Chapter 7 - A 51st State Called Zachary

Zac


It was Friday night and we had the TV tuned to the WB network at 8:30pm. Which meant that Tay and I had some prime-time viewing of Anna's chameleonic facial expressions (except instead of changing to the environment, they changed to the plotlines of Felicity), and Anna and Ike had, uh, Felicity. Well, basically, Ike knew enough of the storylines to fool Anna into thinking that he wasn't just there to perv on Keri Russell.

Even though everyone else knew he was there to do just that.

I nudged Tay.

".....Tay, I think she's gonna drool on her shirt......"

He snickered "....we should tape this and send it to NBC.....they'd air it for sure..."

"...on prime time, no less...." I added.

The ad break had just come on and Anna had snapped out of her trance. She sniffed and wiped her eyes and nose on the back of her sleeve. Mmmm. Hygiene.

"...I....love.....this show...."

Tay just looked at her, then the tv, then Anna again, with a look of pure disbelief.

"....this....is crap...."

Anna glared at him.

"....but good crap...." he babbled "....really good crap...."

".....oh, good boy, Tay Tay.....I'll give you a doggy biscuit later if you're good.....and then we'll go for walkies......ooh, walkies Tay....."

Ike laughed. Tay gave me an evil eye.

"......AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! My head ......the red hot laser's .......burning..........it's burning into my brain......!! Save me....please......."

I catapulted myself backwards on the sofa and writhed there for a few minutes pretty convincingly if I do say so myself. I could be a damn good actor. The new Arnold Schwarenegger even.

"......well it seems the laser only affected the part of your brain controlling your funniness, Zac....." Tay smirked.

"....funnily enough, the same part that you were deprived of at birth, Tay Tay...."

"....ha ha......"

".....ha ha ha....."

"......ha ha ha ha....."

".....Jesus.....will you shut...up.....?!!"

"....I don't think that's very nice, Ike.....telling Jesus to shut up...."

"....yeah, Ike.....what did Jesus ever do to you....?"

".....he gave me two psychotic, annoying brothers that's what He did...."

 

Anna

(cut to the next day)

 

Taylor made his typical look-at-me entrance, stalking into my bedroom and thrusting a piece of paper in front of my face with this pleased look on his face.

"....what's this....?"

"....oh, just a random piece of paper inviting you to your other boyfriend's birthday party....."

".....oh, that's right...my other boyfriend's birthday is on the 14th, isn't it.....?"

"...how very coincidental...."

I peered at the lurid coloured piece of paper. No doubt Zac and Taylor had collaborated in its design.

"...a slumber party...?" I looked up at him and cringed.

"....read on....." he rolled his eyes, waving his hands about impatiently.

"......in the Chelsea Theatre......?! Okay.....run this past me again....."

"....well, in basic terms, we hired out the Chelsea for a night and we're doing a movie marathon just for my birthday but everyone has to come in their pajamas...."

"......that.........is a really good idea.....except for the pajama thing, but I guess I'll just have to spend a few sessions with my therapist on that one.....how many people are coming?"

".....'bout fifty....."

"....aren't we popular.....?"

"...well, what can I say....? I'm just the coolest guy in Tulsa....people love me...."

 

Anna

 

Why are guys so hard to buy presents for? Well, yeah, I'd know they'd be content with a Viper or a concord jet or sex, but most of those were out of my budget (or character).

I mean, I could buy Taylor a belt, seeing as he was so enamoured with the concept of finding new and equally ugly ones to add to his collection, but somehow it didn't seem right considering that we were, well, dating. No one buys their boyfriend a belt for their birthday. And just buying him after-shave or something just as prosaic was just demeaning for both of us. Well, just for me maybe, since I knew he would buy me something I loved but never knew I wanted.

You know, quirky guys are even worse to buy for than normal ones.

A book? On what? No. Not a book. Too.....geeky. Clothes? A shirt? No. Too....imposing on his outlandish fashion sense. Not that I don't like that outlandish fashion sense, don't get me wrong. I just worry about him sometimes. Like what exact alien invaded his brain at the point of purchase.

And you know what else? Malls just suck for buying presents.

