Chapter 31 - Jared Hammer

"You owe me big time, pal," Taylor entered the brother’s bedroom and set a tray of ice water, toast, and Tylenol on the table next to Isaac’s bed.

"What time is it?" Isaac mumbled, rubbing his bloodshot eyes.

"One ‘o’ clock," Taylor answered. "Here," he grabbed the Tylenol and emptied two of the red and yellow capsules onto his palm. He handed Isaac the pills and the glass of water. "Take these."

"Thanks." Isaac gladly took the pills and with a small sip of water swallowed both.

"No problem," Taylor muttered. He walked over and sat on the edge of his own bed. He looked at Zac’s empty bed, the covers still tosseled from where Zac had slept. "You really should eat some of the toast. You need to get something in your stomach."

"Why thank you Dr. Taylor." Isaac grabbed a piece of the dry toast, and studied it. Making a face he took a small bite, not wanting to disturb his stomach.

The two brothers sat in silence for a few minutes. Both were thinking about the events of the previous night, but neither knew quite what to say.

Taylor sighed deeply, and picked at the small fuzzballs on his red comforter. He looked up at Isaac who was staring off into space, the half eaten piece of toast loose in his grip. He was worried about his brother’s appearance. Isaac was pale and had dark circles under his blood red eyes.

Finally unable to take the silence anymore, Taylor spoke up. "Ike, why did you do that last night?" he asked quietly.

"Do what?" Isaac broke from his trance and tried to focus his eyes on his younger brother.

"Don’t play stupid with me!" Taylor suddenly snapped. Isaac jumped at the harshness in his brother’s tone. "You know exactly what I mean! Why did you get drunk?"

Isaac took another small bite of toast, and chewed it carefully before answering. "I don’t know," he finally said.

"You don’t know? What kind of an excuse is that?" Taylor glared at Isaac who only looked away.

"Taylor what does it matter? It’s over. Let’s just drop it." Isaac tossed the last few bites of toast back onto the tray and absently wiped the crumbs from his hands on his comforter.

"I can’t believe you. You never used to be like this! I thought we all learned our lesson after that whole New York incident!" Taylor exclaimed. He shook his head. "You know, I used to look up to you and anymore I’m ashamed to be seen with you."

"Taylor," Isaac was at a loss for words. No one had ever told him anything like that before, much less his brother and best friend.

"You really haven’t been yourself lately," Taylor went on. "Dating two girls at the same time -- I mean what a completely jerky thing to do. Did you even for one second stop and think about Claire and Juliet? Especially Juliet. I mean she was your girlfriend, and you used her for sex! And then going to this party with me, getting drunk and making a total idiot of yourself! It was horrible!"

"Taylor what would you........"

"No! I’m not done yet! Now only did you get drunk, but you did it at a party that you drove to. One that you drove me to. What if I hadn’t been there to take the keys from you, huh? You may have driven home and I’m scared to think about what could have happened. I though you’d seen enough episodes of "Party of Five" to realize the seriousness of what you did," Taylor didn’t want Isaac to think he was attacking him --he had thrown in the "PO5" crack in a lame attempt to lighten the mood a bit-- but he still wanted Isaac to really and truly understand the possible consequences his actions could have had. He cared to much about his brother to let something happen to him.

"Taylor, I don’t know what to say," Isaac knew Taylor was only looking out for him, but still his brother’s words stung hard, and he was feeling awful.

"Isaac," Taylor’s voice cracked as he spoke. "You could have died. If you had gotten behind the wheel you could have killed yourself or someone else. I mean we’re lucky I didn’t get us killed."


"I don’t know what I would have done if you had died. Ike, you’re my best friend. I’ve never tried to hide that. I love you and I’m worried about you."

Silence ensued once again, as both boys thought about the impact of what could have happened if Isaac had been behind the wheel sunk in. The minutes which ticked by seemed like hours. Neither Isaac nor Taylor said anything. They simply sat, staring at each other.

"Taylor," Isaac spoke, his voice shattering the silence which had built up like a glass wall in between the brothers. "I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have drank anything, and I won’t do it again. I just, I really couldn’t deal with losing Juliet. I feel so horrible about what I did to her, but at the same time, I’m still really unsure about my feelings for Claire. And the alcohol was a way to rid myself of all that confusion, but it only masked it behind some drunken web or something. I mean hell, I really don’t even like the taste of it, and I definitely didn’t enjoy throwing up everything I’ve ever eaten and I’m not particularly enjoying the monstrous headache I have now."

"Do you want me to get you something?" Taylor’s voice was much softer.

"No thanks. The toast and water are fine," Isaac smiled. "What did you tell mom and dad?"

"I told them you ate something at the party which disagreed with you and you were up all night puking. I guess it wasn’t a complete lie."

Isaac slowly got out of his bed, and padded over to Taylor’s. He sat next to his younger brother and put his hand on his shoulder. "Thanks for taking care of me last night," he whispered.

Taylor stared at Isaac and could see that his older brother regretted his actions. And not just because he was hungover, but he genuinely felt remorse for what he had done. "It’s okay Ike. That’s what I’m here for." Taylor felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted off his shoulders when he hugged his brother.

After the embrace broke, Isaac looked at the ground and sighed. "Taylor, I agree with what you said, but......" .

"But what?"

Isaac looked up and continued. "I really wish you wouldn’t look down on me and put yourself up on a pedestal. I’m only human and I make mistakes. And as fuzzy as my memory of last night is, I’m pretty sure I saw you getting pretty friendly with Claudia last night. What would Gretchen think about that, and did you ever wonder how far you two might have gone if I hadn’t burst in?"

Taylor gave Isaac a look of wide eyed amazement. "I can’t believe you’re even comparing the two situations!"

"Why not? You were practically doing the same thing I did."

"That is so not true," Taylor exclaimed, jumping up from his bed. "First of all Gretchen knew that I was going to the party and that I was going to go with another girl. You keep trying to make our situations look the same but they are totally different. I’m not sleeping with either girl. And unlike you, I regret what I did last night and I don’t plan on repeating it."

"I do regret what I did, I hate myself for the hurt I caused Juliet. But I can’t change it now, it’s done. I can only move on and pray that maybe she’ll in time forgive me." Isaac blinked rapidly a few times, keeping back the tears that threatened to spill over. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. As he breathed, he tried to change the subject back to Taylor. "Are you going to tell Gretchen about last night? The Claudia thing I mean?"

Taylor walked over to a dresser and stared at his reflection in the mirror. He lightly pounded his fists on the dresser top and sighed. "I don’t know," he admitted. "I feel really bad for it, but it was like I needed it or something, you know?"

"How do you mean?" Isaac waited to hear his brother’s logic on this one.

"I knew I liked Gretchen," Taylor walked back over and resumed his position, opposite Isaac on his bed. "But I never really knew how much. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed kissing Claudia and I didn’t exactly beg her to put her clothes back on or anything, but the whole time, when my mind was working clearly that is, I was wishing that it was Gretchen standing there with me. I wanted it to be her. I really regret what I did. But I’m glad I did it because my mistake caused me to realize how much I need Gretchen. I don’t want to say I love her, but I think I’m really close." Taylor looked at Isaac, needing his brother’s reassurance. "Do you think I should tell her what I did?"

"No. I don’t think you should tell her." Isaac ran his fingers through his tangled hair. "If you really think you love her, then just make sure you never do anything to hurt her, now or ever." Isaac thought about his own advice and wondered why he couldn’t help his situation in the same way.

Taylor nodded. "You’re right." He stood up and walked towards the door.

"Hey Tay," Isaac called after his brother. "Remind me to take you on a few side roads before you drive on the highway with me in the car ever again."

"Sure thing," Taylor laughed. "Anyway, you better get dressed and come downstairs so mom and dad don’t think you’ve fallen off the earth or something." With that Taylor left the room and headed downstairs.

Even after taking three Tylenol and standing for nearly twenty minutes in a steaming hot shower, Isaac still felt miserable. His stomach was churning, the toast and ice water laying heavy, and his head felt as though it might explode. Forgoing the idea of actually getting dressed and facing the real world, Isaac chose to throw on a pair of old sweats that stated UOT in bright yellow letters down one leg, and an old Tulsa Soccer League sweatshirt. Isaac literally had to drag himself down the stairs, and when he had tackled that feat, he stumbled off into the living room and dropped onto the sofa, curling into a ball on the soft cushions.

"Isaac? Is that you?"

At the sound of his mother’s voice, Isaac winced. Any noise right now wasn’t tolerable, and the last thing Isaac wanted was his mother barking at him. Okay so she wasn’t barking, she had barely raised her voice, but with the jack hammers in his head going double time, the horrible tossing and flopping roller coaster joyride his stomach was taking, and the overall achy stiffness that invaded his every limb, Isaac figured he’d be better off if he just crumpled to the floor and died, rather then deal with the hangover from hell. Even the hangover he suffered in New York after his, Taylor’s and Zac’s encounter with the mini bar wasn’t nearly as bad as this. Isaac took note that Juliet was the source of his drinking both times, and was beginning to think his life would have been better off if he had never met her. Immediately he felt guilty for his thoughts. It wasn’t Juliet’s fault that he had lied to Taylor, nor was it her fault that he had cheated on her. Putting any sort of blame on her at all would be entirely out of line, and even with as horrible as he felt, it dwelled in the back of Isaac’s mind that maybe he deserved to feel this horrible. This was his punishment for being a liar and a cheater. If I live through this I will never lie again, cross my heart and hope to die..........

"Sweetheart are you okay?" Mrs. Hanson’s concerned voice broke into Isaac’s groggy vow.

Cracking one eye open, Isaac looked up at his mother, who was crouching in front of him next to the sofa. "No, I think I’m going to die," was his muttered reply.

Placing a wrist on his forehead, Mrs. Hanson sighed. "You don’t feel warm. Taylor said you were up sick all night. I wish you would have gotten me."

"We didn’t want to disturb you," Isaac lied. Doh, right away I’ve already broken my promise. Will the madness never end? Or am I doomed for all eternity to be a liar and a cheat? Am I really that horrible? I never meant for.....


"Wha....?" Isaac shifted his gaze once again to his mother’s face.

"Sweetie I’ve been talking to you." Mrs. Hanson’s genuine concern was growing as she took in her son’s ragged appearance. His damp hair hung limply, showing a horrid contrast between the dark, soaked locks and his pale face. His normally bright eyes were bloodshot, so much so that one could barely see the whites. He was collapsed face down on the sofa, one arm hanging limply off the side, the other buried somewhere underneath his body.

"I’m sorry, what were you saying?"

"I was saying that Taylor told us you ate something that disagreed with you. I’m wondering if you might have caught food poisoning. What did you eat? I’m going to call the doctor." Mrs. Hanson made a move to stand.

Isaac’s hand shot out, and he weakly grabbed his mother by the hem of her shirt. "No, don’t call the doctor. I’ll be fine. I think I just have the flu or something. That’s all, no biggie. You know how I get when I’m sick. I just overreact. I’m sure I’ll be fine tomorrow. Please don’t call the doctor. If I don’t feel better tomorrow then you can call. Just let me lie here. I’m sure everything is okay." His bloodshot eyes pleaded with his mother.

"Isaac, you really should go to the doctor. Look at you! You look terrible."

"I just didn’t sleep that much because I spent most the night in the bathroom. Trust me, I’ll be fine. Really. I’m just going to take a nap or something."

"Ike, I know you’re only saying that because you hate the doctor......"

"Mooooooom, I swear, I’ll be fine."

Mrs. Hanson sighed. "Fine, but don’t complain to me later on." Her tone softened. "If I don’t see a marked improvement in twenty four hours, I don’t care if I have to chain you to the car and drag you behind the bumper. You are going to the doctor’s."

Isaac gave his mother a weak smile. "Sounds like you have yourself a deal there." He closed his eyes, and as he drifted back off to sleep, a silent prayer was said to the God of making little brothers and sisters leave you alone when you're miserable.

The day after his dreadful hangover and after convincing his mother for the umpteenth time that he was in fact fine, Isaac decided that it was time he called Juliet and tried to once again apologize. He had his whole speech planned, and only hoped she would allow him to speak before she began yelling. He nervously tapped his fingers on the top of his desk as the phone rang. When Juliet answered he nearly hung up, but sucking in a deep breath, he instead muttered a small, "Juliet?"

"Isaac? Why are you calling me? I have nothing to say to you."

"Juliet, wait I......" The dial tone was harsh in Isaac’s ear. He set the receiver in the cradle, leaned back in his chair and sighed. Do I expect her to talk to me? Yes, I do. She should at least let me apologize. Isaac groaned and put his head in his hands. "Stupid, stupid, stupid," he declared aloud, punctuating each syllable with a good hit to the head.

"Who you? Stupid? I never would have guessed." Zac walked in to witness Isaac abusing himself.

"Shut up Zac." Isaac glared at his younger brother.

"What? You said it, not me."

Looking up, Isaac gave Zac a harsh stare. "Do not push me. Or you will be seriously regretting it."

Zac rolled his eyes. "That a threat?" he mocked Isaac’s serious tone.

"If you knew what was good for you, you’d leave me the hell alone," Isaac snapped.

Zac frowned. "Hey, lighten up would ya? I’m only fooling around. You don’t have to bite my head off."

Isaac sighed. "Sorry. I’m just, God. I’m just a little pissed at myself right now, okay? It’s got nothing to do with you."

"Yeah, well whatever. I’m going outside."

Shaking his head, Zac left the room.

Taking another deep breath, Isaac lifted the phone once again and dialed the Brisbois house. "Busy, great," he muttered, setting the phone in the cradle. This was going to be harder then he thought.

It wasn't more than two weeks later that Taylor burst into the Hanson house. Tossing his windbreaker to the floor, he went to the kitchen, intent on using the phone. Unfortunately Jessica had beat him to it.

"Yeah so then Megan got all mad about it, and I was like, I didn’t even see anything happen......." Jessica continued her pointless conversation, ignoring her older brother who appeared to be having some sort of fit next to her. Finally she said, "Katie? Hold on a minute, okay? It looks like my stupid brother wants something." Covering the mouthpiece, Jessica turned to Taylor. "What?" she snapped.

"I need to phone, so get off," was his reply.

Jessica made a face. "Whatever Taylor, I was here first. You can wait."

Taylor shook his head. "No way, this is to important. Get off the phone now!"

Jessica stood her ground. "NO!" she shouted. "I’m sick of you guys bossing me around. You think you’re so great, but you’re really just a bunch of annoying stupid boys. Now go away, I’m talking to Katie."

With one quick movement, Taylor grabbed the phone out of Jessica’s grasp shouted, "She’ll call you later," into the receiver, and hung it up.

Not believing that her brother had just done that, Jessica punched him in the arm, and stormed out of the kitchen, informing Taylor that he was going to be in big trouble when mom and dad found out about what he did.

Taylor didn’t pay her ranting any attention. He quickly dialed his friend, Jedidiah Rush’s number and prayed he was home.

" ‘Lo?" A bored voice picked up the phone.

"Jedidiah, it’s Taylor. I need to ask you something."

"Hey Tay. What’s up?"

Not wanting to waste time with small talk, Taylor jumped right in. "Who’s Jared Hammer?"

Jedidiah snorted into the phone. "Jared Hammer?" he spat. "Who cares?"

"I do. Who is he?"

"Just some jock at my school. Ninth grade. He plays football. Stupid as all hell though. He was in my eighth grade English class this year. Why?"

Taylor twisted the phone cord in his hand as he spoke. "I was just over at Gretchen’s and she was really upset. I guess Jared saw her at the rec. center playing basketball. She told me she was all excited because this group of girl’s she never really talks to asked her to play with them. Anyway, they were all just fooling around and this Jared Hammer guy came over and started making fun of her."

"Well, he’s just a jerk," Jedidiah informed Taylor. "Most of the football players are."

"Yeah, but he really hurt her feelings." Taylor could feel his chest tighten as it often did when he got angry. "He kept calling her fat and saying he hoped she didn’t fall through the floor. You’ve seen Gretchen. She isn’t fat. Granted she’s not skin and bones either, but still!"

"Man, that’s harsh. What an asshole," Jedidiah said.

"Where does he live?" Taylor asked.

"Whoa buddy, slow down. Why do you need to know that?" Jedidiah asked. "You’re not planning on doing anything are you?"

"No I just........." Taylor didn’t really know what to say. "I just want to know is all."

After a fair amount of badgering, Jedidiah gave his friend the address with the strict promise that if Taylor killed Jared, he was going to say he had never heard of a Taylor Hanson if asked.

Taylor wrote down the address Jedidiah spouted off, and after agreeing to his friend’s terms, hung up the phone and sat at the kitchen table, studying the ripped sheet of paper.

"Hey Tay! Whatcha reading?" Zac bounced into the kitchen and headed straight to the refrigerator.

"Nothing," Taylor mumbled, still lost in thought.

Zac joined his brother at the table and began munching on a carrot stick.

"Do you have to eat that thing so loud?" Taylor snapped, glaring at Zac.

"Yes," Zac replied giving him a strange look. "It’s a carrot. Carrots are crunchy, I can’t help that. I’m so sorry if I disturbed your study of that ever so interesting piece of scrap paper. What is it anyway?" He tried to grab the paper from Taylor’s grasp.

"None of your business," Taylor informed him, snatching his hand away.

Zac pouted. "Fine, don’t show me see if I care."

"Zac just........" Suddenly Taylor had an idea. "Hey, want to go on a walk with me?"

"Where to?" Zac asked slowly, suspiciously eyeing his brother.

"Oh I don’t know. Nowhere special, just around." Taylor’s mind was clicking away.

Zac could tell Taylor was lying, but was rather desperate to find something to do. Avery had invited him to her tea party, but Zac just didn’t feel like sipping imaginary liquid with teddy bears. "All right, let me grab my shoes," he agreed, racing from the kitchen in search of his Airwalks.

"Mom, I really can pick out my own clothes. I thought you wanted help finding things for dad," Isaac moaned as he followed his mother through JCPenney’s.

"I already got some things for your father, but I figured since we were already here we might as well get a few things for you too. You haven’t been clothes shopping with me in quite some time," Mrs. Hanson commented as she searched through a rack of Dockers.

"Mom, I’m sixteen," Isaac reminded her. "I’m fully capable of picking out my own outfits."

"I know honey. It’s just that lately you’ve been looking kind of blah. You should really think about adding some color to your wardrobe. It might be a nice change for Asia. Here how about this?" Mrs. Hanson held up a bright yellow polo sweater.

Isaac’s jaw dropped. "I think that is the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life!"

"Oh no it’s not. Bedsides you could use a few more sweaters for this winter," Mrs. Hanson pointed out. "And it is a lovely color."

"Mom! People one hundred miles away would be able to see me in that thing!" Isaac exclaimed.

"Okay fine," Mrs. Hanson put the sweater back on a table. "You don’t like it."

After walking around the store for a few more minutes, Mrs. Hanson once again turned to her son. "Do you need any more underwear?"

"Mom!" Isaac glanced around to see if anyone had heard her. "No. I’m fine."

"Are you sure? Do the ones you have still fit?" She wouldn’t let the subject drop.

