sure you're alright?''s....."

"......and after all that nice pie she brought us...no one deserves that......" Zac shook his head.

We were silent for a moment.

"...a game of scrabble...?"

"...you're on dude..."

 

ANNA

 

Loaded down with candy like we were preparing for a trek of the Sahara Desert (with very little nutritional advice) we advanced on the cinema screening the French film 'Le Fille Sur La Pont (The Girl on the Bridge)'. Somehow I had a feeling watching the movie in question was not high on Taylor's agenda. But maybe I was wrong.

I could feel my knees twitching. They do that when I'm nervous and what I seemed to be feeling presently could definitely be classified as nervousness. Nausea equals nervousness usually right? Or salmonella poisoning.

I mean, what exactly did he want from this date? Sex? Hm. Because that just wasn't going to happen. And kissing him.....well, the only kisses I'd ever had were the sloppy ones the ladies in the nursing home I used to volunteer at gave me....and, you know, Hershey's.

I'm sure what Taylor was thinking of had a lot more tongue involved. And where exactly do you put your tongue anyway? Yes, I realise in his mouth, but where exactly?

How do people know how do do this? All those stupid teen magazines telling you to "be natural" and to "relax" and that "you'll know just what to do at the time".......as if I can relax at a time like this! This is definite non-relaxation time! I need step-by-step instruction at a time like this...!!!

God, this was so confusing.

For not the first time in my life, I wished I'd actually had some experience with guys. Or any experience. Either would have been good.

Taylor obviously had. With girls, I mean, not with guys. Well, I didn't exactly know that, but I'd kind of assumed he was interested in girls since he asked me, a girl, on a date. He could be bisexual, I guess. Hm. Interesting.

I picked at the dry skin around my fingernails anxiously.

"....Anna....?"

"....uhmumm...."

".....where would you like to sit...?"

"...uh, anywhere really, I don't mind...." No assertiveness for this gal, no siree.

"...okay then..." And he proceeded to lead me to the back row.

Oh God.

"....are you feeling okay...?"

"....I'm fine...." I waved my hand nonchalantly "...I won't need to make idle banter about what I ate for dinner though...." I grinned halfheartedly.

"...are you sure you're okay....?" His forehead creased with concern as we sat down and I unloaded my confectionary on the neighbouring seat.

"....positive...."

Ugh. Bile really isn't a taste sensation, is it?.

"...good...."

He smiled. I smiled.

I felt something touch my hand, and peering down I saw another delicate effeminate one gently pick up mine and entwine my fingers with its own. It felt like someone just shoved my body into a light socket, but in a very nice, want-to-shove-my-body-in-a-light-socket-again way.

"....is this okay...are you okay with this...?"

"....well...I don't know...are you sure you're ready to deal with the consequences that could arise from your actions, Taylor.....?"

"....I swear I can feed and clothe all bacteria spawned from holding your hand...." he replied gravely.

I think my heart was beating to the tune of 'I Think I Love You (So What Am I So Afraid Of?)'. How ironic....The Partridge Family when I was on a date with a Hanson. And the Hanson with uncanny similarity to David Cassidy.

The Hanson whose thumb was softly rubbing the back of my hand while his eyes were engrossed in the scene playing out on the movie screen.

Wow. I stared at him pointedly. He really was entranced by the movie. I should be hurt.......but his facial expressions were just so funny.

I leant over, placing my mouth right up to his ear

"Taylor?"

"....ARRRRRGH.....!!!"

".....It's raining...popcorn...hallelujah....it's raining popcorn, yeah, yeah, ye-e-e-ah....."

Excuse my adaptations of song lyrics - at moments like this I just can't control them.

So the whole movie theater was staring at us, and revelling in the passing popcorn shower.

"...uh, yeah...?"

His face was bright red. This was probably one of those want-to-sink-into-a-bottomless-pit moments. I loved those.

"....I was going to ask for the popcorn but I'll just settle for maltesers...."

"....oops....sorry...."

"...that's fine...did you know a small popcorn has ten tablespoons of unsaturated fat in it? It's rather off-putting, really...."

Nice comment Anna, do you want to scare him off twenty minutes into the date?

I paused for a moment and took a deep breath.

