Chapter 26 - Little Cheaters

Taylor sighed and reread the question on his paper for what seemed like the six millionth time. "I don’t know!" he proclaimed. "I don’t know, I JUST DON’T KNOW!" Taylor finished his ranting and slammed back in his chair at full force, causing it to tip over and sent him flying to the ground.

"You all right Tay?" Isaac asked, not even bothering to look up from his chemistry test.

"What’s the difference?" Taylor moaned. "If I’m critically hurt, I’ll die. If I’m fine and Mom grades this test, I’ll die. Either way, I’m gonna die a skinny, fourteen year old, virgin!"

Isaac just looked at his brother, eyebrows raised. "God Taylor, it isn’t that critical. Get off the floor, you look like a moron."

Taylor dramatically pulled himself up, grunting and groaning every step of the way. When he had finally resituated himself, he grabbed his discarded notebook and glared at it.

Isaac stood and looked over his brothers shoulder. "What’s the problem?"

Taylor threw his hands in the air. "This! I don’t get it! I have geometry! Why am I forced to do it! WHY! For the love of God!" He buried his face in his hands, and screamed.

Rolling his eyes at his brothers theatrics’ Isaac grabbed Taylor’s test. He shook his head. "Taylor, this stuff is so easy. What the heck don’t you get?"

"HEY!"

Zac’s sudden shout, caused Taylor and Isaac to jump.

"Why are you yelling?" Isaac asked his brother.

"Because. You guys are cheating. That’s not fair."

"Zac, we aren’t cheating. Ike’s just looking at my paper, sheesh."

"Come on you guys! I’m serious! I’m gonna tell mom!"

"Zac! What the hell? Why are you acting like a complete mental case?" Taylor glared at his younger brother.

"Because. If I so much as attempt to look at a scrap piece of paper during a test, mom throws a conniption. She lets you guys get away with everything!" Zac jumped up from his seat. He was sick of his older brothers always getting their way. He left the room in search of his mother, who had left only a few minutes before to check on Jessica and Avery’s work.



"Oh God, it’s on again. Quick change the station before I puke. I swear they play that video so much even I’m sick of us." Taylor flopped over the arm of the couch, his head hanging over the edge.

Isaac changed the channel from EuroMTV, which was playing the "MMMBop" video, to TOTP...........which was playing the "MMMBop" video. Isaac snickered and flipped off the T.V.

"This sucks! I can’t believe we aren’t allowed to go anywhere." Zac moaned, sitting on the edge of the double bed, in the boys cluttered hotel room.

"Well, it’s not our fault, you’re the one who blew it for us." Isaac stood up and stretched, smacking Taylor on the forehead in the process.

"Look out would ya! Geez, last thing I need is you smacking me in the head."

Isaac just gave Taylor a disgusted look. He was sick of his brother’s crabby mood.

"My fault! I can’t believe you are going to blame the whole incident on me. That’s pretty low, Ike." Zac bounced up and down a few times on the bed, causing the headboard to smack against the wall.

"You’re the one who just had to run off and be a little tattle tale. Now we’re all paying for it!"

"How was I supposed to know that mom would make us stay in our room while everyone else got to go out?"

"Well, stupid, when you ran off to complain about us cheating, which by the way we weren’t, you should have figured that mom would get pissed off, DUH!" Taylor slid head over heels off the couch and landed in a heap on the floor.

"It’s not fair. You guys never get caught! I always get caught! I just wanted to even the score. I didn't even do it this time and I still got in trouble!"

"See Zac? That's what you get for being a tattletale. Remember, mom hates that just as much as cheating ." Isaac informed his brother. He sighed, and glanced around the room. Suddenly he kicked Taylor in the side with the toe of his shoe, and said, "Get up! Zac, Taylor, your older brother is a genius."

This caused Taylor to fall back into a heap on the floor again, laughing hysterically. "Genius...," he managed to choke out. "This from the guy who believed in Santa Claus until he was twelve."

"You are never going to let me forget that are you? No, I’m serious. They said we weren’t allowed to leave the hotel, they never said anything about not being able to leave the room. Let’s go check this place out."

"You’re right." Zac jumped off the bed and ran to the door. "Let’s go."

Isaac reached down, dragged Taylor to his feet, and the two followed Zac who was already halfway down the hall, yelling for his brothers to hurry up. Their quarreling was soon forgotten as the boys headed off in search of adventure in the hotel.



"You know something guys? I think that our bathroom at home has more fun stuff to do than this entire hotel." Zac stated as the boys passed the same vending machine for the sixth time. Again Zac glanced into the machine hopeful that this time around a slot would have Reeses Peanut Butter Cups in it. "Man, again nothing."

Taylor and Isaac just laughed at their brother’s disappointed face.

"Zac, I don’t even know if they have Reeses in England," Taylor stated.

Suddenly Isaac stopped walking, grabbing Taylor’s sleeve to make his brother stop with him. "I am a genius," he again declared and held up his hand in Taylor’s face as his brother was about to open his mouth with yet another Santa Claus crack. "We have those lamo hockey sticks that Smash Hits gave us for that photo shoot, don’t we?"

"Yeah, so what’s your point? We can take the sticks and beat the crap out of the next hotel worker that asks us if we’re lost." Taylor stated, laughing at what he considered to be his extremely funny joke.

"No stupid, why don’t we play hockey?"

"Duh, we aren’t allowed to leave the hotel, remember! Try again Einstein." Taylor said.

"Duh, we aren’t going to leave the hotel," Isaac matched Taylor’s condescending tone with an evil look in his eyes.

"Well, where do you propose we play this game?" Zac asked still looking in the vending machine.

"The hallway. It’s big enough. At each end is one of those ugly tables. They can be the goals. We’ll play to see who can get to ten, then whoever sat out plays the winner. Sound good?"

Taylor glanced at Zac who shrugged. "Why not, there’s nothing else to do."



"That doesn’t count! It didn’t go all the way in!"

"Zac, you are such a cheater! You can’t change the rules in the middle of the game. You just can’t stand to lose! I’m the master!" Taylor held his hockey stick into the air like a trophy and bowed to the imaginary audience. "Now, what pathetic peon wants to challenge the great one of hall hockey!"

"I take that challenge." Isaac stood up from his position of sitting against the wall and grabbed his stick. "Be prepared to eat my dust."

"No wait! Guys this isn’t fair! That didn’t even go all the way in!" Zac was still protesting the nature of Taylor’s tenth goal.

"Can you boys please hold it down! People are trying to work in here! If I have to come out here one more time I am calling the manager, and letting him deal with you!" The woman stuck her head back into her room and slammed the door.

Isaac snorted. "How many times has she said she was going to call the manager? I lost count!"

Ignoring both the woman and his brothers comments, Taylor proclaimed, "Okay, punk! I am so ready to kick your butt." He grabbed the crushed soda can they were using as a puck and dropped it on the carpet in the center of the hallway. He and Isaac lunged for their makeshift puck, both missing and ended up knocking their head together.

"Awww, man! That frigging hurt!" Taylor exclaimed rubbing his sore head.

"Good thing I have a hard head," Isaac crowed, making away with the "puck" and shooting it into Taylor’s table for an easy goal. He raised his arms in the air. "Now who’s the master pretty boy!" he exclaimed.

"Oh that’s it. You’re dead!" Taylor sprinted down the hallway, towards his brother.

Isaac’s smile faded when he saw Taylor heading straight for him. His eyes grew wide, and he didn’t have time to react as his brother slammed into him, knocking both boys into the wall. The collision caused the painting hanging just by them to crash to the ground, the glass shattering. Taylor and Isaac stared at each other.

Taylor snickered. "Uhh, oops."

"I can’t believe you did that!" Isaac shouted, his eyes filling with tears from laughing so hard.

"YOU BOYS!" The woman was once again in the hallway. "I work eighteen hours a day! I stand all day long! I have to get up and work eighteen hours tomorrow! Today is my only day off! And that’s the last straw. I’m calling the manager and seeing to it that you are thrown out of the hotel!" She stormed back into her room, slamming the door.

"Hmm, think she has to wear an eighteen hour bra?" Taylor asked Isaac.

Isaac snorted. "You have a sick mind, Tay."

Taylor’s eyes widened. "What? Haven’t you ever seen that commercial for the eighteen hour bra?"

Isaac just shook his head and laughed.

Zac walked up to his brothers, a worried look plastered on his face. "Guys, can she really do that?"

"Don’t worry Zac. She can call the manager, but they won’t kick us out or anything. Besides, we’re not staying around here long enough to get caught. Let’s go."

The trio quickly hustled down the hall heading towards the elevator. As they got off at their floor and reached their room, Isaac stopped. "Umm, guys?" He frantically began searching his pockets. "Did anyone grab the key again after we left the room getting the sticks."

Taylor stared at his brother. "You didn’t. Oh man, tell me you didn’t lock us out of our room."

Isaac researched his pockets in vain. "Umm, I locked us out of our room."

"Well, maybe mom and dad are back," Zac said, matter of factly and began to pound on their parents door. No answer. "Shoot. They must still be out."

Taylor threw his hands in the air. "Well great. How are we gonna get in our room?"

Isaac rolled his eyes. "All we have to do is go to the front desk and explain that we locked ourselves out and they’ll let us in. Come on." He started off down the hall once again.

As they climbed into the elevator, Taylor added, "We just better hope that that one clerk isn’t still working."



"Can I help you?" The clerk stared at Isaac, a look of disgust painted on her face.

"Yeah, umm, see, we sort of by accident locked ourselves out of our room."

"You know I’ve gotten about fifteen complaints about you boys," the woman said.

"Really? Dang, we haven’t beat our old record yet," Taylor quipped.

"Shut up Tay," Isaac said. The woman already hated them enough. No need to contribute anything else. "Look can you just get us a spare key or something?"

The clerk sneered at him. As she grabbed the spare key card and handed it to Isaac she stated, "If I get one more complaint about you boys, I’m going to take up the matter with my manager."

Taylor just rolled his eyes. "Whatever lady," he said.

Isaac grabbed Taylor’s shirt and began to pull him along. "Let’s go, Tay. Zac, come on."

The trio made their way back to the elevator. "You’ve got a big mouth," Isaac snapped when he doors closed behind them.

"ME? Whatever? That lady has been nothing but a big you know what since we got here. I’m just returning the attitude."

"Well, you’re attitude is going to get us in even deeper trouble than we already are. We better just go back and chill out in the room. We have to be up early tomorrow anyway." Isaac shook his head, just about ready to call the whole trip quits, and they had only been there a week and a half. He had actually been able to talk to Claire once, which had made him happy, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to call Juliet. Now he was being forced to stay in a boring hotel, all because Zac had to be a little tattletale, and he was slowly beginning to lose his patience. He was too old to be grounded.

As the boys made their way back into their room, they just resumed their original positions, and Isaac flipped the TV on.

"Hey, what’s that?" Zac pointed to a small box on top of the TV.

"I think it’s a satellite," Isaac replied.

"A satellite? Think it gets US stations? If I have to watch one more episode of Coronation Street or Absolutely Fabulous, I’m going to have to kill myself." Taylor jumped up to check out the box.

After fiddling for a few minutes, the options for satellite programming came up on the screen. "Check out MTV," Zac shouted.

Taylor punched in the code for MTV, and the station was soon brought up, and much to Isaac’s delight, a "My So-Called Life" marathon was playing.

"All right!" he crowed. Flopping on the couch, he happily watched the show.

Taylor rolled his eyes. "Great," he muttered. "How much of Angela and Jordan can I possibly stand before I puke?"

"Shut up Taylor! I want to watch this. This is the boiler room episode."

Taylor just dropped his head into his hands. "Someone help me," he pleaded. No one heard him. He got to watch seven straight episodes of the show, before their parents told them they had to go to bed. It wasn't until later that Mr. and Mrs. Hanson found out about their sons adventures in the hotel that day, and the little cheaters were repremanded to their room, for the reminder of their stay in London, which luckily only had two more days before they were off to France.

.

Chapter 27 - Normal Again

"THANK GOD!" Zac threw his suitcase on the messy floor and fell face first onto his bed. Grabbing his comforter with his hands, he pulled it around him in a jumbled mess, and rolled around singing, "My own bed, my own quilt, lalalala......".

"Zac," Taylor muttered, flopping onto his own bed. "Shut up. I have never, NEVER suffered a more horrendous car ride than the one that I just endured. I don’t know where mom and dad got you, but they sure as hell didn’t give birth to you, because you are one messed up kid. I don’t even think you’re a kid. I really think you are some evil plot hatched by the government to make my life miserable. I really do. Someone is punishing me." Taylor laid back and closed his eyes, exhaustion setting in.

Isaac just looked at his two brothers. One was laying like road kill, sprawled all over his bed, the other, who by now had stopped singing and was humming the theme from the Dukes of Hazzard, was rolling himself around in his blanket, so he looked like nothing more than a blue mass. Isaac burst out laughing, when the Zac shaped mass rolled right off its bed and banged its head on the floor. The mass remained silent and didn’t move, and for a moment, Isaac was almost afraid that Zac had actually hurt himself. Until he heard his younger brother mutter under his breath.