"Yes, mom. I’m positive," Isaac tried to assure her, but it was too late. Mrs. Hanson had already begun examining a bin filled with boxer shorts.

"How’s Taylor doing," She asked.

"Fine, I guess." Isaac was a little confused by the sudden change of subject. "I think he’s working on the Hamlet paper you assigned or something. Speaking of that, are we still taking classes over the summer?"

"No honey," Mrs. Hanson laughed. "I meant with underwear. I know he’s grown a lot this year. Do you have any idea what size he takes? The ones he has are probably starting to get a little snug or ride up in the back. That can’t be comfortable for him."

"Oh my God," Isaac muttered and made his way out of the underwear department as quickly as possible. True, she was his mother, but the fact that she was spending time contemplating the fit of Taylor’s underwear was really making him sick.

"Zac just go up to the door with me and do what we practiced," Taylor pleaded as they stood in front of a large brick house.

"Tay, I don’t know about this. Isn’t asking for phony donations illegal or something?" Zac had to squint his eyes in the bright sunlight.

Taylor shrugged. "How should I know, I’m not a lawyer. It’s just really important that I see this guy."

"Why? Because he made fun of Gretchen? People make fun of me all the time and I don’t see you or Ike or Marie or anyone trying to track them down," Zac tried to state his case. The last thing he really wanted to do was beg for money from some big football player who could probably crush him between his toes if he wanted.

"Zac," Taylor’s blue eyes looked desperate. "He called Gretchen a fat pig and told her she was just wasting her time at the rec. center. All she was doing was playing basketball with a few friends. She wasn’t bothering him. There was no reason for him to do that and when she told me about it she started to cry and..."

"Okay, okay," Zac interrupted his brother. "I’ll do it." Zac could never remember Taylor getting so worked up over someone before. Plus Gretchen seemed like a nice enough girl and Zac knew what it felt like to be made fun of and called fat when it wasn’t true.

The boys slowly made their way up the front porch steps. The sun beat down on their backs and a few beads of sweat trickled down their faces, a combination of the hot sun and their own nervousness.

Zac closed his eyes for a few seconds and took a deep breath. Opening his eyes, Zac looked towards his brother who was standing about a foot away. Taylor tried to give Zac a reassuring smile, but the butterflies were flapping around in his stomach. His hands were clammy and his breath short. Taylor had no clue why he was having his younger brother do this or what would result from it.

Zac stared the doorbell down and then bravely pushed his finger against the button. A few seconds later a very tall, very large teenager answered the door.

"What do you want?" The big boy demanded.

Zac’s face paled as he held the make shift donation jar which Taylor had constructed only an hour earlier into the air. "Are you Jared Hammer," Zac asked, attempting to look into his eyes.

"Yeah," the boy barked. He looked down at Zac and then flicked his eyes towards Taylor who stood a little ways away.

"My brother and I are taking donations for Bethany English church’s project Homefest. We’re trying to raise enough money from the players in Tulsa High’s athletic league in order to construct a house for a needy family," Zac recited the lines Taylor had drilled into him on the walk over.

"Well I really don’t give money to those kinds of things," Jared said.

"Can’t you just spare a few cents?" Taylor suddenly spoke up. "It’s for charity and......"

"Hey you gals look pretty familiar," Jared stepped out onto the front porch closing the screen door behind him. "Aren’t you that Hanson band or something?"

"Yeah," Taylor answered. He stared at Jared and wondered where in the world he got off calling Gretchen fat. First of all she wasn’t and secondly he wasn’t’ exactly skinny. Jared was actually huge and Taylor doubted that his gut was entirely composed of muscle.

"My sister likes your music," Jared snickered. "She’s nine and drive me crazy listening to it."

"Do you know Gretchen Halloran?" Taylor asked out of the blue.

"" Jared just looked at him.

"Did you call her fat?" Taylor accused, not realizing he had done it until after the words were uttered.

"What do you care?" Jared asked.

"Well it wasn’t very nice!" Taylor groaned inwardly and wished he could have thought of something better to say, but he was mind wasn’t working properly as he stared at the huge football player who towered over both himself and Zac.

"Mom, come on," Isaac attempted to drag his mother out of the department store after she had purchased new underwear for Taylor, Zac and himself.

"Just give me a minute. I’m going to take a quick look at these socks. Mackie’s are all full of holes."

"Fine," Isaac grumbled. He made his way over to the jeans area and began to wander aimlessly around while his mother continued shopping.

He hadn’t even realized he was standing next to someone until a very familiar female voice said. "Hello Isaac."

Isaac turned and found himself standing face to face with Juliet Brisbois.

"Oh, hey," he answered and tried to give her a smile. It was the first time they had even seen each other since the day they had broken up, and Isaac was amazed that she spoke to him. Ever since that day nearly two weeks ago, he had tried calling her house just about every day only to either get informed that Juliet wasn’t home or a dial tone signaling that she had once again hung up on him. He had just about had it up to here, and was seriously thinking of not bothering to call anymore. So the fact that she initiated the conversation made Isaac feel as though maybe, just maybe she was ready to handle this in a mature fashion. "So are you doing?" he asked, trying to break the uncomfortable silence.

"Oh pretty good, and you?"

Isaac felt his stomach tie itself into knots as he looked at her. Just seeing Juliet there, sorting through a rack of jeans caused al the feelings of guilt he had been ignoring the past few weeks to come flooding back.

"I’m fine thanks," Juliet hastily replied.

Isaac noticed how very formal their conversation was sounding. Almost like a conversation two school mates would have if they somehow ran into each other five years after Graduation.

"So I saw your brother with that girl, what’s her name........Gretchen." Juliet switched the focal point of the conversation of themselves.

"Yeah, Gretchen. He really likes her. I never pictured Tay going for a girl like her."

"Why not?" Juliet questioned. "Because she isn’t a beauty queen? It may come as a surprise to you Isaac but not all boys are shallow and only care about looks." She gave Isaac a pointed glare.

"No it’s not that, it’s just......." Isaac was at a loss for words and the way Juliet was looking at him -- as if he was the most heartless person in the world -- wasn’t helping. "So trying to find a pair of jeans?" he finally blurted out.

"Not for me. For my dad. His birthday is coming up." She replied her words sounding just a bit snippy.

"Oh, Isaac there you are," Mrs. Hanson walked over to her son. "I’ve been looking for you. Now I know you boys like boxers, but they were having a really good sale on Fruit of the Loom briefs, so I picked up a few pairs for the three of you. I figured it wouldn’t hurt and this way you will most definitely have enough clean underwear for Asia. Who knows how hard it may be to find a laundry mat over there."

"Mom." Isaac attempted to control his urge to scream. "Fine, that’s fine."

"Isaac your mother’s right. There’s nothing worse then dirty underwear, especially in Asia." She gave him a fake smile, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Oh, Juliet, hi. I didn’t even notice you hiding over there," Mrs. Hanson smiled. "Would you like to hit some stores with me and Ike?"

"She’s looking for a gift for her dad," Isaac quickly jumped in. "Anyway we should get going. Me, Tay, and Zac all need new journals for the trip, remember?" Isaac was desperate to get his mother out of there and into a safe store where she couldn’t embarrass him anymore.

"He’s not gay and he’s not a girl!" Taylor screamed at Jared who had managed to bring Zac near the brink of tears. After the jerk had informed Taylor about what a fat loser Gretchen was, he had proceeded to trash their band, call them fags and then went of on Zac, using every insult and choice word under the sun.

"Yeah he is," Jared looked as if he was loving every minute of this. "Oh look he’s gonna cry. Only little gay boys cry, but that’s just what you are isn’t it?"

"Shut the hell up!" Taylor ran at Jared full force. With all his might he pushed the football player back against the house. "He’s not gay and he’s really talented. he’s a much better musician than you are a football player."

"How would you know? Girly boys don’t know anything about sports," Jared mocked.

"You actually expect me to believe you’re able to run across a football field with that beer gut sticking out?" Taylor yelled and punched Jared in the stomach.

"You asshole!" Jared shouted and grabbed Taylor by the shoulders. "Who the hell do you think you are?" Jared began to violently shake Taylor, who tried to fight back, but was helpless under the larger boys grip.

"Stop it!" Zac screamed, his voice cracking. He ran up and grabbed one of Jared’s arms, only to be pushed to the ground.

When he looked up, Zac saw Jared push Taylor off the side of the porch and jump on top of him before his brother had a chance to move. Zac started screaming hysterically for help, praying that someone would listen. He noticed a man walking his dog on the other side of the road. He ran over to him shouting for help, but the man didn’t want to be bothered and only mumbled something about how immature kids were these days.

Seeing no other option, Zac broke into a run. His feet pounded hard on the sidewalk as he ran towards the direction of his house, yelling for help at the top of his lungs the entire way.

Taylor tried to scream, but found it impossible. His breath was caught in his throat and he could barely breath, let alone yell.

Jared had him by the shoulders and was repeatedly slamming Taylor’s body into the ground. There was a ringing in Taylor’s head which only got worse each time it was hit against the hard dirt. Because Jared was kneeling on his stomach and chest, Taylor felt as though his rib cage would collapse under the pressure at any given second. Suddenly Jared dropped Taylor’s head to the ground. Taylor prayed the ordeal was over, but before he knew it punches were being delivered to his face. His vision soon became blurry and after a few more blasts, he was unable to open his right eye. He tasted something warm and thick in his mouth and realized he was bleeding somewhere. Taylor figured that Jared had busted his lip and hoped the boy wouldn’t knock out any teeth while he was at it. Taylor couldn’t remember ever being in so much pain before. he tried to keep his mind off of what was happening by letting his thoughts wander. His mind drifted back to when he was younger and he and Isaac would "beat" each other up, pretending to be great Karate masters. He tried to pretend that was what was happening. I Ike was just practicing a few chops and would soon stop. Then they’d go inside and eat some grilled cheese sandwich’s with lots of cheese, like their mom always fixed for them.

Only with Isaac, things had never been this painful. For the first time in his life, Taylor felt utterly helpless. With his open eye, Taylor tried to look past Jared who was screaming obscenities and spitting so much that it almost felt as if he was under a shower which had hardly any water pressure and simply was sending down a steady stream of water droplets. Then suddenly everything went black.

"Dad I swear, she pulled me into the underwear section of every department store," Isaac moaned to his father after they had finished carrying all the shopping bags into the house.

Mr. Hanson couldn’t help but laugh. "Ike," he began, but suddenly stopped. "Did you hear something?"

The two stood in silence for a moment. Off in the distance they could hear a voice calling out for help. They looked at each other wide eyed.

"That sounds like Zac," Isaac whispered.

Without another word, the two raced out of the house and ran down the sidewalk to see a hysterical Zac coming at them in lightning speed.

"Dad! Ike!" Zac managed to scream as he gasped for breath. "It’s Tay!" Zac collapsed into a fit of hysterics.

"Zac! ZAC!" Mr. Hanson firmly grabbed Zac by his small shoulders and looked his hysterical son in the eyes. "What happened to Tay? What’s going on?"

"He got in a fight," Zac said in between sobs and gasps for breath.

"Where is he? Who did he fight with?" Mr. Hanson tried to comfort his son and get information out of him at the same time.

"This guy made fun of Gretchen, called her fat. And then he started saying how he hated our band and made fun of us. Then he called me a fag and I guess Taylor couldn’t take it anymore and starting pushing him around." Zac burst into a fresh set of tears. "But the guy was too big for him. I tried to help, but I couldn’t and I tried to get help but no one stopped. Everyone ignored me."

"Oh Zac," Mr. Hanson enveloped his son in a firm hug. He kissed the top of Zac’s damp blond head. "Can you take us there?"

Zac nodded and silently followed his father and brother to the car.

"Oh my God! Taylor!" Mr. Hanson opened the door and burst out of the car without bothering to shut off the engine or even close his door.

The sight that lay before him made Isaac sick to his stomach. His brother was laying on his back, alone in someone’s front lawn. his eyes were closed and one was swollen. His lips was busted and his face was blanketed in blood. Blood was also caked in his blond hair. His breathing was shallow and came out in rapid bursts.

Isaac watched as his father firmly gripped Taylor behind the neck with one hand and put his other behind his son’s back. Mr. Hanson raised his son off the found and Taylor’s arms fell limply to his sides, his fingertips just grazing the top of the grass.

Taylor could feel someone holding him up and could hear some mumbling, but was unable to make out what was being said. He tried to open his eyes, but his muscles weren’t cooperating. He tried to speak but was unable to find his voice.

"Isaac, drive us to the hospital. Zac sit in the front, I’m going to hold him in the back!" Mr. Hanson gently wrapped his arms around Taylor and picked him up. He couldn’t help but wonder how many years it had been since he had carried Taylor in his arms.

Isaac and Zac turned and darted to the car, following their father’s orders at lightning speed. It almost seemed as if they were at boot camp and Mr. Hanson was the squad leader, barking out commands which were to be followed by everyone without any questions.

"Dad?" Taylor, finding his voice, managed to whisper the word.

"I’m right here Taylor," Mr. Hanson gently reassured his son as he attempted to remove the blond strands of hair from the cuts on his face.

Taylor slightly opened his left eye, but was still unable to get the eyelid over his right to move. His vision was a little blurred, but he could tell he was in his father’s car.

"Dad," Taylor whispered again.

"Yeah?" Mr. Hanson continued to smooth down his sons hair, which was in knotty clumps with blood, dirt and grass intermixed among the normally golden strands.

"Is Zac okay?" Taylor didn’t know if Jared had gone after his little brother as well.

"Zac’s fine. he’s the one who came to get your brother and I."

"P-please don’t be mad at him. He didn’t want to do it. It was......" Taylor’s open eye filled with water and he was forced to blink a few times , sending a thin line of droplets down his cheek.

"Shhh," Mr. Hanson tried to silence his son. The last thing he needed was for Taylor to get himself worked up. "I don’t know the whole story, but I’m not mad at anyone. I just want to make sure you’re going to be okay."

No one said anything for the rest of the ride, but each was lost in their own train of thought. Isaac wondered what his brothers were doing at this guys house to begin with, and how could this jerk have been so cruel as to beat the crap out of a boy, who from the looks of it was unable to fight back.

Zac couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. He wondered if he could have helped his brother or if he’d made the right decision by going home.

Taylor, being in too much pain to really think of anything coherently, just clung to his father in the back seat of the Honda, as a young child would. Indeed he felt like a small kid right then -- desperately clinging to hid daddy with the hopes that he would be able to make everything better and take all the pain away.


Chapter 32 - Revenge is Sweet

"All right, which one is he?" Isaac pulled his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose, and scanned the crowd of teenagers that loitered on the sidewalk in front of a small shopping center.

Isaac, Taylor and Zac had been sitting in the Honda Accord for a good hour, waiting for the usual crowd of teens to show up at the Kensington Galleria, the spot most kids went to hang out after school let out.

Isaac had parked the car across the street from the Galleria and let the car sit, idling as the boys had silently waited. Now the groups were getting larger, and Isaac watched them carefully, waiting for Taylor to pick out their target.

Taylor apprehensively looked around, his worried blue eyes flicking back and forth quickly from one group of kids to another. "I don’t know, I don’t see him," he muttered frowning. Suddenly he appeared. Jared Hammer stood out among the group of girls he was surrounded by, his frame looking massive compared to the admiring teens around him. "There he is," Taylor whispered, his throat suddenly very dry. Just the sight of his attacker caused Taylor’s body to tense up, his still aching muscles and bruises flaring up with pain. He took in a sharp breath, and let it out in one quick whistling gasp.

"All right, you two wait here," Isaac commanded stepping out of the car.

"Ike wait," Taylor suddenly said, grabbing his brother’s sleeve before he could close the car door. "Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, okay? Let’s just go home. I really want to go."

Isaac stared down into his brother’s desperate eyes and shook his head fiercely. "No way Tay. There is no way in hell I’m letting this bastard pick on my brothers and get away with it." Isaac’s eyes narrowed and Taylor could see the anger in them even behind the black sunglasses.

"No, this asshole is going to get what he deserves." With that Isaac shook Taylor’s hand off his shirt and slammed the car door. He dodged the heavy traffic that flowed slowly along W. 71st street, and headed for the group of girls.

Taylor and Zac worriedly watched their older brother make his way across the street and walk up to Jared Hammer. Taylor slumped against the front seat, the butterflies in his stomach working overtime. He absently rubbed at one of the bruises on his arm as he watched Isaac exchanging words with Jared. The emergency room doctor had let Taylor go with only a tube of medicated cream for his cuts, a prescription for the aches, and the strict warning that he should not get into anymore fights. Now, nearly four days later, most of his bruises were beginning to change from a deep purple to a faded yellow. Most of the scratches he had were covered by a thin scab and were no longer than a pen cap each. As for the nice shiner Jared gave him, the swelling had gone down and was now a vapid bluish black.

Isaac could feel the anger welling in his chest as he walked up to the group of kids on the sidewalk. Taking a deep breath, he tapped Jared on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, are you Jared Hammer?"

Jared turned around and stared at Isaac. "I don’t believe this," he laughed. "Another Hanson fag wants to start something with me!" Jared leaned forward, putting his face right into Isaac’s. "You bring your faggot brothers with you? I’d like to beat the piss out of that middle one. Oh wait! I already did that!" Jared snickered at his own little joke.

Isaac’s temper flared. He was already upset enough and Jared’s stabs didn’t help. He motioned for Jared to follow him away from the group. When the two boys were off to the side, alone, Jared picked up his insults from where he left off.

"Aww, whatsa matter, huh? You angry now? You gonna cry? WAAAHHHH! I’m a faggy Hanson boy, WAAHHH," Jared pretended to wipe tears from his eyes.

Isaac watched Jared’s antics for a minute. Finally, when the imbecile had finished his charade, Isaac poked him in the chest with his index finger. "Listen asshole. Don’t you ever....."

"What are you gonna do huh?" Jared interrupted. "Beat me up? OOOH, I’m really scared, please don’t......"

It only took Isaac a second to react. His anger boiled over and before he even himself realized it, his clenched fist connected with Jared’s jaw. Hard.

Jared stood for a moment, stunned, his hand pressed against his aching jaw. Then his expression turned from shock to anger.

"That’s it! You’re going to get it!"

Taylor and Zac could hear Jared’s shriek, even from their position in the car. Both boys jumped and looked at each other wide eyed. They had seen Isaac punch Jared. Taylor had to hold Zac back, who was ready to jump out of the car to help his older brother.

"Chill out Zac," Taylor warned. "You’ve seen what this guy did to me."

"But Tay!" Zac exclaimed. "What if he beats up Ike too?"

"I don’t know," Taylor honestly replied.

Jared had attacked him so quickly, he never had a chance to react. He only prayed that if it came to a brawl, Isaac could hold his own.

Jared lunged, but Isaac easily side stepped the larger boy’s advance. When Jared turned to face him again, Isaac felt himself get livid. Just looking at the boy caused hatred he never knew he could have to fill his every limb. Letting out a loud scream, so loud in fact, that it surprised himself, Isaac kicked Jared as hard as he could in the groin.