Just the tedious music and hordes of teenagers wearing exactly the same thing, except maybe a different colour of the same style shirt. Why didn't I ever go through that phase? You know, the phase where you wanted to look exactly like someone else? I mean, I often wanted to be someone else, but I never really bought identical outfits with my friends or anything. Ah, you're such an individual Anna.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch........Taylor's birthday gift. I knew so much about him but the concept of buying him a gift as perfect as he was, was just intimidating. I needed Zac here. I needed to pick Zac's brain. God knows what I'd find picking it, but it was worth the risk. I strolled out of Abercrombie & Fitch (don't ask me why I even bothered to step foot in there) only to happen across Zac, complete with shopping bag in hand and grin on face.

".....Anna McLaren, fancy meeting you here.....and what brings you out on a day like this? Taylor's birthday gift I presume....? You're leaving it a little late, aren't you...? Hm?"

"...and what would that be in your bag there.....? A random gift for one of your several other siblings whose birthday is approaching.....?" I raised my eyebrow and smirked a little before snatching the bag off him and opening it to find.....a belt.

I almost fell on the linoleum floor of the mall in hysterics.

"....a.....belt......?!!"

"....yes...." Zac replied huffily, snatching the bag back "....and what is wrong with a belt, might I ask....? He hasn't bought a new one in a few days so I thought......oh fine...I'm going...."

I straightened my face.

"....I'm.....completely.....composed......"

"....you're a moron....."

".....why thankyou.....can you put that in writing....?"

"....I could get President Clinton to put it in the constitution, damn it...."

"....with that hair and those lips of yours you could get President Clinton to declare a 51st state called Zachary for a few little 'favours' shall we call them......"

"....a 51st state called Zachary....hm....I like that idea...." he pondered

".....you'll like the idea of helping me shop for Taylor's birthday gift then....same difference....." I linked my arm through his.

"......you laugh at my belt, I laugh in your face...." He brought his face only inches away from mine and said solemnly "....ha.....ha...."

"....you are too precious......" I pinched his cheeks "...meanwhile, I have five hours to buy your brother a gift and it isn't because I didn't start shopping until an hour ago, but because I've been here on two successive weekends and still haven't found a fricking thing to buy him....."

".....geez Anna, just buy him a necklace and be done with it....."

"....a necklace.....?"

"....preferably faux pearl since he's really into period costume jewellery, y'know....."

I ignored him.

"....where in the hell can you find a funky and masculine necklace in a Tulsa mall....?"

"....Anna.....masculine really doesn't have to factor into your purchase here...."

"....you're quite right....but I feel obliged to boost whatever masculinity's there, for obvious reasons...."

"......hm....I see....."

"....you know there's a really cool shop called Midwest Trader on 53rd Street that would definitely have a funky and masculine necklace for Tay Tay...."

"....I remember that store....I bought my shirt there last week...."

I pointed to the tomato red shirt gracing my torso presently.

"...it's a cool shirt...." he replied thoughtfully.

"....thankyou....anyway, would you like to accompany me to the afore mentioned store...."

"....in that green car of yours....?"

"......no, in the pink one I've been hiding in my closet for the duration of my stay in Tulsa...."

"....pink? Ergh....no thanks...."

"...coming from the 13 year old who was wearing a lemon yellow shirt when I met him, you're not far off on the colour wheel from wearing pink........so even if I did actually have a car that was that colour, you're the last person that should be complaining...."

"....you don't have a pink car now...? Make up your mind, woman...."

"....look, little man....I'd hop it to the green one pretty quickly and you'll be getting that lecture on the logistics of sarcasm on our way...."


 

.

Chapter 8 - Shaken, Not Stirred

Taylor

 
".....Tay honey, do you want to get the door......?"

"....not really....."

"......well, I'd like you to........"

"....it's my birthday, can't Zac get it....?"

"....just because we happen to be celebrating your birthday it doesn't mean that for one day you're exempt from moving your behind off that chair...."

"....I'm going.....I'm going...." I muttered, hopping off the kitchen stool and walking to the front door.

I opened the door ".....yeah, what do you want......?"

"......chicken-o-gram for....." the oversized chicken suited man looked at the piece of paper in front of him "....Tyson Hanson....."

".....uh, Taylor Hanson.....?"

"....that'd be it, kiddo....."

The guy and I stared at each other for a while.

"....so.......what exactly does a chicken-o-gram do......?"

".....just wait a second, kiddo, okay.......damn kids......so impatient....." the guy muttered under his breath, while bending over to turn on the stereo ".......damn chicken suit......stupid......"

The music for the chicken dance blared out from the staticky radio. The chicken-o-gram guy started doing the chicken dance.

