Notes from the Blender (9 page)

BOOK: Notes from the Blender
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“You’ll feel it when the time is right. If there’s this lull that makes you think you should kiss her, then kiss her. That’s all I can say. There’s no magical signature move that will get the kissing started. It’s just got to happen.”

“So, like, when you were with Jocky McMoron, it just kind of flowed naturally?”

Things got kind of quiet. “No. There was a cheesy signature move. But I didn’t know it was a cheesy signature move until he tried it on my ex–best friend, Hoey.”

“So I shouldn’t use a cheesy move to get a kiss, even though they obviously work since you and your best friend both fell for the same one.”

“That’s about it.”

Just when I thought I was understanding things, it all went to hell.

“All right. Thanks. I’m going online to order my powder-blue tux now.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“Yeah. Don’t worry. I’ll look normal, I promise.”

“Great. See you tomorrow.”

“Okay.” We hung up, and I felt bad because there was something else I wanted to say, but I didn’t know how to say it. And I would have felt like a dork calling back, so I just sent this text:
Thx. i think im gonna like having a sister.

I felt like a complete idiot the second I sent it, so I was relieved a few seconds later when I got this in return:
Nu siblings r the only part of this that doesnt suck.

I sent back.
Mansion o metal?

Like i said,
Neilly sent back, and that ended it for the night.

I barely slept because I was nervous about coffee with Chantelle. I was so buzzed on adrenaline that I didn’t even feel the lack of sleep all day. The next day I actually, for the first time I can remember, kind of agonized over what to wear. I have a T-shirt that is navy blue instead of black, so I wore that, along with some jeans and my Doc Martens steel-toed shoes, which are kind of old school but which I think are damn cool and not as scary as the boots I usually wear. It wasn’t a complete transformation, but it was noticeable.

Noticeable enough that Dad busted my balls about it at breakfast.

“Who is she?” he asked.

“Dad, what the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the fact that you’re not wearing all black for the first time since I can remember, and boys don’t just change up their look like that unless there’s a girl involved. So who is she?”

“Dad, you know, I just felt like a change,” I lied.

“Yeah. Okay. Whatever,” Dad said, grabbing his briefcase and heading out the door. I sat at the table, slack-jawed. Dad just exited with, “Yeah, okay, whatever,” which, as a teenager, should really be my prerogative. The whole world has gone nuts around here.

School happened, as it tends to, but I was pretty checked out except in math class, when I stared at Chantelle, who sits in front of me, the whole time. She actually participated in class, so I guess she didn’t notice, though she did turn around at one point and caught me staring. She flashed me this smile that blinded me with its brilliance, and that pretty well wiped my brain clean for the next hour or so.

After school, I stood in front of school feeling dumb, and Chantelle walked out and looked adorable, not to mention hot, and suddenly I didn’t feel stupid anymore.

“Ready for some coffee?” I asked.

“Absolutely. I’m going to need it if I’m going to stay awake through those five million math problems she gave us.”


There was a painfully awkward pause, and then we started walking the two blocks to Queequeg’s. I wanted to hold her hand so bad that my own hand was itching, but I didn’t.

This was a decision I would later come to regret, because holding Chantelle’s hand might have been a bright spot in what turned out to be a very dark afternoon indeed.

“Hey!” somebody yelled behind us. I didn’t really pay any attention because somebody bellowing at you after school can only mean trouble, so I just kept walking and hoped it was somebody else’s trouble.

No such luck.

“Goth kid!” the voice yelled, and so I knew it was trouble on the line with a call for me. Even though goth and metal are, like, totally different things, I wouldn’t expect the average Linkin Park fan to know that. I sighed and kept walking.

“Is this a normal occurrence for you?” Chantelle whispered. I looked over at her, and she looked all tense and tight, and I got pissed off because I didn’t want her to think that hanging out with me always entails potentially violent encounters with brain dead jocks. I turned to face the voice.

“Hey,” the jock twice my size bellowed at me, “is it true?”

“That your parents are first cousins? Almost certainly.” This was dumb. I know that, when dealing with the species
Jockus roidrageus
, one should meekly agree with anything they say and not attempt to best them in any respect so as to avoid a beat down, but, I mean, the girl I liked and who I was trying to take on my very first date ever was standing next to me.

Chantelle snickered, but the red-faced jock advancing on me didn’t even get it. “No, faggot. That you’re taking Neilly to her dad’s…you know…thing.…”

Ah, Christ. I mean, I was going to kind of spring this on Chantelle a bit later, after she’d succumbed to my charm. I guessed that this must be Neilly’s ex, and that, furthermore, he was bored with her slutty ex-friend and was trying to get her back, and so now he was here to warn me away from her. Which wasn’t really going to work because (a) I wasn’t with her like that, and, of course (b) we were getting ready to move in together. Yeah, life is complicated.