Jared fell to the ground, his hands clutching his crotch, a low groan escaping his lips.

The groups of teens were now silent, as they listened to Isaac scream at Jared.

Isaac had Jared by the front of his shirt, his hands ripping the material as he shouted. "Listen to me you fucker! If I ever, EVER, see you come near my brothers or my family, or most of all me, ever again, I will kill you! Do you got that! I will fucking KILL YOU!"

With that, Isaac released Jared, and without looking back, walked away to the sound of applause from the teens on the sidewalk. He crossed the street without looking, getting a few angry honks in the process.

Opening the car door, he climbed in and sat behind the wheel, his head leaning against the head rest, eyes closed. When he opened them, he saw Taylor and Zac staring at him. They couldn’t believe what they just witnessed. They had never really seen Isaac lose his temper like that before, and it was almost scary. The things their brother had done, the words that had come from his mouth, we so un-Ike like, that they suddenly saw Isaac in a whole new light. A great amount of respect was passed in the looks Taylor and Zac gave to their older brother.

Shaking his head, and wiping at the perspiration that trickled down the side of his face, Isaac sighed. "Let’s get the hell out of here," he muttered, starting the engine and easing the car out into traffic.

Taylor and Zac merely nodded their heads, not wanting to argue with their brother. The boys sat silent, not even the radio playing, as they drove towards their home.

It only took Isaac twenty minutes to get home, even with the heavy traffic, and as he tossed the car keys onto the foyer table, he announced, "I’m getting a drink. Anyone want one?" When no one responded, he just shrugged and walked off towards the kitchen.

"Whoa," Zac whispered, as soon as his brother left the room. "Tay, did you see that?"

Taylor nodded. "Of course I saw it. I was there, remember?"

Zac’s eyes were wide and they shone excitedly. "Who knew Ike had it in him. Wow, he’s like the coolest brother ever."

Taylor again nodded, but felt a little hurt by Zac’s words. So Ike was tough. So what? He could be tough.........when he wanted to be. Sighing, Taylor headed for the kitchen, suddenly thirsty himself. He walked in and saw Isaac gulping a glass of juice. Grabbing his own cup from the cupboard, Taylor opened the refrigerator. Rolling his eyes, he grabbed the empty juice container from the shelf. "Ike!" he said, exasperated.

Isaac just looked at Taylor over the rim of his glass. "What?" he muttered.

Taylor held up the empty juice carton and shook it for emphasis. "This!" He frowned and without thinking, placed the empty container back into the fridge, instead grabbing the skim milk. As he poured himself a frosty glass, he felt Isaac come up behind him, and shivered as his brother leaned close.

"Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, tell mom and dad about what happened today, got that?"

Taylor turned and faced Isaac, whose brown eyes bore straight into his own. "Yeah, okay Ike, I got it," he answered.

Zac walked in and saw Taylor backed up against the counter, Isaac standing directly in front of him. "What’s going on guys," he asked, mildly surprised.

"This goes for you too Zac," Isaac said. "What happened today does not leave this room. Don’t tell your friends, don’t tell your little girlfriend......"

"She’s not my girlfriend," Zac muttered.

"Whatever, the point is, not a word of this is breathed beyond these three people."

Zac nodded, as did Taylor. It was a weird feeling, but it was almost as if they were scared of Isaac now. The hard look in his normally soft brown eyes was startling. But suddenly, Isaac smiled, and his eyes lost any and all traces of the hardness. "Good. Now that we have that settled, whose up for a game of Scrabble? I haven’t played in ages."

Taylor raised his eyebrows. "Umm, yeah, I would Ike, but gee.....I have umm.....a lot of stuff to do now. Yeah, a lot of stuff, so uhh......I have to go." With that Taylor grabbed his milk and left the kitchen, not wanting to get roped into one of Isaac’s never ending Scrabble games, in which their older brother prided himself on having a bigger vocabulary then anyone in the whole house.

"Zac?" Isaac looked expectantly at his younger brother.

Zac snorted. "Yeah, right. Dream on Ike." He shook his head, still laughing. Opening the refrigerator his smile faded as he pulled out the empty juice container. "Ike!" he moaned.

"What?" Isaac again played innocent.

"Nothing," Zac grumbled, replacing the empty container back to it’s rightful position on the fridge shelf and pulled out a can of root beer.

"Is Taylor here?" Gretchen shifted nervously on the Hanson’s front porch, later on the same day that Isaac had confronted Jared.

Mrs. Hanson gave the young girl a warm smile. "Of course, come in Gretchen."

Gretchen followed Mrs. Hanson’s lead into the house. She always felt just a tad bit self conscience whenever confronted with one of Taylor’s parents. Even though she knew it was probably a silly thought, she still none the less worried that one day Diana or Walker would find out about some of the things she and Taylor had done. Gretchen really liked Taylor’s family and didn’t want anything to ruin it. She had a feeling that if they knew about their little "make out" sessions, no matter how slight, they would tell her she wasn’t allowed to see Taylor anymore. It never occurred to Gretchen that she would greatly miss Taylor if she was told she couldn’t hang out with him. Shaking the thought from her mind, Gretchen thanked Mrs. Hanson, and made her way up to the boys bedroom where Diana said Taylor was hiding.

"Oh my God! Taylor what happened?"

Taylor looked up from his drawing. He gave Gretchen a crooked smile. "I got run over by a bus with the license plate Jared Hammer."

"What?" Gretchen stepped closer and examined Taylor’s "war wounds" more closely.

Taylor sighed. "I didn’t tell you this when we talked on the phone the other day....." he paused as he thought of a careful way to word the fight so it didn’t look quite so one sided. "But when you told me about what that asshole said about you, I came home and I, well I called a friend of mine and asked him for the address. Then Zac and I went to his house........."

"You went to his house?" Gretchen interrupted. She couldn’t believe her ears.

"Yeah, let me finish. So Zac and I went to his house, you know, just to see what he looked like or whatever. Well then he started picking on Zac and telling us our music sucked and stuff, and that made me even more mad then I already was. So I hit him."

Gretchen’s eyes grew wide. "You hit him?"

Taylor shrugged. "Well, yeah. I hit him. Only, unfortunately for me he hits back."

"Taylor......." Gretchen placed her hands on her hips.

"Yeah?" Taylor smiled, waiting for the thank yous to start pouring out of Gretchen.

"How could you be so stupid!" Tossing her hands helplessly into the air, Gretchen began pacing in front of him.

"Stupid? What do you mean? I did it for you!" Taylor stared, his head reeling. Stupid? How dare she call what he did stupid.

"Yes, it was stupid! Why would you go and get yourself hurt like that? I swear, I don’t know what gets into you sometimes!"

Taylor’s jaw dropped. "What gets into me? I don’t believe this! I only went after him because he had you so upset. It pissed me off, those things he said about you! What sort of man would I be if I just stood there while you cried and told me all the horrible string of lies he spouted, in front of everyone at the rec. center, and not did something about it?" His voice rose with each sentence.

"A smart one! Taylor, he could have really hurt you! As is you look like hell. What if he had really done something bad? He could have broken something, or worse yet he could have killed you!"

Taylor snorted. "Gretchen, he may be a complete jerk, but even he’s not stupid enough to kill me." Shaking his head he added, "I can’t believe you’re being so ungrateful about this. I wouldn’t have even gotten into this mess if it wasn’t for you."

Gretchen’s eyes narrowed. "Oh well so sorry. I didn’t realize that I forced you at gun point to go make an idiot of yourself!"

"Whatever!" Taylor shouted. "Fine, I’m an idiot. I’m stupid, okay? Are you happy?" He threw his hands in the air and slammed himself onto his bed, the wood frame groaning in protest.

Gretchen closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Look Taylor," she started when she calmed down. "I’m sorry you think I don’t appreciate what you did for me. I do, really. But I’m more concerned about the fact that you could have been really hurt." She lowered her voice and added in a small whisper, "I care about you to much to have that happen. Do you understand?"

Taylor stared up at her. "You care about me?" He voice was filled with wonder.

Despite herself, Gretchen laughed. "Of course you idiot! Don’t you know that?"

"No, not really," Taylor said softly, shaking his head. "Sometimes you make it hard for me to believe that you care."

Gretchen’s smile faded. "I’m sorry." She walked over and joined him on his bed. "I know sometimes it seems like I don’t, you know, want to be with you or something." Gently, she laid her hand over his and quickly added, " But that isn’t the case. I just......". She sighed deeply. "I’m not really good with affection. My parents were never the type of people to hug or hold hands or anything like that. And when my dad left us, my mom got even more.......distant I guess you could say. I don’t know. I just never grew up with hugs and kisses and touchy feely......stuff."

"Touchy feely stuff?" Taylor snickered.

Gretchen crinkled her brow. "You know what I mean!" she accused.

"I know," Taylor replied, his voice serious.

"Plus I’m so self conscience about how I look."

"What’s wrong with how you look?" Taylor’s eyes roved Gretchen slowly.

"Taylor, look at me!" Gretchen pointed to herself.

"I’m looking. What am I supposed to see?"

"Taylor, don’t try to be nice. I know I’m overweight. I have this blah straight brown hair, these yucky brown eyes. I never wear nice clothes. Face it. I’m a teenage mess."

"You’re not a mess," Taylor whispered.

Gretchen rolled her eyes. "Can you honestly look at me and feel any sort of attraction? I guess what I’m getting at is that I don’t even like looking at myself or anything, let alone having someone else looking at and touching me."

"Why? What are you ashamed of?"

"I just told you," she whispered. "I hate how I look. I’m fat and ........."

"Gretchen!" Taylor interrupted her. "Stop it, now! I hate it when you do that."

"Do what?"

"Put yourself down like that. Do you really think that the only reason someone should like you is if you’re thin and beautiful? Or do you think that I’m so shallow that I only like a girl because of how she looks?"

"No, it’s not that, it’s just," Gretchen stared down at her hands and nervously rubbed them together. "I mean I probably weigh more than you and that’s kind of embarrassing. And I’m not pretty, I’ve accepted that. Plus no boy has ever liked me before and suddenly this boy, this amazing boy, a "teenage heartthrob"......"

Taylor rolled his eyes at her use of the word he most hated. "Teenage heartthrob". Yuck. Right out of the pages of 16 magazine.

".......wants to hang out with me. It’s hard for me to comprehend."

Taylor sighed. He moved forward and wrapped both his arms around Gretchen, pulling her into a tight embrace. After releasing her, he cupped her pale, round face in both of his hands and forced her to look into his eyes.

"I don’t care how much you weigh," he began. "I’m just glad you’re not the kind of girl who starves herself to be super thin. They always look so sick and gross. And I like the way you look. You’re cute." Taylor kissed the top of her forehead after finishing his little speech.

Gretchen wrapped her arms around Taylor and pulled him closer to her as she buried her face in his neck. "Thank you Taylor," she whispered.

Her breath played on his neck, sending a satisfying shiver through his body. He returned her tight embrace. He breathed in the faint scent of roses and suspected that Gretchen had changed shampoo. She used to smell like oranges. His body was flooded with about a thousand different emotions. He recognized some. Like the desire to kiss and hold her, which he always had whenever he was in her presence. But there was also a new feeling, a new emotion. Taylor began to wonder if fourteen was too young to be in love. He remembered, from one of the many English lessons his mother had given him that Romeo and Juliet were fourteen. As a matter of fact Juliet was still shy of her fourteenth birthday when she took her life and theirs was the classic love story. However their story was also one of fiction, penned by a master of English poetry. As Taylor continued to dwell on this issue he felt Gretchen’s lips and tongue against his neck. She worked her way up to his face, where his lips instantly connected with hers. He put his hand on her silky ponytail and gently stroked it while her fingers drifted up and down his spine. Their lips moved together, connecting them as one while their tongues gently played, swirling in small circles.

Taylor slowly began to lean Gretchen back, gently pushing her down on the bed, and laying on top of her. They continued kissing and touching every inch of each other. Taylor carefully grabbed the hem of Gretchen’s top and pulled on it. He raised it up and kissed her soft stomach.

Tearing his lips from her skin, Taylor sat up and took a few minutes to look down at Gretchen. Her brown eyes stared back at him as he gazed over her body. Her skin was a soft, and he could smell her sweet body lotion. The small silver cross she always wore rested just under the top of her breast bone. Sure it was true she wasn’t perfect and would probably never walk the run ways as a model, but to Taylor she was suddenly the most beautiful creature in the world.

Taylor lowered himself back onto her and resumed kissing her face and neck. Gretchen shivered as the cold metal of Taylor’s chokers fell against the exposed area of her chest. Their breathing was becoming heavier as they kissed. Slowly, Taylor slipped his right hand under Gretchen’s bra. As he gently touched her, he felt her shift and soon his lower body was resting up against hers. Taylor knew Gretchen could most likely feel him, but he didn’t care. He took his left hand and placed it on her thigh, gently running his fingertips up and down. Gretchen played with his hair as they continued kissing, her fingers letting the golden strands slide through. Her other hand found the back pocket of his baggy cords and after deftly slipping her hand into it, she pulled him closer. She let out a slight moan as Taylor tentatively began to move against
her. Both teenagers were lost in their own utopia’s of ecstasy and neither paid notice to the tiny voices in the back of their head, warning them about where this could lead.

"AHEM! Taylor!" A loud male voice called from the doorway.

Taylor and Gretchen instinctively gasped and shot straight up in Taylor’s bed.

"Dad," Taylor managed to squeak out. He gave a horrified glance to a now crimson Gretchen who looked as if she wanted the bed to open up and swallow her as she pulled her tee shirt back down.

Mr. Hanson shook his head and stared at his son, not quite sure what to say. His mind flashed back to the days when Taylor, sporting an old baseball cap, had grabbed his favorite toy sword and ran around the yard screaming that girls were disgusting. Obviously things had changed over the years.

"Dad......umm you ever meet Gretchen?" Taylor was unable to look his father in the eyes.

"Yes, Taylor. I know Gretchen." Mr. Hanson tried to avoid looking at her for fear of making the poor girl more embarrassed than she already was.

"Dinner is going to be ready in a few minutes. Why don’t I have your mother set an extra place for her."

"Okay," Taylor mumbled as he stared at the carpet.

"Why don’t you two clean up and come downstairs then," Mr. Hanson suggested as he left the room, making sure he left the door open behind him. He and Diana were going to have to have a talk with Taylor. But what was there to say? The boy was growing up.

"Boys, who’s the wise guy that put the juice container back into the refrigerator when they knew full well it was empty and should have gone into the garbage?" Mrs. Hanson eyed her brood accusingly.

Three pairs of eyes stared at their plates, none admitting guilt.

"Uh huh, that’s just what I thought." Mrs. Hanson turned and smiled at Gretchen. "Things in this house just magically appear and disappear and nobody knows where they go or where they come from. Don’t worry though, you’ll get used to it."

Gretchen smiled, feeling just a little more comfortable than she had less than an hour ago when Mr. Hanson had walked in on her and Taylor.

"Mom," Taylor’s cheeks were flushed with embarrassment. "Leave her alone."

"What?" Mrs. Hanson innocently tossed her hands into the air. "I was merely informing your girlfriend of the unusual circumstances that go on here in the Hanson household."

Taylor drowned out his mother’s voice as he looked at Gretchen from across the kitchen table. He had never heard Gretchen be called his girlfriend before. He kind of liked the sound of it. Maybe he would ask her to be his girlfriend. Not now. But when the time was right. He smiled at her, and happily bit into a piece of broccoli as he thought.

"So, I claim any and all window seats on the flights, plus I call shotgun for every car ride! You name it, I got it!" Zac was informing his family.

"Zac! You can’t call shotgun for every car ride!" Isaac protested loudly.

"Hey, you want to be the one to get puked on when I get air/car/boat whatever sick?" Zac gave Isaac an evil grin.

Isaac frowned and slouched back in his seat, grumbling. But he wasn’t about to argue. Last time Zac got beat to the front seat on a long car ride, the family had spent an hour at a gas station cleaning the cars interior and letting it air out due to Zac’s urge to purge anytime he was in motion. What killed Isaac was that the kid could ride any amusement park ride he wanted, and didn’t so much as dry heave. But stick Zac in a car for ten minutes and he had his head out the window like a sick dog.

"What do you mean?" Gretchen spoke up, her eyes giving Taylor a confused look.

"Oh, hasn’t Tay told you? The boys are going on a promotional tour around Asia. We leave this coming Sunday." Mr. Hanson stated proudly.

"You’re kidding me!" Gretchen said. "How cool! How come you never told me Taylor?"

"I was going to, but, I don’t know. It never came up. I was going to tell you soon though."

"Well I would hope so, I mean what would I think if I came over here one day and Mrs. Brodavski answered the door and said you were in Asia. I might have been a little upset."

"That reminds me, Ike, can you take me and Marie to the mall?" Zac asked, his mouth full of mashed potatos.

"Zac," Mrs. Hanson warned.

"When, tonight?" Isaac glanced at his watch.

Zac finished his mouthful before replying, "No, dum dum. Like tomorrow or the next day. We want to go see a movie together before we leave."

Isaac sighed. "Yeah, I guess so."

"All right," Zac smiled.

"Well if everyone is done, let’s get the table cleared. Mom bought ice cream and rented a movie from Blockbuster." Mr. Hanson announced.

"YEAH!" The Hanson kids eagerly stood and began to quickly clear the table.

"Gretchen?" Mr. Hanson placed his hand on her shoulder.

"Yeah?" She looked up at him with slightly guilty eyes, still feeling horrible for what he had witnessed earlier.

"You’re more then welcome to stay for ice cream. And I think we got the movie Ace Ventura Two or something. You can call your mother and tell
her that I’ll take you home later." His warm eyes gave her a sincere smile.

"I’d really like that Mr. Hanson. Thank you."


Chapter 33 - Moving On

"Umm, do you really think that’s going to work? Do you actually think that no one is going to notice you?" Taylor peered down at Zac who was trying to curl up in a ball under the examining table.

"Shut up!" Zac hissed. "If you keep talking to me then it won’t work!"

"Zac....." Isaac shook his head, exasperated to a point of annoyance at his younger brother. "How old are you now? Eleven? I think that’s a bit old to still be scared of a doctor. Now get out from under the table."

The door to the examining room opened and in stepped the boy’s pediatrician, Dr. Tanner. "Hey boys. Now which one of you three is going.............wait a minute. Aren’t there supposed to be three of you?"

"Oh no." Isaac looked at Dr. Tanner. "Zac couldn’t come today," he stated making an exaggerated motion of pointing underneath the table towards his brothers hiding spot.

"Yeah, so I wouldn’t bother looking under the examining table or anything if I were you," Taylor added, trying hard not to laugh at what he deemed to be a very humorous joke.

"Come on Zac," Dr. Tanner called. "Out from under the table."

"There is no Zac under here," Zac answered without budging from his hiding place. "Yep, no one under here but us chickens."

"Zac, I’ve been your doctor for nearly eleven years. Don’t you think I realize you’re under there? You’ve been trying this trick ever since you learned how to walk, and quite frankly it’s getting quite old."

