Chapter 16 - Reconciliation

On the van ride back to the hotel, neither Mr. or Mrs. Hanson wanted to comment on their sons less than ideal performance on the show.

Isaac however felt quite differently. "Look, Taylor," he began, "I know you’re mad at me, but you didn’t’ have to take it out on Zac too."

"Why Isaac, I have no idea what you are talking about."

"You knew that Zac and I wanted to finish the song, but no! You just had to keep right on singing. It was embarrassing! We sounded horrible! Especially you!"

"Isaac," his mother warned from the front seat.

"Yeah Tay, what was up with that?" Zac chimed in.

"You deserved to get embarrassed after what you did," Taylor growled, staring at Isaac.

"Taylor, what did your brother do that has you so upset?" Mr. Hanson demanded from the driver’s seat.

"Oh gee......I don’t know. Why not ask Isaac. I’m sure he’s love to tell you about his recent adventures."

"He’s just jealous because Juliet Brisbois likes me and not him. I mean God forbid that Taylor does not have every girl in the world lusting after him," Isaac said shaking off his brothers attempt to get him to say something he’d regret.

"Isaac stop trying to flatter yourself. Juliet is the only girl who pays any attention to you. She must be desperate or something." Taylor tried to act as if the whole situation did not bother him. "You just wish you had half the number of fans liking you that Zac and I do."

"ENOUGH! I don’t want to hear another word out of either of you unless it is an apology for these horrible things you’re saying to each other." Mrs. Hanson sternly warned.

They rode the rest of the way to the hotel in dead silence. Even Jessie, Avery and Mac, who could all vie for chatterbox of the year, were unusually silent, sensing the tension filling the van.



"Boys, you better work everything out tonight. Come tomorrow morning, I don’t want to hear any more of this stupid bickering. Also I want all three of you to think about your performance. I think we all know it could have been 100% better. You really can’t afford to take your problems onto stage with you. At this point in your career, another performance like this could really hurt your chances. If you’re serious about your music like you want everyone to know that you are, you had better start acting like it. You didn’t go through all those years of hard work and practice to throw everything away over some girl." Mr. Hanson left his sons to think about this, taking the keys to the mini bar with him as he left the room.

"Dad’s right, guys. I mean, she’s just a girl. It’s not like you can’t find someone else, Taylor," Zac piped up.

"That’s not the point Zac. You don’t get it."

"Well what is the point then? You’re right I don’t get it. I think that you are both being stupid. She isn’t worth messing up things for our band."

"Hey! I don’t care about her! What I do care about is that Isaac was too chicken to tell me that they were seeing each other. He lied to all of us. Cowards make me sick."

"I didn’t tell you because I was afraid that you would never speak to me again! I didn’t want to hurt you!" Isaac was furious.

"It hurts me more that you didn’t tell me! It hurts that you lied to me! I would rather of found out right when it started, instead of after you already screwed her, and then told me when we were drunk!"

"GUYS! Come on........who cares......it’s just a girl. This is so dumb, you guys are acting like complete idiots!" Zac piped up again.

"Zac shut up! This doesn’t even concern you!" Isaac was exasperated with his brothers attempts at playing peacemaker.

"Fine. Forget you guys, I’m outta here!" Zac turned and stormed out of the room.

"Great, now you’re a liar and a jerk." Taylor muttered.

"I NEVER LIED!" Isaac shouted.

"You’re lying to me right now!" Taylor shot back. He rubbed his clammy hands on his pants, and used the back of his arm to wipe the sweat that was trickling down the side of is face. He was suddenly feeling very hot.

"How am I lying to you?"

"You’re lying about lying to me."

"I never said I wasn’t seeing her, therefore I never lied!"

"Isaac that is so....." Taylor trailed off, suddenly not having the energy to go on.

Isaac looked at his brother, suddenly concerned. "Are you okay?"

Taylor took a deep breath, "Man, I really don’t feel good."

Isaac watched as the feverish pink in Taylor’s cheeks faded to a sickly green color. "Just how don’t you feel good, Tay?" he cautiously asked, backing away from his brother.

"Shoot, I think I have to.." Taylor clapped his hand over his mouth and beelined for the bathroom.

Isaac could hear him being sick, and forgetting all about the argument in process, went to help his brother.

Taylor knelt hunched over the toilet, waiting for his stomach to stop flopping around. When he was sure he was finished, he stood on shaky legs, grabbing the sink for support.

"Are you okay?" Isaac asked, grabbing one of the cellophane wrapped cups from the counter and running a glass of water.

"Yeah, I think so," Taylor said, not daring to talk above a whisper for fear it would set him into another fit of nausea.

Isaac handed Taylor the glass of water, which he accepted gratefully, and rinsed his mouth out. He leaned, both hands on the counter, eyes closed, head down.

"Come on, let’s get you into bed," Isaac said, gently taking Taylor’s arm and leading him towards the main room. He helped Taylor out of his stained shirt, and pulled the covers back so his brother could lay down. After situating Taylor in the bed, Isaac walked around to the other side and sat next to his brother, his back resting against the headboard.

The door clicked, and Isaac looked up to see Zac peering in.

"What’s going on?" Zac looked at his brothers, a little confused.

Taylor turned to Zac, a weak smile plastered on his face. "Y’know what?" Ikey is the best brother in the whole world. And I mean that. The whooole world."

Zac wrinkled his brow. "What’s he talking about?"

Isaac sighed. "Nothing Zac, he’s fine."

I have got the weirdest brother’s in the world, Zac thought shaking his head.

"Hey Ike, can I tell ya som’thn?"

"What Taylor?"

"I didn’t nearly kill us that day."

"What?"

"In the cornfield. We were not gonna hit the corn, cause corn wouldn’t hurt ya, ya know?"

"Sure Tay, I know..." Isaac trailed off when he saw his parents standing in the doorway.

Suddenly Taylor sat halfway up and grabbed Isaac’s hand. "Ike, I just want to say this to you, kay? I just wanted to say that I know that there is nothing I could do. About her wanting to sleep with you. I couldn’t do anything ‘bout that."

Isaac stared at Taylor wide eyed.

Mr. and Mrs. Hanson looked at each other.

"Isaac , what is he talking about?" Mr. Hanson gave his son a questioning look.

"Nothing, he’s just sort of out of it. He was sick again, it was pretty bad this time."

"No, really," Taylor snorted. "See......"

"Tay, just lay there. You’re going to make yourself sick again." Isaac prayed that Taylor would just shut up.

".....there’s this girl....." Taylor tried to continue.

"No, no there’s no girl, Tay. He’s delirious. Thinks he saw some girl or something." Isaac desperately wanted to hit his brother to keep him quiet, but didn’t think that would go over to well.

"Yeah, he just sort of started talking nonsense.....about weird stuff." Zac tried to help Isaac out.

"...but...." Taylor again protested.

"Tay, you need to go to sleep, you’re sick." Isaac gently pushed Taylor down. He glanced at his parents, who were frozen in the doorway, looks of shock on their face.

Taylor suddenly coughed and clutched his stomach.

"Oh Taylor, honey," Mrs. Hanson went to Taylor’s side, pressing her cheek to his forehead. "He’s burning up. Isaac get me a washcloth, wet it with cool water.

Isaac got up and his mother took his spot on the bed next to Taylor. He went into the bathroom, glad to be out of his father’s stare.

 

 



That night, as Isaac lay in bed, he heard Taylor stir.

"Hey Tay? You awake?" he whispered, not wanting to wake Zac.

Taylor sighed, "Yeah, partly, why?"

"You knew what you were doing tonight, didn’t you."

All he got in response was silence. Suddenly, Taylor snickered. "You should have seen you’re face. Priceless."

"You jerk," Isaac said, but couldn’t surpress his laughter.

"I have to stop laughing, I have got one mother of a headache," Taylor groaned.

"Serves you right, mom and dad probably won’t let me go anywhere alone with a girl until I’m fifty. I can't wait for this one. Did you hear dad? Son, we'll discuss this in the morning. Blech, last thing I need is to talk about sex with dad."

"Serves you right, for sneaking around."

Isaac stared at the dark ceiling, picking out shapes in the rooms shadows. "Maybe," was all he said.

Taylor coughed, and made a grunting noise.

"You okay?" Isaac glanced over at his brother's bed.

Taylor sighed. "Yeah, I'm fine. Tired."

Isaac picked at the corner of his comforter, hoping this would be the end of the arguing. He had really missed the closeness he and his brother's shared. "Well," he ventured. "I guess we're even now, huh?"

For a moment Isaac was a afraid that Taylor wouldn't answer. Then suddenly Taylor snorted and started laughing again. "Oh, man....I wish I had a camera to take a photo op, I'm telling you, that was....'" he trailed off not able to finish because he was laughing so hard."

"Yeah, yeah, chuck it up buddy," Isaac said, although couldn't help but join in the laughing again.

"Guys shut up......I am trying to sleep," Zac moaned from under his pile of covers.

His older brothers snickered.

"Ike?"

"Yeah Tay?"

"Good night."

Isaac smiled in the darkness. " ‘Night Tay." He rolled over and soon fell asleep.

.

Chapter 17 - Home Sweet Home

Thanks to Taylor, the flight from New York to Tulsa seemed like it lasted longer than it actually took, because he passed his stomach flu bug on to his mother who spent the majority of the flight in the restroom. Not only that but Jessica was complaining about a headache, and looked flushed.

Isaac had joked with Taylor, stating that he couldn’t have passed along the bug better if he had tried.

Taylor retorted with, "Well you know me, when I do something I like to give it my usual 150% effort."

Needless to say the whole Hanson clan was glad when they finally were home.



"MARIE! Zac’s here!"