“You’re taking Neilly Foster on a date?” Chantelle asked.

“Well, yeah, sort of, but she’s my sister.”

“So you’re dating your
” Chantelle asked, looking horrified.

“Stepsister, really. Well, not technically, but uh—” I was interrupted by a large, meaty hand grabbing my shirt.

“Hey, faggot. I asked you a question.”

“See,” I said. “Here’s what’s dumb about this. You’re calling me a faggot while getting ready to beat me for stealing your girl, who, by the way,
your girl anymore since you cheated on her with her best friend, but anyway, if I was a faggot, you wouldn’t really have anything to worry about, now, would you? Do you see how dumb this is?”

He didn’t see. “You calling me stupid?”

“Well, that was the implication, yeah, but I guess drawing inferences isn’t really a strength of yours, so yes, I am, in fact, calling you stupid, Stupid. Did you get it that time?”

Jocky’s face reddened, and he said, “You are so totally dead.” He pushed me really hard just to make sure I got his point, and I fell backward. In front of Chantelle.

I have been on the wrong side of enough of these encounters to know the script. The push, while technically an assault, was my opportunity to beg, or explain, or otherwise humiliate myself in order to escape more physical punishment, but by this point I was pretty pissed at the guy, and he might have outweighed me by, like, a hundred pounds and been at least six inches taller than me, but he neglected one detail.

I was wearing steel-toed shoes.

So rather than continue the dance that led to his fist in my face, I simply kicked Jocky McMoron in the knee as hard as I could. I suppose kicking is a pretty girly way to fight, but I prefer looking slightly effeminate and getting away to getting the shit beaten out of me like a man.

Jocky crumpled to the ground and started crying. “Aaaagh! Shit! Goddamn! You’re dead! My future! My ride!”

I didn’t really know what he was talking about, so I kicked him in the nuts to shut him up.

This caused him to vomit.

I turned back to Chantelle. “So,” I said, “still want that coffee?”

She looked at me and at the jock with digestive acid and spit dripping from the corner of his mouth and then back at me.

“I’m gonna pass. See you in church,” she said, and all but ran from me.

I walked home alone and wondered how I’d managed to screw this up so completely. Scary wasn’t working—I couldn’t pull it off and it was off-putting besides—so for the first time in years, I had aimed for sweet instead of scary, and for the first time ever, I had hit scary.



It was after school, Lulu was trying to get me to talk to her again, and I was going to miss my ride home with Leslie Mitchell’s mom if I didn’t leave right then and there. But it was Dec calling, and I knew it without even looking at the screen because he’d assigned himself some weird Cookie Monster ringtone.

This put me in a total quandary.

I was kind of, sort of, maybe even considering listening to what Lu had to say after thinking more about youth group guy’s advice: if I didn’t want to be any more alone and unhappy in this world than I already was, I was going to have to give the whole forgiveness thing a shot.

On the other hand, I had my new stepbrother reaching out to me for what I could only assume was advice. Because according to my watch, he should have been kissing Chantelle by now. And if he was calling me, he obviously didn’t have his lips on hers.

And then there was my only ride home waiting impatiently while my sore feet begged me just to hop in the car and ignore Lulu and Dec already.

“Just a sec,” I said to Lulu, putting up an index finger and reaching for my phone while waving Leslie and Mrs. Mitchell away all at the same time. Lulu must’ve thought she’d struck out again. She sat down on the nearest bench with a defeated little plop as the Mitchells’ blue minivan drove out of sight.

“Brother, this is not a good sign,” I said into the phone. “You are supposed to be making out with your new babe, all sweet minty breath by this time, not calling me.”

The sound that came from the other end was worse than the stupid song that had preceded it. It was sputtering and guttural and completely indecipherable, like something I’d expect our new house to spew at Halloween. “Dec, just try to breathe.”

Still more scariness. Maybe humor would do the trick.

“Does this mean you finally got laid for real?”

That got a little chuckle.

“Thank God. I thought I’d lost you there for a second.”

“Neilly, I need your help,” he finally managed to choke out. “Can you come get me?”

I glanced over at Lulu, who was giving me total puppy dog eyes. “Can it wait?”

“Uh, I don’t think so,” Dec said. It sounded like he was about to cry again. Well, not cry as in the normal kind of cry, but something more along the lines of what our house’s imaginary hellhounds might produce if they were upset over having to eat leftover corpse again instead of a fresh kill.

“Alrighty then. Queeqeeg’s in fifteen?”

“Try the police station as fast as you can.”

“What?” I yelped. “I told you to be sweet with Chantelle, not stupid!”