"...do you really like this movie, Taylor...? Because watching a foreign subtitled movie on this date wasn't exactly what I had in mind...."

I hope he didn't think the underlying message to that was 'Take me baby, now' because, well, it wasn't, and I didn't want to be taken, baby, now.

"....well, what did you have in mind....?"

Oh God. His voice was all husky a la sexual-laced scenes of 'The Bold and the Beautiful'. Not that I watch 'The Bold and the Beautiful'....I've just.....er, yes, okay....I'm addicted to soap operas. So shoot me.

"...not having frantic sex on the cinema floor if that's what you were thinking...."

Was that too blunt? I hope he didn't think I was passionately against frantic sex, just that frantic sex wasn't just presently on my agenda.

"....rollerskating, maybe....?" His face dropped for a ten-millionth of a second, then he replied with a grin

"....rollerskating? You're on then..."

He motioned to leave, picking up his coat and what was remaining of our candy store raid.

What if he's thinking I don't like him now?

Trust Anna McLaren to screw everything up.

"...Taylor...."

I reached for his shoulder, and the moment he turned around, I leant forward and pressed my lips to his in probably the first moment of my meagre sixteen years of life which I lacked any self-assurance whatsoever.

I wasn't exactly prepared for what happened next, like some inquisitive child happened upon a red and black wire and shoved them together to make some kind of explosion, because that's what it was. Both of us couldn't be more exposed at that moment than we were.

It was beautiful and painful at the same time really, not because he bit my tongue or I bit my own or our foreheads bashed together or anything like that, but more like a bug hitting a car windscreen - the inevitable fusion of the two but the uncanny realisation that one day someone would spray water on the screen and the wiper would cleanly and neatly dispose of the fly when it started to block the view of the road ahead.

"....Anna.....I think I---"

I placed my finger on his lips.

"---need the bathroom....? Have no fear, it's just outside to the left...."

"......that wasn't exactly what I was going to say......but now that you mention it, it would be a good idea...."

"...it would...." I paused "......Taylor...I do--I really like you, okay...?"

"...I really like you too, Anna...."

So it's agreed. Anna McLaren and Taylor Hanson like each other - 15th December 1998.

Even though the French movie was crap and the floor got the popcorn.

 

ANNA

 

Ah. The awkward morning-after-date meeting.

".....er, hi......"

"....hello....I see you're as scantily clad as ever this morning...."

"....and I see your sarcasm's as biting as a fox terrier on an unsuspecting victim's ankle...."

"...nice analogy...."

".....I want to kiss you...."

"........that's........nice........" I felt his lips come to rest on mine. They felt nice, kind of soft and pillowy. Like someting you'd want to fall back on lazily after a long tedious day.

I clung on to the fence which separated us, gripping the whitewashed pickets with my hands. Meanwhile, Taylor's hands were roaming somewhere around the area where my shirt ended and my jeans started. I still didn't understand why his hands touching me felt so different to any one else's. I mean, if I touched my stomach, it just felt like...I was touching my stomach, but Taylor touching my stomach felt like someone had taken to me with defribillators.

God, I hope there wasn't lint sticking out of my bellybutton or anything.

I loosened my grip on the fence and tentatively let my hands rest on the sides of his face, my fingertips running into the wispish hair on his temples.

We broke apart, breathing slightly heavily.

"...you smell like...." He paused and leant into my hair, with his nose poised "...chlorine...."

"....I swim...."

".....I hope so, that or you're addicted to pool products...."

 

ISAAC

 

I'm turning into a Peeping Tom.

Well, it isn't as though there are any naked chicks called Godiva riding horses around Kensington Estate to save the estate from tax increases.

But, it was just addictive viewing, Taylor and the next-door neighbour. It was so Dawson's Creek. I always liked that stage at the beginning of a relationship where everything was a little awkward but so, I don't know, perfect. You can't get enough of relationship beginnings - where you both know exactly what you want and you couldn't care less about all those little insignificant things that filter into the relationship six months down the road like the sex situation and the jealously situation and temptation and indecisiveness.

Which is like, uh, my relationship....but since we're about three years into it all of the afore mentioned things are amplified by like twenty times.

