Chapter 9 - The Magical Mystery Tour

Zac

 

"...Zac, can you put something on so you look presentable...?"

"...I am presentable.....I think the ketchup stain is a nice touch...I accessorised..."

I licked my finger and rubbed the reddish stain on my old AC/DC t-shirt.

"....very nice, Zac, but I'd like you to wear something else...preferably something that's been washed in the last year..."

"...but mom, you know nothing in my closet fits that description..." I grinned cheesily.

".....I'm not in the mood Zac....you're already late as it is...."

"...mom, we're going to ORU and then we're driving to Massachusetts, like five minutes is gonna pose a problem in a four day road trip....no one cares, I tell you...."

"...well, I do, so that's one more than no one....."

She was obviously in a 'don't mess with mom' mood.

Who wants to go to college open days in Massachusetts? I have better things to do. Like watch re-runs of 80's The Bold and the Beautiful episodes - when you could actually see the facial features of Sally Spectra before she turned into like a female bulldog with those floppy jowl things going on. Anyway, college people sucked. All the people were snobby and you could never find a car park for the van on the college grounds 'cause they were all made to hold BMW convertibles and were all way too small for our ex-public transport vehicle.

So I smelt my t-shirt before I put it on (hey, it's more than I'd do normally for any crappy function which wasted my time) and changed my pants to something tight and leathery to shock the cardigans and plaid accessories out of the country club Generation Y-ers and chaperoning alumni parents there. This could be fun.

So Ike, Tay, Anna and I approached the Hanson-mobile on this sunny morning and began to pile in. Of course Taylor and Anna would sit in the back with our tonnes of luggage and do whatever they liked to do back there and I would sit in the front passenger seat and be a backseat driver to Ike's driving skills.

"...Zac, you really thought 'comfort' when choosing your outfit today, didn't you...?" Anna smirked.

"...for someone who owns three pairs of leather pants, don't you start talking to me about comfort, girly..."

"....we'll just see how that sperm count fares by the time we get to Massachusetts...." she ruffled my hair before I grabbed her head in a headlock.

Anna wasn't exactly the kind of girl who shrieked in that position - I'd learnt from experience that she either bit me (I'd prepared for such a scenario by putting on a denim jacket), or somehow managed to have me on my back two seconds later wondering at what point I stopped inflicting pain and she started.

This morning however she calmly asked me to stop throttling her before she poked a fork through my eye.

"....you're disgusting...and I think you should consult your trusty book of utensils to threaten me with a different weapon...the fork's getting old, An....."

"....the fork will never be old, Zac....." she bear-hugged me (an attempt at suffocation) and then smacked her lips on my cheek.

I think Anna would safely be the most insane person I know. But, you know, she can be cool.....on occasion.

"....drive safely, Isaac.....and Zac, make sure you take a shower and change your underwear every day, I know you....." mom yelled from the driveway, as we started piling into 'the bus'.

"...gee thanks, mom...."

I miss mom when we're away, she's just...I don't know...she's just mom I guess.

Dad and Ike were having a man-to-man discussion through the driver's side window - probably about the tricks of navigating that straight highway to Massachusetts. That and telling Ike to make sure Taylor and Anna weren't having illicit sex on the way.

Because, you know, without dad's eagle eye about, who knew what hi-jinks the young'uns would get up to.

I could see Tay checking out Anna's ass as she climbed into the van and the dark denim kneelength skirt she was wearing rode up a little baring the back of her long, tanned legs. I mean, Anna was definitely more than just an ass, but when it was there you couldn't help but notice it.

".....so....are we all ready to rock...?!"

".....Tay, we're, uh, not in a concert situation at the moment.....you see the van? It's not Key Arena......we......."I gestured to Anna, myself and Ike "...are not a legion of shrieking pre-pubescent girls in white tank tops...."

"...thank God almighty for that...." Anna muttered.

".....so that means no contentious shirt-removal, you hear....?"

Tay shot me with his evil eye. I swear that thing could emit lasers. Ouch.

".....meanwhile, can someone remind me exactly why I have to go with you guys when I'm 14 and don't even want to go to college...?"

"....because mom wants us to lose you somewhere in Boston, that's why...." Tay grinned.

"...can't you lose me in New York...? They have better bagels....."

".....well, we could always tour Juilliard while we're at it....." Ike pondered "....I think we're going through New York......" he started mumbling to himself as he returned to his map.

"...this is going to be so great...like a little road trip thingy....." Anna bounced on the seat with an ecstatic smile on her face. She must have taken something this morning with her breakfast.

"....yeah, a 1,250 mile 'little road trip thingy'......" Tay rolled his eyes.

"...this is way too Partridge Family for me thanks......next thing we know the van'll be multi-coloured and we'll all be singing.....a whole lot of lovin' is what we'll be givin', c'mon get happy---" I clicked my fingers and swayed as I belted out the theme song.

"...yeah, and we don't want a 'whole lot of lovin'' thankyou, this is not, I repeat, not a shaggin' wagon..." Ike stated firmly with his eyes still absorbed by the map, as Tay fell on top of Anna (who shrieked and subsequently fell backwards on the floor of the van) and they pretended (we all hope) to start going for it.

Ew. Disgusting.

"...hey!" Ike glanced in the rearview mirror, with a horrified-mom-look on his face.

".....Ike, just start the car, the engine will cut out the groans..." I reassured him.

Taylor and Anna removed their dishevelled selves from 'the bus's' floor to wave to the slowly (very slowly since Ike was driving) disappearing view of our parents in the drive.

I stuck my head out of the passenger window, screaming into the distance ".....bye mo-o-o-o-om...!!! Bye da-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ad......!!!!!"

Onwards....to Massachusetts.

 

(cut to sixteen hours into trip, five interchanges of drivers and seven food and drink stops)

 

After making a tour of ORU and getting our fair share of 'Oh my God, you guys are Hanson!' (really, we didn't notice), 'you guys suck' (thankyou for your honesty, we think you suck too) and the middle finger salute (yes, that middle nail really does need to be manicured) and taking some panoramic shots of the bronzed mutant hand statue, we reassembled with Beck, Josie, Ash and Tom in 'the bus' to begin our Trek to Massachussetts.

Ike had our trusty map covering his entire view of the road, which made for safe driving. Tay and Anna were in the back having an in-depth discussion about what was going to happen when we went to LA to record the new album, while Anna sat sideways across the back seat with her legs on Tay's lap. Beck and Tom were arguing on the topic of smooth vs crunchy peanut butter, Josie was engrossed in her copy of Rolling Stone (or was it the 'Good Christian Youth' Newsletter?) and Ash was air dj-ing with his eyes closed to his cd player.