".......Ash, Jack, Ed, Tom and Beck want to wish you a Tweet 16th Birthday....I tought I taw a Tay-wor tat----"

The chicken-o-gram looked as if he might drop dead on our doorstep with the physical exertion of singing (in a bad Tweety Bird impression) and dancing at the same time. He finished his song, then bent down and switched off the radio.

"....have a nice birthday, kiddo...."

"....thanks dude.....have a nice day...."

The guy picked up his radio and waddled back down our driveway.

"......Taylor.....hey......." I looked up, finding Anna sticking her head out of her upstairs bedroom window.

"....happy birthday, kiddo......"

"....thanks......" I squinted and smirked at her. It was kinda bright out "......so when am I getting this birthday kiss thing......?"

"....and what birthday kiss thing is that.....?"

".....you know the customary 16th birthday kiss....."

"......oh right, that custom you made up all of ten seconds ago.....?"

"....right on....."

"....well, I don't know about that...."

".....you're my girlfriend....we kiss all the time, damn it....." I said exasperatedly.

".....but this is a whole new milestone, Taylor......you know, you being sweet 16 and all, it brings an entirely new element to our relationship...."

"....and what element is that....?"

".......I'm yet to figure that out but when I know I'll tell you...."

".....well, while you're figuring it out you can come down and lay one on me, okay....?"

 

Anna

(cut to later that night before the 'slumber party')

 

The footsie pajamas? Or the silk ones?

Comfortable? Sexy?

Want Taylor to avoid you all night? Want Taylor to grope you all night?

Not that Taylor 'gropes' really in any sense of the word yet, but you get what I mean.

Why is clothing such a dilemma of teenage life? I'll probably get shot for saying this, but I like my school uniform. I like the fact I don't have to worry if I'm over or underdressed, and that if I look dorky I have someone else to blame it on. I like having the ability to dress mindnumbingly in the mornings without having to give some thought to irrelevant activities like accessorising and colour coordination.

I like to be able to wear doc martens without being called a hippy - even if they are only black lace ups rather than boots.

I like the fact it leaves everything, and I really do mean everything, to the imagination.

Okay. I think I can compromise with this - tank top, cotton pajama pants. That might work. Besides the fact that the cotton pants are hot pink and white plaid and the tank top is red.

See, there goes that colour coordination issue again.

I hate clothes. Maybe I should go naked. Or maybe not, Anna. You don't want to scare away the party guests.

 

(cut to car ride to Chelsea Theatre)

 

He looked so....beautiful, sitting there in the drivers seat with the red glow of the stop light on his face and wearing that stupid baby blue t-shirt I'd had printed for him for his birthday with the words 'Taylor Hanson' on the front and 'Boy Wonder' on the back. The burnished metal beaded necklace that had taken me two weeks to find (well, two minutes in that particular shop but two weeks in total shopping experience) dangled around his neck.

What exactly had gone wrong that day in the cosmos to bring someone like him together with something like me?

".....so Ash and Beck are the ones dating....?"

"...no, Tom and Beck....."

"......okay, Tom and Beck, Tom and Beck, Tom and Beck......I think I've got that....."

"....An, calm down......they'll love you...."

".....why is it that whenever they say that in movies, the opposite always happens....?"

"....speaking of movies, you wanna hear what we're playing tonight.....?"

".....not really....I'm actively trying to ignore the reality of what you're going to force me to watch tonight....."

"....okay, well, first we've the Star Wars trilogy----"

"-----LA, LA, LA, LA, LA, LA-----I'm not listening......."

"....then we've got Mission Impossible....and The Saint.....and Octopussy and Good Will Hunting....and Austin Powers....and Notting Hill......"

"......did you just say Notting Hill.......?"

"...I thought you weren't listening...."

".....I have extra-sensory perception...."

"...sure you have....well, I felt obliged seeing as there are girls coming....."

"....you must have compromised yourself to give us all that one movie, mustn't you....?"

"....I did, it was an internal battle between good and evil that lasted a week....."

"....wow.....that long.....?"

 

(cut to inside Chelsea Theatre)

 

".....hey Tay, I see Jose and Ike are finally getting it together....."

An evil and conspiring grin washed over Taylor's face before he replied to Beck, who was wearing a towelling dressing gown in cow print with a hood which had little ears and horns attached to it. It was possibly the weirdest and funniest item of clothing I'd ever seen. Aside from the infamous tartan outfit my art teacher wore on a Field Trip once. But that's another story altogether.