Liesl, my sometimes, on-again-off-again 'girlfriend' also had a major issue with the I-never-get-to-see-you situation (in addition to every other relationship issue ever raised by Cosmo magazine....I think she wants real-life applications), but as soon as I come home and actually have time she apparently doesn't.

Girls are so...confusing. I always thought I understood them, but it turns out I don't.

Sometimes girls are just a big waste of time.

Sometimes I just wish I still thought girls had cooties, and then it'd be easy to avoid them.

"...Ikeypoo.....Liesl the Weasel's on the phone...."

".....Zac, damnit, can you stop calling her that....?!"

.

Chapter 4 - On Top of Spaghetti, All Covered With Cheese (I Lost My Poor Meatball When Somebody Sneezed)

TAYLOR
 

"....mo-o-o-om....."

"......oh Lordy......there's that look on his face...." Mom cast a glance skyward.

"....what look....?"

"...the 'I-want-to-ask-you-something-but-I-want-to-assess-the-hormonal-levels-first' look...."

"....man, I'm multi-talented...I can look whole sentences...."

"......the benefits of home schooling....." she grinned, kneading what I hoped was dough for pumpkin bread. I love mom's pumpkin bread ".....so......what do you want to ask me.....?"

"....so.....I was thinking....how would you guys like to meet Anna tonight.....?"

".....Anna....?" mom raised her eyebrows and smiled that amused-mom-smile of hers "...and who may I presume is Anna....?"

"....Anna would be the new woman in my life...."

".....the new....woman.....in your life....?" she raised her eyebrow "...how old is this new woman...?"

".....my age......well, like five months older....."

"....my little boy's fallen under the spell of an older woman...." she ruffled my hair and crooned with mock indulgence.

"....mom, she's hardly an older woman.....months don't count...."

"....considering the difference of maturity levels plus the biological gap she's probably the equivalent of a thirty year old Taylor...."

".....mom, you're scaring me....."

"....hey, it's a perk of the job....." she chuckled.

"....well, can she come.....?"

"....it's fine Tay........Liesl is coming anyway...."

I grimaced. Liesl the Weasel.

"....Liesl.....? I thought she'd disappeared under that rock again...."

".....apparently not, she's resurfaced.........oh, can you take Avie and Mac to their swimming lesson please...?"

Hm. Swimming lessons equals swimming pool which might equal Anna which might equal Anna in a bathing suit.

".......sure.........mom......."

She looked at me suspiciously and then a look of sudden understanding pervaded her face.

"......oh, don't tell me.......the fair Anna swims.....?"

"......the fair Anna does......"

"....I do hope you're more discriminating in your choice of girlfriend than your brother was, honey....."

"....since when am I not discriminating.....?"

"....since you decided upon that shockingly ugly shirt you're wearing this morning.....where did you get that....?"

"....a store in LA....I happen to like it...."

"....there's that Hanson family bad taste coming out again...the Lawyer's would never buy shirts like that...."

"....mom....."

"....I know, I know.....you're an independent teenage boy....but I'm still your mother and I'm still going to tell you when you make bad clothing decisions......"

 

ANNA

 

"....hi Avie and Mac...............hi......uh, Taylor.....?!"

".....hi Anna....." Avie and Mac chorused.

"........hi Anna...." Taylor smiled broadly at me. Why did he always do that blatant checking out thing? I mean, he kind of already had me now.

"....nice shirt...."

"....thanks.........I'd say the same, but yours is a tad wet....and green...."

I glanced down at the soaked, snot-green coloured, t-shirt with the words 'Tulsa Swim School' emblazoned across the front, which was our work "uniform".

"....you're too funny for someone wearing a pink shirt...." I remarked dryly and then turned to Avery and Mackenzie, who were apparently Hansons. Well, I knew that before, but not that they were those Hansons. "....so are you guys ready for today's lesson....?"

"....yup....."

"....we're doing backstroke, right.....?" Avie's face lit up. She was an avid backstroke fan. Mackie was more of a dog paddle kind of guy at the moment.

"....we are...." I smiled at her "...do you want to give Taylor your stuff....?"

They handed their bags and towels to their brother.

"....I'll meet you down at the shallow end, but I want you two to tell everyone else to wait for me before getting in the pool, okay....? You're in charge......"