And me? Well, I was attempting to find a radio station not playing Britney Sneers, *NSTINK or the please-send-them-Back-to-the-Streets Boys, without flipping on to a random country music station which Tay and Ike would actually want to listen to.

My search for ultimate radio play fulfillment was interrupted by the constant, but nevertheless unnerving, jolting movements of the car.

"...Ike dude....hey...uh.....what's going on...?"

"....uh, I don't know...."

"...you wanna actually see the road for a start...?" I wrestled the map away from Ike to observe through the now unobstructed windscreen that we were in fact driving along a small tree-lined medium strip in the middle of the road.

"...IKE..!! Geez, you want to drive on the road, maybe...?!"

"....Aaaaarggh.....!!! What the hell...?! I didn't know that was there!!!!" He swerved the wheel to the left, back on to the comfort of flat bitumised highway.

"...well, last time I checked, medium strips were in the middle off the road, retard!! You know - mid, med, medium, middle, same latin thing....!!"

Anna stuck her head over the front seats ".....that ladies and gentlemen, exhibits the dangers of having one's radio tuned to an easy-listening station.....Ike, dear, if you want to have a crash, can you please wait until Pittsburgh at least.....unless you intended it to be instantly fatal, since remaining in Ohio for recovery would probably mean a slow and painful death of boredom for us all...."

"....is there any US state you actually like, Anna....?"

"....except for New York, no...."

"....did I just miss Columbus....?" I looked in the tour guide book.

"...yeah, it was that lil' gas station and two tumbleweeds we just passed..." Anna grinned.

Ike rolled his eyes.

He always drove like a grandma, his head peering out over the steering wheel, with two hands clutching the wheel like if he didn't the van would ultimately drive itself straight into a tree (if he wasn't already driving into one beforehand). From my personal experience we were all much safer if Ike didn't have his hands on the steering wheel.

"...can I drive, Ike...?"

"....let's see...uh, no....."

"....aww, Ike, come on, I'm not that bad....."

".....you're not that good either....."

".....you're the one that drove on a medium strip for a mile...."

"...you try navigating and driving at the same time, Mr I'm-So-Multitalented......"

"....this is so boring..." I muttered.

".....I could lose you in Ohio, if you like....."

I gave Ike an evil-eye.

".....you could lose Anna and me in Ohio..." Tay piped up from the back seat.

Everyone laughed.

"....I'm not losing you two together anywhere in the state of boredom......"

".....we'd find stuff to do in Ohio..."

".....oh yeah, 'stuff'....like making illegitimate children...." Ike snorted.

Josie laughed loudly. She had a tendency to snort when she did that.

"...no, chinese checkers actually...." Anna replied primly.

"....yeah Ike, Anna was Junior American Chinese Checker champion for three years running....." Tom snickered from the back seat.

".....I'm bored......"

".....well, until we cross that Ohio Pennsylvania border everyone's gonna be bored, Zac......"

".....I like Pennsylvania, the land of dr-a-cu-la.....mwahahahahahaha....." I did my best evil cackle.

"....I vant to suck your blaaaad...." Tay threw back his head, laughing evilly, and then attempted to attach his mouth to Anna's neck, though he ended up getting mouthful of mohair since Anna had a long, multi-coloured striped woollen scarf draped around her throat.

"....meanwhile, back at the ranch....." Anna softly pushed Tay off her "....do you have any CD's or something, Zac? This radio station is killing me...."

"....I know, but I think.....we forgot....CD's...." I cringed.

"....I have a copy of Middle of Nowhere...." Tay piped up again.

".....yes, and we all want to listen to your pre-pubescent voice for an hour...." Beck shot back at him.

".....didn't Ike bring his guitar...?" Tom asked, scratching his head.

"....Ike is presently driving, so Ike can't play his guitar...." Ike spoke of himself in a sing-song third person, which was just a little scary.

"....we'd probably all be a lot safer if you were playing your guitar Ike...." Tay snickered.

".....yet as much as we all love this inexplicably adorable brotherly banter, I suggest that we utilise my CD collection before I resort to blessing you all with my tone-deaf rendition of a LeeAnn Rimes song......perhaps.....'Blue'.....?"

I shrieked, then babbled ".....anything but that....." grabbing the CD's from Anna's hand.

"...there is nothing wrong with LeAnn Rimes, excuse me....."

"....just because she came on to you at the American Music Awards in 98....."

".....she did not, she was just being.....friendly...."

".....oooooh, Isaac.....I just think you're sooooooooo talented....." I imitated her Southern drawl, hanging on Ike's arm and fluttering my eyelashes.

"...piss off...."

"....oh, getting feisty are we....?"

"...Zac, shut up and put on some music...."

 

Taylor

 

"...okay....we're here....." Ike announced, bringing the car to a halt.

".....we're where...exactly.....?"

".....this is where we're staying for the night Thomas....."

"....don't you Thomas me, Clarke....."

"....well, you go all out guys......five star accomodation for us all the way....." Beck peered out of the van.

Twilight was fast approaching and if we didn't get the tents up all eight of us would be sleeping in 'the bus'.

I, for one, did not want to sleep in 'the bus' with eight other people - two of whom were questionable washers.

"....this is supposed to be fun, you moron...." Zac rolled his eyes, leaning over the seat to look at Beck.

"....just a question....how cold is it going to get out there tonight....?"

".....I checked weather reports, it doesn't get that cold down here......maybe forty....?"

"....forty...? Well....." I could tell Beck was disappointed she couldn't make an issue out of the weather. Beck likes to make issues out of things ".....that's okay then....." she admitted grudgingly.

"....I'm so glad Mother Nature's to your liking, Flash....."

"....so are we gonna get these tents up.....?"

"....are there any, like, uh.....vicious animals out there.....?"

"....yeah.....who knows what's lurking inside a Pennsylvanian national forest...."

"....trees and a few nesting squirrels maybe....? But I'd watch out guys, those nesting squirrels can be damn vicious....semi-automatic acorns, y'know..." Zac smirked sarcastically. Anna, Ike and I stifled our laughter.

"....guys, where's your sense of adventure.....?"

"....way back in Tulsa with Wabbit apparently...."

Beck looked at Ike dryly. She was obviously still bitter about our refusal to turn back to Tulsa to retrieve her precious battered childhood stuffed rabbit. We were in Illinois at the time.

"....uh, where are we.....?" Ash pulled off his headphones and looked around as if the forest had suddenly popped out from behind a tree. Besides the fact we'd been driving through it for like an hour.

"......Allegheny National Forest, Ash......actually, we've been in Allegheny National Forest for the past hour....but where you've been, honey, is debatable......" Josie rolled her eyes.

"....guys......tents......hello.....?" Zac leaned over the back seat.

"....Zackie, I'm afraid the tents aren't going to talk back to you....you can 'hello' them all you like...."