"Log this experiment soldier. One can’t roll on one’s bed without inevitably falling off. DING. Logged sir. Permission to climb back aboard the bed! Permission granted soldier." Zac dragged himself off the floor and climbed back onto his bed, this time actually staying still.

Isaac laughed again, and continued unpacking his suitcase.

Taylor’s eyes fluttered open. "Why don’t you do that tomorrow, Ike?"

Isaac shrugged. "Dunno. Just want to get it out of the way."

Taylor sat up and leaned back onto his elbows, studying his brother. "Feels weird to be home, doesn’t it?"

"We’ve only been home for ten minutes Tay. I don’t think its quite sunk in yet." Isaac chuckled.

Taylor frowned. "No really. I mean, here we are. We were on tons of TV shows, did interviews, live performances, and now, we back home, in our own house, our own room, our own beds. We’re back to just being plain old Ike, Taylor, and Zac. Nowhere to go. No one to sing for. Just us. It’s kind of nice, isn’t’ it?"

"Yeah," Isaac smiled. "I guess you’re right. It is sort of nice. To be home I mean."

"Home is where the heart is! It’s where you hang your hat! Umm.........OKLAHOMA when the wind comes sweeping down the plains! And the waving wheat..... HEY!!" Zac’s mini concert was quickly brought to an abrupt halt when Taylor threw a dirty sock at Zac’s head, bonking him square in the face.

"Well be quite then. I just had to hear you sing everyday for a month. You can only do so much damage to Ike’s and my ears before we have to hurt you."

"Very funny, Tay," Zac pouted. "I know where I’m not wanted." Zac got up in a huff, and still wrapped in his comforter, made his way out of the room.

Isaac and Taylor watched his departure with some amusement. Zac kept tripping on the quilt, and nearly falling on his face. When he finally had managed to leave the room, they heard him trip and fall in the hall. A small "ouch" was heard, then Zac continued his way down the stairs.

Looking back at Isaac, Taylor sighed. "I swear he’s adopted."

"No actually I think what happened was that mom was shopping and Zac jumped into the car and wouldn’t get out."

Taylor laughed. "So, what are you going to do tomorrow? I’m gonna see if Gretchen wants to do something. Then I’m gonna call Adam and Pete and those guys. See about doing something. Wanna come with us if we go anywhere?"

Isaac sat on his bed, and stared thoughtfully into space. "Nah, thanks though. I think I’m just gonna hang out here, or something. I’ll call people later. I just kinda want to enjoy the day, you know. A calm peaceful day. I already know that Zac is going to Marie’s so I plan on making use of him being gone while I can."

Taylor smiled. "Good idea."



The day had been going nicely for Isaac.

Zac had taken off early to spend the day at Marie's. Taylor had left only a little while after his brother, saying that he was meeting Gretchen at the drugstore and they were going to hang around in town for awhile, then maybe stop back at the house.

Isaac had slept in till noon. He had been able to get up, eat lunch, read the comics, and use the bathroom all without the hasself of his two younger brothers bugging him.

However now it was nearly three and Isaac was bored. He had watched a little tv, but his parents were hogging it to watch some stupid movie and Jessie refused to change the station on the other tv from Nickelodeon. So Isaac sat, thinking.

He realized that he had been putting it off, but now knew what he had to do. He had to see......Claire. He had thought about calling Juliet, but kept putting it off, merely because he really didn't know what he was going to say to her.

Deciding to try and get out of the house without the third degree from his parents as to where he was going, Isaac tried to creep out as quietly as possible. He nearly made it.

"Hey Ike! Where ya headed?"

The sound of his father’s voice stopped Isaac in his tracks.

He turned to look at Mr. Hanson, who was lounging on the living room sofa. "Umm, I was just going to go out for a bit. Go see a few people." Isaac answered. Avoiding eye contact with his dad, Isaac busied himself studying the carpet.

"Like who? You going to go see Juliet?" Mr. Hanson persisted.

"What about Juliet? She’s such a sweet girl," Mrs. Hanson added, joining her husband on the living room sofa. Curling up next to her husband, Mrs. Hanson went on. "I really like her. She seems very nice. I’m glad you got to know her better Isaac. I’ve always thought she was great."

Isaac thought that if his mother gushed anymore about how wonderful Juliet was, he might throw up his lunch right there in the foyer. "Yeah, she’s great," he mumbled weakly.

"Are you two having problems?" Mrs. Hanson gave her son a concerned look.

"Noooo," Isaa replied slowly.

"Well that's good. When are you going to bring her round for dinner?" Mrs. Hanson watched Isaac, who by this time was nearly collapsing onto the tile.

"I don’t know mom," Isaac replied sharply.

"Watch your tone young man." Mr. Hanson warned.

"Sorry mom. Can I go please? I really want to meet up with...." Isaac trailed off. "With the guys. Then I might go see Juliet. Sooo," he gave his parents a pleading look.

Mr. Hanson waved his hand towards the door. "Go. You kids are so impatient anymore these days," he chuckled.

Isaac opened the door and swiftly left the house before his parents could detain them anymore. Then, finally outside, he headed in the direction of Claire’s house.



"Zac, when you said you were bringing me souvenirs, I didn’t expect you to bring back the entire contents of every store in Europe." Marie stared wide eyed, at the bag full of gifts Zac had brought her from his trip.

"Well, there was so much cool stuff, I couldn’t choose. So I got it all," he stated matter of factly, handing her a chrome miniature of the Eiffel Tower.

"Wow. This on top of....." Marie got off her bed and walked to her dresser, picking up a stack of postcards, sorting through. "....about twenty five postcards." She smiled and shook her head. "You’re a goof." Setting the pile back on the dresser, she rejoined Zac, who was still pulling things out of the bag on her bed. "Greg, Eric, and Todd said you only sent them three postcards each. One from each country."

Zac shrugged. "They aren’t as important as you," he informed her, still carefully placing objects onto her bedspread.

Marie grinned. "Really?"

Zac stopped rummaging and looked up. "Yeah, really." He slightly nodded his head at her, then looked back down, and placed a tin of German chocolates on the bed. "You have to try these," he said, not bothering to look up. "They’re amazing. I never thought I could find a chocolate company to rival Mars, but......" he trailed off when he felt Marie’s breath on his ear.

"Thank you," she whispered and gave him a small, brief kiss.

Zac let out the breath he had been holding, and smiled.

"I missed you. I was so bored around here. Everyone was just," Marie rolled her eyes. "I dunno, boring. No one to play Mortal Kombat with. No one to run around with. All my stupid friends from school are into doing dumb girly things." Marie stuck out her tongue. "Like drooling over issues of Big Bopper and stuff. Blech." Suddenly she laughed. "You should have heard them when they saw you guys in there. It was too funny."

"Why? What’d they say?" Zac looked at her, curious.

"How hot you guys are. How cool you looked. This that and the other. Really acting all pathetic and that. Like they don’t know you guys in person or anything." She shook her head, still laughing.

Zac nodded. "Yeah, how lame," he said, although he was secretly pleased by the compliments.

Suddenly hungry, Marie grabbed the tin of candy, and ripped of the cellophane. Opening the box, she looked at the perfect pieces of chocolate shaped like small bears. "How cute," she said. "I feel bad eating them." Shrugging she grabbed one and stuck it in her mouth.

Zac laughed.

"What? I said I felt bad. I didn’t say it was gonna stop me from eating them." She grabbed another piece and offered it to Zac. "Open up," she said, and gently laid the candy in his mouth.

"Thanks," he said, happily letting the delicious bear melt on his tongue.

"Come here," Marie commanded. She reached over and pulled Zac closer. Carefully, she pressed her lips to his again, and lightly touched her tongue with his. When they broke apart, Zac looked at Marie in awe. "What was that for?"

Marie smiled. "Because I missed you. And because I figured you just ate chocolate so you would taste could. And i was right," she added.

Zac laughed. "And you call me a goof?" he asked.



"Want to play another round?"

"No, I don’t think so." Taylor was getting sick and tired of dumb card games. It was after four. It was hot. He was bored. Gretchen didn't want to do anything, or go anywhere, and they had been playing War for nearly an hour.

"Well? What do you want to do?" Gretchen demanded, throwing her cards on the ground and laying back. "It’s too hot to do much else."

Taylor looked at Gretchen laying on the floor of the treehouse. She had her eyes closed, and her arms were acting as a pillow for her head. Knowing he might never get another moment like this, Taylor decided to seize it. He made his way over to Gretchen and laid down next to her on his stomach. He began to lightly stroke her cheek with the back of his hand.

"I missed you, you know," he whispered to her.

Gretchen’s eyes fluttered open. They stared into each other’s eyes, and before Taylor realized it, their lips were locked. He wasn’t sure who started the kiss, but neither seemed to mind. After kissing her gently for a few moments, Taylor maneuvered on top of her.

"Taylor," she whispered as he kissed her neck. "What if someone comes up here?"

"Don’t worry about it. Hardly anyone but Zac ever uses this and he’s not home."

"Ohh, umm, okay." Gretchen didn’t sound very reassured.

Taylor rolled his eyes and brought his lips to hers again, hoping she would just stop talking. He didn’t understand why she always felt the need to talk when they were kissing. Much to his amazement --although nothing Gretchen did anymore really amazed him simply because she was so unpredictable-- Gretchen wrapped her arms around him and cautiously pulled him closer to her. Taylor began to make their kisses longer and deeper. Gretchen began to respond, gently touching her tongue with his. The way she did that drove him crazy. She would only give him a small taste before pulling away. It was like he had to start over everytime. He loved it. And hated it. As his thoughts ran wild, Taylor slowly began to put his hand at the waist of her shirt. He allowed the tips of his fingers to slide underneath and run gently over her stomach. Never quite certain as to how Gretchen would react, sometimes she acted like she wanted him to touch her, other times she made it clear she didn’t want anything to do with his roaming hands, he cautiously began to move his hand upward. When Gretchen suddenly grabbed his wrist, he murmured, "Okay, okay, I’m sorry," and tried to pull his hand away. His eyes popped open when he felt her tug his hand towards her chest. She drew his hand to her mouth and lightly kissed his palm, then put it on top of her shirt. Taylor began to trace the outline of her bra with the tips of his fingers. Gretchen was moving her hands up and down his back, and kissed him aggressively. Her display of affection completely caught Taylor off guard and he really wasn’t quite sure what to do. Leaving one hand to gently roam, he used the other to attempt to pull up the bottom of her shirt. It was almost humorous and Taylor had to fight hard not to laugh, but he couldn’t get the shirt up. It was too baggy, and kept getting caught.

"What the heck size is this thing," he breathlessly asked, his cheeks flushed.

"I don’t know, big," she gasped.

Taylor lightly snorted. "Yeah, no kidding."

Shaking his head, he awkwardly tried to tug the shirt over her head. It just bunched up everywhere.

"This isn’t working," he muttered to himself, beginning to get frustrated. Gretchen might change her mind at any second and there was no way he was letting her leave without at least one small peek.

"Here, let go," Gretchen suddenly said, interrupting his thoughts.

Taylor’s heart jumped into his throat, and he felt hot tears sting the corners of his eyes. He wanted to see her so badly that it hurt.

He watched, wide eyed, as Gretchen slowly lifted her shirt over her head. After she tossed the shirt aside, Gretchen looked at Taylor expectantly. Overcome, he could only stare.

"Well?"

Taylor just lay, stunned. This was the first time he had seen an actual girl without her shirt on. All the other ones had been in the late movies he and Isaac would sneak and watch after their parents went to sleep. Well he had seen his baby sisters without their shirts on, but that was really quite different.

"Is something wrong?" Gretchen asked, suddenly very self conscience. The way Taylor was just staring at her made her very uncomfortable.

Taylor took a shaky breath. "No," he barely managed to answer.

"Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea." Gretchen reached for her shirt.

"No wait!" Taylor found his voice. He grabbed her hand before she could touch the article of clothing. "I think it was a fine idea." He smiled at her. Glad his trance was broken, he leaned down and softly kissed her lips. But as he kissed her, he could feel that she was not as into it as she had been before. He pulled away and offered a suggestion. "Maybe you would feel more comfortable if I took my shirt off too."

Gretchen gave him a strange look. "Umm, okay, if you want to."

Taylor pulled his own shirt off and tossed it by Gretchen’s. They began to kiss again and Gretchen let Taylor’s hands caress her. Feeling a little daring, Taylor began to fiddle with the button on Gretchen’s jeans. Her body froze. Sitting up she mumbled," I think I have to go home now."

Taylor looked at her. "Why? I wasn’t going to do anything, I just......" he trailed off.

"It’s not that. My mom wants me home by six and it’s," Gretchen took Taylor’s wrist and read from his watch, "five thirty now."

Taylor sighed. Dang, he thought. Mrs. Halloran ain’t even here and she’s messing things up.

Reluctantly, Taylor stood up and handed Gretchen her shirt. After they both had their shirts back on, they climbed down from the tree house and Gretchen set off for her house. Taylor would have walked her home, but Gretchen informed him that her mother might shoot him if he came within ten feet of her house, so he decided she could fend for herself.

Why is her mom so hateful towards me, he wondered. She must really have some problems.