"....sure...." Avie and Mac took off for the shallow end in one of those fast-paced walks that was itching to become a run, and practically was one. But kids are born with the ability to push the limits to their furthest without getting told off for breaking the rules, and Avie and Mac were experts. Hm, I wonder where they learnt that from.

Taylor perched on the ground next to the pool edge onto which I was clinging in the water.

"....well, this is just too weird...." I commented, suddenly feeling self-conscious enough to run my hand through my stringy chlorinated hair. Which wasn't exactly surprising when one of the most beautiful beings to walk this earth was standing in front of me in a fitted shirt that outlined every single muscle the boy owned.

".....do you want to come to my house for dinner tonight....?"

Oh God. The meeting-of-the-parents thing. Already? I thought that was supposed to happen when you were going to get engaged? Oh God. A fast mover. Didn't they usually want sex, not marriage?

"...uh, Taylor, I'm really not so sure about that....."

"....Anna.....please.....?"

"....wouldn't your parents object....? I mean, we've only gone on one date, Taylor....we're not getting married next week you know..."

"....I wouldn't have asked you if they said no...."

I paused thoughtfully. I couldn't get out of this one, he looked so eager. And you know, maybe I didn't want to get out of it either. It wasn't as though I didn't want to meet his parents, just that....well, it would have been good to get to know each other a little before the naked baby pictures were whipped out.

"....okay then.....what time....?"

"....six thirty....?"

"....great, I'll be there....conservatively dressed and conservatively mannered, as always...."

"....you don't have to---"

"----I have to go, Taylor..." I pointed at the anxious group of kids, half of whom had various limbs sticking in the water in their excitement to get in the pool. I knew what it was like, I still had the same fascination with water now that I did when I was four and had a tendency to jump into deep pools without knowing how to swim - but apparently knowing the fast way to drown.

"...okay then.....can I kiss you...?"

"....that's probably not a good idea..."

"....oh........okay then...."

".....but it's probably not a bad one either...."

 

(cut to later that night - subsequent to swimming lesson, Anna's squad training, make-out session in car and tuna sandwich....in that order. Well, you wouldn't want to swap the last two around would you?)

 

Conservative. I don't think the word ever entered my mind when clothes shopping. And it never actually bothered me - until now.

This lilac tailored shirt tucked into the knee length, dark greenish wool skirt mom had bought me from DKNY, when she was insane enough to actually bother buying me clothes that I'd never wear (unless I had to visit the parents of the guy I was almost dating....), was as conservative as I could muster. And it was damn uncomfortable being so....secretarial. I kind of counter-acted it by having the shirt unbuttoned dangerously low and wearing a pair of crimson patent leather heels. So I looked like a secretary with a distinct lack of colour co-ordination.

I feel sick. Like I'm-going-to-vomit-at-any-moment sick.

What if they decide I'm evil and that they'll bar Taylor from seeing me?

I buttoned the shirt up to the collar and slipped a red beaded bracelet on to my wrist to detract attention from the shoes.

What if I say something intensely stupid, like I'm prone to do at times of stress?

What if I walk into a stationary object, like a table or a pole or fall over the front doorstep? What if I break something or spill food on my shirt or spray soda out of my nose if someone makes me laugh while I'm drinking?

I glanced at the glowing red lights of my digital alarm clock.

6:25.

I should really get going.

It's a pity someone glued my feet to the floor really.

Actually, I've just come down with Acute Tuberculosis. Sorry, Taylor, I can't make it.

".....Anna.......do you want me to drop you wherever you have to go...?"

"....mom, it's next door.....but feel free to drive me that two inches...."

She poked her head around the door, fiddling with her ear. Actually, I think she was putting in an earring which would make sense really.

".....where are you going....?"

"....to a Tulsa Ballet performance with a colleague...."

"....sounds thrilling....wish I could be there..." I tied my hair into a ponytail.

"....what time are the neighbours expecting you....?"

"....around now...."

"....you should get going then, Anna...it doesn't do to be late...."

Trust mom to thwart my plans of boycotting the dinner.

".....I'm going, I'm going......" I grimaced at the reflection in the mirror one last time and stomped out the door.

Childish? Maybe.

