Authors: Trish Cook
I held up my hand, ready to take the lesson I’d learned tonight and apply it to my own life. “Forgiven. And if it makes you feel any better, I’m going to listen to your advice and not go out of my way to try to meet that guy I was drooling over before.”
Dec looked shocked. “Really? Why not?”
“I decided maybe he’s just my proof that I can actually get over Sam.” The thought had just occurred to me, and I liked how it kind of took the pressure off the situation. So I could still think a guy was hotter than hot. But as for a real relationship—that could come later, with someone else, sometime else, when my life was less of a mess.
“Makes sense,” Dec said. “Now if I could only get over Chantelle, I’d be all set.”
“The sizzling one?”
“Why do you have to get over her at all?”
Dec suddenly couldn’t meet my eyes again. “I mean…she’s not like all those other chicks I hang with.… You know, the metal ones…With them, I kind of just jump in for the kill when I want to…uh…get something started. But Chantelle, she’s different. So it’s probably better if I just back off.”
I tried to keep a serious look on my face. I didn’t believe there were a million metal chicks who came before Chantelle any more than I believed Dec’s room in the House of Horrors had been a killing field, or whatever he’d told me. “Why don’t you just make a move on her instead?”
“I told you, this girl’s not like that.”
“Dec, she’s just a girl. And she’d be lucky to hang with a menacing metal guy like you, right? So don’t worry—just go for it.”
He looked like he’d rather be caught in one of his sexton mousetraps than be talking about this with me. “I don’t know …,” he said, then trailed off, shaking his head.
“You mean, like, where to start?” I asked, filling in the blanks. “Just remember, a first kiss should never, ever involve tongue. It’s got to be warm and soft, sweet and lingering. Lips not too dry, and definitely not too wet. Just get her laughing, and when she looks up at you and kind of tilts her head to the side, you know the time is right.”
Dec laughed nervously. “No, I mean…how to get it right, I guess.”
“Just do it,” I said, and leaned over and gave him a sweet, sisterly little smooch—on his cheek, mind you, my brain hadn’t gone completely mushy, despite all this churchy stuff—to demonstrate exactly what I meant. “Like that. See?”
By now, he’d turned twelve thousand shades of crimson and gone mute. Then crimson quickly morphed to ghostly pale—like, more ghostly than usual, and before tonight I really thought that would be impossible. I worried that I might’ve actually embarrassed my poor vampire-stepbrother-to-be to death.
“Dec? Hey, Dec?” I said, holding out my fist for a little friendship power tap. “I didn’t mean to freak you out. I was just trying to show you how it’s done. Isn’t that what wicked stepsisters are for? To teach you wicked stuff?”
He nodded, but didn’t look so sure about it.
“And by the way, I’ll be needing a favor in return,” I told him. “So you’re not forever indebted to me, know what I mean?”
“What kind of favor?” he croaked.
“Would you consider being my ‘not date’ at my dad’s thing?” I asked, tossing out another crazy brainstorm I’d just had. “I have to show up with someone, and I’d rather not have it be a guy who’s going to get the wrong idea. So what do you say? Do we have a deal?”
Dec finally found his voice again. “Deal.”
Great. Now I wouldn’t have to worry about being mistakenly put into the same category as Roger’s loser son Griffin, who was going dateless to the ceremony probably because he was still embarrassed about his awesome, awesome dad—and mine.
Screw him and his homophobic hang-ups. Dec and I would provide more than enough enthusiasm to make up for his lack of it.
WELL, I GOT OUR FAMILY THERAPIST FIRED AFTER
one session. I honestly thought it was going to take three.
After we left the session, Dad said to me, “Well, that was a disaster. You were really embarrassing, Declan.”
“What, just because I wouldn’t talk?”
“No, because of the lecherous way you were looking at Dr. Rappaport.” Hmmm. It’s true that I had amused myself through the boredom and horror of our first family therapy session by imagining a private session with Dr. Rappaport, who looked like an even hotter Tina Fey, but I hadn’t realized I was being that obvious.
“Well, I mean, Dad, it’s not my fault the therapist is smokin’ hot. What was I supposed to do?”
“Not stare at her legs when she was talking to you. That would have been a good start.”
“Dad. I mean, I know you’re engaged and everything, but have you looked at this woman?”
“Dec, there are conversational places where I just can’t go with you. Your lustful feelings for a woman at least twice your age is definitely one of those places.”
“But she is hot. You know it.”
“Fine. She’s an attractive woman. I’ll make sure I find you a male therapist for your next session.”
“What do you mean, for
next session? I thought this was a
“Well, I just realized that having me there might actually be preventing you from saying whatever is on your mind, so it might be more helpful for you to go on your own for a while so you can get this stuff out without worrying what I might think about it.”
“Dad, except for the part about Dr. Rappaport being an incredible hottie, that’s the most sensible thing you’ve said in weeks.”
“I never said Dr. Ra—”
“It was implied. Clearly implied.”