"Well it was worth a try," Zac grumbled and crawled out from under the table. "And don’t think I didn’t notice you pointing in my direction," he snapped at Isaac. "You two totally gave me away!"

"Zac, do you want to go to Asia or not?" Isaac asked.

"No, I’d rather stay here in Oklahoma while the rest of family goes off and has fun." Zac snapped back.

"Then shut up and get your stupid shot or you aren’t going anywhere!"

Dr. Tanner hid his smile. He was so used to the Hanson brothers bickering every time they came to his office to get their immunization shots before they went out of country, he just took it with a grain of salt. "Okay, now that we’re all here, who wants to go first."

The brothers just looked at one another, non of them to overly anxious to become the first victim.

"Come on guys, you all have to go and whoever goes first gets it over with right away." Dr. Tanner flipped through a chart and grabbed his stethoscope.

"I think Ike should go," Zac reasoned. "He’s the oldest and therefore should be first. Then maybe by the time you get to me they’ll have invented a shot that doesn’t hurt. Or at least a immunization shot that lasts more than two days....sheesh."

"Fine, I’ll be the man of the group," Isaac reluctantly volunteered. True he had reprimanded Zac for being afraid, but Isaac wasn’t too keen on the whole shot deal himself.

"Yep, you’re a man Ike," Taylor rolled his eyes. "What’s that? I think you almost sprouted a chest hair!" Taylor reached for Isaac who quickly slapped his brother’s hand away and gave him a dirty look.

Zac looked around the room as Dr. Tanner worked on Isaac. There had to be a way out, a window he could break, a secret door. Anything to get him out of the examining room and back into the free world.

"See, that’s all there is to it. Taylor, you’re next," Dr. Tanner pointed to the table.

Taylor hopped onto the table as the doctor examined his chart.

"Hmmm," Dr. Tanner rubbed his chin. "Do you ever eat?"

"Excuse me?" Taylor didn’t see the point of that particular question. What kind of question was that anyway? Did he eat? Of course he eats.

"According to your chart, you’ve grown quite a lot this year, but you’ve hardly gained any weight. Even since you were here last, you’ve shot up at least another two inches but still weigh the same."

"Oh, well........I eat." Taylor shrugged his shoulders.

"Hmm, are you sure?"

"Well if he’s not positive, we can certainly attest to the fact that he eats," Isaac tried to assure Dr. Tanner. "He practically clears out the fridge every day. I mean the boy can down three bowls of ice cream at a time."

"Hmmm, bingeing," Dr. Tanner muttered. "Taylor, do you ever force yourself to throw up after you eat?"

Taylor just stared at his doctor in disbelief. Did he think he had a eating disorder or something?

Dr. Tanner leaned in close to Taylor and whispered. "Would you like me to have your brothers leave the room so we can talk about this?"

"What! Why?" Taylor exclaimed. "No! Do you think I have an eating disorder? Come on I’m a boy and I’m sorry if I have a high metabolism. Can’t you just give me the needle so I can put my shirt back on?"

"Okay, it’s your call," Dr. Tanner readied a fresh syringe. "But I’m going to have the nurse give you a pamphlet on proper eating habits and a local support group. Just in case."

Taylor just shook his head, winced slightly as the needle pinched his skin, and then as soon as Dr. Tanner was done, grabbed his shirt and angrily pulled it on. Eating disorder my foot, he thought bitterly.

"All right Zac, your turn." Dr. Tanner patted the empty table.

Zac reluctantly climbed up and watched apprehensively as Dr. Tanner got another fresh syringe. Zac couldn’t say for sure, but the needle the doctor was preparing look much larger than the ones given to his brothers.

Dr. Tanner walked over and began to disinfect Zac’s arm with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol.

"You know, I really don’t think you need to do this. No it’s not necessary, I mean the shots we got at the beginning of the year were plenty I’m sure. Really I........OUCH!" Zac screamed at the top of his lungs.

"There," Dr. Tanner chuckled. "It’s all over. Admit it Zac, it wasn’t that bad."

"Not that bad?" Zac yelled as he pulled on his tee shirt. "When was the last time some guy was sticking you with a needle, huh?"

Dr. Tanner just shook his head and finished filling out his papers. "Okay guys. I declare the three of you in good health." The doctor placed his Mont Blanc pen back into his front pocket. "Have a blast in Asia."

"Zac, what is your problem?" Mrs. Hanson exclaimed, eyeing her son who lay stiff as a board across the living room sofa.

"Mom," Zac slowly stated without opening his eyes. "I am in immense pain and suffering here. You cannot possibly fathom the pain I had to endure at the hands of an uncaring, unfeeling doctor this afternoon."

"Oh, no," Mrs. Hanson laughed. "I’ve only given birth to six children. That can’t possibly compare to the agony you went through getting one shot."

Zac sighed. "It just isn’t fair. How can we men compete with that? How can we compete with the pain you women CLAIM to undergo while giving birth, which I still suspect is greatly exaggerated."

"Well Zac, do you want to know how to compete? Take that watermelon we have in the refrigerator and try shoving it up your nose. And then when it doesn’t fit, you might have one small amount of understanding."

"Mom!" Zac moaned. "That was so much more description than I ever needed to know."

Mrs. Hanson just shook her head at her son, the hypochondriac. "So oh suffering son of mine. Where are your older brothers. I want to make sure they’re nearly all packed."

"Crabby boy is up mopeing somewhere, I think in the den and wonderputz is outside playing basketball with Gretchen."

"Must you call your brothers such disgusting names all the time?" Mrs. Hanson sighed.

"Well, I could call them dumb and dumber. Or Thing 1 and Thing 2. Or with the way they’ve been acting lately Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde," Zac opened his eyes and gazed at his mother. "Do you see, the possibilities are endless."

Mrs. Hanson just threw her hands in the air, and stalked out of the living room to leave Zac wallowing in his own self pity.

Taylor and Gretchen sat side by side on the warm grass, underneath the shade of a large oak tree in the Hanson’s back yard. Both of them were sweaty and tired from their one-on-one basketball game. It had almost become tradition with the two teenagers. When bored, one would slyly suggest a little "friendly" game of basketball. However, of late, their "friendly" games had turned into relentless free for alls, each trying to out do the other and end up victorious. Of course, Taylor always won, but Gretchen was catching up and quite frankly, Taylor was getting worried that one day soon he just might finish second. He hated second. It was like running a race, and well........finishing second.

But even with the fierce competition, both knew that it was for fun, and actually enjoyed the games more for what they usually did afterwards. Just resting together, laughing, talking, sharing a bottle of Gatorade, or maybe water. Just in general enjoying each other’s company.

Now as they sat, Gretchen leaning against the wide trunk of the old tree, Taylor sideways facing her, he looked up and quietly laughed to himself at Gretchen’s distant expression. Her eyes stared off into the distance, unfocused, her lips slightly parted, brow creased, as if she was thinking about everything, and nothing all at once.

Taylor just slightly shook his head, before returning his attention, which at this moment was focused on Gretchen’s hair.

He had pulled the ponytail holder out, even with Gretchen’s protest that she would be to hot with it down, and was now, as he sat with her --his arms resting loosely around her, fingers drifting lightly up and down her spine, sometimes rubbing, sometimes gently scratching her back through her tee shirt--enchanted by her dark locks. He had his face buried in her slightly damp hair, and as he tenderly stroked her back, he used his free hand to let a tendril slide through his fingers, marveling at how her normally straight hair would, when the combination of sweat and heat were in play, curl just slightly. He inhaled deeply, the fresh smell of her hair driving him crazy, and when he exhaled, his breath came out in choppy, hitching gasps.

Gretchen, snapped from her trance and glanced at Taylor. "You okay?" she inquired, slightly concerned by his irregular breathing.

Not bothering to answer her question, Taylor replied with, "You know what really turns me on?"

Gretchen cocked her eyebrows and gave Taylor a look that clearly read her surprise at his comment.

"Do I want to know?" she cautiously asked, pulling away from Taylor’s loose embrace, and scooting a few inches away.

Taylor frowned. "Listen to me," he insisted, tugging at her arm to pull her closer.

"Okay, okay I’m listening." Gretchen moved back and allowed Taylor to embrace her again. "What really turns you on?" she questioned, smirking and doing her best not to laugh aloud at the absurd nature of their conversation.

"Your hair," Taylor answered simply, once again burying his face and inhaling deeply, a slight moan escaping his lips.

"What about it?" Gretchen moved her head away from Taylor, who groaned in protest.

"How it smells," he muttered, moving closer and resting his forehead on her shoulder.

Gretchen couldn’t hold it in any longer and burst out laughing.

Taylor looked up, an unhappy smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "What?" he asked, both insulted, and yet at the same time not quite sure why he was insulted because he really didn’t understand what she found so darn funny with his statement.

"Nothing, that’s just really weird is all," Gretchen answered, still giggling.

"Well what’s weird about it?" Taylor asked, genuinely confused. "I mean......." He trailed off and pouted, because from the look on her face, Gretchen clearly thought his elevator was skipping a few floors.

"Aww, I’m sorry," Gretchen reached over and stroked Taylor’s head. "Tell me what about my hair is such a big turn on." Absently, Gretchen took Taylor’s rat tail in her fingers, and gently fiddled with it while he spoke.

"Well, it always smells so clean. No matter what. In the morning, at night, even when......."

"Why in the world do you keep this stupid thing? I mean, do you really like it?" Gretchen suddenly interrupted, holding up the rat tail and looking at it quizzically.

"Gretchen do you mind? I’m trying to tell you this. And just for your information, yes I do happen to like it thank you very much," Taylor snapped, grabbing his rat tail from her fingers and tossing it over his shoulder. "Besides we’re talking about your hair here, not mine," he reminded her.

"Sorry, sorry." Gretchen clasped her hands and folded them primly in her lap. "You know have my full and undivided attention. Go on and finish what you’ve been trying to say."

Jumping right back in where he left off, Taylor continued. Even after we’ve played basketball, like now for instance, when we’re all hot and sweaty......."

Gretchen snorted at the image.

"Come on!" Taylor whined. Not bothering to wait for another apology, he rambled on. "Even after all that I can lean over," he moved closer as he spoke, "...inhale deeply, and your hair still smells amazing." He took another deep breath. As he exhaled again, he closed his eyes and whispered. "It really gets me hot." His warm breath played against her neck.

"It does huh," Gretchen said quietly as Taylor gently nuzzled her neck.

"Uh huh," he breathed, and lightly, using just the tip of his tongue, traced her collarbone.

Gretchen sighed. "Know what really turns me on?" she asked him.

"Hmmm?" Taylor worked his mouth up Gretchen’s neck and was now gently nibbling on her ear.

"Beating you at basketball," she answered, pushing him away and standing up.

Taylor opened his eyes and stared up at her. "You’re kidding right?"

"No way, it gets me really hot," Gretchen informed the wide eyed boy. Holding out her hands to help him up she added. "I mean what with that hot sun beating on us and all......." she trailed off when Taylor stuck his tongue out at her.

"Very funny. Really." Taylor stood and grabbed Gretchen around the waist. "Well miss funny funny. Now what do you have to say for yourself?"

Gretchen looked deep into the soulful blue eyes and said, "This." She put her arms around Taylor’s neck and pushed her lips against his, hard. When they broke apart, both were breathless. "Happy now?" she asked.

Taylor held her at arm’s length and regarded her carefully. "No, actually I’m not happy."

Gretchen frowned. "Why? You always get so mad at me when I don’t want to kiss you. So now I kiss you and you don’t like it?"

"Oh no, I liked that very much." He leaned over and lightly brushed his lips over hers again before continuing. "What I’m not happy about is that, well........I don’t know what to call you."

"Well, Gretchen usually works just fine."

Taylor shook his head. "That’s not what I meant. What I’m talking about is.........well." He pulled away. "Don’t move. Don’t go anywhere. Stay right here in this exact spot. I’ll be right back." With this stern order, Taylor took off across the back yard, and raced into the house, leaving a bewildered Gretchen to wait for him on the lawn.

"Where is it!!??" Taylor was in the process of tossing the whole bedroom in search of Gretchen’s gift.

Zac walked in, happily munching on a popsicle. Once his mother had given him the icy, he miraculously felt much better. He stood in the doorway and watched as Taylor raced from spot to spot, throwing various objects out of his way, and muttering to himself.

"Tay? What the hell ya doing?" Zac took another bite of his Blue Raspberry popsicle.

"I’m looking for something. Now get out of my way!" Taylor yelled at Zac who was still stationed in the doorway.

"I’m halfway across the room! How am I in your way?" Zac was pretty sure that Taylor was slowly going crazy.

"Your presence. Your very presence is in my way." Taylor was now on his hands and knees rummaging underneath the depths of his bed. "AH HA! I found it!" Taylor emerged from beneath what the state Governor was surely going to declare a hazardous area any day, triumphantly holding a small plastic bag in his hands.

"What’s that?" Zac stared curiously at the department store bag clutched in Taylor’s fists.

Taylor gave Zac a wide, toothy grin. "This my man, is going to make me very very happy." He absently brushed at a few stray strands of hair that had fallen into his face during his search.

"A plastic bag?" Zac again could only give Taylor a questioning stare.

"Yes.........NO! Not the bag you reject. What’s inside the bag. Not that I would expect you to understand, but once I give this to Gretchen, my life will have a more meaningful purpose." Taylor nodded his head as if his explanation was obvious.

"Well, what is it?"

"The key to my heart," Taylor replied, before brushing past his brother and heading back outside where Gretchen was waiting.

Zac watched his brother leave. "Not that I’d expect you to understand," he mimicked Taylor, making a face. "Oh no, Zac you won’t get it. You’re to stupid. You don’t know anything." He shook his head. "What do they think I’m a kid or something?" he asked aloud before using his tongue to catch a stream of blue raspberry juice that was sliding down his arm from the forgotten popsicle. "Well, I’m not a kid." He announced loudly. "I’m just as mature as Ike and Tay. They better just watch, cause soon I’ll be more grown up than them, and then there’s going to be trouble!" Zac nodded his head, sealing his promise and sat himself down on the floor to continue work on his lego battlefield.

Taylor walked across the lawn slowly, the small white box clutched in his sweaty palms. Gretchen had sat back down under the tree and was once again staring off into space. The dreamy look on her face made Taylor’s heart beat faster, and he almost hated to interrupt her thoughts. But this was something he had to do. He had told Isaac that his experience with Claudia had caused his feelings for Gretchen to intensify. Taylor knew he was impossibly obsessed with Gretchen. She was so different from any girl he had ever known. Sure she was sort of plain, and a little overweight, and dressed sloppier than most ten year old boys, but there was something so much more to her, that Taylor couldn’t even put it into words. He wasn’t absolutely sure why yet, but he knew that she was special. And now that he had her he wasn’t about to let go. If she accepted what he had to give to her, Taylor knew that a part of him would be fulfilled. Music and his family was a big part of his life, and now he wanted Gretchen to be the other part. He reached the tree and stood looking down at her, his words just for a moment stuck in his throat when she stared up at him.

"Took you long enough," she smiled, standing. "You ready for another round?"

Taylor shook his head. "I want to give you something first. And I want you to give me something."

Gretchen eyed him. "Okay, what do you want me to give you?"

"I want you to listen to me very carefully right now, okay? I want you to listen to every word I have to say. Don’t interrupt with any sarcastic cracks or comments until I’ve at least finished, okay?"

His serious tone took Gretchen aback and she could only nod her head in agreement.

Taylor held up the small white box. "In this box is something that is going to solidify our relationship. I want to be able to call you my girlfriend, and you to call me your boyfriend. Not just say this is.......Taylor. We hang out. Cause we don’t just hang out, we’re more than friends and I want more than anything to be able to say, that’s Gretchen Halloran, my girlfriend."

Gretchen simply stared at Taylor. His words were like poetry to her ears. Sure he wasn’t saying anything profound, or reciting some beautiful sonnet, but just to hear that someone wanted her......wanted her to want him, was more amazing then anything she’d ever had before. "Taylor," she whispered, her voice choked with emotion.

Taylor held his hand up and placed his pointer finger over her mouth, silencing her. "I’m not done," he said. Gently he traced her lips with his finger before taking his hand away and continuing. As he spoke he opened the box. "I want you to be my girlfriend Gretchen, and I want you to wear this." He pulled out a small silver heart. However the heart wasn’t whole. The side was missing a small, key shaped chunk. "I’m giving you the heart and," he removed a small silver key and tossed the box onto the grass. "I’m keeping the key. That way, we’ll always have a piece of each other, even when I’m away." Taylor handed her the small silver heart, and placed the key, which he had fitted onto a black choker instead of the thin silver chain, around his neck. "Okay, I’m done. You can hit me now for being such a sap. It really was pretty disgusting, wasn’t it?"

Gretchen shook her head. "No, it wasn’t disgusting." A small tear slid down her cheek.

Taylor laughed and gently wiped the tear away. "Don’t cry on me, okay?"

"I can’t help it. That’s just the most......I don’t even know what to say."

"Just say you’ll be my girlfriend, and then we can go on with our lives."

Gretchen took a deep breath and looked him square in the eye. "I will be your girlfriend. However, I have never been a girlfriend before so you’ll have to give me a bit of a break."

"Well that’s okay because I’ve never been a boyfriend before, so I guess we’re even." Taylor smiled at her.

"Yeah, I guess we are," she grinned back at him.

"Well, now that that’s settled, shall we finish our game?"

Gretchen gave him a sly smile as she placed the small silver heart around her neck. "I think we shall. Don’t get all bent out of shape when I kick your butt this time though."

Taylor gave her a wide eyed look of shock. "You? Beat me? AHAHAHA, sure, you just keep on dreaming sweetheart."

"Before we play, come here." Gretchen pulled Taylor to her and they fell into a comforting embrace.

After a moment, Gretchen pulled away. "Come on, enough of this gross love stuff. It’s time to get down to business."

She grabbed his hand and the two headed towards the driveway, where yet another game awaited them.

"AHAHAHA," Zac threw his head back and cracked up at the TV screen the next morning. Shaking his head, still snickering he said, "Ahh, that Scooby Doo never disappoints."

"Zac! What are you doing?" Isaac stared at his younger brother who sat on the living room couch, clad in only a pair of baggy Mighty Ducks boxers and dirty white socks on his feet.

"Watching TV, why?" Zac gave Isaac a confused look.

"Well considering you asked me to take you and Marie to the mall to get lunch and see a movie that starts at twelve, and it’s nearly eleven now, don’t you think you should be getting dressed?" He pointed, indicating Zac’s lack of clothes.

"All right, all right, I’m going." Zac pulled himself off the couch and headed for the boys bedroom, Isaac hot on his heels. When he entered the bedroom, Zac stood in the center of the room, looking at the clothes covered floor. "What to wear, what to wear," He chanted quietly.

"Come on squirt, hurry up!" Isaac tapped his foot impatiently.

"I’m hurryin’, gimme a minute," Zac muttered, finally grabbing a pair of baggy navy cords and tugging them on.

"I swear Zac, dead men dress faster then you," Isaac lamented, shaking his head as Zac next went and stood in front of the open closet, carefully mulling over what shirt to wear.