But mom started it.

 

ZAC

 

".......I'VE got it.....!!" I yanked the door open "....hey Anna...."

"...hi Zac....long time no see..."

"....you look nice...."

"....I'd return the complment if spawning bacteria on a Grateful Dead t-shirt was classified under 'nice' and wasn't a Public Health hazard waiting to happen...."

"....thanks......just a piece of fashion advice from the style diva however, you should really undo some buttons on your shirt there, it looks a little...restrictive......and you know.....Taylor really gets off enough without having to perform CPR on you...."

She unbuttoned three buttons on her shirt.

"....why I'm taking advice from someone who owns canary yellow pants I don't know..."

I ignored her.

"...my pleasure...."

"....Anna..........hey...."

Taylor appeared at the top of the stairs like the vision of the Madonna. No, not the one with cone shaped breasts, but the virginal, Mother of Christ and Mankind one.

Well, let us say, a somewhat more masculine version of Mary. Though any less masculine a male you could find would be Tay. Not that I'm bitter or anything. Hm. Well, so maybe I am......but bitter in a loving brotherly way.

"....maybe I should get a shower...." I mumbled, my gaze switching between the two like a camera shot in Days of our Lives.

"....hello stranger.....fancy meeting you here...." Anna smiled and blushed furiously like someone just turned the thermostat up like forty degrees, as Tay descended the staircase. No, Tay never just jumped down the stairs....he descended - like a glowing bride making her entrance to the chapel to a rousing rendition of 'Here Comes the Bride'.

".....I'll go get a shower...."

"....sorry An, I was just getting dressed...."

"......what a pity I wasn't earlier then......you know, buttons can be quite tricky...." Anna replied sarcastically, though obviously flirtatiously.

".....yep, going to get a shower...."

"...I missed you...."

What? You saw each other like, five minutes ago.

"....I missed you too...."

Ew. They're kissing. That's just so gross.

"...yes, well, I'm going to get that shower now...."

Somehow I get the feeling no one's listening.

Nobody wants me, everybody hates me, I guess I'll go eat worms. Tall, long, skinny ones. Big, fat, slimy ones, I guess I'll go eat worms.....

 

ANNA

 

This wasn't so bad actually.

Actually, this wasn't bad at all. And glossing over the fact that I was spending a Friday night with parents, I'd actually not had so much fun since, well, last weekend's gourmet shopping excursion.

Why didn't I get parents like Taylor's? Or even just one? Can I exchange my mom? I mean, Target and Wal Mart are happy to exchange faulty products so really, God should run with the slogan 'We're not happy if you are' too.

"....Anna, are you sure you don't want another helping of dessert...?"

"....positive....Taylor's already compensated for my lack of appetite ten times over....have you ever had him x-rayed for an additional stomach and digestive system? Genetic mutation maybe? We could have a new species of Homo sapien on our hands...."

Mrs Hanson grinned.

"...ah yes, our son - the bottomless pit..." She laughingly patted Taylor's shoulder, who was still much too involved with his bowl of ice cream to pay much attention to the fact that his mother and kind-of-date were insulting him.

"....huh....?" He looked up dazedly from his bowl.

"...really Taylor, if you were going to leave me for your ice cream you could have given me some indication of your feelings...."

He grinned and rolled his eyes, but returned to his beloved ice-cream nevertheless.

".....not to be a boring parent, but which school are you at Anna...?" Mr Hanson asked.

".....I actually go to a girls' boarding school called St Scholastica's in Chicago, but I come to Tulsa every vacation....I'm taking the IB program...."

"...you what...?!" Taylor's head shot up.

"...the IB program, International Baccalaureate....."

"....I know that, I meant boarding school...."

"....I told you I went to boarding school...."

"....no you didn't! We're, like, never going to see each other...."

"....hardly, Taylor....and it's not like you're going to be in Tulsa all the time anyway..."

".....we're here more than we're in Chicago...!"

I glared at him with what he hopefully deciphered as a now-is-not-the-time look ".....and if this discussion could be anymore married couple we'd be Mr and Mrs Brady..."

".... yeah, he's got that whole white boy afro thing going on too...." Zac snickered.

Mrs Hanson interjected.