“Yeah, well, that would’ve worked great if your ex, Jocky McMoron, hadn’t gotten in the way. What an asshole. Now he’s fucked up my life along with yours.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“Nope. Not even close. I’m even stuck in a cell with him.”

I could only imagine how scared Dec must be. And what an awful sight he must be if he’d truly had a run-in with my ex. Sam could probably beat the crap out of Dec with one pinky nail. “You okay?”

“What do you think?” he shot back.

“I just wanted to make sure you, like, wouldn’t be leaving for the hospital or something before I get there,” I told him.

“Listen, Neilly, I’m fine physically. It’s Jocky who’s in the cell right now, holding one ice pack on his knee and one to his balls, moaning like the biggest pussy in the world.”

“So he turned into a little kitty cat, you’re growling like a bloodthirsty hellhound, and the both of you are in jail?”

“Something like that. Just come quick, okay?”

“You got it.”

I slid my phone shut and walked over to Lu. “I do want to talk, Lulu, but I just can’t right now.”

She slumped down farther than ever. It was like she had no bones left in her body.

“So I’ll call you later, okay?” I was almost starting to feel a tiny bit sorry for her. It was a nice change from feeling sorry for myself all the time.

She shrugged. “I doubt it.”

“No really, I will,” I told her. “It’s just that this is kind of an emergency. My friend’s in a jam, and I need to go bail him out. So I better start walking now, or else he’ll be stuck at the police station forever, and he’s not in the best frame of mind to handle that.…”

Lu fished around in her purse and pulled out a furry Juicy Couture key chain. “I could drive you,” she said, dangling the keys in front of her. “And we could talk in the car on the ride over. What do you say?”

“Um …,” I said, thinking it over for just a sec before deciding it couldn’t hurt. “I guess so?”

As we were walking to the parking lot, Lu kept clearing her throat. But every time I thought she was about to say something, nothing came out. And I wasn’t sure where to start, either, so we were stuck with awkward silence.

Hopping into her new-old dumper car—a tiny, dented, rusty bucket of crap that smelled like old socks—she turned the key and cranked the stereo. Still no conversation between us. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Nice ride,” I offered up.

“Yeah, it was my birthday present from my parents,” Lu said, backing out without even looking. Luckily, we didn’t hit anything.

“It’s a wonder you didn’t make it onto
My Super Sweet Sixteen,
” I continued busting on her.

“Well, that’s probably only because I just turned seventeen. Otherwise, MTV for sure would’ve recruited me,” she bantered back.

And so on and so forth it went, us goofing on each other so we didn’t have to talk about the big pink elephant in the car—what had happened with Sam and why I wasn’t, before a few seconds ago, talking to either one of them.

Once we pulled into the police station parking lot and careened into an open space, I figured it was time to get real. “Lu, I need to tell you something. Things are about to get seriously awkward here.”

She hung her head, apparently waiting for me to rip into her. It so wasn’t what I had in mind. “I can take it,” she said. “In fact, I deserve it. Fire away.”

The whole situation was so absurd it set me off into an inappropriate giggle fit. It was kind of like cracking up at a funeral—so wrong, given the setting, that the thing that got you laughing in the first place seemed even more hilarious. Lulu and me, best friends turned enemies turned I’m Not Sure What We Were Right Now, about to come face-to-face with the guy who had torn us apart. And then there was the added strangeness of having my death-metal stepbrother all pissed off in one corner of a jail cell while the tearing-us-apart guy was holding ice packs to various body parts in the other. It was going to be weirdweirdweird. And that’s why, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t stop laughing.

Lu waited patiently for my hysteria to end. “Well, this wasn’t what I expected,” was all she could say.

When I finally regained my composure, I tried to explain. “It’s just that…hee-hee…God, this is going to be so bizarre…ha-ha-ha-ha…My very skinny, very socially awkward stepbrother just beat the shit out of…how might I say it…‘our’ boyfriend Sam…and now they’re both in jail…and Sam’s family jewels are freezing…and …” I couldn’t even finish. The ice pack on the balls—too freaking funny!

Lu didn’t seem to share my warped sense of humor. “Yeah, about that,” she said, doing that twirling-her-hair/biting-her-fingernails combo. “Not that you want to talk about it, I’m sure, but he isn’t now and never was my boyfriend. And if it makes any difference, I socked him right after he tried to make a move on me.”

Huh? What in the hell were we fighting about then? “So you’re saying you
make out with Sam when I was away in San Fran with my dad?”

Lulu scrunched up her nose. “Well, the thing is, there was a kiss. But only for, like, a second. And I totally didn’t know it was happening until it was already over.”

“Lu, I really don’t get what you’re trying to tell me here. Like, somehow you lost your mind that night? An alien ate your brain?”