"Well then find a dead man and go to the mall with him," Zac retorted, his back still facing his older brother.

"Very funny. You know, I’m taking you and Marie to the mall as a favor. The least you could do is say thanks. I don’t HAVE to do this you know. There’s plenty of other stuff I would much rather be doing right now. I have friends, I can go hang out with them!"

Zac just rolled his eyes as Isaac blabbed. He knew full well that if Isaac wasn’t taking Marie and him to the mall, he would just sit home, mopeing, and do nothing anyway. The way Zac saw it he was doing Isaac a favor. The past few weeks Isaac had been pretty unbearable, what with his unpredictable mood swings and his growing insecurity. Taylor had whispered to Zac one night that the reason Isaac was so uptight was because he wasn’t "getting any". Zac had just looked at his brother while Taylor laughed at his own joke. Seeing he was alone in his laughter, Taylor had lightly punched Zac’s shoulder and said, "Get it? Not getting an......," he trailed off as Zac just continued to stare at him.

"You’re looney tunes," Zac had finally stated, shaking his head and walking away from his insane brother.

Now, he hurriedly grabbed a gray t shirt and his shoes, and hopping on one foot, while trying to get his other Airwalk on, he raced after Isaac as best he could with one leg as his older brother made his way to the car. "Ike, wait up!" Zac shouted desperately.

"Zac, you moron, I wasn’t going to leave you, God." Isaac waited until Zac hopped out the front door before slamming it shut. Making his way over to the car, he climbed in and started the ignition, waiting while Zac finished tying his shoes in the driveway, before slowly backing out and heading for Marie’s.

Isaac stopped the car in the Fletcher’s driveway.

"Well?" He turned and looked at his younger brother who was busy fiddling with the radio.

"Well what?" Zac glanced up from the dashboard and gave Isaac a confused stare.

"Well, aren’t you going to go to the door and get her?"

Zac shook his head. "No. She knows how to get out of her house. Just honk."

"You’ve got a lot to learn about girls," Isaac commented.

"Yeah, well I’m only eleven. I think I’ve got plenty of time to learn."

Isaac sighed, and gave the car’s horn a short toot. After a minute or so passed and there was still no sign of Marie, Zac leaned over his brother and pressed the horn again, this time holding the blast out for a good sixty seconds.

"God Zac," Isaac pushed his younger brother away. "I can’t believe how rude you are!"

Zac just shrugged. When he saw the front door opening, he smiled smugly at Isaac. "Worked didn’t it?" He resumed flipping through the radio stations, determined to find at least one frequency that wasn’t polluted by a Spice Girls song.

"Whoa," Isaac breathed. "How old is Marie again?" He asked, his eyes glued to the young girl as she locked the front door and shoved her keys into her shorts pocket.

"Eleven just like me," he answered not looking up from his desperate hunt. "You know that Ike....." Zac’s jaw dropped when Isaac took his head and directed it to look out the car window. "Oh my God. She’s not going to the mall in that. No way! I won’t let her!"

Isaac laughed. "Oh, and exactly how are you going to stop her?" he asked, amused at his brother’s reaction to Marie’s outfit.

"I’m......going to make her change, that’s what I’m going to do!" Zac announced and opened his car door. "Just wait here Ike. "We’ll be back in a few minutes." Zac slammed the door and marched over to Marie.

"Hey Zac," she smiled. "Are you ready to go?"

"Go?" Zac stared at her.

"To the mall. Aren’t we going to the mall?" Marie frowned and gave Zac a confused look.

"Yes, we are going to the mall," Zac slowly stated. "But first you are going to go back up to your bedroom and put some clothes on."

"Very funny. I have clothes on silly," Marie laughed off his comment. "Come on, let’s go."

"No!" Zac sternly stated. "I’m being serious. You’re not going to the mall in that. Go back in and change."

"What’s wrong with my outfit?" Marie glanced down at herself, not quite sure what Zac’s problem was.

"What’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with it!" He turned his head up to the sky and shouted, "She wants to know what’s wrong with it!"

"Zac!" Marie stared at him, her mouth agape.

"What’s wrong with it," he repeated. "Those shorts barely cover anything. The tank top is so tiny that if you lift your arms even an inch a lot of skin is going to be showing. And those sandals. What’s up with the heels? Did you want to look taller than me or something?"

A look of disbelief was clearly painted on Marie’s face. "You’re not kidding are you?"

"No," Zac stated.

"Listen, I can wear whatever I want," Marie snapped. She didn’t know what his problem was. "You aren’t my father! If you have a problem with my outfit, then you don’t have to go to the mall with me!"

"Marie," Zac began.

"Hey, I never complain about your clothes do I? NO! I’ve never once told you that you look hideous in those yellow pants with the black stripe or those awful yellow Doc Marten boots," Marie’s voice increased in volume as her ranting continued. "I’ve never once said how a lot of your shirts look suspiciously like the ones I find in my Delia’s catalogue!"

"Wait a second! We’re not discussing my style here," Zac defended himself. "I have no problems with the way I dress. We’re talking about you and the way you dress which is starting to resemble Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct!"

"You never even saw that movie!" Marie shouted.

"I did to! It was on late night and she looked a heck of a lot like that!" Zac pointed at Marie’s clothes, or lack there of.

Marie just rolled her eyes and brushed past Zac. He stood on the front walk, mouth gaping open as she climbed into the car and slammed the door behind her. He couldn’t believe that she had disobeyed him like that. And then she just climbed into the car like nothing was wrong. This was a complete act of defiance against his authority in the relationship and he was not going to stand for it.

Zac marched himself over to the car, and ignoring Isaac’s laughter, grabbed Marie’s arm and pulled her out of the vehicle.

"Now listen here," he began.

"Zac." Marie grabbed the front of Zac’s shirt, her fists gripping his collar tightly and pushed him up against the car. Roughly she pressed her lips against his. "Now stop acting like an idiot, get in the car, and let’s go to the mall." She snapped when they broke apart.

Eyes wide, Zac timidly said, "Okay," and slowly climbed into the car, not quite certain as to what just occurred between himself and Marie.

Isaac drove aimlessly around Tulsa, trying to blow the hour or more he had left before he was scheduled to pick up Zac and Marie in front of Kohl’s. As he drove, his mind drifted back to the night before.

The house had been strangely quiet. Jessica and Avery had been taken to a movie with their cousins. Mackie had been cranky and was now taking a nap. Taylor and Gretchen had long since abandoned their game of basketball and were off taking a walk. Zac had gotten a call from his friend Nick and had raced over to the Aperate’s to play.

Sitting in the dark living room, Isaac was curled in the overstuffed chair watching his parents. They were sat at the kitchen table talking and drinking coffee. He didn’t know how long he had been staring at them without actually seeing them. But gradually he had started taking note of their behavior. He saw his father reach over and touch his mothers cheek. She turned her lips to his palm and lightly kissed his father’s hand. He watched as tender smiles were exchanged. He heard the mummer of their voices without hearing what was said. His father chuckled at something his mother stated as she got up to refill the coffee mugs. Isaac knew they loved each other but for the first time he also realized that they were still in love with each other. He had never really been able to distinguish the difference before. Turning, Isaac stared out the window to the darkened backyard. All that evening his thoughts had been slamming back and forth from Juliet to Claire. He tried to remember how things had started with Juliet. It was hard for him to remember how things had been before these two girls had entered his life. Juliet had always been there, but never as a person, just someone’s kid sister. Why did it change? As he let his thoughts go deeper into his memories he suddenly realized what the difference was between the two girls.

Juliet had always been around, but Isaac realized that she had never really talked to him, other than in passing, until he got back from California. Had she ever shown an interest before "Hanson" had started to become popular? Not really. Claire on the other hand didn’t even know who he was at first. Isaac wondered if Juliet was using him in much the same way he was using her. Juliet was the first girl that was attainable for him. Isaac was honest enough with himself to know he took what she offered him and never really loved her. And maybe she had done the same. Watching his parents made him realize this. When he saw the tenderness between them he thought of Claire not Juliet. Yet he felt he owed Juliet more alliance because of their situation. It was so complicated. He sighed deeply. The sound startled his parents in the next room. They had forgotten he was home. Mr. Hanson looked at his son and saw worry lines stretched across Isaac’s forehead. He patted Mrs. Hanson’s hand and walked into the family room. Choosing a chair opposite Isaac, Mr. Hanson stared at his son intently.

"Ike, you okay? You worried about Asia?"

Isaac shook his head. "It’s nothing Dad. I’m just tired," Isaac lied. He knew there was no way he could tell his dad about his situation without getting ordered to become a monk or something. He knew his parents would be very disappointed with him. Isaac had lied to them and that was something he knew they would find hard to forgive.

"You sure? It seems like it’s more than that." Mr. Hanson scrutinized his oldest son carefully.

Isaac sighed again. He was beginning to not care anymore. He had lied so much the past few months. To Taylor, to Zac, to his parents, to Juliet and Claire. My whole life the past few months has been nothing but a big lie, he thought disgustedly.

"Dad if I told you what is the matter, I’m afraid you might hate me." Isaac’s eyes pleaded with the brown ones across from him.

Mr. Hanson watched Isaac carefully. "You know Ike nothing you could ever do would make us hate you."

Isaac watched his father’s face and knew he had to tell someone. "It’s about Juliet and me......" Isaac trailed off, embarrassed by what he was about to admit.

Mr. Hanson sighed. "Oh Isaac."

From his father’s tone, Isaac could tell that Mr. Hanson knew.

"Juliet isn’t pregnant I hope?"

The question surprised him and Isaac lowered his head, then raised it back up. "NO, no she isn’t. But...." Isaac sighed. This was going to be hard. "But I’ve been seeing another girl One I think I really care about. But I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry to disappoint you, I can’t even understand it all myself. I thought I loved Juliet, but I don’t and I can’t stand that I let myself use her that way without loving her" He again lowered his head. That was it. That was the problem. Not so much the actual sex part, but the fact that he had used her. He wasn’t the type of person to use someone and not really care for them. But she used me too, he reminded himself bitterly.

Mr. Hanson hesitated for a moment then sighed. "You know how your mother and I feel about this Ike, but it’s too late for that. Think about what you want from these girls. You have to tell them now. You need to learn to think before you throw yourself into a situation." He looked at Isaac.

Isaac tried to smile at his father, but it didn’t reach his eyes. "I know," he whispered. "I’m sorry...." He stopped. He knew what he had to do. Isaac was about to tell his father when a commotion was heard in the kitchen. Mrs. Hanson turned away from the doorway where she had been watching and listening to her son and husband. She was stunned by what had passed. Yet didn’t know what to say. She had always thought Zac would be the one to go gung ho into any situation. Not quiet, reflective Isaac. She watched as her two daughters raced into the family room. Their shrill voices wiped out the heaviness in the air.

"MOM! DAD! We went and saw a movie." Jessica’s eyes glowed with excitement. Jessie ran up to Isaac, lifted her right arm into the air, palm held in a stop motion. "Talk to the hand" she chimed.

Little Avery not to be outdone held her hand up the same way. "Ikey, Ikey talk to the hand!" She started giggling and had to use her palm to cover her mouth. Isaac couldn’t help but laugh at his sisters.

For a little while Isaac’s confession was forgotten as Zac burst into the door, complaining once again about something and Taylor followed not long after, yelling at Zac for leaving his bike in the driveway and that someone was going to kill themselves on it for gosh sakes.

Isaac just sat, watching his family, glad that he finally knew what he wanted.

Now as he stood, his hand shaking as he rang the doorbell at the Brisbois home, Isaac took a deep breath.

Jacob answered the door. "Oh, Isaac," he said flatly. "What do you want?"

The tone of Jacob’s voice made Isaac a little uncomfortable. "I need to see your sister. Is she home?"

"No," Jacob very quickly answered. "She went out.

Suddenly a pair of feet could be heard bounding down the stairs. "Mom!" Juliet’s voice called. "When’s dinner? I’m starved."

"Oh well what do you know," Jacob mumbled. "I guess she’s home after all. But I doubt that she really wants to see you so you can just go now." Jacob began to close the front door.

"No wait." Isaac tried to block the door. "Juliet!" He called. "Juliet, I need to talk to you!"

Through the half open door Isaac could see Juliet slowly approaching. She opened the heavy mahogany door all the way and looked at Isaac through the screen of the outer door. "I have nothing to say to you."

"Juliet," Isaac pleaded. "Give me a few minutes. Please. I just want to say a few things to you. My brothers and I are leaving for Asia tomorrow and this is my last chance."

"Well speak," Juliet commanded, her eyes void of any affection.

"I’m sorry. I know that’s not enough. I know that I was......" Isaac paused. "Do you think maybe you could come out from behind the door?"

"I don’t see why I should give you the satisfaction of anything Clarke Isaac Hanson," Juliet snapped.

"I know, I’m sorry. But..."

"NO!" Juliet shouted and stepped out of the house slamming the door behind her. "That’s just the thing. You don’t know and couldn’t possibly understand!"

"Listen, Juliet, I..."

"Shut up Isaac. You wanted to talk right?" She stared at him. Her dark brown eyes felt like they were burning his face. "Well I think you should hear what I have to say. You owe me that much."

"Okay," Isaac quietly agreed.

"I gave you everything. I trusted you and I gave you my heart. I did anything with you that you wanted, and I even fell in love with you. Yes Isaac I was in love with you and you know the funny thing? I actually let myself believe that you felt the same way."

"Juliet, I cared for you so much," Isaac whispered.

"No. No you didn’t. You couldn’t have possibly loved me. Someone who’s in love would never have done what you did. I gave you everything and you just threw it all away. Tossed it aside, like a meaningless piece of paper. All so you could sleep with some other girl."

"I never slept with Claire," Isaac informed her.

"Oh great. That makes me feel even better. So you went with her for what? For kicks or something? Because you liked her and hen you would come over to my house and sleep with me? Were you just using me for sex the whole time?" Juliet was screaming loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.

Isaac dropped his head. "Please, let me explain....."

"Man would the press have field day with this," Juliet continued as she began to pace back and forth across the porch. "Isaac Hanson the eldest member of the pop trip Hanson, uses a young, unsuspecting girl for his own sexual desires. No one would ever see you guys as the good wholesome country boys, anymore. You’d just look like every other slimy perverted teenager out there. I have every right to hate you."

"I know you should hate me," Isaac prayed that Juliet would calm down. "And you have every right to, yes. But I can’t leave for Asia knowing that you’re mad and me and that I never even tried to talk to you."

"Isaac," Juliet’s voice was softer. "I want to yell at you and tell you that I’ll always hate you just so you’ll go off to Asia feeling horrible and not be able to enjoy yourself. But that wouldn’t be true." Juliet turned away so that Isaac wouldn’t see her crying. "Because a part of me still cares about you and always will. But I don’t want to be hurt again. I can’t.......and I won’t allow myself to get close to you."

Isaac couldn’t think of anything to say. He had planned out his whole speech as he lay in bed the other night, and was certain he had found just what to say but now all his words seemed meaningless and artificial. He knew he did care about Juliet. He did. But he didn’t love her, and no matter what he said or did, nothing would change that. He sighed, and gently touched Juliet’s shoulder.

"Please, don’t cry," he whispered. He turned her around to face him, and pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her shaking shoulders as she sobbed. He gently kissed the top of her head, and without realizing it, his lips lightly traced down her face and pressed against her lips.

Juliet tentatively kissed him back, but then quickly stopped herself and pushed him away. "Stop," she whispered. "We both know this isn’t right."

"Juliet, please don’t be mad at me," Isaac spoke so softly, he could barley hear himself.

"Have fun in Asia, Isaac," Juliet said. "Everything’s going to be okay." She pulled open the door and walked inside, shutting it behind her.

For a few seconds, Isaac just stood alone on the porch. He could hear Mrs. Brisbois calling her family to dinner, and heard Juliet shout back that it was about time, she felt like she was going to waste away. Isaac smiled. He doubted he would see much of Juliet, save for the occasional soccer game, but they were going to put everything behind them. It was time to move on.

"Where are you guys going again?" Gretchen asked Taylor as he carefully selected shirts from a neatly folded pile of laundry and placed them in an open suitcase on the floor.

"To Los Angeles to do Jay Leno, and then Asia. You know, Japan, Taiwan, places like that." Taylor answered, not looking up from his packing.

"Oh. That sounds like fun," she commented.

"Yeah, it should be. I’m really looking forward to it." He paused in his pacing. "Hmm, take them or leave them?" Taylor held up his pair of black leather pants and looked over at Gretchen expectantly.

"Leave them," Gretchen wasted no time in responding.

Taylor stared at the pants with a wistful look in his eyes. "I don’t know. They’re pretty cool and really don’t take up that much room." He gave Gretchen a second glance and then added the pants to his suitcase.

"Taylor," Gretchen moaned. "Please promise me you won’t actually wear those in public."

"Oh Gretchen," Taylor walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. "I’ll wear them on Jay Leno just for you." He gave her a playful grin and then brought his lips down on hers.

"Okay Romeo," Gretchen gently pushed him away as he began nibbling her neck. "You have a lot of packing to do yet."

Taylor rolled his eyes and began to throw random pairs of wadded socks into the case.

Gretchen hooked her fingers into the belt loops of her baggy jeans, and swayed back and forth. As she looked around the boys bedroom, which pretty much was looking like a bomb had hit it what with the piles of clothes, suitcases and bags strewn everywhere, she noticed a mound of shoes by Taylor’s bed.

"Do you plan on wearing a new pair everyday?" Gretchen asked him.

"Huh? Oh, the shoes. Well I can never decide which ones to I’m gonna take them all."

Gretchen walked over and began picking up and examining the various shoes. "I think you have more shoes set out just for a little trip, than I own," she observed.

"Really? I thought that girls needed a new pair for every outfit or something."

Gretchen shrugged. "Some do. But with my basic jeans and tee-shirt wardrobe, I’ve come to realize that broken in sneakers are best."

Taylor only nodded. For being a girl, Gretchen really didn’t put much effort into her clothes or appearance. He knew for a fact that he had never once seen her anywhere near a skirt or dress. He cleared his thoughts and resumed packing.

"Taylor," Gretchen cleared her throat and sat on his bed.


"Could you come sit here a minute?" She patted the empty spot next to her. "I want to talk to you about something."

"Okay," Taylor hopped onto the bed. "So tell me what’s on your mind."

Gretchen gave him a very thoughtful look before speaking. "You’re leaving for awhile, and I know you’ll be meeting a lot of female fans and you may even be attracted to one or two," Gretchen took a deep breath.

"Oookay," Taylor gave her a confused look. What in the world was she getting at?

"Well, I’m only saying this because I assume you have a conscience and I don’t want you to feel guilty about anything."

"What?" Taylor was now utterly confused.

"I’m saying it’s cool with me if you want to see other girls." Gretchen nervously fingered the heart charm around her neck, her fingertips playing over the grooves where the key was supposed to be. "I really really like you Taylor, but I can’t blame you for wanting to flirt and hang out with other girls. I don’t want you to think I’m holding you back."

"Gretchen," Taylor stroked the side of her face. What as up with this? His girlfriend actually thought it was okay for him to see other girls. Something had to be up here. "Hey! Wait a minute! Do you like some other guy?" Taylor demanded.

