Chapter 41 - Backstreet's Back, oh yeah... Wait, Were They Ever Really Gone in the First Place?

"What are you doing?"

Zac looked up from his position sitting Indian style on the kitchen floor and squinted at Taylor who stood above him.

"What do you mean, what am I doing?"

Taylor stared at Zac. "What do you mean, what do I mean? I meant exactly what I said. What in the world are you doing?"

"What does it look like I’m doing."

"Well from where I’m standing it looks like you’re sitting on the kitchen floor staring at the refrigerator."

"There you go then. Why’d you ask when you obviously knew what I was doing?"

Taylor shook his head. "Zac, you really make no sense. Let me ask you again. I’ll use small words this time so that you’ll understand, okay? What........are........you........doing?"

Zac sighed. "I’m sitting on the floor staring at the refrigerator."

Taylor threw his hands in the air. "I give up!" he exclaimed. "Fine, don’t tell me what you’re doing, I really don’t care."

"Don’t get your panties all up in a knot, Tay, sheesh. Look, I’m hoping that by sitting here staring at the refrigerator that food will magically appear. Sort of like........what’s that word. Osmouses?"

"It’s Osmosis, lame brain. And I don’t think that’s what you mean. Osmosis is supposed to be that whole, stick the book under the pillow and the words will magically infiltrate into your brain and you’ll know everything from the book."

"So yeah, that’s sort of like the same thing right?"

"You’re stupid. Now get out of my way." Taylor nudged Zac with his foot, and opened the refrigerator door. "Zac!" Slamming the door Taylor looked back down at Zac. "There's tons of food in there!"

"Let me rephrase that. There's no GOOD food."

Taylor opened the door again and surveyed the packed fridge. "None of this is good food? Look, we have pizza, stuff to make sandwiches........" he trailed off when Zac rolled his eyes. "What? You don't think any of this is good?"

"Why do you think I’m sitting here? If there was good food, I would be eating it!"

"Sitting on the floor in front of the refrigerator isn’t going to do anything you dummy." Taylor sighed. Knowing he wasn’t going to win this argument -- when Zac set his mind to something, it was no use trying to tell him other wise. Instead he opened the door again, grabbed a pop out, and left the kitchen, shaking his head at his younger brother who still sat on the floor, willing food into the fridge.



After leaving Zac in the kitchen, Taylor walked into the living room. It was deserted. Good thing, he wanted to sit back and watch one of his favorite TV shows. Grabbing the remote, Taylor flopped onto the couch, switched on the TV, and sat, engrossed with watching as a couple passionately embraced one another on the television screen.

Zac came into the living room, munching on a stalk of celery. "Oh no way! I love this show," he stated, slightly surprised to find Taylor watching it.

Taylor glanced over at his brother. "I see you found food, in the foodless refrigerator.

Zac only gave Taylor a dirty look, and joined his brother on the couch. The brothers sat in silence, with only Zac’s chewing noises, interrupting what was being played out on the screen.

The show cut to a commercial break and Taylor turned to Zac. He heaved a great sigh. "Don’t you think Carrie needs to get together with Mike?"

"I know!" Zac agreed. "Her and Austin just don’t look good together. Besides, Sammy wants him so bad."

Taylor nodded his head, then crinkled his brow. "Hey wait a second. Since when did you watch this show?"

"I’ve been watching it all summer, thank you very much," Zac pointed to his brother. "When did you start watching it?"

Taylor shrugged his shoulders. "Gretchen and I watch it together a lot. She has a big thing for that Jason Eckles guy."

"UGH! Whatever," Zac rolled his eyes and made a gagging sound. "I hate that guy! He’s such a loser and I can’t stand his twin sister either."

"Whatever!" Taylor’s eyes got wide. "Sammy is hot."

"She’s got nice eyes," Zac admitted. "But I like Kristin. She’s so mean and everyone just hates her. That is so cool."

The two boys shut up when the show came back on. They were so absorbed in the program, neither noticed Isaac enter the room.

Isaac studied the TV screen for a minute. "What are you guys watching?" He frowned at the crappy acting on the screen. "What is this show?"

"Nothing," Zac answered, as Taylor waved his hand in the air, trying to hush them both.

Isaac picked up the remote control.

"Don’t even think about it." Taylor gave his brother an icy stare.

"What? It’s just a crappy soap opera." Isaac pointed the remote to the television set.

Before he could so much as press a button, Zac snatched it away. "This is not just any crappy soap. Now be quiet, I’ve been waiting all week for this part."

Isaac just stared at his two younger brothers, who were watching the soap opera as if it alone had the power to answer all of life’s questions. When he attempted to comment on how pathetic they looked, he was giving two death stares and demands to shut up or get lost.

Suddenly Taylor jumped off the sofa exclaiming, "I knew it! I knew he had jungle madness!"

Isaac, not wanting to shatter his younger brother’s faith in the program, did not bother to point out that he doubted very much that the disease actually existed. Instead he sat in the arm chair and started watching the program with them.

At the next commercial break, Isaac turned to his younger brothers. He held in his laughter as he noticed the tension he could plainly see in their bodies eased up at the commercial break. "Geez you two, it’s just a show."

"Just a show, huh?" Zac gave his brother a pointed look. "Like you have room to talk, Mr. I wrote 500 letters to try and save My So-Called Life."

"That was different," Isaac rolled his eyes at his brothers immaturity. "That was a good show."

"It must not have been that great. It’s not on any more now is it?" Zac gave Isaac a triumphant grin.

"Yes, it is," Isaac shot back. "MTV airs it every night at seven."

"Re-runs Isaac," Zac shook his head. "Old story lines we’ve already seen."

Isaac, figuring it was a waste of time talking to Zac about a subject as mature and adult as My So-Called Life, simply held up his hand. "What could they possibly do on this show which hasn’t been done before?"

"Jungle madness is new," Taylor spoke up, still reeling in the excitement of his correct diagnosis.

Isaac shook his head. "Oh Taylor, the little things that amuse you. I mean how do you guys keep the characters straight? There seems to be ten billion of them with a million different story lines going on at once."

Taylor turned to his brother, folded his hands primly on his lap, and said, "Well, Isaac, you see it is really quite simple." Taylor cleared his throat. "John and Roman are in love with Doc, but right now they’re both sick with Jungle madness. Kristin, Zac’s favorite, is totally in love with John. Stefano, who everyone hates, is her father. He’s also the father of Baby Elvis, Susan’s baby. Then there’s Carrie, who’s in love with Austin, but Mike’s madly in love with her. I think she should get together with Mike, so beautiful Sammy can have Austin. Gretchen has a thing for Sammy’s twin brother, but I forgot his name. And Sammy and her twin are Doc and Roman’s kids. But she also has kids with John, only......"

"Put a cork in it," Zac interrupted him. "The show’s back on."



After the conclusion of "Days of Our Lives" Taylor decided to put his plan into action. And what plan would this be? Well, actually it was more of a mission than a plan. And what mission would this be? Cue the "Mission Impossible" theme. Plain and simple.......to have the absolute BEST poster at the concert.



"Oh man that’s it. You are dead!" Zac ran across the living room and flung himself behind the back of the large sofa, his plastic gun shooting all the way.

"Zac, you’re the dead one. I shot you three times."

Zac’s eyes widened and he popped his head up from behind the sofa to confront his playmate. "I shot you in the head!!! You’re the dead one!"

"No way! I shot you in the chest before you shot me!"

"WHAT? You aren’t being fair! I shot you in the head! That’s an automatic death!"

Mrs. Hanson walked into the living room, vacuum cleaner in hand. She raised her eyebrows as the argument taking place in her living room continued.

"I shot you four times before you shot me in the head! Therefore your head shot doesn’t count because you would have already been dead!"

"Oh my God!" Zac shouted. "You are such a poor loser! I don’t believe this!"

"You’re the poor loser. You were dead before I was dead!"

"Umm, guys?" Mrs. Hanson gave them a stern glance. "Do you think you could take this argument outside? I have housework to do."

Zac turned and looked at his mother. "Mom! You have to help me out here. I shot him in the head. Don’t you think that constitutes automatic death?"

Mrs. Hanson shook her head. "Yeah, sure Zac. That constitutes automatic death."

The voice behind the recliner groaned. "Diana you’re supposed to be on my side!" He complained.

Zac shot him a smug smile. "See, Dad! I told you that you were cheating."

Walker Hanson stood up from his position behind the recliner and gave his wife a sheepish grin. "Don’t listen to him Di. I shot him four times and he refused to die."

"I know honey. Think you’ll get over it?"

Walker pouted. "I don’t know. I’m not going to play with Zac anymore. I’m sticking to Mackie where I can make the rules, and he’ll just follow them because I say so."

Zac rolled his eyes. "Real mature, Dad. I’m going over to Marie’s to play. If I’m going to be told I’m a poor loser, I’m at least going to have someone cute telling me I’m a poor loser." Zac narrowed his eyes and glared at his father. "Even though I didn’t lose this game. Whahahahahaha." He laughed and raced out of the living room.



Isaac paced in front of the fountain in the Skiatook mall. His hands were shoved deep into the pockets of his nicest pair of cords as he glanced at the large, antique clock hanging from the wall.

5:15

What if her car broke down? he thought to himself. Does she even have a car? Wait...she’s a 21 year old fashion design major, of course she has a car.

5:20

I wonder what kind of car a 21 year old fashion design major would drive. Maybe it’s old. Then it would have broken down, and that would explain why she’s not here.

5:30

I wonder what she eats? Maybe she was hungry and had to stop for a bite to eat on her way here. But where would she stop?

5:45

If I was a 21 year old fashion design major what would I want to do on my first date with Isaac Hanson, pop superstar? Would I want to kiss him. Of course I would. Maybe I’d like to make out with him. Why yes, yes I think i just might find that to be quite enjoyable. Would I want to sleep with him?

"Isaac." A hand tapped the back of Isaac’s shoulder.

Isaac spun around and was face to face with the 21 year old fashion design major herself. "Hey Jordan," he smiled and prayed that he had not been thinking aloud.

"Are you ready?" Jordan asked.

"Well, yeah," Isaac answered, thinking to himself that he had been ready forty five minutes ago. "What do you want to do?"

"Well," Jordan glanced at her watch. "I’m kind of hungry. Why don’t you buy me dinner?"

Granted Isaac was going to offer to pay anyway, but she needn’t be quite so forward about it. She should have given him the chance to be polite and offer. But maybe that was not the way 21 year old fashion design majors worked. Isaac tried not to dwell on that for too long, and simply agreed, saying, "Sounds good. Your choice."

"Okay," Jordan smiled. "Let’s go to Top of the Town. You can drive."

As Isaac showed her to his car, he realized this was going to be an expensive date. Hopefully, in the end, it would be worth it.



Zac watched Marie as she slowly flipped through a clothing catalog. This had been going on for quite some time, and Zac was growing rather bored. He had even grown tired of fantasizing about the cute brunette model in the Airshop catalog he had been reduced to flipping through when Marie realized that her new Delia’s Fall catalog had come in the mail. She had insisted on looking through it right then and there. Only she did more than look at it. She had to read about every item on every page. An activity which would have taken any normal human being about two minutes, had already taken her nearly an hour, and she was only on page thirteen. Zac was about to suggest they consider doing a more productive activity before his brain started to rot, but Marie opened her mouth before he had the chance.

"Oh my God!" She shrieked. "I knew it, I knew it, I KNEW IT!"

"You knew what?" Zac asked, making no attempt to hide his boredom.

"That is your shirt," Marie said, pointing to a green shirt with maroon and white stripes on the sleeves.

"Marie, need I remind you," Zac calmly began to explain, "I am 100% male. And your catalog, while lovely as it is, is a girlie catalog. Meaning that it is for girls. Of which I am not. Therefore my manly shirts would not be in there."

"Well that’s just fine and dandy, but look here." Marie shoved the magazine beneath Zac’s nose. "Your 100% manly shirt came from a Delia’s catalog."

Zac stared at the picture. Marie had a point. It certainly resembled the green shirt that he loved to wear, but there had to be an explanation. "It must have come from a boy’s store," he said, trying to sound sure of himself. "The magazine people obviously saw it, realized how cool it was, and put it in their thingy."

"Nope, I don’t think so sweetie," Marie mocked him. "You see that asterisk there? That means made exclusively for Delia’s. Face it bud, your 100% percent manly shirt came from a 100% girlie catalog."

Zac just stared at her, not quite sure how to defend himself on this one.

"You know, I’ve suspected this all along," Marie nodded her head. "Yep. I think you need to sit down and have a serious talk with that stylist. She let you wear a girls shirt on national television."

"Maybe you’re right," Zac agreed, though he didn’t have the heart to tell her he had picked that shirt out all by himself.



Who gave this girl her drivers license? Taylor thought to himself. Oh my God, she just ran a stop sign.

"Sorry about that," Meredith called from the driver’s seat. "It came out of nowhere."

Taylor just glared at the back of Meredith’s head. It was bad enough he had shelled out $63.00 so she would have someone to go to the stupid Backstreet Boys show with, but now she had insisted on listening to their tape the whole way there. Not only that, but she had rewound that horror monster song about six times and they had only been on the road for twenty minutes.

His eyes widened in horror as the rear end of the car in front of them got closer and closer. Just when it seemed as if Meredith wasn’t going to apply any brakes at all, both her feet slammed down onto the pedal, sending all the passengers flying forward in their seats.

After Taylor had finished being jounced by the sudden stop, he made a disgusted snort and leaned forward. "Now, Meredith, tell me.......were you absent the day they taught driving in driving school?"

Meredith, in too good of a mood due to the anticipation of seeing Nick Carter in the flesh, merely laughed. "Oh Taylor, you’re so funny." Suddenly her smile got even bigger. "Hey, guess what guys. If we’re really lucky, Nick Carter’s younger brother Aaron might be the opening act!"