Dad fought back a smile.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself until Dad told me the next day that Dr. Gordon had had a cancellation and we’d be heading straight over for my one-on-one therapy session. “Dad, I’d be totally happy to have a one-on-one with Dr. Rappaport. Actually, a two-on-one would be fine, too, because her receptionist—”
“Do you have any idea how horribly uncomfortable it makes me when you say stuff like that?”
“Duh. Why do you think I’m saying it?” It’s true. Except for getting busted for BitTorrent porn, I had been concealing the fact that I am, as Lisa might say, “a sexual being” from Dad ever since I started feeling like a sexual being, and now I was flaunting it all over the place, mostly because I’d discovered it gave me power over him.
He stared at me for a minute.
“You just—I dunno. Your mom had that same stubborn, mischievous streak. It makes it really hard for me to stay mad at you about it.”
Touché—I make Dad uncomfortable by talking about my desires; he makes me uncomfortable by talking about Mom. I don’t know if he’s doing this intentionally or not. In either case, I don’t respond, but I really like hearing that there’s part of Mom surviving in me, so I smile, which, of course, means Dad wins.
And then he won again, because I wound up crying in Dr. Gordon’s office. I swear I don’t know how the guy did it. It might have had something to do with him being this really unattractive white-haired old man, so I couldn’t be distracted by thinking about him naked. In fact, the very thought of that is completely horrifying—it probably looks like a Cannibal Corpse album cover or something.
But so, somehow, and I don’t really remember how, I ended up spilling all the beans, the beans I’d been mostly keeping to myself, about how much I missed Mom, and how, even though Dad drove me nuts sometimes, I really liked it when it was him and me against the world, the horrible, awful world that kills a kid’s mom when he’s nine. Now Dad was going back into the world, which left just me on the outside.
Oh yeah, not to mention the fact that his knocking up her mom had totally ruined my chances of ever banging Neilly Foster. Okay, it’s not like I ever had a chance to bang Neilly Foster anyway, but it was almost harder—really, if you know what I mean—to be close to her all the time and talk to her and stuff and know that it was never ever going to happen. Before, she was like some Victoria’s Secret model or something—well, I never got to see her in her underwear, but what I mean is that she was someone who basically lived in my fantasy life and not the real world at all.
“Eh,” Dr. Gordon said, “so there’s a beautiful girl you never get to have. Nobody gets to have them all. And once you’re married—forget it. The stuff about your dad—that I get. The stuff about your mom that you’re hinting at but not really saying—I get that, too. But the hot stepsister—no big deal. You’ll go into the bathroom after she defecates one day, and she won’t be some airbrushed fantasy figure anymore, and you’ll go find somebody you can actually date.”
“Neilly Foster has never defecated in her life.” I mean, really—a beautiful girl like that squatting and laying some cable—it’s so absurd I couldn’t even picture it.
“If that were true, she’d have quite the distended abdomen,” Dr. Gordon said. “Also, she’d be dead. I don’t think either of those is true.”
“‘Distended Abdomen’ would be a good name for a band,” I told him.
“Yeah, well, send me some royalties when you hit it big. For now, our fifty minutes are up, so get out of here. I’ll see you next week.”
“All right,” I said. What a dick. I liked him.
The ride home was fun because I could see Dad dying to ask what happened, knowing it was inappropriate to ask what happened, and finally giving in and asking, “So how was it?”
“It was okay. We just talked about shit,” I said, and I smiled to myself because Dad would probably never guess that shit was an actual topic of conversation.
Youth group turned out to be another holding-hands-with-Chantelle session, but I was not my usual glib and charming self. I was tired from crying, and also once you unlock that box in your brain where you keep all the hurt, it’s not that easy to shut it again.
“So,” Chantelle said, “what makes a good relationship?”
“Nobody dying,” I said, and realized only too late that I’d just snapped at a hot girl. What the hell was wrong with me?
“Whoa. That’s cheery. Are you being ostracized for your sexiness again?”
“No, I just…I…Do you ever have, I mean, can you…I’m sorry, I can’t even put a freaking sentence together. I feel like something a dog puked up, licked up, and shat out.”
“Sadly accurate image. If you had just the glasses without the blindfold, you’d see I’m right.”
“How do you know I wear glasses?”
Crap. I just gave myself away. Well, I figured I might as well just lay it all out, then. “Uh. I peeked. I’m sorry.”
“You peeked? That’s bad.”
“No, you’re not.” I wasn’t peeking now, but I could hear the smile in her voice.
“Yeah, okay, I’m not. I mean, I…ugh, I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to play the game here tonight because I’m just all messed up from thinking about stuff that makes me sad.”
“Do you want to, like…I mean, I know we don’t really know each other, but if you want to tell me …”
“I appreciate it, but I don’t know if I can do it without—I mean, I’m kinda holding it together right now, and I don’t think I can stand it coming apart, if you know what I mean.”
“Yeah. I do, actually.”
A lightbulb went off in my head. “Hey, maybe this is like really cheesy or whatever, but, I mean, I like talking to you, and maybe I could, like, buy you a cup of coffee or something to thank you for putting up with me being such a mess tonight. Like tomorrow after school?”
“Sure. How will I know it’s you, though?”
“I guess you’re going to have to peek.”
