Notes from the Blender (11 page)

BOOK: Notes from the Blender
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The hyenas didn’t know how to respond—the script called for me to defend my heterosexuality and thereby provoke a fight, but it took them a minute to process what I’d said, and they had no response. Except to start moving toward me. And me without my steel-toed shoes.

“You guys don’t want to do that,” Ulf said in his best vegan black metal growl. They looked up at him and decided that maybe they actually didn’t want to do that.

“Fags,” they said over their shoulders as they took their pointy sticks and trash bags to another part of the park.

I said “Thanks” to Ulf just as Sam was saying it to me. My jaw dropped nearly to the ground.

“It’s nothing,” Ulf said.

I turned to Sam and said, “No problem. But I hope you know this means we are totally going to prom together now.”

Sam looked at my face, saw that I was joking, and actually laughed.


moment. I’d just heard a rumor that Sam had hooked up with Suzy Melendez over the weekend, I’d gotten a D on a pop quiz in trig, and I’d tripped with a full food tray in front of the entire cafeteria. So suffice to say, I was already in a pretty bad mood. But when my dad came to pick me up for our regularly scheduled Wednesday night dinner and sprang it on me that Roger and Griffin would be joining us, it got even worse.

“Daaaa-ad,” I whined. “Can’t it just be me and you tonight? I don’t feel like playing nice with anyone else.”

My dad gave me a stern look. It kind of scorched my soul a little, because my dad normally looks at me like I’m a rare and unique creature he can’t quite believe exists. “Neilly, I did you a big favor the other day, getting Declan out of trouble. Now it’s time to return that favor.”

I knew he was right, but I couldn’t quite let it go at that, so I went for the jugular: massive guilt. “Don’t you think I’ve had enough new ‘family’ members thrown at me lately?”

I put my fingers up in air quotes and made a face when I said
—because family was mom and me, dad and me, and/or the three of us together. Not this jumble of random people I wasn’t related to and hadn’t chosen to have in my life. They were only there because of who my parents were sleeping with, and that seemed like a pretty dumb reason for me to have to befriend someone.

“I’m not trying to force a new family down your throat, Neilly. But Roger and I are just as legitimate a couple as your mom and Thomas are. And that means, like it or not, our families are going to have to blend sometimes. Not only on holidays and special occasions but also for everyday things like our Wednesday night dinners.”

“But I don’t
to blend,” I yelled at him so loudly I surprised even myself. “I hate this goddamn blender you and mom put me in, and I want to get the fuck out of it. Now!”

“Don’t use the F-bomb around me, Neilly,” my dad said in a quiet voice that probably didn’t begin to convey how upset he was with me. “And I really don’t appreciate the lack of respect you’re showing for what’s important to me.”

I crossed my arms over my chest and said nothing. I mean, there was nothing to say, right? I had zero say about anything that happened to me anymore, and that was that.

My dad gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles went albino. “Would this be any different if Roger was named, say, Rachel? Is that what this is about?”

“No!” I yelled even louder now. “God, how can you even
me that? After all I’ve gone through at school? After every fight I’ve gotten into because I was sticking up for your right to choose who to love, even if it’s a guy? I think I’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty, dude.”

“Okay, okay,” he said, putting his blinker on and turning into the parking lot of a fancy French restaurant.

That pissed me off even more. Our usual dinner out consists of going to my favorite place—Meatheads—where I always get the same large basket of cheese fries with buffalo ranch dipping sauce. And I totally wasn’t in the mood for freaking snails or duck liver or whatever gross stuff they served at this joint.

“I appreciate your being open-minded and loyal, Neilly. I really do,” Dad said. “But I don’t think I should have to apologize for who I am for the rest of my life.”

I sighed heavily. “You don’t ever have to apologize for that, Dad,” I told him. “Just like I shouldn’t have to apologize for not wanting to get all buddy-buddy with someone I’d never choose to be friends with under any other circumstances.”