Not bothering to dwell on his thoughts, Taylor went inside to see if Isaac was home yet. He and his older brother needed to have a serious talk.



"Isaac! You’re back!"

The huge grin on Claire’s face was infectious, and Isaac couldn’t help but smile as well.

"Yeah, we got in late last night. I know I should have called before I just showed up. But I sort of wanted to surprise you." Isaac’s smile fell, and he looked at her concerned. "Is that okay?"

Claire laughed. "Of course it is. It’s really sweet of you." She walked out onto the porch and sat on the old, wooden swing. Patting the spot next to her, she said. "Sit down. I want to hear all about your trip. How’d it go? What happened?"

Isaac groaned, and sat next to her. "You should be asking, what DIDN’T happen. Oh man, it was messed up. We went to England, Germany, and France. Did a ton of photo shoots, interviews, stuff like that. It was all totally cool in London......well other than almost getting thrown out of three hotels and being grounded to our room for nearly a week. But the interviews and shoots were a breeze......."

Claire gave Isaac a funny look. "You nearly got thrown out of three hotels and were grounded? What did you guys do?"

Isaac shrugged and gave her an innocent stare. "Nothing! I swear. People just overreact over there. I mean sure we busted that painting and disturbed our neighbors, but still. Sheesh. You’d think we’d killed the Pope or something the way they treated us." Isaac shook his head and laughed.

Claire narrowed her eyes. "I have a feeling that where you and your brothers are concerned, people have a right to be ticked off."

Isaac gave her a shocked glance. "Are you suggesting that I was not on my best behavior over there?"

Claire just tossed her hands in the air. Then, patting his leg, she urged, "Go on. Tell me the rest."

Isaac smiled. "Okay, so England was really cool, but when we got to France and Germany......I dunno.....it was weird."

"Weird? How?"

"Just, well first of all we couldn’t understand a word they said. So we had some interrupter people there. But they were talking at the same time the interviewer was. So there was like a jumble of French or German plus someone with a really bad accent attempting to speak English. Same thing when we answered. Me and Zac just sat back and let Tay do the talking. He seemed to be able to block it out the most." Isaac laughed. "Over all it was just.....weird. Yeah, weird."

Claire grinned. "Did you have fun though?"

"Well, yeah, it was a blast. Other then when we got in trouble. Which was.......well it was a lot." Snickering, Isaac added. "But it really was a great experience. I missed home though." He stopped laughing and glanced over at Claire. "And the people here." He shifted nervously on the swing, and fiddled with his ring.

Claire smiled. "We missed you too." She laughed. "Nana kept asking me, when’s that nice young man of yours coming home. I tried to tell her that you aren’t, I don’t know, "my man" or whatever, but she just kept asking about you." Claire paused. "She really likes you Isaac."

Isaac looked up and found himself staring into Claire’s crystal blue eyes. "I really like you too," she whispered.

Isaac’s heart leaped into his throat. He gently traced her cheek with his fingertips. "Ditto," he breathed.

"What? You really like yourself too?" Claire’s remark broke the mood.

Isaac sighed, and gave her a stern look. "You know what I meant. Sheesh."

Claire stopped laughing. "I know."

They sat in silence for a moment, the breeze gently blowing. Isaac watched as it lifted strands of Claire’s hair and gave them a life of their own, flapping tirelessly in the air. He caught a piece of her hair as it blew, and gently wrapped it around his finger, enjoying the silkiness of it.

"So, how were things back here?" Isaac suddenly asked, as he played with her hair.

"Same old, same old. Nothing major. I went to school and worked. Went to school and worked. Once in awhile went out. That is pretty much it."

Isaac nodded. "Yeah. I knew Tulsa was boring when I’m not around."

Claire gently swatted his arm, causing him to drop the piece of hair he had been fiddling with. "Such an ego you have," she scolded.

Isaac shrugged. "Comes with the territory. What you see is what you get." He smiled at her.

Claire just shook her head. Suddenly standing, she held her hands out to him. "Come on. Nana will be thrilled to see you."



Taylor had put off talking to Isaac, until after dinner for two simple reasons. One, he wanted to talk to his brother in private and privacy very seldom happened in the Hanson household. and two because his older brother had been having another one of his pouting fits that sixteen year old boys tend to have sometimes for no real reason at all other than to be annoying. Finally he dared to speak up when the two were alone in their bedroom.

"Ike?" Taylor looked up from the book he had been pretending to read.

"If this is about the answering machine thing, I didn’t do it," Isaac stated.

Taylor crinkled his brow. Answering machine thing? He’d have to investigate this matter in a bit. But first things first.

"Ike, I have something very important to ask you, so please put down your stupid notebook and listen to me."

"Yes master," Isaac replied, setting the notebook on his bed and giving Taylor a confused look. "What’s on your mind."

"Sex," Taylor stated simply.

"Whoa, ummm maybe I should leave the room," Isaac stood up.

"No just sit down. I need to talk to you about this. I can’t talk to mom and dad. That’s just too embarrassing. You know how their lectures are."

Isaac smiled. "Yes, believe me, I know. So......umm.......what do you want to ask?"

"Well, whenever I’m with Gretchen it’s all I can think about anymore. And since I know that you’ve, umm, done it and all, I figured you could tell me about it."

Isaac squinted his eyes. "What exactly do you want to know?" he asked slowly.

"Well.......what’s it like? How do you know when the girl is ready to do it?" Taylor got up and sat on Isaac’s bed across from his brother.

"Well, for starters, you are too young to do it and......"

"Don’t pull that on me," Taylor immediately interjected. "Need I remind you that a certain someone named Juliet is my age and you didn’t have any qualms about sleeping with her. Besides you aren’t THAT much older than me anyway."

"Oh yeah, well, that’s besides the point," Isaac muttered. "Look, why all these questions all the sudden?"

"Well, I saw a naked girl for the first time today, and......"

"Wait a second." Isaac held up his hand, shocked. "Just where did you see a naked girl?"

Taylor sighed, "Well she wasn’t exactly naked. She just had her shirt off, but that was more than I’d ever seen before."

"Are we talking about Gretchen?" Isaac asked him. "The one who cringes at your touch?"

"She doesn’t cringe, she just.......is weird sometimes. But today she liked me and, well......she took her shirt of," Taylor proudly stated.

"Well congratulations. Did her mom walk in on you guys again?" Isaac snickered.

"No, but she might as well have. We were in the tree house, and out of nowhere she tell me that her mom wants her home by six and that she had to go. Plus I’m not allowed to walk her home. This lady really has it in for me."

"Hmm wonder why? Could it be every time she sees you, you’re all over her daughter?" Isaac joked.

"Who cares? This is totally off the subject. I want you to tell me about sex," Taylor reminded him. The Mrs. Halloran hating him discussion was getting old.

"Oh, yeah." Isaac bit his lower lip.

"What are you guys doing?" Zac opened the bedroom door.

"Do you mind? We’re trying to have a conversation. Could you just leave for awhile?" Taylor rather rudely asked his younger brother.

"Hey, pal, this is my room too," Zac stated.

"Zac? Could you just give us a minute?" Isaac asked him.

"Fine! I won’t come into my OWN ROOM!" Zac shouted and stormed out.

"Did you have to be so rude Tay?"

"Could you please just answer my question?" Taylor was beginning to get impatient.

"Okay, so what exactly is it you want to know?"

"What is sex like?" Taylor was getting quite sick of having to repeat himself.

"Well, it’s uhhh. It’s sort of hard to describe. It’s kind of like......hmmm...."

"Ike! Come on! It can’t be that hard to describe."

"Well geez Tay, give me a minute." Isaac took a deep breath. "All right. Its like..........it’s like being in pain and wanting to get relief, but at the same time, not wanting the relief to come because getting there is the best part."

Taylor frowned. "What? What are you talking about?" Taylor stared at his brother. "Is it, umm....is it different then when you do it yourself?" he asked quietly.

At first Isaac was taken back by that remark. "Well, yeah. It’s definitely different."

"Sooo.......how do you know when the girl is ready?" Taylor pressed.

"Well, when she stops saying no is generally a good sign," Isaac said.

Taylor sighed. "I’m never going to have sex." Taylor flopped over, and dangled his arms off the bed, absently plucking at lint in the carpet. "All she ever says is no no no."

"Yeah, well there’s no reason for you to rush into things anyway," Isaac seriously looked at his brother. Realization dawned on him. "I did, and it was......."

A sudden pounding interrupted Isaac’s train of thought.

"Am I allowed to come back into my own room now?" Zac demanded from outside.

Taylor, realizing that he would probably not get anymore information out of Isaac with Zac around just rolled his eyes and groaned.

"Come in," Isaac called, a little relieved that he didn’t have to continue discussing his sex life with his younger brother.

.

Chapter 28 - Confusion

"Isaac. Isaac get up."

Isaac groaned and rolled over on his bed. Pulling his covers over his head, he muttered, "What time is it?"

"Four. Get up. I need you to go to the store for me."

Isaac’s eyes popped open as his mother pulled the comforter off of him, and tugged on his arm. He stared wide eyed as Mrs. Hanson continued to pull him out of his bed.

"Mom! What are you doing? It’s four in the morning." Isaac attempted to lay back down, but Mrs. Hanson had a firm grip and nearly dragged her son out of his bed.

"I have this terrible craving for cottage cheese and apples. We don’t have any, so I need you to go to the store."

Isaac blinked. "You’re kidding me right?"

Mrs. Hanson shook her head. "No, I’m not kidding. With your father out of town, I need your help. I don’t want to drive, and if I go I would probably have to wake up all the little ones and drag them with me, so can you please go? I'd really appreciate it."

"Come on Mom, I....." Isaac trailed off when he saw the evil look his mother gave him. "All right," he grumbled.

"No, it’s fine Ike. Really. I only gave birth to you. I’ve only done everything for you kids that you’ve ever asked. But no, really. I’ll go myself." Mrs. Hanson turned to walk out of the room.

Isaac sighed. He hated when his mother pulled the whole guilt trip act. She had been a walking time bomb the past month, her hormones all out of whack and traveling around Europe hadn’t helped any. It seemed as though things had gotten worse since they had been home. The other day she had actually yelled at Zac for breathing to loudly while she watched TV. To Isaac, it seemed like his mom took on a whole new personality every time she was pregnant. It was almost humorous. Almost.

"Mom, I said I’ll go. What do you want?" Isaac slowly climbed out of bed, and grabbed his discarded cords that lay on the floor, tugging them on.

Mrs. Hanson smiled, and turned to face her son again. "Cottage cheese and apples. Make sure you get the right kind. Not that generic brand cottage cheese. The good stuff."

Isaac, who had a major problem considering ANY sort of cottage cheese the "good stuff", only nodded.

As he pulled his battered Airwalks on, he decided that he wasn’t going to suffer this trip alone. If he had to go to a stupid grocery store at four in the morning, then Taylor was going to go with him. After finishing with his shoes, Isaac crept over to Taylor’s bed and leaned over his brother, who was sleeping peacefully, a small smile on his angelic looking face. Isaac watched the sleeping Taylor for a moment, before putting his mouth next to his brothers ear, and shouting "HEY!" into it.

Taylor sat up straight, smacking his head with Isaac’s. "OWW! What the hell?" He rubbed his sore head and glared at his older brother. He saw Isaac looking down at him, a smile as big as a jack ‘o’ lantern painted on his face. "What’s the big idea?" He asked, narrowing his eyes.

"Mom wants cottage cheese and apples. We have to go to the store."

Still half asleep, Taylor frowned. "The who? For what what? What? At....." he glanced at his alarm. "4:15 am? Is she insane?"

"No she’s pregnant. Which I guess is about as close to being insane as you can get without being put into an institution. Now get up and go with me."

"How come she didn’t wake me up?" Taylor had a sneaking suspicion he was being roped into something that he wasn’t originally intended to be involved in.

"Cause, I don’t know. She just didn’t. So I took the liberty. Now put some clothes on and go to the damn store with me."

"No way. I’m not getting out of this bed." Taylor quickly buried himself under his covers and closed his eyes, hoping he would be able to fall asleep again.

"Come on Tay. If I go you go. I you don’t go I don’t go. If I don’t go then mom doesn’t get her cottage cheese and apples. And guess who’s gonna be blamed for it? You, that’s who. You know how hormonal mom gets when she’s pregnant. So either get up, or suffer the wrath that is mom."

"NO!" was the muffled reply from under the covers.

Isaac shrugged. "Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. I don’t think I need to remind you of the time mom was pregnant with Mac, and you did something to piss her off......" Isaac trailed off, letting Taylor finish the memory of the time he had forgotten to lock his car door when they went to the mall. When their mother found out she had proceeded to ball him out in front of half the people in the mall, much to Taylor’s embarrassment. It amazed them how their mother could turn such little things into a huge affair.

Taylor groaned. "Man," he grumbled. "It’s four!" None the less, he dragged himself out of bed and threw on a pair of baggy shorts and a tee shirt. Grabbing his Doc’s, he sighed. "Let’s go."

As they left the room, Isaac glanced back at Zac who lay sleeping throughout the whole ordeal. "That kid could sleep through an earthquake, nuclear war, and the end of the world as we know it." He snickered as he closed the door, and half stumbling, half walking, the boys made their way out into the dark night on a quest for cottage cheese and apples.