Taylor suddenly started clapping his hands. "Do you think we could be so lucky? I mean we only paid thirty one dollars and fifty cents for the tickets. With an opening act as exciting as Aaron Carter, don’t you think they could have charged a lot more for people to sit on the grass?"

Meredith merely laughed at his sarcastic remark. Gretchen turned around and offered him a weak smile. She only hoped that Taylor would not make the night to unbearable.



"Man, I am stuffed," Jordan wrapped her arms around her stomach as they walked from the restaurant to Isaac’s car.

Well I should hope so, Isaac thought to himself. Never before had he seen a girl eat so much. First, she had her own appetizer and helped herself to half of his. Then she had insisted on the soup and the salad. Next she had gobbled down her entire entree, which included a 16oz Porter House steak. When the waiter showed the dessert tray, she couldn’t decide between the chocolate mousse and the cherry cheesecake, so she ended up ordering and eating them both. And on top of all that she had refused to leave until she had a double iced mocha chino.

Isaac was nearly afraid to touch her, for fear she might explode. He only prayed that she was the type who could hold it all in and didn’t end up puking all over his father’s Honda.

Yet, despite her immense appetite and the well over $100.00 dollar restaurant bill, Isaac had actually enjoyed the date. At first her questions had seemed almost rehearsed, but as the night went on --and the food bill increased-- the conversation seemed to flow more naturally. He enjoyed listening to her talk about school and she had seemed to be interested in his life.

Unlike Juliet and Claire, Jordan seemed to care more about his music. As a matter of fact, she was actually interested in it and had asked him a ton of questions regarding the business. When she admitted to never having listened to the words of MMMBop, Isaac saw his golden opportunity to prove to her that he was not just writing childish jargon. He explained to her that if she listened closely to the lyrics, she would realize they have a much deeper meaning. And how did he prove this to her? Why he quoted the lyrics of course. Because you know -- You have so many relationships in this life, but only one or two will last.

As they got to the car, Jordan looked up and smiled. "I had a really nice time."

"Thanks," Isaac returned her smile. "Me too."

Jordan glanced at her watch. "It’s only 9:30. You don’t have a curfew do you?"

"No! Of course not," Isaac shoved his hands into his pockets. "What, do you think I’m a baby or something?"

Jordan rolled her eyes and could not believe what she was about to suggest. "Well, maybe we could go somewhere. A place where we could be alone to talk........or something."

Jackpot, Isaac thought to himself. "Sure we could go somewhere and talk," Isaac smiled. "Or something."



It was certainly our three concert goers lucky day, for Aaron Carter was indeed opening for the Backstreet Boys. Taylor watched in disgust as Meredith actually danced to his pop sensation, "I got a Crush on You".

However he also noticed that Gretchen was not dancing. As a matter of fact she seemed to be picking grass and not paying attention to what was going on in the show. Granted he could understand her lack of enthusiasm for this ever exciting show, but he did pay $31.50 for her to come, and as far as he was concerned he did not spent that money so that she could pick grass. She could at least pretend to have fun. Taylor moved closer to her and put his arm around her shoulders, while still clutching his rolled up poster in his other hand. "Hey," he whispered and lightly kissed her cheek. "Are you having fun?"

Gretchen turned to face him and raised her eyebrows. "Taylor, what could possibly be more fun that watching Aaron Cater, who looks to be oh, about two inches tall, strut his stuff from our wonderful lawn seats?"

Taylor smiled and looked towards the ground. "Well, we could always do something else."

"Like what?" Gretchen mumbled. "Oh wait, I know. We could go check out the merchandise. Then you could buy me an Aaron Carter tee shirt. Or better yet a Backstreet Boys tee shirt. Oh wait, how about one of those Backstreet Boys pillows so that I could sleep with my head next to Nick Carter everynight."

Taylor rolled his eyes. "Uhh, as much fun as knowing that my girlfriend is sleeping by Nick Carter would be, that’s not quite what I had in mind."

"Well what do you want to do, Taylor?" Gretchen’s voice got a little edgy. "I told you that you didn’t have to come, the least you could do is pretend like this isn’t the worst night of your life."

"Oh Gretchen," Taylor whispered, not knowing quite how to answer that question without getting his head bit off. "Look at me."

As Gretchen turned to face him, Taylor pressed his lips against hers. "I’m sorry," he whispered. "I’ll really try to enjoy this once in a life time opportunity." After saying that he kissed her again, before she had a chance to respond.

"AHEM!" Meredith called in a high pitched voice from behind them. "I believe the concert is that way," she said, pointing straight ahead towards the stage.

"What!" Taylor snapped. "It’s just some stupid ten year old singing about some stupid girl who will probably never even like him any ways. Who wants to hear that kind of crap?"

"Umm, Taylor?" Gretchen waved her finger in front of him. "Didn’t you and your brothers sing about girls way before you were ten? I think so."

"Yeah, but that was different," Taylor said. How could she even begin to compare him to Aaron Carter? That was just beyond insulting.

"How so?" Meredith asked, enjoying this little tiff far too much.

"Well for starters, we never charged anyone $31.50 to sit in a lawn and hear us," Taylor’s voice grew louder. "As a matter of fact, we still don’t. Heck, half of our shows are free!"

After his final remark, Gretchen got to her feet, gave Taylor a death stare and coldly snapped, "I told you that you didn’t have to come!" She then stormed off across the lawn in the direction of the food vendors.



"What was that for?" Isaac asked, with a surprised grin on his face.

"What?" Jordan gave him a confused look. "I felt like kissing you, so I did. Do you have a problem with that?"

"Oh, no. No problem," Isaac assured her. "It was just a little bit out of the blue. I mean, most girls wait till I’m finished telling them about my mothers various pregnancies."

Jordan just nodded her head. Quite frankly she didn’t want to hear about the rest of them. They story had started to get a bit repetitive after about the third one. She hadn’t really seen any other way to shut Isaac up. "So, do you want me to warn you next time?" She asked him.

"Well, I mean........"

"Isaac," Jordan interrupted him. "I’m going to kiss you again."

"Okay," he answered as she brought her lips to his once again.

They continued kissing for a few minutes on the hood of Mr. Hanson’s Honda. Isaac had driven to a ledge a few miles outside of Skiatook. On a clear night you were able to see all the city lights from that particular point, and such proved to be the case when they arrived.

As their kissing intensified, and they started to lean back, a small thud was heard and the hood of the Honda began to give. The two quickly sat up and exchanged looks of surprise and amazement.

"Maybe we should move," Jordan suggested.

"Yeah," Isaac agreed. He watched with interest as the hood popped back into place. He wanted to comment that it could have been a result of all the food she had managed to stuff down her throat at dinner, but figured that might be in poor taste, seeing as how this was only their first date and all.

As they moved inside the car, Isaac decided it was time to pick up right where they had left off. He started kissing Jordan again, and after another few minutes, he attempted to undo some buttons on her black silk blouse.

"Umm, Isaac," Jordan gently pushed him away. "Listen. I had a good time and you seem like a nice kid, but this is only our first date. Let’s slow it down a bit, okay?"

Isaac pulled away and tried not to show the disappointment he felt. "Yeah, you’re right." He took a deep breath and leaned against the drivers seat.

"Well, look. It’s getting late and you still have to take me back to my car. Then we both have the long drive back to Tulsa. I have to be up early to do a community service project with my sisters, so why don’t we call it a night." Jordan fastened her seatbelt. "Maybe we can do this again sometime."

"Okay." Her final suggestion picked up Isaac’s spirits. "Hey if you give me your number then I could call you."

"Oh," Jordan looked away from him. "Well, you see the phones in my house are a little out of whack right now. So it would probably just be easier if I called you."

"Okay," Isaac shrugged his shoulders and started the engine.



By the time Taylor had caught up with Gretchen, apologized profusely for his unnecessary and inappropriate behavior, and coaxed her back to the blanket, Aaron Carter had left the stage and the main act was getting ready to begin. So Taylor sat down next to Gretchen with a numb expression on his face, to watch the ever talented, dancing Backstreet Boys.

Now, nearly two hours later, the five "singers" showed no signs of being ready to leave the stage. Taylor glanced at his watch and mumbled, "It’s nearly 11:00. Will the madness ever end? They’ve only released one CD, how many songs can possibly be on it?"

Taylor groaned and gazed up at the harsh lights surrounding the lawn area. Not only were they attracting every bug within 50 miles of Oklahoma, but they were so bright one could hardly tell that darkness had fallen. Taylor had actually considered laying back and catching a few Z’s before the show was over, for he doubted very much if he would be able to sleep on the car ride home. Most likely he’d be to busy worrying whether or not he’d actually get home alive to sleep. As he began to lay back, he felt a tap on his shoulder and Meredith leaned over to him.

"Didn’t you bring a poster?" She asked pointing to the poster that lay forgotten on the lawn next to Taylor. "I mean you were being so secret secret about it all day, not letting us see it and now the show is nearly over and you haven’t even unrolled it."

Taylor grinned. He had completely forgotten about his work of art. He snickered and grabbed the poster.

Gretchen looked up and cast a suspicious glance in his direction. She knew he was up to something. The look on his face was all to familiar. It was fairly reminiscent of the look he had on his face the day he had thundered up to her porch, video cassette in hand, beaming over the crucifixion of his brother. Gretchen had a feeling that whatever Taylor was up to now, she most likely wouldn’t like it too much.

Taylor stood and slowly unrolled his two and a half foot long poster. He held it high in the air as he would a war prize. Grinning triumphantly he proudly turned in a circle, making sure the whole lawn section could read his sign which proudly stated in bold red letters:

I PAID $63.00 AND ALL I GOT WERE THESE RIP OFF LAWN SEATS TO A CRAPPY BACKSTREET BOYS CONCERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

.

Chapter 42 - Lets Make a Deal

"Ike! Get your lazy butt out of bed!" Taylor commanded, entering their bedroom and slamming the door behind him.

Isaac slowly looked up from the letter he had been reading. He watched as Taylor began walking around the room, grabbing handfuls of clothes and throwing them onto his bed. It was almost amusing. Most people would pick up all the clothes in one spot before moving onto another, but not Taylor. He would grab a pair of jeans at the foot of his bed, ignore the mound of shirts, and go pick up some socks on the other side of the room.

"You could help," Taylor pointed out, noticing that Isaac had not so much as moved an inch from his position on the bed. "Whose that from?" He suddenly asked, gesturing towards the letter Isaac held in his hand.

"Claire," Isaac answered.

Taylor just raised his eyebrows and continued his random clothes pick up mission.

After watching for another minute, Isaac couldn’t take it anymore. "What in the world are you doing?" He asked, putting the letter from Claire aside.

Taylor looked at his brother in disbelief. "What does it look like I’m doing?"

"It looks like you’re walking around in circles picking up random pieces of clothes and then throwing them on your bed."

Taylor chose to ignore his brother’s idiotic comment and rolled his eyes. "Mom is doing laundry and commanded me to gather up all of our dirty clothes. So I thought that instead of making a million trips down to the washing machine, I would just gather up all the clothes first, put them in one place, and take them down all together. That way I don’t have to make more than one trip."

Isaac couldn’t help but to laugh at his younger brother’s reasoning. "Tay, did you ever think about using a laundry basket?"

"Huh?" Taylor looked at Isaac as if he had never heard the word before.

"A laundry basket," Isaac repeated. "One of those plastic things you carry clothes in. Ever heard of em? There is no way you’re going to be able to carry all those clothes downstairs at once, there are way too many for your skinny little arms to handle. And why you think that by putting them on your bed first will enable you to do just that is beyond me. Believe it or not, your bed does not shrink clothes." Isaac snickered at his own joke.

Taylor just looked at the pile of clothes on his bed. He took a step back and placed his hands on his hips, glaring at the mound.

"I’ll go get you a laundry basket," Isaac shook his head. As he left the room, he once again tried to figure out his brother’s rational, but then decided, it was pointless. It was Taylor he was dealing with. The day he could understand one thing Taylor did, Isaac figured he’d most likely die of shock.

After grabbing the basket from the laundry room, Isaac stormed back upstairs to find Taylor sitting on his bed, next to the formidable pile he had made.

"Did you give up on gathering the clothes?" He asked.

"They’re all here," Taylor pointed to the multi-colored pile next to him. "Hey Ike, come here I want you to smell something."

"Taylor," Isaac sighed. "I already know that you smell and quite frankly I am really not in the mood to sniff your B.O. thank you very much." Isaac laughed.

Taylor shook his head. "Good one, really. Seriously Isaac how ever do you come up with them." Taylor paused and took a deep breath. "But for real though, I need you to smell this."

"Okay," Isaac grabbed a pair of cords that lay beside his own bed, tossed them into the basket and sat down by Taylor. "What scent do you have for me today?"

"Here," Taylor handed him one of Zac’s very large orange shirts. "This really stinks. A few days ago, Gretchen commented that our room smelled funny."

Isaac gave Taylor a strange look. "And you did remind her that there are three guys living in here, yes?"

"Well, yeah," Taylor slowly said. "But haven’t you noticed that Zac has been burning an awful lot of incense lately? I mean he went through that whole package of Vanilla Almond that Aunt Connie got us last week. Isn’t that.....I dunno, weird?"

"Well.......maybe Zac got sick of smelling your feet and figured incense would be better than that." Isaac laughed.

"Isaac, I being serious here," Taylor snapped, shoving Zac’s shirt at his brother.

Sighing, Isaac took the shirt. He cautiously brought the bright orange material to his nose and gave it a quick sniff. His brow creased and he smelled it again, longer this time, then sat contemplating for a moment. "It smells like smoke," he finally answered.

"That’s what I thought," Taylor agreed. "But why?"

"I don’t know." Isaac shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe he was in a smoky place, like a bowling alley or something."

Taylor took a moment to think that over. "That could be," he paused. "But that’s not the only shirt that smells like smoke. His green Delia’s one smells that way too, and so do a bunch of his tee shirts and pants."

"You smelled all his clothes?" Isaac looked at his brother as if he was insane. "Do you often go around smelling other people’s dirty laundry?"