".....what if.....we all go into the family room.....I'll leave the clearing up for later..."

The night didn't seem to have fallen completely over the side of a cliff face though. I think that it was maybe grasping perilously to the edge after that boarding school revelation. Taylor was still sulking as we found our way into the family room and no amount of coaxing or my, somewhat questionable, feminine charm could lull him out of it. So basically I left him on the sofa to muse and let Zac entertain me. That kid was a born entertainer, it was like he was on a perpetual stand-up comedy routine. That or some really good anti-depressants.

"...well, we can either watch some of the stunning, award-winning documentaries of the Hanson phenomenon....or , we can put on some music...."

"....as fascinating as the former sounds....I'm going to opt for the music...."

"....mom, can we use the turntable....?"

"....don't break it....."

"....why do you necessarily think that Zac and the turntable equals disaster....?"

"....because Zac and any other state-of-the-art, wildly expensive equipment means disaster.....that and any glassware, crockery, food supplies, pets, siblings and parents...."

"....you left out furniture...." he replied dryly.

"....thankyou.......and furniture...."

".....what do you wanna listen to, Anna....?"

".....you choose....."

"....'Shake A Tailfeather' alright....?"

"....sure...." Zac fiddled with the turntable for a while before removing the large vinyl record from its retro case labelled 'Songs From The Blues Brothers'. Moments later the opening chords were reverberating around the room and I just felt this complete, and idiotic, urge to dance. And not only to dance, but to dance like John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd.

"...you don't mind if I take my shoes off Mrs Hanson....?"

"....not at all, honey...."

I pulled off my rather uncomfortable heels and dumped them in a heap on the floor before pulling Zac up and forcing him to make a fool out of himself with me. Wise words from the unwise : If you've got to make an idiot out of yourself, you might as well make an idiot out of someone else too.

".....well I heard about the fellow you've been dancin' with....all over the neighbourhood....so why didn't you ask me baby? Didn't you think I could? Well I know that the boogaloo is outta sight.....but to shake a leisure thing tonight.....would it happen to me and you baby? I wanna show you how to do it right... do it right....uh huh.....do it right......do it right, do it right, do it right, do it right...uhhhhhh.....twist it.....shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, baby.....here we go loop di loo......shake it out baby.....here we go loop di lie.....bend over, let me see you shake your tail feather......come on, let me see you shake your tail feather...."

I was shaking my tailfeather rather shamelessly if you ask me, but Zac and I must have been making it look enjoyable enough for Avie, Mac, Zoe, Jessie, Isaac and his girlfriend - what was her name again? Weasel? No. Liesl or something - to join us without shoes or self-respect in the middle of the room. And moments later Mr and Mrs Hanson had jumped up.

Well, okay, Mr Hanson had levered Mrs Hanson up off the sofa, and both were doing the same, rather rhythmically, might I say, for two forty year old parents of eight and a foetus.

So basically, everyone except Taylor was shaking their ass in the air and thinking it was fun. And I could see he was itching to do it too, but he was as stubborn as, if not more, than I was.

My mother always told me I did things in spite of myself. And that stubborness did little for one's attractiveness (always linking everything to attractiveness and marriage was my mom). Well, Taylor, was looking the most unattractive that was actually possible for him. Which meant he only looked like a Chagall rather than a Van Gogh.

I poked out my tongue at him (being the charming, immature person I am), while doing the twist.

"......Alright! Do the twist! Do the fly! Do the swim! Ha! Ha! Ha! And do the bird! Oh! Do the duck! Ah! Do the monkey! Hey! Hey! Watootsie! And the... what about the food? Do the mashed potato! What about the boogaloo? The Boney Muroney! Come on! Let's do the twist! Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Twist it! Shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it baby! Oh! Twist it! Shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it baby.....!"

He tried to stifle a smile, but didn't really succeed. I mean, how couldn't you want to laugh when your entire family (and two impostors) were acting like complete morons?

I made a slight hand gesture for him to join us, but since he didn't move, I exerted my physical muscle to catapult him off the sofa and into the quite large group on the rug.

"....you're a jerk, Taylor...."

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

".....I said you're a jerk, Taylor Hanson...."

"....your point being....?"

".....kiss me, you jerk you....."