Zac attempted a glare at Anna but ended up dissolving into some kind of spitting form of laughter where we all got sprayed in saliva. Thankfully, being in the backseat Anna and I only got a light shower. Josie and Ash got a heavy downpour.

"....say it, don't spray it, Zac-meister....."

"....you're always oh so original in your humour, Ash...."

Anna slapped my thigh and made to get up "....come on then.....anyone would have thought you weren't girl guides or boy scouts when you were little.....you know....dib-dib-dib, dob-dob-dob...."

Anna saluted us with her hand contorted into this weird Star Trek like position.

She looked around the silent van.

"....I guess it was just me then....."

I think the snorts of laughter emanating from 'the bus' scared off any native wildlife in the surrounding wilderness.

Which wasn't a bad thing for all concerned. I mean, really, who knew what lurked in Pennsylvanian forests.

 

(cut to tent pitching {finally})

 

"......I have this uncanny urge to start singing 'heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work we go'....." Ash swung a metal tent pole over his shoulder, almost taking out Tom in the process.

"....speak for yourself dwarf-boy....." Tom glared at him, picking up the red waterproof tent cover.

"....I take offence at that....."

"....good, I meant you to....."

"....at the risk of being ousted from the group before I'm even in....would you guys shut up and ram in those tent pins before I attend to you with this rubber mallet.....?" Anna smiled sweetly, waving the rubber mallet menacingly in the air.

"...Tay, your girlfriend wants to attend to us with a rubber mallet..."

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

I gave the tent pin one resounding last thump.

"...Well, since we're like your bestest best friends and all, you might want to discourage her...."

"....actually, I'm all for Anna attending to you with a rubber mallet......might make you, like, bearable to look at afterwards Ash...."

Ash wasn't by any means ugly, but it was fun telling him he was.

"...are you implying that I'm ugly, Tay....?"

"...basically.....yes."

"...basically.....you're not too hot yourself...."

"...me? Not hot? Hello, what planet are you living on dude? The whole world thinks I'm hot...."

"....the whole world thinks you're not.....!"

"....oh good comeback, moron...."

".....just put in the damn TENT PINS.....!! God almighty.....what does it take to get things done here....?!" Anna yelled, red in the face and breathing hard with all the physical exertion of tent pitching. She brandished the rubber mallet in her hand and swung it around, looking wildly at Tom, Ash and me.

"....okay.....put down your weapon and step away from the tent......"

 

(cut to after tent pitching and dinner cooking on the lovely campfire)

 

".....your mom is like the High Priestess Mom of all time......"

Tom was eating his way through a huge piece of floury bread. Obviously speaking while doing this wasn't the best thing for all concerned - a white cloudy mist hung around him and sprayed out of his mouth.

".......of course.....a way to a man's heart is through his stomach....."

"....I guess the theory generalises to boys then, since Tom couldn't be any less a specimen of a man if he had breasts and menstruated once a month....."

"......Tom with breasts----" Beck wore a grimace on her face "----thanks for that imagery...."

".....a nice thought to send the kiddies to sleep with...." Josie scoffed, stuffing more bread into her mouth.

".....hey...!! Who are you calling 'kiddies'.....?"

".....what kind of bread is this.....?" Ash butted into the conversation with a question that had nothing to do with the original train of thought. He did that kind of thing like a religious ritual.

"....it's called damper...."

".....what the hell's damper.....?"

"......it's this dough bread....mom got given the recipe when we were in Australia, they like make it in the outback....."

"....oh right, out where they wrestle crocodiles and stuff....?"

"......You've seen Crocodile Dundee one too many times....."

"........well, it's okay.....bland.......but okay......"

"....isn't that reassuring......? I feel so blessed to know the great connoisseur of bread has condescended to like our damper....."

 

Zac

 

"....Ike......"

Ike was chatting to Josie, the long gnarled stick he'd found to roast marshmallows on wavering about in the middle of the leaping orange flames. See, that's what happens when Ike's hands aren't properly restrained - they fly everywhere and woe betide anyone in the way of the hands or whatever they're holding. They're a danger to society I tell you.

".....hey, IKE......"

Ash, Beck and Tom turned around and glanced at Ike and his lunatic marshmallow stick in his hands with minds of their own.

".....IKESTER! YOUR MARSHMALLOW'S ON FIRE, MAN.......!!!"

"......wha----hey? Oh crap......"

He whisked the stick out of the fire, almost decapitating Anna and then nearly impaling Tay on it as he tried to put out the flaming sticky mess.

"....hey, watch where you're putting that stick Ike...." Anna yelped, throwing herself behind Tay.

The problem with Anna doing that was that she grabbed Tay's waist to steady herself, and both of them ended up falling off the log - Tay on top of Anna who bashed her head on the mossy ground.

".....Ike......." Anna groaned, sitting up. You could almost see the little stars dancing around her head like they do in Looney Tunes cartoons whenever someone's head gets bashed in.

Funny Tay and Anna always seem to fall on each other "accidentally".

"....oops....." Ike chuckled "....sorry....."

"....hey guys....."

"....hey Ash....." everyone chorused.

I could predict Ash would say something stupid, do something stupid or think of something stupid for us to do. The odds were like 2 to 1.

"....since we're doing this outdoor slumber party thing, shouldn't we like christen it with a good wholesome game of 'truth or dare'....?"

"....let's see.......uh, no......"

"....I hate truth or dare....it's always about how many people you've kissed or if you're a virgin or daring you to run around nude....it's so boring...."

".....none of those sound boring if you ask me......"

".....okay....one, yes and there is no chance in hell.....there we are, I'm all done...."

"....you're a virgin, Anna......?"

She looked at him dryly "....don't try and make me feel like a freakshow exhibit or anything, Ash...." Anna smiled at him sarcastically, lying back on Tay's legs.

Tay and Anna were always finding ingenious ways to sit together. Tonight Tay was sitting on one of the huge logs we'd dragged laboriously around the fire (okay, okay....we stealthily took over someone else's abandoned camp site and claimed it as our own) and Anna was kind of positioned between Tay's spread-eagled legs, using his thighs as arm rests.

She continued ranting ".....to my knowledge being a virgin doesn't make me the daughter of the elephant man and the great niece of a bearded lady....."

"....no....I just......I just thought.....you'd have more.....uh, experience.......?"

"....well, you thought wrong......"

"....obviously.......so this means we're gonna start 'truth or dare'?"

"...uh....I'm going to bed....."

"....you know I'm really tired....." Beck stretched her arms above her head and yawned (a worse fake yawn I've never heard).

"....we've got an early start....we should really get a good night's sleep....."

"......methinks we should retire to our boudoir, dearest....." Anna looked up at Tay and grinned.

"....is it just me or was that a really bad brush-off....."