"No," Gretchen wrinkled her nose. "Why?"

"Well it makes sense. You don’t want to feel guilty about liking someone else so you decided to tell me that I could see other girls." Taylor’s mind put two and two together.

"Taylor, I don’t like anyone else. But I know you and I know how much you flirt, I’m not blind, I’ve seen you in action, so I just think things will be better this way."

"Well I don’t," Taylor whispered. He put his hand behind her neck and drew her lips to his. They sat on his bed kissing for a few moments, just enjoying the warmth and comfort of each others presence. Taylor lightly ran his tongue across Gretchen’s lips, and she opened her mouth, allowing his tongue to mingle with hers. Taylor let out a soft moan and began to gently lower down onto the bed. He nuzzled his mouth in her neck and lightly ran his fingertips under the front of her shirt.

"Hey, stop," Gretchen muttered, shoving Taylor’s hand away.

"What’s the matter?" Taylor looked up at her and frowned.

"Well, I don’t know. Just the fact that once again we are in your bedroom, and lord knows I don’t think I could handle it if your father walked in again. I think we’ve already gotten enough lectures from your parents to last a lifetime."

"Gretchen, my parents aren’t even here. We don’t have anything to worry about."

"I still feel really uncomfortable with the whole thing," Gretchen said as Taylor placed his lips to her neck and began a gentle sucking motion. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. His lips played ever so slightly over her collar bone.

"Oh Taylor," Gretchen softly breathed.

Taylor had never heard sweeter words muttered, and for a moment he froze, enjoying the tingles her moan had given him. He lightly resumed stroking her cheek, his eyes lost in hers. Gretchen leaned up and gently kissed him. Taylor didn’t hold himself back any longer and began to return her deep kisses, moving his hand further up her over sized tee-shirt.

"Oh my God! Would you two kindly get a hotel room?!" A voice exclaimed from the doorway.

Gretchen and Taylor quickly sat up with guilty looks on their faces to see Zac watching them from his position in the doorway.

"Get out of here!" Taylor shouted.

"No! This is my room to and I still have some things to pack."

"Well pack them later." Taylor slid off the bed and began to approach his younger brother.

"I said NO!" Zac glared at Taylor. "You’re just lucky I was the one who caught you and not mom or dad. You would think the two of you would have learned your lesson by now, but apparently not! It’s bad enough that you and Ike kick me out of the room nearly every night to talk about girls and stuff you assume I don’t understand. Well I’m sick of it and if you think I’m going to just walk away and obey your every command so you can turn our room into Motel Taylor Hanson, well you are dead wrong! You’re just going to have to keep your hands off of Gretchen long enough for me to pack the rest of my stuff!" Zac pushed past Taylor and began angrily throwing things into the suitcase, which lay open on his bed.

"All right Zac, chill out," Taylor gave a questioning look to his younger brother who was grabbing random items of clothing and shoving them in crumpled balls into his bag. "Look don’t tell mom and dad about this, okay?"

Zac stopped, a rumpled shirt hanging loosely from his fist. "Why shouldn’t I tell them? Hmmm? Obviously not one word they said to you the other night penetrated your thick skull."

Taylor glanced back at Gretchen, a hurt look on his face. "Why are you being such a jerk?" he asked.

Zac sighed. "I’m not being a jerk. I just don’t appreciate getting thrown out of my own bedroom every time I turn around. Now leave me alone. I’ll be out of your hair in a minute then you two can fornicate all you want. I don’t care if you get caught or not," Zac snapped.

Taylor reached his hand out and gently tugged Gretchen’s arm, pulling her out of the room. "Look, I don’t know what his deal is, but I think I should talk to him. I’ll call you later, okay?"

Nodding her head, Gretchen said, "I totally understand. It seems like it’s more than just him being upset about getting kicked out of the room a couple of times."

After walking Gretchen to the door, Taylor returned to his bedroom. Zac was sitting on the edge of his bed, staring off into space.

"Where’s Ike?" Taylor softly asked from the doorway.

"How should I know?" Zac mumbled, not looking at his brother.

"Look Zac, I’m sorry, okay? Just forget about it."

Zac turned and stared at Taylor. He narrowed his eyes and shook his head. "Tay, just leave me alone. I really don’t want to talk to you."

Taylor sighed. "Fine, be that way. I’m sick of you acting like such a spoiled brat." With that he turned and pounded down the stairs, leaving Zac alone in their bedroom.


Chapter 34 - Does Anybody Actually Like "Look At You?"

Taylor lay awake in bed, his body not yet used to the fifteen hour time change. His family had arrived in Japan earlier that day and after picking at a dinner which strongly resembled under cooked, if not raw fish, he had decided that this promotional tour would be far from the trip of a lifetime.

"Ike.......hey Ike," Taylor whispered from the pull out couch bed. "Are you awake?"

"No," Isaac mumbled. "Go back to sleep."

"I can’t very well go back to sleep if I was never asleep to begin with," Taylor informed his brother.

"True," Isaac agreed. He rolled over on the small bed and faced his brother. "What’s up?"

"I want to ask you something," Taylor sat up and pulled the grey bedspread around his shoulders.

"Okay." Isaac paused. "What?"

"Well it’s kind of......." Taylor suddenly stopped. "I know we’ve talked over this subject before, but not in really great detail. I want......wait a second." Taylor leaned over towards the other bed occupied by his younger brother. "Zac," he softly called. "Hey Zac are you awake?"

"Zac are you awake?"

Zac lay in bed, his back facing his brothers as Taylor called out to him. Should he tell them he was awake? Maybe they wanted to include him in their conversation for once. Fat chance. Nope, they probably just want to make absolutely certain that I’m sleeping so they can talk and talk and not include me. Ha, does Taylor really think I’m stupid enough to admit to being awake, when it’s obvious that he has something interesting to discuss and doesn’t want me to hear it? What an idiot.

"Okay, he must be asleep," Taylor decided. Turning back to look at Isaac, Taylor got a serious expression on his face. "Look, I know I’ve probably exhausted this question to the point of annoyance, and I understand that you’ve been very patient with me, but I have this sort of mental slash physical dilemma and you are the only one who can objectively shed some light on this subject that plagues me."

Isaac chuckled. "Jeez, Tay what’d ya do? Swallow a dictionary?"

"Ike, I’m being serious here. No teen should suffer this unbearable.........well suffering which I endure every time I’m in Gretchen’s very presence."

"Taylor....get to the point!" Isaac shook his head at Taylor’s uncanny ability to tip toe around the question he wanted to ask.

"Sex. I know, I know......we’ve discussed it. But I need more detail. More.....description if you will."

Isaac blinked. "Taylor........what exactly do you want to know?"

"Well that’s just it. If I knew what I wanted to know, I wouldn’t be asking you now would I? Obviously not, so it’s really important that you provide me with some insight to this issue." Taylor gave his older brother a pleading look.

"It’s really important huh? How come?" Isaac was beginning to find this whole conversation rather amusing, and planned to milk it for what it was worth.

"Well, I asked Gretchen to be my girlfriend," Taylor proudly said.

"Really?" Isaac was surprised. He would have thought that Taylor would tell him about something that important sooner. "Well that’s cool Tay."

"Yeah," Taylor smiled. "Anyway, now that we’re like an official couple I figure sex will probably be somewhere in our future."

"Oh do you?" Isaac couldn’t help but laugh. "What now that she’s your girlfriend you expect her to just roll over onto her back and give it up?"

Taylor frowned. "It sounds so dirty when you put it like that. But anyway, I don’t mean right away," he admitted. "But sometime, hopefully not sometime to far down the road, Gretchen and I will participate in this wonderful act and I want to be prepared."

"So what I’ve already told you isn’t enough huh? I have to go into yet more detail to satisfy your burning desire for knowledge."

Taylor nodded emphatically. "It would be greatly appreciated."

"Well you already know that I think you are to young to be even considering having sex........"

"Ike, how can you be so hypocritical?" Taylor interrupted. "I mean you preach to me that I’m too young, and I should wait, but who’s the one who slept with his fourteen year old girlfriend? Sure as hell wasn’t me! You didn’t wait! And.......well I’m sick of waiting!"

"Taylor, I’m not being hypocritical! I’m not saying I condemn it, I just don’t condone it. What Juliet and I did was stupid, okay? We should never had been intimate, period. Look at what it did to our relationship!"

"Ike, you guys broke up cause you were cheating on her, not because of sex," Taylor reminded him.

"I know that, but I have to understand that once we did it, that was it. There wasn’t any going back. And then afterwards it was like, if we didn’t do it, we weren’t really a couple. We a lot of the times had sex just to have sex. Not because we cared about each other. I mean heck, there was times I didn’t even want to, but I did because it was what was expected."

"When would you not want to have sex?" Taylor asked bewildered. He knew for a fact that if his girlfriend wanted to have sex, well then dammit he would have sex.

"Taylor, believe it or, sex isn’t’ everything. I mean sometimes I just wanted to sit and talk, and I’m sure there was times that Juliet felt the same way, but sex got in the way."

Taylor rolled his eyes and flopped back onto his sofa bed. "Okay Ike, that’s all great and everything, but can we please stay on topic?"

Isaac sighed. "Fine. I can see you aren’t going to listen to me unless I talk about what you want to hear. So all I can say is that if you are going to have sex, use protection....."

"Ike!" Taylor once again interrupted. "I know that! I don’t want another sermon, just give me the juicy details."

"The juicy details? Tay, as much as I like you I’m not about to go into a detailed description of the actual sex sex part......" Isaac paused. Taylor watched his older brother with anticipation until Isaac began talking again. "It can be really amazing. Its unlike any sort of feeling you’ve ever experienced. It can be this totally beautiful thing......"

"Isaac could you please stop rambling? Speak English."

"Okay fine," Isaac tossed his hands in the air. "Sex is like.........well it’s like a sundae."

"Excuse me?" Taylor had eaten his fair share of ice cream sundae’s and was pretty certain that none of them came even remotely close to the same sort of feelings he would have, were he to have sex.

"Yes," Isaac confirmed his earlier statement. "You see, kissing is like the ice cream. Sweet and creamy, with just a bit of flavor thrown in. And getting something like her shirt or something along those lines off......well that’s like ice cream with chocolate sauce. Adds a bit more flavor. Then if you manage to get her," Isaac took a deep breath and gave a slightly embarrassed cough before continuing. "Getting her underwear off, well that’s sort of like the whipped cream. Each little thing makes the sundae taste better, but unless you have it all it’s just not the same. Sex is when you have it all. You have the ice cream, sauce, whipped cream, nuts, sprinkles, the cherry, no pun intended, and it can’t get any better."

"Hmmm," Taylor was still a tad bit confused about the whole subject despite his brother’s whole "sundae/sex" analogy. "So at first when Gretchen wouldn’t let me touch her........she was like an Italian Ice. That fake ice cream you can get at a baseball game," he slowly stated.

"Yes exactly!" Isaac was proud that his younger brother had caught onto his theory. "So what’s she at now?"

"Well," Taylor paused to think about that. "She’s like ice cream, with a little bit of flavoring, but not very much."

"Well, at least she’s no longer than an Italian Ice," Isaac joked.

"Yeah, well I just hope she becomes a sundae sometime soon. Maybe a banana split even."

"Taylor, don’t try to rush into making her a sundae," Isaac warned, a pleading note in his voice.

Taylor only nodded and lay back down on his bed. "Hey Ike?" He whispered into the darkness.

"Hmmm?" Isaac mumbled.

"I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat at Dairy Queen or even look at a sundae in quite the same way ever again," Taylor laughed. Taking a deep breath, he felt exhaustion set in. "Night Ike," he mumbled. "And thanks."

"Zac freeze! Just where do you think you’re going?" Taylor demanded as his younger brother tried to walk out of the hotel room.

"To meet mom and dad in the lobby." Zac gave Taylor a "duh" look. "We have to leave to do the radio interview in fifteen minutes."

Taylor pointed an accusing finger at his brother. "That’s my black tee-shirt," he continued, not to concerned with the time constraint.

Zac, who was already mad enough at himself for falling asleep before being able to hear what Taylor had deemed the "juicy" part of his older brother’s conversation the previous night, certainly was in no mood to deal with Taylor’s whining, especially at eight in the morning. "So?" he snapped.

"Did you ask if you could borrow it?" Taylor challenged.

Zac rolled his eyes. "Since when did I have to ask?" he retorted. "We all share clothes!"

Isaac stepped out of the bathroom to confront his two younger brothers. "Taylor, stop being such a pain in the ass. Let Zac wear the shirt." Isaac grabbed his jacket off a nearby hanger.

"Hey, Ike! That’s my blue shirt! Why is everyone wearing my clothes? Didn’t you guys pack any of your own?" Taylor tossed his arms in the air.

"I’m out of clean shirts," Zac mumbled.

"Well, maybe if you ate your dinner instead of wearing it every night, that wouldn’t be the case!" Taylor snapped.

"Tay, knock it off," Isaac warned. "You brought loads more clothes than either of us so until we find a laundry mat, Zac and I may have to borrow a few of your shirts. But don’t worry, we would never so much as attempt to squeeze ourselves into your pants."

Taylor narrowed his eyes. In a huff, he grabbed his jacket, brushed past his brothers, and headed towards the hotel lobby.

"Don’t worry about him, Zac. He’s just cranky. Besides the shirt looks better on you anyway. It actually fits and doesn’t cling to your chest."

Zac laughed, feeling just a tad bit better, and followed Isaac out of their room.

"Have fun tonight guys," Mr. Hanson encouraged his sons as they got ready for their first performance in Tokyo. The interview that morning had gone well enough, and now the boys were doing a small, seven song concert at a prestigious Tokyo club.

"Don’t worry dad," Taylor smiled. "We always do."

"Well here’s the set list." Mr. Hanson handed a sheet of paper to Taylor.

Taylor quickly scanned the list of familiar songs.

"Let me see!" Zac screamed and ran over to his brother, grabbing the sheet of paper from Taylor’s grasp. "What is up with this? We need some new songs."

"Well then why don’t you write some?" Isaac suggested as he tuned his acoustic guitar.

"Dad," Zac walked over to his father wearing his most professional looking expression. "Is it really necessary that we sing "MMMBop"?"

"Yes Zac," Mr. Hanson gave his son a look of bewilderment.

"But why?" Zac whined.

"Because it’s our most famous song and the one everyone knows us by, stupid." Taylor hit his younger brother on the top of his head with the tambourine.

"Taylor, don’t call your brother stupid," Mr. Hanson warned. The last thing he needed was an argument to break out right before the boys performed. "And be careful with that instrument, it’s not a toy."

Taylor just rolled his eyes and started singing a series of scales to warm up his voice.

"Why don’t we ever sing 'Lucy'?" Zac asked.

"Because no one wants to listen to you whine about leaving some girl," Taylor joked and continued his progression of scales.

"Oh yeah, and everyone is just dying to hear you moan and groan in every song," Zac shot back.

"Come on you two," Isaac walked over, having finished with his guitar. "Zac as much as we may be sick of "MMMBop" we still have to sing it. As for "Lucy" you can’t exactly sing lead from behind the drum set."

Zac shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, well I bet the female fans would enjoy my singing it."

"Oh yeah Zac. You’re such the ladies man." Taylor raised his voice a few octaves. "Oh look it’s Zac Hanson, what a stud! I do hope he sings 'Lucy'!"

"Wait a second here," Isaac suddenly interrupted Taylor’s impression of a female Zac fanatic. "Since when do we perform ‘Look At You’?"

"What!?" Taylor snatched the list back from his brother.

"Oh my Lord! How did I miss it? No way. We can’t do it. I’d let Zac sing ‘Lucy’ before I’d sing that."

"I’d let Zac sing the Barney theme song before I’d perform that," Isaac stated.

"I don’t see why you two are so against it," Zac spoke up. "You’re the ones who wanted it on the CD to begin with. However if you insist, I am willing to sing ‘Lucy’ in it’s place."

"No!" Taylor took command of the situation. "We are not going to do ‘Lucy’ or ‘Look At You’ period."

"Oh yeah? Who made you the authority on what we sing?" Zac challenged him.

"Well I am the lead singer and hence the leader of this group." Taylor folded his arms across his chest.

"We don’t have a lead singer," Isaac reminded him.

"Please! Like anyone even believes that. Who sings most of the songs on ‘Middle of Nowhere’ and lead on all the singles? Hmmm, that would be me," Taylor pointed to himself.

"Yeah, well that’s just because stupid Mercury Records wouldn’t allow us to release ‘Lucy’ as a single." Zac imitated his brother by folding his arms across his chest.

"Would you shut up about ‘Lucy’?" Isaac snapped. "What’s your sudden obsession with the song?"

"Boys!" Mr. Hanson interrupted their little argument. "Stop this bickering. You need to go on sage soon and you ARE going to sing the songs on the list. Now are you all warmed up and ready?"

"Yeah, yeah," Taylor answered for all three of them. "Listen guys, we are going to go on stage and sing all the songs on the list, except for ‘Look At You’."

"Tay, you don’t speak for the band," Isaac was getting very disgusted at his brother’s sudden self-appointed role of authority. "But I do agree we shouldn’t perform ‘Look At You’."

"And why not?" Mr. Hanson demanded. "You all agreed to put it on the CD and now non one wants to perform it? Why did you bother recording it in the first place."

"I didn’t want to sing it......that was all Zac and Ike," Taylor raised both of his arms in an attempt to show his innocence.

"As if!" Isaac, who had just watched ‘Clueless’ the other night, did his best Alicia Silverstone impression. "I NEVER wanted to do that song. But Taylor and Zac insisted on it."

"Hold on," Zac spoke up as he placed his megaphone around his neck. "Just a minute, I never liked that perverted song!"

"Yes you did," Taylor snapped and gave his brother a disgusted look. "Once you found out that you could scream nonsense in some hideous voice, you were all over it. I was the only one who made a case for not putting the song on the CD."

"Yeah, right!" Isaac could not believe the lies spilling from his brothers mouths. "Zac you liked the song from the start. And Taylor, you were so serious about getting it on the CD that you kept correcting Zac and me while we were recording it!"

"I HATE the song!" Taylor shouted. "I never wanted to do it, but I was overruled. The only reason I kept correcting you two in the recording room was because you sounded terrible. I figured if we HAD to do it we might as well try to make it sound halfway decent. However we failed miserably in doing that."

"Oh musical genius Taylor......who wrote most of the song?" Zac shot him a questioning look.

"I don’t remember, probably Ike," Taylor gave Isaac a cold stare.

"Hey, no are not pinning this one on me!" Isaac snapped. "I never liked or wanted anything to do with that piece of crap!"

"Crap is right!" Taylor interrupted him. "I don’t even think we can consider that song music. And it wouldn’t even be on the CD if Zac hadn’t whined so much about liking it!" Taylor decided it would just be easier to pin the blame on his younger brother.

"ME?" Zac squeaked out, wide eyed. He could not recall wanting the number on their CD.

"Yeah, you," Isaac took Taylor’s lead. "You loved the little shouting thing you got to do in the background."