Zac stood in the foyer of Marie’s house laughing when he heard what sounded like a herd of elephant’s come trampling down the stairs. Two seconds later Marie ran in and threw her arms around him. He put his arms around her and hugged her back.

Suddenly Marie let go and punched Zac in the stomach.

"GEEZ!" Zac exclaimed, clutching his aching gut. "What was that for?"

Marie gave him a dirty look and stated, "That was for not calling me while you were gone, AND for not calling me when you came home!"

"I didn’t call because we were barely gone for a week, and I didn’t call when I got home because I wanted to surprise you. I’ll think twice before doing that again." Zac rubbed his sore muscles.

"Well I didn’t know you were only going to be gone for a week. When I called your house your aunt said that you guys were probably going to go over to Europe straight from New York. I was so worried you wouldn’t call and tell me and then you would just go off to wherever and I would never hear from you again." Marie quietly explained.

"We were gonna go to Europe, and I would have called you. However it got postponed. We aren’t gonna go for a little while. We’re gonna do some interviews and shows in the US, I guess. So my parents said I couldn’t call just for that since I’d see you in a week anyway." Zac informed her.

"Fine, I’ll accept that as an answer, however, if you do that to me again I won’t just be punching you in the stomach!"

Zac cringed at the thought. "I won’t, I swear."

Marie smiled. "Good, now that we have that settled, I have a favor to ask you." She batted her eyelashes and gave him her best "please" look.

Squinting his eyes, he scrutinized her. Whenever she gave him that look, it usually meant she was going to ask him something he knew he wouldn’t like. "What is it?" he asked cautiously.

"Will you go horseback riding with me Saturday? Anna was going to go, but her mom is making her go to her grandma’s and we already have the trail ride set up and everything. I was going to ask Leslie, but since you’re home, I want you to go with me. Please.....I’ll be so sad if you don’t go." Marie gave him a pouty look and waited for his response.

"I don’t know, I mean I never....."

"PLEASE!! I’m so sick of just playing video games and rollerblading and sitting around doing nothing and watching TV and......."

"All right, all right, I’ll go."

"Thank you!" Marie clapped her hands happily, and looking to make sure no one was looking, gave Zac a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Now......" Zac rubbed his hands together and gave her a devilish grin, "you have to do something for me."

"What?"

"I don’t know yet, but when I figure it out, I’ll let you know."

Marie eyed him. "Okay.........I guess that’s fair." She sniffed the air. "Come on, let’s go into the kitchen. My mom made cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles."

Zac followed Marie into the kitchen where Mrs. Fletcher had two tins full of fresh cupcakes.

"Oh, man........loaded with chocolate frosting." Zac’s eyes were gazing longingly at the mounds of frosting on each cupcake. "You must really love me."

Mrs. Fletcher laughed. "You guys can each have one. No more. The rest are for the PTA meeting tonight."

"Yeah, sure mom, geez," Marie rolled her eyes and then carefully studied each cupcake, finally selecting one that appeared to be made entirely of frosting. She smacked her lips and whispered to Zac, loud enough for her mom to hear. "Don’t worry, we’ll be able to have more.....the secret word here is Betty Crocker. Don’t let my mom fool you into thinking she actually baked these herself." Marie gave Zac a knowing smile and took a huge bite of her cupcake.

"Marie!" Mrs. Fletcher gave her daughter a mock look of horror. "That was supposed to be a secret." She playfully swatted Marie on the head and left the kitchen, chuckling.

Shaking his head and smiling at their silliness, Zac grabbed a cupcake and carefully peeled back the wrapper. He looked up at Marie and stopped mid bite. She had a huge gob of chocolate frosting on her nose. He snickered.

"What?" Marie asked, not aware that anything was on her face.

"You have......you have......." Zac snorted and almost dropped his cupcake.

"What!? I have what?!" Marie was getting concerned now as she watched Zac who appeared to be having some sort of fit in her kitchen.

"Frosting......on......your nose!" Zac was in near hysterics now.

Marie reached up and wiped her nose. Seeing the chocolate on her fingers, she gave Zac a look. "Oh.....you think that’s funny huh?" She gave him a huge smile, right before she shoved the rest of her cupcake into his face. "There, how’s that for funny." Marie sat back and grinned, pleased with herself.

Zac stopped laughing and scraped at the frosting and sprinkles that clung to his nose and eyelashes. "That, that was pretty funny. But........I think this is funnier." He grabbed another cupcake and smashed it on her head. When he saw the look of shock on her face he cracked up.

Marie took a deep breath. "You are so dead!" She got up and grabbed the canister sitting on the counter of left over frosting. Using the spatula still stuck inside, she scooped a large helping of frosting and proceeded to carefully smoosh it into Zac’s hair.

"That’s it! This is war!" Zac grabbed two more cupcakes and ran to take shelter behind the island in the middle of the kitchen. Sneaking a glance up he didn’t see Marie anywhere. Where’d she go, he thought, right before she tackled him from behind, knocking him to the floor. Zac shouted and used his cupcakes as defense as Marie sat on his stomach and tickled him. "All right! All right! I give! You win! You win! Let me up," Zac tried to sit up, but Marie kept him pinned to the floor.

"No way, jose. You are staying here where you can’t cause anymore damage."

"ME!? Who’s the one who started it? I do believe it was you if I’m not mistaken. I only laughed at you.....you smashed a cupcake in my face." Zac pointed his finger at her accusingly.

"Hmm, I guess you’re right. Oh well, I’m still not going to let you up." She laughed at him.

Zac stared up at her. He felt his breath catch in his throat when he saw how cute she looked with cupcake all over her face. Reaching up, he gently wiped a smudge of chocolate off her cheek and stuck his finger in his mouth. "Wow, you taste pretty good," he joked.

Marie rolled her eyes.

Zac smiled and reached up again, this time just lightly stroking her cheek. He put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her down closer to him. Licking his lips, he quickly brushed them against hers. "Marie....."

"What in the world!!??" Marie and Zac scrambled off the floor from behind the island and gave Mrs. Fletcher matching guilty looks as she angrily scanned the mess in the kitchen.

"Sorry mom, we had a bit of a fight."

"A BIT? Look at this place!" Mrs. Fletcher gestured to the smashed cupcake pieces, sprinkles, and frosting that covered the table, countertops, and floor. "Marie, you knew that those were for the PTA meeting. I know you haven’t seen Zac in a little while, but really......was this necessary?"

"I..." Marie began.

"Never mind, I don’t want to hear the excuse. You two can clean this mess up and then you both are going to help me make a new batch of cupcakes for the meeting." Shaking her head, disgusted, Mrs. Fletcher left the kitchen again.

Marie snorted. "Ooopsie. I guess she’s a little mad." She grabbed the mop from beside the refrigerator and grabbed a washcloth from the sink. "Here, you do the table, I’ll get the floor." She handed Zac the washcloth. "Oh, weren’t you going to say something? Before my mom came in?" Marie stared at him.

"Oh, uhh," Zac shook his head. "Nothing, I forgot." He took the washcloth and began to swipe at the chunks of cake on the table, as Marie mopped the floor.



"Ike, hey! Long time no see!" Jacob Brisbois was more than surprised when he opened the door to see Isaac standing on the doorstep.

"Yeah, no kidding, it’s been a while." Isaac gave his friend a grin.

"So what’s up? I’ve seen you guys on TV. It’s really cool about the album and all."

"Thanks....." Isaac felt bad, but really wasn’t in the mood for chit chat. "Is your sister home?"

"Juliet? Why?"

"I need to talk to her. Can you get her please?" Isaac gave Jacob an imploring look.

"Uhhh, yeah sure, hang on." Jacob was slightly confused as to why Isaac wanted to talk to his little sister, but none the less shouted, "JULIET!!! SOMEONE’S HERE TO SEE YOU!"

The answer from the living room got louder as Juliet made her way to the front door.

"JACOB!! I’m not deaf!! You don’t have to yell at me, I am quite capable......" Juliet stopped when she saw Isaac standing in the foyer. "Hi," she said, confused. Isaac had never come to the door for her when he knew her family would be home.

"Hey, we just got back from New York. I had to get out of the house, Taylor gave half the family the stomach flu. I am avoiding any contact with anyone named Hanson, so I figured we could, I don’t know, go to the mall or someplace like that." Isaac smiled at Juliet.

Juliet just stared at him. "Is.....is that okay?" she questioned him.

"Yeah, it’s totally cool. Come on, let’s go." He turned to go out the door.

Juliet grabbed her windbreaker off the wall coat rack and yelled, "MOM! I’m going to the mall with Isaac."

"Who?" Mrs. Brisbois walked into the foyer, wiping her hands on a dish towel.

"Isaac Hanson, you remember, he’s a friend of Jacob’s. I play soccer in the same league as his brother, you know, Taylor?"

"Oh Isaac, of course, I remember. I haven’t seen you around much. What have you been doing with yourself?"

"Well my family has been pretty busy, we’ve been doing a lot of traveling, stuff like that." Isaac didn’t want to go into all the details. They could be there all day.

"Mom, don’t you remember? I told you about the record." Juliet gave Isaac a sorry she’s a little slow look and tried to walk by her mom, out the door.

"Oh that’s right. Congratulations on your success."

"Thanks Mrs. Brisbois." Isaac again attempted to make his way out the front door.

"Well, I have a roast in the oven, would you like to stay for dinner?"

Isaac looked at Juliet. "Uhh," he began.

"Mom, he has to be home. We’re just going to the mall for a little while, okay?"

"All right, be back by six. I want you in this house for dinner young lady."

"Yes mom," Juliet replied, and pushed Isaac out the door, closing it behind them.