"...it was a really bad brush-off...." Beck patted Ash's arm reassuringly.

"......um, guys.....have we assigned tents.....?"

"....can't be too hard....." Ike came to the fore as reliable older brother "....taking into consideration the unpitchable four person tent....well....three people are going to have to sleep in 'the bus'....."

".....oh, how disappointing........as painful a decision as it is to make, Tom, Ash and I will take 'the bus' in lieu of the long anticipated camping in the open wilderness...."

Not that Beck was as transparent as a window pane or anything.

Ike rolled his eyes "....fine......just don't turn on the heating, unless you feel like living the rest of your life as a hermit in one of these trees because the car battery went flat....."

"....rest assured the thought of just one more night in this forest is enough to keep me well away from that heater...."

".....groovy baby, yeah....." Ike did his famous Austin Powers expression. Everyone laughed. Me? I groaned inwardly. It was kind of starting to lack any pizzazz after the millionth time hearing it. There's only so many times the words 'groovy baby, yeah' in a 60's cockney accent was funny. Ike got past that point a long time ago.

So Beck, Tom and Ash trooped off to 'the bus' and the last five of us looked at each other.

"....well, then its settled....Jose and me in the red tent and you, Anna and Zac in the green one Tay......"

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

".....Jose and me in the red...you, Anna and Zac in the green....."

"....no way man, our tent is for two people....."

"....and mine is for one, but you don't hear me complaining...."

"....of course I don't hear you complaining....who would complain if they were sharing with a girl instead of your brother....!"

".....you are sharing with a girl....!"

".....sorry I'm like raining on your parade guys......I'll just take myself off and find a nice cave to sleep in....." I picked up my sleeping bag and swung it over my shoulder.

Gee, I have such nice brothers.

"....Zac, you're not sleeping in any such cave......"Anna grabbed my shoulders, steering me the direction of the red tent "....and you two...." she pointed at Ike and Tay, glaring at them with a look uncannily like mom's "...should be ashamed of yourselves..."

"......fine, fine....." Tay muttered. He picked up his sleeping bag and swung it over his shoulder, following Anna to the tent.

He stopped outside, holding it open for Anna and then he looked at me "....you are definitely raining on my parade...."

I just smiled.

 

(cut to deep into the night where owls hooted and strange rustlings could be heard outside the tents)

 

"....Tay.............Taylor............oi........"

"....An, you'll never wake him up......he sleeps like a log....."

".......hey, how come you're awake.......?" Anna whispered loudly.

"....couldn't sleep and stuff....."

"....I feel like a marshmallow....." she whispered again. It was kind of funny considering her whisper was louder than her normal voice.

".....ditto......"

".....wanna get one.....?"

"....well, I want a marshmallow but then again I don't want to get out of my sleeping bag....it's freeze your ass off cold here..."

"...I know...where in the heck did Tay get his weather forecast.....?"

"...probably out of that frozen ass, knowing Tay....."

Anna giggled.

"....do you think it'd be much colder outside....?"

"....not with the fire on...."

"....okay.....I'm going...."

".....wait for me....."

We both managed to wrestle our way out of the tent and then kind of waddled over to the campsite. You have no idea how hard it is to walk in a sleeping bag. Even when you stick one foot on either side of the bottom of the bag you stil have no control over where you're going. Thank God there weren't any huge obstacles in our path or we would've come to a tragic end.

Kind of like a beetle that landed on its back with no way of getting back on its feet.

I retrieved two marshmallow toasting sticks and sat next to Anna on the log, passing her one of the sticks

"....they're shnot ash goob raw...."

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

Anna swallowed the mouthful of inflated sugar pillow "....I said they're not as good raw....."

"....kind of like steak then.....?"

".....too funny, Zac...." she handed the packet of marshmallows to me.

"...thanks...." I grabbed two, squishing them on to the end of the stick. The sticky remains of someone else's marshmallows were already there and gooey-ed up my fingers. I thrust the stick over the coals. The coals are the best place for marshmallow toasting. People always think you stick them stright into the middle of the fire, but that just charcoals the outside. The coals let you toast perfectly.

I grabbed Anna's stick and manoeuvred it from the middle of the flames to the coals.

She smiled at me. I could see what Tay always went on about. That smile of hers made you feel exactly like you'd just put a perfectly toasted marshmallow in your mouth.

"....this place is pretty cool, huh....?"

"....it is....God was kind to Pennsylvania...."

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

"...yeah....?"

"....do you think I'll ever get a girlfriend....?"

".....what makes you say that.....?"

"...it's just....I don't know.....I think it would be nice.....to, you know, have a girlfriend....."

".....you know what Zac.....? I think I'll envy that girl who'll call you her boyfriend...."

"....envy her....? But you have Tay....."

"....I envy myself sometimes...."

She smiled with a kind of sad amusement and looked at the fire.

As generally cool as she was....I just didn't get Anna McLaren sometimes

.

Chapter 10 - Of Boston Squirrels and the Bubonic Plague.

Isaac

 

".....hey, what's going on.....?"

"....read the flyer, dude....."

A dreadlocked guy thrust a fluorescent flyer in my face. As if he wasn't just the epitome of 1999's Mr Save The Whales America.

I pictured him for a minute parading around with a tiara atop the forest of dreads and a red sash over his shoulder as he strutted down the winner's walk.

Hm. Maybe I should let that bubble burst.

I glanced down at the flyer. It was worse than having a red-hot laser pointed at your cornea. Not that I've ever had a red-hot laser pointed at my cornea.

I squinted at the paper, hoping it wouldn't result in any premature blindness. Some black blobs finally formed decipherable words. A sit-in protest against "the removal of sufficient funding for Jazz music at Berklee School of Music".

I'm down with that.

Not that being down with it has anything at all to do with the goddess sitting before me. The goddess completely immune to the protesting chaos, who was immersed in a book.

My throat started constricting. Oh God. Not again.

Exhale, Ike. Exhale.

Going to exhale anytime soon. Waiting to Exhale.

God, now I'm thinking of Whitney Houston. Why Whitney Houston at a time like this? Aren't there any other divas currently available? Aretha Franklin maybe? Shania Twain even...

Maybe I should introduce myself.

Whoa there, Ike. Hold back that surge of adventurous spirit.

Okay. I rolled back my shoulders twice and swung my arms around, loosening the tension. It's at times like this I can imagine exactly what a boxer feels like when he's about to step in the ring. I wouldn't have minded having one of those guys with the towels and water bottles on hand grunting "Go Ike! You can do it!" either.

Please God, let there be no violence involved.

I moved forward two steps.

"Hi."

She looked up slowly from her book ('Patisserie' by Jacques Beauxbaton) her eyes resting on my shoes and then, obviously pleased with what she saw (my favourite brown suede loafers), they traced a path up to my face.