"No! You’re not going to put this all on me!" Zac firmly stated, stamping his foot.

"Taylor rolled his eyes. "Zac just stop it. You are so immature."

"Me? I think not." Zac snapped. "I didn’t like the song. It was you who wanted to write some perverted song about getting it on with some girl in the middle of a school dance." He pointed at Taylor.

"Zac you know that’s not what the song is about," Isaac reminded him. "And Taylor really wasn’t to keen on the idea of singing it!"

"Yeah right!" Zac could feel his anger building up in his body. Why did they always gang up on him and exclude him from things? They were supposed to be best friends, not two buddies and a tag along.

"At least we all agreed that we’re not singing it," Taylor muttered getting tired of the conversation.

"Taylor you wrote it!" Zac screamed loud enough to get everyone’s attention back stage. "You wrote it about Juliet and some fantasy you made up about her, back when you were obsessing over her. And everyone in the world knows what those lyrics are insinuating."

Taylor and Isaac stared at their younger brother and his voice only continued to increase in volume with each word. It would not be long before the audience could hear him.

"I am so sick and tired of you and Isaac ganging up on me!" Zac continued to rant. "We tell everyone we’re best friends, but lately you guys have been acting like I’m too young for you or something. I hear you whispering in the hotel after you think I’m asleep. Sometimes you even ask me if I’m sleeping. And now you try and pin all the blame for ‘Look At You’ on me. Well I’m not going to stand for it anymore. Do you hear me? NO MORE!"

"Guys! ENOUGH!" Mr. Hanson rejoined his sons. "They’re introducing you now, so stop this bickering and get ready to perform."

Zac went through the motions of "Thinking of You" without much feeling. He looked up from behind his drum set to see hoards of girls reaching towards Taylor as he bounced behind the keyboards.

Maybe he’ll bounce himself right of the stage, Zac thought bitterly.

Zac cleared his thoughts as his solo approached. As he sang, he could distinctly hear Taylor shout "come on". Why does he always do that? Anger built up in Zac as he realized that Taylor hardly ever let him have the spotlight.

After "Thinking of You" the band began "A Minute Without You". Zac began pounding on his drums louder and harder as Isaac started the main vocals. As he played, Zac thought back to the night before when Taylor had asked Isaac about sex. Did they think he was too young to understand? Why did they always assume he was too young for everything? The more Zac thought about these things, the angrier he got. And the angrier he got, the harder he started playing his drums. And the harder he played, the faster his tempo got. As he pounded away, he looked over and noticed Ravi, their back-up guitarist, staring at him.

"You’re playing way too fast," Ravi mouthed to Zac.

For some reason this little piece of advice only infuriated Zac more. Ravi was a back-up musician. What right did he have tellling Zac how he should play? Suddenly Zac suspected that Ravi was probably buddies with Taylor and Isaac. The three of them probably got together and talked about sex and guy stuff whenever Zac wasn’t around. It wasn’t just two against Zac, it was three, and maybe more!

About halfway through "MMMBop", Taylor just couldn’t take it anymore. Zac was pounding away at the drums as if there was no tomorrow. He was completely off tempo, and he wasn’t even attempting to harmonize anymore. His playing resembled a beginner having a field day with a new set of drums, rather than a professional musician. Taylor could hardly sing the lyrics audibly at this tempo, much else play the keyboards. So finally, he dropped his arms to his sides in frustration, and stopped playing his instrument all together. Taylor turned to face Zac, giving on singing as well. He attempted, at no avail, to get Zac’s attention. Zac was going insane on the drums. His hands were flying, his face beet red and his hair was plastered in thick blond clumps to his cheeks and forehead.

Isaac, who had attempted to take over lead vocals after Taylor gave up, soon followed in his brothers footsteps. He turned around and stared at Zac, hoping he didn’t break a wrist or something with the way he was wailing on his drums.

It wasn’t much longer before Ravi stopped playing and the other back-up musicians followed suit. After the last notes from the other instruments faded, Zac was left playing nothing at all, just pounding on the drums, lost in his own anger.

"Ike," Taylor mumbled, his face buried in a pillow provided by the Delta Chelsea Inn--Japan.

"Hmmm?" Isaac had been staring at the white ceiling for what seemed like hours.

"Why do you think Zac did that?" Taylor was genuinely confused by his younger brothers behavior at their show.

"Because he’s a punk, that’s why," Isaac laughed. "Seriously thought, I don’t know. Guess today just wasn’t his day or something."

"Well, he shouldn’t have done it during my concert," Taylor rolled over onto his back. "He made me look bad."

Isaac laughed once again and turned to face his brother. "Tay, you are so conceited. It’s not even funny." Isaac paused. "Well, actually it is pretty funny. You’re so full of yourself! That smug smile you get after we perform as if all the applause is for you and you alone. Whatever pal!"

Taylor glared at his brother and shrugged his shoulders. "I’m not conceited," he quietly stated.

"Okay, whatever," Isaac smirked.

"Well, I can’t help it!" Taylor said matter of factly.

"Help what?"

"That I’m better looking than you two, and because of that all the fans pretty much like me best," Taylor offered Isaac his famous ‘I know I’m the man’ smile.

Isaac just stared at Taylor, his eyes wide with disbelief. "Do you really believe that?"

Taylor bit his lip and quickly contemplated the question. "Well....." he paused. "That’s probably not all there is to it."

Isaac merely continued to stare, shaking his head at his brother’s conceit. "Oh, please do enlighten me on the other reasons."

"Well, I am the most talented of the group, back-up musicians included."

"Please tell me you’re joking! You can’t possibly believe that!" Isaac said, dumbfounded.

"I always believe the truth," Taylor said.

"OH." Isaac turned his attention back to the ceiling.

"Ike," Taylor noticed his brother seemed a little edgy. "I’m not the only one who thinks that. I mean just the ratio of fan mail to me versus you and Zac should say something. And all the books written about us say that if anyone has a chance to go solo, it’s me and....."

"Just shut up Taylor!" Isaac snapped, his voice loud enough to rattle the Buddhist paintings hanging on the wall above his bed.

Taylor suspected he had hit a sore chord with his brother. "You do have a nice voice Ike. And you play the guitar okay. Granted your dancing could use a little help, but...."

"Taylor." Isaac held up his hand. "Don’t....please. I don’t need you complementing me in some lame attempt to boost my ego or anything."

"Sorry," Taylor mumbled. "I was just trying to be nice."

"Well, don’t bother," Isaac replied.

Taylor let a few minutes of silence pass, and when he suspected that Isaac had come to grips with the truth and calmed down a bit, he once again spoke up. "So how much longer do you think dad is going to keep Zac in there?"

Isaac glanced at the clock on the bedside table. "He’s already been in there for nearly two hours."

"Geez," Taylor shook his head. "Dad’s never lectured me for that long."

"Well of course not," Isaac said. "you’re the perfect son, remember? How could someone as wonderful and as spotless as you do anything which would warrant more than a ten minute lecture from dad?"

Taylor sighed, ignoring Isaac’s sarcasm. "Is there anything to do around here? I’m so bored!"

Isaac thought for a few seconds before offering a suggestion. "Why don’t you go stare at your reflection in the bathroom mirror? Viewing such "perfection" should probably keep you entertained for at least a few hours."

"Isaac, your jealousy is really not becoming at all," Taylor stated. "I’ve accepted the way things are and you need to do the same."

Isaac rolled his eyes, and walked over to the television, grabbing the remote. "If I find something do you think you could stop praising yourself long enough for us to watch a program?"

Taylor couldn’t tell if his brother was joking or not, so he agreed to keep his mouth shut.

"Here, this looks like an American show," Isaac commented. "At least it’s in English."

Taylor stared at the screen, knowing he’d seen the show before, but just couldn’t place a name to it. "Wait a second." Realization dawned on him. "We met that guy."

"Who?" Isaac asked. "There are three guys on the screen."

"The one with the really dark hair. Man, who is he?" Taylor racked his brain. "He has a really weird name."

"Now that you mention it, he does look familiar," Isaac said.

RIDER STRONG!" Taylor suddenly screamed, and jumped to his feet on the bed. He started jumping up and down in his excitement. "Yes this is ‘Boy Meets World’ and that is Rider Strong."

"You’re right," Isaac smiled, trying hard not to laugh, and hoping that Taylor wouldn’t smack his head on the low ceiling, even though it probably would knock some sense into the boy.

"Of course I am," Taylor exclaimed. "He’s on this show, and he was on ‘Party of Five’ a few times. He got to kiss Claudia, lucky guy," Taylor collapsed on his bed.

"Remember watching him back stage on Regis and Kathie Lee?" Isaac laughed at the memory. "Did you not just want to scream at him to untuck his collar?"

"No kidding!" Taylor agreed. "And his interview! Man that was awful!"

"I know," Isaac said. "And boy did he ever ramble! I hate it when people do that."

"Umm, Isaac?" Taylor gave his older brother a strange look. "You ramble all the time!" He burst out laughing.

"No I don’t!"

"Yes, you do!" Taylor managed to say between fits of giggles. "When someone asks you a question you just go on and on! Sometimes it seems like you’ll never shut up! And half the time I think you do it just to hear yourself talk because you don’t have a clue as to what you’re saying!"

"Like when?" Isaac demanded, glaring at his brother.

"Oh, I don’t know.......Fox After Breakfast, for example!" Taylor smiled remembering that horrible show.

Isaac gave Taylor a confused look.

"Oh come on, you remember. Peter Fonda promoted some movie that no one in the world saw willingly and Kathy Griffin, who had some sick fascination with Zac, kept making fun of us!"

"Yeah, I remember the show," Isaac said. "But I didn’t ramble on it."

"Yes you did!" Taylor exclaimed and flopped over to get a better look at his clueless brother. "You rambled on and on about the native music mom and dad listened to. Zac finally got you to shut up by claiming it was a steel drum orchestra. But everyone watching had already figured out that you had no clue in your right mind as the what you were talking about."

The commercial break ended, and both boys turned their attention back to the ever comical show.

"His interview was bad," Isaac said when Rider’s character appeared on the screen, attempting to get the conversation off himself.

"No kidding," Taylor agreed. "And you claim I’m conceited. All he did was brag about being valedictorian, or something."

"Well, that is sort of an accomplishment," Isaac informed his brother.

"True," Taylor admitted. "I guess I can relate to that."


"Well I am first in my class," Taylor said.

"Tay, you’re home schooled. You’re the only one in your class, moron!" Isaac laughed. "You could be flunking everything and still have the highest GPA."

"So? I’m still first and that should count for something," Taylor smiled. "Maybe I should start mentioning my academic achievements in interviews."

"Yeah, okay." Isaac looked for the remote which had somehow fallen off his bed. "Make sure you remember to talk about the time Zac scored higher than you on the exact same math test."

"Hey, that wasn’t official," Taylor quickly defended himself. "I demanded that Ashley regrade them, but he refused!"

Isaac found the remote and climbed back onto his bed. "I’m going to change the channel, now. Think you can handle that?"

"Yeah, yeah," Taylor muttered.

Isaac flipped through several Japanese speaking stations.

"God don’t they ever show anything but Japanese shows here?" Taylor asked in disgust.

"Gee, I don’t know. Let’s think about this one for a minute. What country are we in? Japan! What do you think they’re going to do, show only American shows?"

Taylor shrugged his shoulders.

"Or maybe they could show Australian shows," Isaac continued. "Or maybe some of those ever popular Russian dramas."

"Okay already!" Taylor snapped.

"Honestly Taylor," Isaac smirked. "You are just so blond sometimes."

"Hey, I’m not......." Taylor, realizing his older brother had him cornered, stopped mid sentence. "Just change the station."

The two boys were so engrossed in finding an English show, that neither of them noticed Zac walking in and flopping himself on the couch, without uttering a word.

"Stop!" Taylor suddenly screamed.

"What?" Isaac nearly jumped from his brothers outburst.

"Oh, nevermind. I thought it was English," Taylor mumbled.

Isaac shook his head, and continued flipping through channels. "OH MY GOD! Are we lucky or what?" he exclaimed.

"Huh?" Taylor looked at his brother.

"Isaac pointed to the screen. "MTV Asia. My So Called Life. In English!"

"Cool! I knew they played American shows," Taylor said. "So which one is this?"

"It’s the heart attack one," Zac quietly said from the couch.

"Hey, when did you come in?" Isaac asked.

Zac feared he’d have to endure a lecture from his brothers as well, and he just wasn’t in the mood for that, so when Taylor patted the spot next to him on his bed and motioned for Zac to join him, Zac took a breath and climbed onto his brothers bed, stating, "I will never understand why this episode was filmed."

"I know what you mean," Taylor agreed. "I mean, who gives a crap about Sharon Cherski’s father? I certainly didn’t."

"I must agree with you guys," Isaac said. "I mean, only nineteen shows were ever filmed, and wasting valuable time on this story line was just pointless. I mean they could have filmed another episode about Angela and Jordan instead."

"What show wasn’t about them?" Zac asked.

"They may have been mentioned a lot, but not enough story lines were dedicated to the two. For some reason the writers felt it necessary to give the parents a plot. Who really cared if Patty got her hair cut, or if Graham was going to have an affair? And having to watch them kiss was pure torture. And what was up with Patty breaking that stupid glass Cinderella? Did that actually have a point? And....."

"Ike, you’re doing it again," Taylor pointed out.

"Doing what?"

"Rambling," Taylor smiled. "Speaking for the sole purpose of hearing your own voice."

"Oh, you notice that too?" Zac asked.

"Who hasn’t?" Taylor laughed. "Have you ever noticed the faces the interviewers make?"

"Yeah," Zac joined in the laughter. "You can tell they are asking themselves if the boy every shuts up!"

"You guys," Isaac shook his head. "So umm.....which is your favorite episode?" Isaac once again attempted to change the subject.

"The sex one," Zac stated matter of factly.

"Oh really," Taylor looked at his younger brother.

"Yeah," Zac said. "But I think she should have slept with him. I mean, that’s what couples do, right?"

"No!" Taylor quickly answered, thinking about how far he and Gretchen were to coming anywhere close to sex.

"I like the boiler room one," Isaac spoke up, and prayed that neither of his brothers would once again ask his opinion of sex in a relationship.

"That’s just because you get off on watching Angela and Jordan make out," Taylor laughed. "You know Ike, that’s a little perverted."

"No it’s not," Isaac defended. And I don’t get off on it. I just think they’re a cute couple, and enjoy seeing them being happy together."

"Being happy? Is that what you call it?" Taylor rolled his eyes. "Besides, the best on is where Angela writes the note about Jordan, but he can’t read it because he’s illiterate and obviously will not be valedictorian of his class." Taylor ignored the strange look Zac threw him and continued. "He then sings to Angela, kisses her and then stands her up."

"You two are crazy," Zac looked at his older brothers. "The sex one ruled."

"How can you say that? Jordan dumps Angela at the end of it!" Isaac exclaimed.

"See I told you. You do get off on those two," Taylor said. "But you guys have to admit the museum one was good. It leaves you with a kind of cliffhanger. Was the song about Angela.....or his red car?"

"The one where Rayanne and Jordan have sex in his car was pretty good too," Zac spoke up.

"Zac what is your sudden fascination with sex," Taylor asked.

"It was a good episode, that’s all I’m saying!"

"You know what I never got about that one?" Isaac sat up. "Why did Brian Krakow video tape the whole thing? And you think I’m perverted."

"Ike, it was a TV show,’ Zac said.

"So, what’s your point?"

"Zac is trying to say that Devon Gummersall didn’t actually tape Jared Leto and A.J. Langer going at it. However if you somehow caught Jared Leto and Claire Danes doing anything physical, you’d probably whip out that camcorder and document the whole thing." Taylor laughed at his humorous assumption.

"Isaac," Zac spoke up a few moments later. "I cannot help but to notice that you did nothing to deny Taylor’s accusations."

"That’s because deep down he knows it’s true. Right Ike?"

"Would you two please be quiet? I’m trying to watch the show," Isaac snapped.

"It’s the stupid heart attack one," Zac said.

"Look at the screen," Taylor whispered. "This is the part where Angela talks to Jordan under the bleachers. We can’t disturb our eldest brother now."

"All right," Isaac warned. "If you two don’t shut up I’m going to turn it off."

"It’s not our favorite show," Taylor reminded him. "See if we care."

"I just don’t understand you two," Isaac shook his head. "What show could be better than this?"

"Gee, I don’t know," Zac pretended to be deep in thought. "I can come up with about eight million."

"Yeah, like Party of Five, for starters," Taylor said.

Isaac held up his hand. "We are not going to have the My So-Called Life/Party of Five war again, so don’t even start," he said. Isaac turned up the volume on the TV, rather than turn off the show.

"Zac, I think we should just leave Isaac to his little "My So-Called Life" fantasy world, and go about our own business," Taylor said.

"Yeah Tay, maybe you could inform Zac about how perfect you are and tell him how much everyone loves you," Isaac offered.

"What?" Taylor looked confused. "What are you talking about?"

"Zac, Taylor has informed me that we need to accept the fact that everyone likes him more than us."

"Oh do we?" Zac looked at Taylor.

"Hey I never said anything like that!" Taylor threw his hands into the air.

"What a little lair!" Isaac shouted. "You just spent like half an hour bragging about how talented and good looking you are!"

"I did no such thing!" Taylor snapped.

"Whatever," Isaac muttered, knowing it was useless to argue with his brother.

"Come on Zac," Taylor grabbed his younger brothers shoulder. "It’s obvious that our company is not valued here. Let’s go find something else to do."

"Hey Zac," Isaac motioned for his younger brother to come over. "Just tell Taylor he’s blond. It confuses him."

"You’re not funny, Isaac!" Taylor said. "Not funny at all. I don’t appreciate your humor and no one else does either!"

With that Taylor stormed out of the room, leaving his two brothers collapsing with laughter.


Chapter 35 - A Page of Honest Opinions About Hanson

"Guys, have you noticed that dad has been pointing that camera at those dancing women for a really long time?" Isaac asked his younger brothers. "What a perv."

Mr. Hanson had dragged his three sons to some outdoor festival in Bali. None of them were particularly keen on the idea, but he had insisted that they come, claiming it would be an "educational" experience.

"No kidding!" Taylor exclaimed, taking a bite out of a fresh spring roll. "Their dance is not all that entertaining."

"How many of those have you eaten?" Zac inquired, watching as Taylor devoured the rest of the roll. "Oink, oink, piglet."

"Like you’re one to talk, Zac!" Taylor retorted. "Besides, they’re good." He picked up another roll and took a huge bite for Zac’s benefit. "Plus the guy making them was real nice."

"Good thing mom isn’t here," Isaac suddenly exclaimed, breaking into the spring roll debate. He watched his father move closer to the stage. "She’d have a hernia watching dad tape all these half naked women."

"Well, they are skinner than mom," Taylor observed.

Zac gave his brother a strange look. "Mom's pregnant you idiot. Remember?"

"How could I forget?" Taylor groaned. "The other night they were discussing the idea of having Mackie move in with us as soon as this new one is born." Taylor shuddered at the thought. Nothing against his littlest brother, but the idea of squeezing yet another body into their already cramped bedroom was enough to give anyone nightmares.