"No, that would be gross. But I couldn’t help this," Taylor shrugged. "All his clothes were in a big pile off in the corner and the pile smelled really foul, like what the Blue Rose does after they have a show, all smoky and stuff. I was trying to figure out what it was causing the smell."

Isaac walked over to the pile near Zac’s bed and picked up a few more articles of clothing. He gave them each a quick whiff, then tossed them back. "You’re right." He turned to Taylor. "They all smell like smoke."

Taylor rubbed his hands together. "But why? Zac doesn’t smoke, and neither do any of his friends that I know of. Marie doesn’t and obviously no one in this house smokes......"

"I think Marie’s parents might," Isaac tried to remember if they did or not. "Or maybe one of his friends started while we were away."

"That’s probably it," Taylor agree, more or less just to set his mind at ease. He grabbed the basket and tossed his pile of clothes in it, in order to deliver it to his mother.

"Wait, take these." Isaac called at Taylor was about to open the door. He bent down and pulled a pair of cargo pants sticking out from under Taylor’s bed.

"Oh, thanks." Taylor started to open the door, but hesitated. He turned and gave Isaac a concerned look. "Ike, if his friends are smoking, do you think.......I mean would Zac start too? Just to be cool in front of them or something?"

"No," Isaac looked as if he thought the comment was absurd. "Zac’s not stupid, he knows that smoking could really screw up his singing, not to mention his life. Besides, remember the lecture we got from mom and dad when the rumor that our tour was cancelled because I got caught smoking got out?"

"True," Taylor agreed. The lecture had lasted nearly an hour, and all it consisted of was his parents ranting and raving about the dangers of smoking. He didn’t even want to think about what it would have been like if one of them had actually been caught with cigarettes.



"Dinner!" Mrs. Hanson called from the kitchen.

Pounding from all directions could be heard as the family flocked to the dinner table. When everyone was seated, Mrs. Hanson frowned. "Where’s Zac? He’s usually the first one around whenever the word food is mentioned."

"I think I saw him go out to the treehouse," Avery spoke up. "As a matter of fact, I know he did. He hit me on the head with my Happy hippo beanie baby, said he wasn’t going to play any stupid old tea party game with me, and that I should leave him alone. Then I saw him climb into the treehouse."

Mrs. Hanson sighed. "Will one of you go get him please?"

When it looked as if no one was in any sort of rush to get thier brother, most likely because they figured they would actually get some food for once with Zac not around, Taylor volunteered to go fetch his younger brother.

Taylor got up from his seat, and went down to the rec. room, sliding open the patio doors. The grass was still wet from a storm earlier that day, and mud squished under his feet, soaking his socks. He cursed under his breath, wishing he had grabbed a pair of shoes, and slowly made his way around the sopping puddles to the tree house, where he could see a small flashlight glow in the dark.

Taylor climbed up the side, and pushed the door open. What he saw caused his jaw to drop.

Zac was sitting against the back wall of the treehouse, his eyes closed, a lit cigarette dangling loosely from his lips. He was enjoying the peace and quiet, not noticing the sound of Taylor entering the treehouse.

Taylor just stared at Zac in silence for a few seconds, not really knowing what to do. Finally, instead of saying anything, Taylor marched over and yanked the cigarette from Zac’s mouth and tossed it to the floor, using a rock from Zac’s collection he kept stashed in the treehouse, to crush the butt.

"Hey, what the......" Zac’s eyes popped open in surprise.

"You know, I always tried to defend you when people called you stupid," Taylor looked down at Zac with a harsh glare. "I would say......NO, Zac’s not stupid. He’s actually a pretty smart kid. But now I don’t know why I wasted my breath defending an idiot like you."

Zac frowned. "So what’s your point?" He challenged, looking away from his brother.

"Forget it," Taylor made a disgusted face and stormed out of the treehouse.

Realizing the potentially dangerous situation he was now in, Zac grabbed the cigarette butt and desperately used the toe of his shoe to smear the mark it had made, erasing all evidence. Quickly he shoved the squashed cigarette in his pocket, and raced after Taylor. "TAY! Wait up." He called.

Taylor stopped in the middle of the lawn, but didn’t turn around to face Zac.

"Look," Zac hurried forward, and stepped right in front of Taylor. "Don’t tell mom and dad about this, okay?"

"Why shouldn’t I?" Taylor demanded. "Don’t they deserve to know that their son is trying to kill himself?"

"You make it sound so dramatic. I mean, God, it’s not like I’m holding a gun to my head," Zac replied, exasperated.

"You might as well," Taylor crossed his arms. "It might be safer."

"I highly doubt that," Zac shook his head.

"Forget it Zac. This isn’t even worth discussing," Taylor started to walk towards the house again.

"Tay," Zac called from behind. "I wouldn’t tell mom and dad about this if I were you."

"Oh yeah? Why not?" Taylor stopped again.

"Because if you tell them about this, I’ll tell them about the video tape," Zac answered coolly.

Taylor turned around and faced his brother. "What video tape?" He asked, calling Zac’s bluff.

"You know what tape," Zac crossed his arms and stared Taylor straight in the eyes.

"No, actually I don’t," Taylor narrowed his eyes, still keeping contact with Zac. "Why don’t you tell me."

"Okay, does this line sound at all familiar?" Zac got a sly grin on his face. "Oh Gretchen, do you think we’ll ever have sex?"

All the color drained from Taylor’s face as his eyes widened. He walked over and grabbed Zac by the front of his shirt. "If you ever, EVER, tell anyone about that tape......."

"Tay, hey," Zac held up his arms. "I’m willing to compromise on this."

Taylor frowned, but released his brother.

Zac straightened his shirt importantly and gave a small, evil little brother smile. "You don’t tell mom and dad about this little cigarette thing. And in turn I won’t tell them about reaching for the stars."

Taylor scratched his head and thought about his brother’s offer. "How do you know I haven’t already destroyed the tape? Or that I won’t?"

"Because I know you Taylor," Zac snorted, then continued on in his serious tone. "You’re too perverted for that. Besides, I can just as easily get rid of the cigarettes, and besides......why would I lie about something like that to mom and dad? Hmmm? Think they’d believe you over me? After the way you and Ike have acted lately, I highly doubt it."

"Okay fine," Taylor reluctantly gave in. "You are an evil, evil little boy." He sighed. "But fine. I won’t tell mom and dad, but you have to promise me that you’ll stop smoking."

"Yeah, right Tay," Zac snapped. "I’ll stop smoking, when you stop making out with your girlfriend."

"What?" Taylor stared at Zac. "They are two totally different things! Making out with Gretchen is certainly not going to kill me."

Zac shrugged his shoulders. "You never know. Besides, who are you to tell me what to do? Last I checked we were both in the same boat here, pal."

Taylor wanted to say something else, but before he got a chance the back door opened and Mr. Hanson called out that dinner was getting cold, and they weren’t going to wait around all night for the two of them to get their butt’s back inside.

Zac and Taylor glared at each other and returned to the house, knowing that at least for now, their secrets were safe.



"Hey boys," Mrs. Hanson decided to break the silence which had fallen over the dinner table. "I’ve been reworking your schedule a little bit and I thought we could do English from eight to nine, Science from nine to ten, Ashley should be over by then and we can have math from ten to eleven and then religion from eleven to twelve."

"NO!" Taylor and Zac shouted in unison.

"No what?" Mrs. Hanson gave them a confused look.

"We need a break from eleven to twelve." Taylor explained.

"Why?"

Zac looked at his totally clueless mother. "Days is on."

"Days?" Mrs. Hanson raised an eyebrow.

"God, mom," Taylor shook his head. "Don’t you know anything? Days of our Lives."

"I know what it is," Mrs. Hanson smirked.

"Well then you should know we happen to be in a very tense part of the plot right now," Zac informed her.

"What.." Mr. Hanson laughed. "Is Muffy not sure if she wants to go out with Biff?"

"Dad, please don’t insult us," Taylor looked at his father in disbelief. "It is so much more important than that. Doc has to choose between John and Roman."

"Yeah," Zac picked up for Taylor. "Then there’s Carrie, who might leave Austin for Mike. Which would then mean that Austin is a free man for Sammy."

"Plus," Taylor clapped his hands. "Will they ever survive the Jungle Madness?"

"I don’t know Tay," Mr. Hanson exclaimed in mock excitement. "Will they?"

"Duh, Dad, come on," Taylor rolled his eyes. "It’s John and Roman, two of the main characters, of course they’ll survive, but you’re not supposed to realize that. It’s the whole suspense thing."

"So let me get this straight." Mrs. Hanson set down her burger. "You want me to move Religion to after twelve so that you two can watch a soap opera?"

"Well, yeah," Zac answered. He really didn’t see why no one seemed to share his and Taylor’s enthusiasm over the show.

"Come, on mom," Taylor pleaded, dunking a fry in a blob of ketchup on his plate. "We are too involved in the story line to stop now. We could go through withdraw if you force us to not watch it."

Mrs. Hanson shook her head.

"Besides, I promised Gretchen I would tape if for her and she hates the commercials," Taylor smiled. "And you woudln’t want to disappoint her, now would you?"

"Well of course not, I mean Heaven forbid that Gretchen should have to fast forward though a few commercials during Days of our Lives," Mrs. Hanson laughed. "Guess we’ll just have to push Religion back then."

"Why, thank you," Zac beamed. "I always knew you were a reasonable woman."

"So what I am supposed to do for this hour, while you two watch your stupid, crappy soap opera?" Isaac spoke up, not believing that his mother had given in so easily. "Maybe I would like to get out of school an hour earlier each day."

"We could just cut religion," Taylor suggested as he began to clear the table.

"I don’t think so, Mister," Mr. Hanson replied before either son got his hopes up. Mr. Hanson paused and watched as Taylor did the dish work solo. "Hey, it seems to me that Taylor has been the one doing most of the dishes around here lately. I believe that it was supposed to be both of you," he pointed to Isaac.

"Yeah, well I made a bet that some girl wouldn’t call him," Taylor mumbled as he grabbed Jessica’s plate. "But wouldn’t you know it, surprise surprise, she did."

"Why should you be surprised that a girl would call your brother?" Mrs. Hanson asked.

Taylor shrugged his shoulders. "Mom, I’m surprised when anyone calls Ike, much less a 21-year old fashion design major."

"How old?" Both parents asked in unison.

"Guys," Isaac spoke up from his seat. "Now hold on a minute, before you go pulling a Patty Chase on me, just listen for a minute."

"A whom?" Mr. Hanson asked.

"Dad, My So-Called Life," Zac leaned over and whispered to his father. "I think he was feeling a little bit left out with all of our Days talk."

"I’m still waiting for an explanation," Mrs. Hanson looked at her eldest child.

"Mom, come on," Isaac shook his head. "I met a girl, and I like her. What’s wrong with that?"

"Isaac, she’s five years older than you," his mother pointed out.

"She’s perfectly nice," Isaac assured his parents. "We met at Kamm’s Corner, talked, I gave her my number, she called me. No big deal."

"If it’s no big deal then how come you didn’t tell us about her," Mrs. Hanson challenged him.

"We just went on one lousy date, it’s nothing," Isaac thought his parents were over re-acting just a tad.

"Well, you know we have to meet this girl," Mrs. Hanson informed him.

"See there you go," Isaac exclaimed. "You’re pulling a Patty Chase. She demanded to meet Jordan, and that spelled the end to Angela and Jordan’s relationship."

"Not to mention the whole show," Taylor spoke up from the sink.

"Walker, what do you make of this?" Mrs. Hanson turned towards her husband. "Your son going out with a 21-one year old."

Mr. Hanson creased his brow. "Now, wait a second, let me get this straight," He paused. "Jordan has Jungle Madness?"

"No, Dad," Zac buried his face in his hands. "Wrong show. Don’t you watch any television?"

"Walker this is serious," Mrs. Hanson snapped. "Why must you make a joke of everything? You’ve been hanging around with those three too long."

"Mom, I hardly think one date classifies us as going out," Isaac sighed. "I mean she didn’t even give me her number so I can’t call her and how should I know if she’s going to call me back or not?"

"I don’t like the sound of this," Mrs. Hanson shook her head. "Nope, not one little bit."

"Jeez, mom," Isaac had a feeling he wasn’t going to win this one. "If it matters so much to you I’ll see if she wants to come over."

"Yeah, mom, then maybe she could give you a make over," Taylor laughed as he dried off a plate. "She is a fashion design major you know. Maybe she’d chop off some of that hair or something."

"Well I’m glad to see you all take life so seriously!" Mrs. Hanson stood and stormed out of the kitchen.

Mr. Hanson watched his wife’s departure with interest. "Hormones," he finally whispered to his kids. "She’s pregnant you know."



Taylor had a lot on his mind the next few days. Aside from the fact that he knew at any moment Zac could tattle about the tape -- which Taylor couldn't bring himself to destroy quite yet -- another problem was starting to get to him. For some reason unbeknownst to himself, Gretchen had not called him since the night of the Backstreet Boys concert. After four days of this silent treatment, Taylor decided that it had gone on long enough and he was going to march himself over to her house and investigate the situation.

When Gretchen opened the door after Taylor had hit the doorbell about fifteen times in a row, Taylor placed his hands on his hips, gave her a stern look and demanded, "Is your phone broken?"

"No," Gretchen gave him a cool look. "Is yours?"

"No. See I figured your phone was broken which would explain why I haven’t heard from you in nearly five days."

"Well," Gretchen raised an eyebrow. "You could have called me."

"I didn’t call you because I was waiting for you to call me and apologize," Taylor said matter of factly.

"Excuse me?" Gretchen held up both her hands. "Me? Apologize? For what?" Her tone made the idea sound absurd.

"For dragging me to a Backstreet Boys concert!" Taylor huffed.

Gretchen’s eyes got wide and she drew in a sharp breath. "Did I or did I not specifically tell you that you DID NOT have to go?"