"Sorry about that," Juliet said as they walked towards the car.

"No problem." He laughed.

"So......I assume that since you came to the door, that something happened while you guys were in New York."

Isaac groaned, "Something happened all right."

"Well, what..."

Isaac held up his hand, "Don’t even ask. To make a long story short, I told Taylor about us and to say the least he was not happy. However, we have settled our differences, in a matter of speaking....it’s hard to explain. I mean, he’s still hurt, but I think he’s gonna be okay with this." Isaac gave Juliet an encouraging look and took her hand in his, brushing his lips over her wrist.

She smiled at him, "I’m glad. I’m really glad you told him. So, now what does this mean for us?"

Isaac gave her a sideways glance. "What do you mean?"

"I mean........we’ve done pretty much everything a couple does.........except be a couple. I mean, when you think about it, we’ve never even been on a date."

"Wow," Isaac pondered this. "You’re right. Well, I guess that settles it then."

"Settles what?"

"I have to work up the nerve to ask you out on a date. I just hope that you don’t reject me."

Juliet laughed. "Well, try me."

Isaac stopped by the car and turned to face Juliet. "Juliet Brisbois. I have liked you for a while now and I would be honored if you would please go out on a date with me." He pretended to be bashful, and looked at the ground, digging the toe of his shoe into a crack in the sidewalk.

"Hmmm, I don’t know. Where are you going to take me?"

"How about, dinner, movie, a nice moonlit walk, and if we like each other the back seat of my car." He grinned evilly at her.

"Wow, and on our first date. You sure move fast."

"I just know what I like," Isaac breathed and backed her up against the car. "So? Are you going to go on a date with me or not?"

"I guess so, I mean, if I don’t like you I don’t have to go out with you anymore." She said and poked his shoulder.

"You’ll like me."

"Oh you think so huh?"

"I know so," Isaac said, and lightly brushed his lips against hers. He then grabbed her and held her tight against him. "All right, the mall awaits," he said when they broke their embrace. He opened the passenger door for her, and made a sweeping motion with his hand.

Juliet laughed at his exaggerated gestures and gently reached up, stroking his cheek before getting into the car.

.

Chapter 18 - Mood Swings

Less than a week later, after Taylor had completely recovered from the flu he got his final paybacks at Isaac. Taylor still felt hurt anytime Isaac mentioned Juliet’s name, which to him seemed like it was every two seconds. After Isaac had come home from his first "official" date with Juliet, and told his whole family about how wonderful it had been, Taylor felt he deserved a good fun case of the stomach flu, which Isaac came down with the next night. Taylor did have a few feelings of guilt at how triumphant he felt over Isaac’s condition, which happened to be the worst case of flu anyone in the whole family had suffered, but just couldn’t help himself. However, no matter how he felt about the way Isaac had gone behind his back, he sucked it up. Juliet was only a girl after all. And surprisingly Taylor began to focus his efforts on another girl was working her way into Juliet’s place. It was of all people, Meredith’s cousin, Gretchen. It seemed that everywhere he went lately, he ran into her. He had never really noticed her before, but now he caught himself thinking about her on more than one occasion. Deciding that waiting too long to ask Juliet out had been the major reason for things with her turning out the way they did, he decided not to sit on this one for a minute longer. He knew that the next time he saw Gretchen, he was going to ask her out.

 



Taylor glanced over the top of his sunglasses, watching as Gretchen stood in front of the frost covered doors in the drugstore, carefully choosing which bottle of Fruitopia to buy. He watched as she finally decided on Strawberry Passion, and closed the doors with a satisfying slam. Taylor set down the box of Kleenex he had been pretending to read, and stuck his hands in his pockets, falling in about ten paces behind Gretchen, whistling a tune quietly under his breath, attempting to appear casual. He saw her pay for her drink and leave the store. Quickly he went out the doors after her, afraid he might lose sight of her if he waited too long. He came bursting out onto the sidewalk and nearly ran into the support beam across from the doors, in his haste. Frowning, he composed himself, and scanned the parking lot. Finally he spotted Gretchen, walking her bike around the back of the store, into an alley. He hurried to catch up with her. When he turned the corner, Gretchen was crouched down, tying her sneaker. Taylor stopped in his tracks and waited until she stood up and began walking again, before he resumed his "hunt". As he followed, he heard Gretchen let out a loud sigh. She stopped walking and tapped her fingers on the handlebars of her bike before turning around to face him.

"Taylor, do you think I’m stupid?" Gretchen gave him and exasperated look.

Taylor quickly pulled his sunglasses off. Squinting in the bright sun, he put his hand up as a shield and looked at her, confused. "What do you mean?"

"Do you actually think that I don’t know that you’re following me? I mean, I would have to be a complete moron to not have noticed you sneaking around Rite Aid."

"So how come you didn’t say anything?" Taylor looked at the ground, kicking at stone that had gotten stuck in a piece of tar. He suddenly felt very stupid.

Gretchen just shook her head. "Because I really didn’t have anything to say. I just sort of figured that you would get bored and leave. Believe me, I don’t normally take almost twenty minutes to pick out a drink." She turned to walk away.

"Hey, did you see us on TV?" Taylor called after her.

Gretchen stopped and turned to face him again. "It was kind of hard not to. I mean you guys invaded just about every show there is, not to mention Meredith came over and forced me to sit through Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. I thought I was going to puke, that stupid Kathie Lee drives me insane."

Taylor laughed and shook his head. "Us too. She treated poor Zac like he was five. I thought he was going to pop her one. Isaac and I made fun of him the whole trip home for that."

They stared at each other. Finally Gretchen spoke up.

"Well, I guess I should get going. My mom is expecting me to be home." She again attempted to walk away.

Taylor decided that he had stalled long enough and ran to catch up with her.

"Wait I want to ask you something." Taylor grabbed her arm and tried to stop her.

"What? I really should go." She seemed very uncomfortable with him touching her arm so Taylor let go.

"I was just wondering if you might want to do something with me some time."

"Oh, I don’t think so Taylor."

"Why not?" Taylor gave her his best puppy dog eyes.

"Well, I mean..........aren’t you leaving for Europe or something? I thought Meredith said something like that." She absently kicked at one of the pedals on her bike, causing it to spin like mad.

"It got postponed. We’re gonna do some stuff here first, then go later on. So how about it? Would you want to go on a date with me sometime?" He gave her a big smile.

Gretchen blinked a couple of times, almost as if she couldn’t believe her ears. "I don’t think so, I mean I’ve never been on a date or anything." She looked at him, confused. "Why are you even asking me out?"

Taylor crinkled his brow, not quite sure why she asked such dumb questions. Especially ones that he didn’t really like to answer. "I don’t know.....because I like you I guess. Why else would I ask you out?"

"You were dared to," Gretchen stated this matter of factly, as if this sort of thing happened everyday.

Now Taylor was just genuinely confused. "What?"

"Did someone dare you to ask me out? Like as a joke or something?"

"No, that’s so stupid. Why would you even ask that?"

Gretchen kicked at the pedal again and said, " I don’t know. I mean, now that you guys are really famous or whatever, what would you want to do with me?"

Taylor shook his head in disbelief. Why does she have to make everything so difficult, he thought. "I just want to take you somewhere or do something with you, geez, I didn’t know it was going to be such a big production." He turned and started to walk away.

"All right," Gretchen called after him.

"All right.........what’s all right?" Taylor looked back at her.

"I’ll go somewhere with you, okay? Like a date or whatever. Unless you don’t want to anymore."

"Gretchen, you are so weird," Taylor laughed. "Why wouldn’t I still want to do something with you?"

"Well, I heard that boys change their minds, just like that." She snapped her fingers for emphasis.

"Where did you hear something stupid like that?"

Gretchen sighed. "Meredith told me. She had decided to make it her mission to turn me into some sort of girly girl, or something. She says I look like a boy, with the way I dress and all." Gretchen pointed to her baggy blue jeans, that had holes in the knees and her faded Adidas tee shirt.

Taylor snorted. "You do not look like a boy. Who cares how you dress? Besides, a lot of girls dress like guys now a days. It’s like the popular thing to do, I guess. I mean I think you look fine." He found himself absorbed in looking at the holes in her jeans, where he could see a hint of her knees. Somehow that gave him a big charge.

"Really?" Gretchen smiled.

Taylor snapped himself back into reality and smiled back at her. "Yeah, really."



"Where in the world is Drew Valejjo’s number?" Mrs. Hanson asked, leafing through an address book.

Isaac, who had been sitting at the kitchen table eating a container of pudding, suddenly jerked his head up. "Drew? Who? Why?" Isaac demanded. "Why do you want to call her?"

"You know your father and I are going out tonight. You said you were going out. Which I still disagree with because I think it’s too soon. You are still very pale...."

"Mom, I’m fine!" Isaac was sick of being babied by his mom.

"Anyway, crabby......we need a baby-sitter."

"Yeah, but Drew? Why her?" Ever since he had found out that Drew was a lesbian, just the sound of her name set Isaac on edge. For some reason he harbored feelings of resentment towards her. He felt that he had wasted a good portion of fantasies on a girl who was fantasizing about other girls.

"Well why not? Why shouldn’t Drew watch the kids? She always has before," Mrs. Hanson gave her eldest son a confused look.

"Well......because......I.........she.........uhhh." Knowing he couldn’t tell l his mom the real reason why he didn’t want her to baby-sit he said the first thing that came to his mind. "I don’t know. Maybe Mac is getting sick of her."

"Isaac, he hasn’t even seen her in a couple of months. How could he be sick of her?"

"Yeah, well, maybe he’s forgotten who she is. We all know how he gets around strangers....." Isaac said, not quite sure what point he was trying to make.