"Why is it supermarkets feel the need to keep the temperature in the store near Arctic conditions?" Taylor complained as he briskly rubbed his arms and jumped up and down a few times, hoping to regain some sort of feeling in his bare legs, which were just about frozen off.

Isaac just rolled his eyes at Taylor who was now jogging up and down the frozen food aisle.

Making his way to the dairy section, Isaac gazed, forlorn at the large selection of cottage cheeses’. "Man, who would ever think that there could be so much cottage cheese in the world?" He thought aloud. Grabbing a container, he read the label. "Hey Tay! Come here!"

Taylor jogged his way over to Isaac then continued to run in place while looking over his brothers shoulder. "What?"

"Which cottage cheese is the good stuff?" Isaac questioned.

Taylor shrugged. "I think cottage cheese is one of, if not the most foul substance on the face of the earth. It smells like puke, and I don’t think any of it is good," he informed his brother, and proceeded to make his way over to the ice cream.

Isaac frowned. "Some help you are," he muttered. Shaking his head, Isaac finally decided that the Dairymen’s had the coolest looking label, grabbed the container and proceeded to follow Taylor who was drooling over the large selection of ice cream in the freezers.

"How much money did mom give you?" Taylor asked, when Isaac walked up to him.

"Ten bucks, why?"

"Cause I have this major craving for some President’s Choice. They have double chocolate crunchy rod. I love that stuff. We have to get it."

"Yeah, just what we need. Double chocolate fudgie crunchy roddy stuff," Isaac said disgustedly. "How about this?" He grabbed a box of Tin Roof.

Taylor made a face and gagged. "Gross me out."

"What? You love peanuts. This is peanuts, vanilla, chocolate. It’s good stuff."

Taylor shook his head. "No way. Chocolate crunch rod."

Isaac sighed. He wasn’t about to have a full fledged argument with a professional whiner at five in the morning in the middle of a grocery store over ice cream. Defeated, he grabbed the box of President’s Choice, and said, "Let’s go."

Happy that he once again got his way, Taylor followed his older brother to the checkout line.



Isaac had been watching Taylor with some interest for about fifteen minutes from the kitchen doorway. He had wandered towards the kitchen, craving a glass of apple juice, when he stumbled upon Taylor devouring the box of double chocolate crunchy rod ice cream. He had seen Taylor go through two bowls and was now scooping out a third. Finally, unable to stand it anymore-- Isaac thought he might get sick himself if he watched Taylor shovel anymore ice cream down his throat-- he walked into the kitchen and got his glass of juice.

"You know, Tay. Mom’s the one eating for two. Not you." Isaac watched his brother’s reaction which was to simply continue eating his ice cream. "Aren’t you feeling sick yet? You’ve eaten almost the whole box. You’re packing it away like there’s no tomorrow."

Taylor shrugged. "I’m a growing teenager. I need food."

Isaac snorted. "Yeah, you need food, but so does the rest of Oklahoma."

"Are you insulting me?" Taylor looked over at his brother, slightly amused. "This from the guy who ate himself sick at our barbecue two years ago."

"That was totally different," Isaac interjected. "I was only eating that much because Mike Simms bet me I couldn’t."

Taylor laughed. "And you couldn’t either. I remember it quite well. After you stuffed yourself, we got on the swingset, and," Taylor was now laughing so hard he could barely finish his sentence. "......and you got off and was like that was fun, blehhh......and you threw up everywhere.......oh man.......right afterwards. That was fun, puke." Taylor wiped at the tears in his eyes.

Isaac reddened. "Shut up. It also turned out that I had the flu and threw up for the next two days."

"Yeah, whatever, flu my foot. You just pigged out."

"Much like your doing now."

"Ahhh......but see. I know my limit. I could eat all of this and then some, and still not get sick," Taylor stated proudly. "I think I take after mom. Notice how much she can eat? Especially when she’s pregnant. Man she can really chow down."

Isaac laughed. "No kidding. I went to get that leftover Chinese and she had eaten it all."

"Well," Taylor said in a high pitched voice. "I am eating for two after all."

"More like two dozen," Isaac snorted.

The boys snickered.

"Oh man," Isaac said as he looked at his watch. "I’m gonna be late. Claire’s car is in the shop and I promised her I would pick her up from school and go with her to get it."

Taylor stood and took his bowl, and the now near empty box of ice cream. Depositing his bowl into the sink, and putting the ice cream into the freezer, he said, "Me too. I have to get going I mean. Gretchen and I are gonna go get something to eat."

Isaac groaned. "You’re kidding me! After you just ate all that ice cream?"

Taylor shrugged, and lightly patted his stomach. "Well, yeah."

"You really really disgust me. Where does it all go? I mean, you weigh like five pounds, so I’m curious as to where all this junk you eat, settles."

"Who knows. And I weigh more than five pounds thank you very much," Taylor retorted.

"Excuse me, six pounds. Now get out of my way, I have to go."

"Hey, have you called or seen Juliet since we’ve been back."

Isaac sighed. "I called her once. She wasn’t home.

Taylor just shook his head at his brother. "Whatever man."

"What’s that supposed to mean?" Isaac glared at his brother.

"Nothing," Taylor rolled his eyes. "Just forget it."

"Fine. I’m outta here." Isaac grabbed the keys to his father’s car which he had been given permission to use, while their dad was out of town, and left, slamming the door behind him.



"Taylor stop it! I’m serious!" Gretchen swatted at Taylor’s hands as he tried to tickle her again, while they stood in Rite Aid, looking at magazines.

"What?" Taylor looked at her with innocent blue eyes, dropping his hands to his sides.

Gretchen laughed. "Yeah, nice try. Don’t play innocent with me."

Taylor pouted. "Okay, fine. You’re no fun." He stood behind Gretchen and buried his face in the side of her neck, while she flipped through the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly.

As she gazed at the pages, she came across an article on what the magazine was proclaiming one of the hottest young acts to hit the scene in years. "Nice picture. You look a little dorky though."

Taylor looked up and gave a quick glance at the magazine. "Yeah, I know. I always look dorky in pictures," he said, before snuggling his face onto her shoulder and gently holding her around the waist. She was getting a little better with his public displays of affection, and sometimes, like that day for instance, even enjoyed it.

"That’s not true," Gretchen said, as she placed the magazine back on the shelf. "Sometimes you look downright stupid." She snickered.

Taylor sighed and let go of her, turning to walk away. "That," he said. "Was mean." He put a pathetic face on and started to head off, pouting, down the hair care aisle.

Gretchen went after him and grabbed his arm. "Come on, I was just kidding. You know that." She gave him a smile, and, taking a hesitant survey to be sure no one was looking, gave him a quick kiss. As she pulled away, Taylor grabbed her and held her to him.

"No way, you’re not getting away that easily," he informed her. "You hurt my feelings and that is going to take a lot of kisses to repair." He gently kissed her again.

"OH MY GOD! I do NOT believe this!"

The voice startled Taylor and Gretchen and they broke apart, red in the face.

When Taylor saw the owner of the voice his eyes grew wide. "Meredith," he squeaked. "What a nice surprise. What are you doing here?"

"I should ask what you two are doing here! But I don’t need to because I could see you drooling all over each other. The whole store could see!"

"What do you want Meredith?" Taylor just looked at her, a bored expression replacing his shocked one. He noticed Gretchen had taken a sort of shelter behind him, looking at the ground.

"Cut the crap Taylor." Meredith stormed over and got in between Taylor and Gretchen, giving her cousin the evil eye. "How could you?" she demanded. "You knew how I felt about Taylor! How could you?"

Gretchen just stared at the tile and tugged at the hem of her tee shirt.

"Hey, Meredith, leave her alone." Taylor stepped in front of Gretchen once again and stared at Meredith.

"Stay out of this Taylor!" Meredith pushed Taylor out of the way, and grabbed Gretchen by the arm. "You are such a jerk!" She shouted.

Suddenly finding her voice, Gretchen pulled her arm away forcefully and glared at Meredith. "Don’t touch me," she snapped.

"I can’t believe you went behind my back like this Gretchen!" Meredith moved closer to her cousin.

"I didn’t go behind your back. I just never told you because it wasn’t any of your business." Gretchen glared at Meredith. "Leave us alone Meredith. He doesn’t like you. Get over it."

Meredith turned to Taylor. "What can you possibly see in her? She’s so plain and boring. Look at her. She looks like a boy! She’s such a loser. She doesn’t have any friends."

"Shut up Meredith! I see a hell of a lot more in her then I would ever in a million years see in you!"

Meredith scowled. "You’re not even worth it, Taylor Hanson. You’re not even worth it. I have guys dying to go out with me! Everybody wants to go out with me!"

"Then get out of here and go find your fan club, because we couldn’t care less!" Gretchen, who had listened to the insults her cousin dished out, stared at Meredith, her eyes filled with tears that threatened to spill over, and her lower lip trembling.

"I hate you Gretchen. I’ve always hated you."

"Good. I’ve always hated you too!"

Taylor watched as Meredith just shook her head, and turned to leave. When he saw her turn back and her hand raise, he tried to intervene but it was too late.

Meredith hauled off and slapped Gretchen.

Gretchen stood, her mouth open. The tears she had been holding back, spilled over and she quickly turned on her heel, storming out of the store.

Taylor gave Meredith a disgusted look. "You’re a real bitch, you know that?"

With that, he took off after Gretchen, leaving Meredith fuming in the store.



"Isaac? Isaac?"

Isaac felt himself once again being shook awake. "What?" he muttered. Couldn’t anyone just let him sleep?

Claire laughed. "You fell asleep. Right when I was talking to you."

Suddenly awake, Isaac sat up on the couch. "Oh man, I’m sorry." He felt his face flush, and he looked down, embarrassed.

Still laughing, Claire said, "No, it was funny. One minute I was talking to you. The next minute I see your eyes closing and you just sort of slumped back onto the couch. I couldn’t decided whether to wake you or not, but I figured I should. How come your so tired?"

Isaac moaned, and rubbed his tired eyes with his hands. "My mother," he spat out. "She actually made me go out to get her cottage cheese and apples at four this morning. I couldn’t go back to sleep when I got home. I’m exhausted. I’m really sorry. That was so rude of me."

"Don’t worry about it. It was cute," she added. "Poor baby, you do look really tired. Check out that excess baggage." Claire playfully poked at the bags under Isaac’s eyes.

Isaac grabbed her hand, and held it tight. He stared into her blue eyes, and smiled. "Let me tell you something," he suddenly said, pulling Claire closer to him.

"What?"

"You have to come here to hear it," he answered with a mischievous grin.

She leaned in closer, until she was practically sitting in his lap. "What?" she repeated.

Isaac took her chin gently, and pressed his lips with hers. "Nothing," he told her when they parted. "I just wanted to kiss you."

"Hmmm, I see," Claire said slowly. "So you’re saying that you lied to me."

Isaac raised his eyebrows. "No, I didn’t lie. I was......okay I lied. You hate me?"

Claire smiled. "Of course not," she whispered, before gently kissing him.

Isaac pulled her closer, letting her gently wrap her legs around his waist, as their kissing got deeper.

When they broke apart again, both were breathless. Isaac smiled, contented, and let Claire rest her head on his chest. They didn’t talk. Just sat, holding each other, until eventually they both drifted off, asleep in each other’s arms.



"Gretchen! Hey Gretchen wait up!"

When Taylor finally caught up with her, Gretchen was halfway down the alley next to the store, heading for home.

At the sound of Taylor’s voice, Gretchen turned. Tears streamed down her face and she was sobbing uncontrollably. "I hate her Taylor. I hate her. Why is she like that? Why does she always do that to me?" Gretchen’s face was crumpled, and her voice wavered.

"Hey, come on. Just ignore her." Taylor took Gretchen in his arms, and gently stroked her hair. She buried her face in his shirt, still sobbing.

"I can’t. I can’t because it’s true."

Taylor frowned. "What’s true?" He gently tugged on her ponytail, waiting for her to respond.

"Everything. Everything she said in there was true. I am a loser. I don’t have any friends."

"Gretchen, you have plenty of friends. What about all those people from school that you hang out with?"

"What people? Who, Lindsey? So I have one friend. Big deal."

"You have me," Taylor gently reminded her.

"I don’t have you Taylor." Gretchen pulled away and looked hard into his confused eyes.

"I’m right here. You do have me." Taylor reached out to touch her cheek, but Gretchen grabbed his hand, and moved it back to his side.

"Taylor, I have a great time when I’m with you. But you have a whole other life that has nothing to do with me. You’re gone half the time, and when you’re here.......I don’t know. I mean, we aren’t going out or anything, so I’m not saying that but.....you....I can’t even really explain what I mean. I just......" Gretchen sighed. Shaking her head, she drew a deep breath. "Never mind. I’m not making any sense. I’m just upset, I guess." She gave him a weak smile and rubbed her red eyes. "Look, I’m going to go home, okay? I just need to sit down and forget that today ever happened." She started to walk away, but Taylor grabbed her arm, and pulled her to him.