"But that was after I already agreed to go!" Taylor wasn’t going to let her get away with this. "You should have told me what concert it was right from the start!"

"Listen," Gretchen moved back from the doorway. "We needn’t discuss this on my porch for the whole neighborhood to hear." She motioned for Taylor to follow her inside.

The two teenagers walked in silence to Gretchen’s room. After she shut the door Taylor turned to her and said, "Now I want an explanation for why YOU are mad at ME."

"Taylor," Gretchen gave him an unbelieving stare. "All you did that day was whine and complain about how much the tickets cost. How do you think that made me feel? I mean you bought me my ticket. Do you want me to pay you back for it? Because if that will shut you up about this whole thing then I’ll gladly give you your damn money."

Taylor was slightly taken back. It was the first time he had heard Gretchen ever snap at him like that before. "No," Taylor shook his head after a moment. "It wasn’t the money. You forced me to see the Backstreet Boys," he muttered, not knowing how deep the hole he was digging himself into had become.

"Taylor!" Gretchen screamed. "I told you that you didn’t have to go!"

"Yeah but that was after I already agreed to pay!" Taylor yelled back, suddenly boiling angry.

"I told you like eight times you could say NO! And if you were so interested in who we were going to see you should have asked!" Gretchen snapped.

"Why?" Taylor asked. "I trust you. I never in a million years thought that you would force me to endure such torture." He gave Gretchen a pitiful look and flopped dejectedly onto her bed. "I mean, I wanted to go to be with you, so I didn’t ask who I was going to see."

"Then it shouldn’t have mattered who we went to see. If the only reason you went was to be with me then who cared if we saw Barry Manilow or an opera? We were together, and you made the whole night miserable."

Taylor sighed. "I guess you’re right. I’m sorry. I mean......it’s just......it was the Backstreet Boys." He held up his hand before Gretchen could reply. "But you’re right. I should have acted more mature about it."

"Exactly," Gretchen said, sitting next to him on the bed. "I mean the complaining was bad enough, but was the sign really necessary?"

Taylor made a face and snorted. "I thought it was funny."

Gretchen stared Taylor in the eyes. "Well I didn’t."

They sat facing each other on her bed, in silence, eyes locked for a few moments. Finally Taylor let his gaze drop and he absently traced a circle around the worn flower pattern on Gretchen’s bedspread. "Okay, maybe the sign was a bit much. And maybe I over re-acted a bit. And I’m sorry. I really am sorry. Please don’t be mad at me anymore. I didn’t want to hurt you, it was just a joke."

Gretchen sighed. She gently placed her hand over Taylor’s and used her other hand to turn his head up so she could see his face. "I forgive you," she said with a small smile. Then as quickly as the smile came, it left and she pulled him towards her, her fingers digging into his cheeks, his lips smooshed in a surprised "O". "But if you ever, EVER do something that embarrassing to me ever again. I will have to kill you."

Taylor nodded wide eyed. He tried to say he promised, but the words wouldn’t form with Gretchen gripping his face.

"Understood?" She added. She used her hand to help shake his head yes, then released him. "Good, I’m glad we have that settled."

Taylor crinkled his brow, and moved his jaw around, making sure everything still worked properly. "Strong grip you have there," he muttered, rubbing at his flushed cheeks.

Gretchen sighed. "I’m sorry. I guess that was a little unecessary wasn't it?"

Taylor just nodded, his jaw aching.

"It's just that I’ve been stressing out over this whole "Romeo and Juliet" paper that I have to write, and fighting with you wasn’t helping."

Taylor gave her a small smile. "I’m sorry," He said softly. Suddenly a confused look came over his face. "Wait. Didn’t we do that paper at my house?"

"Retard, those were the questions. This is the paper." Gretchen rolled her eyes. "Totally different."

"Jeez, sorry," Taylor was getting a tad bit tired of having his head bit off every time he spoke. "What are you PMSing or something?" The minute the words left his mouth, Taylor regretted them and only prayed Gretchen wouldn’t kick his ass over it.

Surprisingly she only sighed and said, "I don’t even have a comment about that."

"All right, look," Taylor desperately wanted to get back on his girlfriends’ good side. "I had to write a Romeo and Juliet paper last year and my mom keeps all our old school work in the attic. Maybe I could find it for you."

Gretchen bit her lip. "Really?"

"Yeah," Taylor smiled.

"Well," Gretchen paused. "How did you do on it? What grade did you get?"

Taylor gave her a look of surprise. "An A, duh. I always get A’s."

"Yeah and your mom always grades your papers," Gretchen pointed out. "So it makes sense that you would......"

"Uhhh, excuse me. Not true. So not true," Taylor interrupted her.

"Okay," Gretchen offered him a smile. "Well then I guess I would like to take a look at it."

"Okay, good," Taylor nodded his head. "So, are you done being mad at me now or what?"

Gretchen smiled. She leaned over and gently kissed him.

.

Chapter 43 - Kissie the Wonder Dog

Zac tossed more clothes out of the closet, causing a formaidlable pile to being growing behind him as he continued in his fruitless search "What did you guys do with them," he demanded of his two brothers who were sprawled on their beds, talking.

Isaac gave his angry younger brother an innocent smile. "What on earth are you talking about Zac? What are you looking for?"

"My boots!" Zac screamed, tossing an inflatable raft out of the closet. "I can’t find them!"

"Well no wonder," Isaac laughed. "How could you find anything in that mess? I mean we don’t even have a pool, what are you doing with a raft in there?"

Zac just scowled. "Guys, I know you’re lying." He turned from the closet and stepped over the mound of clothes and other assorted objects he had thrown onto the floor, facing his brothers. "Now where are they?"

"We’re not lying," Taylor, who was laying on his stomach with his arms dangling of the edges of his bed, piped up. "Seriously Zac, those are the brightest things in the world. I can’t even fathom how you could manage to lose them."

"Ugh." Zac stomped his foot, a death glare tossed in Taylor’s direction. He knew very well that his brothers had done something with his yellow Doc Marten boots that day they had hung him from the tree.

"Zac if you’re done looking, could you kindly clean up this mess?" Isaac streched out across his bed. "It really dosesn’t look very attractive." Truthfully the mound of objects fit in with the rest of the room, which currently looked as though a tornado had hit, but it was fun to pick on his brother.

Zac, realizing that his dissonant brothers weren’t going to be of any help, lost his patience and stormed out of the bedroom to continue his search for the missing boots. They had to be somewhere, and he was going to find them.

Taylor glanced over at Isaac, his hands absently grabbing at a small book that lay on the floor partially under his bed. "Think he’ll ever find ‘em?"

"Yeah right," Isaac snickered. His mouth turned into an evil grin as he again thought of the brillant hiding place the hidious boots were now occupying. Turning pages in a book caught his attention and he looked over at Taylor. "Hey, what are you looking at?"

"Just a book I bought a few weeks ago when I was at the mall with Gretchen," Taylor replied, tossing the thin, paperback to Isaac.

Isaac raised his eyebrows and flipped through a few pages. "You bought a book about yourself?"

"Well, yeah," Taylor answered as if it was the most logical thing in the entire world.

Isaac quickly scanned a few more pages, then frowned. "This thing is stupid."

"So?" Taylor rolled over onto his back. "It’s about me, that’s what matters."

"Oh, lookie here Tay," Isaac grinned. "A quiz all about you. Wanna see how much you know about yourself?"

"Bring it on," Taylor laughed. "This should be a piece of cake."

"All right, we’ll start you out with some easy ones," Isaac said. "Here it goes......What is Taylor’s middle name?"

Taylor actually paused to thing about it for a second. "Oh," he shook his head. "It’s Taylor."

"Oh my God." Isaac realized this might be a long quiz. "Okay Tay, you might really have to think about this one......What color are your eyes?"

"That’s an easy one, blue." Taylor seemed proud he knew the answer.

Isaac rolled his eyes, but continued. "Okay Tay, they’re going to get a little tougher now," he joked. "Do you think you’re ready for this?"

"I was born ready," Taylor sat up to face his brother.

"Here goes.......What is Taylor’s favorite hobby?"

"Well," Taylor bit his lip. "I doubt they have fooling around with Gretchen in there, so I’ll have to guess drawing. Yes drawing is my favorite hobby."

Isaac flipped to the answer section. "Sorry Tay, that is incorrect. You’re favorite hobby is playing arcade games."

"What?" Taylor screeched. "That’s Zac. I like to draw."

"Hey don’t look at me," Isaac held up the book. "You got it wrong."

"Okay fine. Give me the next one."

"All right, this one is true or false, Taylor." Isaac paused. "That means you answer with either true or false."

Taylor gave Isaac a dirty look. "Just read me the question."

"Okay.......The name Taylor means one who is a tailor."

Taylor furrowed his brow and thought for a moment. "How am I supposed to know what my name means?"

"Wrong! Tay, I told you it was true or false. You could have at least guessed," Isaac laughed. "You had a 50-50 chance."

"Well, what’s the answer Mr. Smarty Pants?" Taylor demanded.

Isaac flipped to the back of the book once again. "The answer is true. Maybe that explains why Taylor is Hanson’s......" Isaac paused in his reading of the answer. "Trend setting fashion expert?" Isaac raised an eyebrow. "I think not!"

"Okay, lay the next one on," Taylor rather liked the answer to the last question.

"Okay...........Who is Taylor’s best friend?"

"Oh that’s easy," Taylor flung his hand in front of his face. "It’s Jedidiah of course."

"Nope," Isaac shook his head. "You’re best friend is me."

"What?" Taylor gave him a confused look. "No it’s not."

"Well the book says it’s me," Isaac informed him.

"But it’s Jedidiah," Taylor meekly mumbled.

"Face it Taylor.....your best friend is me," Isaac flipped forward a few pages. "Now let’s move on. Tay, this is going to be a hard one. What are your two favorite TV shows?"

"Well at least I’ll get this one right," Taylor smiled. "Party of Five and Days of Our Lives."

"I’m sorry Tay," Isaac snickered. "But your favorite shows are Beavis and Butthead and Freakazoid."

"No they’re not!"

"Yes," Isaac slowly said. "They are."

"No!" Taylor’s voice grew louder. "It’s Party of Five and Days of Our Lives."

"No." Isaac held up the book. "Right here it says Beavis and Butthead and Freakazoid. Geez Tay, don’t you know anything about yourself? I mean come on, it says right here that those are your two favorite shows. And you know everything written about us in these books is 100% true."

Taylor just shook his head, disgusted with this whole thing.

"Here Taylor," Isaac smiled. "I’ll give you a chance to redeem yourself. What is your favorite soft drink?"

"Dr. Pepper," Taylor answered with out even thinking.

"No," Isaac shook his head.

"What do you mean no?"

"Well, Tay," Isaac re-read the answer. "Your favorite soft drink is bottled water."

"What!?? That’s not even a soft drink!" Taylor buried his face in a pillow. "I hate this quiz!"

"Well, why don’t we just see how you did?" Isaac suggested. He flipped to the end of the book. "Oh dear."

"What? How did I do?"

Isaac shook his head. "Zero to nine correct Tay. Where have you been? In the middle of nowhere?"

"HEY! That’s not fair!" Taylor jumped up.

"That’s what it says. Where have you been? In the middle of nowhere!" Isaac held the book out as proof.

Taylor stamped his foot. "I should know me! Yeah, I should know me better than," he squinted at the books cover. "Nancy Krulick!"

"Taylor, Taylor, Taylor," Isaac shook his head. "You know what they say........you have to know yourself before you can know anyone else. Maybe you should read this," Isaac handed over the book.

Taylor grabbed it and threw it on the floor. "That’s it. I’m going into the attic to look for a paper for Gretchen."



"Mom," Zac slowly approached Mrs. Hanson who was seated at the kitchen table eating a mixture of cottage cheese and ketchup. "I know you can help me."

"What do you want Zac?" Mrs. Hanson asked, eyeing her son as she swallowed a spoonful of the disgusting mixture.

Zac swallowed hard around the lump of nausea that formed in his throat and tried to avoid looking at his mother’s snack. "Have you seen my Doc Marten boots?"

"Which ones?" She asked, after she finished another spoonful. "You have about eight million pairs."

"Mom, there’s only one pair like this," Zac sat down at the table. "My yellow ones. Come on mom, my yellow Docs, please."

"Zachary," Mrs. Hanson raised her eyebrows. "It’s not my responsibility to keep track of your shoes."

"So you haven’t seen them anywhere?" Zac gave her a pitiful look. "That’s what you’re trying to say here. You have no idea where they are."

"Correct." Mrs. Hanson looked back towards her bowl, but suddenly stopped. "The baby is kicking," she smiled, resting a hand on her stomach.

"Really?" Zac grinned. Even though he had felt babies kick before, it always had a spirituous effect on him.. To know that a new baby sister was growing inside his mother as they sat talking was an amazing concept.

"Here." Mrs. Hanson took Zac’s hand in hers and placed it over her stomach.

Zac’s smile grew wider as he felt the tiny pulses of kicking through his mother’s shirt. Suddenly the baby kicked extra hard and Zac jumped. "Sheesh, you sure that things a girl?"

"Girls usually kick harder than boys," Mrs. Hanson informed him.

"Nuh, uh," Zac said, disbelieving such a preposterous notion. No girl could kick harder than him, he was sure of it and he had kicked his fair share of girls to know they usually cried afterwards.

"Yep," She smiled.

Zac removed his hand and leaned over. "Listen here kid. You kick me and you’re in for some serious trouble, got that?"

"Zac," Mrs. Hanson laughed. "I don’t think you have to worry about that."

Zac shrugged. "You can never be too prepared. I want this kid to know the minute she’s out here in the real world who calls the shots." He stood and gave his mother one last hopeful, meek smile. "Soooo, no boots, eh?"

Mrs. Hanson rolled her eyes, and picked up her spoon. "No, Zac, no boots. Now go bug someone else."

Zac frowned. "Ugh. I am going to have to kill them," he dramatically announced, leaving the kitchen, with a determined air.