Suddenly Mackenzie walked in, carrying an empty milk cup. He handed it to Mrs. Hanson stating, "More please."

"Mac, you remember the baby-sitter, Drew, right?" Mrs. Hanson asked, refilling his cup. "How would you like it if she came over and watched you and your sisters tonight?"

Mackenzie took his cup and gave his mother a thoughtful glance. "I haven’t seen Drew in awhile. I would like it very much if she came over and watched me."

"Well?" Mrs. Hanson turned and looked back at Isaac. "Unless you want to stay home and watch them I suggest you help me find the number."



When the doorbell rang, Isaac opened it, expecting to see Juliet, only to find himself standing face to face with Drew.

"Oh......you’re early," he said, walking away from the door.

"Nice to see you too," Drew answered back as she let herself in, seeing as how Isaac made not even the slightest attempt to open the door for her.

"Yeah, well,’ Isaac shrugged his shoulders and began to walk to the living room. He flopped on the couch and flipped on the TV.

Drew went to sit by him, only for Isaac to stretch himself across the whole sofa.

"Oh, what? You’re too cool to talk to me now or something?" Drew rolled her eyes. "Mr. Rockstar who played on Letterman."

Isaac just grunted and continued to flip through the channels.

"Oh, Drew, you’re here," Mrs. Hanson smiled and hugged the young girl. "You won’t have to worry about Zac and Taylor, they’re spending the night at friend’s houses. And Isaac is going out."

"Oh darn, I was really hoping he’d hang around tonight," Drew shot Isaac an evil glare.

"We should be back around eleven or so......all the numbers are on the fridge as usual, you know you’re welcome to use anything you need. We’ll give you a call if things run late, and thank you for coming on such short notice, especially on a Friday night. We really appreciate it."

"No problem Mrs. Hanson, always glad to help out. I missed the kids." Drew smiled.

Mr. and Mrs. Hanson gave each of their children a kiss, and left.



"Do you want to come in for awhile?" Isaac asked Juliet. It was about ten, but their date had been cut short, because Isaac had began to feel very tired, still fighting the last of his flu. "It’s just the baby-sitter and Mac, Jess, and Avie. Tay and Zac aren’t home."

"Sure," Juliet smiled and followed Isaac through the back door and up the stairs to his room.

"Wow, I’ve never been in your room before," Juliet commented as Isaac closed the door. "I can’t believe all three of you share a room!"

"Yeah it really sucks most of the time. You can never be alone or have any privacy," Isaac complained.

"Well.......which one’s yours?" Juliet asked, referring to the three beds.

"The one in the corner over there," Isaac pointed to a bed covered by a dark green comforter.

Juliet walked over and climbed onto the bed, laying on her back and propping herself up on her elbows. "Well then, we had better enjoy this time alone while it lasts," she suggested.

Isaac grinned and joined her on the bed. He leaned on her, kissing her softly as he situated a pillow under her head. He gently pushed her down and lay on top of her. It wasn’t long before both of their shirts had been tossed aside. As Isaac fiddled with the clasp on her belt, the door suddenly burst open and Drew walked in, searching for Jessica.

"What in the..." she gasped, hoping none of the younger kids had chosen to hide in the boys bedroom.

"GET OUT!" Isaac snapped, both angered and embarrassed.

Drew turned around and walked into the hallway, waiting for the two to compose themselves. After Juliet left, and she had the younger kids all found and in bed, she decided to confront Isaac.

He was sitting at his desk, furiously scribbling in a notebook. "Have you ever heard of knocking?" he demanded, not bothering to look up.

"Well how was I supposed to know you’d be going at it with some girl up here? I never even heard you come in."

"That’s not the point. The door was closed, it’s just common courtesy."

"Some of which you could use!" Drew snapped.

Isaac looked up and glared at her.

"For your information, I was playing hide and seek with your younger brother and sisters," she continued. "And if one of them was hiding in here, hey surely wouldn’t have told me to come in when I knocked."

"Yeah, but I could have told you to stay out!" Isaac shot back.

"What’s your problem?" Drew was close to screaming.

"What’s yours?" Isaac was feeling the same way. "Look, could you just leave my room or something?"

Drew threw up her hands and began to walk out of the room. "FINE! It shouldn’t be too long before your parents are home and I can....."

Isaac shot up and walked after her. "Hey, Drew?" he called in a much softer voice. "You aren’t going to tell my parents about this are you?"

Drew turned and stared at him. "Why shouldn’t I? After the way you’ve treated me tonight...."

"Look, I’m sorry. It’s just...."

"Isaac, shut up. You’re only apologizing because you want to save your own butt."

"No, no, no. It’s not that at all," Isaac tried to laugh it off.

Drew stared him down and Isaac actually felt himself back off from the look of rage on her face. "Listen. You have exactly two seconds to get out of my face. Or I will tell them," she threatened.

Isaac, taking the hint, quickly retreated to his room, slamming the door behind him.



Later on, well after Drew had left, Isaac went downstairs to get a glass of juice.

"Hey, honey," Mrs. Hanson said. She and Mr. Hanson were sitting at the kitchen table sipping hot drinks and unwinding from their hectic evening. "Did you have fun tonight? Drew said Juliet came over."

Isaac nearly choked on his juice and ended up spitting it into the sink. "She....she did? What did she say?"

"Oh, not much. Just that she came over and you guys watched some TV after the younger kids were in bed, " Mrs. Hanson yawned.

"Oh yeah, that’s exactly what we did." Isaac dumped the rest of his juice into the sink. "Boy," he stretched his arms over his head. "I’m exhausted. I think I’ll go to bed now."

"You feeling better Ike?" Mr. Hanson gave his son a strange look. Isaac never volunteered to go to bed before midnight on a weekend.

"Yeah, I’m fine, just tired," Isaac gave a slight wave and sped out of the kitchen before his parents could ask what they watched on TV.



Zac waved goodbye to his friend Chris, waiting until Chris’s mom pulled out of the driveway before running up his front steps. Storming through the house screaming, "I’M HOME!" Zac pounded up the steps and threw his overnight bag onto his bedroom floor. As he was about to leave the room to get something to eat, he noticed a disarrayed heap of legos where his battle field had once stood.

"What the heck?" he whispered to himself and went over to inspect the damage. As he surveyed the disaster that had once been his masterpiece, his eyes fell on a small stuffed pig.

"Hamlet," he muttered, grabbing the pig and making his way to his sister’s room.

"Jessica!" he shouted, standing in the doorway.

The young girl looked up from her coloring book to glance at her older brother.

"What was Hamlet doing in my room?" Zac demanded.

"I guess I left him in there," Jessica answered, returning her attention to her coloring.

"Why were you in my room? You know you’re not supposed to go in there when we aren’t home," Zac screamed loud enough for practically the whole neighborhood to hear.

"Well, Ike said I could go in before he left."

"Did he tell you that you could destroy the lego battlefield I spent three months working on?" Zac threw his arms in the air for emphasis.

"I didn’t wreck it," she protested. "I just wanted to make it better and it all fell apart. It looked ugly anyway!"

Hearing the commotion from upstairs, Mrs. Hanson followed the sounds of the two angry voices and stood in the doorway of her daughter’s room, silently watching the argument taking place within.

"I’m sick of you wrecking every Goddamned thing I own! How would you like it if I came in here and destroyed your stuff!" Zac shouted, oblivious to his mother, and grabbed Jessica’s coloring book, ripping out the page she had been working on.

"Zachary Walker Hanson!" Mrs. Hanson shouted.

Zac turned around slowly. "Mom," he sheepishly squeaked, staring at his shoes.

"Mommy, Zac’s being mean," Jessica whined and ran towards her mother.

"Zac," Mrs. Hanson picked up the hysterical Jessica. "Go to your room. I’ll be there in a minute to speak with you young man."

"But mom, she’s always ruining my stuff. It’s not fair, I just..."

"Zachary, be quiet. I don’t want to hear it," Mrs. Hanson cut him off.

As she turned to walk out of the room, Jessica gave Zac a triumphant look and stuck her tongue out at him.



"Grounded?"

"Yeah, I’m officially grounded until further notice." Zac switched the phone from one ear to the other as he talked to Marie.

"What did you do?" Marie didn’t sound too happy. Zac had just informed her that their plans for horseback riding were spoiled for the day.

"I, geez, I cussed at my little sister. I mean you’d think I had killed someone the way my parents are acting about this."

Marie sighed. "Zac, why would you do something stupid like that?"

"She wrecked my stuff! She always wrecks my stuff and my parents always take her side because she’s younger! It’s not fair!"

"Well, she is younger than you. That was really dumb."

Zac frowned. Marie was the last person he had thought would side with his parents on this issue, seeing as how her little brother Tony always got his way. "Well, whatever," he sighed. "I gotta go. My mom said I could only call to tell you I wasn’t’ allowed to go with you."

"Fine, I’ll talk to you later?"

"Yeah, if I’m ever allowed to leave my house again." With that Zac hung up the phone and retreated to the kitchen where his mother was waiting for him to help her clean the oven.

.

Chapter 19 - Gretchen

Taylor glanced at his watch for the sixth time in five minutes. He anxiously stood up from his position on the curb in front of Rite Aid, and looked up and down the sidewalk. Still no sign of Gretchen. It was their first official date and she was already thirty minutes late. Taylor had wanted to pick her up at her house, but Gretchen had refused, saying she would prefer to meet him in front of the drugstore. He sighed and sat back down. He picked up a crushed beer can that lay at his feet and threw it across the parking lot. It hit the hood of a blue station wagon just as a woman got out of it. She gave Taylor a dirty look and muttered, "hoodlum" under her breath.