“Something like that,” she said. “And the alien’s name was Jack. Jack Daniel’s, actually.”

Lu getting wasted was almost more disappointing to me than her kissing Sam. Back in ninth grade, we’d once downed an entire bottle of champagne together while my mom was working late. Then we drunk-dialed our crushes, made complete asses out of ourselves by making and posting a dopey video of us dancing in our underwear online, passed out, and woke up with splitting headaches/stomachaches that lasted an entire day. After that, we’d vowed never to be so stupid again. And now she’d gone back on her promise. “What? Why?”

She shrugged. “You weren’t there, and I felt like kind of a loser because I didn’t know that many people at the party. So I figured a few drinks might give me some liquid courage, you know? And I guess deep down inside I also thought maybe me being a crappy drunk was just a fluke.”

“I take it it wasn’t such fluke?”

“Not so much. I’m still a crappy drunk,” she admitted. “Like, after a few shots, I decided it would be a good idea to go chill on the hammock in Crane’s backyard until I sobered up. Needless to say, it made me totally seasick.”

I was having a very hard time staying mad at Lu, and tried to remind myself she’d screwed up big-time. “Ha! Remember when you got motion sickness on the Ferris wheel at Six Flags during our seventh-grade field trip and you had to go to lie down at the first-aid station for the rest of the day?”

“Don’t remind me,” she said with a laugh. “Anyway, next thing I know, Sam plunks himself down next to me, which of course rocks the hammock even more, and he starts blahblahblahing about how he doesn’t want to disappoint you or his parents, and he doesn’t know what to do about your dad’s ceremony—”

“I can totally see him doing that,” I said, interrupting her story yet again. Sam couldn’t make a decision to save his life, and he tended to stress himself out even more by going over his options a million times.

“Right. Well, I really wasn’t feeling well and just wanted to be left alone by this point, so I told him to go suck it like a juice box. Only he must’ve thought I asked him to go suck face or something, because suddenly he’s all like, ‘Wow that’s really tempting, but I love Neilly, so I can’t, sorry.’ I had no idea what he was talking about, and I couldn’t deal with his drunken babbling anymore, so I closed my eyes and prayed he’d go find someone else to be his therapist.”

“We should totally make T-shirts that say SUCK IT LIKE A JUICE BOX and sell them at school for beaucoup bucks,” I said, thinking out loud. About a future that included my BFF in it.

Lulu must’ve picked up on it, because she broke out into a huge grin. “Yeah, let’s do that. So anyway, the next thing I know, Sam is saying, ‘Fuck it, I’m not married’ and shoving his tongue down my throat. Which was not a good idea for so many reasons—besides the fact that he’s going out with my best friend, I already had the spins, and you know how sensitive my gag reflex is.…”

“No way! No way!” I screeched. I had a pretty good idea of how this story was going to end.

“Uh-huh,” she said, confirming my suspicions. “First I punched him, then I puked on him. Right in his lap. Serves the asshole right.”

“Yes, it does,” I agreed.

In my head, though, I was also thinking how it was slightly redeeming that Sam hadn’t just jumped at the chance to scam a hottie like Lulu—he’d at least had a little moral dilemma about it first. I mean, he hadn’t actually
the right thing, but it had at least crossed his mind. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this before?”

“Suzy had already told you everything you needed to hear,” she said. “You didn’t want to listen to any more crap, and I don’t blame you.”

“She did seem to enjoy seeing me freak out in the bathroom that day,” I said. “So is this the end of partier-puker Lu?”

She nodded. “I just got ungrounded for the whole thing yesterday, and I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ll never drink again.”

“Promise?” I asked, holding out my hand for a pinky swear.

“Promise,” she said, locking her little finger onto mine. “Hey, Neilly, I’m really sorry about everything, you know? I love you.”

“I forgive you,” I said. It wasn’t nearly as hard to do as I’d expected. “And I love you, too. Sorry I wouldn’t listen to your side of things.”

“No need to be sorry,” Lu told me. “I was a total idiot.”

I opened my door, stood up, then leaned back inside the car. “Well, aren’t you coming with me?”

Lu looked up at me wide-eyed. “Really?”

My smile started at one ear and went all the way to the other. “I seem to have a soft spot for drunken assholes and idiots. Besides, you already told me a million times it won’t happen again, and I don’t think you’re a liar along with all your other problems.” She hopped out of the car, locked the doors, and then proceeded to punch me in the arm, not so softly.

“Do you really think someone’s gonna try to steal that piece of shit?” I asked, running toward the police station before Lu could land another punch. “The key chain is worth more than the car!”

She ran after me, and a second later, we were laughing together like it was the old days.

BOOK: Notes from the Blender
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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