"IKE!! ZAC!!!" Taylor yelled as he pounded his way down the attic stairs. "ISAAC!! ZAC!! COME HERE!!"

"What?" Zac came racing up from the hall stairs. "Did you find my boots?"

"No stupid." Taylor waited until Isaac joined them in the hallway. "I found something way better than that."

"What could possibly be more important than finding my lost boots?" Zac moaned.

"Just about anything," Isaac replied. "Now Taylor, what were you screaming about?"

"Well, I was up in the attic trying to find that paper I wrote on Romeo and Juliet last year because Gretchen has to do one now, and I thought maybe she could use it," Taylor explained.

"And you’re screaming about an old school paper?" Isaac gave him a confused look.

"No, no, no. If you would just shut up and let me finish...." Taylor paused. "So, I was up in the attic looking for the paper, which I found by the way in case you care."

"Well, not really," Isaac interrupted him. "But go on."

Taylor waited until he had his brother’s complete, and undivided attention. "I found this." He pulled an old, rusty, brown Maxwell house coffee can from behind his back.

"Well whoo hoo," Zac shook his head. "An old coffee can. Maxwell House at that. What could be cooler?"

"No, hold on." Isaac took the can from Taylor in order to examine it more closely. "Is it?"

"Yeah," Taylor smiled. "I thought mom and dad had thrown it away, but I guess not."

"You guys are way too weird for me," Zac made a face and began to walk away, ready to continue his search.

"No, wait a second," Isaac grabbed the back of Zac’s shirt. "This is the Tin Lizzie."

"OHHH," Zac nodded. "And a Tin Lizzie is a what?"

"Don’t you remember?" Taylor asked him. "We used to build fires in it and tell stories and stuff in the basement."

"I see," Zac frowned. "And did we enjoy this?"

"Duh," Taylor raised his eyebrows. "I know I did."

"Of course you liked it you idiot," Isaac informed Zac. "I can’t believe you don’t remember."

Zac shrugged his shoulders. "Somehow the pure joy of a fire in a coffee can has escaped me."

"It isn’t just any coffee can," Taylor exclaimed, slightly insulted by Zac’s insinuation. "It’s the Tin Lizzie. There is a big difference."

Zac just rolled his eyes.

Taylor ignored Zac’s lack of enthusiasm, and grinned. "I think I’m going to have to keep this. Maybe we can use it sometime. For old times sake."

"Definitely," Isaac agreed.

"But where could I keep it so that mom and dad don’t find it and throw it out?" Taylor wondered aloud.

"I don’t know," Zac gave his brother a sly grin. "Maybe under your pillow would work."

Taylor merely glared at Zac and shoved his way past his two brothers, determined to find a hiding place for the Tin Lizzie, before going to Gretchen’s to deliver his Romeo and Juliet paper.



Isaac was in the kitchen, busy drinking out of the milk carton when the phone began to ring. He quickly put the milk back into the fridge and wiped away the white mustache that formed on his upper lip. Just as he was about to pick up the phone, he could hear his mother saying hello. He began to walk away when she suddenly said something that made his jaw drop.

"Oh hi! Is this Jordan?"

Isaac’s eyes got wide and he raced into the living room, where his mother was standing, the phone to one ear. He hurried to stand next to her, and only prayed she would shut up and hand him the phone.

"It’s so nice to hear from you sweetie," Mrs. Hanson continued. "Isaac has told us so much about you."

Isaac attempted to reach for the phone, but Mrs. Hanson swatted at his desperate hands, and moved back.

"My husband and I were just saying how nice it would be to meet you," she said with a smile, ignoring Isaac’s frantic hand gestures.

Seeing that grabbing was getting him nowhere, Isaac hissed, "Mom, give me the phone."

"Well," Mrs. Hanson grinned. "It appears as though Isaac is going to keel over dead if he doesn’t get the phone this very second," She laughed. "So here he is."

Isaac felt himself go limp. I can’t believe she just said that, he thought to himself. He grabbed the receiver from her and gave her a frown before uttering a weak, hello, into the phone.

"You told your parents about me?" Jordan greeted him.

"Not directly," Isaac fumbled to find the right words. "It just sort of came up.

"And they want to meet me?"

Isaac nervously rubbed his sweaty palm on his cords. Jordan did not sound very happy at all. "Well, they’d like to yeah." Isaac looked around to make sure his mother had left the room, then whispered, "They’re a tad bit concerned about the whole age thing."

"Oh," Jordan was silent for a moment. "Anyway, I called to see if you wanted to meet me at the Boardwalk shopping center on Saturday."

"Okay," Isaac thought for a moment. "Where exactly is that?"

"Winchester."

"Winchester!" Isaac nearly dropped the phone "All the way out there?"

"Do you want to meet me or not?" Jordan demanded. "Because that’s where I want to go."

I certainly hope you won’t want to eat dinner, Isaac thought to himself. "I don’t even know how to get there," he finally mumbled.

"Isaac it’s simple. Take 75 the whole way. When you see the shopping center exit, get off and follow the signs," Jordan sighed.

"Are you sure you don’t want to do something a little closer to home?" Isaac asked. "I mean Tulsa has some pretty good shopping centers."

"Well, I have some stuff I need to do out in Winchester, so I thought maybe we could meet up there," Jordan explained. "But if it’s going to be a problem, we don’t HAVE to do anything."

Isaac sighed. Part of him wanted to tell her no. He didn’t see the point in driving so far out. But the other part of him was willing to do whatever she wanted him to. "Fine, what time should I meet you there," he asked, giving into the part of him which was willing to follow her around like a puppy dog in heat.

"Well, how about four or so?" Jordan suggested.

"All right fine," Isaac agreed, still not so sure about the whole idea.

"I’ll see you then," Jordan replied and hung up the phone.

Isaac just stood, listening to the dial tone for a minute or two. As he was replacing the phone, Mrs. Hanson walked back into the living room.

"So is she coming over for dinner?" She asked with a smile.

"No, mom," Isaac tried to control his voice. "I never even asked. Actually she hardly gave me a chance to talk."

Mrs. Hanson frowned. "Oh. Well what are you two going to do then?" Her question was asked with a suspicious tone, and Isaac could tell she wasn’t too happy about the whole situation.

"Just go hang out somewhere," He replied, shrugging his shoulders, trying to appear nonchalant.

"Hmm, I still don’t like the idea of you going out with a girl five years older than you and that we’ve never met." She commented.

"Mom, we’re just friends," Isaac threw his hands in the air. "You don’t get all bent out of shape when Ashley does stuff with us."

"Well, Ashley is not a 21-year-old female fashion design major," Mrs. Hanson shook her head.

"No," Isaac said. "He’s a 26-year-old video, math kind of guy.......what exactly is his job anyway?"

"Don’t try to change the subject," Mrs. Hanson warned him.

"Mom, you’re not going to tell me I can’t go are you?" Isaac stared at his mother wide eyed. Suddenly the prospect of not seeing Jordan was the most horrible thing imaginable.

"Well, no," Mrs. Hanson reluctantly said. "But I am going to tell you that I expect you to be home by 11:30."

"But mom we’re," Isaac shut up before he spilt the beans that they were going to Winchester. He seriously doubted that bit of information would have rested well with his mother. "Fine, I’ll be home by 11:30."



"Hey," Gretchen opened the door and smiled when she saw Taylor standing on the front porch.

He gave her a quick kiss. "What are you doing?"

"I was just working on that paper for school." Gretchen stepped aside so Taylor could enter the house.

"Good," Taylor grinned. "I brought this." He handed over his neatly typed Romeo and Juliet paper. "So you can copy that sometime tonight." Gently he wrapped his arms around her. "And we could do other things now," he finished, kissing her again.

"Umm......okay," Gretchen whispered when they broke apart. "But Taylor, you see...."

Before Gretchen could finish her sentence, Taylor started kissing her again. Then with a twinkle in his eye, he grabbed her hand and started walking down the hall towards her bedroom, stopping a few times along the way in order to place small kisses on various parts of her face and neck.

The smile on his face, quickly faded however, when he opened the door to her bedroom. "Who’s that?" He rudely asked, pointing to the red haired girl who was sitting on Gretchen’s bed.

"Taylor, this is my friend Lindsay," Gretchen explained. "From school. Remember, I’ve told you about her."

Taylor racked his brain trying to remember Gretchen ever mentioning any of her friends. He couldn’t recall a single one, especially not any Lindsay. And what was she doing at the house. He had stuff he wanted to do......alone with Gretchen.

"Taylor," Gretchen snapped her fingers in front of his face. "You remember me talking about Lindsay, right?"

"Oh yeah sure," Taylor lied, hoping it was what Gretchen wanted him to say. This Lindsay girl must have been mentioned on one of the many occasions Taylor blocked out what Gretchen was saying and concentrated solely on fantasizing about her instead. "It’s nice to meet you," he muttered, although he truthfully didn’t mean that statement.

He walked over to the bed and extended his hand towards this new friend. "I’m Taylor, Gretchen’s boyfriend," he added, putting emphasis on the last word.

"Oh," Lindsay shook his hand. "If you guys want me to leave......."

"Well, actually if you wouldn’t mind......" Taylor began.

"No, no," Gretchen interrupted. "You can stay."

Taylor raised his eyebrows. "Could I talk to you for a minute?" He motioned for Gretchen to follow him out of the room.

"What?" Gretchen whispered when they were in the hallway and out of earshot.

"Gretchen," Taylor stroked her cheek and gave her a pathetic look. "I wanted to spend some time alone with you."

"Taylor," Gretchen looked around the hallway, avoiding his puppy dog eyes. "I have school work to do."

"But I brought over the paper for you," Taylor reminded her. "Can’t you just copy that."

Gretchen sighed. "Well, I wasn’t planning on copying the whole thing. Besides, what about Lindsay?"

"What about her?" Taylor threw his hands in the air. "She can do her own paper."

"Taylor, we said we were going to work on it together," Gretchen explained. "I can’t just kick her out now. That wouldn’t be fair."

"Gretchen," Taylor whined. He pulled her close and kissed the top of her head. "I really want to be alone with you right now."

"Well, what do you want me to do about it Taylor?"

"Kick her out!" He exclaimed.

"Listen." Gretchen broke out of his grasp. "Lindsay and I have work to do. You can stay if you want, but I’m not kicking anyone out."

"Fine. I’ll stay," Taylor grumbled and reluctantly followed Gretchen back to her room.



"Marie!" Zac grabbed her shoulders the minute the poor girl answered the door. "You HAVE to help me."

"Okay." Marie shrugged out of Zac’s tight grip, and gave him a confused look. "Help you with what?"

"Please. Please tell me that I left my boots here." Zac begged. "Please tell me they are in your room."

"What?" Marie scratched at a mosquito bite on her arm. "You don’t mean those hideous yellow ones do you?"

"Yes, my yellow Doc Marten boots. The ones I bought in London. My favorite ones." Zac’s face crumpled and he heaved a sigh. "Are they here?"

"Zac," Marie raised her eyebrows. "If those boots had ever been left in my house, they would have found their way to the garbage compactor. So no. I can honestly tell you that you did not leave your boots here."

"Well then where are they?" Zac demanded. He shoved past her and began to look under the furniture in her living room."

"I don’t know," Marie shrugged. "They’re your boots. You wear them. How should I know where you left them?"

"I didn’t leave them anywhere." Zac shook his head, disgusted with the whole situation. "My brother’s did something with them. I know they did. It’s quite possible that I may never see those boots again."

"Zac," Marie had to laugh as Zac crawled halfway under the sofa, his legs sticking out as he continued his fruitless search. "What’s the big deal? You’ll probably grow out of them in a few months anyway, at the rate you’re going."

"Which is why I need to wear them now!" Zac shouted, getting up and marching over to the TV set, looking behind it. After coming up empty, he glanced back up at Marie, his face now red as his anger built. "We’re not going back to England for awhile, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to get another pair."

"You better not buy another pair," Marie threatened him.

Zac sighed. "You just don’t understand. I love those boots. They’re just so very Zac."

"You’re pathetic," Marie shook her head, still laughing. "Is this the only reason you came to see me?"

Zac frowned. "No," he muttered, his shoulders slumping forward as he realized he was not going to find the boots anywhere in the general vicinity of Marie’s house. "We’re going to eat at TGI Friday’s tonight. I was wondering if you wanted to come with us."

"You’re whole family?" Marie seemed a bit apprehensive. She still got shudders thinking about the last time all eight members of the Hanson family had invited her to dinner.

"Oh, no," Zac re-assured her. "No need to worry. Just you, me, Tay, probably Gretchen, Ike and well........whoever he can pay to be his friend for the night."

Marie thought for a second. "You treating?"

Zac made a face. "What, do you think I’m made of money?"

"Well if you have enough money to buy the most God awful pair of boots known to man, I would think you can afford to buy me dinner."

"Okay," Zac sighed. "I GUESS I’ll just ask for an advance in my allowance."

"Oh my Lord," Marie playfully shoved Zac. "Forget it, I’ll ask my mom for some money."

"Oh," Zac’s face brightened. "That sounds good."



Gretchen watched with a frown as Taylor tried once again to explain the symbolism of Romeo and Juliet to Lindsay. For some reason, Lindsay, who had received the highest grade in the class on their test, was suddenly clueless about the story. Gretchen wanted to say that maybe if Lindsay would listen to what Taylor was saying, and stop playing with his hair -- which she had been doing for the last twenty minutes -- she might have an idea as to what to write her paper on.

"Taylor, you’re so smart," Lindsay smiled. She brushed a loose strand of hair out of his face. "I wish you could have helped me study for our test."

Gretchen wanted to puke. Lindsay had gotten a 98% on the test, and she doubted very much that Taylor’s insight, as brilliant as Lindsay might think it was, could have done much to improve her grade.

"Hey, do you guys want to hear some music?" Gretchen asked, walking over to her CD player.

"Sure," Lindsay answered, without taking her eyes off of Taylor.