"Sorry," he said, trying to keep from laughing. Then just as quickly as the smile had come to his face, it faded and he again scanned the streets for any sign of Gretchen. Still not seeing her, he crossed his arms, resting them on his knees, and leaned forward, his head laying on his forarms. I wonder where she is, he thought. Maybe something happened. Maybe I should go look for her. Maybe...... his thoughts were interrupted when he felt a tap on his shoulder. Lifting his head, and blinking as his eyes as they adjusted to the light, Taylor saw Gretchen standing over him.

"Hi," was all she said.

"Hi," he paused waiting the explanation of her tardiness.

"Well........are we gonna go somewhere or are we gonna stand here all day?" She stared at him.

"Whoa, wait a minute." Taylor couldn’t believe this. Standing up he gave her a stern look. "I think an apology is in order."

"An apology? What for?"

"Oh I don’t know, maybe for making me wait here almost forty minutes. You were supposed to be here at 3:00. It is now precisely," he held his watch up to her face for emphasis. "3:37, and thirteen seconds."

"I was deciding if I was going to come or not. After all, I showed up didn’t I?" She shook her head. "Let’s go, I have to be home by 5:00."

"WHAT? First you make me wait, now you can only stay out for like an hour? What the heck? Look, if you don’t want to go out with me, don’t waste my time." Taylor turned and started to walk away.

Gretchen ran after him and grabbed his arm. "Look, I’m sorry okay? It’s my mom. She would never have let me come it she knew I was going out alone with a boy. I had to make up a really good excuse and she practically wouldn’t let me leave the house. You have to understand how she is."

Taylor sighed. He wasn't quite sure he believed her story, but at the same time felt a surge of pleasure that she might have acutally lied in order to go out with him "I know how parents are. It’s okay." He looked at her plain white tee-shirt, that had a stain on the collar and her baggy blue jeans, which appeared to be five sizes to large. A thought entered his mind. He didn’t understand why she wore clothes that made her appear heavier than she was. Not that she was huge, but the baggyness of the clothes certainly didn’t help her apperance any. Before he was even aware that he was saying it, he blurted out, "Why do you always wear such big clothes?" Not meaning to sound rude, just curious, Taylor quickly tried to explain himself better. "Not that it dosen’t look okay, but I was just sort of wondering if you have clothes that actually fit you.....oh man......that didn’t come out right.....I," Taylor shook his head. "Nevermind, my mouth isn’t working today, just ignore me."

Gretchen raised her eybrows and gave Taylor an amused look. "I don’t know why, I just feel more comfortable in them I guess. My mom always asks me that too."

An akward silence ensued. Gretchen nervously fiddled with her ponytail. Finally she spoke up. "Are we going to go somewhere? Cause if not, I better go home."

"Oh, yeah." Taylor smiled. Still a little upset that she had to go home so early, he figured he would try and make the best of what time they had. "I was thinking we could go to Coventry. It’s close by and we can check out Big Fun."

"Sounds good to me."

They began to walk slowly, side by side, towards the street. Taylor glanced over at Gretchen and feeling bold, tried to take her hand, but she shoved them into her pockets. Sighing again, Taylor imitated her move, shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans. He could tell that she was going to be one tough date.



"I still can’t believe my baby sister has a boyfriend." Jacob Brisbois stated for the tenth time the past hour.

Juliet laughed. "I’m not a baby! Get over it will ya?" Leaning forward from where she was cuddled on Isaac’s lap on the end of the couch, she grabbed one of the decorative pillows off the cushins, and winged it at her older brother.

Jacob batted the pillow out of the air, laughing.

"Hey, Jake, we’re leaving for the skatepark. Wanna come with us?" Ethan and Seth, Juliet’s other brothers were standing in the family room entrance, holding their skateboards, looking expectantly at their brother.

Jacob glanced over at Isaac and Juliet, who were absorbed in each other, not paying attention. "I don’t know....think we can trust these two alone?" He jerked his thumb towards his sister.

Glancing up, Juliet sighed. "Very funny, Jakey," she said, using the nickname that embarrassed Jacob to no end. "We aren’t going to be alone, mom and dad are here. You can go to the skatepark. I’m a big girl......"

"I’ll say," Isaac whispered into her ear.

"......we’ll be fine," Juliet finished, giving Isaac a glare and swatting his arm.

"What?" Isaac had a mock look of surprise on his face. Looking at Juliet's three brothers he whimpered, "Maybe I should go with you guys, I’m getting abused here."

"You aren’t going anywhere," Juliet informed him.

Jacob just laughed. "You two make me sick," he stated, running to grab his skateboard, and joining his brothers.

After Jacob, Ethan, and Seth left, Juliet twisted around to face Isaac. "So.....want to watch a movie? Or we could go play table hockey, or....let’s see.....we could play......"

Isaac smiled as Juliet’s face scrunched up while she racked her brain. "I say we sit here and I’ll play with you," he smirked and tried to grab her around the waist.

Juliet squirmed free and rolled off the couch onto the floor. "I don’t think so, punk. My parents are home."

"Yeah, but......they’re outside, and we’re in here." Isaac slid off the couch and pinned Juliet to the floor. Leaning forward, he kissed her. Juliet kissed him back and got that same tingly feeling she always did when Isaac gently slid his tongue into her mouth.

"All right, as much as I would love to have a full fledged make out session here in my family room with the possibility of my parent’s walking in at any second, we better get up and think of something to do or I’m going to kick you out," Juliet informed him the minute their lips parted.

Isaac groaned and rolled off her, burying his face into the carpet.

Sitting up, Juliet slapped his back. "Come on lazy, get up. Let’s go play table hockey. Maybe I might just be able to beat you this time."

Isaac quickly jumped to his feet. "Yeah right. No one can beat the master," he proudly said.

Reaching out, Isaac pulled Juliet off the floor and they headed for the rec room, all the while modestly informing Juliet that she would never beat him and might as well just forfeit before she embarrassed herself. Juliet just shook her head and tried her best not to laugh at the boy who was now proclaiming himself the "Wayne Gretzky" of table hockey, as she set up the game.



"Hey Taylor! Check this out!"

Gretchen and Taylor were in Big Fun, a store dedicated to nothing more than stupid toys from all times. It had baskets and baskets of keychains, figurines, comic books, patches, and just about anything else one could think of.

Taylor walked over to where Gretchen was standing. He peered over her shoulder and smiled when he saw a bin full of multi-colored, miniature capsules, that when they were put in water, morphed into sponge shapes.

"I love these things," Gretchen stated. "When Meredith and I were little, and when we actually got along, we would take hundreds of these things and put them into the bathtub. We’d make little plays and stuff with the animals." She smiled as she fingered a lavender capsule.

Taylor looked at his watch and frowned. "We better get going, it’s almost five." He began to walk away but stopped and watched as Gretchen sadly replaced the small tablet back into the bin and followed him.

They stepped out of the store and back into Coventry. More like onto Coventry, for it was actually just the name of the street that housed a strip of unusual stores and restaurants, like Tommy’s, a vegetarian diner and Que’ Tall’s where one could get a burrito the size of their forearm. Other stores, like Big Fun were, A Piece of Tibet, where they sold Tibetan clothes and told of Tibetan philosophies and High Tide/Low Wave a souvenir store that sold cards, candles, and all sorts of other neat treasures. Coventry was also a great place to meet interesting people. It was one of Taylor and Isaac’s favorite spots to hang out.

"Oh shoot," Taylor suddenly said.

"What’s the matter?" Gretchen asked.

"I left my......my wallet in the store. Hang on a second wait here." Before Gretchen could say a word, he ran back into Big Fun. Five minutes later he emerged. "Okay, let’s go."

"Did you find your wallet?" Gretchen asked as they walked along the sidewalk, heading for the bus stop.

"Yeah, I left it by that bin of buttons I was looking in," he said.

"Good, it would have really been bad if you had lost it."

Taylor smiled at Gretchen, "Yeah, it would have." He watched her as she walked, head down, staring at the sidewalk, occasionally tucking a strand of hair that escaped her ponytail behind an ear. "You don’t talk much do you?" he asked her.

"I talk when I have something to say," was her reply.

"You know, I can’t figure you out. I just wish you’d let me get to know you."

Gretchen just shrugged and gave him a tight smile.



"Stop it. You and you’re happy mood are going to make me puke," Zac grumbled as Isaac walked in, a huge smile on his face and humming "For You I Will" under his breath.

"And definitely stop humming that song! I hate it!" Zac shouted.

"Oh poor Zackky," Isaac playfully cooed at his younger brother. "Mommy and Daddy still won’t let you out of the house huh?" He continued to mock Zac’s angry mood.

"NO! I have helped them around this house doing all sorts of crappy, boring chores, and they still say I’m grounded! It’s not fair." Zac threw the book he had been reading on the floor and buried his face in his arms.

"Aww, lighten up. Just give them some time to chill out. Pretty soon they’ll get sick of seeing you mope around the house and will practically force you out the door." Isaac spoke from experience.

"They are never gonna let me out. I’ll just rot away here while you guys go to Europe and sing."

"Zac, don’t be so dramatic. We aren’t even going to Europe for another month. Sheesh." Isaac sat at the desk and pulled out his history book, ready to catch up on some school reading.



"Well, thanks Taylor. I had fun." Gretchen turned to walk away.

"Hey, wait a minute. I got something for you." Taylor reached into his pocket and pulled out a small paper bag. "I picked these up at Big Fun," he said, and handed her the bag.

She peered inside and smiled when she saw a bunch of the little colored capsules she had been reminiscing about in the store. "Thank you, very much. That was really nice, you didn’t have to."