"God, poor Mackie," Isaac grinned and shook his head. "He's going to grow up into one messed up kid."

"Why?" Zac asked. Taylor nodded in agreement with Zac’s question, his mouth too full of food to say anything.

"Think about it for a minute," Isaac paused. "Mackie is in the same bedroom as those two and now mom is once again with child -- proof that they still do it. So it’s very possible that they at one point or another had sex while he was in the room."

"Oh God!" Taylor exclaimed, sending pieces of spring roll flying out of his mouth. "That’s disgusting!"

"Tay, I love you man, but could you please keep your half chewed food to yourself!" Zac brushed off the chunks of spring roll on his shirt.

"Do you really think our parents are that disgusting?" Taylor asked when he finished chewing. "I mean do you actually think they’d do it while their son was in the room?"

"I wouldn’t put it past them," Isaac said. "I mean look at dad. He’s practically drooling over those half clad women in front of his three sons."

"Do you think we can get him to leave anytime soon?" Zac spoke up. "I’m a little bored of this ‘cultural scene’."

"Highly doubtful, dad just moved even closer to the stage, if that’s possible," Taylor observed.

"Great, we’re going to be stuck here forever," Zac groaned, flopping back into his chair.

"Well, I think I’m going to get some more of those rolls while we wait." Taylor stood and started to walk towards the stand. "You guys want any?"

"Taylor, I think you’ve had enough. We don’t need you keeping us up because you’re puking all night." Isaac stood and intercepted his brother.

"Ahh, whatever." Taylor rolled his eyes. "You can’t tell me when to eat or how much. Plus I’ve never kept you up all night puking."

"Well I’m not in the mood for you to make history," Zac commented. "Besides, look." He pointed to the stage. "The show seems to be winding down."

"Thank God," Isaac said. "I wasn’t sure how much more I could stand."

"Hey guys! What’d ya think of the show?" Walker came over to his sons, camera in hand.

"It was great dad, really." Zac rolled his eyes.

"What you didn’t like it?" Mr. Hanson seemed disappointed.

"I bet mom would have liked it," Taylor piped up.

Mr. Hanson made a face. "Cute, Tay. Real cute. All right, let’s get back to the hotel."

The next afternoon, Hanson found themselves cooped up in their hotel room, with nowhere to go until later in the evening.

"Good Lord, get off the phone already," Isaac muttered.

Taylor had been on the phone with Gretchen for a good forty minutes, and didn’t show any signs of getting off within the next century.

Isaac paced in front of the desk chair which was currently occupied by his garrulous brother.

"Can you hold on a second, Gretchen?" Taylor suddenly asked. Placing his hand over the phone’s mouthpiece, Taylor gave Isaac an expectant stare. "Would you kindly take your pacing elsewhere?" He waved his wrist, attempting to shoo Isaac away. Removing his hand, Taylor then continued his conversation.

Isaac was very quickly losing his patience. It was nearly noon in Bali, which meant that it was getting to be nine at night in Tulsa. Isaac had wanted to try and get a hold of Claire, who was still in Toronto, which meant it was going on ten there. He was anxious to talk with Claire, because he had only been able to speak with her on a limited basis since she had left Tulsa to visit her parents.

Finally, unable to take hearing Taylor talk with Gretchen about absolutely nothing of importance, he poked his brother in the arm.

"Look, you’ve been on the phone practically an hour now! This is the only phone we’re allowed to call out on. I have to call someone before it gets to late, and I want to use the phone. And I mean now, not the next millennium!"

"I’m sorry, what did you say Gretchen? I had this annoying sort of buzz in my ear. Kind of like that sound a bug makes when it gets zapped by one of those insect lights."

Isaac sucked in a deep breath, and held back his urge to scream. His eyes were blazing as he stared at Taylor.

Taylor merely grinned. "Geez, Ike, don’t get your panties in a knot. I’ll get off." Turning his attention back to the phone, Taylor proceeded to give his heartfelt goodbye to Gretchen, telling her how much he missed her, and hoped to see her soon. Isaac danced in front of him, until at long last, and what seemed like a million years later, Taylor finally hung up. Turning in the chair, Taylor gave Isaac a smug smile. "There, now that wasn’t so bad was it? The phone is all yours."

Resisting the urge to give his brother the bird, Isaac grabbed the receiver, which was still hot and sweaty from Taylor’s palm, and began to dial Claire’s number in Toronto when a blood curdling scream came from the bathroom.

"OH MY GOD! This cannot be happening to me!"

Isaac and Taylor looked at each other, the phone all but forgotten.

"Zac? You okay in there buddy?" Isaac called.

"NO! No I’m not! I’m......I have......" The bathroom door flew open and Zac ran into the room, taking a firm stand in front of his brothers, violently pointing at his chin.

"You have what?" Taylor asked. "A chin? Whoa, you just now realized that?"

"NO! LOOK!" Zac continued to gesture at his face.

"I am looking," Isaac assured him. "But what am I supposed to be seeing?"

"On my chin," Zac whined. "It’s huge!"

"What? That zit?" Taylor questioned. "You mean you’ve never had one before?"

"No!" Zac snapped. "In case you failed to notice, up until this day I’ve had perfectly clear skin."

"So? Big deal, you have a zit." Taylor shrugged his shoulders. "You’ll probably get a few more before you die."

"Taylor! I can’t believe you!" Zac screamed.

"What do you want me to do?" Taylor shouted. "Just pop it and get on with your life, my goodness."

"Ike, I know you understand," Zac looked up at his brother. "You haven’t had clear skin in quite some time."

"Uh Oh, Ike, your little brother is making fun of you again," Taylor laughed. "You aren’t going to put up with that are you?"

Isaac narrowed his eyes. "Zac, just calm down. Besides that huge fever blister thing you get on your lip looks a hundred times worse than that little old pimple."

"Well," Zac stamped his foot. "What do you guys do?"

"For starters we don’t have a huge hissy fit over it," Taylor informed him.

"Yeah, well you guys are used to getting zits," Zac pointed out. "I however am used to my unblemished skin."

"Zac, no one is even going to notice it," Isaac tried to assure him. "If you still have it when we perform you’re going to be on the stage and too far away for anyone in the audience to see it."

"Really," Taylor agreed. "I wouldn’t have seen it if you hadn’t insisted on performing some huge theatrical production because of it."

"Fine," Zac grumbled. "But I’ll know it’s there. I thought I could count on you guys."

"Zac, as much as we would love to bond with you over your zit.......we really don’t care!" Taylor rolled his eyes.

"Taylor, don’t be so cruel." A smile spread across Isaac’s face. "This is our little brother we’re talking about here, and we have a duty to help him. Now I’m sure this hotel has some stuff we can put on it."

"What do you mean put on it?" Zac asked, suspiciously. "What are you going to put on it?"

"Stuff to hide it," Isaac answered.

Zac noticed Isaac and Taylor exchange sly expressions. He had no clue what was going through their minds, but very much doubted he would like it. "You know what? I bet the make up people will be able to cover it before we perform, so you’re right. I don’t have anything to worry about."

"Oh no, no, no, no," Taylor answered. "You can’t trust them. Remember that one photo shoot when it looked like we were wearing rouge and lipstick?"

"We were wearing rouge and lipstick," Zac reminded him.

"Exactly my point. You can’t trust those make up people. Next thing you know you’re looking like one of those Olsen twins. The stuff they put over your zit will probably irritate it and make it bigger," Taylor warned.

Zac’s eyes widened in horror as he reached up to cover his chin. "Bigger," he gasped.

"Yeah," Isaac agreed. "But Taylor and I could probably get rid of it for you."

"How?" Zac eyed his older brothers.

"Simple enough," Taylor smiled. "We’ll use our old fashioned method in which to rid you of it."

"Tay, you’re fourteen," Zac said. "How old fashioned can your methods possibly be?"

"Oh, they aren’t mine," Taylor said. "They’ve been passed down for centuries from the getting rid of zit Gods."

Zac rolled his eyes. "Why do I have a feeling I shouldn’t be trusting you guys?" he moaned.

"Zachary, Zachary, Zachary." Isaac shook his head. "Yee of little faith."

"Zac if you want to get rid of it, you have to trust us." Taylor added. "After all you yourself pointed out just how experienced Ike and me are in the area of facial blemishes."

"How can you expect me to trust you guys?" Zac gave his brother a wary glance.

"Have we ever lied to you before?" Isaac asked.

"Just about every day," Zac nodded.

"Well, that stops right now. We vow not to lie anymore. So what do you say? Trust us?" Taylor flashed Zac his most innocent smile.

Zac sighed. "I guess I haven’t got anything to lose, so yeah.........I trust you."

"Great!" Taylor gave Isaac a self satisfied smile. "Zac wait here, Ike and I have work to do."

Zac watched with apprehension as his older brothers disappeared into the bathroom. He heard them rummaging around and when they called to him, he bit his lip and slowly made his way into the bathroom.

"Zac, sit here." Taylor pointed to the closed toilet seat when Zac entered the bathroom.

Zac reluctantly sat on the lid and wrinkled his nose at the concoction his brothers brought over.

"Okay Zac, hold your head up," Taylor commanded.

"What is that stuff?" Zac asked.

"It’s stuff that will help your zit go away," Isaac said, sounding very sure of himself.

"But it smells," Zac whined. "I mean take of whiff. It stinks worse than Tay’s music teacher."

"Zac, that is highly impossible," Taylor argued. "Nothing can possibly smell worse than Miss Evans."

"You still haven’t told me what’s in that," Zac pointed out.

"Zac, didn’t you say you would trust us?" Isaac snapped.

"Yeah, but I’m beginning to totally regret that decision."

"Just shut up and give me your chin." Taylor grabbed Zac’s face in his hands. "Ike, apply the mixture."

"OWW! That stuff stings!" Zac exclaimed when Isaac applied a small amount of the goop to his chin. He tried not to gag as the foul smelling odor overtook his nostrils. He had assumed that Isaac would only dab a little bit on, however his brother was carefully spreading the mixture all over his chin.

"Okay." Taylor released Zac’s face. "Now you just have to leave it on there for half an hour."

"A half hour!" Zac screamed and looked at himself in the mirror. "You’ve got to be kidding me!"

"Nope," Isaac said as he washed his hands. "It needs time to set."

"Set?" Zac gave his brother a skeptical look. "Set my foot, it feels like it’s burning my face off."

"Burning?" Taylor looked at Zac. "You mean it hurts?"

"Yeah," Zac answered.

"Is it still stinging?" Taylor asked.

"Yes!" Zac snapped.

"Good." Taylor smiled and nodded his head. "That means it’s working."

Half an hour later found Zac washing the purplish brown sticky goop off his chin. "Oh my God," he muttered, looking at his reflection. "I’m going to kill them."

Zac stormed out of the bathroom. "You guys did this on purpose!" He screamed at his two older brothers who were sprawled on their beds, reading.

"Did what?" Isaac looked up from his book.

"Did this!" Zac pointed to his chin.

"Hey," Taylor squinted his eyes. "Your pimple is gone."

"Yeah, but I gave birth to about twenty other ones!" Zac yelled. "It looks like my chin exploded."

"Oh, Zac it’s not that bad," Taylor lied.

"Yes it is!" Zac collapsed on his bed. "I look more pimply than Ike."

"I don’t think that’s possible," Taylor tried to assure him.

As Zac thought about that for a moment there was a knock on the door.

"Zac, answer that," Isaac commanded. "And can you please try and refrain from making yet another slam on me while on your way there?"

Zac just rolled his eyes, to upset to argue, and opened the door to see his mother in the hallway.

"I was just coming to remind you guys to pack because we’re leaving right after the....." Mrs. Hanson paused. "Zac? What happened to your face?"

"Tay and Ike. That’s what happened." Zac pointed an accusing finger towards his two older brothers.

Taylor sighed. "Mom, don’t listen to him."

"What did you two do?" Mrs. Hanson stepped past Zac into the room.

"Mom, there’s really no need to get excited," Isaac spoke up. "Especially in your impregnated condition."

"I had a zit and they claimed that they could help me get rid of it," Zac tattled. "So they made some gross concoction and put it on my chin and made me leave it on for half an hour."

"Is this true?" Diana glared at her two oldest sons, who seemed to have developed a sudden fascination with the carpeting. "I can’t believe you two." She shook her head. "Where is the stuff."

"In the bathroom," Taylor mumbled and shot Zac an evil glare as soon as his mother stepped out of the room.

"Did you use this stuff?" Mrs. Hanson emerged holding a small bottle.

"Yeah, I think we added some of that," Isaac replied.

"Zac is allergic to Juniper," Mrs. Hanson informed her sons. "It’s no wonder he broke out."

"Well how were we supposed to know that?" Taylor snapped. "I’m not an allergist."

"Don’t you talk to me like that young man!"

Taylor looked over at Zac who seemed to be taking far too much satisfaction in all of this. "Sorry mom," He mumbled.

"I don’t think it’s me you should be apologizing to," Mrs. Hanson pointed out.

Taylor rolled his eyes. "Sorry Zac. But I was only trying to help."

"Both of you." Mrs. Hanson turned to face Isaac.

"Sorry," Isaac muttered.

Mrs. Hanson shook her head. "Zac come with me and I’ll find something to put on that. As for you two. I ought to slap you both upside the head."

"Mom," Taylor gave her an innocent smile. "You could never do that to us. you love us too much and we have far too sweet of faces for you to even think about striking us."

"Taylor don’t push it," she warned. "I want both of you to pack up your stuff and clean up that bathroom."

Isaac sighed. "Okay mom."

Taylor glanced at his alarm clock from his bed back in Tulsa. "3:23 am and counting," he said aloud. "Is anyone else awake in here?"

"Yes," Zac answered in a deep voice. "Yes I am. Wide awake to be precise. I hate these drastic time changes."

"Would you two kindly shut up?" Isaac called from his bed. "How am I supposed to fall asleep if you two keep yakking every five minutes about being awake?"

"Well so sorry your highness," Zac replied. "I am just so bored."

"Me too," Taylor agreed. "Hey, let’s go on the Internet."

"And do what?" Isaac groaned. "None of our friends will be on. They’re all probably asleep, like normal human beings tend to be at this hour of the night."

"We could look at Hanson sites," Taylor suggested.

"What?" Zac laughed. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah." Taylor pushed his red comforter off and hopped out of bed, heading over to the computer. "This is the perfect time to check out some of those sites about ourselves that we’re always hearing about."

"Sounds good to me," Zac agreed. "Let’s go to some Zac lover sites."

"I don’t think so," Taylor shot down that idea. "Isaac are you joining us or not."

"No, I’m going to sleep." Isaac put his pillow over his head.

"Fine, be that way," Taylor snapped.

Taylor logged on and typed "Hanson" into the Internet search engine.

"Wow, that’s a lot of sites," Zac muttered when the total number came up.

"Well let’s go to this one," Taylor suggested.

After surfing through several pointless sites for nearly an hour, the boys discovered a link which bore a very interesting title.

"A Page of Honest Opinions on Hanson," Zac read aloud.

"That could be interesting," Taylor said and clicked on the link.

After a few moments the page was loaded.

"Where do you want to go?" Taylor asked.

"How about performance reviews," Zac suggested.

Taylor clicked on the icon. "Which one to choose from. How about Regis and Katie Lee."

"Man I hated those two," Zac groaned as they waited for the site to open.

"I guess they felt the same way," Taylor noted, pointing to a few lines towards the start of the review. "Hey......HEY!" Taylor’s eyes widened. "My pants were not too tight on that show!"

Zac started to laugh. "Oh no....they were just fine Tay."

"Well they didn’t particularly like what you were wearing either, Zac, so I’d just shut up," Taylor snapped. "Oh look they noticed Rider’s collar too."

"Taylor go to Jenny McCarthy," Zac commanded.

After the page was loaded and the boys scanned a few of the lines Zac once again spoke up. "Hey," he smiled. "Too bulky. That’s exactly what I said. I knew that shirt was too bulky, but ohhhh noooo the stylist insisted that it looked great."

"Yeah, and I knew that sweater was horrible! I remember fighting with that lady over wearing it." Taylor agreed with the comment on the page about his sweater.

"Hey, look," Zac laughed. "Look at what they say about Ike’s pants."

"My what?" Isaac suddenly sat up in his bed. "What pants?"

"I thought you were sleeping," Taylor said.

"Who can sleep with you two morons in the room. Now what pants?"

"Those big jeans with the huge cuffs that looked so stupid," Zac continued to laugh.

Isaac frowned and decided to join his brothers at the computer, seeing as how sleep with them fooling around was looking impossible anyway. "Would you look at the way they insult us in their Oddville review. If only they knew," he laughed. When Taylor returned to the main page, Isaac pointed at the screen. "What’s that thing about things they never want to see us do?"

Taylor linked to the page and the boys read wide eyed the thirty things the web page owners never wanted to see Hanson do.

Isaac burst out laughing. "Look Tay, they never want to see you in a pair of see through pants. Neither do I!"

Taylor made a face, and went back to the main page.

"What’s that "Tulsa 74132" thing?" Zac asked.

"I don’t know," Taylor answered. "But it says it contains adult content, so Ike had better not read it."

"Very funny," Isaac snapped. "Just click on it."

The three brothers sat back and began reading a very engrossing story about themselves.

"Man these people are such perverts!" Zac exclaimed after reading the first few chapters.

"Look who's talking Mr. "My favorite episodes of My So-Called Life are the sex ones"," Isaac laughed.

"Yeah, well," Zac paused. "It’s one thing to watch a show, but I don’t write this kind of stuff. I mean this is something Aaron Spelling would make into some lame one hour TV soap opera for Fox. I mean come on, Beverly Hills 90210 much!"

"Well I like it," Taylor snapped. "If it bothers you so much, just stop reading it."

"That’s just the problem," Zac explained. "It’s so gross, yet so intriguing. I just can’t help myself."

"I really like the way they depict me," Taylor smiled.

"Yeah they make you out to be a conceited jerk, just the way you are," Isaac laughed.

"It takes one to know one," Taylor shot back.

"Well I can’t stand it anymore. I’m going to bed." Isaac stood up and stretched.

"Fine you loser. We’re going to finish the story," Zac stated and began reading the next chapter.

A soft knock on the bedroom door interrupted Taylor and Zac’s reading.

"Are you boys still up?" Mr. Hanson asked.

"No." Taylor called. "We aren’t up at five thirty in the morning. Are you insane?"

"In bed boys, and I mean now," Mr. Hanson said, sticking his head inside the bedroom.

Reluctantly Taylor turned off the computer, and he and Zac returned to their beds.

Taylor listened to Isaac’s quiet snoring. "Hey, Zac. think we should tell Ike that they too noticed that he has that rambling problem?"

"Nah......what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him," Zac yawned. "But I do think we should tell him that one of the chicks on that page seems to be a little obsessed with him. Saying she would hurt those two girls Ike used to like. I mean what would she do if she found out about Juliet and Claire?"

"No need to tell him that either." Taylor whispered. "He already has a big enough ego. Imagine how he would be if he found out a girl actually liked him."