He chuckled.

".....if I'm a jerk, you're a nerd...."

"...it's settled then.....now don't keep a woman waiting...."

"....I didn't intend to....."

He leant in and I could feel his sweet, warm, ice-cream stained breath mingling with my spaghetti sauce tinged one (and aftermath of the dinner).

A feminine scream interjected.

"...honey, he kicked...!!"

Mrs Hanson reached down, putting a hand on her belly, with a shocked look on her face as if someone had just winded her but she enjoyed the experience. Simultaneouly she reached for the sofa before lowering herself down on it. Mr Hanson put his hands beside hers and put his ear gently to the swollen skin. They smiled at each other blissfully.

All the little kids clamoured to stick their hands on 'mommy's tummy' as well, and for the most part succeeding. Isaac, Zac and Taylor were more refined in their approach but nevertheless were grinning with excitement as their hands filled up more space on their mother's hot-pink-overalled bump and everyone was ooh-ing and ah-ing over the tiny Ronaldo-esque foetus.

I was content just watching this extraordinarily poignant tableau of family love. Up until now I'd only seen it on cable.

"....Anna.....come on over and feel him kick.....kids, make room for Anna...." Mrs Hanson smiled as they all parted a little, leaving a space just big enough for my hand.

"....it's a sign....he should be called Charlie...." Zac commented.

"....huh...?"

".....Ray Charles.....duh.....like you could call the kid Ray, that's just too sad...."

"....what if it's a girl dumbass....?" Jessica rolled her eyes.

".....Chelsea? Chloe.....Charlotte.....?" I suggested.

"....Charlotte's cool....." she commented grudgingly, paused for a moment, then nodded her head and grinned "...I like it....."

1 point up for the new girlfriend. I had a feeling that Jessica was only a little possessive of Taylor and out of anyone I would have to work on to win over it would be her. God, it sounds like I'm launching a campaign to ingratiate myself with a Hanson sibling. Better get some PR help.

"....me too...." Avie nodded her head violently in agreement.

"....yeah, Charlotte, cool...." Mackie did the same.

"......oh, I see, not that your mom and I have any choice in naming the baby...."

"....Walker honey, I fear we've been ousted as parents...."

"......what a sad day it is the world over....."

They shook their heads in mock sadness.

"....this calls for a song...." Zac stood up ".....all in favour say 'aye'....."

"......AYE....."

"....Ike, pray find your g-i-tar...."

Isaac unfolded himself and reached over for the guitar sitting in the corner of the room....I never realised how lanky he was. Actually, I didn't really know him at all. Aside from the fact he seemed very contemplative and added the philosophical element to the dining table (plus some dorkiness) along with Zac's zaniness, the little ones' clamour, Jessica's cynicism, Taylor's placidity, and Mr and Mrs Hanson's contented management of the whole.

Well, I had to do something besides stare at how much Taylor was eating.

"......when we were young stories were told of how I kissed you sweet-like....people said there was a connection between us...oh....when we were old stories were told of how I told you tight....whenever I see those people...I tell them they were right.....stories will be told....when our children are young until they're told....about our endless love....we must have had a blessing from above....oh....stories...will be told....oh....until they're old....stories will be told....until the end of time....stories will be told...oh...until they're old....stories will be told...until the end of time....oh....say that someone's right...oh...oh....."

God, he did have such a soulful voice. You never heard it unless you were up close, but it was there. I wondered how somone could just ooze music from every pore. If you pierced Taylor with a fork and squeezed him tightly you just knew that the most glorious music would seep out. And I guess I envied him, because whatever I had or whatever I was, I could never have so much talent in one thing. I guess was good at a lot of things but not exceptional and it, he, just made me so inexplicably depressed sometimes.

And this was a week into the 'relationship'.

"...it all started on 77th street....we were just thirteen...we had no cares at all....whoa oh....in daylight sun...in the corner of my eye....you changed my views...you changed my whole life.........stories will be told....when our children are young until they're told....about our endless love....we must have had a blessing from above....oh....stories...will be told....oh....until we're old....stories will be told....until the end of time....stories will be told...oh...until they're old....stories will be told...until the end of time....oh...."

"...do you do this every time the baby kicks....?"