"Don’t leave," he whispered. "Come over to my house. We can hang out and watch a movie or something." He gently kissed her forehead, her eyebrows, her eyelids, and then landed a soft kiss on her lips. "Please," he muttered, trailing his lips over her neck.

Gretchen sighed, and gently pushed him away. "Okay, okay. I’ll come over." Taylor smiled. "Good," he said happily. He took her hand and began to lead her back to the sidewalk. "We can have Zac think of a good revenge against that stupid cousin of yours. Like, I don’t know, gluing her pom poms to her head or something."

Gretchen snickered. "Let’s just forget about Meredith, okay?" she quietly asked.

Taylor nodded. "Sure."



Isaac drove slowly home, pondering over his troubled thoughts. He hadn't even really thought about Juliet until Taylor had mentioned her that morning, and now he couldn't get her out of his mind.

Without even realizing that he was doing it, Isaac turned the car around and headed in the direction of her house.

When he pulled into the driveway, Isaac didn't get out of the car right away. He sat, and stared out the window, debating about what to say. I should just break it off right now, he thought. He knew he had really strong feelings for Claire, and didn't want to hurt her. But I don't want to hurt Juliet either. Isaac sighed, and pounded his head against the steering wheel.

That's it. I have to tell her.

Isaac stepped out of the car, determined, and strode quickly up to the front door. He rang the bell and waited.

When Juliet opened the door, his breath caught in his throat. He had nearly forgotten how beautiful she was. At a loss for words, Isaac simply stared, his mouth slightly open.

"Well, Isaac Hanson. Surprise, surprise." Juliet looked at Isaac with a mixture of shock and amusement. "I didn't know if you remembered who I was."

Isaac shook his head to clear his thoughts. Seeing her put a stop to anything he had been about to tell her about Claire. "I'm sorry Jul," he whispered. "I'm so sorry." He stepped closer to her and reached out his hand, desperate to touch her. His fingers moved fluidly over her soft face, his fingertips lightly tracing her lips.

Juliet closed her eyes, and sighed. His touch, which had been absent over a month, was turning her to jello.

"God I missed you," Isaac breathed. And it was true. He had missed her. Missed her more than he thought. But had he really missed her? Or had he just missed touching her. The thought startled him, and his eyes fluttered open.

Of course you missed her, he thought. Don't be stupid. And not just like that. You really and truly missed her.

"Do you want to come in?" Juliet asked, lightly kissing his fingertips.

Did he want to go in? Of course. He felt a stab of guilt because he knew what was going to happen, but at that moment, he didn't care. All that mattered was holding Juliet in his arms. Feeling her next to him. Touching her.

Juliet opened the door wider, and slowly, Isaac took her hand, following her inside.



"Holy cow! What’d you do to your face?" Zac stared at the mark on Gretchen’s cheek which was slowly turning into a nice looking bruise.

Gretchen placed her hand over her cheek, and sighed. "It’s nothing Zac." "Its not nothing. It’s huge! I can see it from across the room."

Marie dropped the crayon she had been using to fill in the spaces of her Anamaniacs coloring book, and slapped Zac on the back of the head. "Be quiet," she hissed.

Zac rubbed his sore head, and frowned. "What was that for?" he whined.

Marie nodded her head towards Gretchen, who was waiting while Taylor picked out a movie for them to watch. "Because doofus. She looks really upset. Like she’s been crying," she whispered.

"I wonder why?"

Marie shrugged. "Who knows."

"Well I guess I’ll just have to go ask." Zac tried to get out of his chair, but was quickly hauled back down with a firm pull by Marie.

"Just leave her alone. If she wants us to know, she’ll tell us."

Zac sighed. "Aren’t you just the least bit curious? Maybe she got into a fight! That would be so cool! I wonder if she won."

Marie just shook her head. "Zac, you are too nosy for your own good. Curiosity killed the cat, you know."

"Yeah, well when I grow whiskers and a tail, then I’ll start to worry," Zac grumbled.

"Hey Zac! Where's Ike?" Taylor stopped his search for the perfect movie and looked over at his little brother. "Didn't he say he was going to be home by three?"

Zac shrugged. "I don't know Tay. I'm not Ike's keeper." Zac rolled his eyes at the absurd thought that he should keep tabs on his older brother twenty four/seven.

"I was just asking, Mr. Saracastic," Taylor said, finally deciding on Top Gun. He held the movie up. "This ok with you?" he asked Gretchen.

"Yeah, I love that movie."

"Cool." He popped the tape in the VCR and joined Gretchen on the sofa, all the while still wondering where Isaac was.



"You didn't." Taylor stared wide eyed at his older brother.

Isaac sighed. "I know. I shouldn't have done it. But I did. I couldn't help it. The minute I got near her, I.......I had this need. I had to be with her. I felt like I would have died if I couldn't touch her." Isaac threw up his hands. "I guess I can't expect you to understand."

Taylor frowned. "I do understand, but....still....." he trailed off, not really sure how to handel the news his brother had just unloaded.

"Well?" Isaac looked at Taylor expectantly.

"Well what?" Taylor gave Isaac a hard stare. "Do you want me to convince you that you aren't a jerk?"

"No," Isaac quietly replied, although his expression clearly read that that was exactly what he had expected Taylor to do.

"Well forget it." Taylor shook his head. "I don't get you Ike. You're using these girls and you know it."

"I'm not using them," Isaac protested. "I care about them both very much."

"But do you love them?" Taylor pressed.

Isaac looked down. "I don't know," he whispered.

"Well, you better figure it out pretty damn fast," Taylor snapped. "This is just plain ridiculous. You used to be the most honest guy I knew. I really admired you for that. But now........ever since you've been with these girls you've done nothing but lie. To your family, to your friends, to Juliet and Claire. But most of all to yourself."

"I know," Isaac quietly said.

Taylor continued. "Isaac, your my brother, and nothing is going to change that. But, you've given me a lot of reasons to not like you a whole lot. You need to get your act together, and fast, cause all your doing is hurting yourself."

Isaac stared at his younger brother, who only stared back.

"Tay, I....."

"I'm not the one you need to talk to. Now you have two girls out there who care a hell of a lot for you. And you've got to grow up, stop thinking with your dick and start using your head." With that, Taylor left the room.

Isaac just stood motionless. He knew that what Taylor said was true. However he didn't really like the fact that his fourteen year old brother seemed to be able handel this in a more mature manner then himself. Isaac shook his head and flopped onto his bed. He was so confused, and he still didn't know what he was going to do.

.

Chapter 29 - The Dreaded Phone Gag and Masking Tape Walls

"AAAAHHHH!" Taylor let out a scream as Neal Kross tackled him to the ground. "You jerk! Oh come on you guys!," Taylor shouted as Jason Manning and Thad Winter joined the pile. "Guys, you’re crushing my arm!"

"Yeah, come on guys. We’re going to kill stick boy," Neal laughed.

"I am not a stick!" Taylor protested, dragging himself off the ground. "I just don’t have a very large frame." He continued attempting to stand up for himself, while he brushed some strands of grass out of his messy hair.

"Whatever, shut up Tay," Jason said, pushing Taylor back to the ground.

"Oh my God!!! It’s Taylor Hanson! This really is his house!" a female voice shrieked.

Taylor looked up to see a group of girls who had been standing across from his house approaching.

He smiled and gave a quick wave to the incoming crowd of about six overly happy teenage girls.

The girls stood speechless near the end of the driveway, and took pictures of Taylor and his friends who were now tossing around a football.

A few minutes past, and the crowd was growing larger and louder. Suddenly the front door opened, but much to the disappointment of the young female fans, it was Walker Hanson who emerged.

"Come on boys, time to come inside."

"But dad, the weather is so nice and......."

"Taylor," Mr. Hanson sternly interrupted.

Seeing the no nonsense expression on his father’s face, Taylor grabbed the football and led his friends into the house.

"Man this bites," Thad grumbled. "This is the third time this week we’ve had to come inside cause your dad is afraid some stupid girls are going to hurt you or something." Thad shook his head. "You’d think we would learn by now and just go to someone else’s house." He thought about this. "Why do we always come here anyway?"

"Uhh.....because they’re the only ones who always have food. Speaking of which....." Jason made a bee-line for the kitchen.

As the boys headed for the living room, they heard, "Jason, why do you always come over here and eat me out of house and home? you eat more than my own kids!" Mrs. Hanson scolded from the kitchen.

"Man, what’s up with your mom?" Jason asked, leaving the kitchen with two arms full of snacks.

"She’s pregnant dummy. She’s got all those hormonal imbalance problems. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it," Taylor assured him. "Let’s go watch TV or something."

The group made their way to the living room, only to find Zac silently playing with his power rangers in the middle of the floor.

"Zac, do you feel like leaving the room?" Taylor asked.

Zac looked up from his game. "No, I don’t as a matter of fact. I was here first."

Taylor scowled. "Fine." He grabbed the remote off the coffee table and flopped onto the sofa as his friends made themselves comfortable around the room. Taylor tried to turn the TV on, to no avail. Sighing he said, "Well the least you can do is move your fat head so we can turn on the TV."

Zac stuck out his tongue at Taylor, but none the less, grabbed his toys and moved to a corner of the living room, far too stubborn to actually leave the room all together.

"Let’s see what’s on the telly," Taylor tried to impersonate his ever popular British accent.

"Dude, you’ve been in the sun way to long," Jason said, rolling his eyes and taking a bite out of a huge cookie.

Taylor shrugged. "The English reporters loved it." He lazily began to flip through the stations, giving his small commentary on each program as it flashed up on the screen. "Okay, here we have Montel with I slept with my boyfriends brothers cousin or something. Ohh look here, Ricki Lake is giving make overs. Whoo Hoo! Public access, can we really contain our excitement? HEY! Maybe MTV is doing having another My So-Called Life Marathon," Taylor wistfully said.

"Tay, you’re so pathetic and way to hung up on that show. It went off the air like three years ago," Neal shook his head at his friend.

"It’s not me, it’s Ike. I was just going to tell him if it was on," Taylor half lied.

"He’s not even home," Thad reminded him.

"So?" Taylor quickly flipped the station to MTV.

They were greeted by three pretty looking boys playing instruments, and singing an overly cheery song on a pansy.

"Hey! Check out that hot chick! Oh wait, sorry Tay, I forgot. That’s just you. My bad," Jason joked.

Taylor rolled his eyes, and disgustedly flipped off the television.

Suddenly Neal looked over at Zac, who was still contentedly playing with his toys in the corner of the room. "Hey guys. Do you think it’ll work again?"

"Hey come on. Leave Zac alone," Taylor whispered.

"No way! How could we possible pass up such a golden opportunity? I mean the kid falls for it every time," Jason said.

"Guys, leave my brother alone," Taylor pleaded.

"Tay, your brother’s got to take out a loan and buy a clue," Thad whispered, picking up the telephone. "He’s fallen for this joke so many times, it’s almost not even funny anymore."

"That’s right, it’s not funny anymore, so don’t bother." Taylor tried one last attempt to save Zac from the dreaded "dead phone" gag.

"I said it was almost not funny anymore. Besides I just get such a kick out of the fact that he never figures it out."

Thad handed the phone off to Jason.

"Sure hold on a minute," Jason said to the dial tone. Holding out the receiver he said, "Hey Zac, it’s for you." He stifled a laugh as Zac walked over and grabbed the phone.

"Hello?" Zac waited a few moments. "Hello? Hello........hello.......HELLO!" He turned and looked at the group of boys who were now near hysterics. "Guys there’s no one there."

"No duh! Did you even hear it ring?" Neal laughed.

Zac’s face fell. "I hate you guys!" He exclaimed, and walking back to his pile of toys, whipped a power ranger in the direction of the couch. Just as he was about to launch another toy, the doorbell rang.

"I’ll get it!" Taylor shouted, scrambling to get out of the firing range.

He opened the door and was surprised to see non other than Juliet on the doorstep. "Juliet, hey. What are you doing here?"

"Do you know I had to push my way through a sea of girls just to get to the door?"

"Yeah, I know. They all came to see me. What can I say. I’m a babe magnet," Taylor beamed.

Juliet burst out laughing. "Whatever. I’m so glad to see you haven’t let fame to into that modest head of yours."

Taylor shrugged and motioned her in, closing the door behind her.

"So, like I said before, what’s up? What brings you here?"

"I wanted to see how Isaac was doing," Juliet said. "Is he in your room?"

"Ike?" Taylor gave her a confused look.

"Yeah, he’s sick," Juliet said. "At least he said he was sick. So I came to see how he was doing."

"RIGHT! Sick, he’s sick. Yes sick, VERY SICK. As a matter of fact, he’s sleeping right now. I really don’t think you should disturb him."

Jessica, who happened to be passing through gave Taylor an odd look. "Tay, mom says you should never lie," she loudly informed her brother while munching on a carrot stick.

"Jess, get lost." Taylor gave his sister a shove.

"Isaac’s not sick, he’s with Claire, remember dodo?" She gave Taylor a haughty glare.

"Who’s Claire?" Juliet asked Taylor.

"Claire? OH, you mean Dr. Claire. That’s right, Dr. Claire. Ike’s at the doctor’s." Taylor slapped himself on the forehead. "It must have slipped my mind. He did go to the doctor, but it’s a guy doctor so you have nothing to worry about," Taylor continued to babble.