"......yes.......now that Liesl The Weasel is out of the picture...." he chuckled evilly and tapped his fingers together a la Mr Burns ".....e-e-excellent....."

Ike and 'Jose' were indeed 'getting it together' - well, having a seemingly in depth conversation over pizza slices at least.

'Jose' was a pretty African American girl in a green nightshirt. She had elbow length braids which looked so funky I was tempted to do it to my own hair (for the entirety of those two seconds before reality dislodged the thought that I would actually look good with them).

"...The Weasel is never out of the picture Tay....you know she resurfaces every few years when the moon and sun are in alignment....."

"....yeah, but you know, I checked mom's lunar calendar and considering they won't be in alignment for another ten years, Flash.....we just have to hope Ikey would have actually taken action by then...."

"....hm...don't count on it, baby...."

"....can I just ask about the 'Flash' thing....? It's been bugging me for all of five minutes and if I don't get it off my chest I'll die unfulfilled...."

They grinned. Oh, the long road to acceptance. You've got to hate being suddenly thrust into a group of people who've known each other since they were knee-high to a grasshopper (sorry, I just love that saying) and who have all those personal jokes and nicknames that just fly straight over your head.

".....the thrilling story behind 'Flash'......well, who's gonna tell the story people.....?"

"....me, me....." they all yelled.

"....hey guys, you might not want to get too excited....Anna's going to start thinking it's actually worth hearing...." Beck, 'Flash' herself, grinned at me.

".....it all originated----"

Tom interrupted "----A long, long time ago in the Land of Washington High Change Rooms. This land was inhabited by a group of female hockey players.....and they were all getting changed after a particularly vigorous game of....hockey. After showers, each pattered back to their lockers chatting about that hunk of burning flesh called Tom---"

"---oh, this is a real accurate account of events...." Ash rolled his eyes.

"----and not about that interrupting loser Ash...." they glared at each other "...so anyway....they chattered away mindlessly, until, shock of shocks, Rebecca Ligertwood let go of her towel during a moment of excitable conversation and it fell to her ankles....thus, originated the nickname 'Flasher' which was later shortened to 'Flash'....."

"....that was....an epic tale....." I grinned.

"......Tom has many more where that came from....." Beck patted his shoulder with a sarcastic smile ".....don'tcha Tom honey.....?"

"....he's just a regular fountain of epic tales...." Ash rolled his eyes.

".....Tay, you know, I never thought the day would come to say this....but I think you've actually found yourself a great girlfriend and are actually throwing a fun party...."

"....you're all compliments aren't you, Flash....?"

".......I am........" she grinned "......aren't you happy you've finally met us Anna....?"

".....thrilled.....I'll have to invite you all over for pie sometime....."

 

Taylor

 

".....Taylor, I don't ever think I've felt so stupid....."

"....or...." I looked down at my bare legs ".....exposed......I know....."

That's what happens when you're walking on the bank of the Arkansas at 10pm in sleepwear. Hm. I'm wearing boxer shorts in public. I'm going to have to think of something good to tell our agent if there are any paparazzi around.

Yeah Taylor. Tulsan paparazzi stalking you and you girlfriend on the bank of the Arkansas River during the last Saturday of spring break. That's likely.

"....but it's beautiful out here....no doubt about it...." she sighed.

I've never seen Anna this....restful. I believe that was a contented sigh I just heard. God forbid.

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

I decided not to bring any attention to it. Heck, I could get to like this new Anna.

"....I'm beginning to like Oklahoma...."

"....gee, you must have compromised your geographical integrity there...."

"....oh, it's definitely been compromised......but it was inevitable..." she shrugged "....if it wasn't Tulsa it would have been....Michigan or something...."

"....Michigan....?"

"....well I guess each place has its little quirks....even Michigan....."

"....well, Tulsa has more quirks than Michigan...."

I am Tulsa's number one ambassador. You know there's just something that makes me stick up for Tulsa. Even though, you know, there's really not much here besides a decrepit water park and a few oversized statues. Home town's do that to you though.

"....only one more...." she smiled "....and what a cute quirk he is too...." she pinched my cheek.

We stopped at the wrought iron fencing on the bank and leant over it.

"....you're having a good time, right....?" I turned my head towards her and asked.

"....the best...." she nodded and smiled.

"....cool....."

"....I can't believe you actually left that theatre while The Return of The Jedi was screening of your own freewill....actually, you suggested coming out here if I do recall........" she looked up at the sky and pointed with mock astonishment ".....and there goes a pig with wings overhead....."