Her eyes widened.

"Hi."

"I'm Isaac."

".......I kind of gathered that early on...." she laughed huskily "...I'm Juliet Bresson....Jules...."

She introduced herself as 'Ziu-lee-ette'....not 'Giu-li-et' like anyone else would - pronuncing those little accents like they have on 'cafe' that no one else ever bothers to say right. Oh man. She was French. Parisian maybe. Paris. The city of love.

A little French accordion tune wafted into my head and soon after most of the people standing around me appeared to be instantly dressed in striped shirts with garlands of onions around their shoulders and berets on their heads. Bon jour to you too.

"....nice to meet you, Jules...."

Hell, if I even tried to say Juliet like that I'd look like a complete dork. 'Jules' in a part-hick accent was just going to have to do.

"....likewise...."

Maybe she wasn't French after all. Her accent was too Americanised. Damn. I wanted a French woman now.

"....that's a different accent you have there....French? Canadian?"

"....um, French Canadian actually...." she smiled with amusement "...I grew up in Montreal...."

"....oh, Montreal. It's nice there.....the people are....hysterical....."

"....no, it's just that special breed of Montrealian - the teenage Hanson fan.....the rest are fairly non-hysterical...."

"....that's a very reassuring thought...."

".....well, you know, I work for the Montreal Tourism Commission and get paid $10 an hour to tell rock stars like yourself that Montreal is full of sane people....."

She thinks I'm a rock star? How cute is that? More than makes up for not being a real Frenchwoman.

"......that must be a very strenous job....you must come across a lot of 'rock stars like myself' in Boston....."

"....oh, I do.....I'm a 'rock star like yourself' magnet......"

This was going well. So well, in fact, I could be tempted to....I don't know....propose a coffee, maybe?

Maybe later. I need to work that Ike charm right now.

".....so....are you studying at Berklee....?"

"....Oh God no....my flat mate does and she threatened to blunt my set of knives if I didn't come....so here I am...."

Am I getting myself involved with someone strangely like a character out of 'I Married an Axe Murderer'?

"....so you're a professional.....stabber.....?"

"....of vegetables only...." she laughed "....I'm studying culinary arts at a catering college here in Boston....and hopefully I'll be going to France at the end of the year to finish studying...."

"....wow, that sounds pretty cool...."

"...'cool' is a very appropriate adjective..."

We were silent for a moment.

"....so what brings you to Boston, Isaac Hanson....?"

"....college tours actually.....we're, you know, doing the rounds...."

".....sounds.....fun......" she grimaced.

"....it's not too bad....the road trip was cool...."

"....you drove here....?! From, where is it you live...?! Tulane...?!"

".....Tulsa, Oklahoma actually....."

"....the mid-west..?!! Oh my God, you are insane...."

"....it was...an experience....."

"....driving to the local coffee house is 'experience' enough for me....."

I laughed.

Could this be any better a lead-in to the date asking? That line's practically begging me to ask her on a date.

Okay. Here goes. Now or never.

"....speaking of coffee....do you feel like maybe grabbing one.....sometime.....with me......?"

".....well.....for the moment it's going to have to be one of those bad vending machine ones, because if I even move out of this area, it's as good as kissing my knives goodbye....but yeah....." she nodded, her long dark blonde hair falling forwards over her shoulders "...definitely...I'm up for a coffee......"

He shoots, He scores.

 

(cut to after spending an obscene amount of change on two muddy, lukewarm coffees from a vending machine)

 

With styrofoam cups in hand and seated on Juliet's sleeping bag, we were immersed in a nice conversation of nothingness. There was nothing in the world like nothingness with a beautiful girl.

"...you know Harry's going to use you as a media tactic....."

"....Harry....? Media tactic....?"

Huh?

"....oh, yeah...sorry....Harry is my flatmate, she's running the protest.....and basically, she's going to make you the star attraction of this sit-in and manage to get a huge group of people here because of it.....a huge group of teenie girls nonetheless...."

"...somehow I doubt she'll get anything more than ten die-hard fourteen year olds from the whole of Massachusetts...."

"....you'd be surprised....my sisters still adore you...."

"....they do....?"

".....absolutely.....Helene's a Zac groupie and Claudette would probably offer us both as a sacrifice to satan to meet Taylor....."

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

So I couldn't resist.

"....I've mellowed, shall we say...."

"....mellowing is good..."

".....mellowing is great....." she agreed.

Then, all of a sudden, like some kind of tornado ripping through California, a girl rushed towards us babbling incoherantly. She was the kind of girl you always saw working in an ice-cream parlour - kind of fat, wearing those thick tortoise shell rimmed glasses and her hair in pigtails. She was wearing an assortment of badly coordinated retro clothes (including a hideous pink psychedelic floral-print caftan) and a pleased-with-herself expression.

"JULES! I can't believe it, we've got the local news coming to cover the protest and about five newspaper reporters already writing, even one from the New York Times ! Can you believe it?! The NEW YORK TIMES!!It's going brilliantly, don't you think?! There's so many people, it's so GREAT, kind of overwhelming, but great all the same and....OH MY GOD, YOU'RE ISAAC HANSON !!!"

Point out something I don't already know.

"...HARRY....! Can you keep your voice down...?!" Juliet shot her a warning look. The kind of warning look mom would give to Zac when he got too close to anything she'd recently baked.

".....oh.....right.....of course....sorry....." she smiled apologetically but with this evil kind of glint in her eyes which meant for sure that I was going to be 'a media tactic' in the very near future.

"....anyway, Harry, this is Isaac.....Isaac, this is my flatmate Harriet, otherwise known as Harry....."

"......uh, nice to meet you Harry......"

I stuck out my hand.

She kind of gaped at it.

Oh God. Delayed shock has set in. Get me out of here.

"......you're......you're the Isaac Hanson. The Isaac Hanson who with his two younger brother stormed into the pop world in May of 1997 with that very catchy melody called MMMBop which heralded the new era of pop music in the late 90's....!!"

"......uh.....actually, I'm another Isaac Hanson.....the Isaac Hanson who sells used cars for a living....."

Harry looked at me suspiciously.

"....he's kidding, Harry, he's kidding...." Juliet reassured in her French-Canadian accent, flinging her hair over her shoulder as she laughed under her breath.

"...oh.....yeah......I knew that....."

"....Har, you can't use him as part of the campaign, you know, he's here on holiday...."

".....holiday schmoliday...." she waved her hand nonchalantly "....Isaac doesn't mind aiding a worthy cause, does he....?"

".....ah.....er......"

".....Har, seriously......you're doing great already...."

".....yeah well.....having a Hanson here....having people know there's a Hanson here...will make it even greater...."

".....uh.....yeah....Har, I think that woman over there wants you....she looks like a reporter...."