Juliet narrowed her eyes at Taylor. "Whatever. Look just tell your brother I stopped by." With that she stormed out of the house.

"Well okay, buh bye now," Taylor said to the space she had just vacated. "Man Ike is so dead."

Taylor watched as Juliet angrily made her way down the driveway, violently shoving a few of the still remaining female fans out of her way in the process.

Shrugging, Taylor returned to the living room. He figured something like this would happen sooner or later. Heck Ike had it coming.

"What was that all about?" Thad asked as Taylor resumed his position on the couch.

Taylor shook his head. "Nothing." Glancing around the room, he asked, "Where’d Zac go?"

Jason laughed. "He said something about getting even and took off."

Taylor smiled. "Wonder what he’ll try to pull this time."

"Nothing could be as funny as when he let all the air out of our bikes tires. I was so pissed at him for that."

All four boys laughed at the memory. Finally Taylor sighed. "Well, want to watch a movie or something?"

His friends nodded. "Sure, why not."



Halfway through "Terminator 2" the doorbell rang again. Taylor looked out the window to see Gretchen standing on the porch, giving the girls who for some reason were still on his front lawn a confused look.

"I’ll get it," Avery started to make a mad dash for the door from her spot in the hallway.

"Oh no you don’t," Taylor intercepted his youngest sister on her way to the door and pushed her away. Pulling open the door, he gave Gretchen a huge smile. "Hey Gretchen." He held open the door and let her in.

"Hey Taylor. What’s up with all the half dressed chicks out there?" She pointed to the crowd.

"I dunno. They just all seem to flock to this house. I guess they all want me or something."

"Oh please," Gretchen rolled her eyes, and gave Taylor a playful shove.

"Well, me Thad, Neal, and Jason were just watching T2 if you want to join us," Taylor grabbed her arm and led her into the living room.

"Oh, Eddie Furlong," Gretchen commented.

"What? Don’t tell me you like that fag," Taylor spit out.

"He’s not a fag," Gretchen said. "And I used to like him, but not anymore so just calm down."

"Shut up guys, we’re trying to watch the movie," Jason commanded. "He’s about to shove the blade through the guy’s mouth when he’s drinking out of the milk carton."

A round of cheers erupted from the three boys crowded on the couch when the infamous "thunk" was heard.

"You guys are sick," Gretchen said under her breath.

"Oh come on. You’ll like the movie," Taylor assured her.

"I know. I’ve seen it. Eddie Furlong, remember?"

Taylor frowned. "Oh yeah. Well, he cant even act Gretchen."

Gretchen just shook her head and laughed at Taylor’s pout. As they neared the couch, Taylor gave Thad a shove, and motioned the other boy to move so he and Gretchen could sit next to each other. After about twenty minutes, Taylor, who had already seen T2 just about eight million times, decided that he really wasn’t in the mood to see Arnold and Eddie save the world yet again, and started to watch Gretchen instead. Gently he took a strand of hair fallen from her ponytail, and tucked it behind her ear. He then leaned over and planted a soft kiss on her cheek. Taking her chin in his hand, he turned her face towards his and softy brushed his lips over hers.

Gretchen, still half watching the movie, and not quite wanting to go at it in a room with three other teenage boys, tried to ignore Taylor. However he didn’t seem to get the message, and continued to kiss her.

Seeming to forget that his friends were over, Taylor moved closer to Gretchen, and put his arms around her, burying his face in her neck, gently biting and sucking.

"Umm, guys?" Thad threw a couch cushion at the intertwined couple. "You’re really grossing us out here."

"Forget it. I’m out of here anyway. I have to get home," Jason stood up, and grabbed his sneakers.

"Yeah, I’m with Jason. Maybe we can go hit on the chicks outside for a while," Neal suggested.

"Come on Thaddeus," Jason motioned for Thad to follow. "Let’s leave the two love birds alone."

"Bye Tay. Give me a call tomorrow." Thad gave Taylor a slight wave as he followed the other boys out of the room.

After a chorus of byes, Taylor grinned at Gretchen. "Good, we’re finally alone," he whispered, and gently kissed her.

"Come on Tay. Your mom, dad and who knows how many brothers and sisters are still here. I can’t even believe I was letting you kiss me with your friends in the room." Gretchen was genuinely shocked by her own behavior.

"I thought it was pretty cool," Taylor muttered in her ear, then gently kissed it.

"Tay, seriously. We aren’t alone."

"We look pretty alone to me," Taylor gestured to the empty room, then leaned in again.

"Nice try slick." Gretchen scooted away.

"Oh come on," Taylor whined. Suddenly his eyes lit up. "I know, let’s go up to my room."

Before Gretchen had a chance to respond, Taylor was up and attempting to pull her off the sofa.

"Come on, Gretchen. We’ll just talk. I swear." Taylor gave her an innocent smile. "Boy Scout’s Honor," he added when he saw the doubtful expression on her face.

Gretchen frowned. "You were never in the boy scouts."

Taylor shrugged. "I know, but still."

Smiling, Gretchen began to follow Taylor up the stairs, although she still had her major doubts about his honesty, Boy Scout Honor or not.

When they entered the empty room, Taylor shut the door behind them.

"If we’re going to just talk, we could leave the door open," Gretchen informed him, taking a seat in a small overstuffed chair that sat in a corner of the room.

"Well just in case I run out of things to say, I won’t have to get up and shut the door." Taylor gave her a playful grin. "But seriously, I did want to ask you something." Taylor creased his brow and tried to think of the best way to say what he had to say. "See, there’s this party Friday night. This friend of mine, that I umm, know, invited me to go to it."

"Yeah, so?" Gretchen just looked at Taylor.

"Well, see, this friend is kind of umm, you know, not of the male gender."

"Meaning she’s a girl?"

"Well, yeah," Taylor looked at the ground sheepishly.

"Uh huh," Gretchen nodded her head. "So what are you saying?"

"Well, I mean, the party sounds like fun." He let his gaze drift back to Gretchen’s face. He was surprised to see her looking at him exactly as before. She didn’t even look mad. "You can come with me if you want," Taylor quickly added, finally plopping himself down onto his bed.

"No that’s all right. But you go ahead and go."

"Are you sure?" Taylor gave Gretchen a questioning glance.

Gretchen nodded. "Taylor, why should I care? You have other friends besides me, and I know that some of them are in fact girls."

Taylor pursed his lips. "Well, okay," he paused. "I was just making sure."

"Okay so there you go. Now you know. What else did you want to talk about?"

Taylor sighed. "Umm, why don’t I put on some music," he suggested. "Do you have a preference?"

Gretchen grinned. "Something good. So not you."

Taylor frowned. "Very very funny. Seriously though, what do you like?"

"Taylor, you know what I listen to." Gretchen rolled her eyes.

Sensing that she wasn’t going to be any sort of help, Taylor just threw on a Counting Crows CD and hoped for the best.

"Are you comfortable in that chair?" Taylor asked, returning to his bed.

Smirking at his subtle try, Gretchen simply replied. "Yep. I’m fine."

Just as Taylor was trying to think of yet another ingenious reason as to why Gretchen should join him on the bed, Isaac burst into the room.

Taylor shook his head. "Hey, you ever heard of knocking?" he joked.

"Shut up Taylor. I am not in the mood," Isaac snapped at his younger brother.

Sensing something was up, Gretchen stood. "I think I’ll be going now. I’ll talk to you later Taylor. Later Isaac."

"No wait, we could," Taylor started to go after her, but Gretchen was already down the stairs.

"Thanks a lot Ike," Taylor grumbled, returning to the bedroom.

"Oh spare me," Isaac threw himself onto his own bed.

"So what’s your problem?" Taylor flopped onto a bean bag chair on the floor near Isaac’s bed.

"Claire. Claire is my problem."

"Oh what? Miss Perfect? What’s her problem?"

"She’s moving," Isaac answered.

"To where?" Taylor stared at Isaac wide eyed.

"Canada!"

"Why the heck is she moving to Canada?" Taylor asked.

Isaac sighed, and buried his face into his pillow, letting out a low yell. Taylor only eyed his brother until Isaac’s little fit past, before resuming his line of questioning.

"So now why is she moving to Canada?"

"Because her parents are there and they want her to come visit," Isaac explained.

"Oh, so she’s not really moving there. She’s just visiting the place for awhile."

Isaac frowned. "Yeah for like a whole month. And by the time she comes back, we’re going to be off in Japan or something. I mean you’d think she would have had the decency to tell me this before we got involved!"

Taylor’s jaw dropped and he stared at his older brother. "Oh yeah! Just like you’ve had the decency to inform her that you already have a girlfriend!" he shot back.

"Taylor!" Isaac yelled. "Just......just leave me alone!"

"Fine!" Taylor stood and stormed out of the room, leaving his older brother to wallow in his own misery.



Later that night, Taylor walked into his bedroom, only to see Zac reading some magazine on his bed, and a huge masking tape line stretched across the floor.

"What’s up with this?" Taylor stepped on the tape.

"Don’t step over the line!" Zac’s head shot up from his magazine.

"Okay! Sheesh!" Taylor put his hands in the air. "What’s the deal?"

"I’m sick of you and your stupid friends making fun of me all the time." Zac gave Taylor a harsh glare.

Taylor raised his eyebrows. "Yeah so?" He didn’t really follow what his friends had to do with masking tape. "What’s the tape for?"

"I’ve divided the room in half. you stay on your side and I’ll stay on mine. And we aren’t allowed on each other’s side." Zac laid down the law.

Taylor stared at his little brother for a moment. Finally he spoke. "Zac, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of." Taylor couldn’t help laughing.

"This isn’t funny! I’m being completely serious here!" Zac shouted.

Taylor tried to contain his laughing, but only succeeded in having a huge, stupid grin on his face. "Whoa okay. So how am I supposed to sleep if my bed’s on your side?" Taylor indicated to his bed, which was on the opposite side of the "tape wall".

"I don’t know. You’ll have to figure that out for yourself genius," Zac smirked. "Plus I have the bathroom on my side."

"Oh gee, it’s not like I can’t go down the hall," Taylor rolled his eyes. "Besides the door is on my side so how are you ever going to leave the room?"

Zac frowned, not realizing he had made that grave error. "Oh, well I can on your side to use the door."

Taylor shook his head. "Umm, no no. You specifically said we are not allowed on each other’s side and the door happens to be on mine so therefore you are stuck in this room until you realize how absurd your little idea is."

Isaac, who had been in the doorway listening, stepped into the room. "So which half is mine?" he asked, feeling a little bit better, after having vented for nearly forty minutes to his friend Ryan on the phone about Claire leaving.

"Well, seeing as how there are three people and only two halves, and that half is Zac’s," Taylor pointed the half of the room which housed the beds and bathroom. "And this half is mine, I’d have to say you’re out of luck. Guess you have to move in with Mom, dad, and Mac," Taylor informed Isaac.

"Ha-ha, yeah right." Ignoring the tape line, Isaac walked over to his bed and sat down.

"Ike, you aren’t obeying the territorial rules," Taylor joked.

"Tay, it is truly sad that you are letting our younger brother be the dictator of our room," Isaac responded.

Taylor thought about that point for a few seconds, and then shrugged. "You’re right," he said stepping over the tape line and heading for his bed.

"Tay! get off! This is my side!" Zac screeched.

"Zac, take a chill pill, Christ," Taylor said.

"You two," Zac pointed his finger back and forth accusingly between his two brothers. "you have no respect for me!"

Isaac threw his hands in the air. "I don’t know how I got in the middle of this," he muttered to no one in particular.

"That’s it! We are not on speaking terms until otherwise noted. You are not to look at me, or talk to me, or go near me, or invade my personal space, or touch me in any fashion, until I say otherwise!" Zac commanded.

"Are we allowed to talk about you?" Taylor asked.

"I can’t hear you, LA-LA-LA," Zac chanted.

"Boys, what in the world is the racket up here?" Mr. Hanson stepped into the bedroom. "Zac, why are you being so loud?"

"Zac?" Taylor gave his father a questioning look. "There’s no Zac up here. Zac doesn’t exist until otherwise notified."

Zac stopped chanting, and stood up. "I hate you guys!" He took off out the bedroom door.

"Zac you’re on my side!" Taylor shouted after him.

"Taylor! I......UUUGGHH!" Zac huffed, and stomped down the hallway.

Unable to contain himself anymore, Taylor collapsed onto his bed in a fit of laughter.

Mr. Hanson shook his head. "Tay, do you always have to egg him on?" he asked, before going after his ranting son, who was busy shouting about how he wished God had never invented older brothers.

.

Chapter 30 - Adventures in a Car Part 2

"Has anyone ever told Zac he sounds like a herd of elephants the way he tromps up the stairs like that?" Isaac asked as the familiar sounds of pounding filled his ears.

Taylor glanced up from his sketch pad. "Mom tells him about twenty times a day," he chimed, laughing.

"Well maybe......." Isaac stopped short, unable to complete his sentence for the step stomper had burst into their bedroom and for once, Zac wasn’t the culprit.

"Isaac we need to talk," Juliet snapped.