My dad cut the engine. “Maybe you could practice some of that open-mindedness on Griffin, honey. You’ve never even met him.”

“And if I had my way, I never would,” I mumbled. If my dad heard me, he ignored it.

“It’s not like I’m asking you to fall in love with him, Neilly—just be friendly, okay? Or, at the very least, cordial.”

Even though Dad had roped me into a dumb getting-to-know-you dinner, I still wasn’t buying into the friendly or cordial part. I trudged into the restaurant behind my dad, dragging my feet, with my eyes on the ground and a huge scowl on my face.

And when I finally looked up, there was Roger. With my hottie from youth group standing right next to him. Disappointment doesn’t begin to describe what I was feeling at that moment. Figures I’d only be attracted to the dickiest guy on Earth. Why couldn’t I just go for nice guys? The ones who actually chose
to cheat when tempted, the ones who didn’t dump their dad because of his sexual preferences?

Griffin smiled at me warmly. I gave him the cold shoulder.

“Hey, Neilly, nice to finally meet you,” he said. “I’ve seen you at youth group, right?”

I nodded, my brain trying to figure out how my body could be so attracted to someone so wrong for me. For a merit scholar, sometimes I was the biggest dumbass on the planet.

Meanwhile, my dad put a hand on Griffin’s shoulder. “Can you keep Neilly company for a few minutes while your dad and I go iron out a few last-minute details about our reception?”

“Sure,” he said. “This is a great place to have a wedding party. And my dad tells me the band’s going to be totally smokin’.”

“Smoking is right…,” I mumbled as my dad and Roger walked away.

“Excuse me?” Griffin asked politely.

I shrugged. “Your eyes. They’re red as tomatoes.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

I ignored him, feeling black and mean and void inside.

“No, tell me.”

I pointed to my eyes, then his. It was like I was doing a bad imitation of the father in
Meet the Parents
. Griffin took out a small bottle from his pocket and squeezed some drops into his eyes. “Thanks for reminding me.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t want your dad to realize you’re all wasted, huh?”

“Is that what you think I am?”

I shrugged again.

Griffin cocked his head and gave me a long look. “So what else do you think you know about me?”

I started in on him without even thinking. “For starters, how you have to stay after school practically every day. You run with a crowd that’ll be lucky to get a job at a gas station after graduation. And that you totally ditch out on people any time you feel like it, no matter who it hurts. I mean, you can’t even go to youth group without bailing early!”

Griffin just sat there and took it. I figured his lack of response meant he had nothing to say—because everything I’d said was all true. And if the truth hurt, tough shit. He’d made his bed; now he could lie in it.

“Well, you’re right about one thing. I’m not perfect,” he finally said.

“That’s an understatement.” How dare Griffin ice his father like that and lay judgment on mine in the process? I didn’t care that he’d decided to speak to his dad again. It didn’t change what he’d done, or the pain he’d caused.

Griffin pulled the bottle of what I’d assumed was Visine out of his pocket and handed it to me. I glanced down at the label. It read:


“So I got pink eye after the last youth group. The doctor thought it was probably from the blindfolds.”

That explained his beet-red eyes. A tinge of guilt washed through my belly. Then I thought:
So he’s not stoned now. Big deal. He’ll probably go to his bedroom and toke it up once he gets home.

“And as for staying after school every day and hanging with a group of so-called losers,” he went on. “I teach English as a second language to kids whose parents come here from other countries looking for a better life. I also fill in for the teacher of the Sunday night classes, and that’s why I have to leave youth group early sometimes. So yeah, those kids would be thrilled to graduate and get a job at the gas station so they could send money back home to their relatives who are living in conditions you and I can’t even imagine.”

“Good for you.” Fine, so he was trying to make up for the shitty way he’d treated his own family by helping people he wasn’t related to. All that proved was that he wasn’t 100 percent bad. I still wasn’t ready to be all, like,
Ooh, I was wrong about you, aren’t you fabulous!