".....oh right.....yeah, must be the Boston Gazette....I'd better go...but you two kids stay right there, okay...? Don't move...."

Juliet and I looked at each other.

And as soon as she turned around we were off like a pair of mexican mice after eating too many hot tamales.

Um. Yeah.

 

Taylor

 

So one second we were walking calmly along a path and the next Anna was hanging off me with her legs wrapped around my waist.

".......are you having a seizure or something......?"

"...get...me...away...from...that...rodent..." she growled through clenched teeth, still hanging on to me like a dog on a meaty bone.

".....what rodent...? What are you talking about, woman....?!"

".....that......that squirrel, woman....." she glared at me "....I hate squirrels....."

"....they have fluffy tails.....how can you hate something with a fluffy tail.....?"

".....I'll hate anything with a fluffy tail that spreads communicable disease, thankyouverymuch....."

The squirrel, obviously having got bored of terrorising my lunatic girlfriend, scurried off to tend its acorns (or so I'm guessing).

Anna dropped off me and straightened her shirt.

".....squirrels with fluffy tails spread communicable diseases now.....?" I raised my eyebrow.

".......Taylor, my dear boy, it has been proven time and time again that squirrels are amongst the many rodent transmitters of the bubonic plague....."

"....you are seriously kidding me....the bubonic plague died along with capitalist ruling back in, like, the 16th century....that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard....."

".....and I will laugh in your swollen buboes when one of those rodents infects you with Y. Pestis......"

".....and my swollen buboes will laugh right back at you, baby....."

We continued off down the path devoid of any conversation. I mean, that whole squirrel conversation, like, blanked out any normal things I was storing to say. Then I felt her lips on my cheek and suddenly everything wasn't so weird anymore.

Well, for the next ten seconds at least.

"....do you know that guy.....?" I pointed at the guy who was doing a entire upper-limb wave.

"....which guy....?"

".....the one waving at us frantically like he's directing in a plane....."

".....oh my.......LUKE...!! Hey..!!" Anna stood on her tiptoes and waved. Like there was a huge crowd of people which blocked her view requiring her to stand on tiptoe.

They walked towards each other. Well, Anna was doing that excited burst-of-running walk where she shot ahead every few metres. I managed to keep up with her, arriving behind her to hear Mr Plane Director say, with a suave grin

".....Hey Good Lookin'.......how are you going....?"

They hugged each other once they reached each other, and as soon as their bodies touched it was like someone had flicked on that little green switch inside me labelled 'envy/jealously'.

"....I'm going well....." Anna did her flattered, blushing smile. She was looking like Edgar (Ash's dad's pet peacock), who frequently fanned out his feathers to impress any guests of the Harbison residence. Yes, Anna was doing a pretty good peacock impression apparently "....and how about you, Lucas.....?"

So this was what they called jealously. I definitely knew it was a jealously thing since, well, back in 1988 my 'other' best friend in kindy, Amy Wildesmith, decided I wasn't good enough to play in the sandbox with her, but Tom was. Ironically enough, I ended up hating Amy and liking Tom. Actually, it wasn't that ironic. The incident ended in Tom and I conspiring against Amy in a kind of 5-year-olds mutiny on the bounty. Amy never liked us much after that.

Apart from that I was hardly an expert in the field of jealously - since I'd never exactly been with anyone that was really worthy of my jealously. Basically, I never gave a damn about anyone else as much as I gave a damn about Anna.

I hated this guy already and I had no idea who he was (besides that his name was Luke and I didn't like him).

But this was MY sandbox damnit. And there was no way I was sharing my sandbox (or Anna/Amy) with some dumb guy who was wearing a really ugly corn-yellow Ralph Lauren logo shirt with pressed khaki pants.

With that annoying 'cute' lock of hair that fell over his forehead like some Gap stylist had put it there especially to get girls.

And that toned, muscly body and tan which pissed me off too.

HE wasn't lanky. HE wasn't skinny. HIS hair wasn't cut like a girl's (why did I ever listen to that stupid hair stylist?).

HE'D had a shower in the past four days. Heck, he'd probably had one on his daddy's private jet over here. Who's dumb idea was it to take this road trip anyway?

"....Taylor.......? Taylor....................TAYLOR.....?!!"

I felt Anna give me a imperceptible to the naked eye, swift (and stinging) kick on the ankle.

"...huh...?" I looked up. My eyes were still a little glazed over and it took a while for Anna and Perfect Boy to come into focus. Needless to say, they would all have been in better focus with my glasses on, but there was no way in hell I was putting them on in front of HIM.

"...this is Luke.....he's a friend of mine from Chicago...."

".....oh right......hi......." I muttered, sending a random feigned-uninterested glance his way.

Anna glared at me. I glared back.

Who said I had to be nice to him? I didn't have to be nice to him! He was trying to steal my girlfriend (and sandbox)! I don't have to be nice to girlfriend stealers. Or sandbox stealers for that matter.

".....nice to meet you......Luke..." I acknowledged with a fake smile, as I stuck out my hand.

Actually, I would have preferred saying "...I hate you, leave my girlfriend alone before I kick your ass...." but it didn't quite have the same polite ring to it.

And plus, all things considered, I really couldn't do much kicking of his ass since his ass was a damn sight bigger than mine.

"...hey it's great to meet you Taylor...."

He pumped my hand like it was a car jack, grinning in my face. I grinned back fakely.

"....so what are you doing here....?" Anna interjected, smiling so hard I wouldn't have been surprised if her face fell off with the exertion.

"....oh, you know, doing the rounds....frat parties, alumni lunches with dad.....you know the deal...."

Oh, frat parties. How cool is he? I felt the urge to snort.

Anna laughed. Anna had the most beautiful laugh....and smile. Anna never just smiled in photos, it was as if she was always on the verge of, or right in the middle of a fit of laughter. Anna did whole body laughs. It wasn't just the musical noise or the open mouthed smile, but this twinkle in her eye and the way she always started to cover her mouth with her hand glancing at you all the while.

And she was giving her laugh to him. God, I hate him.

"....oh, I know what you mean....."

She knew what he meant ? How in the hell did she know what he meant? She'd never been to a frat party before in her life! And as for alumni parties with her dad.....pretty hard considering she'd never even met the guy.

Okay. That was mean. Even thinking that made me feel bad.

Sorry, Anna.

"....you know what? There's this frat party tonight.....you two feel like coming....?"

The guy kept staring at me. What was his problem?

"....oh, yeah....definitely......" Anna answered for us both.

He rummaged through his khaki pant pockets, grinning all the while, before pulling out a piece of paper "....well, this is the place....I'll see you there then....?"

"....sure....thanks for inviting us...."