Isaac stared at her. "Okay." Noticing her wet, red eyes, he asked, "Hey, what’s wrong." He walked over and tried to put his arms around her, but Juliet rather roughly pushed him away.

"Taylor, leave us alone," she commanded, pointing to the door.

Seeing the anger in her expression, Taylor nodded and grabbing his drawing pencils and pad, quickly exited the room.

"Who is this Claire?" Juliet demanded the second Taylor had shut the door behind him.

"What? Who?" Isaac tried to hide his surprise.

"Don’t give me that!" Juliet snapped. She grabbed the book Isaac was holding in his hands and threw it across the room.

Isaac stared at her in shock. He had never seen her so angry before.

"I thought you were sick yesterday!"

"I was," Isaac meekly said, realizing Juliet must have somehow seen through his little lie.

"No you weren’t! When you canceled our date because you were too ill, I was concerned and came over to see how you were. Taylor tried to pull off saying you were in bed, but your little sister told me that you were with Claire. So your brother said oh yeah, Dr. Claire, and claimed you were at the doctors office. But I’m not stupid Isaac! Do you think I’m stupid? How long did you really think you would get away with this? All those times you told me you had to stay home, or had to break off a date, or had to be somewhere, weren’t because of obligations. They were because you went to see this other girl!" Juliet poked her finger in Isaac’s chest as she spoke.

"We’re just friends," Isaac desperately tried to think of some excuse.

"If you were just friends then you wouldn’t have lied to me! You know me Ike! You know I don’t care if you hang out with other people, and even if you have girls that are friends. But if you have to lie about it then obviously you’re being more then just friends with her! You could have told me you already had plans instead of lying to me all the time!"

"Juliet, I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you."



Zac walked up the stairs, and stopped halfway down the hall, staring at Taylor. His brother was sitting outside their bedroom, his ear pressed up against the door. "Tay? What the heck ya doing?"

Taylor turned to look at Zac. "Shhh," he warned, placing a finger over his lips, indicating Zac to be quiet. "Juliet and Isaac are having a fight."

Zac stared at Taylor wide eyed. "And you’re listening! That’s sick Tay! How could you!"

"How could I what?" Taylor frowned.

"How could you listen and not invite me to hear!" Zac replied. He hurried over and sat on the floor next to Taylor, mimicking his brothers ear against the door position. "What did I miss?"

"Juliet found out about Claire," Taylor whispered.

"Ohhh, that sucks," Zac laughed.

"Yeah, now be quiet. I want to hear the rest of this."



"Juliet," Isaac was saying.

"Oh just shut up! There’s nothing you can say for yourself." Juliet’s voice trembled, and a few tears escaped her eyes, sliding down her cheeks. "It’s over Ike!"

"No, Juliet. Can’t we talk about this?" Isaac tried to approach her again.

"I have nothing to say to you. Clarke Isaac Hanson you are the biggest jerk in the world!"

With that, Juliet turned and opened the door, only to send Taylor and Zac spilling into the room.

Juliet stepped over them and ran out of the house, slamming the front door behind her.

"Oh yeah, umm Ike? I forgot to tell you......Juliet stopped by yesterday," Taylor sheepishly looked up at his older brother from his position on the floor in the doorway.

"You got dumped!" Zac burst out laughing.

"Why thank you Captain Obvious! I’m soooo glad I have you here to clear that up for me, because for a minute there, well I just wasn’t sure!" Isaac snapped at his brother.

"Well sooooorrryyy," Zac attempted to stop laughing for Isaac’s sake, but was only able to collapse into another fit of giggles.

"It does kind of serve you right, Ike. I mean, what you did to her was kind of crappy," Taylor stated matter of factly.

"Just shut up, both of you!" Isaac shouted and stormed out of the room.

Taylor and Zac listened as he slammed the bathroom door. They took one look at each other and burst out laughing.

"Why did he go to that bathroom? We have one in our room. I don't get that boy sometimes." Zac stated and laughed even harder.

"No wait, we should stop, really. We shouldn’t laugh at Ike’s misfortune," Taylor tried to turn serious.

Zac waved that off with a flick of the wrist. "Man, he got what was coming to him. He’s just lucky Juliet is nice. If I ever did anything that horrible to Marie," Zac shook his head and let out a low whistle. "That girl would kick my butt from here to Timbuktu. She’s a tough cookie. I think she’s stronger then most boys I know."

"Well, let this be a lesson to you. If you’re going to cheat on your girlfriend, never let her find out." Taylor played prophet to Zac.

"Yeah, but Tay? Aren’t you going to some party tonight with another girl? I mean what about Gretchen?" Zac gave Taylor a confused look.

"Look, Gretchen and I aren’t "going out" or anything. We’re just sort of dating. She said I could go to the party with Claudia, and I am. I asked Gretchen to come. She said no. Gretchen knows exactly where I’m going and who I’m going with, so it’s not like I’m even cheating on her. Besides, she’s not officially my girlfriend. I mean she’s allowed to go out with other people too." Taylor explained, what he felt was his very clear situation to his younger brother.

Zac stood, and cracked his knuckles. "Just the same, you wouldn’t catch me going anywhere with another girl as long as Marie is around."

"Zac, sounds to me like that girl has you whipped, buddy." Taylor joked.

"I’m not whipped. I just happen to think very highly of Marie," Zac informed Taylor. He turned and walked down the hallway and headed down the stairs.

"Where you going?" Taylor called after him.

"To call Marie. She said I had to call her the minute she got home from school or else." Zac shouted over his shoulder.

Taylor laughed and shook his head. "Yep, he’s definitely whipped," he muttered aloud to himself.

As Taylor walked past the bathroom door, he paused. He knocked lightly on the door. "Ike? Hey Ike you okay?"

If Isaac heard him, which Taylor was pretty sure he had, he ignored his younger brothers question.

"Look Ike, I’m sorry I laughed okay? I didn’t mean to. Why don’t you come to this party with me tonight? It’ll take your mind off of Juliet and Claire."

Isaac opened the bathroom door and looked out at Taylor. "Tay, just go away, okay? I really don’t feel like talking right now." He slowly closed the bathroom door, and Taylor heard the lock click.

Sighing, Taylor turned and went to collect his art supplies from the floor and take them back to his bedroom.



"So who’s having this party?"

Taylor rolled his eyes and put his fork down. "Mom, I’ve already told you this eight billion times! It’s at Claudia’s cousins house."

"Who’s this Claudia girl again?" Mrs. Hanson took a bite of her salad.

"Just a friend." Taylor was growing tired of his mother’s endless interrogation.

"Can I go?" Zac piped up.

"No," Taylor snapped, before shoving a piece of chicken into his mouth.

"Why not?" Zac whined.

"Gee, I don’t know, because you’re eleven and you weren’t invited, and you don’t know Claudia and....."

"Okay, okay I get the point," Zac pouted and took a drink of his milk.

"Who’s going with you? And how come we’ve never met this Claudia?" Mr. Hanson took over his wife’s line of questioning.

Taylor groaned. "Ike is coming and Claudia has never been to the house which is why you’ve never met her. Geez we’ve been over this already." Taylor took another bite of his dinner.

"Will there be adult supervision?"

"Of course," Taylor lied with his mouth full.

"I don’t know if I like the idea of you going to some person’s party, at a house we’ve never been to, to see a girl we don’t know," Mrs. Hanson continued to pick at her salad.

"Good, because I dont’ want to go to any stupid party anyway," Isaac announced, breaking away from his own silent pity party to inform the dinner table of his opinion.

"Shut up Ike, yes you do."

"Taylor, enough." Mr. Hanson warned.

"Guys, I’m fourteen. I can take care of myself you know."

"Good, then maybe you can start doing your own laundry." Mrs. Hanson gave Taylor a stern look.

Taylor creased his brow. "What does that have to do with anything? Can I go to the party or not?"

"Come on mom, don’t let him go," Zac spoke up. "Be strong! Tell him no! Not until he learns to be nice to his eleven year old brother."

"Zac you are so immature. Mom, it’s just a party. And Isaac will be there! What could possibly happen?"

"I don’t even want to think of what can happen with the two of you at a party. It gives me nightmares." Mrs. Hanson speared a tomato.

Taylor rolled his eyes. "Boy mom, you’re so funny, I almost forgot to laugh."

"Yeah, yeah. All right. You boys can go to this party, BUT you have to be back at a decent hour, so no staying out till two in the morning, is that clear?"

"Sure thing mom," Taylor smiled and quickly devoured the rest of his dinner.



Ike, how many of those have you had?" Taylor stared at his brother who was popping the tab on another can of Miller Lite.

"Shudup, Tay," Isaac slurred before bursting into a giggling fit.

Taylor just shook his head, and picked his way through a mass of dancing bodies towards a refreshment type table set up along the back wall of the small living room. He poured himself a plastic cup of orange soda, and set the huge bottle down. A look of amusement crossed Taylor’s face as he watched the bottle slowly travel down the table in time with the pounding bass which was nearly shaking the whole house down. Taylor sipped his soda, probably the only non-alcoholic drink provided he noted, and watched the groups of people that surrounded him. He didn’t know a soul, save for his brother, who was now demonstrating some dance moves that Taylor was pretty sure weren’t in any way really considered "dancing" as normal people knew it, and Claudia. When she had invited him to her cousin’s house, he had just assumed that meant they were going together. However, when he had called her, she just gave him directions as well as the address and told him to be there by nine. The house was in a section of Tulsa Taylor had never really been to, all the way out by the Mingo Valley Expressway, and it had taken Isaac nearly an hour to find the party. When the two boys had arrived, the small house was already packed, music blaring, people dancing. Cars were lined up and down both sides of the street, and they had had to park the Accord nearly three blocks away.

After shoving their way through the huge groups of people, Taylor had been surprised to bump into Claudia right away. She had kissed him on the cheek, and told him to hang on one minute. That had been over an hour ago, and Taylor hadn’t seen her since. Now as he stood watching the strangers and his brother make fools of themselves with their drunken dancing, he once again scanned the crowd, hoping for another glimpse of Claudia. He suddenly was feeling very alone in this huge group of people and longed for the comfort of someone he knew. Even if he really didn’t "know" Claudia, he still would have felt ten times better if she were there by him. And suddenly as he turned around, there she was. He ran smack into her, literally, and watched in horror as the orange soda poured from his cup, all over the front of Claudia’s tight, white, very expensive looking dress.

At a loss for words, one because he hadn’t noticed before just how tight and short the white dress Claudia had on actually was, and two, because he had just ruined the tight white dress. As he watched the bright orange soda seep into the once snow white material all he could utter was a small, "Umm, oops."

"Taylor!" Claudia shouted. "You’re such a klutz! Don’t you ever watch where you’re going"

Taylor just stared, a little taken back by her tone. "I, uhh...umm...."

Claudia narrowed her eyes. "You ruined my dress," she growled, dabbing at the soda lightly with a napkin she grabbed off the messy table.

Isaac, half stumbled, half walked over to where his dumbfounded brother, and an irate Claudia stood. "Ohhhh, orange on white. Not good. Not good at all. You should soak that," he suggested, being the expert on getting orange drinks off of white clothes.

Claudia pressed her fingertips to her temples and closed her eyes. "Your brothers right," she said, opening her eyes and shaking her head. "Come with me." She grabbed Taylor’s hand, and leaving the barely sober Isaac to fend for himself once again, Claudia dragged Taylor down a narrow hallway, shoving by people who lingered against the walls, and led him into the master bedroom.

Claudia dropped his hand and walked into the attached bathroom. Taylor stood for a moment in the center of the bedroom, his eyes adjusting the to the bright light which spilled from the bathroom across the carpet, before joining her in the tiled room. He watched as she filled the porcelain sink with water and then turned to face him.

"Could you unzip me please?" Her eyes bored into Taylor who just stared at her, confused.

"Huh?"

Claudia sighed. "My dress. Could you please unzip it." She turned her back towards him and lifted her long hair so Taylor could get to the zipper.

Slowly, and very cautiously, Taylor lowered the zipper on the small dress, the stepped away, closing the bathroom door, and pressing his back against it. He watched in awe as Claudia nonchalantly slipped the straps from her shoulders, and stepped out of the dress. Taylor’s jaw dropped when he saw Claudia standing before him in the skimpiest pair of underwear he had ever seen. Her hair covers more than those, he thought, his face growing hotter and hotter by the second.

Try as he might, Taylor was unable to control the "Wow," that fell from his lips in a raspy whisper.

Claudia turned around and faced him. "Taylor, you’re turning the shade of a tomato. If anyone should be embarrassed it’s me."

"Umm, maybe you should...." Taylor could not figure out what exactly he wanted her to do, so he merely continued to stare.

"Are you uncomfortable with this?" Claudia asked as she pushed her dress beneath the water.

"Noooo. It’s just that you’re not.......I mean I’ve never.......well you’re kind of....."

"Taylor," Claudia tossed her head back and laughed. "Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a girl in her underwear before."

Taylor gave her a blank stare. He had seen Gretchen with out a shirt on. Did that count? Not really, it can’t count unless you see the whole deal, he decided. "Well, not including my sisters and the lingerie catalogue my mom sometimes gets, not really no. I mean not totally, well not really......" Taylor didn’t feel the need to finish his sentence.