"Hey, Gretchen. Why don’t you let Lindsay chose," Taylor suggested. "I mean she is the guest."

"So?" Gretchen shrugged her shoulders. "You’re a guest too and I’m definitely not going to let you choose the music. Next thing you know I’ll be hearing some darn Cabaret crap again."

Taylor pouted. "That’s a good show," he muttered.

Gretchen noticed the hurt look on Taylor’s face as she started silverchair’s Freak Show. "What?" She smiled and sat down next to him. "I hate your taste in music."

"Excuse me!" Taylor smiled and quickly kissed her cheek. "I have fine taste in music."

Gretchen merely raised her eyebrows.

"Well I do," Taylor agreed with himself. "I mean who was the one that wanted to see the Backstreet Bo......"

Gretchen held up her hand. "Don’t even start that again."

"So Taylor," Lindsay, who was feeling left out, lightly touched his shoulder. "I hear you and your brothers have a little band."

"Yeah, I guess you could say that," Taylor smiled at her.

Lindsay moved her hand to his arm. "That’s so exciting. I always wished I could sing."

"Oh, how sweet," Gretchen muttered, trying to ignore the knot which was forming in her stomach the more Lindsay touched her boyfriend. "Why don’t you join the choir then?"

"Oh Gretchen," Lindsay laughed and tossed her head back.

Gretchen just snorted. She got up off the floor and flopped down in her desk chair. She had spent the past hour watching her boyfriend openly flirt with Lindsay, and quite frankly she was getting sick and tired of it.

Taylor noticed Gretchen get up and glanced at the clock. "Hey, Gretchen. Me and my brothers are going out to dinner and maybe a movie or something, depending. Wanna come? My treat."

"Well, yeah, I’d like to. But what about......" Gretchen silently motioned towards Lindsay.

"What about her?" Taylor stared at Gretchen, a blank expression on his face.

Gretchen sighed and shook her head. "It’s a little rude.......you know. I mean I invited Lindsay over, so I can’t exactly leave her." Even though Lindsay was getting on her last nerve with this whole flirting thing, Gretchen still didn’t see any call to be out and out rude to the girl.

"Oh, no......it’s okay," Lindsay answered in a pitiful voice. "Go ahead. I think my dad is reheating some leftovers or something."

"Invite her," Gretchen mouthed to Taylor when Lindsay went back to reading her notes.

"Why?" Taylor mouthed back.

Gretchen rolled her eyes. "Lindsay, do you want to come with us?"

Taylor gave Gretchen a look of confusion. Was he ever going to get her away from that girl?

"Oh, well......okay." Lindsay pretended to contemplate the issue. "Are you sure you guys don’t mind?"

Taylor only looked over and gave her a weak smile, not exactly thrilled by her answer.



"Hey, Ike," Taylor whispered to his brother who was currently driving the family van towards Friday’s. Zac and Marie were in the first set of seats behind the driver and Gretchen and Lindsay were behind them. Lindsay was still yakking her head off about Romeo and Juliet, even though no one was really listening to her.

"Ike," Taylor quietly called again. "Why didn’t you invite anyone?"

"Everyone was busy," Isaac snapped back.

"Even the illustrious 21 year old fashion design major?" Taylor smiled. "So when am I ever going to be able to meet this girl?"

"She has a name Taylor," Isaac answered, avoiding his brother's question. If he had his way Jordan would never see either Taylor or Zac, EVER.

"Well I don’t like her name," Taylor muttered. He could hear Lindsay babbling on in the back seat. Closing his eyes he leaned back against the head rest. "Do you think she’s ever going to shut up?"

"You’re the one who brought her," Isaac pointed out, fooling around with the radio dial, attempting to find a good song.

"No, no. Gretchen brought her," Taylor corrected him. "And please, feel free to spend time with her."

Isaac just shook his head and continued playing with the radio dial. "Doesn’t anyone play music anymore?" He wondered, flipping past yet another station playing commercials.

"Isaac stop!" Taylor suddenly screamed.

"What!?" Isaac exclaimed, slamming on the vans’ breaks.

"Not the car." Taylor gave his brother a weird look. He turned up the radio so that "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" could be heard by everyone within a five mile radius. "Hey, Gretchen! Does this bring back come memories?" Taylor yelled above the music, a grin on his face.

"Taylor!" Gretchen shouted. Was he ever going to let that one drop?

Before they were about to be blessed with the final verse of the song, Isaac pulled into the restaurant and immediately turned off the radio.

The group piled out of the van, and Taylor grabbed Gretchen’s hand as they walked towards Friday’s. He was going to make sure that he could at least sit by her.

Zac and Marie raced ahead of everyone, into the restaurant. That was when Lindsay spoke up. Taylor winced at the sound of her voice, which was really starting to get on his nerves. But the words that came out of her mouth inspired such......such.......inspiration......

"Hey, know what? This is the place that ties balloons in your hair when it’s your birthday."

It was brilliant. Ingenious. Why had he never thought of it before?

"Hey, Ike." Taylor motioned for his brother to come over.

"What?" Isaac walked over to Taylor, who was still clutching Gretchen’s hand.

"Did you hear that?" Taylor continued without waiting for an answer. "We have to do that! Let’s tell the restaurant people that it’s Zac’s birthday. They have to tie balloons in his hair. It’ll be hilarious."

"Taylor, that’s kind of mean," Gretchen quietly said. "Don’t you think?"

"No. Not mean. Brilliant. Stroke of genius. Lindsay, thank you," Taylor smiled at her. "You have to at least admit that it’ll be funny."

Gretchen shrugged. "I’d kill you if you ever did that to me."

"But, I’d never do that to you," Taylor answered sweetly. "Zac however is a completely different story."

As the waitress tied the tenth balloon in Zac’s hair, Taylor was unable to hold it in any longer. He burst out laughing. It was too funny. Zac’s hair was starting to resemble the back of a porcupine. Hair sticking out in every which direction with helium balloons hovering above it all. In his fit of laughter he managed to knock his Vanilla Coke all over himself.

"Oh, are you okay?" The cute brunette waitress who had just finished tying the last balloon in Zac’s hair asked.

"Umm," Taylor smiled at the girl who looked to be about 17 and a younger version of Jennifer Aniston. "No, do you think you could get me a towel?" He gave her his sexy smile. Or at least the smile he himself thought was sexy.

A few moments later the waitress, whose nametag proclaimed her to be, ironic as it were, Jenn, was back with a white towel.

"Maybe you could wipe it off me," Taylor laughed. "Ha, I’m just kidding."

It was hard to tell whether Taylor was indeed joking or not, but Jenn insisted on helping him wipe the spilled pop off his clothes.

Gretchen no longer wanting to see the waitress touching Taylor, excused herself to the bathroom. It was bad enough he had flirted with Lindsay, and now this Jenn girl. It was really getting aggravating.

Zac just sat staring at the free piece of cake before him. He looked miserable with the balloons holding his hair up. His head was starting to ache. Oh sure it had been kind of humorous after the first few. He had even laughed a little bit. But that was before the devil waitress kept brining more balloons to tie in his hair. Now he just felt ridiculous. Everyone in the restaurant was staring at him. And the worst part of it was that there was nothing he could do about it. If he told the waitresses it wasn’t his birthday, they wouldn’t believe him. If he tattled with the intent of getting his brothers in trouble, Taylor would tell his parents about the cigarettes. Granted he had the video, but given his reaction to the whole crucifixion thing, his dad would just laugh and say he wished he had been there to see it.

Taylor, after the waitress had finished wiping the soda off of him, noticed that Gretchen had yet to return from the restroom. He realized that if he was going to get any alone time with her, it would have to be then.

He excused himself, saying he needed to clean up a bit more, then went and waited outside the ladies room until Gretchen opened the door Before she was able to walk out, Taylor stepped in and closed the door behind them.

"What are you doing here?" Gretchen hissed.

"What?" Taylor asked. "I came to see you, what’s wrong with that?"

"What if somebody comes in?" Gretchen asked.

"Simple, we just do this," Taylor reached over and locked the door.

"Oh really?" Gretchen put her hands on her hips. "What are we locking the door for anyway? Aren’t we going back to the table?"

Taylor walked up and put his arms around her. "They can wait a few minutes," he whispered into her ear.

Gretchen offered him a weak smile. "Won’t they wonder where we are?"

Taylor sighed. "I just want to be alone with you for a little while. I mean, why did you have to invite her to come along?"

"I thought you might enjoy her company," Gretchen answered, trying her best to not sound exceedingly snotty.

"Why?" Taylor gave her a confused look. "I only want your company." He smiled and gently kissed her.

Gretchen let him kiss her for a minute, before she broke away. "Come, on. If we don’t get back soon they’re going to send a search party."

"Don’t you want to be alone with me?" Taylor asked with a pout.

"Yes," Gretchen answered, thinking he was blowing the situation slightly out of proportion. Hadn’t he learned his lesson about public places?

"Well prove it then," Taylor challenged her.

"You’d like that wouldn’t you?" Gretchen asked, beginning to walk towards the door.

"Duh," Taylor answered, grabbing her hand and pulling her back towards him.

Gretchen gave him a quick kiss on the lips, and made no attempts to break away when Taylor started to kiss her back. Just when Taylor was beginning to think it might not be such a bad day after all, there was a loud pounding on the door.

"Hey," Lindsay’s voice called from outside. "Gretchen are you still in there?"

"Dammit," Taylor muttered under his breath. "I’m really beginning to hate that girl."



The minute Zac walked in his back door, he tried to pull the balloons from his hair. He had tried at the restaurant. The waitresses had stopped him. He had tried before getting into the van. His brothers wouldn’t let him. Never mind he could barely fit his head in the door, but see if they cared. Now, with them off his case, he hoped to rid his head of the obnoxious, rainbow colored balloons. Before he got a chance to start taking them out however, the doorbell rang.

Grunting, Zac hurried to answer it. He glanced out the peephole and winced. Mr. and Mrs. Davis. He hated his nosy neighbors, yet they always seemed to show up. He contemplated just letting them stand out on the porch, but they would most likely stay there all night, waiting until he opened the door, then would once again tell his parents about how rude and obnoxious he was. Well his mother at least. His dad always seemed to disappear whenever the Davis’s came for a visit. A repeated ringing of the doorbell snapped Zac from his trance and he opened the door. "Mr. and Mrs. Davis. What a pleasant surprise." He used the phrase his mother often did when seeing her neighbors.

"What took so long for you to open the......dear boy what in the world to you have in your hair?" Mrs. Davis questioned, stepping into the house.

"Balloons," Zac answered, resisting the urge to say Duh. He thought it was quite apparent what was in his hair. But rather than duhing an adult, he merely called, "Mom! Company!"

"Sue, Don, what a pleasant surprise," Mrs. Hanson forced a smile as she entered the foyer. "Come in, come in."

Zac watched as his two elderly neighbors walked into the living room, Mrs. Davis clutching a paper bag in her hands.

"Diana, you would never believe what Kissie dug up today," Mrs. Davis set the paper bag on an end table.

Zac tried hard not to roll his eyes or make gagging sounds. Why someone would actually name their dog, or any pet for that matter, Kissie, was just beyond him.

"These." Mrs. Davis pulled a very chewed up and rather dirty looking pair of boots out of the paper sack.

"MY BOOTS!" Zac exclaimed, snatching them away from Mrs. Davis. "What happened to them?"

"Well, Kissie was out digging in her favorite part of the yard today and found these. We let her use them as a chew toy for awhile, but then Don realized they might belong to one of your children. But we didn’t know for sure. I mean it’s so hard to keep track with all these kids you have running around here anymore."

"Oh God, my boots," Zac was whining through out Mrs. Davis’s whole speech. "My poor, poor boots."

"Zachary, they are a pair of boots, not the end of the world," Mrs. Davis scolded him. She then turned back to Mrs. Hanson. "Now Diana, our precious Kissie digging up these boots forces one question to my mind. Do you often allow your children to bury things in our yard?"

"Sue, I had no idea," Mrs. Hanson glared at Zac.

"What? Don’t look at me. They’re my boots, I sure didn’t bury them." Zac clutched his ruined boots to his chest. He turned and tried to walk out the door, however this proved to be quite difficult with all the balloons in his hair. Oh, this was the last straw. Taylor and Isaac were going to get it for good. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

.

Chapter 44 - We Had a Time

Taylor yawned and glanced at the alarm clock on his bedside table after rubbing all the sleep out of his eyes.

7:05

He looked at his brothers who were both still sound asleep. All right, first one in the shower, Taylor thought to himself and lazily swung his feet over the edge of his bed. That was when he heard it. Taylor turned his head to see Zac sitting up in his own bed. The two brothers watched each other intently for a moment. Suddenly there was a mad flurry of action as both boys scrambled out of their beds at the same time.

"No way!" Zac yelled, tripping over his blue sheets.

"Forget you!" Taylor yelled back, taking off after Zac. "That’s my shower!"

Just as Zac reached the bathroom door, he felt a violent tug on the back of his tee shirt. The next thing he knew, Zac was down on his back, watching Taylor hop over him, slamming the door shut in his stunned brothers face.

"You suck!" Zac yelled from his position on the floor. "I’m always stuck with the crappy shower!" He angrily kicked at the floor with his heels, a pout on his face. After listening to the running shower for a good fifteen minutes, Zac began furiously pounding both his fists against the closed bathroom door. "Are you going to be in there all morning?" He shouted.

"You should talk, Mr. 'I have the smallest body, but take the thirty minute showers’," Isaac quipped from his bed.

Zac just huffed and sat back down on the floor in front of the bathroom, determined to be the next one in the shower.

Finally the door opened and Taylor stepped out in a billow of muggy steam, only to trip over his brother.

"Hey watch where you’re going," Zac snapped from the floor.

"Zac, while you were busy pouting and acting like a baby, I think I hear mom calling for you," Isaac said, as he rummaged in a nearby dresser, looking for an appropriate outfit for the day. "She’s been yelling your name I’m sure, for like two minutes."