She said it breathlessly, the way girls sound sometimes when they talk to us - completely awestruck. She sounded as if we were in his complete debt for inviting us out. Because we're such hermits and everything, without any social lives of our own.

"....no problem.....well, I've got to get going, but I guess I'll see you tonight then......it was great meeting you Taylor.....bye...."

He strode away purposefully.

If I heard correctly Anna sighed softly like someone had just pricked her with a pin and deflated her.

Oh, her life must be so less worth living now that she has to spend three hours away from the studmuffin that is Luke.

"....I need to go.....somewhere....."

Anna seemed to snap out of her trance.

"....but I thought we were going to look at the engineering faculty.....?"

".....this is.....more important...."

".....what is more important.....?"

".....look, why don't you just go and find lover boy over there and get him to take you....you'd enjoy it so much more than with your boring, ugly boyfriend...."

"....you're insane....."

"....no......actually you are......you're insane to be drooling over someone in a yellow SHIRT.....!!"

".....funny when I'm dating someone who wears PINK ones.....!!"

"....I'm going home.....!"

"....FINE! You do that....! Drive all the way back to Tulsa for all I care.....!"

"......Maybe I WILL......!!"

"......Maybe y----GOOD...!!"

".....FINE......!!!!"

".....FINE......!!!!!"

 

So I have one pink shirt? Does it really leave that big a question mark on my sexuality?

 

Maybe I shouldn't ask that.

 

Anna

 

I think God is having a good old play with my heart strings at the moment.

Couldn't He go and play Gran Turismo on Playstation or something?

Instead He thinks 'Of course, let's make Anna and Luke see each other in Boston'. Let's make Anna see the guy who's set her heart a-quiver everytime she'd seen him for the past five years. The guy who always managed to see her make a complete loser out of herself and who obviously hadn't found her loserishness a barrier to their friendship. The guy she could imagine herself having the most beautiful, passionate sex with, even though she'd never had any sex (least of all the beautiful, passionate kind). This was the guy she would have given up her Harvard dream for, to follow to New York (if she was Felicity).

Luke was her Ben.

And God thought it was funny to do this to Anna.

Thanks God.

 

You know sometimes, when you've been loving someone for that long, you forget reality. In particular you forget the reality in which your gorgeous, talented boyfriend is standing next to you.

And the reality that you're not single.

You forget that you're flirting. Because I flirt unconsciously with Luke. I've flirted unconsciously with Luke for five years - since I was a gawky twelve year old with braces and a blue uniform three sizes too big for me (that I was supposed to "grow into"), who didn't exactly know what flirting itself was, just that guys were supposed to like it and I wanted this guy to like me.

Luke was the kind of guy that you knew you'd be perfect with. The kind of guy your mind conjures up customary wedding photographs for - where you're both cutting the cake and gazing at each other lovingly over the handle of the knife. Luke was the kind of guy your mother would love because he exuded politeness and expensive after-shave; and your dad would love (if he was actually there to love anything) because he was a varsity rower and ice hockey player and had a 4.5 GPA.

But I loved Luke because he was Luke. Because he made me laugh, and because he called me 'Hey Good Lookin' and because he was the only guy friend I had who would watch Audrey Hepburn movies on rainy saturday afternoons in the boarding house with me. I loved him because he was a good dancer and because he taught me to be a good dancer too; and because he never failed to smile at anything.

So I loved Luke.

And I loved Taylor too.

Gran Turismo's much more exciting than my heart strings, God.

(Hint, hint.)

 

Zac

 

"....who are you and where is my outlandish dressing brother.....?!"

Taylor was looking at himself in the hotel bathroom mirror, combing a tendril of hair to fall out over his forehead while the rest of it was pretty much greased back. Hm. The last time I saw that hairstyle was watching 'Happy Days' on cable. And Tay just couldn't even rival the coolness of the Fonz (probably because the Fonz was really only cool in the sixties and would look be beaten up if he was alive and trying that hairstyle now).

He was wearing an assortment of clothing that made him appear to be the kind of guy that was a fifth generation Harvard aspiree and went to the best prep school in New England. The shirt with the Ralph Lauren logo was there (and what a wonder of synthetic pastel fabric it was too), then there were the khaki's with the front pleats ironed down the legs. And the brown loafers which looked suspectly Ike.

"....you look like a moron...."

"....at least I'll be a moron Anna likes then..." he muttered, squinting at his reflection and running the comb carefully through the same spot he'd been combing since I'd been there.

Since when does anyone in our family comb their hair? It just doesn't happen.

Something was definitely wrong with him if he was combing his hair.

Lice maybe? But then again, that doesn't explain the clothes. Maybe the lice ate into his brain....the part of the brain that controls fashion sense.That could be a good development though.

"....look Tay.....Anna likes morons.....hell, that's probably the reason she's dating you, she sees all that moronic potential you have...."

".....thanks Zac....I really needed to be insulted right now....."

"....my timing is as always impeccable then.....?" I gave a little bow. A little - pretty guilty - bow.

I never really knew how to handle a sad Tay. He was the kind of person who dealt with his issues on his own. I even think sometimes he's so busy dealing with everyone else's issues that he forgets his own. And when he does manage to remember them, they're a little too messed up to be fixed properly.

Maybe I'd better leave him to dressing himself like a prep to impress his girlfriend.

It couldn't do him too much long term harm, could it?

Could it?

I paused in the doorway.

".....Tay, you'll be okay.......right.....?"

".....yeah.......I'll be okay....."

He sent a little smile my way.

".....moron......"

".....asswipe....."

Nothing like a little profanity to lighten the mood.

 

Isaac

 

Somehow, I had ended up at Jules' flat. Well, not 'somehow'....I knew how - in her car.....but I didn't exactly know why I was at her flat.

Did this mean I'd just consented to having sex? Or did it just mean I'd be getting better coffee?

"......would you like a coffee......?"

Okay. Breathe a sigh of relief. Well, I think it's the latter. Unless she wants sex after the coffee. Oh God.

".....yes please....." (to the coffee, not the sex)

Not that she asked me for sex. But, you know, if she did I'd say no. I think.

".....white with two sugars, right.....?"

I laughed "....yeah.....you have a good memory....."

She tinkered with an espresso machine for a while and then walked over slowly with two tiny espresso cups in either of her hands. She set them down on the coffee and then sat down next to me.

I picked up the miniature coffee cup (and nearly got my finger stuck in the miniature hole for the miniature handle) and took a gulp.

Whoa. That was potent stuff.

Was she trying to knock me out with the coffee so she could take advantage of me?

I coughed.

"....Oh, God......I'm sorry.........it's really hot....." she said worriedly.

"....I......" I coughed again ".....noticed....."

I can't feel my tongue.