"I know I didn’t have to......I wanted to," Taylor stated. He reached over and lifted her chin with his fingertips. He bent forward and went to kiss Gretchen’s lips, but she turned her head and his lips brushed her ear instead.

"I better go," she whispered.

"Well.......at least let me walk you home," Taylor sighed.

"You can’t. Remember, I told you about my mom. She would kill me if a boy walked me home. I’ll talk to you later, okay?"

With that, Gretchen turned and left Taylor standing in front of Rite Aid.

Taylor just shook his head, as he watched her walk away. I swear, this is the weirdest girl I have ever met, he thought. Turning, he slowly began to walk home.




Taylor walked into his bedroom to find Zac pouting on his bed about serving what he referred to as his "jail sentence", and Isaac reading his history book.

Looking up and closing his book, Isaac asked, "Well? How’d it go?" Glancing at his watch he added, "Not to good I guess if you’re home already."

Taylor sighed. "Actually it went okay for a first date," Taylor shook his head. "Only she.....uggh....she......Well to begin with she showed up almost forty minutes late. Which she said was because her mom didn’t want her to go out, so that was fine I said. But then she said she had to be home by five. It was already a quarter to four! So I thought, okay fine. Well at least I’ll walk her home, but NO! She would not let me walk her home because she said her mom would get mad because she isn’t allowed to go out alone with boys, or something lame like that. So I had to drop her off at Rite Aid. I’m telling you that girl practically lives at that store. I think she goes there more than me!" Taylor collapsed on his bed.

"Did you kiss her?" Zac asked, trying to get involved in the conversation.

"I tried, but she wouldn’t let me. I guess I can understand that. I mean it was only our first date. But still, there’s something weird about her. Like she barely let’s me walk by her. And if I try to hold her hand or something, she pulls away. I don’t know why? Do you think she doesn’t like me? But if she doesn’t like me, why did she go out with me in the first place? And the more she does stuff like this, the more I want to be with her, it makes me so confused." Taylor looked over at his older brother, hoping Isaac would be able to give him some sort of reassuring answer.

"Well, maybe she’s shy. Didn’t you say she said she’s never been out on a date before? She was probably just really nervous. Remember your party?"

"Don’t remind me," Taylor groaned. "My cheek still stings from that one," he joked.

"What are you talking about?" Zac was confused. He had been at Taylor’s party and didn’t remember Gretchen doing anything that odd, save for not talking to anybody.

Isaac and Taylor exchanged glances. "Nothing Zac. Just a little inside joke."

Zac frowned. Since when did Isaac and Taylor have inside jokes that didn’t include him? "Whatever," he snapped and got up. He walked to the door and stopped in the entrance. Isaac and Taylor took no notice of him leaving, and continued discussing Taylor’s date. "I’m going!" Zac said loudly.

"Kay," Isaac didn’t even look at Zac, he just continued to banter with Taylor about Gretchen and girls in general.

"Fine, if that’s the way it is," Zac muttered to himself. Walking out of the room he slammed the door loudly behind him, deciding to go find Mackie. Maybe he’ll want to talk to me, Zac thought bitterly. As he went in search of his baby brother, Zac let his thoughts wander.

Lately it seemed as if Isaac and Taylor were closer than ever. After the horrible events in New York, Zac had thought that their relationship would be damaged for a long time. However, it seemed as if Isaac and Taylor had completely forgotten everything that had happened, and picked up right where they left off. Sometimes it seemed to Zac as if they purposely excluded him from things, or just didn't want to take the time to tell him. What made it worse was that Zac had so many things he wanted to talk to his brothers about. The other day at Marie's he had almost told her he loved her. But he couldn't be in love. He was only eleven. But it felt like love. Not the kind of love he had for his family, but a love that made him all warm inside. Zac really didn't know what to do.

As he pondered over his mixed up feelings, Zac ambled into the rec room, finding Mackie playing with some old toy cars. Plopping down on the worn carpet next to his brother Zac sighed, and grabbed a small, yellow taxi, absently running it back and forth on his leg.

"Hey, Mackie?"

Mackie looked up at his older brother. "What Zackky?"

"Have you ever......" Zac trailed off, realizing he was about to ask a three year old for love advice. "Ever.......seen what happens to these cars when you put them in Avery's Easy Bake Oven?"

Mackie's eyes widened. "Nooo," he stated.

Zac smiled. "Come on," he laughed, standing up with an armload of cars. "I'll show you," he added, as he led Mackie out of the rec room.

.

Chapter 20 - Claire, the Teacher from Hell, and Dr. Death

"I don’t believe this!" Taylor stared at his father, his mouth open in a shocked "O".

"Taylor, everyone agrees that this is for the best." Mr. Hanson was exasperated. He had been arguing with Taylor for the past ten minutes.

"Everyone but the person who is being forced to go!" Taylor shouted.

"Tay, you were the one who was worried the most about your voice changing. We’re only doing this for your benefit. Voice lessons will be a big help. We are only trying to help you out. The least you could do is be grateful."

"I’ll show you grateful," Taylor muttered under his breath.

"What was that?"

"I said this is so unfair. How come Ike doesn’t have to go?"

"Hey, hey there, don’t bring me into this." Isaac, who had been watching the drama unfold before him from his position on the couch, quickly stood up when his name was mentioned. "I don’t need voice lessons. I’ve already gone through the change, or whatever." Isaac quickly found his way out of the room, before his father could even think of making him join Taylor in some lame voice lessons scheme.

"Daaaaad," Taylor whined.

"Taylor, stop it now. This is ridiculous. You're fourteen, there’s no reason for you to be acting like this. It took a lot of work for Mercury to find a teacher they thought would be perfect for you. Now you are going to grow up, and go to the damn lessons!" Mr. Hanson was no longer going to argue with Taylor. The decision was final. Taylor was going to take the voice lessons.

Taylor flopped on the couch after his father left the room, and heaved a great sigh. "This sucks," he muttered aloud, just as Avery entered the room.

"What sucks?" Avery asked. She walked over and joined her brother on the couch.

"I have to take stupid voice lessons with some stupid teacher at some stupid Fine Arts place," Taylor informed her.

"Have you ever been there?" Avery questioned.

"Well, no but," Taylor began.

"Have you ever met this teacher?"

"No, but I..."

"Then how do you know they suck?" Avery finished her line of questioning and got up, walking out of the room, leaving Taylor sitting with his mouth open yet again.

"I don’t believe this. Even my six year old sister won’t take my side," Taylor lamented to the pillow he held on his lap. Suddenly he threw the pillow aside and stood up.

"FINE! I’LL GO! BUT I WON’T LIKE IT!" He bellowed, making sure that everyone in the house heard him. He wanted them to know how much this was killing him.

Waiting, the only response he got was a faint "Tay, shut up, I’m trying to watch Tiny Toons," from Jessica in the TV room.

Shaking his head, he stormed to his room, slamming the door behind him.



"Gut, wir spielen Squash und dann gehen wir schwimmen und danach gehen wir ein Restaurant....."

Isaac stared at Juliet, his eyebrows raised as she recited off strings of sentences that made absolutely no sense to him.

"Well?" Juliet looked up from her reading and looked expectantly at Isaac.

"Well what?"

Juliet sighed. "Does it sound anything like what’s written on the paper I gave you?" She gestured towards the sheet of wrinkled paper Isaac held clutched in his hand.

Isaac shrugged his shoulders. "I don’t know." He scooted closer to where she was sitting at the foot of his bed, her back against the wall. Leaning over he nuzzled her neck and whispered, "God you smell good."

"Ike, come on," Juliet said, exasperated as she pushed him away from her. "You’re supposed to be helping me here."

"Jul, babe.........How can I help you when I don’t understand a damn word you’re saying. I mean, this might as well be hieroglyphics." Isaac scrutinized the paper he held again, attempting to make some sort of sense to the jumble of German words and phrases that were scrawled in Juliet’s neat handwriting.

"Well, it’s simple. German pretty much sounds exactly like it’s spelled. So if it looks right, it probably is."

"Why don’t you have someone who knows German help you?" Isaac tossed the paper aside and put his face back in Juliet’s neck, inhaling her sweet smell.

Smiling, Juliet closed her eyes. "Because it was a toss up between having someone in my family who doesn’t know German help me, or having you who doesn’t know German help me."

"Hmmm, I think you made the right choice, but I think we’ve studied enough for now." Isaac pushed his lips against Juliet’s. As he ran his fingers through her silky hair, he caught a glance of his watch. "Darn, not enough time for a quickie."

Juliet stopped kissing Isaac and pushed him away. "What did you just say?"

"I don’t know.....what did I just say?" Isaac gave her an innocent smile.

"You are such a pervert." Juliet informed him.

"Who? Me? Whatever. I was just merely saying that a quick fornication would be out of the question...." Isaac trailed off when Juliet smacked his arm. "Oww, geez, I was just kidding." He rubbed his arm and stuck his tongue out at her.

Juliet scrutinized him before slowly saying, "You’re a real pain you know that? But I still like you."

"You coulda fooled me," Isaac jokingly whined as he held his arm up, showing her the red patch from where she hit him.

"Oops sorry," Juliet laughed.

Isaac pulled her closer to him, and gently placed a finger over her lips to silence her laughing. Then he wrapped his arms around her and enveloped her in a warm hug. They sat holding each other. Finally Isaac spoke up.

"Oh man, I really am going to be late for my appointment."

Juliet sighed. "All right. What are they doing to your teeth anyway?" She gently tapped his braces with her fingernail.

Isaac pushed her hand away. "Stop it. I can hear that echoing in my head. And NO lame empty head remarks," he added before she could open her mouth. "They're gonna tighten my stupid braces." Isaac grabbed his shoes and slipped them on.