Griffin sighed. “And as for ditching people who love me…Neilly, maybe your mom was fine with everything that went down, but mine wasn’t. In fact, when it all hit, she didn’t even get out of bed for a month. Do you have any idea what it’s like going to school wondering if your mother is going to off herself while you’re gone? Or having to feed her like a baby, because if you don’t she won’t eat? What about having to figure out how the hell to do all the laundry because there are no clean clothes left to wear in the house?”

I shook my head, feeling as low as a cockroach. My mom had pretty much taken the news in stride, telling me she and my dad would always love each other but hadn’t been “in love” for a long, long time. They were more like best friends than anything, and they had remained so even after Roger entered the picture. So no, it wasn’t like the divorce had anywhere near as much impact on my life as it apparently had had on Griffin’s.

“When you see someone you love in pain like that, it makes you want to lash out at the thing that hurt them,” he went on. “And that thing was my dad. I couldn’t believe he’d done that to my mom, and so yeah, I went radio silence on him. I regret it now, but at the time, I thought maybe it would make him come back. And that maybe if he came back, she’d get better.”

I nodded. I could only imagine what I might’ve done under the same circumstances. “So it wasn’t about you being ashamed of your dad because he’s gay?”


“So I was wrong about you this whole time?” I whispered.

He answered my question with a question. “Do you always believe everything you hear without finding out the truth for yourself first?”

“No,” I said, even as it hit me that the answer was really yes. I had my defenses up so high, I automatically assumed the worst from everyone, even my best friend. Like, I thought if I never put my total faith in someone, it would shield me from getting hurt. How wrong I’d been. “Well, maybe.”

Griffin wrapped up the whole messy conversation with milder words than I deserved. “So now you know all about my sordid ways, and I know all about yours.”

“I guess we do,” I said, tacking on a quiet little “Sorry” at the end.

“Forgiven,” he said, his whole face softening. “You know, I have this theory: without forgiveness, we’d all be walking this Earth angry and alone, and I think that would really suck. Don’t you?”

My eyes flew open and I sucked in my breath. So Roger’s son—the guy I’d held a grudge against for so long—was actually my mental
physical crush from youth group, all wrapped up in one person? How was that possible? Weren’t the odds of that happening, like, less than zero?

“I think I’ve actually heard that one before,” I said, a little smile playing on my lips. I only hoped he could apply his forgiveness theory to me. “And I have to admit, up until you said that, I had no clue you were my partner in all those games at youth group. Did you know it was me this whole time?”

“I was pretty sure once you started giving me a hard time,” he said with a laugh. “You’ve got this really sweet little voice. Such a small voice for such a big personality.”

“Well, I really like that forgiveness thing you told me about,” I said, feeling suddenly shy and exposed. “I even used it in my life, and it totally worked. My best friend and I made up, and I have you to thank for it.”

“That’s awesome!” he said. “But let me tell you a secret. That whole theory’s not just about my forgiving other people. It’s also about believing I deserved to
forgiven, you know?”

I thought about that one for a second, then said, “I get that. And I think you’re all cool there. Roger seems thrilled to have you back in his life. I mean, he talks about you all the time.”

Roger and my dad reappeared from their last-minute wedding planning before we could discuss it any further—but we’d already said enough to smooth everything over on this side of the blended family. So we went and had a not just cordial but downright friendly dinner. Only my dad ordered snails, and I even learned something: pommes frites are these awesomely crispy french fries, and they’re almost as good as the ones at Meatheads.

I apologized to my dad on the drive home for being so stubborn and mean, and he accepted. After such a bad beginning to the day, I ended up feeling a lot better than I had in a really long time. Which is why what happened next freaked me out so much. My dad and I had settled into a comfortable silence in the car, and I was busy thinking about everything Griffin and I had talked about and how different he was from all the other guys I knew, when I got a text.

From Sam.

Consisting of just three words:

Don’t hate me.

Followed by a killer three more:

I miss u.

BOOK: Notes from the Blender
5.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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