While I was trying to regain some feeling in my tongue by running it over my top teeth, the door to the flat burst open and a guy tumbled in wearing a red soccer uniform.....or a soccer uniform that was once red. It was more mud brown at the moment.

Does anyone make their presence felt normally in Massachusetts?

"......that was possibly the worst game of our season......Matt managed to score a goal for the first time all year.....of course, he scored it for the other team, but that was just, you know, a minor setback for him...." he dumped a bag on the floor and pulled off his boots, dropping them next to the bag before looking up "......then, we're pretty sure Sheepy broke his collar bone when he ran into one of the goal posts....how the fuck he managed that, we're not sure but----we have company.......?"

".....this is Isaac......Isaac, this is Scott, my other flatmate......."

Scott was a taller, prettier version of Tay. Like, I mean, this guy really looked like a girl. And a really good looking girl at that. Actually, I know who he reminded me of - Gunner Stahl in the Mighty Ducks 2. You know the Iceland guy that misses the penalty goal? It was uncanny.

"....hey....." he waved "....nice to meet you......"

".....likewise....." I waved back, sipping my coffee after blowing on it (in an attempt to cool it down) for the past ten minutes.

"....Jules....."

".....mmhmm......?"

".....can I speak to you for a minute.....in private.......?"

Were they dating? Were they married? Was I making a complete fool of myself?

"......sure......" she shrugged and smiled at me and followed the pretty boy into the kitchen.

 

Juliet

(cut to the kitchen)

 

"......he's one of those Hanson kids, right.....?"

".....ye-e-e-es......your point being....?"

"....Jules, how old is he.....?"

"......eighteen, I think......"

".....you think.....?" Scott looked at me disdainfully. Scott did 'disdainful' better than any woman I knew. It was fairly probable that him having to be disdainful for my sake rather frequently had been the cause of its perfection.

"....okay, I know...."

"....Jules....." he sighed and shook his beautiful head ".....really......why don't you find someone your own age.....?"

"....so I'm attracted to younger men......" I shrugged ".....what's wrong with that.....?"

".....but Jules....an eighteen year old? You're twenty one......"

".....at least it isn't illegal this time....." I joked. Scott already knew about my escapade with a sixteen year old when I had been eighteen.

He laughed, but shook his head nonetheless.

"....you're a lost cause, baby....."

"....I think you need a shower, baby......"

I watched him shaking his head all the way to the bathroom, before turning back towards the lounge room.

To find that no one, not the least an Isaac Hanson, was in there.

 

Isaac

 

I'd gotten myself involved with a serial cradle snatcher!

(this is the first and last time I'm getting involved with an older woman, damn it)

 

Anna

 

"......Hey....! Good Lookin'! Over here......!"

I could see Luke waving over the crowd with two beer bottles in his hand.

Maybe I should get completely plastered and then let the alcohol make the choice for me. Then again, a less painfully embarrassing option would be preferable.

He fought his way through the crowd and handed me a beer.

".....YOU MADE IT......." he yelled near my ear. Even then I could barely hear him.

"......I DID......"

I smiled.

"....WHERE'S TAYLOR.....?"

"....WHERE'S WHO.....?"

"....WHERE'S TAYLOR........?"

".....OH....I HAVE NO IDEA......WE HAD A FIGHT......" I took a swig from the bottle.

Hm. I knew there was a reason I didn't drink on a regular basis.

"....THAT'S NOT GOOD....."

"....WHAT.....?!"

".....THAT'S NOT GOOD.....FIGHTING ISN'T GOOD......"

"....OH.....YEAH......"

".....YOU LOOK REALLY GOOD TONIGHT......"

I heard that one (thank God for bringing a set of clothes that were uncomfortably well fitting and perceptibly girly).

"....THANKS....SO DO YOU....."

Surprise, surprise. Had he ever not looked good?

".....HEY.....ISN'T THAT----"

I didn't need Luke's prompt to notice that Taylor had just arrived. And Taylor was certaintly standing out in the crowd of Ralph Lauren and khaki.

In his leather pants and cream roll-neck sweater (and by being of course Taylor Hanson) he was the centre of attention. It was almost as if the music had stopped and a spotlight had fallen on him.

He waved at Luke and I and smiled that breathtaking smile of his, walking over to us as the crowd parted like the red sea before Moses.

"....HI GORGEOUS....." he smiled at me (a little amusedly, I think) but didn't kiss me and then turned to Luke "....IT'S GREAT MEETING YOU AGAIN, LUKE....." and he stuck out his hand.

Luke shook it and smiled "....LIKEWISE HERE....."

".....THE DRINKS ARE OVER THERE.....?" he asked Luke.

".....JUST ON THAT TABLE, YEAH......"

"....ANYTHING NON-ALCOHOLIC.....?"

".....I THINK THERE'S SOME COLA AND JUICE......."

"....GREAT......I'LL BE BACK SOON, YOU TWO DON'T MOVE......" he grinned again, and wandered over to the table amongst all the chins dropping to the floor.

Luke sighed "......YOUR BOYFRIEND IS THE HOTTEST GUY IN THIS ROOM....."

I nearly choked on the mouthful of bitter-tasting beer "......EXCUSE ME......?"

".....TAYLOR IS GORGEOUS, ISN'T HE......?"

"......UM, YEAH........"

"......GOD, I'D GIVE ANYTHING TO BE DATING HIM......BUT YOU KNOW....." he shrugged and grinned at me.

My legs suddenly weren't doing the supporting they were supposed to and my head appeared to be stuffed with cotton wool.

The music thudded dully in my ears.

".....I need to sit down......" I said weakly.

The next thing I noticed, Taylor was at my side sitting me down on a sofa. He sat down next to me, brushing my hair back from my forehead.

"....you okay....?"

"....f-fine......" I murmured.

"....you look a little green...."

".....God, Taylor......he's gay......."

"....who's gay.....?"

".....Luke......I didn't......realise......."

I think at this point I burst into tears on his shoulder.

".....shhhhh.......it's okay, hey.......? It's not the end of the world......"

"....I've been such an idiot....." I wailed.

"....no you haven't.......well, okay, maybe just a little, but I'm used to it by now......"

I smirked at him weakly.

".....I've screwed this up, haven't I? I've ruined this relationship....and you don't want to have anything to do with me now, right.....?"

"....now you really are being an idiot....."

I squinted at him for a minute. There was something fishy about this "......you knew, didn't you.......?"

".....knew what......?"

"....that he was gay...."

".......um, yeah.........."

".....I don't really want to know how......but tell me anyway......"

"....well, when I was returning my purchases from Ralph Lauren, he was kind of....in there with his....man friend......"

"....you went shopping in Ralph Lauren....?!"

"....see the things I do for you.....? Compromising my fashion integrity....."

".....your fashion has integrity now.....?"

".....oh baby, does it have integrity......"