"Oh yeah, that’s right." Juliet got up and grabbed her own shoes.

They joined hands and walked down the stairs.

"Ike, you haven’t left yet? Honey, you’re going to be late." Mrs. Hanson gave her son a stern glance.

Isaac gave his mother an apologetic look. "I’m sorry, I lost track of time. I was helping Juliet with her German, although I really wasn’t much help." Suddenly noticing the quiet house he asked, "Where is everyone?"

"Avery, Jess, and Mackie are watching cartoons and your dad took Taylor and Zac to Taylor’s voice lesson."

Isaac snickered.

"Ike," his mother warned.

"Sorry," Isaac tried to hide his smile. He had wanted to go watch the voice lesson with Taylor so that he could make fun of him about it, but his orthodontist appointment was preventing him. "I thought Zac was grounded."

"Well, we figured that four days was enough. Besides, we didn’t want Taylor to go to his lesson alone. Your dad has an important meeting, you’re going to your appointment, and I have to go to the grocery store. I’m dropping the little ones off at Mrs. Chamber’s until I’m done."

"Oh......all right well, I’m gonna go then. I’m dropping Jul off home first, then I’m off to Dr. Death’s."

"Ike, don’t call Dr. Deeth that," Mrs. Hanson tried to sound stern but couldn’t help smiling.

"Bye, Mrs. Hanson." Juliet waved as Isaac led her towards the door.

"Yeah, later mom." Isaac called over his shoulder as he shut the front door.



Mr. Hanson dropped Taylor and Zac off at the entrance of the Fine Arts Centre where Taylor was to be taking his voice lessons.

"Don't forget, you're mother will be here at 5:30 on the nose.......don't wander off," Mr. Hanson instructed before he drove away.

Taylor sighed and glanced up at the large building. "Well, let's go in," he mumbled, leading Zac towards the entrance.

"Man would you look at the size of this place! We could fit our house in here about ten times!" Zac exclaimed as they walked inside the main lobby of the Fine Arts Centre.

Taylor just stood, his jaw agape at the massive room, with a three story high vaulted ceiling and two walls made entirely of glass. A huge grand piano stood in a corner of the room. He walked over to it, lightly brushing his fingers over the smooth keys.

"Taylor Hanson?"

Taylor glanced up. A gorgeous woman of about 24, stood in the center of the lobby, looking at him.

"Yeah," he squeaked.

"Hi, I’m Ariel. Follow me, please."

"Zac, come on." Taylor grabbed Zac, who was still staring at his surroundings, and pulled him along.

The two boys followed Ariel up a huge flight of stairs and down a hallway with about ten doors on each side. From inside most of the rooms, music could be heard.

Ariel opened a door and escorted Taylor and Zac inside.

"Wait here, Miss Evans will be with you shortly." She turned to leave.

"You mean you’re not teaching me?" Taylor said, a hint of disappointment in his voice.

Ariel smiled, "No, I’m just a secretary." She left the room, pulling the wood door closed behind her.

Taylor looked around. Compared to the rest of the building, this room felt small and cramped. He tugged at his shirt collar, suddenly hot. Zac had made his way over to the piano and was plunking away at the keys, basically just making a lot of noise.

Suddenly, the door opened. An extremely old woman walked in, carrying a stack of papers.

"Oh my God," Taylor muttered under his breath. Please don’t be Miss Evans he thought.

"Taylor? I’m Miss Evans, your voice teacher."

Taylor just stared at her. She looked like she was about 100 years old. She walked hunched over and shuffled her feet, going so slow, Taylor thought it might be ten years before she actually made it across the tiny room. God I hope she doesn’t drop over dead, Taylor thought. Then again......that might not be so bad. I could get out of these lessons and....A piercing voice broke through his thoughts.

Miss Evans had finally managed to get over to the piano, and was now yelling at Zac.

"You there, young lady! Stop that!"

Zac stared at the woman who dared to call him a girl to his face. "I am not a young lady. My name is Zac." He disgustedly informed her.

Miss Evans leaned over, her face right next to Zac’s.

"Well, Zac. Stop touching the piano. Go sit over there." She gestured to a small plastic chair situated in the corner of the room.

"Do you think she drowns herself in Georgio, or is that just the formaldehyde kicking in?" Zac muttered to Taylor as he made his way to the seat.

Taylor had to bite his lip to keep from laughing aloud.

"Taylor, come over here. Do you think I can teach you from across the room!" Miss Evans snapped.

Taylor could tell that this was going to possibly be the worst hell he ever had to suffer through, but he silently went and stood next to Miss Evans.

Geez, Zac was right, this lady reeks, he thought, crinkling his nose.

"Now, warm ups. I play a note, you go LA." Miss Evans instructed Taylor.


After fifteen minutes of LA’ing Taylor was ready to help this woman to the grave he was positive she already had one foot in.

"All right. Now we are going to do some simple scales."

Taylor blinked. "Excuse me, but didn’t we......"

"Young man, you will address me with the respect I deserve. When you want to speak you say ‘Miss Evans I would like to say something.’ Then I may or may not let you continue, understand?"

Taylor nodded his head, shooting Zac a look as his younger brothers face turned a deep purple from keeping in his laughter.

"Miss Evan’s I would like to say something." Taylor stated, his voice coated with sugar.

"Permission granted."

Jesus, who does this woman think she is, he thought.

"I was going to say that we just did fifteen minutes of warm ups in which I sang nothing more than LA. Now you want me to do scales? Can’t we just get down to the real singing?" He wanted to add before you lose all your hearing, but kept his mouth shut.

"Young man, are you a singing instructor?" Her green eyes bored into Taylor’s until finally he looked away.

"No ma’am."

"Then be quiet and let me do the teaching. Scales, ready go."



Isaac sat at the traffic light, impatiently waiting for it to change to green. Leaning over he busied himself by fooling with the radio dial and muttering "Come on light, I ain’t got all day." The sudden impact from behind left him in total shock.

Great just what I need, he thought. Looking in the rearview mirror, he saw a blue Dodge Neon right behind him.

Isaac couldn’t believe this. "This is so perfect," he muttered. He stepped out of the car to survey the damage. Kneeling by the bumper he took note that there was only a small dent and other than a few scratches, no real damage had been done.

"I am so sorry!" A female voice, near hysterical said.

A young girl, about Isaac’s age knelt next to him on the pavement.

"Didn’t you see I was stopped?" He turned, angry, but anything he was feeling left him the minute he laid eyes on the girl. Her long blonde hair blew wildly in the breeze and her huge blue eyes were filled with tears. His breath caught in his throat and he swallowed, trying to return his focus to the matter on hand.

"No, I’m sorry, I didn’t. I wasn’t paying attention. I am so sorry. I can’t believe I did this. Nana is going to kill me!" she was on the verge of tears.

"Hey, look it’s not that bad, okay. You don’t have to cry about it. What’s your name?"

"Claire. Claire Barrett. Look, please don’t call the police!"

"Claire, calm down. I’m not going to call the police. There’s barely any damage at all. Heck this dent can probably be hammered out." Isaac smiled reassuringly at Claire.

He watched as she nervously fiddled with the hem of her grey, pleated skirt that had the "St. Gabriel’s School for Girls" emblem sewn on it.

"But what if it can’t just be hammered out. I don’t have insurance." Claire’s voice quavered.

"Well what about your parents? They should have insurance, right?"

"My parents live in Toronto. I live with my grandmother, and she doesn’t drive."

"Well," Isaac shrugged. "It isn’t that bad, like I said. Nothing a hammer won’t fix."

"But what about the paint? It’s all scratched." Claire pointed at the back end of the car.

"Claire, you’re making it very difficult for me to let you off the hook," Isaac laughed.

"I know," she spoke so softly, Isaac had to strain to hear her. "I just feel so terrible. I’ve only had my license for a few months. I can’t believe I did this, and I can’t believe you’re being so nice about it."

"Don’t worry about it, okay? This is my dad’s car. I’ll just tell him I wasn’t looking and backed up into a pole or something. No big deal."

"I can’t let you do that. You have to let me at least pay for the paint touch up."

Isaac watched, curious as she walked to her car and grabbed a backpack from the back seat. Pulling a purse out, she rummaged through it and withdrew a check book. She walked back over to him and opened it, pen poised.

"What’s your name? I’ll make the check out to you and you can use it to pay for the damage. Is one hundred dollars enough?"

Isaac chuckled. "I’m not taking your money," he informed her.

"Look, I have a job. I’m not about to let you drive away without taking something," Claire gave him a stern look, suddenly much more composed.

"I can’t believe you’re actually getting mad that I don’t want to take money from you." Isaac was amused by the whole situation. Most people would have taken off the minute he said he wasn’t going to call the police.

"Well......what’s your name?" she repeated her question.

"Isaac. Isaac Hanson." Isaac waited to see if his name rang a bell, but apparently not because she merely began to scribble out a check.

She finished with a flourish, and tore the check out, handing it to him. "There, I hope that’s enough. I’m really sorry, but I have to get to work, I’m already late." Claire began to head back to her car.

Isaac stared after her. Quietly he watched as she climbed into her car, and started the engine. Suddenly he ran over and knocked on her window.

Claire slowly rolled the window down.

"Is that enough? Do you want another check?" She gave him a quizzical look.

"No, I just wanted to give this back to you," he said, holding the check out.

"Nope, I don’t care what you say, I’m not taking it back," she informed him, and began to roll the window back up.

Isaac quickly withdrew his hand from the window, taking note that there was a crumpled, Sweet Stop apron on her front seat. "Hey you work at the Sweet Stop?" He questioned, before she was able to completely put the window up.

"Yeah..." she said slowly.