"....actually it's probably the 511 from Tulsa International to Michigan...."

"...imagine that....pork flying domestic....."

 

Anna

(cut to the next night - Taylor and Anna's 3 Month Anniversary. How utterly adorable.)

 

"...Anna....you can come in now..."

I opened the door to Taylor's room to be greeted by the sounds of a very smooth Jazz instrumental playing out of hidden speakers and the typically pig-sty-ish room cleaned within an inch of its life and lit by about a hundred candles and twinkle lights on the walls.

"....John Coltrane and candles? Are you trying to seduce me, Taylor Hanson....?"

"....trying....? No....."

A little smile played on his lips while his fingers played at the gap between my top and skirt. I leant in and skimmed his lips with mine, pulling his hands away from my stomach which they were now softly investigating. Since when did I become such a tease?

I held his hands, leading the way backward towards his bed.

If I tripped and fell this could probably be the high point of my career in embarrassment.

Being sexy just wasn't something you could cultivate (so I'd noticed) and since my DNA didn't seem to exhibit any presence of that in-demand sexiness gene, I was just going to have to be content with being Anna McLaren-trying-to-be-Brigitte Bardot-but-actually-making-a-fool-of-herself.

"....should I be saying something along the lines of 'let me slip into something a little more comfortable'.....?"

"....feel free....."

"....unfortunately I don't have anything 'a little more comfortable' to slip into.......damn, all of that lacy French underwear is back in my bedroom drawer......"

Somehow the sarcasm seemed to be floundering in the husky tones my voice had just taken on. It wasn't conscious - I actually think the nervousness was starting to constrict my trachea.

"....I can think of something...." He smiled that little smile again.

"....I know you can....but I prefer flannelette pajamas myself........all things considered however, your 'something' might have to do....."

I pulled the red top over my head and unleashed my hair from the painstakingly created upstyle I'd done five hours earlier. God, I felt so exposed. Was my stomach really that pudgy? Maybe it's the lighting. I hope it's the lighting.

"....excuse me.....I'm not getting naked if you aren't....."

".....but you do a much better naked than I do, An......."

Was he just looking extremely horny, or was it my contacts fogging up?

"....because you've seen me oh-so-many a time naked to judge such a thing...."

"....I've imagined..."

"....I'm sure you have...."

I unbuttoned his paisley print shirt, concentratedly, slipping it over his shoulders. We were sitting Indian-style, two inches apart, facing one another and sinking into the enormous navy doona.

I sighed.

".....no, you do a much better naked than me, Taylor...."

I trailed my finger slowly down his chest, letting it meander across the hilly terrain of muscle. Did I just say 'hilly terrain of muscle'?

He smiled.

"....that's very unlikely....but, really, I haven't seen enough to make a decision.....judge's rights...."

His hand played with the shoulder straps on the outlandish lime green bra I was wearing. I had thought it would be amusing at the time of purchase but just realised now that it probably looked ridiculous.

"....it's a pity you didn't need to ask me a question about world peace really....I had an answer all prepared...."

"....well then, Anna McLaren, how do you think we can attain world peace....?"

All the while he was drawing the lime green straps down my bare shoulders.

"......well, Mr Hanson...." I put on my best Southern schoolgirl twang "....all you need is love.............do-do do-do do......all you need is love.....do do do do do......all you need is love, love.....love is all you need......"

".....and I crown thee Miss Teen Taylor's Bedroom....." he paused for a moment thoughtfully, in mid gesture of placing an imaginary tiara on my head "....do you think anyone else has these kinds of conversation in the middle of foreplay....?

"....this is foreplay? In order to have foreplay, one must intend on having sex, Taylor...."

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

".....but we're not intending on having sex....are we....?"

"......we're not.....? I'm confused......why exactly are we taking our clothes off then...?"

".....well.....I thought we could have a bath...."

"....a bath....?"

".....yes, you know those large ceramic tub things you have in the bathroom that you fill with water and submerge yourself in.....?"

"......thankyou for that insightful look into what a bath is....but the only tub happens to be downstairs.....and we happen to be half naked....in the attic....."

"....and this is a problem for you.....?"

"...not if it's not for you....."

"...it's not...."

"....then it's not...."

"....then I shall see you down in the bathroom in five minutes.....you know....divert interest...."

".....how very British spy of you, Anna....."

"...so how would you like you bath, sir....shaken, not stirred....?"