Zac offered his older brother a confused look. "I haven’t heard anything."

Isaac shrugged his shoulders. "So, maybe you’re going deaf. I mean it wouldn’t surprise me with all the pounding you do back on those drums."

Zac groaned and drug himself off the floor. He raced to the top of the steps. "Mom!" He called. "What do you want? MOM!!"

"Zac, what do you want?" Mrs. Hanson answered from the bottom of the staircase.

"Me? What do you want?" Zac asked her.

Mrs. Hanson just raised her eyebrows.

"Weren’t you calling me?" Zac asked.

Mrs. Hanson shook her head. "No. But your lessons start in half an hour so you better hurry up and get ready."

Zac sighed, shook his head, and started back towards the bedroom. "Ike, you’re the one who must be going deaf," he began as he walked into the room. "She wasn’t even......" Zac paused. "Hey Tay? Where’s Ike? And why is the shower still running?"

"Because Isaac is in it," Taylor answered from his position in front of the dresser mirror, as he combed out his damp locks.

"But I was going to.........I mean I was waiting......" Zac tossed his hands in the air.

"Well, you left the room," Taylor pointed out.

"ARGGH!" Zac shouted at the top of his lungs. "I hate this family!"



After their ‘Days of Our Lives’ break, and religion class, the boys found themselves back in their bedroom.

"Hey guys," Taylor spoke up. "Guess what day it is?"

"Ummm, Friday?" Isaac answered from his position on the floor.

"But not just any Friday," Taylor smiled and pointed to his Spice Girls calendar. "It’s Friday the 13th."

"Whoo hoo, yippie skippy," Zac answered, his voice devoid of all enthusiasm. "Now I’m super pumped."

"Come on you guys," Taylor pleaded. "We should do something."

"Like what?" Isaac mumbled.

"Well, we could watch a scary movie or something." Taylor suggested.

"Yeah," Zac answered. "Like Halloween, or Sleepaway Camp, or heck as cliché as it is, Friday the 13th."

Taylor frowned. "Well I was thinking something more along the lines of, say......Scream."

Zac rolled his eyes. "Tay, we’ve already seen that like twenty billion times. It’s about time for you to get over it already. I mean it’s totally lost it’s whole scary factor."

"So?" Taylor looked at his younger brother as if he were a dumdum. "It has Neve Campbell and Drew Barrymore. What more could you want?"

"Well, since you asked......." Isaac spoke up.

"Wait." Taylor interrupted his brother, holding up his hand. "If you even say Claire Danes I will have to puke."

"Well you did ask," Isaac shrugged his shoulders. "Besides, Drew Barrymore gets killed in the first five minutes and I thought you liked Lacey Chalbert, not Neve Campbell."

"Oh Isaac," Taylor sighed. "Yeah I prefer Lacey, but she hasn’t exactly been in too many movies. Anyway, back to what I was saying." Taylor paused a look of concentration spread across his face. Then suddenly he jumped up on his bed. "I’ve got it!" He screamed in his sudden burst of excitement. "We watch Scream and then when mom and dad are in bed, we take the Tin Lizzie to the tree house and tell ghost stories."

"Wow, what a rebel," Zac laughed at his brother. "You really live on the edge, huh?"

"Shut up Zac," Taylor fell onto his bed. "You have room to talk anyway. Mom barely lets you walk to the end of the block by yourself."

"That’s not my fault," Zac argued his case.

"Well, so who’s in?" Taylor turned to his brothers, eyeing them carefully.

Isaac shrugged his shoulders and sighed. "Sure, why not. I have nothing else to do tonight."

Zac grunted, holding back the urge to say that didn’t surprise him. "Gee Tay, sharing ancient ghost stories over and old, rusty, beat up coffee can. What could be more exciting?"

"Well excuse me. I forgot you’re the king of cool." Taylor rolled his eyes. "Do you have any better ideas?"

Zac was silent for a moment. "Well, my social calendar isn’t quite full yet. I guess I can Crayola you guys in for tonight, as long as nothing better comes up."

"Come on this could be fun," Taylor nearly whined. "Wait a second." He suddenly broke into another look of inspiration. "I’ve got it! We can borrow Gretchen’s Ouija board and have a seance."

"Hmm, now you’re talking," Zac seemed a bit more interested. "Maybe we can conjure up some dead spirits."



"Hey Gretchen," Taylor kissed her forehead after she had opened the front door. "Is your mom home?"

Gretchen smiled and shook her head. "She doesn’t get off of work for another hour."

Plenty of time, Taylor thought to himself as he walked into her bedroom.

"Do you want something to drink?" Gretchen offered, turning on her radio.

"Do you have any pop?" Taylor asked, opening up the door to her closet.

"Yeah, is Pepsi okay?" Gretchen paused before leaving the room. "What are you doing in my closet?"

"Yeah, Pepsi is fine, and my brothers and I want to borrow your Ouija board," Taylor answered from somewhere in the depths of her walk in closet.

"Go ahead, I never use it," Gretchen answered as she walked towards the kitchen.

As Taylor searched for the game, he also busied himself with another favorite pastime of his, which was to raid Gretchen’s wardrobe for clothes she never wore but should in his opinion. His eyes were immediately drawn to a red plaid skirt. "Hmm, this must be new," he muttered to himself, pulling the hanger from the rack.

"Did you find it?" Gretchen asked, returning to the room with two polka dotted glasses filled with ice and Pepsi.

"No," Taylor stepped out of the closet. "But I found this. When did you get it?" He held up the skirt he had uncovered in the back of the closet.

"I went shopping with my mom the other day," Gretchen shrugged her shoulders. "It’s for my grandparents anniversary. I wanted to get a new pair of overalls, but my mom insisted that I wear something nicer. I guess their having the party at the Doubletree downtown."

"I see." Taylor said. Then he grinned. "I like it. You should wear it when we go out sometime. As a matter of fact, I think you should model it right now."

"Taylor," Gretchen gave him a harsh look, her tone a bit disgusted. "This little routine of yours is getting old. You’ve seen me in a skirt before. Remember? I put on that black one when you asked me to."

"But this is plaid," He smiled. "Plaid is totally different.

Gretchen frowned. "You know, you don’t see me telling you what to wear, do you?"

"No," Taylor walked closer towards her, still clutching the skirt in his hand. "But you tell me what not to wear."

"Like what?" Gretchen raised her eyebrows.

"My leather pants," Taylor answered. Before Gretchen could respond, he began to fiddle with the button on her jeans. "Here, I’ll help you put it on."

"Taylor," Gretchen snapped, pushing him away.

A hurt look came across Taylor’s face as he stumbled backwards.

"Fine," Gretchen sighed. "Just don’t make that pathetic face at me." She snatched the skirt from his hands. "There’s also a black shirt in there to go with this. Why don’t you find it?"

Taylor retreated to the closet to find the matching top. He emerged a few moments later, having gotten a tad bit distracted by Gretchen’s bunny slippers he had found in the corner. "Cute slippers, they sort of remind me of the dog ones I used to have, except mine were a bit bigger and the dogs had glass eyes, not button ones like yours. Is this the top you...........wow." Taylor’s eyes opened wide. "Hmm, that skirt......wow. It, um. it looks really nice." Taylor stumbled over his words.

"Thanks," Gretchen blushed. She grabbed the shirt from him. "Now, why don’t you go look for the Ouija board while I put this on."

When Taylor didn’t make any attempts to enter the closet a third time, Gretchen gave him a soft shove in the chest. "I’m serious. I will not put this on with you standing there."

"But......okay," Taylor went back into her closet. Once he was inside Gretchen shut the door.

"Don’t open the door until I say to," She instructed.

"What? Why?" Taylor asked from inside. "I mean, I’ve seen it before."

"That’s not the point," Gretchen answered, pulling her Elmo tee shirt over her head. "I still deserve some privacy. Besides if you want to see it all you have to do is pop that tape in your VCR."

"That wasn’t very nice," Taylor mumbled to himself as he pulled the Ouija board off from the shelf. After a few moments of searching through some other outfits she had hanging up, Gretchen finally told Taylor he could come out of the closet.

"I found the board," Taylor said as he stepped out of the closet.

"Well here," Gretchen turned in a quick circle before stopping to face him, her hands planted on her hips. "I’m wearing it, see? Are you happy?"

Taylor just stood in front of the closet, clutching the game to his chest.

"Now, go back inside so I can change out of this," Gretchen commanded.

"Why? You just put it on," Taylor said, putting the Ouija board on the floor.

"Taylor, you’re being very piggish you know," Gretchen snapped pointing in the direction of the closet.

Taylor just gave her a look of confusion. "No I’m not."

"What do you call making me put on clothes that I don’t want to wear?" Gretchen challenged him.

"Well if you don’t want to wear them, why do you buy them? Taylor shot back, taking a step towards her. "I mean explain the logic of that one to me, please. I’m only trying to help you get some wear out of them."

"I don’t buy them!" Gretchen snapped. "My mom does."

"Well," Taylor continued to slowly walk towards her. "You’re with her when she buys them, correct?"

"That’s not the point."

"Then what is the point?" Taylor asked, stopping a few inches in front of her.

"The point, Taylor....." Gretchen paused and started making fists with her hands. "The point is simply that.......the point is....."

Before Gretchen could elaborate any further, Taylor pressed his lips against hers. When she didn’t stop him, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to him.

"You look really nice in these kind of clothes," Taylor whispered in her ear, before he began kissing and nibbling on her neck.

Gretchen unclenched her hands and began stroking Taylor’s hair. Taylor slowly worked his lips up to her mouth, and as he kissed her, he began moving towards the armchair. He tugged Gretchen along with him and the two half walked, half stumbled to the navy lazy boy. Taylor sat down and pulled Gretchen onto his lap.

Taylor’s hands roamed everywhere as they kissed, and his breath sharpened when Gretchen gently licked at his lips with her tongue.

The armchair they were seated in was small, and as the two continued kissing Gretchen could feel herself slowly sliding towards Taylor’s knees.

One second Taylor was kissing Gretchen and the next second his lips were touching only the air. "What?" Taylor opened his eyes to see his lap empty and his girlfriend on the floor in front of him, rubbing her butt. "What are you doing down there?"

"What do you think I’m doing?" Gretchen mumbled, tugging at her skirt. "I fell off the stupid chair."

"Oh," Taylor, who was finally able to see Gretchen alone without any siblings, Backstreet Boys, or friends named Lindsay did not want this unforeseeable fall to ruin anything. "Don’t move, I’ll be right there."

Gretchen had to laugh as Taylor practically launched himself out of the chair. He grabbed her shoulders and laid her down on the floor. Not wanting to waste any time, he laid himself on top of her. "Now, where were we?" He grinned at her.

"Oh, about here I think," Gretchen whispered, beginning to kiss his neck.

Taylor closed his eyes, her lips like velvet on his hot skin. His breathing sped up again and he gave a satisfied moan, his warm breath gently blowing across her ear. He gently slipped a hand under her shirt and gently stroked her, while she began to once again kiss his lips. Her hands were running up and down his back, over his sides, and it felt wonderful. Taylor put his other hand under her skirt. He was almost having trouble breathing as he worked the skirt up and began gently touching her on the outside of her underwear.

Gretchen grabbed the ends of Taylor’s shirt and tried to pull it over his head. He slowly lifted himself up and raised his arms so that she could remove the black sweater. After removing his shirt, Gretchen pulled Taylor close to her once again.

As Gretchen kissed him, she noticed that she could no longer feel both of his hands on her body. She slowly opened her eyes to see Taylor fiddling with the button on his cords.

Not quite sure what he was expecting, Gretchen silently watched as Taylor finished pulling down his zipper and slid his pants off. He then situated himself on top of her again and began kissing her neck. He reached under her shirt and began messing with the front clasp of her bra. Gretchen felt herself tense up a bit, although she wasn’t sure why, but when Taylor began kissing her in a more gentle manner she eased up a bit. She could feel her bra becoming unhooked, and Taylor successfully removed both her shirt and bra in nearly one jerk of his arms. He kissed her bare shoulders, and let his lips lead a hot trail down her chest. The excitement was building in his body as he kissed and touched her. "You’re beautiful," he whispered, so quietly that Gretchen wasn’t sure if he had actually said the words, or if she had imagined them.

She closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of Taylor’s lips on her body. He was moving lower and lower on her body, until his lips were trailing along the bare area right above the waist of her skirt. His hand slid slowly down her body until they rested on her hips. He moved his mouth back up her stomach, over her chest, gently brushing her neck, until he had locked them fully against hers again. Suddenly, without warning his hands were on her panties and he was trying to tug them down her hips. Despite the heat, goosebumps formed on Gretchen’s arms and legs. She tried to protest, but Taylor had his mouth pressed hard against hers, and his kisses weren’t letting up. Taylor was only able to get her underwear partially down, before he gave up. Gretchen allowed herself to relax a little when Taylor removed his hands from her panties. When he let out another soft moan, she opened her eyes to see he was attempting to take his boxers off.

"Taylor," Gretchen gasped as she began to squirm from underneath him.

"Wait," Taylor attempted to hold her down. "What’s the matter?"

"We’ve already talked about this," Gretchen hissed, slightly upset that he would try to betray her wishes like this. "I told you I wasn’t ready."

Taylor sighed and kissed her. His lips trailed to her ear. "Don’t you like me?" He whispered.

"You know I do," Gretchen replied, turning her head, so he couldn’t try to kiss her again.

"Well, prove it." He looked at her with a puppy dog expression, his voice serious.

"Oh no you don’t." Gretchen tried pushed him off of her. "Don’t even give me that you’d do it if you liked me crap. Honestly I wasn’t born yesterday."

"But Gretchen," Taylor began to protest.

"No buts. You came over to get my Ouija board, and it’s over there." Gretchen gestured towards the discarded board game, which at this point Taylor could have cared less about.