"I’ve been there hundreds of times. My brother Taylor is obsessed with that store. I’ve never seen you there. I’m sure I would have remembered."

She gave him a look. "Yeah, well......I have to go. I’m late already."

Isaac watched, helpless, as she pulled away, and sped off towards the mall.



"So, how was it?" Mrs. Hanson asked Taylor as her two sons climbed into the van.

Zac couldn’t hold it in anymore, and burst out laughing.

"Shut up Zac," Taylor muttered.

"It couldn’t have been that bad. She’s supposed to be the best."

"The best? Ha, more like the beast!" Taylor stated.

"The beast, huh? Why do you say that?"

"Mom! She’s like 800 years old, she won’t let me speak unless I beg for permission, and worst of all she stinks to high heaven. It was the worst hour of my life I have ever spent. Even the time I broke my arm and they had to re-break it at the hospital to set it is lower on the list of worst times in my life. I don’t want to go back there."

"Taylor," Mrs. Hanson sighed. "Mercury has already paid for a months worth of lessons, you can’t just quit. How would that look?"

"It would look like I was saving myself from a month of hell." Taylor stated.

"Taylor!" Mrs. Hanson warned.

"Come on, please don’t make me go back there! I will do anything you ask, I swear. Stop it Mac," he added as his younger brother repeatedly hit him over the head with a stuffed dog. Pushing Mac’s arm away from himself, Taylor continued trying to plea-bargain with his mother. "Name your request, and I will willingly do it, so long as I don’t have to go back there with that woman. STOP IT MAC!"

"Mac, leave your brother alone. Okay Taylor, laundry. I am tired of doing laundry for eight people, and Mrs. Bradavski is going on vacation for two weeks. I’ll need some extra help around the house while she’s away. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind doing the laundry for a few weeks, would you?" Mrs. Hanson gave her son a charming smile in the rearview mirror.

"Since when is Mrs. Bradavski going on vacation!" Taylor was suddenly upset that no one had informed him that their housekeeper wasn’t going to be around for two weeks.

"Since she always has two weeks of vacation in the spring."

Taylor sighed. Laundry couldn’t be too bad...could it?

"Secondly..."

"There’s more?" Taylor was suddenly regretting that he had complained to his mother.

"Yes, there’s more. Secondly, the bathrooms will need cleaned twice a week. This includes scrubbing the tubs and toilets."

"Anything else?" Taylor grumbled.

"Just one last thing. No computer."

"WHAT?"

"You heard me. If you can’t bother to take your voice lesson’s then I can’t bother to let you fool around on your computer all day, when you could be doing chores."

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. "How many times a week do I have to take these lessons?"

Mrs. Hanson laughed. "I knew you’d crack if I threw work in there! Twice a week, for a month. We’ll see from there."

Taylor slumped back against the seat. He turned to look at Zac.

"Wow, too bad for you," Zac said in a sarcastic tone. He then burst into another fit of hysterics.

"Don’t laugh too much little man," Mrs. Hanson informed Zac. "If things work out with Miss Evan’s and Taylor, we were thinking of setting up some lessons for you too."

Zac’s face fell, and he frowned.

"HEHE," Taylor smirked at his younger brother.

Zac punched Taylor on the arm, muttered a barely audible shut up, and turned to pout out the window.



"Nice uniform," Isaac snickered as Claire walked to where he was leaning against the candy counter.

Claire glared at him and tugged at the uncomfortable apron and bow tie she had to wear for work. "What are you doing here?"

Isaac stared at her. She is defiantly a knock out, he thought. On top of that she’s a Catholic school girl, and St. Gabriel’s no less.

The rumors about the girls of St. Gabe’s abounded around Tulsa. They were all, according to Isaac’s friends at least, wild animals waiting to burst out.

Isaac gave her a sly smile and said, "Well, I came to tell you that it’s a good thing you gave me this check."

"Why, did you change your mind?"

"No, because it has your phone number on it."

"Oh what, so you can sue my butt for a million dollars when you find out how much it’s going to cost to fix the car?"

"No, this will make it easier for me to ask you out." He grinned at her.

Claire smiled and looked down at the counter. "Are you for real?"

"No, I’m for fake. Yeah, I would really like to ask you out. Is that okay?"

"So this is how it works?"

Isaac seemed slightly confused. "How what works?"

"I hit your car, so you hit on me?"

Isaac laughed. "I didn’t even look at it that way. But yeah, I guess that’s how it works. So, is that a yes?"

Claire grinned. "No, that wasn’t a yes."

"Why not? Do you have a boyfriend?"

"Nope."

Isaac couldn’t believe his luck Suddenly a thought stuck him. If she was this beautiful and didn’t have a boyfriend...."Are you gay?" he blurted out.

Claire gave him a weird look. She wasn’t quite sure whether to be offended or amused at his line of questioning. "Why would you ask me that?"

"Trust me, I just need to know.......you aren’t are you?"

"Of course not!"

"Good, that’s a good thing. Well, you don’t have a boyfriend, you’re not gay, I’m a nice guy and fun to be with, charming, intelligent, caring....."

"And modest also, I can see."

"See there you go, another good quality that I possess. Now I can’t see one reason for you not to go on a date with me."

Claire burst out laughing. "I guess not."

"Great, I’ll give you a call then."

"Claire!"

Isaac turned to see a balding man coming towards them with a scowl on his face.

"Shit, it’s my boss. Great."

"Claire, this isn’t social hour. Get to work!"

"Yes Mr. Matthews."

"I guess I should go. Like I said I’ll call you."

Isaac walked out of the Sweet Stop and headed towards the parking lot, a huge grin on his face. As he headed for the car he did feel a twinge of guilt. What about Juliet? his mind questioned him over and over. We aren’t married or anything, he tried to reassure himself. But still, she is your girlfriend. What’s one date? One measly date can’t hurt. It’s not right.......

"Shut up," he spoke aloud, causing a group of older women who were walking by to give him a dirty look.

Great, now you’re hearing voices. This is no big deal. You might not even like Claire. Juliet will never find out. Isaac shook his head, a determined air about him. You aren’t doing anything wrong, he reassured himself, then smiled happily and climbed into his car, completely forgetting that he was supposed to have been at his dentist appointment almost an hour ago.



"CLARKE ISAAC HANSON! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?"

Isaac jumped a mile in the air, dropping the car keys in the process, at the sound of his mother’s shout.

"I have been worried sick. Dr. Deeth’s office called saying you hadn't shown up for your appointment yet. They said you were over an hour late! I called Juliet’s house and she said you had dropped her off and left. I called all your friend’s houses hoping you had stopped by somewhere! I was going out of my mind. Thank God the office called back saying you had shown up. You have some serious explaining to do young man! How could you be so irresponsible? Where did you go?"

"Mom," Isaac managed to mumble. "My teeth are killing me. I just wanna lie down."

Mrs. Hanson sighed. "All right. But when you feel better your father and I are going to have a serious talk with you about this. You can't just go running off, scaring us like this. You're lucky I didn't have to pull your father from his meeting...."

"Mom, please," Isaac begged. His face felt like it was going to fall off.

"Go lie down. I'll call you when dinner is ready," Mrs. Hanson muttered.

Isaac retreated to the safe confines of his bedroom. He lay on his bed and closed his eyes. Even the light was making his teeth hurt.

"Geez Ike, where the heck did you go?" Taylor asked from the doorway. He walked in and sat on his bed across from Isaac. "Mom was going crazy. She almost called dad. Boy would he have been pissed."

"Taylor," Isaac groaned. "I'm in pain here. The last thing I need is you yapping in my ear. Leave me alone......please," he said as an afterthought.

"Fine, but you better tell me later," Taylor threatened.

Isaac waved at Taylor with a limp wrist, shooing him away.

"Hey guys, guess what!" Zac shouted happily as he barged into the bedroom. "I'm not grounded anymore so I can go out with you guys next time you do something!" Zac made his way over to his bed, and plopped down next to a pile of legos that he was reeconstructing into an even bigger and better battlefield than the one Jessica had ruined.

Taylor rolled his eyes. "That's great Zac."

Looking at his brothers, Taylor sighed. Seeing as how Zac obviously wasn’t going anywhere soon, and Isaac wasn't going to talk, he announced, "Well, I’m gonna go call Gretchen then." And headed for the phone in his parent’s bedroom for some privacy.




"Voice lessons......well, what’s the big deal?"

Taylor sighed. "The big deal is that I don’t want to take them. I thought I did, but I changed my mind. My parents and Mercury set it up without even asking me. Plus my teacher is horrible. She’s mean and she smells and all she had me sing was stupid scales for an hour. I was hoping you would be on my side. Everyone else is against me in this."

"I am on your side. I’m sorry you have to take the lessons, if you don’t want to take them."

Taylor smiled. "Good. So, how about we do something tomorrow?"

He and Gretchen had gone out quite a few times since their first date, but while Gretchen had opened up a bit more towards him, she still kept her distance, not letting him even hold her hand.

"Yeah that sounds good. I’ll meet you at......"

"No." Taylor said firmly. "I’ll come get you. I’ll be at your house at one, okay?"

Gretchen sighed. "I don’t know Taylor. My mom,"

"Gretchen, your mom is going to be at work. Besides, we don’t have to stay. I just want to come pick you up." Lowering his voice he added, "Please?"

"All right. I’ll see you at one. I’ve gotta go, okay? Talk to you tomorrow."

"Bye Gretchen." Taylor set the phone in it’s cradle. Leaning back against the pillows he put his arms behind his head and smiled. Yep, going to her house. I am making progress here. He jumped up and went down the hall, hoping Isaac felt better soon so he could to tell him the good news.