She pulled one wonderfully soft hand out of mine, and we each used our free hand to pull the blindfolds down off our eyes. Of course, I had already looked at her, but I did need to check to make sure she didn’t scream in horror when she looked at me. It occurred to me that the black Demonic Stain shirt might not have been the best choice of attire for tonight.
Chantelle didn’t scream. She just looked, smiled, and put her blindfold back on as Sarah barked, “No peeking!” at us. “Okay,” Chantelle said, “you don’t actually look like dog shit, no matter how you feel, and I think I’m going to be able to withstand your sexiness, so yeah, I’ll have coffee with you.”
So that’s how you do it. It occurred to me that I may have just grown a pair, metaphorically speaking. What’s weird is that I’m sure I had been able to do it only because I was in a grumpy, screw-the-world, I-don’t-care kind of mood. Maybe I should do that more often. “I’m glad, because, you know, a lot of people—”
“Find you intimidating. I know. You’d better have a new joke next time.”
“Got it. I’ll work on my material.”
Once we got back in our little sharing circle, I couldn’t look at Chantelle. I also couldn’t look away from her. This presented some difficulties. Fortunately, Sarah just yakked and then dismissed us without forcing us to share our feelings, which was good: mine seemed to involve a tremendous sense of excitement mixed with gut-wrenching panic, because, of course, once Chantelle saw me for who I really was, she’d be horrified, and then I’d have something else to be sad about, and, I mean, I know next to nothing about girls, but I do know that hanging your hopes on a teenage girl’s affections is a pretty dumbass thing to do. But I was doing it anyway.
Or, at least I was until Neilly freaking kissed me after youth group. I mean, yeah, it was a kiss on the cheek, kinda sisterly, I suppose, but she’s not my sister. Not yet, anyway.
If I can just…I mean, what the hell was she trying to do to me? I think she was trying to help me, but oh my God, it didn’t help. And assuming things went well with Chantelle, how exactly would I explain my whereabouts when I escort Neilly to her dad’s wedding? “Uh, yeah, I can’t go out tonight.… I have to take my sister to her dad’s wedding to Roger, the UFC guy. And before you ask, Yes, I will be attempting to cop a feel in the limo.” No, that won’t do at all.
Alone in my room later, I face a masturbatory dilemma. Neilly Foster, whose lips, let’s not forget, touched my skin tonight, and who I really shouldn’t be thinking about like that anymore, in some kind of off-the-shoulder little black cocktail dress, preferably with a pentagram or upside-down cross hanging into her cleavage, or Chantelle, clad only in glasses? My phone rings—well, actually growls, since I’ve got a Dimmu Borgir ringtone—and the screen tells me it’s Neilly calling, and it would just be too creepy to follow through while I’m actually on the phone, so I zip up and answer.
“Sis. What’s up?”
“Hey. I know you probably know this anyway, but I just want to make sure you’re…I mean, you know, I don’t want to be a bitch about you doing me a favor, but you’re not going to like—”
“Wear corpse paint and chains and bring a dead rodent to your dad’s ceremony?”
“Well, I mean, not…I don’t know what corpse paint is, but yeah. Part of the bargain here is that you kind of feign normalcy for the night.”
“Deal. But you have to help me.”
“I’m on it.”
“So if I’m having coffee with her, like, first of all—”
“Mints. Strong ones. Coffee breath is not as bad as cigarette breath or garlic breath, but it definitely comes in third.”
“What about onion breath?”
“Indistinguishable from garlic breath, so they count as the same thing.”
“So make sure you pop a mint after your mochaccino. Gum won’t do, in case there’s tongue, but you have to let
initiate the tongue. If you go in for a kiss and jam your tongue down her throat, you’re done.”
“But she can jam her tongue down my throat?”
“Would you mind?”
“Are you kidding?”
“There you go. But she would. This is why you need an interpreter.”
“Okay, but what the hell do I say to her? I mean, I was kind of all screwed up from therapy and feeling kind of, like, fuck it, which is the only reason I was able to ask her out in the first place. And how do I get from talking to kissing?”
“Just be yourself. Your real self, not the self you try to pretend to be.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you’re not scary, you’re never really going to be scary, and girls don’t like scary anyway, so you may as well give up on scary and go for sweet.”
“Sweet? Isn’t that, like, the kiss of death?”
“No. ‘Nice’ is the kiss of death. Sweet is okay.”
“This stuff is absurdly complicated. Okay, so let’s assume I find something to talk about. I was thinking I could milk the dead mom thing for sympathy.”
“Hmmm…tragic, sad…that might work, as long as you don’t actually cry. You could cry in front of her in, like, a month or something, but not on your first date. But I’ll tell you the best thing you can do. This is a closely guarded girl secret, so don’t go sharing it everywhere.”
“I got it.”
“Just listen to her. Worry less about what you’re going to say to her, and just think about what you want to hear from her.”
“Okay. Let me see if I’ve got all this—you know what, I’m writing this shit down so I don’t forget. Okay, don’t be scary, be myself—but not the true, pervy version of myself—be tragic, listen, and bring mints. Anything else? How do I get to the kiss?”