Reluctantly Taylor lifted himself up and began to put his clothes back on. Gretchen also stood and was pulling herself together.

After he had dressed, Taylor walked over to her. "Hey...." He noticed she had put her jeans and Elmo shirt back on and not the cute skirt, but thought it might not be the best time to point that out. "You’re not mad at me are you?"

"Taylor," Gretchen looked him square in the eyes. "I..."

"Because I was only joking," Taylor interrupted her. "About the prove it thing."

Gretchen raised an eyebrow. "Yeah. It sure seemed like a joke a few minutes ago."

Taylor looked down at his feet. "I’m sorry." He shrugged his shoulders. "I can’t control myself around you."

Gretchen shook her head. "Whatever. I’m not mad at you, okay?"

Taylor looked up and smiled. "Really?"

Gretchen nodded and picked up the Ouija board. Deciding to change the subject she asked, "So what are you guys going to use this thing for anyway?"

"We’re going to celebrate Friday the thirteenth," Taylor beamed and Gretchen realized that this was probably yet another one of her boyfriend’s brilliant ideas.

"Sounds exciting," She rolled her eyes.

"Oh it will be," Taylor assured her. "We’re gonna ask the board questions, maybe have a seance and light up the Tin Lizzie."

"What’s a Tin......" Gretchen shook her head. "Nevermind, I don’t want to know."

"But that’s not all," Taylor went on in his excitement. "We’re gonna watch Scream first." His smile widened.

"Please, wasn’t eight times in the theater enough for you?"

"Can anyone ever get enough of a movie that has both Drew Barrymore and Neve Campbell in it?" Taylor asked with a dreamy look in his eyes.

"Okay, that’s enough," Gretchen shoved the Ouija box at him. "Get out of my house."

Taylor grabbed the board and started towards the door. He paused in the doorway and turned around. "Do you want to join in on the celebration?"

"You know what Taylor? What you guys have planned really seems exciting, but," Gretchen didn’t want to hurt his feelings by stating her true opinion on the whole charade, " Well it kind of seems like a brotherly bonding sort of thing. I’m afraid I would feel out of place."

Taylor took a moment to think about this. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," Gretchen answered almost to quickly. "Look, my mom’s going to be home any second," She said, glancing at her alarm clock. "Go."

"Okay." Taylor walked over and gave her a small kiss goodbye, before heading home.



It was getting late. Darkness had fallen over the land. The air was nippy with a slightly strong breeze rustling the leaves every few seconds. Scream was over and many were dead in Woodsboro, but in Tulsa things were just getting started.

Hanson, clad only in black, snuck around corners, slowly making their way to the tree house.

"This is stupid!" Zac protested as Taylor pulled him behind a tree.

"Shhh," Taylor clamped one hand over Zac’s mouth while clutching the Ouija board in his other. "Do you want someone to hear you?"

"Like who?" Zac asked, after freeing himself from Taylor’s grip. "It’s in the middle of the night and we’re in our own back yard for crying out loud."

Before Taylor could reply he caught sight of Isaac making a mad dash to the tree house from across the yard. After a minute or so they heard the "top secret" bird call from above.

"The coast is clear," Taylor grabbed Zac’s arm who moved under great duress, and they raced towards the whistle.

Once the three boys had gathered in the tree house, Isaac slid his black back pack off. Taylor whipped a tiny notepad from his jacket pocket. He flipped through a couple of pages before looking towards Isaac. "Let’s go through the list," he said. "Candles?"

"Check," Isaac replied, holding up the snowmen shaped mounds of wax.

"Snowmen?" Zac gave his brother a questioning look.

"Well," Isaac gave a little huff. "I had to be sneaky you know."

"Oh and what, digging through the Christmas boxes three months early didn’t look weird to anyone else?" Zac put his hands on his hips.

"Well, Mr. Know It All Candle Finder Person," Isaac snapped before Zac could continue his thoughts. "Let me see you do better."

"Guys, guys," Taylor interrupted in a desperate attempt to keep the peace. "You are creating some very negative karma here. This won’t help us in our mission to contact the spirits of the afterlife." He paused and looked from one brother to the other. "Now Isaac," he continued. "Were snowmen all you could come up with?"

"No man," Isaac reached back into his bookbag. "I found these really cool ones too." Isaac held up six snow white candles decorated with gold glitter crosses.

"Boy first snowmen, and now glitter crosses." Zac shook his head. How hard could it possibly be to find a normal candle in our house, he thought.

Taylor squinted at the new candles. "Ike you idiot! Those are our Baptism candles. We can’t use those, mom will have a cow."

"Okay, fine," Isaac shoved them back into his bag. "Next time you find your own candles."

"Could we just finish the list please?" Taylor asked, holding onto to what little patience he had left. "Let’s continue without anymore meaningless interruptions, ahem Zac."

"Fine," Zac crossed his arms. In his mind Taylor was taking this whole thing a bit too seriously.

"Tin Lizzie." Taylor continued to read off his list.

"Check." Isaac set the can in the middle of the floor.

"And I have the Ouija board," Taylor sat the game on the floor next to the Tin Lizzie. He stepped back and with a serious expression turned to his brothers. "Now guys, if any spirits happen to come by tonight," Taylor closed his eyes and raised his arms. "And I have a feeling they will-- I’m getting very good vibes," he opened his eyes again. "We want them to feel welcomed and not threatened by our presence."

"Gee whiz, I know I should have brought the milk and cookies," Zac cracked. "I mean Santa always likes them."

"Zac," Taylor took a deep breath. "When are you going to start taking this seriously?"

"I hardly think lighting a snowman inside an old rusted coffee can and playing a board game in the middle of the night qualifies as a dignified operation," Zac stated.

"Could you just......" Taylor waved his hand in the air. "It’s not even worth it," He mumbled. "Isaac light the Tin Lizzie."

Isaac just stared at Taylor.

"Hello!" Taylor snapped his fingers. "Light the thing."

Isaac continued to stare at him.

Taylor pointed towards the Tin Lizzie. "Light it," he repeated.

"With what?" Isaac whispered.

Taylor sighed. "Don’t tell me you forgot the matches."

"You didn’t say anything to me about any matches," Isaac defended himself.

"Well I," Taylor looked at the list then back to Isaac. "They aren’t on the list," He replied with a look of horror.

"Oh my God," Zac exclaimed. "You make this big deal about candles, going as far as sneaking around in Christmas boxes, but you never stopped to think that just maybe you might want to light them?"

"Great, now what are we going to do?" Isaac moaned.

"Well," Taylor pointed towards the house. "You’re just going to have to go back inside and get something."

"No way!" Isaac refused. "I’m not going back out there by myself."

"Guys, guys," Zac tried to restore the now very damaged karma. "Here." He pulled a blue Bic lighter from his pants pocket.

Without thinking, Taylor grabbed it and began lighting the snowmen’s heads.

"What are you doing with a lighter?" Isaac asked his younger brother.

"Umm," Zac racked his brain for a quick explanation. "I’ve always carried one."

"No you haven’t," Isaac challenged.

"Yes I have," Zac shot back.

"Guys," Taylor snapped as he placed a snowman inside the Tin Lizzie. "If we want to make the spirits feel welcomed we have to stop all this bickering."

"Oh well pardon us Dionne Warwick," Isaac grumbled. "We wouldn’t want to disturb the peace."

"Ha, ha very funny," Taylor handed the lighter back to Zac. "Besides, Dionne isn’t a psychic, she just goes to people who contact the spirits for her."

"Well, excuse me," Isaac snapped.

"Anyways, let’s just get this ceremony underway. Enough chit chat. I think we should join hands and sit down in a circle together," Taylor suggested extending an arm to each brother.

"You touch my hand I break your nose," Zac warned, sitting down on the floor. "It’s bad enough we have to do that in public at the end of our shows. Let’s not start adopting this practice into our private lives."

"Fine, although I honestly feel that our karma would have been greatly increased is we had joined our forces," Taylor was bitter about having one of his suggestions shot down.

"Karma-sharma," Isaac was getting impatient. "Let’s get this show on the road. There are only five more hours left in the Baywatch marathon, and then MTV is having a My So Called Life one. I want to be well rested for that."

Zac was tempted to make a smart alec comment, but for fear he’d have to hear Isaac ramble on continuously about the show, opted to keep his mouth shut.

While Isaac was blabbing about his date with the television set, Taylor had begun to squirm in his seat. "What the heck," he mumbled. He reached beneath his sleeping bag, felt the lump, grabbed a hold of it and ended up pulling out Zac’s huge bright orange shirt.

"Oh, I’ve been looking for that," Zac reached for his shirt.

Taylor tossed it aside and out of Zac’s reach. "What, did you bury it up here until you grew into it?"

"Hold on Taylor," Zac warned. "Do you think our karma can handle that witty sense of humor of yours?"

"Okay, for real guys," Taylor paused. "Let’s get started. The spirits aren’t going to wait around all night."

"Yeah they probably have more important things to do," Isaac added in all seriousness

"Yeah, like watch the My So Called Life marathon, right Ike?" Zac grinned at his oldest brother.

Isaac only rolled his eyes.

Meanwhile, Taylor carefully opened the Ouija board, flexing it a few times to get rid of the stiff newness, and then placed the planchette in the middle.

"Okay, let’s close our eyes and free our minds. Make your head a total blank."

"That shouldn’t be to hard for you," Zac muttered.

Taylor chose to ignore his brother and continues in his soothing voice. "Everyone place your three middle fingers upon the planchette." He peeked through his eyes to double check that his brothers were doing as they were instructed. "Spirits of the world, we welcome you. Come join us and offer your guidance and insight to whatever we may ask."

Taylor allowed a few moments of silence to pass so that all minds were clear. "Okay, the deal is -- our eyes have to be closed when we ask the questions, but we can open them in order to see the answer."

"Are you making this stuff up?" Zac asked in a doubtful voice.

"No," Taylor lied. "This is how it goes. Go ahead and ask the first question."

Zac closed his eyes and got a smirk on his face. "Will my brothers ever let me talk in an interview ever again?"

Three sets of eyes opened and watched as the planchette moved to no.

"Oh my gosh, they’re here,’ Taylor squeaked.

"See Zac, the spirits know a good thing when they see it," Isaac laughed. "My turn. Will I ever have sex with Jordan?"

"What that 21 year old fashion design major?" Taylor raised an eyebrow. "You want to have sex with her?" Blah." He opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue.

"Shut up," Isaac snapped. "You’ve never even met her."

There seemed to be a lot of struggling from the spirits as the planchette wavered between yes and no. But finally the power of two prevailed and it landed on NO.

"Well, we’ll just see about that," Isaac replied with a confident and cocky tone to his voice.

"I think we need a serious question here," Taylor took a deep breath. "When mom has this baby, will we have to share a room with Mackenzie?"

Almost to quickly the planchette moved to NO.

All three boys seemed pleased with that answer.

"Good," Zac muttered and closed his eyes. "Are mom and dad really going to make us record a Christmas CD?"

Slowly, almost sadly the planchette moved to YES.

No one wanted to comment on that answer. Instead Taylor and Zac closed their eyes, anticipating their brother’s question.

"I’m nearly seventeen," Isaac began. "Will I ever get my own room?"

Once again the forces seemed to be against Isaac, and NO was spelled out.

"Now are the spirits ready to join us?" Taylor called out in a loud voice. He watched as the planchette moved to YES. "Okay guys, close your eyes and HMM with me."

"You’re kidding right?" Zac thought the little game was quickly growing old.

"No, no" Taylor assured him. "I can feel them. Come on, HMM, HMM, HMM."

As Isaac HMM’ed along he stretched out his leg in order to relieve the tension which had built up in his knees. He thought he felt his foot hit something, but didn’t give it a second thought.

After a few seconds of listening to his brothers moan and groan to nonexistent spirits, Zac caught a whiff of something rather peculiar. He opened his eyes and glanced at Isaac and then to Taylor, back to Isaac and once again to Taylor. His gaze then drifted down to Taylor’s black boots which were now on fire as the result of an over turned Tin Lizzie.

"Umm, Tay," Zac cautiously began.

"Now, now Zac," Taylor hissed. "I can feel them."

Zac eyes widened in horror as he noticed the flames were spreading up Taylor’s boots and onto the sleeping bag. He began to blow at the flames, as if they were a large birthday cake topped with candles, but to no avail. It seemed as if his efforts to put the fire out, only had it spreading faster.

"Taylor," Zac yelled.

"Now, now Zac," Taylor had a goofy grin on his face. "Can’t you feel it? Can’t you feel their presence? I have this warm tingly feeling all over."

"Well that could be because YOUR BOOTS ARE ON FIRE!" Zac yelled.

Taylor’s eyes popped open as he stared at his feet in horror. "Oh my God, PUT IT OUT! PUT IT OUT!" He screamed as his brothers just stared at his flaming footwear.

"With what?" Zac demanded. "I don’t seem to recall a fire extinguisher being on your check list."

Seeing that his brothers weren’t going to be of any help, Taylor reached back and grabbed the bright orange shirt which he had carelessly discarded earlier. Using Zac’s huge top, Taylor began slapping and hitting the fire until the flames on both his boots and the sleeping bag were smothered.

"My shirt," Zac whispered as Taylor held up what was left of the once orange material. "First my boots and now my shirt. What’s next? My yellow pants?"

"Who cares about your shirt? That was my favorite sleeping bag," Taylor whined.

"No it wasn’t," Isaac spoke up.

Taylor took a closer look at the charred material. "Oh yeah, you’re right," He smiled. "As for the boots, oh well, I have tons. Good thing they make these suckers thick."

"As for the orange shirt," Zac moaned. "I only had one of those."

"Oh get over it Zac,’ Isaac began to blow out the other snowmen candles. "You would have grown into and out of it soon enough anyway."

"I knew this was a stupid idea right from the start," Zac got up, stomped past his brothers, and made his way to the house.

"I had fun," Taylor quietly admitted to Isaac.

Isaac simply smiled. "Yeah. We had a time."