"Oh, well there’s nothing to be embarrassed about," Claudia informed him, as she swirled the dress in the water. "I’m totally comfortable with my body, and underwear is nothing that big."

As she spoke, Taylor felt himself having to repress his dire urge to walk over and kiss her.

"Don’t do it," he whispered under his breath.

Claudia turned to face him, leaning seductively against the counter. "Did you say something," she asked.

Taylor shook his head. Slowly he walked over and placed his right hand on her shoulder. Leaning in closer he whispered in her ear, "I’m sorry I spilt my soda on you."

Claudia stared into his deep, blue eyes. "Don’t worry about it. I mean the dress really......." She trailed off and watched as Taylor lightly licked his lips. "You really want to kiss me right now, don’t you." She whispered, and used one of her fingers to trace a small path up his chest.

Taylor could only nod in response.

"Then why don’t you?" She batted her eyes at him, and twisted a long strand of her hair absently around her finger.

Taylor only looked at her.

"You’re not shy are you?"

Again Taylor could only shake his head to answer her question.

"Oh Tay," she laughed, her voice, to Taylor appeared to sparkle in the air, like a small burst of silver fireworks, before they fell onto his ears. "You’re so sweet. I know you don’t have a problem kissing me." She leaned in closer, her breath warm on his already hot cheek. "Remember the theater?"

How could he forget?

"Kiss me," she whispered, and placed her arms around his neck. "Please?"

Who could resist that?

Taylor brought his lips down on hers, intent on only giving her one small kiss, but as his lips rested on hers, he felt a tingle shoot through his body like some addictive drug, pulsating through his veins, and giving him a thirst for more. As he put his lips on hers again, he felt her respond, and gently she ran her hands through his hair.

They kissed again and again, and as their lips and tongues played their sensuous tango, Taylor slowly moved one hand to the base of her underwire. He paused, half hoping, half praying that she would push him away. That she would tell him to stop, but instead she kissed him deeper. Claudia pressed her body closer to Taylor and allowed him to slip his hand slightly underneath her bra. She moaned lightly, and began to unbutton his red shirt, revealing the black tee he wore under it.

Taylor pulled the red shirt off after Claudia finished unbuttoning it, and tossed it to the floor. Gently, Claudia pushed him away, and reached behind herself, and soon her bra lay on the small pile his shirt made.

Taylor stared, overwhelmed, his eyes wide. He looked up at Claudia, a mixture of surprise, confusion, and even lust playing across his face.

"Here." She took his hand in her own and placed it on top of her chest. Tugging him closer, she began kissing him again, her tongue playfully licking at his.

Another surge of pleasure raced through Taylor’s body as he wrapped his free arm around her waist.

A sudden pounding on the door startled both of them, and they jumped apart as it burst open. A completely plastered Isaac came forth, throwing up his dinner on his way to the toilet.

Never in his whole life had Taylor felt such a desperate desire to kill his older brother than he felt at that particular moment.

As Isaac continued to be sick, Claudia grabbed her bra and Taylor’s red shirt from the floor, putting them both on. "Can I wear this home?" She asked as she finished buttoning the shirt.

Taylor just sighed and looked at the shirt, which with nothing on underneath to cover her legs, verged on the edge of being indecent, and nodded his head.

"Thanks," she whispered, and walked out of the bathroom.

Taylor watched after her for a moment, before returning his attention back to Isaac. He didn’t know whether to feel sorry for the guy, or to shove him into the toilet. He looked towards the door and glanced at Claudia who stood in the master bedroom watching him, and then returned his gaze to his brother who was now clutching the edge of the toilet and breathing heavily.

"I really hate you sometimes," Taylor muttered and attempted to help Isaac to his feet.



"Zac quit pouting."

"I'm not pouting mom! I'm just sitting here," Zac snapped.

"There'll be other parties. I'm sure your brother's will take you to one when you're older."

"Whatever," Zac sighed.

He sat on the living room sofa, a cartoon blaring on the tv, but he really wasnt paying to much attention. He was thinking evil thoughts about Isaac and Taylor and how much fun they were probably having, while he was sitting at home, reduced to eating Kool Aid mix out of a package and watching My Little Ponies with his younger sister.

"Zac, I want some of your Kool Aid." Jessica turned to her older brother.

Zac frowned. "No way you pig, you already had a package, this ones mine!"

Jessica's eyes widened. "MOM! Zac won't share his Kool Aid with me!"

"Baby," Zac muttered.

"Zachary, share the Kool Aid with your sister!" Mrs. Hanson wasn't in the mood for yet another silly argument.

"But mom! She already had one! This is mine!"

"Zac don't be selfish! Give some to your sister!"

Zac narrowed his eyes. "You want some of this?" he growled at Jessica.

She gave him a sweet smile. "Yes I do."

"Fine, here take it!" With that, Zac reached over, grabbed his sisters face with one hand and poured the powdery sugar mix down her throat with the other. "There! I hope you're happy now!" he shouted.

Jessica chocked and sputtered on the sweet mix, and her gasps brought Mrs. Hanson running.

"Zachary Walker Hanson! How could you? Go to your room this instant young man!"

"Fine! I don't want to be here with you guys anyway!" Zac shouted, and stormed up to his bedroom slamming the door behind him.

He flopped onto his bed, hot tears stinging at the corners of his eyes.

I'm so sick of them playing favorites, he thought disgustedly. They always let Jessica get her way.

Zac sighed and stood up. After pacing around the room for a few minutes, he finally grabbed a few comic books and settled himself into one of the old bean bag chairs the boys shared. As he flipped, uninterested throught the pages, he bitterly thought to how much fun Isaac and Taylor were probably having right at that exact moment.



If Taylor was going to use a word to describe his evening, fun would probably not be it.

He practically dragged his brother the three blocks to the Honda, muttering the whole way about how unfair life was, and when he had Isaac leaning against the car, demanded the keys.

"Tay, you’re too young. You no can drive," Isaac slurred. His breath reeked of alcohol and Taylor scrunched his nose. Giving Isaac a disgusted look, Taylor reached into his brothers pants pocket.

"What in hell you doing? Pervert." Isaac tried to jump away from Taylor, but only succeeded in nearly falling over.

"Shut up!" Taylor snapped, pulling out the car keys from Isaac’s pocket. He pulled Isaac over and pushed him into the passenger side seat, then walking around the car, let himself get into the drivers side. Sick of watching his brother struggle, Taylor fastened Isaac’s seat belt for him, then after doing his own, started the engine.

Taking a deep breath, remembering all to well his last experience behind the wheel, Taylor pulled away from the curb, only minerly nicking one car in the process.

"Ooops," he mumbled, praying no one had seen that.

"Ike, can we take the side roads home?" Taylor looked over to his brother, who appeared to have passed out. "Ike......ISAAC!" Taylor began to shake Isaac, and out of desperation, slapped his brother’s cheek.

"Huh, whaaa?"

"I only know how to get home by the highway. Is there another way we can go?"

"That’s the only way I know," Isaac grumbled. "Tay, why are you driving? I don’t feel well.."

"Are you sure there isn’t another way to go other then the highway!" Taylor shouted, not caring at this point whether Isaac’s head exploded. He was going to kill him the minute they got home anyway, so what did it matter.

"No, I don’t know. I’m gonna puke," Isaac moaned. "Pull over."

Taylor quickly turned the steering wheel and slammed on the brakes. He couldn’t care at this point if Isaac puked all his intestines out all over the road, but in the car was another story. How would he explain that one to his parents? He looked out the windshield to find he had pulled the car onto someone’s front lawn, but before he could try to get back on the road, Isaac had opened the door and sort of half fell, half crawled out of the car and was busy throwing up whatever was left in his stomach.

Taylor disgustedly got out of the car, and when he was sure Isaac finished, helped his brother back into the passenger seat. As he resumed his place behind the wheel, he once again turned to Isaac. "Look. I know you’re drunk, and sick and whatever, but I need your help. Grandpa never takes the highway. He always uses the side roads, so there has to be a way."

"There’s not," Isaac snorted, and suddenly began laughing again. "Ohhh, that hurts," he muttered.

"There has to be a way. There has to be. What about all those people who don’t like to drive on the freeways? How do they get anywhere if there aren’t any side roads to take?" Taylor wondered aloud.

As he sat, a sudden, harsh light cut across the windshield causing him to look up. "Oh shit," he exclaimed, when a man in a checkered bathrobe appeared in the doorway. The man was shouting something and he didn’t look very happy.

Taylor quickly restarted the car, but in his panic he didn’t realize he had slammed the car into drive. As his foot pounded down on the gas, he momentarily wondered why the house seemed to be getting closer. "Oh crap!" He yelled and slammed on the brakes once again.

"Don’t hit the house," Isaac offered, before slumping back against the seat.

"Thanks for the advice Ike," Taylor snapped and put the car into reverse. He floored the gas, but the tires just spun.

"Please, oh God, please tell me this isn’t happening. Please tell me we aren’t stuck on the lawn." Taylor prayed aloud as he attempted to get the car to move.

"Open up you punk! You open this door right now!"

Taylor turned to see the man in the plaid bathrobe pounding on his window. He began to scream at the top of his lungs.

"Would you shut up? I have a headache," Isaac mumbled half in, half out of conscienceness and totally unaware of the fact that a man who looked as if he could have stepped right out of a Wes Craven film, was pounding on the car window.

"I’m gonna call the cops! I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing, but if you don’t get off my lawn right now...." the man threatened.

Taylor, not knowing what else to do, simply flicked the man off, and continued to attempt backing the car up.

Finally the car worked it’s way out of the muddy ruts, and began to move backwards. As it picked up speed, Taylor, happy the car finally moved, forgot to turn the wheel and ended up on the lawn directly across the street. Finally he got himself situated and made it onto the road. He drove to the end of the street and made a left, ready to embark on the highway.

"Okay you can do this. No big deal. You’ll be doing it in a few years anyway," Taylor kept mumbling to himself as he drove along side of a semi-truck on Highway 44. The horn of another semi blared into the silent night, as the Honda drifted closer to it. Taylor sharply turned the wheel, intent on getting away from the semi, and nearly hit the tan Ford Taurus in the next lane.

"Ike, you could help me out here," Taylor snapped to his brother, who was simply staring out the window in a daze.

"I’m gonna puke again if you keep driving like this," Isaac responded.

"GOOD! You deserve to puke! Why in the hell were you drinking so much anyway? Because Juliet dumped you? Well, duh Einstein! You were just using her for sex and seeing some other girl at the same time, this Claire chick who you cared about or some crap like that. I mean what did you expect? For her to send you flowers and say thanks for using me?"

"You know nothing about women!" Isaac shouted back.

"Oh yeah? Well at least I............OH NO!" Taylor’s eyes widened as he noticed non of the other cars in front of him were moving.

"BRAKES!" Isaac, oblivious to his headache, screamed at the top of his lungs.

Taylor slammed both feet on the brake pedal and the car skidded to a stop, barely missing the back end of the Camry in front of him.

"You are going to owe me big time if we get away for this," Taylor informed his brother.



Somehow Taylor managed to get through the traffic on the highway and was actually able to get both of them and the car back into the Hanson garage in one piece, only hitting the rake which was propped against the garage wall.

Having noticed light from a window in the house as they pulled in Taylor announced. "Mom and dad are in the family room." He helped his brother out of the car.

"Huh?" Isaac nearly fell to the ground before Taylor caught him and supported Isaac’s weight as he walked. "The lights in the den are on. Mom and dad are waiting for us to get back. So I need to get you upstairs before they come to see how we’re doing."

"Good idea. They’d be pissed if they knew you drove the car," Isaac mumbled.

"Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking." Taylor shook his head and began directing his staggering brother towards the back door.

They slipped into the kitchen and made it to the stairs. However, as Taylor tried to pull Isaac up, his brother fell face first into the stairwell.

"What was that?" Taylor heard his mother ask.

"It was nothing mom!" He shouted "We’re back and we’re really really tired. I kinda tripped on Zac’s skates," Taylor continued helping Isaac up the stairs.

"I told that kid to move those things or someone was going to break their neck. Well why don’t you come in and tell us all about the party," Mrs. Hanson suggested.

"Umm, well we would but, like I said we’re really tired. Tomorrow. Why don’t you ask us about it tomorrow," Taylor pleaded.

"Well, at least come tell us good night," his mother called.

Taylor, seeing no easy way out of that one, merely acted as if he hadn’t heard his mother’s request and continued his way up the steps. He was able to drag his brother down the hall and into their bedroom. As he walked in he smiled at Zac, who was fast asleep in a bean bag chair a comic book splayed across his chest.

Isaac stumbled over to the closest bed, and collapsed on it, passing out almost immediately.

Taylor sighed. He went over to Zac and scooped him up. Amazed he could still carry his younger brother, Taylor brought Zac to his bed and tucked him in.

Exhaustion hit Taylor like a ton of bricks, and he yawned as he pulled off his black tee shirt. Absently scratching his head he made his way towards his own, comfortable bed, only to discover Isaac was already stretched across it. He let out another deep sigh, and climbed into Isaac’s bed, pulling the green comforter over his face, and drifting into a restless sleep.